Calumet Farm’s Bandua has hinted of potential throughout his career, and finally took a substantial step toward fulfillment with a course record-breaking victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Arlington H. (G3) on Million Preview Day. This first stakes success puts him squarely in the frame for the track’s marquee event, the Arlington Million (G1) on August 10.
Trained by Jack Sisterson and ridden by Adam Beschizza, Bandua was taking a class drop from his sixth in the Manhattan H. (G1) on Belmont Day. But the son of The Factor had smart turf form to his name, from his third in last summer’s Secretariat (G1) here for original trainer Dermot Weld, to his chasing Synchrony home in the Fair Grounds H. (G3) in February. In the interim he’d tried a couple of dirt experiments, or else his record might have looked better.
Still, bettors were happy to back him into 8-5 favoritism, and the big gray performed accordingly. He broke on top from his rail post, but Chilean import El Picaro was intent on having control. Beschizza let his rival clear him, then angled Bandua into an outside stalking spot.
El Picaro set a solid tempo of :23.27, :47.80, and 1:11.81 on the firm course, until Bandua rolled up to challenge and put him away rapidly. Pulling clear by 1 3/4 lengths, the winner clocked 1:53.16 to eclipse the old mark of 1:53.20 held by Reluctant Guest since 1990 (technically 1:53 1/5).
The Great Day closed for second, two lengths to the good of comebacker Captivating Moon, who as usual left himself far too much ground to make up. Botswana likewise did his best work late to snatch fourth from the tiring El Picaro, and Cullum Road, Spooky Channel, My Bariley, Nobrag Justfact, and Royal Artillery concluded the order of finish.
Bandua’s resume now reads 12-3-1-1 with $251,871 in earnings. Victorious in his first two career starts at Cork last spring, he made an audacious stakes debut in the Irish Derby (G1) and wound up eighth. Weld stepped him up in trip for the Vinnie Roe, where he likely found the 1 3/4-mile distance beyond him in fifth. Shortening up to 10 furlongs for the Secretariat agreed with him, and he placed a much better third. His final outing for Weld resulted in a fourth as the favorite in the Dueling Grounds Derby.
In his first for Sisterson, Bandua faded to eighth in the Canadian International (G1). He was not seen again until his promising second to Synchrony at Fair Grounds. Instead of sticking to turf, Bandua switched to dirt for the New Orleans H. (G2) and checked in a decent fourth. A sloppy track in the Westchester (G3) didn’t help his cause, and he called it a day in last. Although unplaced in the Manhattan back on grass, he was beaten only four lengths by top turf male Bricks and Mortar, and a return to Arlington brought out the best in him.
“He’s a straightforward horse,” Beschizza said. “He’s never shown a loss of heart and the class relief today helped him a lot.”
“I said ‘Adam, you ride him like you own him,’” Sisterson said, “and that’s what he did. It was a picture perfect ride.
“Every race we’ve ran him in we’ve had a lot of confidence in him. This horse was training unbelievably – he deserves this win.”
Bandua was bred by Judy Hicks and Kathryn Nikkel in Kentucky and sold for $150,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. He is the fourth graded/group winner for the Seattle Slew mare If Angels Sang, following Grade 2 victor Tale of a Champion, Grade 3 scorer Mr. Roary, and Group 3 vixen Illusora. His second dam, multiple Grade 2 queen Chapel of Dreams, is a three-quarter sister to Storm Cat.
Three supporting stakes on Million Preview Day served as preps for other highlights on the August 10 program.
Beschizza made it a graded double when guiding Faraway Kitten to a 15-1 upset in the $150,000 American Derby (G3), a stepping stone to the Secretariat. A Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred from the Mike Maker barn, he prevailed by a neck from dead-heat runners-up The Last Zip and Crafty Daddy.
“It was a good, trouble-free trip,” Beschizza said. “This horse has a good engine and feels like he can run for days. I’m just glad all the openings came at the right time and this horse did it in good fashion.”
Flying Scotsman, the 7-5 favorite in his first start off the layoff for Sisterson, put up a bold show when striking the front but weakened to sixth. Considering what a smart prospect he looked like last fall for Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, the Calumet homebred is worth following next out.
Faraway Kitten reeled off 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.72 to win his second straight stakes, after overcoming trouble to take the Mystic Lake Derby. The son of Kitten’s Joy and the Indian Charlie mare Far Isle, from the family of Unbridled’s Song, has compiled a record of 9-5-0-2, $322,071.
In the $150,000 Modesty H. (G3), Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Juliet Foxtrot remained perfect in three stateside starts for Brad Cox, and stamped herself as a contender for the course-and-distance Beverly D. (G1).
Jockey Florent Geroux wasted no time in dictating terms aboard the 9-5 second choice, who doled out splits of :23.91, :49.01, 1:13.23, and 1:36.79 en route to finishing 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.00. Vexatious, a stablemate of Bandua’s, stayed on from just off the pace but could get no closer than 1 3/4 lengths.
Simply Breathless, the 3-2 favorite and 119-pound highweight, was in perfect position as a tracking second, only to find herself outkicked. Lack of stamina might well have been the stumbling block. Remember Daisy recovered from a stumbling start to rally for fourth, missing third by a neck.
With this first stakes coup to her credit, Juliet Foxtrot sports a mark of 11-4-0-0, $179,054. The British-bred by Dansili began her career at home with Charlie Hills. Her lone win came as a juvenile at Goodwood, earning herself a crack at stakes company. After fifths in the 2017 C.L. and M.F. Weld Park (G3) and the 2018 Nell Gwyn (G3), she was a distant fourth in York’s Michael Seely Memorial. Juliet Foxtrot lowered her sights to handicaps, without any better results in her final three British starts.
A change of scenery to the United States has helped. The bay cleared her entry-level allowance condition at Keeneland April 19, and followed up with a dynamic 4 1/2-length tally in a second-level event at Churchill Downs May 27.
“She’s had two starts with us so far,” Cox said of her record going into the Modesty, “and we were always really high on her. We think a lot of her and we think she’s got the talent to do some good things the rest of this year.”
A maternal relative of all-time Juddmonte great Dancing Brave, Juliet Foxtrot is out of the stakes-winning King’s Best mare Kilo Alpha, who is a full sister to multiple stakes scorer and Group 1-placed Runway. Also in the family are multiple Group 1 queen Jolypha, third on the dirt in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), and globetrotter Redwood, whose signature win came in the 2010 Northern Dancer Turf (G1).
Making her stakes debut off a local allowance win, the Eoin Harty trainee took over the front-running role on the backstretch, but looked beaten when 5-2 favorite Winning Envelope collared her in midstretch. Instead of going on, however, Winning Envelope suddenly stalled, and the 5-2 second choice Princesa Carolina ranged up wider out to join the fray.
Then Indigo Gin came back on the inside under an inspired Flavien Prat and regained the advantage. A head up on Princesa Carolina at the wire, the 5-1 chance sped 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.71. Winning Envelope faded from an apparent winner to third, another three-quarters of a length astern, in the final yards.
“At the sixteenth pole I thought we were going to be third,” Harty said, “but she fought back and that’s who she is. She’s a unique filly….always runs with a ton of heart.”
Indigo Gin advanced her scorecard to 5-3-1-0, $80,160. Unraced at two, the Lemon Drop Kid filly missed by a nose in her Tampa debut and broke her maiden over the same mile on turf. Her only unplaced effort came in an allowance on the Arlington Polytrack, where she finished fourth, and rebounded in a similar entry-level event back on the grass June 15.
The Kentucky-bred is the first registered foal from the Galileo mare Lady Bingo, who is a full sister to Irish highweight Housesofparliament and Australian Group 1 winner Foundry. Her second dam is Grade 1 heroine Sharp Lisa, herself a half to Grade 1-winning sire Spring at Last and Grade 2 victress Sharp Susan, dam of South African Horse of the Year Oh Susannah. This is also the family of multiple Grade 1 turf star and $2.3 million-earner Bien Bien.