Following up on her conquest of the July 6 Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1), 1-5 favorite Concrete Rose was imperious once more in the second leg of NYRA’s new Turf Tiara, Friday’s $695,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational.
The team behind the undisputed leader of the U.S. three-year-old turf fillies – Ashbrook Farm, BBN Racing, and trainer Rusty Arnold – now must make a decision: go for the sweep in the September 7 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational back at Belmont, or head directly for the October 12 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland as planned?
Only four rivals opposed her at Saratoga, and none wanted the lead, once Olendon was restrained. So regular rider Julien Leparoux wasted no time in going right to the front. Concrete Rose sauntered through fractions of :25.58, :51.41, and 1:15.93 on the firm Mellon turf, telegraphing what was to come. The Twirling Candy filly began to get away from them on the far turn, while Leparoux had yet to ask her a question.
Set down in earnest in the stretch, Concrete Rose sprinted to a four-length lead by the eighth-pole. That gave Leparoux all the time in the world to gather her back in hand, and offer a congratulatory pat, as she crossed the wire 4 3/4 lengths clear. Concrete Rose completed 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.34, her last three-sixteenths in a blistering :16.13 according to Trakus.
The situation was more muddled in her wake. The two Aidan O’Brien shippers, Happen and Coral Beach, finished second and fourth, split by the head of the 21-1 Kelsey’s Cross in third. But Coral Beach had slammed into Olendon, who subsequently trailed. The stewards posted the inquiry sign to review the incident that occurred approaching midstretch, and Olendon’s jockey, Irad Ortiz Jr., also claimed foul against John Velazquez aboard Coral Beach.
As it turned out, the pan shot looked worse for Coral Beach. The head-on revealed that Olendon also came out under left-handed urging just as Coral Beach was lugging in. The stewards accordingly decided to let the result stand.
The most intriguing counterfactual wasn’t about the stretch, but what might have transpired had the newly blinkered Olendon been allowed to stride on. While Concrete Rose would have had an easy target to dismiss, Olendon probably would have used her early energy more efficiently instead of being rank. If so, her chance at a minor award was arguably lost once she was wrangled back in the opening strides.
“They gave me the race in the first part of it,” Leparoux said. “We ran very slow, but she finished very strong. She’s a very special filly and I’m very excited to be riding her.
“On paper, it didn’t look like there was any speed. She’s a very easy filly to ride, so I went for the lead and if someone else wanted to go, I could take back. It’s one of those things where they let me go easy and that was it. I was very confident the whole way around, and I knew she was going to kick home. I’m very happy for the connections. There’s a lot of people here that love her.”
The once-beaten Concrete Rose has joined millionaires’ row with a bankroll worth $1,218,650. Her only loss was an eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and five of her six wins have come in graded stakes – the Jessamine (G2) at Keeneland, the Florida Oaks (G3), and Edgewood (G3) en route to the Turf Tiara.
Arnold spoke of the options for Concrete Rose.
“It’s a whole different group if you step up,” the trainer said of tackling older distaffers. “She’ll get one more three-year-old race before it’s over. We’ll see what it’s going to be.
“The (Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland) has always intrigued me a lot. That was the plan at the beginning of the year. However, it is going to be tough not to try to win these three races (of the Turf Tiara) the first year they have it. To win all three, that would be awful special, so there will be a lot of talking going on.”
Concrete Rose has furnished a windfall as a $61,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May juvenile purchase by David Ingordo. She had brought even less at Keeneland, RNA’ing for $19,000 as a November weanling and selling for $20,000 as a September yearling. Bred by Ron Patterson in Kentucky, the daughter of the winning Powerscourt mare Solerina hails from the extended family of Ferdinand.
The $200,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) created more suspense as LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s Casa Creed outdueled a gritty Sombeyay to earn his first graded victory. The 2-1 favorite capped a memorable day for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, whose three-time champion Royal Delta was herself enshrined in the Hall during Friday morning’s induction ceremony.
“It was a very special day,” Mott said. “She was a very special mare. We won three championships with her. To have her get into the Hall of Fame was great. This tops it out. It’s always nice to win (the Hall of Fame) on the same day.”
Under Junior Alvarado, Casa Creed stalked in close range of pacesetter Award Winner. Sombeyay attended the leader on the inside, wrested control, and dug in gamely when Casa Creed pounced down the lane. But the favorite found a bit extra to force his head in front, completing the grassy mile in 1:33.72.
“I got a little worried at the three-eighths pole,” Alvarado said. “I thought I had the race measured. I never thought (Sombeyay) was going to come through the rail at that point. I let the horse in front kind of go at a nice pace. Then the horse squeezed through the rail, it made things a little harder, and I had to start working a little early. But I knew turning for home that he’s a fighter and he never gives up.”
“(Sombeyay) was running very game,” Mott noted. “It looked like we were going to get to him, and then he got away from us a little, but (Casa Creed) really showed us a lot of courage the entire stretch run. He was very courageous, and it looked like he gave it everything he had.”
Casa Creed sports a mark of 11-3-2-1, $364,508. Successful in an off-the-turf maiden here last August, he flopped in the Champagne (G1) and Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion S. before switching to the grass. Casa Creed promptly sprang a 12-1 upset of Henley’s Joy in his Kitten’s Joy turf debut. Although unable to add to that tally until the Spa, he placed second in both the Palm Beach (G3) and Penn Mile (G2) and finished a close third in the Manila last out.
Bred by Silver Springs Stud in Kentucky, Casa Creed initially sold for just $15,000 as a short yearling at OBS January but commanded $105,000 at Keeneland September. The bay is the first registered foal from the unraced Bellamy Road mare Achalaya, and his second dam, Grade 2 vixen Wild Heart Dancing, is herself a half to Grade 1 winner Man from Wicklow.
Friday’s dirt stakes, the $100,000 Alydar, proved just the tonic for G M B Racing’s Tom’s d’Etat. Trainer Al Stall Jr. opted to give the lightly raced six-year-old a confidence boost after three straight losses in graded company, and he duly rebounded as the even-money favorite.
Biding his time in fourth to observe the contentious pace, new rider Joel Rosario made his move on the far turn. Tom’s d’Etat readily forged clear in upper stretch, held the rallying Wooderson (Rachel Alexandra’s half-brother) safe by a length, and clocked 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.45 – a stakes record in the restricted event’s brief seven-year history.
Now three-for-three at Saratoga, Tom’s d’Etat advanced his scorecard to 13-7-2-1, $716,892. The son of Smart Strike broke his maiden at this track and trip in 2016, and having cleared his first conditions at Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs in 2017, he crushed a third-level allowance back at the Spa that summer.
Sidelined for more than 15 months, Tom’s d’Etat picked up right where he left off with two more Fair Grounds scores in late 2018, including a convincing stakes debut in the Tenacious. Next came a tilt at the Pegasus World Cup (G1), where he retreated to ninth in the Gulfstream Park slop. Tom’s d’Etat answered the class question more effectively at Churchill, finishing best of the rest behind McKinzie in the Alysheba (G2) and holding third in the Stephen Foster (G2) last out.
With his Alydar performance, Tom’s d’Etat might have just run himself into the August 31 Woodward (G1) on August 31.
“He has the talent,” Stall said. “He loves this course and he deserves to win a race like this at Saratoga. We were considering entering the Whitney ([G1] on Saturday), but ultimately we decided he could use some class relief and he gives us a lot to look forward to coming off this performance going forward. We kept him at Churchill to get ready for this race. He just does so well down there and doesn’t need much to get acclimated.
“Everything just fell right into place. Joel (Rosario) got him off the fence a little bit, for him behind that fast pace and he just galloped. He galloped past those horses. Joel saved a lot of horse. It gives us a little confidence thinking about the Woodward, possibly. We’ll keep an eye on him and take it minute to minute from here. He’s in good form and this is a confidence builder for me and him.”