Horse Racing: Preview of the 2014 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga

 The sport of Horse Racing is in full swing with the recent opening of two of the premier meets in the world when Del-Mar Race Course in Del Mar, California and Saratoga Racetrack in Saratoga Springs, New York both open their doors this week….it’s a very exciting time of year.

I counted 32 stakes race being run around the country this weekend and we’ll be taking a look at several of them but the 2014, Grade: 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on Sunday at Saratoga Race Track, featuring Stopchargingmaria and Unbridled Forever, will be our Race of the Week.

Of those other 31 stakes races I found seven that stood out to me starting with today’s (Friday) Schuyerville Stakes for two year old fillies at Saratoga. The six furlong, Grade: 3 race, which traditionally kicks off the Saratoga meet, will feature the very impressive Fashion Alert. The Todd Pletcher trained filly by Old Fashioned won her racing debut (by almost 5 lengths) in a $100,000 stakes race (The Astoria Stakes at Belmont on June 14) while speeding 5 ½ furlongs in an on the engine 1:04 flat.

Although Fashion Alert clearly looks like the one to beat in the Schuyerville, I expect good performances from Tulira’s Star, who won her Arlington Park debut by 3 ½ easy lengths while “drawing clear” at the end, the very humorously named Evrybdymstgetstonz, who walloped a field of NY State bredfillies in her debut in winning by 6 and well bred first out winner Take Charge Brandi. This filly, by Giants Causeway out of Charming by super sire Seeking the Gold, won her first and only race by 4 ½ at Churchill Downs on June 22 getting 4 ½ furlongs in :52.1.

Moving over to Saturday, Arlington Park is hosting the $150,000 Arlington Oaks for three year old fillies going nine furlongs over the all weather surface. Aurelia’s Belle, who has been on the board in 6 of her 7 lifetime races, Phaniebdancing has never been off the board in nine starts, Stellaris has been very good thru her first four races and Stock Yard Hen, who has come flying late in her last two races and poses an upset chance, all look like they could run well. Of all though, I like Interrupted, who has been a stretch running sensation in all four of her career starts while winning three of them. This daughter of Broken Vow (Unbridled) out a Seattle Slew mare will be trying the all weather tack for the first time in her career as all four of her other starts have been on the grass.

Out west, Del-Mar is hosting a pair of big races this weekend. Saturday is the San Clemente Handicap for three year old fillies going a mile on the turf for $200,000. Of the dozen fillies that are entered, I have it narrowed down to three in Diversy Harbor, who is a stretch running beast (take a look at the first two races in her career…she came from near last at the top of the stretch to win in 12 and 13 horse field respectively), Sandiva, who has been facing the best horses overseas in her last few races and holding her own against them and My Conquestadory, who is extremely versatile and extremely talented….give me a three horse exacta box, using those three, in that race.

Also, at Del-Mar but on Sunday, is the Eddie Read Stakes, a $300,000 Grade:1 for three year olds and up going nine furlongs on the turf. I like Summer Front who, albeit is 0 for 6 in Grade 1 races, was last seen making a serious late run at Obviously, who aside from Wise Dan is probably the best turf horse in the country, in the Shoemaker Mile in a race that they ran a mile in a remarkable 1:32.3. You should also look at Tom’s Tribute who was right behind Summer Front in the Shoemaker Mile and Unbridled Command, who did not run so well off a long lay off in his last race, but had won six of 11 races before that.

Continuing on Saturday, I saw three more races that bear watching.

Thistledown is hosting the $300,000 Ohio Derby for three year olds going a mile and sixteenth. I like Jessica’s Star who is proven at the distance, is already a two time stakes winner, closes and can run over just about any footing. I expect challenges from Harry’s Holiday, who might bounce back after two awful efforts in the Bluegrass Stakes and the Kentucky Derby in his last two races, Almost Famous looks to be spotted very well after spending time chasing the likes of Cairo Prince, We Miss Artie and Wildcat Red earlier this year and possibly Larcenyinmyheart, who has won four in a row but steps up in class big time in this race.

Moving over (or up) to Saratoga on Saturday are a pair of big races. The Sanford Stakes for two years old going six furlongs for $150,000. I like the speedy Cinco Charlie, who is 2 for 2 and won the Bashford Manor Stakes his last time out while getting today’s distance in a fleet 1:10.1. Other threats appear to come from Nonna’s Boy, who splashed his way to a 5 ½ length win in his muddy debut win while getting 5 furlongs in :58 flat, and Bessie’s Boy, who is also 2 for 2 in his career and absolutely romped home in the $100,000 Tremont Stakes in his last while stopping the clock in a quick 1:03.4 for the 5 ½ furlongs. The last horse I’m going to mention in the Sanford is Big Trouble. You see, I had a horse running the same day, on the same card, as this colt by Tiz Wonderful just a few races later (Street Thug, who won for us). I had a chance to get very up close and personally with colt and then watch his race closely (he went off at 1/5 in his career debut, so I had to investigate that)…I have to tell you….albeit the final time was nothing to get excited about, he demonstrated superior talent and professionalism and looks, by the eye, to have a very bright future.

The other big race at ‘Toga this weekend is the Grade:1 Diana Stakes for $500,000 that has three year olds and up fillies and mares going nine furlongs. This race is wide open. In fact of the 10 entered, I can make a strong case for eight to win it. Those eight include Abaco, who always fires a late move and is always close at the end, Somali Lemonade is in career best form and should be the early leader, Emollient, who is a bit of an enigma….I mean every time it appears as though she is ready to bust out, she seems to take a step backwards, Strathnaver came from out of no where to get beat a nose in a Grade; 1 race her last time out at 18-1, Discreet Marq, who dominated female turf runners in New York last year, but is 0 for 2 this year, Alterite was third beaten just a length by Dank in the BC Filly and Mare Turf last November. The French filly won a Grade 1 and finished a very close second in another grade one before the BC race. Although, this is her first start this year, she definitely must be considered. The late runners Stephanie’s Kitten and Tannery both will probably be heard from in deep stretch based on their past performances as well….my betting advice?…two words….stay away.


July 20, 2014

Saratoga Racetrack

Race: 10

Coaching Club American Oaks

Fillies Three Years Old

One And One Eighth Miles

Purse $300,000


PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer
1 Stopchargingmaria 3/F L J Castellano 121 T A Pletcher
2 Unbridled Forever 3/F L J Rosario 121 D Stewart
3 Miss Besilu 3/F L J Lezcano 121 W I Mot
4 Courageous Julie 3/F L L Saez 121 D W Lukas
5 America 3/F L J R Velazquez 121 W I Mott
6 Taketheodds 3/F L B J Hernandez, 121 I R Wilkes


Analysis: (I apologize but at the time of this writing the morning line odds had not been released)


1) Stopchargingmaria– caught a huge break when the connections of superstar filly Untapable decided to skip this race and challenge males in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth next weekend.

This filly by the wickedly fast Tale of the Cat won a pair of graded stakes races to end 2013 and, after a dismal performance in her 2014 debut, she is the poster child for a horse who has rounded back into form.

After finishing fifth, beaten 14 lengths in her first race of 2014 (Davona Dale Stakes, Feb 22), she came back about six weeks later (April 5) and ran a “so-so” fourth to the talented Sugar Shock in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Like I said, the race was so-so but she clearly improved from her seasonal debut race.

From there, and after another (almost) six week break, this $220,000 yearling purchase from the Mike Repole stable, was entered in the Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico (May 16). She broke well and was sixth early on in that race before launching a four wide bid at the quarter pole. She and Vero Amour put on quite a thrilling stretch run with this filly winning by neck. She didn’t win by a pole but once again it was a dramatic improvement from the Fantasy Stakes.

Judging by her past performances, her escalating speed figures and a solid :47.4 half mile breeze at Saratoga on July 14, she appears to be peaking out right about now and looks sitting on a big race on Saturday.



2) Unbridled Forever– finished fifth in her career debut at Churchill Downs on Oct 27 but followed that up with a pair of very professional wins in breaking her maiden then beating 1st level allowance foes in her next two subsequent races.

After that, this well bred filly (by Unbridled’s Song out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare) has the misfortune of facing aforementioned superstar filly Untapable twice and, although finishing third both times, she was beaten a total of almost 20 lengths.

That being said, in her last race (the Grade: 1 Acorn at Belmont) she didn’t exactly break very well (12th of 13), but began picking off horse one by one down the back side. At the finish, she wound up third, beaten less than five lengths to another talented filly in Sweet Reason….clearly looks best of the rest in this race.



3) Taketheodds- hasn’t run a bad race in any of her four career starts.

He hinted at her ability in her very first race by making up nine lengths in a half of a mile of a six furlong race. Her connections gave her the rest of the winter off and brought her back in May, where although it took her two more starts to break her maiden, she dod so impressively in winning by 3 1/2 .

Late running filly takes after her dad (Street Sense) and Stevie Wonder can see she is improving, not only with each race, but with the stretch out in distance. (Also, please take note of the improving speed figures with each race).

The big draw back is, of course, she steps up from a first lever allowance into a Grade:3 race vs. one of the better fillies in the east. Lastly, you have a bit of the “fresh face” angle with her too.


Honorable Mention:

America also had the misfortune of facing Untapable in her last and had a troubled trip in her race before that. This A.P Indy filly comes from very capable Bill Mott barn with a strong 5 furlong work in tow (1:00.3 over the notoriously slow and deep Oklahoma training track at Saratoga)….could better this rating


2014 Record: 15-38 = 39%  

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Little Bets N’ Pieces

**** Just a quick reminder for the scores of you who email me, our 6 year old Princess Mara has been entered in the 9th race on Sunday at Saratoga.

Princess Mara will be facing a full field of 13, going a mile and three sixteenths on the turf, will break from post 9 and have Junior Alvarado aboard. Once again, I’m sorry but the morning line odds have not been released at the time of this writing.

Our good looking mare (if I don’t say so myself) by Leroidesanimaux has been training well in the mornings of late (galloping 1 ½ miles and recording a half mile work in :48 flat about a week and a half ago)…. so much so we were going to wait until towards the middle of the Saratoga meet to run her, but evidently she has different plans for herself.


Princess Mara goes in the ninth on Sunday at Saratoga

Princess Mara goes in the ninth on Sunday at Saratoga



**** Candy Boy, second to Shared Belief in the Los Alamitos Derby on July 5, will be making his next start in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack on Aug. 2, trainer John Sadler said.

Candy Boy has had a solid year…winning the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year, then was third to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby before finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby.

Now get this….Sadler said he preferred the West Virginia Derby because leaving town helps him avoid Shared Belief.

“I won’t be running against Shared Belief anytime soon” Sadler said….wise choice Mr. Sadler…run for $750,000 and avoid a monster at the same time? Good call.


Candy Boy is heading west

Candy Boy is heading west



**** 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist worked five furlongs in 1:01.2 (out in 1:15.1) last Sunday morning at Belmont Park and later in the day was boarded a van headed for Saratoga.

The good looking son of Tapit will make his next start in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 26 and then, if all goes well, the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 23.

“Every week we’ve done a bit more since we came back,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “Today is probably his most aggressive work for the Jim Dandy.”

Clement added Tonalist “Hasn’t changed (since his break after the Belmont Stakes) and we’re back to where we were for the last four months. It was a nice work; came back [and] he had a fair blow afterwards. We’ll work him five-eighths galloping out three-quarters in Saratoga next week. The question will be do we do that on the main track or the training track and I got one week to think about it. I’m happy with him.”

Tonalist continues to wear bar shoes on both front feet.

Clement said that Tonalist’s feet have “not been a concern since the Belmont. We’re just trying to be ahead of the game. We’re trying to prevent more than fix.”


2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist

2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist



**** 2014 Gotham Stakes winner Samraat worked a mile in 1:43 flat at Aqueduct last week as he prepares for his next start, which could come in either the Jim Dandy (July 26) or the $1 million Haskell on July 27.

Trainer Rick Violette said he caught Samraat’s last quarter in “under 24 seconds without being run off his feet. I don’t know how you could get much better without trying to break stopwatches.”

“We’ll look at both races and see where he should run.” Violette said.






**** The gorgeous and multiple graded stakes winning Departing, who has never actually run at Saratoga, breezed an easy half-mile in 48.1 seconds before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.3 and pulling up a sixth furlong in 1:14.3 over the Saratoga main track last week.

The gelding by War Front, who won the Illinois, West Virginia and Super Derbies last year, will be pointed towards the Whitney Handicap on Aug 2.

“I was very pleased with the way he worked this morning,” said trainer Al Stall. “That’s just him. He keeps going and going at the same pace. He trained awesome here last summer, although of course, he didn’t race here. But he ran very well when we took him out of town.”

Departing has started just twice since returning from a seven-month break, winning an allowance race going a mile April 30 at Churchill Downs before finishing a good third behind Moonshine Mullin in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster.

“We feel pretty good about him right now,” said Stall. “He’s had two solid races since coming back after being given a complete let down this winter, and it would appear he’s sitting on ‘the race’ right now. He was in pretty deep water right away after the allowance win, he made the lead between calls, and I thought he acquitted himself real well in the Foster, considering it was only his second race all year after a long layoff.”

“The division is a one-horse division right now. You’re going to have a 3-5 shot (Palace Malice) in the Whitney,” said Stall, “After that, I’m not sure where everybody else stacks up.”


Departing is finally going to run at Saratoga

Departing is finally going to run at Saratoga



**** Uncle Sigh, who finished second to Samraat in the Withers and Gotham Stakes’ earlier this year, will miss the remainder of the year after being diagnosed with a pulled muscle in his back, trainer Gary Contessa said last Saturday morning.

Contessa said Uncle Sigh would be turned out at owner Chip McEwen’s farm in Ocala, Fla., for 60 days and hopefully come back to him at Belmont Park in the fall.

Uncle Sigh was scratched June 15 from the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park after getting cast in his stall at Belmont two days earlier. Contessa thought Uncle Sigh came out of that incident ok but noticed he was “off” during training afterwards.

Uncle Sigh was shipped to a clinic in New Jersey, where a scintigraphy showed the muscle pull.

“It lit up that muscle in the back. Everything else is clean,” Contessa said. “The good news is that’s all it was, and it’s easily fixed. The bad news is he’s going to miss his 3-year-old career. But [he’s] in better shape than a lot of 3-year-olds who are going to miss their whole career.”


**** Jockey Gary Stevens has stopped riding completely and have knee replacement surgery, but hopes to return after he does extensive rehabilitation.

Stevens, 51, was forced to quit riding twice previously because of knee issues and had fluid drained from his knee twice this past week.

“The time has come to do this,” said Stevens, who said he would return to broadcasting if he cannot return to riding. “Let’s see where we go from here.”

Stevens said doctors told him most people need six months to fully recover from a knee replacement but that the timetable for him should be a bit shorter since he is a fit athlete. He said he hopes to be back riding “in late December or early January.”

“I’m excited about getting a new knee,” said Stevens, “I am uncomfortable the way it is now. It keeps swelling up and I knew the day was going to come when it was going to blow up.”

Stevens said he is “not raising the white flag” on his riding career.

“I’m not retired. I’m taking a break,” said Stevens, who said he would spend the summer with his family in California, “In my mind, I’m not finished.”

Listen, either way….I’m is ok with this…. I mean I’m not sure if Stevens is a better riding or in the broadcast booth. He’s already a Hall of Fame rider but, if you ask me, he could have gone in an analyst as well. I very much enjoy listening to him.


Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens is calling a timeout

Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens is calling a timeout


**** 2013 Breeders Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man has been retired from racing and will enter stud at Adena Springs Farm in Paris, Ky., for the 2015 season.

Mucho Macho Man, 6, who will stand along with his sire Macho Uno, ends his career having nine wins (six stakes), five seconds, and three thirds and earning $5,625,410

“Mucho Macho Man was so tough and genuine,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “He gave his all every time. After five seasons of training and racing, he shows signs of some minor wear and tear. He is still sound and happy, but we have decided that it is in his best interests to retire him. He has nothing more to prove to any of us.”

Owner Dean Reeves said: “Mucho Macho Man gave (wife) Patti (Reaves) and our team enormous pleasure. He has generated so many fans, both in the state of Georgia and nationwide. We are extremely excited about him joining the star-studded roster at Adena Springs, and look forward to supporting him as a stallion and racing his progeny.”

Frank Stronach, who owns Adena Springs, said: “The Breeders’ Cup Classic is a true championship race, and a forecaster of the industry’s future top sires. Mucho Macho Man campaigned against the best every year ages two through six, and consistently excelled around two turns on the dirt. He will be an important addition to our roster.”

On top of the Breeders Cup Classic, “M3’s” major wins included the 2011 Risen Star Stakes, The Florida Sunshine Millions Classic (twice), The Gulfstream Park Handicap, The Suburban Handicap and the Awesome Again Stakes.

In the 2011 Triple Crown races, he was third in the Kentucky Derby (Animal Kingdom), sixth in the Preakness Stakes and seventh in the Belmont Stakes.


By: Gerard Apadula

Director of Equine Operations and Development

Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team