All eyes in the sports of Horse Racing, and beyond, will be in two places on two separate days and on different sides of the country this weekend as Saratoga Race Course in New York will be running the 2014 Travers Stakes on Saturday, which will feature a rematch between Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist and Jim Dandy winner Wicked Strong, along with speed demon Bayern, and on Sunday, Del-Mar in California will be running the 2014 Pacific Classic that will feature the sensational Shared Belief taking on older rivals for $1 million.
On top of those two races there are a plethora of other major races being run and it all starts today (Friday) at Saratoga with the $500,000, Grade: 1 Personal Ensign for three year old and up fillies and mares going nine furlongs. The race is spearheaded by a few of the best fillies in the country in Princess of Sylmar, Close Hatches and the speedy Belle Gallantey.
This one looks to be a real barn burner with Princess of Symlar looking to avenge a loss to Close Hatches in the June 7 Ogden Mills Phipps, Belle Gallantey, who has won four of her last five races and the well bred (by A.P Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare) Anitpathy, who has yet to finish off the board in 2014 including winning the Grade: 2 Shuvee over this very track in her last start.
Close Hatches will be making her first start in some 75 days as trainer Bill Mott elected to train her up to this race. “She’s always run pretty good off the bench,” said Mott of his filly, who won the Phipps by a head over Princess of Sylmar, with Antipathy just a neck back in third; and fifth-place finisher Belle Gallantey less than two lengths behind the winner. “Her works have been good, and I think we’ve got enough in her. She always runs very well when she’s had time between races.”
“She just missed in the Phipps,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of his filly Princess of Sylmar. “She ran a big race (in the Phipps) and didn’t get a proper set-up in the Delaware Handicap (her race before) and maybe didn’t run her ‘A’ race, but she has been training exceptionally well and we believe she is sitting on a good effort.”
“We need some racing luck (to win the Personal Ensign),” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Antipathy. “It’s a tough group, but we’re happy to be in there, and we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, we’ll have a good day. I think she belongs (among the best in the division). She missed by only a half-length in the Phipps and came back and won (the Shuvee).”
Moving on to Saturday, be sure to catch two races on the Travers under-card in the Ballerina and King’s Bishop Stakes’.
Even though the Ballerina, which is a seven furlong sprint for three year olds and up fillies and mares for $500,000, will be without crack female sprints Grace Hall and My Wandy’s Girl, the race still drew very strong.
Grace Hall is out after suffering another foot injury (she broke the coffin bone in her right front foot in the 2013 Apple Blossom and missed over a year of her career) in a workout over the Oklahoma training track on Aug. 11. According to trainer Bill Mott, Grace Hall was galloping out after the work when she shied from horses working on the Oklahoma turf course. This mare, by Empire Maker, is now five and it maybe time to stop on her but Mott also said “it’s be a little premature to say” whether Grace Hall’s racing career is over.
My Wandy’s Girl, also five, probably will not run again according to trainer Mike Hushion. “I haven’t been happy with the way she’s been training,” Hushion said.
Even with the defections of Grace Hall and My Wandy’s Girl, the Ballerina was still drew a large field and talented field of nine. Top contenders include: Artemis Agrotera, who is already a Grade: 1 winner and won her last by 10 lengths, “I just decided that, in my opinion, she fits very well in the race,” trainer Mike Hushion said. “and for a grade I for all that money, it’s time to go while she’s good”.
The very versatile Better Lucky, who is a two time Grade: 1 winner on the turf and who came from far back to win the $100,000 Shine Again Stakes on the dirt her last time out also rates a chnace. “We felt like we’ve accomplished enough with her on the grass—she’s won two grade Is—that if she takes back to the dirt as we saw in the Shine Again, the Ballerina would be a logical race to try her back,” trainer Thomas Albertrani said. “She’s been training as well as I’ve ever seen her.”
My Miss Aurelia, who sports a 6-1-3 record from 10 careers starts, but was third behind Better Lucky in the Shine Again after an 18 month layoff…with normal improvement, she should bounce back and run huge on Saturday. “I think (the Shine Again), hopefully, will move her forward,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I thought she ran hard that day. It was a long time since she’d run, and the complexion of the race forced us to get her involved early. I think she needed that run, so I’ve been pleased with the way she’s trained. I thought her last breeze was particularly good and, hopefully, an indication she’s in top form for this”.
La Verdad, who is nothing short of a win machine while posting nine wins in 12 lifetime starts, should also bounce back from a rare poor performance in her last (the Honorable Miss Stakes, July 28). “Everything went poorly (in that race), and she still wound up beaten only three lengths,” trainer Linda Rice said. “So, we’ll forgive her. I think that seven-eighths may not be her best distance. I rather it be six or 6 1/2, but she’s come out of the race very well and she breezed excellently the other day (Aug 17- 4F- :47.4). How many grade Is do you have for fillies and mares sprinting?”
A couple of other to look out for include Voodoo Tales, who although will be taking a big step up in class, won her last two races both by wide margins, and Hot Stones, who runs late and has been on the board 11 of 12 times in her career. .
The King’s Bishop, also a seven furlong Grade: 1 sprint for $500,000 for three year olds only, drew a field of eight led by Wildcat Red and Coup de Grace.
Wildcat Red is batting .500 in his career and, aside from the Kentucky Derby, has not run a bad race yet in his career. The good looking colt by D’Wildcat finally drops back to what could be his best distance on Saturday and he is as game as they come.
Coup de Grace is five for seven in his career and comes into this race at peak form. He’s won two in a row and came from well off the pace to capture the Grade: 2, 6 ½ furlong Amsterdam Stakes by three going away lengths over this track in his last while stopping the clock in a snappy 1:15.1 on July 26.
Other intriguing runners in the Kings Bishop including Fast Anna, who broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park by two lengths, while getting six furlongs in 1:09.4. This speedster then came back to smash non winners of two allowance foes by 13 lengths on July 6.
The colt by Medaglia d’Oro signaled readiness for this race when he ripped three furlongs in :34 flat, got a half in :46.2 and went out five furlongs in :58.3 on Aug 16 at Saratoga.
Trainer Kathy Ritvo said despite the enormous speed and effort of the work, Fast Anna wasn’t even blowing hard when he got back to the barn. “That’s just him, he always works fast but it never seems to take anything out of him,” said Ritvo.
“He just loves being up here (Saratoga) and just loves this track,” Ritvo added. “I know he’s been in front in his first two starts, but I don’t think he’s the type of horse who needs to be on the lead to win.”
Big Beast is another who, although light on experience, might make his presence felt. The colt by Yes It’s True won a six furlongs allowance non winner of one in 1:09 flat on July 26, and C Zee, who’s career record is 10-3-3-3, has been burning up the racetrack in the mornings of late including a :46.3 half mile on Aug 16.
Lastly, if you are looking for a long-shot in this race, take a look at Noble Conerstone and particularly that last race. Grant it, it was against optional $40,000 NY State Breds claimers, but his final time was a lighting 1:15.3 for 6 ½ panels….if he runs back to that race, he could surprise a lot of people
Out west at Del Mar (and on the Pacific Classic under-card) are the $250,000 Del Mar Mile and the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes.
The Del Mar Mile (turf), which is for three year old and up for $250,000, might be the easiest of the big races to handicap this weekend with Obviously entered.
The six year old has been nothing short of spectacular in 2014 while wining both (turf mile) starts while running his opposition off their feet.
In the May 17 Grade: 3 American, this guy sprinted clear early and posted a 1:08.2 six furlong fraction and won in hand by 5+ lengths, getting a mile in 1:33.1. He then came back about a month later in the Grade: 1 Shoemaker Mile and ran even better.
The gelding by Choisir, who stands in Australia, quickly bounced out of the gate and set torrid early fractions (:44.2 and 1:08 flat) and cruised home in an astonishing 1:32.3.
With the exception of Tom’s Tribute, who has won two of his last three is fine fashion and coming to Obviously late in the Shoemaker Mile (only to finish second), and Lil Bit O’ Fun, who has won three in a row including his last when he covered the mile distance in a smashing 1:32.1, I don’t see anyone else who can run with Obviously in the form he is in right now….That sounds like a nice three horse exacta to me.
The $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes, which is a seven furlong sprint for three year olds and up, figures to be a good race also with the entrants of Fed Biz, Big Macher and Goldencents among the total of eight lining up.
Fed Biz, who loves the surface at Del Mar, comes off a handy 5 ¼ length wire to wire score in the San Diego Handicap on July 26 and with a solid six furlong (1:11.2) work in tow. “He loves this track,” trainer Bob Baffert said with a smile after watching the work.
Big Macher, who has now won two in a row including the Grade: 1 Bing Crosby in his last and Goldencents, who has yet to win in 2014 (and was second to Big Macher in the Bing Crosby) but also turned in a big six furlong work (1:11.4) for this, once again, look like a pretty strong three horse exacta box to me
By: Gerard Apadula
Director of Equine Operations and Development
Knights of the Round Stable Thoroughbred Racing Team
2014 Record: 17-44 = 39%
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Saturday August 23, 2014
Saratoga Race Course
Post: 5:45pm EST
For Three Year Olds
1 ¼ miles
Purse: $1.25 million
|4||4||V. E. Day
|I. Ortiz, Jr.
|B. Hernandez, Jr.
|C. McGaughey III||–||L|
1) Wicked Strong– I’m thinking maybe when trainer Jimmy Jerkens added blinkers to this colt, it might have had him turn the corner in his career.
Jerkens put the shades on him for the first time in the Jim Dandy and he responded by laying closer to the early pace before taking command of the race in mid-stretch and clearly pulled away from Tonalist (one of his main rivals today) late.
In most of his races before that this colt, by the gorgeous Hard Spun, would drop 8, 10,12 lengths off the early lead, make up ground in the stretch but more times than not, he came up short. The blinkers have him more focused and have added some early speed as well.
“He was really on his game (in the Jim Dandy),” Jerkens said. “He certainly was right off legitimate fractions. It isn’t like he lost ground on the first turn and slowed it down to a walk. He was running all the way. I thought it was a great effort.”
“He just kind of put it all together. He was focused. He was only thinking about running; he wasn’t uncontrollable by any means,” jockey Rajiv Maragh said. “He showed good energy and kept straight and kept to his business, which is what we were hoping the blinkers would do for him.”
The good looking bay, who was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and a dead heat (with California Chrome) fourth in the Belmont Stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:13 flat last Saturday, going his first three furlongs in 36.3 seconds under regular exercise rider Kelvin Pahal. Pahal sat chilly on the horse through the stretch as he got his last three furlongs in 36.1 seconds. He then galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27 and pulled up a mile in 1:42.3.
“That was all on his own” Jerkens said. “We weren’t looking for anything too fast; we didn’t want to go too fast with the blinkers. I thought it was just right.”
I’m not sure all of that will be enough as it appears main rival and morning line favorite Bayern will have things all his own way on the front end.
“I wish there was a little more [speed] to keep him (Bayern) busy, no question about it, and we could sit off them,” Jerkens said, who drew post #7 and is outside of Bayern and Tonalist. “I’d feel a lot better about that. You got to let him (Bayern) kind of go to a degree and hope a mile and a quarter isn’t his thing. Rajiv will be able to tell whether to attack him early or not. He’s a good judge of pace.”
“I think that’s very ideal to be drawn outside of Bayern and Tonalist as opposed to being inside,” Maragh said. “I think we’re very fortunate with the way the posts are drawn. It gives me many options.”
2) Bayern– has been an absolute monster in annihilating his foes in both the seven furlong Woody Stephens (won by 7 1/2, wire to wire in a lighting 1:20.3) and then came back to lead every step of the way in wiring the Grade: 1 Haskell field by the same 7 ½ lengths in his last two while putting up consistent and gaudy speed figures in both (107 and 108).
This speedster burst onto the scene with back to back huge wins to start his career but suffer a foot injury that derailed him and slowed him down a bit shortly thereafter….after watching his last two races I’d say its safe to say he’s past those issues.
“This horse won big early in his career and looked like a superstar. I had a little setback with bruised quarters and was trying to play catch-up” Baffert said who is winless in 10 starts over the past five years in dirt routes at Saratoga. “When we went to the Arkansas Derby, I waited for him to open up, but he got a little tired. I ran him back in Derby Trial but he couldn’t get away from those horses. That track was playing of kind of funny. In the Preakness, he got destroyed leaving the gate. We got him back to Churchill Downs and he started to work well; he just wasn’t caught up with those horses.”
He’ll be out there winging it on the lead early…that much we know for sure, but the real question is, can he get the 10 furlongs? Based off his last race, it certainly appears so.
“We’ve been trying to rate him. That’s not working; let him rip,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I thought he’d run well, but what he did that day (Haskell), I was blown away.”
“After watching the Haskell, I think he can get a mile and a quarter with these 3-year-olds,” Baffert added “We’re going to find out if he can get it.”
“I’m not totally convinced yet that he can get a mile and a quarter, but he’s pretty fast. “You have to let him go and what happens, happens. You can’t worry about it,” Baffert added. “When you have a brilliant horse with that kind of speed, you have to use it.”
The Offlee Wild colt, who continues to burn up the racetrack in the mornings, is the 2-1 morning line favorite and rightfully so. Although having never been 10 furlongs before I’m going to try to beat him in this spot….which might prove futile as I don’t see a whole bunch of other speed to run with him early and he could easily take this field coast to coast.
3) Tonalist- won the ’14 Belmont Stakes and spoiled California Chrome’s Triple Crown attempt, but was then given some 49 days off and may have been a little “short” in conditioning when coming second to the top pick in the Jim Dandy in his last.
“I don’t think he ran a bad race (in the Jim Dandy), he just got beat,” trainer Christophe Clement said who has 10 wins in 26 starts (38%) in dirt routes over the past five years when he hoists Joel Rosario into the saddle. “I’m looking forward to the Travers, I’m looking forward to the mile and a quarter, I’m looking forward to the pace scenario. I’m very excited.”
This colt by Tapit has shown the versatility to be effective from on or off the lead and that could help him big time in this race.
“Nice work, a touch more aggressive than last week,” Clement said after watching his charge work five eighths in 1:01.4 while getting the final furlong in solid :12.4. “To me, the horse is very, very fit. We’ll just see how he comes out of his work, try to keep him happy, keep him sound, and run him next Saturday.”
This is obviously a talent colt and he could bounce back and run a tremendous race on Saturday. Actually the top three are very closely matched and any of them can jump up and win it…..could easily better this rating.
I still like Kid Cruz a lot, he possess quite a closing kick and after finishing third, beaten six lengths in the Jim Dandy, it appears as though he is just one or two notches below the elite three year olds this year. That being said… do not discount him completely.
Sunday August 24, 2014
Del Mar Race Track
1 ¼ miles
Purse: $1 million
For Three Year Olds and Up
|1||Frac Daddy 15-1||A. Garcia
|2||Irish Surf 8-1||E. Trujillo
|3||Imperative 20-1||K. Desormeaux
|4||Ice Cream Truck 30-1||T. Pereira
|5||Game On Dude 3-1||M. Garcia
|6||You Know I Know 15-1||E. Maldonado
|7||MajesticHarbor 9-2||T. Baze
|8||Toast of New York 10-1||V. Espinoza
|9||Clubhouse Ride 8-1||J. Talamo
|10||Mystery Train (ARG) 20-1||F. Perez
|11||Shared Belief 5-2||M. Smith
1) Shared Belief- is a budding superstar, if he isn’t one already. He is in my eyes for sure, and I expect him to show the world how good he is in this race.
The small in stature gelding possesses an electrifying and overwhelming late run that is visually impressive to watch and has yet to be tested thus far in his career.
What few tests he’s been handed so far (stretch out in distance, switching from synthetic surfaces to dirt, entered against older horses) he’s handled with condescending ease, but as far as other horses, no-one has been closer than 4 ¼ lengths to him. Here we are five races into his career and… .really… we don’t know exactly how good he is.
The undefeated 2013 male champion two year old comes into this race with a steady string of strong works topped off by an easy half mile (:49.3) last week….perfect work pattern.
“I think we’ve done all the things we need to do to be ready,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “It should be a heck of a race, we’re happy to be able to compete”
The son of Candy Ride, who has been on the shelf most of the year with a severe quarter crack, has had just two starts this year. He has won an allowance sprint against older horses at Golden Gate (which honestly was nothing more than a paid workout) on May 25 before absolutely burying his rivals in the July 5 Los Alamitos Derby. He drew off to win by 4 1/4 lengths while new jockey Mike Smith could have let the whip back in the dressing room….he never even thought about using it
Not sold on him yet? Ok…let’s ask Mike Smith, the Hall of Famer who also happens to be Game On Dude’s regular rider and has been aboard him for several of his Grade: 1 wins, what he thinks because, with both horses entered in this race, he had to make a choice….he chose Shared Belief.
“I was really amazed at the ease with which he won the Los Alamitos Derby, and there was a good group of 3-year-olds behind him. This horse is such a professional and so straightforward. I was also amazed at how well balanced he is. He’s not a big horse, but when you’re on him he make you feel like you’re on a giant. He had plenty left in the tank at the end; it’s kind of scary.”….agreed Mr. Smith….he is scary good.
Game On Dude’s trainer, Bob Baffert, actually agreed too: “As soon as they crossed the finish line (in the Los Alamitos Derby), I said, ‘Oops, I’m gonna need a new jockey,” Baffert said. “I can’t blame Mike for going with the younger gelding. We really don’t know how good that horse is.”…and that’s coming from a rival trainer.
When Smith was asked which horse is most dangerous Smith said Game On Dude for sure.
“I know if he gets things his own way, he’s going to be extremely difficult. I hope we can get some help. If we don’t I’ll have to do it myself. But when you get this caliber of horses, there should be some pace. The goal is a simple one—I have to flat outrun Game On Dude.”…No worries Mr. Smith, with drawing the extreme outside post as your only disadvantage, it looks like you will.
2) MajesticHarbor– remember last week in the Alabama Stakes breakdown how utterly shocked I was that Joint Return was listed at 15-1 on the morning line? (It was one of the few times I was actually right, she ran a huge second at long odds), well, I have the same feeling about this six year old….9/2 is very generous.
The six year old, by Rockport Harbor, has shown flashes of ability throughout his career but appears to have finally put it all together and is gathering momentum. His last race, the Grade: 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, was easily his best race yet as he laid back off a hot early pace and swept past the field to win drawing away by 6 ¼ impressive lengths.
“We are pleasantly surprised,” owner Ron Beegle said. “We thought he had talent and always demonstrated talent. He’d never put it all together. He had his bumps and bruises. But since he’s been out here in California, he’s been a changed horse.”
“It so happens that a mile and a quarter is his best distance,” Beegle added. “That distance is tough on a lot of horses. It’s worked well for him.”
Good looking horse has logged four very good works over the past four weeks and looks to be peaking out at just the right time of year (for this race and the Breeders Cup Classic just around the corner) and he should go well on Sunday afternoon.
3) Game On Dude– its starting to appear this speedy gelding by the gorgeous Awesome Again might finally be on the downside of his career.
He’s won a plethora of Grade: 1’s through his career but truth be told, he hasn’t been the same since the Nov 2, 2013 Breeders Cup Classic….In fact, he’s just 1 for his last 6 since then.
You gotta love this old boy and, trust me, I was looking nine ways to Sunday for ways of him to win this but I couldn’t find all that many. I can excuse that last race as he got caught up in a suicidal early speed dual (:45.1, 1:09.4) and wilted in the stretch but I can’t find much for the other five he’s lost.
This big bay with the royal blue blinkers shows a pair of rock solid seven furlong works topped off by a quick five furlong move (:59.3) last Monday, one which prompted trainer Bob Baffert to say: “I’m happy. He’s ready, he’s coming into this race really, really well.”
He is going to find a little fountain of youth to pull this one off from where I sit, and he may just do that…especially if like jockey Mike Smith said earlier, he gets out there on an uncontested lead…if not….
Mystery Train is the proverbial dark horse as he will be making his US debut, which in turn makes it hard to get a read on him. But, in his past performances I see three wins in a row with all three at the Pacific Classic distance. Two of them in sub 1:59 and two of them also in group: 1 races. I also see 15 on the board finishes out of 19 career starts…surprise package?? Toast of New York disappointed in the Grade: 1 Belmont Derby on July 5th after looming boldly at the quarter pole only to sink back to a sixth place finish. But please note, that race was on the grass, if you go back to his prior three races, he won all three by a combined 31 lengths with all three of those coming on the All Weather surface…..a surface he returns to on Sunday…..hmmmm…that’s interesting. Clubhouse Ride seems to be in good form in his last 4-5 races but even with that, he going to need to find a way to make up some 6-7 lengths to Majestic Harbor, who manhandled him in his last race….minor chance for a slice of the pie.
Little Bets N Pieces:
**** Will Take Charge will skip the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes on Aug. 30 at Saratoga and point to the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 27, according to trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
The reason being Will Take Charge, last year’s 3-year-old champion who is just 1 for 6 this year, will be given a slight break Lukas said.
“We’ve run pretty much across the country every dance, and so I feel like if we take a little bit of a breather, we can probably come with a real good rush in these next two (races),” Lukas said. “The ultimate goal is obviously the Breeders’ Cup.”
“At some point in the summer, we have to back off a little bit. You can’t back off a lot,” Lukas said. “I backed off for about 10 or 12 days. I’ve been galloping, jogging, mixing it in. He’s put on about 10, 15, 20 pounds doing that, so I like what I see.”
Lukas also noted that a pair of 2-year-olds, Mr. Z and the filly Take Charge Brandi, who is a half sister to Will take Charge, would skip the Hopeful and Spinaway stakes, respectively.
**** Competitive Edge, a monster debut (10 ¼ length) winner on July 26, worked five furlongs in 1:00 flat last Tuesday as he continues to prepare for the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful at Saratoga Sept. 1.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had Competitive Edge start off behind stablemate Blame Jim before having jockey John Velazquez go wide and finish up strong in the stretch.
The colt by Super Saver galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 and a seventh furlong in 1:27.4.
“I wanted to let him get a little dirt in his face because he didn’t have any in his first race,” Pletcher said. “He seemed to handle that well, finished up good. (I was)Very pleased with his gallop-out as well. All is going according to plan so far.”
**** It appears (at this writing) back to back Horse of the Year Wise Dan will make his next start in the $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 30, but that could be subject to change according to trainer Charles LoPresti
Trainer Charlie LoPresti had said previously he was leaning toward the Sept. 14 Woodbine Mile at Woodbine Racecourse in Canada as the most likely spot for the gelding’s comeback after recovering from colic surgery, but he opted for the Bernard Baruch two weeks earlier.
“He’s awful good right now. I just don’t want to sit on him forever and if I don’t enter I won’t have a chance to run.”
If, for some reason, such as inclement weather that affected the Saratoga course conditions on Bernard Baruch day, and Wise Dan did not run Aug. 30 then he would be pointed toward the Woodbine Mile race at Woodbine on Sept 14.
“The goal for this horse right now is the best route to get him to the Breeders’ Cup,” LoPresti said. “He’s very good right now. This race makes sense. He’s right in his back yard. All he has to do is walk across the street and run. Unless something goes wrong within the next 10 days, my decision is to enter in the Bernard Baruch and if all the stars line up, he will run in the Bernard Baruch.”