Making the Grade: Destin
Making the Grade, which will run through the 2016 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We'll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.
This week we take a closer look at Destin, winner of the $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) on March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Gray or Roan Colt
Sire: Giant's Causeway
Dam: Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Owner: Twin Creeks Racing Stables
Breeder: James C. Weigel and Taylor Made Stallions Inc. (Ky.)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Road to the Kentucky Derby Points: 51 (Ranked No. 2)
While Destin's win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) marked a breakthrough, his clear victory in the Tampa Bay Derby solidified his status as a true Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopeful. It was fair to question the quality of competition he faced in the Sam F. Davis, but he beat some quality 3-year-olds in the Tampa Bay Derby and looked very good going so. At the very least, Destin is an intriguing 3-year-old on the rise. More importantly, what is his ceiling? Let's explore ...
Ability: On paper, there was virtually nothing that to suggest Destin was on the verge of a career-best effort prior to the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Sure, he looked good winning his career debut by a length atBelmont Park in October, when he earned an 89 Equibase Speed Figure. But in two subsequent races he finished second as the overwhelming favorite in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race and fourth, beaten by five lengths, in the grade III Lecomte Stakes. Destin looked like a different horse in the Sam F. Davis when winning by 2 1/4 lengths and finishing with a 110 Equibase Speed Figure. Trainer Todd Pletcher adjusted Destin's blinkers to those with little peeps that allowed him to look around and see other horses, so he wouldn't slow down and wait for his opponents. The result was a career-best performance that demonstrated improved maturity.
In the Tampa Bay Derby, Destin looked even more professional while powering past stablemate Outwork to prevail by a length in a track-record time of 1:42.82 for the 1 1/16 miles.
A $400,000 purchase by owner Twin Creeks Racing Stables at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, Destin is beginning to look like a heck of a bargain.
While he has yet to win a significant race away from Tampa Bay Downs, which can be a quirky main track, Destin looks like a legitimate Kentucky Derby hopeful heading in the right direction at an ideal time.
"He seems to be getting more and more professional and is learning how to finish his races," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who added that the Wood Memorial Stakes (April 9), Blue Grass Stakes (April 9) and Arkansas Derby (April 16)—all grade I—could be the next step for Destin. "I felt he would improve with more experience and that is proving to be true."
Running style: Only once has Destin been more than three lengths back in a race, and that came in the Lecomte Stakes when he was a well beaten fourth. He's finished first or second in each of his other four races—ranging from about a length to three lengths off the pace—and that looks like his sweet spot.
In the Tampa Bay Derby, Destin was a half-length back after an opening half-mile in a tepid :47.88. He has had no trouble staying within striking range of relatively easy fractions; I'm interested to see if he can keep pace with a brisk early tempo and still finish strongly. That usually is the key to winning the Kentucky Derby for horses with tactical speed.
Connections: Trainer Todd Pletcher has three wins in Triple Crown races on his résumé. He won the Kentucky Derby in 2010 with Super Saver and the Belmont Stakes with Rags to Riches in 2007 andPalace Malice in 2013. A seven-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer, Pletcher served as an assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas before going out on his own in 1996.
The all-time leader among North American trainers by purse earnings with $311,267,210 through March 16, Pletcher's career-best season total of $28,116,097 came in 2007. He led all North American trainers by purse earnings from 2010 through 2015.
Pletcher has nine victories in the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Javier Castellano won his third consecutive Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in 2015, when he exceeded his own previous single-season earnings record with $28,120,767 in purse earnings, exceeding his previous mark of $26,219,907 set in 2013. He also won 17 Grade 1 races and ranked first by number of wins in 2015 with 344. Castellano's lone victory in a Triple Crown race came with Bernardini in the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I). He has twice finished second in the Belmont Stakes (Comissioner, 2014; Stay Thirsty , 2011) and finished third with Divining Rod in the 2015 Preakness Stakes. From nine Kentucky Derby mounts, his best finish was fourth aboard Normandy Invasion in 2013.
Established in 2007, Twin Creeks Racing Stables is a racing partnership managed by Randy Gullatt and Steve Davison. They've successfully raced horses such as grade I winner Graydar and multiple graded stakes winner Red Rifle, and bred in partnership grade I winner To Honor and Serve . Multiple graded stakes winner Mission Impazible was Twin Creeks' first Kentucky Derby starter, finishing ninth in 2010, and the operation raced in partnership Vinceremos, who finished 17th in the 2014 Derby.
Pedigree: By three-time leading sire Giant's Causeway out of grade I winner Dream of Summer, Destin certainly has the pedigree to excel in elite races going a route of ground. He's a full brother to grade I winnerCreative Cause , who finished second in the 2012 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), third in that year's Preakness, and fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Creative Cause also finished third in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in 2011.
Giant's Causeway led the general sire list in 2009, 2010 and 2012. A spectacular racehorse who won nine times and finished second four times in 13 races, Giant's Causeway earned $3,078,989, won five group I races and was named European Horse of the Year in 2000. He is perhaps best remembered in the U.S. for his thrilling stretch duel withTiznow in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), in which he came up a neck short.
As good as he was as a racehorse, Giant's Causeway has been equally powerful as a sire with 99 group or graded stakes winners and eight champions to his credit.
Dream of Summer was a four-time graded stakes winner who earned $1,191,150 on the racetrack. She was a multiple graded stakes-winner sprinting whose career-defining victory came in the grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at 1 1/16 miles in 2005. Destin is her fourth winner from five starters to date.
Destin's grandam, Mary's Dream, by Skywalker, was unraced. However, his third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Proper Mary, won three stakes races and his fourth dam (maternal great-great-grandmother), My Mary, was a stakes winner who also produced three stakes winners, including grade II winner Somethingmerry.
From a pedigree standpoint, Destin should boast plenty of class and stamina to be a major threat in the Triple Crown races. For a horse who looks like he's just beginning to mature and learn his job, Destin's combination of ability and pedigree could prove an especially potent combo.
Eagle Scout Gives Pletcher 4,000th Win
Twelve-time defending Gulfstream ParkChampionship Meet leading trainer Todd Pletcher reached a personal milestone March 18 when Eagle Scout won the fifth race to give the multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer his 4,000th victory. Watch Video
In his seventh try since win No. 3,999 March 13, Pletcher hit the 4,000 mark with WinStar Farm homebred Eagle Scout ($9.80), a first-time starter in the mile maiden event on the main track. Luis Saez was aboard for the victory.
Pletcher, 48, became just the 10th trainer to win at least 4,000 races, a list that features five Hall of Famers, including his mentor, D. Wayne Lukas. Pletcher spent parts of seven years with Lukas before going out on his own in 1995.
"We’ve been blessed with a lot of great horses and a lot of great opportunities. There’s a lot of people to be thankful to. It’s fun," Pletcher said. "I think the whole team enjoys these types of milestones. When you get to these larger numbers, I think it makes you appreciative of every single one. Everyone is significant and every win is significant."
According to Equibase statistics, Pletcher has won 767 races at Gulfstream, including his first victory with Majestic Number in 1996, as well as his 3,000th with Spring Hill Farm in 2012.
North America’s all-time leader with more than $311 million in purse earnings, Pletcher also owns 134 stakes victories at Gulfstream, 94 of those graded, including back-to-back editions of the Florida Derby (gr. I) with Constitution in 2014 and Materiality in 2015. He is one of only three trainers to win Gulfstream’s signature race three times, getting his first with Scat Daddy in 2007.
Pletcher has won an unprecedented 12 consecutive Championship Meet titles and is well on the way to a 13th, with 54 wins at the current stand, 17 more than Jorge Navarro in second. He would break a tie with Arnold Winick, who led the Gulfstream trainer standings 12 times between 1959 and 1973.
"Gulfstream has been good to us over the years. For whatever reason, the style we train fits the style of this track," Pletcher said. "Horses tend to get involved early and I think that’s an effective style. We’ve been fortunate over the years to have consistent success here."
Pletcher has been voted the Eclipse Award winner as leading trainer a record seven times (2004, 2005, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2014). He has trained 10 horses to 11 year-end championships, including Hall of Fame mare Ashado.
Pletcher won the 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in 2010 with Super Saver , the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in 2007 with filly Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palace Malice , and owns nine Breeders’ Cup victories.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to develop a lot of stakes horses, and I think over 25 percent of those wins are in stakes,” Pletcher said, “and, the fact that we’ve developed some stallions that are doing well is even more important to us. When you see the Uncle Mo s and Super Saver s coming up, having a lasting impact on the breed, that’s what’s great.”
Entering Thursday, Pletcher ranked first nationally in 2016 with $4.21 million in purse earnings and second with 71 wins. In addition to victories, he led the Championship Meet standings with $2.87 million in purses.
The late Dale Baird leads all trainers with 9,445 career wins. Pletcher ranks 10th overall and eighth among active trainers behind Steve Asmussen (7,252), Jerry Hollendorfer (7,054), Jack Van Berg (6,468), King Leatherbury (6,465), Scott Lake (5,662), Lukas (4,748), and Bill Mott (4,616).
Destin Sets Track Record in Tampa Bay Derby
Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Destindelivered a second straight stakes win atTampa Bay Downs March 12, this time setting a track record in landing the track's top classic prep race: the $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby Stakes (gr. II). Watch Video
Trainer Todd Pletcher's horses secured the top two spots as Destin edged past game stablemate Outwork in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race, earning 50 points and 20 points respectively on the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points list.
"It was a beautiful trip; he broke sharp out of the gate and put me in good position behind the top two horses. I thought there would be a little more speed, but the way he set out was beautiful," said winning rider Javier Castellano after Destin completed the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:42.82 on a fast track. "I asked him turning for home and he responded so well. He finished good and the way he galloped out was phenomenal, especially after the (track-record time). The way he's been doing, he could be a (gr. I Kentucky Derby) horse. He could be destined to win it—who knows?"
The race did not go as well for grade I winner Brody's Cause, who was bumped at the start and trailed in the field of nine early, made a bit of a rally in the turn, but finished seventh in his 3-year-old season debut.
The top two finishers entered Saturday's race off wins on the same Tampa Bay Downs card. Destin, a son of Giant's Causeway , earned a clear victory in the Feb. 13 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) and Outwork cruised to a 4 1/4-length score in an allowance/optional claiming race that day.
On Saturday Outwork led early under Racing Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez through a half-mile in :47.88 and six furlongs in 1:11.43 while tracked by grade III winner Riker and Destin. Just after the leader completed six furlongs, rider Javier Castellano asked Destin for more.
The two stablemates dueled in early stretch, with Outwork racking inside. Destin battled his way into the lead in midstretch and registered a one-length victory in 1:42.82 on a fast track. Star Hillfinished third to earn his first stakes placing, and Rafting followed in fourth.
"I was very, very pleased with (Destin's) performance," said Pletcher, who watched the outcome from Gulfstream Park. "He seems to be getting more and more professional and is learning how to finish his races. I felt he would improve with more experience and that is proving to be true. After his first two races, he was still piecing things together, but he has gotten better with experience."
Pletcher also was pleased with the first stakes start for Repole Stable's Outwork, a son of 2015 leading freshman sire Uncle Mo .
"For Outwork to put forth that type of performance in only his third start is quite impressive," Pletcher said. "We were hoping he would move forward, and he certainly ran well enough to put himself in the next round of preps, where hopefully he will move forward again."
Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks Racing Stable said Destin also is improving.
"He has come a long ways (since winning the Sam F. Davis) and I think he is ahead of even where we thought he would be," Gullatt remarked. "He's making big jumps and we're very happy. Obviously, this race gives you the option of (another prep) because of the timing. He ran super last time, but I think he was even more into the bit today and just took Javier right where he wanted. I'm elated. I think he ran even better than I was hoping he would."
Destin returned $9.20, $4.80, and $3.60 across the board while Outwork returned $5.20 to place and $4.20 to show. Star Hill returned $6.80 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by James C. Weigel & Taylor Made Stallions out of grade I winner Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer, Destin is a full brother to classic-placed Grade I winner Creative Cause . Twin Creeks landed the colt for $400,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.
Sophia's Song, Abiding Star Shine at Laurel
Earlier this year, Bill Mathis purchased controlling interest in the 3-year-old fillySophia's Song after trainer Todd Pletcher told him of the filly's potential after she won an allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park.
The potential Pletcher spoke of was in clear view Saturday at Laurel Park when Sophia's Song was never headed and ran away from five other fillies to win the $75,000 Caesar's Wish by four lengths over Wide Country Stakes winner Great Soul. Watch Video
Jockey Victor Carrasco could have won by as many as he wanted, continually looking behind him for a threat that never materialized. A daughter of Bellamy Road , Sophia's Song covered the mile in 1:38.40.
Co-owned by Head of Plains Partners LLC, Sophia's Song, who finished second in her debut at Woodbine in October, has now reeled off three consecutive victories by 11 3/4 lengths.
"She was able to get out to a comfortable lead without much pressure," said Pletcher at Gulfstream Park. "She still tends to drift a bit in the stretch and that's something we're working on, but I thought it was a solid effort."
Breaking on top, Carrasco looked nothing more than a passenger as Sophia's Song, the 1-5 favorite, cruised through fractions of :24.48, :48.07 and 1:12.67.
"I think the way the race unfolded she kind of found herself on the lead and we didn't want to take away what comes naturally for her," Pletcher said. "All in all, we're very happy with her performance."
Mathis, who flew from Oklahoma with his family to watch the race, campaigned My Miss Sophia, who was trained by Pletcher and won the Gazelle (gr. II) and was second in the 2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) behind eventual champion Untapable.
"We had pointed her down there (at Gulfstream) for the Davona Dale (gr. II, Feb. 27), but we didn't feel she was quite ready for that competition with Cathryn Sophia so we thought it was better to come up here and try this race and see if we can get her to win a stakes race, and that's what happened," Mathis said. We're thrilled and taking it one step at a time. Hopefully, better things to come.
"Clearly, there's a lot of options when you have a 3-year-old filly right now."
Also on the Laurel card Saturday, Abiding Star went to the front in the $75,000 Private Terms Stakes and kept on going.
Owned by Stonehedge and trained by Edward Allard, Abiding Star soared in the 1 1/16 mile Private Terms under jockey Jevian Toledo, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Flash McCaul. Whiskey Tree was third and favored Marengo Road was fourth in the six-horse field. Watch Video
A son of Uncle Mo , Abiding Star has been a work in progress. The colt has won his last three starts after breaking his maiden in his seventh attempt for a $40,000 claiming tag Jan. 1 at Laurel.
"He's just maturing... coming into himself," said Allard's wife and assistant trainer Mary Allard. "Typically, 3-year-old colts, they're not always real smart. Sometimes they need more time to get themselves together. And he's getting things together.
"He's happy, training really good, doing really well."
Breaking from the six post, Toledo simply took Abiding Star to the front in front of Whiskey Tree and cruised through fractions of :24.89, :49.66 and 1:15.02. The colt had a three-length lead entering the stretch before coming home in 1:46.61. Flash McCaul rallied around the far turn for the place.
"We thought if he made the lead and kept it at a nice, decent pace, we thought he'd get the job done," Allard said.
Allard said there are no firm plans for Abiding Star, but he could possibly be a late nomination for the Triple Crown, with a return to Laurel for the April 9 Federico Tesio, a "Win & You're In" for the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Mshawish Impressive in Final Drill for Dubai
Al Shaqab Racing's Mshawish served noticed March 11 that he should not be forgotten in the conversation leading up to the March 26 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), although California Chrome andFrosted may be well-deserved headliners.
The Donn Handicap (gr. I) winner—who has made an excellent transition to racing on dirt after spending most of his career on turf—wowed his connections with a powerful breeze at Palm Beach Downs in his final stateside move for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Mshawish was officially timed in :58.87 for a five-furlong move by clockers, and Al Shaqab Racing manager Bradley Weisbord credited him with a seven-furlong gallop out in 1:24 4/5.
"This was the big piece of work," Weisbord said. "We weren't going to lead him over to Dubai short. On a scale of one to 10, he's doing 200. If he gets to the race like he is today, he's going to run big."
NOVAK: Mshawish Dazzles in Donn Handicap
Mshawish, a 6-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro , has run in Dubai twice before. He took the 2014 Zabeel Mile Sponsored by Al Naboodah MEP & Engineering Group (UAE-IIT) and finished third last year in the Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World (UAE-IT). He ships from Florida to the United Arab Emirates March 13 for a try over the Meydan dirt, and will go through Atlanta and Germany before arriving in Dubai.
"California Chrome and Frosted are two extremely nice horses that virtually show up every time," Weisbord said. "They have a definite home-field advantage and it was smart of their connections to ship them over early and get them acclimated, and both have won a serious race on the track where the World Cup will be held.
"We didn't have that liberty, because we won the Donn in early February and we felt going into the Donn that it would be a rush to run there and then ship to Dubai to prep in Dubai. And if we weren't going to prep in a race, we didn't feel the need to be there early. The horse has been there before, he won the Zabeel Mile, and last year he ran third in the Dubai Turf off the same shipping schedule."
Last year Mshawish missed three days of training the week prior to the Dubai Turf with a serious foot bruise.
"He had a major issue the week of the race and still ran really well in Dubai, and with all those things considered, it gave us comfort to do all our training at Palm Beach Downs, where he has his own groom and our own staff, and then ship over there ready for battle," Weisbord said.
The well-traveled Mshawish was bred in Kentucky but began his career racing in France and England—even with a jaunt to Hong Kong thrown in right before his arrival in the U.S. for a 2014 campaign with Pletcher. He won the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. IIT) and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) in 2015, and at the end of that year, after running fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), was switched to dirt by his connections.
LEWYN: Mshawish Squeezes Out Gulfstream Turf 'Cap
The Donn Handicap victory boosted his stud value, but Mshawish should have a full campaign this year before heading off to the Taylor Made Stallions breeding shed for the 2017 season.
"He's going to be a stallion standing in Kentucky at the conclusion of his career, but barring unforeseen issues, the main goal for him this year is the Breeders' Cup Classic," Weisbord said.
NY-Bred Awesome Gent Takes Winkfield
Burning Sands Stables' homebredAwesome Gent, who sat just off two dueling leaders for almost a half-mile, took over in the stretch and pulled away to win the $125,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct Racetrack March 6. Watch Replay
It was the third consecutive win for New York-bred Awesome Gent, a gelding byAwesome Again out of the Sir Richard Lewis mare Pawnee Patti. All three victories have come on the inner dirt at Aqueduct.
Moon Over a Beauty and Sudden Surprise both broke sharply from posts 1 and 2, respectively, and hooked up in a battle that carried through an opening quarter-mile in :22.17 and a half-mile in :45.64 on a track rated fast. Jockey Manuel Franco allowed Awesome Gent to engage the top pair on the far turn and urged him past the leaders in mid-stretch.
Awesome Gent won by four lengths in 1:10.60 for six furlongs. Midwest Thoroughbreds' Quixote, a Pomeroy gelding who had won both of his starts at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, rallied inside of the winner to finish second, one length ahead of Zayat Stables' King Kranzin third.
Awesome Gent, who gave trainer Todd Pletcher his third win on the program, paid $9.40 to win.
"When I saw the two horses fighting for the lead, I just waited (on him)," Franco said. "He's a nice horse. He has speed too, but he'll let you do what you want with him."
Awesome Gent made his career debut at Saratoga Race Course last summer and finished eighth as the favorite in a New York-bred maiden special weight event. He was gelded and returned Dec. 19 to win a state-bred maiden test at Aqueduct.
He then won a state-bred entry-level allowance race Jan. 15. The Winkfield marked his first start in open company.
Front-Running Mei Ling Takes Heavenly Prize
Mei Ling returned to stakes-winning form March 5, taking the $150,000Heavenly Prize Invitational on the front end at Aqueduct Racetrack. Watch Video
Jockey Jose Ortiz gave a chilly ride aboard Barry Schwartz's 5-year-old daughter ofEmpire Maker after breaking a step slow in the 1 1/16-mile test, and sent her out to post opening fractions of :24.17 and :48.05 while opening up by about five lengths. He had plenty of horse turning for home through three-quarters in 1:12.82, and Mei Ling never faltered when set down for the drive.
"We broke OK, a step behind, but I sent her out of there and the blinkers helped a lot," Ortiz said of the Todd Pletcher trainee. "She's getting much better."
On a day that saw early speed horses dominate Saturday at Aqueduct, the bay mare finished a mile in 1:38.37 en route to a final time of 1:45.07 on a fast track. Saythreehailmary's edged out a three-horse photo for second, 3 1/4 lengths back of the winner, while Pangburnand Include Betty dead-heated for third.
Off at odds of 7-2, Mei Ling returned $9.60, $5.10, and $3.30. Saythreehailmary's brought $6.60 and $3.60, while Pangburn and Include Betty brought $2.80.
Mei Ling was bred in Kentucky by Mr. & Mrs. Larry D. Williams out of the Seeking the Gold mare Lochinvar's Gold, and was purchased by Schwartz for $500,000 from the Elm Tree Farm consignment to the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. She won her first race of the season after a second and a third in listed company at Aqueduct andLaurel Park this year; the Heavenly Prize was also her first win since last summer, when she took the Sept. 7 Lighthouse Stakes atMonmouth Park. Her record now stands at 4-6-4 from 18 starts.
Blofeld Edges Stanford in Gulfstream 'Cap
Patience paid off for the connections ofBlofeld March 5, as the Todd Pletcher trainee picked up the $500,000Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) atGulfstream Park. Watch Video
The winner of three straight races as a 2-year-old, including the grade II Futurity Stakes and Nashua Stakes, the Quality Road colt was full of promise until physical issues sent him to the sidelines at the end of 2014. He raced only twice in 2015, and was off from July of that year until he returned Jan. 27 this season with a fourth in a Gulfstream allowance race.
Perhaps that was why bettors sent him off at 9-1 in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap—but Pletcher knew better.
"We were expecting a big performance from him," the trainer said. "I thought he got a race off the layoff, so we were looking for a big effort from him. It's nice to see him get back to the form we knew he was capable of."
Pletcher, who saddled four starters in the seven-horse field, sawStanford finish second, edged by a head as his fellow runner crept up the rail.
"Tough beat," the trainer said. "He took the worst of it from the one post and kind of had to work hard the whole way. It looked like he had just gotten there and Blofeld caught him on the money."
Another Pletcher-trained runner, 17-1 pacesetter Anchor Down, was disqualified from third to fourth for interference with 6-5 favorite Valid, who stumbled badly after appearing to clip heels with Anchor Down when closing in the center of the stretch.
"It wasn't a fair fight," trainer Marcus Vitali said of the incident. "We were making a great move. It looked like we were going to win the race until (Anchor Down) took us out. I just looked at the horse for a minute, and he looked all right."
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez tracked the pace in fourth on Blofeld behind opening fractions of :23.21 and :45.69, and was still fourth headed into the stretch. He took advantage of an opening along the rail, and worked his way through just in time.
"It was a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "He broke well enough. Normally you have to break and put him into the race. He got into the race nicely. Then I just had to bide my time and figure out which way to go. When Javier (Castellano, on Stanford) took out at the eighth pole, it was my time to go back inside and he ended up getting there."
Final time was 1:35.03 on the fast main track.
Blofeld, who races for Glencrest Farm and JSM Equine, returned $21.40, $7.20, and $3.60. Stanford brought $4.20 and $2.60. Valid paid $2.20, with Anchor Down, Itsaknockout, Hesinfront, and Grande Shores completing the order of finish.
Undefeated Off the Tracks Now With Pletcher
Todd Pletcher has taken over the training of Off the Tracks, a 3-year-old daughter of Curlin who is undefeated in three career starts.
Newtown Anner Stud has purchased a majority interest in the filly, who is byCurlin out of Harve de Grace, by Boston Harbor. Off the Tracks, who was purchased for $50,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale by Chad Summers, agent, thus far has raced for J Stables under the care of trainer Roderick Rodriguez.
"We picked her up three days ago and she galloped yesterday and today," Pletcher said Feb. 28. "She's a big, strong filly and looks good. We'll probably look to gallop her the remainder of this week and start breezing her (the weekend of March 5-6)."
Pletcher said the April 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles is possible for the filly.
Off the Tracks won her debut in maiden special weight company June 13, 2015, at Gulfstream Park and then shipped north where she captured the grade III Schuylerville Stakes July 24 at Saratoga Race Course. She returned to the races Feb. 21 at Gulfstream and won the Margate Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs after having been sidelined with a knee injury that required surgery.
"I'm familiar with the filly from her race at Saratoga and I watched her race (in the Margate)," Pletcher said. "You would think with the pedigree that she has she would want to stretch out, so we'll see how she trains and go from there."
Mo d'Amour Rallies to Victory in Busher
Mo d'Amour took command midstretch of the $125,000 Busher Stakes Saturday, Feb. 27 at Aqueduct Racetrack on her way to her first stakes victory in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies. Watch Video
A daughter of leading freshman sire of 2015 Uncle Mo , Mo d'Amour was angled out by jockey Chris DeCarlo coming off the far turn and surged past 6-5 favorite Katniss the Victor in the stretch to score a two length victory, completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.37 on a fast track.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, King of Prussia Stable's Mo d'Amour entered Saturday's race off a 4 1/4-length victory in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race Feb. 6 at Laurel Park. Before that effort, Mo d'Amour opened the season with a third-place finish in the six-furlong Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct.
King of Prussia Stable's Ed Stanco said the Mo d'Amour put things together in the Laurel allowance race.
"The Laurel race was nice and she trained well off that," Stanco said. "Three weeks and she was kicking the barn door down. It's nice having an Uncle Mo [filly]. We really like Mike Repole, so it makes it a lot of fun."
In Saturday's race, Whistling Straits displayed her usual early speed to lead through a half-mile in :49.51 while tracked by Lost Raven with Katniss the Victor tracking in third to the outside. Katniss the Victor and Aaron Gryder would rally three wide in the far turn to seize the lead turning for home, but that's when Mo d'Amour would be angled out for her winning run.
DeCarlo said going into the race, he didn't expect to rally from fourth.
"I thought I was going to be closer than I was," DeCarlo said. "I broke and we got jostled a little bit and two [horses] were in front of me that I really didn't expect and there was an opportunity for me to get to the fence, so that's what I did. They said she waits on horses, so I tried to wait as long as I could. I really waited until about the 3/16th pole before I really set her down and when she ran by, she kind of kicked on. She did idle a little bit, but I had plenty in the tank."
Gabriel Duignan's Dreams to Reality would rally to finish second, despite racing greenly under Kendrick Carmouche. Katniss the Victor held third.
Mo d'Amour returned $10, $6.10, and $3.40 across the board while Dreams to Reality paid $14.80 to place and $6.20 to show. Katniss the Victor returned $2.50 to show.
Mo d'Amour sold as a yearling and a 2-year-old. She was most recently purchased by Joseph Brocklebank, agent, for her current owners, for $75,000 at the 2015 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March 2-year-olds in training sale. She was consigned to that sale by Woodside Ranch, agent.
Bred in Kentucky by Doug and Felicia Branham, Mo d'Amour is the first starter out of the unraced Scat Daddy mare Neverthesame.
Mshawish Gets His Dirt Win in Hal's Hope
Al Shaqab Racing's versatile Mshawishsuccessfully transferred his graded stakes-winning form to the dirt Jan. 9, edging Valid by a neck in the $150,000Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. Watch Video
The 6-year-old Medaglia d'Oro runner came off a fourth in the Nov. 28 Cigar Mile (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher, his first try on dirt after winning both the Ft. Lauderdale (gr. IIT) and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) on the lawn last year.
A return to Dubai is in order for Mshawish, who in 2015 was third in the Dubai Turf (UAE-IT) and in 2014 won the Zabeel Mile (UAE-IIT) and finished fourth in the Dubai Turf when it was known as the Dubai Duty Free. His connections will decide whether this race sets him up for a run in the Feb. 8 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on dirt or a return to the Gulfstream Park Turf on the same day, and subsequently whether he will run on turf in Dubai or target the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
"This was a defining moment for him to decide what he's going to do going forward," Pletcher said. "We'll all put our heads together and see what we want to do; we'd like to go to Dubai with him, but we've got a lot of options (as to which race he'll contest)."
With meet-leading jockey Javier Castellano in the irons, Mshawish was content to settle near the back of the pack of five as Valid led the way in the mile test. Between horses after a :24.26 quarter and a half in :46.69, the bay runner moved up with a powerful rally and swung outside around the final turn as three-quarters went in 1:09.95.
"I like to ride the horse like a European turf horse and I like to cover up a little bit like I did today and find one run and make a big strong move, and it worked out great today," Castellano said. "I think in the Cigar Mile when he ran the first time on the dirt, I think I may have moved to soon and tried to ride him like a dirt horse and he hung. I paid my price and I learned something good out of my mistake. Today, I rode more patient. There was a lot of speed in the race and I tried to cover up behind the speed and make one run. It paid off today."
Valid dug in down the stretch but could not prevail when seeking his fourth straight stakes score; after seven-eighths in 1:22.06, he gave way to the closing winner. Final time on a fast track was 1:34.61.
"I thought it was a quality effort," Pletcher said. "The time was good and I'm happy to see him win a big race on the dirt because he's always trained well on it.
"We'll see how he comes out of it and assess the fields and how he's training. We'd like to get back to Dubai with him. He was a quality third in the turf race there last year. So now we have a lot of options open for him, not only here, but also in Dubai. He could go in the mile, the World Cup, or the mile-and-an-eighth turf.
"It's kind of why we want to run today—to find out if in fact he is a dirt horse and if the Donn is an option. If not, we'd just fall back on the turf. Now, we have both options."
The victory completed a sweep of the early stakes for Al Shaqab, Pletcher, and Castellano, who teamed up 2 1/2 hours earlier to win the Marshua's River (gr. IIIT) with Sandiva.
LEWYN: Sandiva Shows Early Speed in Marshua's River
Mshawish paid $6.40, $3.40, and $2.60 while Valid brought $3.20 and $2.40 as the 9-5 favorite. Grande Shores was worth $3.60, and Matrooh and Mr. Jordan completed the order of finish. Midnight Cello scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by OTIF 2007 out of the Thunder Gulch mare Thunder Bayou, Mshawish took an interesting route to his current connections. He was a $25,000 weanling purchase by Hot Pepper Farm from the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale when consigned by Dapple Bloodstock, and went for $10,000 to Brown Island Stables from the Bedouin Bloodstock consignment at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Shipped to France for the 2012 Arqana Saint-Cloud breeze-up sale, he was purchased from the Brown Island consignment for $219,589 by Mandore International Agency for Al Shaqab. He raced in Europe and at Meydan and Sha Tin before joining Pletcher's program in 2014. He now has a 7-2-3 record from 22 starts for earnings of $1,920,651.
Sandiva Shows Early Speed in Marshua's River
Al Shaqab Racing's Sandiva vied for command early and stayed on the pace before she took the lead off the turn and galloped away unchallenged to win the $150,000 Marshua's River (gr. IIIT) Jan. 9 at Gulfstream Park. Watch Video
The 5-year-old daughter ofFootstepsinthesand
won by 1 1/2 lengths from closing A Little Bit Sassy
a length away in third in the field of nine older fillies and mares. As the even-money favorite, Sandiva finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.04 and added a fourth graded or group win to her record.
Ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher, both finalists for Eclipse Awards in their respective categories, Sandiva returned $4.40, $3, and $2.40, and A Little Bit Sassy paid $11.80 and 5.80. Tuttipaesi returned $3.40 to show.
Sandiva's victory marked the first of two graded stakes wins on the Gulfstream card for the team of Sheikh Joaan's Al Shaqab Racing, Pletcher, and Castellano. Three races later, Mshawish
captured the Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) by a neck.
The Marshua's River began as a three-horse contest, as Sandiva dueled with Quiet Kitten
and Devine Aida
through fractions of :23.95 for the opening quarter, :48.29 for the half, and 1:12.11 for six furlongs. From there, she easily shook free of Quiet Kitten and opened a two-length advantage into the stretch to secure the win.
"I didn't expect to be on the lead, but the way she did it, she was very sharp today," Castellano said. "I was very impressed with the way she did it because she had never been on the lead. I didn't expect to be close to the pace behind the horses.
"The way I handicapped, the other two horses had the speed and she showed it today. The filly was training so well today and Todd Pletcher said put the horse where she belonged. He told me don't take it away if it comes easy. If you find yourself on the lead, go ahead. I think she was much the best today."
Sandiva entered with two stakes wins over the Gulfstream course. She landed the 2014 Tropical Oaks and the 2015 Suwannee River (gr. IIIT), followed by a neck second in the Honey Fox (gr. IIIT). She came off a five-month layoff to finish third in the My Charmer (gr. IIIT) Nov. 21 atGulfstream Park West last time out. Saturday's triumph improves her record to 7-2-2 from 18 starts, which includes a pair of group wins in England and France.
Sandiva was bred in Ireland by Denis McDonnell from the Mark of Esteem mare Miss Corinne. She sold to Bobby O'Ryan and Middleham Park for £18,000 ($28,476) at the 2012 Doncaster premier yearling sale and has earned $569,537 in her racing career thus far. After she won her first two starts at age 2 for Middleham Park Racing, including a stakes a Naas, Sandiva was purchased privately by Nicolas de Watrigant's Mandore Agency for Sheikh Joaan.
Top Sire Scat Daddy Dies at Age 11
| Photo: Asuncion Pineyrua/Ashford Stud
Scat Daddy , a multiple grade I winner and sire of 69 stakes winners, died Dec. 14 at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky. The death was reported by Ashford manager Dermot Ryan via Twitter:
Passing of Scat Daddy: "Scat Daddy was in the best of health but totally unexpectedly he dropped dead when walking out of his paddock;
Everyone here at Ashford is very upset as he was a smashing horse with a great career ahead of him." Dermot Ryan, Ashford Stud
By champion Johannesburg, out of Love Style, by Mr. Prospector, Scat Daddy was bred by Axel Wend in Kentucky. A $250,000 sale yearling, he raced for James Scatuorchio and later by Scatuorchio and Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.
At 2 Scat Daddy won the grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. At top form on the Triple Crown trail he ran third in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) and won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Florida Derby (gr. I). He was off the board in his final outing, the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He was trained by Todd Pletcher.
He was retired in June of his 3-year-old year because of a slight tendon injury that he suffered in the Derby. He retired with five wins from nine starts and earnings of $1,334,300.
Scat Daddy got off to a great start at stud and was the leading freshman sire of 2011 with more than $1.5 million in progeny earnings that was good enough to rank third behind Kitten's Joy and Smart Strike on the general 2-year-old sire list.
As a sire Scat Daddy is responsible for 69 stakes winners and is sadly having his best year yet. He has 36 stakes winners this year including Acapulco, a group II winner at Royal Ascot, North American stars El Kabeir, Pretty N Cool, Dacita, Nickname, Azar, and Almasty. From the Southern Hemisphere he has grade/group I winners The Dream, Flyer, and Kitcat.
He ranks ninth on the general sire list with more than $9.5 million in progeny earnings for the year and is the leading sire of stakes winners, stakes wins, and is tied with Tapit for number of graded stakes winners (16) in 2015.
He ranks second on the juvenile sire list behind fellow Ashford Stud sire Uncle Mo , but is the leader by stakes winners with nine from this crop. He also leads the category by stakes horses with 12.
He entered stud in 2008 at Ashford for a fee of $30,000. It dipped to $10,000 during the pullback in the industry, but advanced to $17,500 for 2012 and was at $30,000 in 2013 and 2014.
His fee had been boosted to $100,000 for 2016.
Scat Daddy stood at Coolmore Australia in 2008 and at Haras Paso Nevado in 2009-11. He was the leading sire in Chile in 2013-14.
He leaves three sons at stud: Daddy Nose Best (BG Thoroughbred Farm, Calif.), Handsome Mike (Pleasant Acres, Fla.), and No Nay Never (Coolmore, Ireland).
Scat Daddy's Yearling Average
Year - Average
Commissioner Ends Career on High Note
WinStar Farm's Commissioner went out on a high note Nov. 28, ending his career with a 2 1/2-length victory in the $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Hawthorne Race Course. Watch Video
The 4-year-old from the final crop of champion A.P. Indy retires to stud at WinStar near Versailles, Ky. for 2016, where he'll stand for a $7,500 fee.
BLOOD-HORSE STAFF: Commissioner to WinStar Farm for 2016
Rating close to the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner tracked third outside under jockey Florent Geroux while Majestic Harbor showed the way down the backside. Early fractions of :23.50 and :47.24 went up while the order remained unchanged, Majestic Harbor maintaining the advantage by about three-quarters of a length with Valiant City in pursuit and Commissioner galloping along wide behind them.
As three-quarters went in 1:11.21, Majestic Harbor widened the advantage to about two lengths, but then Geroux gave Commissioner the signal to advance. The bay colt rolled steadily to the lead in a prolonged drive for home, taking over for a 1:37.80 mile and finishing in 2:02.09 on a fast track.
"He's a very big, heavy horse and it takes him a while to get going, so I wanted to make sure I wasn't taking him back too far ... I wanted to make sure I was forwardly positioned," said Geroux. "When I asked him to go, he showed he was the best today."
Commissioner, favored at 4-5 and the 119-pound highweight in a field of eight older runners, paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.10. Neck 'n Neck, who closed to get second, brought $4 and $2.60. Majestic Harbor held for third, worth $2.60. Completing the order of finish were Street Spice, Valiant City, Lahshad, Mister Marti Gras, and Fordubai.
The winner was bred in Kentucky by WinStar out of the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart, and built a 5-3-2 record from 15 starts that includes victories in the Pimlico Special (gr. III) and Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) earlier this year. His earnings stand at $962,237.
Mrs. Revere New High Note for Isabella Sings
Isabella Sings opened a clear advantage early and carried her speed to the wire Nov. 14 to secure the first graded stakes win of her career in the $200,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) on the Churchill Downs turf. Watch Video
Paco Lopez and Isabella Sings, sent off at 27-1, seized a two-length advantage through a half-mile in :48.07, then held off a stretch challenge from another longshot, 44-1 Rainha Da Bateria, for a half-length win. The daughter of Eskenderya enjoyed a clear advantage at each early point of call, cruising through a quarter-mile in :23.5 and six furlongs in 1:13.41, and had just enough left late under Lopez's smart handling.
Anthony Manganaro's Siena Farm homebred Isabella Sings won this year's Little Silver Stakes on the Monmouth Park turf and had previously placed in a pair of grade II stakes on the grass for trainer Todd Pletcher before nailing down her first graded score Saturday. Isabella Sings completed the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies in 1:44.74 on good turf.
"She had been training really well and coming into it in good shape and we felt like she had a fighting chance in what appeared to be a deep and competitive field," Pletcher said.
With the win Isabella Sings improved her career mark to 4-3-0 with earnings of $303,950. Isabella Sings also becomes the first graded stakes winner for second-crop sire Eskendereya, who boasts a total of four stakes winners.
"She can be kind of a headstrong filly and Paco was able to kind of coax her along a bit and get her to settle," Pletcher said. "The first quarter was solid, but then they were able to talk her out of it and get a kind second quarter. It looked like it was game on from there. I was hoping she could continue on."
While Isabella Sings was 8-1 on the morning-line, she was largely ignored at the windows and returned $56.60 to win, $28.60 to place, and $15.80 to show. Raina Da Bateria paid $30.60 to place and $14.80 to show. The $2 exacta on the top two returned $1,799.20. Devine Aida, who rallied for third, returned $6.60 to show.
Out of stakes-placed Isobel Baillie, Kentucky-bred Isabella Sings is a half sister to stakes winner Alaura Michele.
Curalina Named Aiken-Trained Horse of Year
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina, a two-time grade I winner this year, has been named the 2015 Aiken-trained horse of the year.
Curlina joins Country Star (2007) and It's Tricky (2011) as the only females honored since the award was inaugurated in 2002.
A 3-year old Curlin
filly out of Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall, Curalina won or placed in all seven starts this year and posted victories in the Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks (both gr. I) among four wins for trainer Todd Pletcher. She was second in the Beldame and third in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff and Alabama (all gr. I) en route to $990,200 in earnings.
Curlina, bred in Kentucky by CASA Farms I, was broken and trained at the Aiken Training Track by Brad Stauffer.
The Aiken-trained horse of the year award was created to honor local Thoroughbreds who have had an excellent racing season by winning at least one grade I race. Past winners are Congaree (2002), Wando (2003), Limehouse (2005), Bob and John (2006), Country Star (2007), Midshipman (2008), Quality Road (2009 & 2010), It's Tricky (2011), Alpha (2012) and Palace Malice (2013 & 2014).
A ceremony will be held Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 2 p.m. ET at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Memorabilia from Curalina's 2015 racing season and her career will be on display. The public is invited to attend the ceremony. The Hall of Fame is located at 135 Dupree Place, Aiken, SC 29801 inside historic Hopelands Gardens.
Tommy Macho Pulls Away in Discovery 'Cap
Tommy Macho got the best of stablemate Madefromlucky for the second straight start Nov. 11 atAqueduct Racetrack, taking the $150,000 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) by a commanding margin. Watch Video
The 3-year-old Macho Uno colt, owned by Paul Pompa Jr. and All American Horses and trained by Todd Pletcher, pressed the pace of frontrunner Ocean Knight through the backstretch and into the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile event on a sloppy main track and kicked clear in the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths.
"We felt like Ocean Knight was the horse to beat and was the main pace in the race, and we didn't want to allow him to walk the dog up front," Pletcher said. "So we felt like Tommy Macho's running style would hopefully—if he broke well—put him in a position to keep some pressure on the favorite."
Madefromlucky, one of three Pletcher entries in the seven-horse field, stalked and rallied late to finish second, followed by Ocean Knight, who held for third.
Ocean Knight set fractions of :24.25, :49.45, and 1:14.63 through six furlongs, and Tommy Macho finished off the nine furlongs in 1:51.67.
"My only concern was getting a good break out of the gate," said winning jockey Javier Castellano. "Sometimes he misses the break, but today he felt sharp... He broke out of the gate perfect and I knew I had enough horse in the stretch coming home."
It was the first graded win for Tommy Macho, who finished third in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) last time out, when Madefromlucky finished seventh. A start prior, Tommy Macho finished seventh in Madefromlucky's victory in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II).
"(He) ran a sneaky good race in the West Virginia Derby," Pletcher said of Tommy Macho. "The inside was very dead that day and he got stuck on the rail the whole way. Then I thought he ran an incredible third in the Pennsylvania Derby. He tends to run well fresh and I don't think he minded the off track."
The winner paid $9.30, $4.50, and $2.80 across the board. Madefromlucky brought $3.40 and $2.60, while 8-5 favorite Ocean Knight delivered $2.40 to show.
Smart Transition finished an even fourth, followed by First Spark,Total Joint, and Made in Detroit to complete the order of finish.
Tommy Macho, out of the Awesome Again mare Starstream, was bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis. He now has a 3-0-3 record from seven starts with $363,050 in earnings.
Stopchargingmaria Prevails With Distaff Win
Stopchargingmaria held off Stellar Windby a neck and withstood a review by the stewards to score a close victory in the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) Oct. 30 at Keeneland. Watch Video
Town and Country Farms' Stopchargingmaria drifted out in the stretch, leading to a stewards' inquiry and objection after the race. The stewards ruled there was insufficient evidence to change the order of finish.
With the victory, Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano completed a sweep of the two Breeders' Cup dirt races on the card before a record Breeders' Cup Friday crowd of 44,947. The 4-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat completed the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:48.98 and now boasts three grade I wins.
Pletcher acknowledged that his filly drifted out but told NBC Sports Network that he didn't think a foul occurred, noting that he didn't think it was as bad as Bayern's start in last year's Classic.
Stopchargingmaria returned $16.20 to win, $8.40 to place, and $6 to show. Hronis Racing's Stellar Wind paid $9.20 and $6.60 while Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina returned $7 to show.
Early in Friday's race, My Sweet Addiction—who stumbled at the start—and Yahilwa dueled through a half-mile in :47.28. My Sweet Addiction faded in the turn, but Yahilwa was one of seven horses lined up across the track as they turned for home. Stopchargingmaria and Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) winner Stellar Wind would emerge from that group and they continued well to the wire.
HAMMONDS: Stellar Wind Rolls in Santa Anita Oaks
Pletcher, who picked up his ninth Breeders' Cup win, said a key was when the owner allowed him to rest Stopchargingmaria after her fourth-place finish in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 29 atSaratoga Race Course.
"The real key was when we made the decision not to run back after the Personal Ensign and train her up to this," Pletcher said. "Being able to her in her 2- and 3-year-old years, I know that she runs her best races sometimes when she's fresh. I think that was the key, and how she trained here.
"I thought her work here on (Oct. 24, four furlongs in :47) was exceptional. She's the kind of filly who when she breezes like, that, she tips herself. I thought that's what she did in her breeze the other day."
BALAN: Sheer Drama Plays Spoiler in Personal Ensign
Winning jockey Javier Castellano, who secured his sixth Breeders' Cup win, said the filly out of the Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom, ran a great race.
"You always get scared when this happens because it's such a big race and you don't want to get taken down, but I did nothing wrong," Castellano said of the inquiry. "My horse ran a great race, and I kept a straight path and was keeping the horse straight."
Trainer John Sadler thought Stellar Wind put herself in position for Eclipse Award consideration as champion 3-year-old filly.
"I am thrilled with our filly," Sadler said. "She ran a great race and she showed herself to be the top 3-year-old filly in the country. I think she is deserving of an Eclipse Award. She really ran an outstanding race. She had to go so wide. She had a lot of work to do on this kind of tight-turn track. But she really ran well."
Kiki Courtelis' Town and Country Farms' privately bought Stopchargingmaria before this racing season and that purchase paid dividends Friday.
Repole Stable campaigned Stopchargingmaria to a pair of 2014 grade I victories then opted to sell the filly after last season. When Stopchargingmaria failed to reach her reserve at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale, Town and Country reached out to Repole through Pletcher to buy the filly.
Pletcher had trained Stopchargingmaria for Repole. The new owners kept the filly with the multiple Eclipse Award winner.
Liam's Map Rallies to Dirt Mile Win
The connections of Liam's Map may have had a few "What ifs?" in their heads after opting to run in the $1 million Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I)rather than the $5 million Classic (gr. I), as the 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song rallied from fourth for what turned out to be an easy 2 1/2-length victory Oct. 30 at Keeneland. Watch Video
Pinched a bit at the start the speedy Liam's Map, who entered off a gate-to-wire victory in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), raced an uncharacteristic fourth early in the Dirt Mile as Bradester set the pace through a quarter-mile in :23.10 and raced close to Mr. Z who led through a half-mile in :46.73.
ANGST: Liam's Map Reaches Destination in Woodward
Liam's Map and jockey Javier Castellano were boxed inside early but did appear to be comfortable throughout.
In the far turn, grade I winner Lea moved first for jockey Jose Lezcano and opened a clear lead into the stretch as Liam's Map was moved into the clear. Liam's Map surged past Lea before mid-stretch on his way to the clear victory, his second straight grade I score. Liam's Map completed the mile test in 1:34.54, as one might expect a track record on the relatively new track and rarely run Keeneland distance.
The race will be the final career effort for Teresa Viola Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds' Liam's Map, who will stand at Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Ky., in 2016. Before the race Lane's End announced it had bought into the colt. Viola said she wasn't that nervous despite the change in running style as she thought Liam's Map was capable of rallying.
ANGST: Liam's Map to Stand at Lane's End in 2016
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who secured his eighth Breeders' Cup win, was not as confident.
"I was very concerned. The one thing Javier talked about is that he's a horse with a lot of speed, but he's not always quick away from there on the first step. We were hoping he'd get a clean break, but he didn't and was behind horses," Pletcher said. "I was very concerned at that point."
Prior to the Woodward, Liam's Map also led early in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) before being edged by Honor Code at the wire. Honor Code will go in the Classic Saturday. Pletcher liked how Liam's Map handled the early challenges.
"What was so impressive is that he recovered a couple times. He got steadied about the five-eighths pole and didn't have anywhere to go," Pletcher said. "But every time Javier had to tap on the brakes a little bit, you could see Liam's Map jump back into the bridle. I kept hoping. I kind of lost him at the five-sixteenths pole, but when I saw him turning for home I could see he had some momentum."
Liam's Map was followed home by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's Lea and Jon and Sarah Kelly and Don and Joan Cimpi'sRed Vine. The biggest favorite in the history of the Dirt Mile, Liam's Map returned $3 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Lea brought $4.20 and $3, while Red Vine paid $3.40 to show.
Castellano, now a five-time Breeders' Cup winner, said he had planned to go to the lead early.
"Unfortunately he didn't break sharply," Castellano said. "In this game you have to a Plan B. I think the key was patience. He showed a lot of patience. He waited behind horses and it was phenomenal. He showed great skill. He can run on the pace or off the pace. I had to fight a little to put him behind horses, but when he was in the clear, he exploded."
Rachel's Valentina Adding to Family History
She's second on the morning line but first in the hearts of many racing fans.
Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner Rachel's Valentina, the daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, will try to add to her mom's already historic legacy in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 31.
A tie to a Breeders' Cup win is about the only thing missing on the résumé of Rachel Alexandra. The now-9-year-old winner of the 2009 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) followed that dominating 20 1/4-length with a win in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Her championship campaign also included beating the boys again in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) and against older males in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) atSaratoga Race Course.
Now, the enthusiasm for Rachel Alexandra is transferring to her offspring, based on crowd reactions for the 2-year-old and her 3-year-old half brother, Jess's Dream (by Curlin ). The mare's first foal also won at Saratoga this summer for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, but is out until winter with an injury.
Rachel Alexandra "was an extremely popular horse, so I think we saw after Jess's Dream (that) any of her foals are going to get extra attention, as they should," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Rachel's Valentina.
The first win for Rachel's Valentina was a come-from-behind, four-wide score going six furlongs at Saratoga in August. She followed that with the Spinaway win at seven furlongs in September, where she rallied after a slow start and earned an automatic entry in the Juvenile Fillies.
NOVAK: Rachel's Valentina Solid in Spinaway
"For her to be able to come out and win her first two races and a grade I in her second start, I think she's heightened the awareness," Pletcher said. "And it's certainly understandable (that) people would be excited about it, and Rachel Alexandra's fans would be excited about her."
Rather than making another start following the Spinaway, Pletcher elected to train Rachel's Valentina up to the Oct. 31 Juvenile Fillies where she is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line behind 7-5 favorite Songbird.
Rachel's Valentina will start from post nine while Songbird will start outside her in the 10-horse 1 1/16-mile race.
"Ideally we'd be a few posts in, but it's fair enough," Pletcher said. "It's only a 10-horse field. Hopefully we can work out a good trip from there."
BALAN: Songbird vs. 'Valentina' in Juvenile Fillies
It's been a good trip with the filly so far for Pletcher.
Getting a filly like Rachel's Valentina in the barn, "you hope" she can live up to her pedigree, Pletcher said. "It doesn't always guarantee you just because they have a great pedigree. She had pleased everyone at the farm, and it sounded like her training was good coming in."
Like her mother, Rachel's Valentina is owned by Stonestreet Stables. The homebred daughter of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini is the last foal for Rachel Alexandra, who hasn't been mated again since complications from the foaling of Rachel's Valentina sent her to a clinic.
Stonestreet officials have not commented on whether any decision has been made on whether Rachel Alexandra will be mated next year.
Pletcher said he and his staff didn't know immediately how good Rachel's Valentina was after she arrived in the barn, "but she kind of passed every test that we gave her along the way. And we were pretty confident once we got up to the five-eighths level that she was pretty special, and so far she's proven that to be true."
For Pletcher, that's meant no added pressure in training a celebrity's baby.
"It's been easy for us because the filly's been so impressive and such an easy filly to prepare for her first start," Pletcher said. "And she's given us a lot of confidence based on what we've seen in her training, so from that perspective I haven't felt any more pressure."
Liam's Map Takes on All Comers in Dirt Mile
Would he, or wouldn't he?
It was a question asked by racing fans and pundits alike in the weeks leading up to the Breeders' Cup World Championships, as the connections of Woodward Stakes (gr. I) winner Liam's Map mulled a start in the loaded Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) or an easier spot in the Oct. 30 Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) at Keeneland.
In the end, trainer Todd Pletcher broke the news Oct. 7 that the dappled gray son of Unbridled's Song would take the conservative route, running the shorter distance rather than throwing in his swift turn of foot against the likes of American Pharoah and Beholder in the Classic. Liam's Map drew post 3 of 11 for the Dirt Mile and will have Javier Castellano in the irons.
ANGST: Liam's Map Reaches Destination in Woodward
"He's a horse that is very, very fast," Pletcher said. "He's brilliantly fast. He also has the ability to carry it over a distance of ground ... he's got a high cruising speed—if you don't go with him you're in trouble and if you go with him, you're in more trouble."
In the Woodward Liam's Map was making his second straight start in grade I company after finishing as the runner-up to Classic contenderHonor Code in the Aug. 8 Whitney Stakes (gr. I), his first graded stakes try. He has progressed steadily in his training at Keeneland, most recently breezing five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 Oct. 22 in his final pre-race work.
Awaiting in the Dirt Mile—which actually will have a 210-foot run-up, making it a mile and 70-yard race—are the likes of last year's Dirt Mile runner-up Tapiture and grade I winner Lea . The latter's connections decided to run him in the Dirt Mile instead of the Mile due to concerns over the soft going, and also after Lea worked a strong four furlongs in :47 2/5 Oct. 26 at Keeneland.
ANGST: Dirt Mile to be Contested at a Mile (Well a Bit Longer)
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Lea, a 6-year-old by First Samurai who won the 2014 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on dirt and comes off a runner-up finish in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (gr. IT) on the lawn, runs well on both surfaces. Jose Lezcano picked up the mount from the 5 hole.
"Lea is going in the Dirt Mile, number one, because he can run on the dirt," Mott said. "He's a grade I winner on the dirt, he's got a track record on the dirt, and it looks to me like the turf is going to be extremely soft. It was soft today, and I think with another couple inches of rain, it's going to be soft on Saturday."
NOVAK: Lea to Dirt Mile After Solid Main Track Work
Also breezing Oct. 26 was Tapiture, who went four furlongs in :49 1/5. The 4-year-old son of Tapit , trained by Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds, missed the 2014 edition by 1 1/4 lengths to two-time Dirt Mile winner Goldencents . Tapiture's 2015 season has been less than inspiring, but he did rebound from a six-race skid with a win last time out in the Sept. 26 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. He drew post 9 under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
BALAN: Tapiture Returns to Form in Ack Ack
"It's a good race, they'll go really fast, and I think Tapiture will fly home if he's allowed," Asmussen said. "And when I say 'allowed,' I mean if he's not completely eliminated in the first turn, either through how far you go or how rough it is.
"I thought the most important thing about his draw is who was where. With the Mile, the configuration here, I think that where you drew, it was extremely important compared to other horses, moreso than the post position, because of the obvious style of some very talented horses... (Liam's Map) most likely takes all they can give and makes it look like nothing, as we've seen in his previous races this year, but we are imagining a scenario which is favorable for us.
"And I think the key word is 'imagining.' "
Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong finished second in the Oct. 3 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) to Classic runner Tonalist. The 4-year-old Hard Spun colt was third in the Woodward behind Liam's Map and Coach Inge. He seeks to snap a nine-race losing span for trainer Jimmy Jerkens dating back to last year's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), in which he defeated Tonalist off that one's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) win.
Stakes-winning millionaire Mr. Z, grade I-placed on this track, comes in off a fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) and cuts back in distance in search of his first win since the June 20 Ohio Derby for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
NOVAK: Mr. Z Has His Day in Ohio Derby
Also of interest are Kelso runner-up Red Vine for trainer Christophe Clement; grade II winner Bradester for trainer Eddie Kenneally; and grade II winner Valid for trainer Marcus Vitali. War Story, Street Strategy, and War Envoy complete the field.
'Super' Breeze for Stopchargingmaria in Rain
Concerned that Keeneland would seal the main track as rain began to fall early Oct. 24, trainer Todd Pletcher went ahead and sent Breeders' Cup Longines Distaff (gr. I) contenderStopchargingmaria to the track for a "super" breeze.
Owned by Louise Courtelis' Town and Country Farms, the 4-year-old Tale of the Cat filly was timed in a quick :47 for a half-mile, with splits of :12 3/5 and :24 3/5 and gallop out times in :59 and 1:12.
"She went super," Pletcher said at his barn shortly after the 6:15 a.m. work. "That was a very strong gallop out. It was lively. For her to do it that fast and pretty easy and come back and cool out as quickly as she did is a sign she is doing really well and I'm happy with it. She's doing really well."
Watching the weather made for a sleepless night for Pletcher.
"We were down to just her (among Pletcher stable Breeders' Cup hopefuls) and I was laying awake last night thinking I should have gone (Friday). But I woke up a couple of times and looked at the radar and said 'I think we're going to be OK if we get it in early.' I checked the track at 4:15 and the tractors were out there harrowing and I said let's go early."
The winner of eight of 15 starts, Stopchargingmaria is coming into the Breeders' Cup off a fourth, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, in the Personal Ensign (gr. I). Included among her seven stakes wins, all graded, were back-to-back wins in the CCA Oaks and Alabama Stakes, both grade I.
Trainer Pletcher: 'Couldn't Be More Pleased'
With one week go before the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course, trainer Todd Pletcher is confident in how his large contingent of hopefuls is coming into their respective races.
"I feel really, really good about the way the horses are training," he said Oct. 23 after five horses from his stable worked at Keeneland Race Course. "Over the last two days, we've just seen the kind of works you like to see coming into big races, (with) horses finishing well, galloping out strongly, cooling out quickly, staying in the feed tub—all those little signs you're looking for.
"Right now, I couldn't be any more pleased with all of them," he said.
The Oct. 23 workers, Breeders' Cup races (all grade I), and splits (where available) were:
—Rachel's Valentina (14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies): five furlongs in 1:00 4/5, split of :37 1/5 and gallop out six furlongs in 1:13 1/5 and seven furlongs in 1:28 1/5
—Red Rifle (Longines Turf): four furlongs in :49, splits of :12 4/5, and :25 4/5, out in 1:02 and 1:14 3/5.
—Dame Dorothy (Filly and Mare Sprint): four furlongs in :49, splits of :13 1/5 and :25 3/5,gallop out in 1:02 3/5 and 1:15 2/5
—Mshawish (Mile): four furlongs in :47 4/5, splits of :13 1/5 and :25 4/5, gallop out in 1:01 and 1:14 1/5
—Sweet Whiskey (Longines Distaff) four furlongs, :48.
Rachel's Valentina, the only Pletcher runner to work following the track maintenance break, ran away from her overmatched workmate,Ransack, a 2-year-old who is unplaced in his only career start.
"She basically toyed with her workmate, who couldn't keep up at any point," Pletcher said. "So it was almost like a solo work. I thought she looked great; did it very easily, galloped out easily."
Pletcher said he chose Ransack as the undefeated Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner's workmate because "I didn't want one that would go too fast. She was just too much for him."
In his analysis of the other workers, Pletcher said:
"Sweet Whiskey went very well. I had her finish in :23 flat. It was a good breeze for her.
"Red Rifle I had in :49 1/5, with a big strong gallop out, which we would expect since he's going in a mile-and-a-half race. It was another very solid work for him.
"Then I thought Dame Dorothy went extremely well and finished strongly.
"Mshawish, I had finishing :22 and change for the last quarter and galloped out really great. I thought it was a very impressive work for him."
Pletcher's works will be completed Saturday when Stopchargingmaria finishes her Distaff preparations.
Productive Morning for Pletcher Stable
It was a typically busy morning for the Todd Pletcher stable, as racing's all-time leading money-earner sent five Breeders' Cup hopefuls to the track at Keenelandthe morning of Oct. 22.
The workers, their respective times, and Breeders' Cup races in which they were pre-entered were:
- Liam's Map (Dirt Mile): five furlongs in 1:01 1/5
- Curalina, (Longines Distaff), in company with Race Day : four furlongs in :48 1/5, with splits of :12 3/5 and :25 2/5. Galloped out in 1:00 4/5 and 1:14.
- Azar (Juvenile Turf) and Thrilled (Juvenile Fillies Turf): worked together four furlongs in :48, with splits of :13 and :25 2/5, and gallop outs in 1:00 3/5, and 1:13 2/5.
- Got Lucky (Longines Distaff), in company with Zambian Dream: four furlongs in :48 2/5, splits of :12 and :23 4/5, and gallop outs to five furlongs in 1:01 2/5.
"Overall, we had a very productive morning—satisfying breezes," Pletcher said, offering the following analysis of each:
"For Curalina, it was a typical breeze for her. (She was) much on the bridle throughout. Good gallop out. Standard, excellent breeze we've come to expect from her. She continues to handle the track really well. She looks good. I think she actually has put on a couple of pounds since the Beldame (gr. I).
"Thrilled and Azar both went really well. For horses that have run only on the turf I thought they handle the dirt here really well. It was a good, energetic breeze for both of them. Finished up well, galloped out great, cooled out good.
"Liam's Map, I thought, was outstanding. He got into a steady rhythm. Was very relaxed and very comfortable. He lengthened his stride (and) galloped out extremely well.
"It was a standard Got Lucky type breeze. She's a filly who knows the difference between practice and game time. That was a typical :49 half work for her—a maintenance work. I thought her gallop out was good. I think she has done well since the Spinster (gr. I)."
The trainer gave a rundown of jockeys set to ride his Breeders' Cup contenders: Javier Castellano—Liam's Map, Red Rifle (Longines Turf-gr. IT) and Stopchargingmaria (Distaff); Frankie Dettori—Mshawish (Mile-gr. IT); Irad Ortiz Jr.—Got Lucky; Joel Rosario—Curalina; John Velazquez—Azar, Dame Dorothy (Filly & Mare Sprint), Thrilled and Rachel's Valentina (14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies-gr. I).
On Friday, Pletcher is to work his remaining Breeders' Cup contenders with the exception of Stopchargingmaria, who is to breeze Saturday.
"Traditionally, she's run well with her final breeze six days before the race, so we're going to stick to that plan," he said.
Liam's Map Reaches Destination in Woodward
This time Teresa Viola Racing Stables'Liam's Map completed his grade I mission, with style.
One race after being caught late in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) by Honor Code, Liam's Map led at every call in the $600,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course, drawing off to earn his first grade I victory by 4 3/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile test. Watch Video
"The Whitney was as tough a loss as you'll experience. He ran an unbelievable race that day and everything he indicated to us from that time until today was that he was ready to come back over and put forth another big effort," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I'm just happy to see him get that grade I that he deserves so much."
The connections and backers of Liam's Map certainly were taking nothing for granted after watching Honor Code rally in the stretch and edge them by a neck in the Whitney, but they had to be feeling good when the 4-year-old colt and jockey Javier Castellano enjoyed a clear lead through a half-mile in :47.49 and six furlongs in 1:10.94. The half-mile time was 1.49 seconds slower than what Liam's Map ran in the Whitney, also a 1 1/8-mile race he led early, and 1.22 seconds slower than his six-furlong pace.
"The opening fractions were very much in his favor, and he has that style where he can get into a cruising speed and just keep carrying it," Pletcher said. "The thing that he did after he went that 47 1/5 is he came back with another 23 and change to go 1:10 and change, and then 1:34 and change (1:34.97). He just gets into that rhythm and he just runs horses off their feet."
Racing well within himself early certainly didn't hurt Saturday, as Liam's Map opened up turning for home and cruised to victory, completing the race in 1:47.44 on a fast track. The final time of the Whitney, also contested on a fast rack, was 1:47.82.
"When I got to the lead and dictated the pace, by the half-mile, he began to relax and I was thinking I could win the race," Castellano said. "Liam's Map put in a great effort today."
Never seriously threatened, Liam's Map, by Unbridled's Song, was followed home by stablemate Coach Inge. Grade I winner Wicked Strong finished third. Liam's Map paid $4.40 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.60 to show, while Coach Inge returned $6.50 and $4.20. Wicked Strong paid $3.20 to show.
Pletcher also was pleased with Coach Inge, who earned his first grade I placing.
"I'll tell you, Coach Inge ran unbelievable. It was a super, super effort," Pletcher said. "Good enough to win a lot of Woodwards."
Pletcher also sent out fifth-place Mylute and Protonico, who was last of eight.
Bred in Kentucky by Albaugh Family Stable, Liam's Map was making just his third start of the season Saturday but he has won five of his seven career efforts and finished second in his two career losses.
St. Elias Stables, agent J.J. Crupi, purchased Liam's Map for his current owner for $800,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale from the consignment of Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent.
Liam's Map is out of the grade III-winning Trippi mare Miss Macy Sue, who also has produced stakes winner Taylor S, by Medaglia d'Oro .
Rachel's Valentina Solid in Spinaway
Six years after her dam beat the boys with a brilliant performance in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), Rachel's Valentina put in an impressive run of her own Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course to take the $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) for Stonestreet Stables. Watch Video
The homebred 2-year-old Bernardini filly, the second foal out of championRachel Alexandra, galloped her record to a perfect 2-for-2 on Woodward Day, as she won the seven-furlong test in a final time of 1:23.10 on a fast dirt track.
Slow to start, Rachel's Valentina nevertheless moved up into a good tracking spot, third along the rail, behind a pace set by rival Tonasah, while Constellation ran second.
A quarter went in :22.75 with a half in :45.38, and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez swung Rachel's Valentina out to make her move. Constellation had taken the lead through three-quarters in 1:10.09, but Rachel's Valentina surged past her inside the final furlong to take control, holding off the late-closing run of Tap to It to win by a length.
Off as the 8-5 favorite in a field of six, Rachel's Valentina returned $5.50, $3.10, and $2.60, while Tap to It paid $3.30 and $2.70, Constellation held 3 1/4 lengths back for third ($3.40), with Anna Rae, Tonasah, and Banree completing the order of finish.
Rachel's Valentina came off a maiden-breaking debut Aug. 2 at the Spa for trainer Todd Pletcher. The score upped her earnings to $259,800.
NOVAK: Rachel's Valentina Sparkles in Debut
"I thought she ran fantastic," Pletcher said. "Actually, she put herself into the race a little more than I thought she would, but she seemed to be handling tracking those horses well, and getting a little dirt well. I felt like, turning for home, knowing her style and watching her train, that she was going to keep coming. I've always felt like the farther she goes, the better she gets, and I think that's proven to be true."
With her victory in the Spinaway, a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event, Rachel's Valentina picked up an automatic berth in the Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Keeneland. Pletcher said the Oct. 3 Frizette (gr. I) at Belmont Park or the Oct. 2 Alcibiades (gr. I) at Keeneland are the straightforward options for another start before then.
"I haven't really thought about (what's next). I'll talk to the Stonestreet people and see," he said. "I think she'll have one more race if she's doing good."
Rachel's Valentina becomes the 12th grade I winner for Bernardini, an impressive group that includes this year's Humana Distaff winnerDame Dorothy and Test Stakes winner Cavorting.
Isabella Sings Tuned for Boiling Springs
Siena Farm's homebred Isabella Sings, a winner of the faster division of the July 26 Little Silver Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Monmouth Park turf, figures to add her voice to the outcome of the Boiling Springs Stakes (gr. IIIT). The $100,000 race for 3-year-old fillies "down the shore" drew a well-matched field of 10.
There are plenty of angles for the Boiling Springs: Isabella Sings has a win over the course for trainer Todd Pletcher; trainer Chad Brown has a trio in the line-up; trainer Graham Motion has a pair including import Jellicle Ball; and Pine Needles, trained by turf master Christophe Clement, was a close second to Isabella Sings as the favorite in the Little Silver.
Last July Isabella Sings was the first winner for her sire, Eskendereya . She is out of French stakes-placed mare Isobel Baillie, and is a half sister to Alaura Michele, winner of the 2011 P.G. Johnson Stakes and the 2012 Nani Rose Stakes, both turf events at Saratoga.
Isabella Sings took the second division of the Little Silver Stakes in 1:40.79, which was 0.86 seconds faster than the first division. The Buttonwood Group's Rachel Wall—trained by Motion—just missed by a nose in that division and is a Boiling Springs contender from the rail. The winner, Stormy Regatta, came back and won Saratoga Race Course's Riskaverse Stakes Aug. 27. Isabella Sings is 3-2-0 in eight career starts, all on the turf and sports a last-out Equibase Speed Figure of 107, the second highest in the cast.
Of Brown's trio, Strict Compliance appears the strongest on paper, having won the $150,000 Penn Oaks in May and getting to within 3 1/2 lengths of division standout Lady Eli in the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (gr. I) on the Fourth of July. By Into Mischief , Strict Compliance was third last time out in the grade II Lake Placid Stakes at the Spa going the Boiling Springs trip, finishing ahead of a pair of her rivals at Monmouth. She sports back-to-back 109 Equibase numbers, tops in the field.
Michael Dubb, Bethlemen Stables, and Stuart Grant's The Elkstone Group's Bishop's Pond has won her last two for Brown in New York. She popped a 106 Equibase figure topping allowance foes at Saratoga July 24 going 1 3/16 miles on the grass. By the red-hot sire Curlin , she was a Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sales graduate for $250,000.
Motion's other runner, Jellicle Ball, placed in the group III Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling Stakes this spring in England and ran in the Qipco One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I). In her U.S. debut she was bottled up along the inside but rallied to finish sixth, beaten just a length, in the Lake George.
Jellicle Ball, an Irish-bred by Invincible Spirit, was a $473,252 Tattersalls sale yearling in 2013.
Pine Needles, by Giant's Causeway , has a 2-2-1 mark from six starts, but has been beaten less than a length in all three of her placings, which have come in stakes company. At Belmont in May she was just a half-length off of Lady Eli in the Wonder Again Stakes and was the 11-10 favorite against Isabella Sings.
Monmouth Park , Saturday, September 05, 2015, Race 10
Rachel's Valentina, Tonasah Head Spinaway
Rachel's Valentina, the 2-year-oldBernardini filly out of championRachel Alexandra, looks to take a step up for Stonestreet Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher in the $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course.
One of just two foals produced by Rachel Alexandra, and raised by a nurse mare after her dam required multiple surgeries post-delivery, Rachel's Valentina impressively broke her maiden going six furlongs Aug. 2 at Saratoga, surging to a two-length win after a five-wide rally.
NOVAK: Rachel's Valentina Sparkles in Debut
Rachel's Valentina is the 5-2 favorite in a group of six juvenile fillies for the seven-furlong Spinaway, and will leave post 2 with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the irons. She will be joined by fellow Pletcher trainee Tonasah, the Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Malibu Moon who runs for StarLadies Racing.
Tonasah is the wiley miss who was entered in the June 5 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park for her debut, but dumped jockey Javier Castellano coming onto the track and then proceeded to lead outriders in a spirited chase up and down the stretch of the 1 1/2-mile track before she was finally captured several minutes later.
Entered back July 2 at Belmont, she aired gate-to-wire by 5 1/2 lengths going five furlongs, this time with Castellano firmly aboard. Tonasah was the runner-up to Just Wicked in the 6 1/2-furlong Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 15 at Saratoga after setting the pace in her second start. Castellano gets the return call from post 3.
Horses that are not from the Pletcher barn include three solid winners last out: Tap to It, for trainer Ralph Nicks; Anna Rae, for trainer Jeremiah Englehart; and the Steve Asmussen trainee Constellation.
Tap to It made a brave Aug. 16 debut for Whisper Hill Farm, recovering from being steadied and shuffled back to draw clear by two lengths when closing in a six-furlong maiden special weight. Joel Rosario has the return call aboard the daughter of Tapit and the duo leaves from the rail.
Anna Rae, by Tiz Wonderful, aired by 11 1/2 lengths Aug. 14, after closing from fifth in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at the Spa, her first start for owner Neal Allread. Luis Saez will ride again from post 4.
Constellation, the most expensive purchase in the field at $800,000 from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March sale of 2-year-olds in training, when spotted by Alex Solis II and Jason Litt, was a 4 1/2-length victress Aug. 9 for LNJ Foxwoods going 5 1/2 furlongs after pressing the pace and edging clear. Irad Ortiz Jr. sticks with the Bellamy Road filly from the 5 hole.
Completing the field is Mark Dodson's Banree, who won at first asking at Keeneland in April for trainer Wesley Ward, but since then was fourth in the June 5 Tremont Stakes and second in the July 24 Schuylerville (gr. III). Rafael Hernandez has been aboard the daughter of Macho Uno for all three starts and returns from the outside.
Back to Business for Liam's Map in Woodward
Four weeks after just missing his first grade I victory—his first graded stakes victory for that matter—in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I), Liam's Map will try again when he faces an expected seven other horses in the $600,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course.
Making his graded stakes debut in the Whitney for trainer Todd Pletcher, Liam’s Map dueled with Moreno through a half mile in :46 and six furlongs in 1:09.72, put that one away and opened a 4 1/2-length advantage in the stretch of the $1.25 million race before Honor Code got up in the final jump to win by a neck.
While that outcome disappointed the connections of Teresa Viola Racing Stables’ Liam’s Map, the son of Unbridled’s Song certainly delivered a memorable performance. Consider the first three quarter-mile times turned in by Liam’s Map in the 1 1/8-mile test of :22.79, 23.21, and :23.72 in a race that was completed in 1:47.82.
The horses closest to that early Whitney pace—Moreno, who was second through each of the first three calls; Noble Bird, who was third through the opening quarter-mile; and Normandy Invasion, third through the opening half-mile—finished second-last, last, and third-last, respectively, in the field of nine. They were beaten from 17 1/4 lengths to 24 1/4 lengths. Meanwhile, Liam’s Map defeated all but the winner and finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of third-place Tonalist.
"I thought he ran a huge race," Pletcher said. "It was very disappointing not to win, to run as well as he did. He got beat by a very good horse and I think he earned as much respect as you can earn without winning a race. We prefer to win but we're proud of the horse's effort all the same."
The biggest question for Liam’s Map Saturday will be the relatively short turnaround of four weeks since that big effort, as he tries the 1 1/8-mile distance for a second straight start. Liam’s Map closed out last season with three straight wins, capped by a victory in his stakes debut, the Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park. He prepped for the Whitney with a front-running victory in an allowance-optional claiming race June 19 at Belmont Park.
Liam’s Map will not be the only horse looking to claim his first top-level win Saturday, as the lone previous grade I winner in the field is Centennial Farms’ Wicked Strong, who won last year’s TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) and enters off a fourth in the Whitney, finishing six lengths behind Honor Code.
Two of those horses looking to break through are Godolphin Racing’sBay of Plenty, who cruised to his first stakes win in the Alydar Aug. 9 at Saratoga, and Effinex, who edged Tonalist to win the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) July 4 at Belmont.
Besides Liam’s Map, Pletcher will send out four other horses looking to break through at the highest level. Protonico will be making his first start since winning the Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) May 1 at Churchill Downs, Mylute enters off a second in the Alydar, and Coach Inge led early before fading to third in the Suburban.
"All four of them are coming up to the race really well," Pletcher said of his Woodward contingent. "I think they're all proven horses that on a given day are all capable of running big races. I feel good about the way that all four of them are doing."
Rounding out the field is late-running Commanding Curve, who finished second in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Azar Captures With Anticipation Stakes
Alto Racing's Azar won for the first time—in a big way—Sept. 2, taking the $200,000 With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course. Watch Replay
Off at odds of 11-1 in the field of five juveniles for the 1 1/16-mile turf test, theScat Daddy colt ran down pacesetting 15-1 shot Next Shares inside the final furlong. It was his third start for trainer Todd Pletcher, coming off an Aug. 16 maiden special weight runner-up finish going 1 1/16 miles at the Spa after failing to fire July 19 with a seventh going six furlongs on the inner turf at first asking at Belmont Park.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was in the irons aboard Azar, who finished in a final time of 1:41.68 on firm turf. Following Next Shares 2 1/2 lengths back came Unbridled Daddy, 2 lengths ahead of 3-5 favorite Site Read. Monster Bea and Runaway King completed the order of finish.
"I thought he ran a much-improved race last time," Pletcher said. "He was on the lead most of the way, and came back and worked really well. We were thinking of maybe running back in a maiden race when this came up a short field. (Running a maiden in a stakes race) is not something we do often, but we felt like with two-race experience, and that he did everything except win last time (it was worth a shot) ... Johnny thought he was much more focused and more professional following horses. He gave a big last hundred yards."
The 2015 edition of the With Anticipation got off to an interesting start when longshot Runaway King lived up to his name by breaking through the gates as the field was loaded. The errant runner was quickly aprehended by an outrider and returned to his post 3. Following that small mishap came an equipment adjustment on Monster Bea, who was backed out of post 1 to have his girth tightened.
Finally, the field was sent on its way, with Velazquez slipping over to a ground-saving rail trip in third while Next Shares set early fractions of :23.19, :47.63, and 1:12.39. Around the turn for home, Azar had work to do to catch the leader, but once shifted out from his inside path through a 1:35.56 mile to close outside Next Shares, he found another gear and kicked on to win by three-quarters of a length.
"It worked out better today," Velazquez said. "The last time he ended up being on the lead and getting out and looking around and not really focused on what he needed to do. Today he was following somebody and when I pulled him out, he responded right away. Coming to the last turn I had to squeeze him pretty good, and once I got him going and I put him to the outside and he saw the light, that's when he started running."
Azar returned $24.40 for a $2 win bet as he increased his earnings to $136,850. He was bred in Kentucky by Mike Connelly out of the Mineshaft mare Miss Ocean City, and was a $300,000 purchase by agent Steven Young from consignor Michael C. Byrne at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Red Rifle Blasts Through in Bowling Green
With four horses lined up across the course in the stretch, Red Rifle emerged from the two path and drew off to a clear victory in the $250,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 1 at Saratoga Race Course. Watch Video
With Javier Castellano showing the way, Twin Creeks Racing Stables homebred Red Rifle moved into the two path at mid-stretch, just outside Iron Power and inside Imagining, with War Dancerwidest in the four-horse tussle. Red Rifle proved to have one final gear, bravely punching through on his way to a second straight graded stakes win.
The race was marred by the catastrophic breakdown of Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Innovation Economy, who won the Belmont Gold Cup Invitationial Stakes June 5 on the turf at Belmont Park. Innovation Economy was euthanized after the race.
Red Rifle entered off a clear victory in the Dominion Day Stakes (gr. III) July 1 on the Woodbine Polytrack. The 5-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding completed the 1 3/8-mile race in 2:13.69 on firm turf, returning $15.40 to win, $6.60 to place, and $4 to show. War Dancer finished second, paying $4.10 and $2.80, while Imagining returned $2.90 to show.
A ground-saving trip early in the Bowling Green likely helped Red Rifle late.
"I was able to take advantage all the way inside on the rail," Castellano said. "In a long distance, on the grass, the most important thing is to save all the ground. And that's exactly what I did. He did it very professionally today and I'm very satisfied with the way he did it."
Oddly enough, the first six finishers were in order of program numbers, as the top three finishers were followed by No. 4 Iron Power, No. 5 Morning Calm, and No. 6 Golden Soul.
Winning trainer Todd Pletcher earned three graded stakes wins in the space of 35 minutes Saturday, taking the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) with Rock Fall at 5:15 p.m. EDT, where he also teamed with Castellano; the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) at 5:23 with Madefromlucky, and then the Bowling Green with Red Rifle at 5:50.
With his Bowling Green win on grass, Dominion Day victory on Polytrack, and his 2014 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) score on theHawthorne Race Course main track, Red Rifle boasts graded stakes wins on turf, synthetic, and dirt surfaces.
"He's just a throwback kind of horse—he's hardy, he's tough. He's a gelding now, (so) we just need to look at the opportunities and place him where he fits," Pletcher said. "He won the Hawthorne Gold Cup last year, he just won a race on Polytrack at Woodbine and now on the turf. All options are on the table."
Red Rifle was bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks and Tom and Nancy Clark.
Madefromlucky Gets Job Done in WV Derby
Cheyenne Stables and Mac Nichol'sMadefromlucky, out of the shadow of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, rallied nicely from off the pace to capture the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II)Aug. 1 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort. Watch Video
With Joe Bravo riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, Madefromlucky captured his second grade II stakes. In May he won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old colt by Lookin At Lucky , out of the Pulpit mare Home From Oz was bred in Kentucky by RMF Thoroughbreds.
"He's a special horse," Nichol said. "We've known that for a long time. We were looking forward to him running a big race today, because we thought this race would suit him and it didn't hurt that we didn't have to worry about American Pharoah."
The latter is entered in the Aug. 2 William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park for his first start since the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
The 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby drew a field of 11 that was reduced to nine after the scratches of Stanford and Tekton, who both raced in the July 31 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Bettors settled on the right horse, as Madefromlucky was the slight 5-2 choice in a contentious field.
In a race that appeared loaded with speed, it was Cleveland Gold Cup winner Alliseeisgold who ended up with the lead—and he kept it through surprisingly easy fractions of :24.19 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.67 for a half-mile, and 1:13.01 for six furlongs. He was tracked by Bent On Bourbon and Thirtysilverpieces, while the eventual winner sat is sixth, about six lengths off the leader.
Despite the slow pace, the top three began to fade under pressure on the far turn. Souper Colossal and second choice Iron Fist rallied in tandem with Madefromlucky, and those three blew by into the lane. Souper Colossal grabbed a short advantage after a mile in 1:38.66, but Madefromlucky wore him down to win by 1 1/2 lengths. War Story, last most of the way, closed well for third, a half length behind Souper Colossal. Iron Fist was fourth.
The final time was 1:51.40 on a track rated fast. Madefromlucky paid $7.20 to win.
"Isn't Todd Pletcher the best?" Bravo yelled to crowd as he entered the winner's circle aboard Madefromlucky, who now has four wins, three seconds, and a third in 10 starts for earnings of $875,200.
"I was calm in knowing I had the best horse today," Bravo said. "He's such a relaxed, cool horse. You know this game. Let's just keep him sound and healthy."
Nichol said Madefromlucky wasn't 100% in the Belmont Stakes, but had rebounded well.
"When he's at the top of his game, he's full of himself," he said. "That's how he was when he won (the Peter Pan)."
"It's a real thrill," Dobson said. "I'm just thankful to be part of the horse. I'm very pleased with the job Todd Pletcher and his team has done with him, and Joe Bravo gave him a tremendous ride. Joe actually described the race beforehand and he followed it to a T."
The Derby was one of nine races on an all-stakes program at Mountaineer Saturday afternoon. The total pari-mutuel handle of $3,003,673 was up from $2,925,034 for nine races on the program last year.
Rock Fall Edges The Big Beast in Vanderbilt
Rock Fall continued his dazzling win streak and stepped up to the top level with a game performance in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 1 at Saratoga Race Course, edging grade I winner The Big Beast in a photo at the line. Watch Video
The 4-year-old son of Speightstown , who won the 2004 edition of the Vanderbilt for trainer Todd Pletcher, has not been defeated in six straight starts at the six-furlong distance and is 4-for-4 in 2015. Making his grade I debut, he would not allow 2014 King's Bishop (gr. I) winner The Big Beast past him, as they duked it out in the final strides.
"He finished powerfully and we were fortunate to be on the right side of a very close head bob," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "It's tough to win a photo against a horse as big as The Big Beast. If you're head-and-head, he's got a head on you. We got a fortunate bob and it was a great horse race."
It was the first grade I win for Stonestreet Stables' Rock Fall, who last time out won the June 5 True North Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park. Javier Castellano was in the irons aboard the bay colt, who closed from third to run down his game rival in the nick of time, while favored at even money in a field of seven.
"It was too close to call," Castellano said. "The bob could have gone either way. I was lucky it went my way."
The Big Beast, 7-2 second choice in his first start off a layup and racing for the first time since a fourth in the April 4 Carter Handicap (gr. I), held a determined second by a nose. Pacesetter Favorite Tale was third, two lengths behind a final time of 1:08.75 on a fast track.
Favorite Tale headed out to the early lead as expected in the Vanderbilt, with The Big Beast tracking a length back and Rock Fall keeping close about another length behind in third. The opening quarter went in :22.74 with a half in :45.31, before The Big Beast took over with a determined charge for home.
Rock Fall was in close pursuit, however, and hooked up with his more accomplished rival down the lane before catching him just in time.
"He was a really nice horse the way he did it today, off the pace," Castellano added. "There was a lot of speed in the race and he covered up perfect. Turning for home, I let him go outside. That's where he likes it and it paid off today. My horse fought back to win the race. I give all the credit to him."
"(In the stretch), I thought we had him, and then I thought he was coming back and he had us, and Javier said The Big Beast just re-rallied," Pletcher said. "It wasn't like Rock Fall was slowing down, they were coming home. The True North was a good field. These were some really top horses. ... This was a big win."
Trainer Anthony Dutrow said he was pleased with The Big Beast's effort under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez as well.
"I thought our horse was good. I thought Johnny (Velazquez) was good. I thought it was all good—and I thought we lost the bob. ... He broke well, like he does, and picked it up when Rock Fall came for him."
The winner returned $4, $3, and $2.40, while The Big Beast paid $4.10 and $2.80, with Favorite Tale bringing $3.20 at odds of 5-1. Salutos Amigos, Viva Majorca, Clearly Now, and Departing completed the order of finish.
Rock Fall was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock, out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare Renda, and was a $250,000 purchase from the Woods Edge consignment at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale. His record now stands at six wins from seven starts for earnings of $509,180.
Angela Renee, Competitive Edge Drill at Spa
Todd Pletcher sent out several of his stable stars for workouts July 26 atSaratoga Race Course, including graded stakes winners Stopchargingmaria,Angela Renee, and Competitive Edge.
Breezing early in company, Stopchargingmaria and Angela Renee are both targeting graded stakes at the Spa. Stopchargingmaria, who swept the grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama last summer at Saratoga, went four furlongs in a bullet :47.03. It was the best of 62 works at the distance and .09 seconds faster than Angela Renee.
Stopchargingmaria is being pointed to the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares Aug. 2, and Angela Renee is expected to go next in the $500,000 Longines Test Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old filly sprinters Aug. 8.
Also breezing a half-mile together on the main track were 2014 Hopeful (gr. I) winner Competitive Edge
(:48.34), who is on the list of probables to take on Triple Crown winner American Pharoah
in the next week's William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park
, and Long Branch Stakes winner Stanford
Graded stakes winners Palace Malice
(1:01.68) and Protonico
(1:01.76) were five-furlong workmates on the main track.
"I thought we had a really good morning," Pletcher said. "I was a little concerned when I woke up and it was raining a bit, but the track was in good shape and I thought we had some pretty powerful workouts this morning. I didn't see anything this morning that would deter anyone from pointing for the next spot."
Other notable workers for Pletcher were multiple grade I winnerConstitution
, unraced since taking the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 7, going four furlongs in :50.07; and 2-year-old filly Rachel's Valentina
. Under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, the daughter of championBernardini
, out of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra
, was clocked in :48.55 out of the gate with workmate Preppy
and has Pletcher ready to look for a debut spot.
"I thought she worked very well," Pletcher said. "She's not super quick away from the gate, but she makes up for it once she gets going. She's got a big, long stride to her and it seems like the farther she goes, the better she gets. We'll see how she comes out of it, and look through the condition book, and try and figure something out."
Uncle Vinny Placed First in Sanford Stakes
A late move into second place by Uncle Vinny paid off, when the son of Uncle Mo was placed first in the $150,000Sanford Stakes (gr. III) July 25 atSaratoga Race Course after Magna Lightwas disqualified from first. Watch Video
Magna Light ran a perfect race until he shied from three left-handed cracks from jockey Jose Ortiz and veered out about five paths. Stewards ruled that when Magna Light veered out just past the eighth pole, the son of Magna Graduate interfered with Percolator, who was attempting to rally under jockey Kendrick Carmouche. Magna Light also appeared to drift back into Percolator's path after veering out.
The stewards took a few moments, but soon posted the inquiry and Carmouche also objected. They ruled interference and placed Magna Light third, behind Main Line Racing Stable's and John Servis's Percolator, who entered off a June 6 victory in a maiden special weight race at Monmouth Park.
Starlight Racing's Uncle Vinny and rider John Velazquez avoided any of that trouble with an outside rally that saw him get by Percolator late, a half-length at the wire, a key move in the six-furlong race for 2-year-olds, as it would determine the winner.
"Perfect trip. He was running coming down the lane," Velazquez said. "We were getting to the point where he was rolling from the eighth pole to the wire and he inherited the win. Nothing I can say. He definitely was coming running. (Magna Light) ran a great race, too."
Uncle Vinny bounced back with the victory after he finished sixth as the favorite in the June 5 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park. He earned that favoritism with a 4 1/2-length maiden special weight victory there in his debut. Uncle Vinny is the first stakes winner for freshman sire Uncle Mo , who stood for $25,000 this season at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky.
Uncle Vinny paid $10 to win, $5.80 to place, and $5.30 to show, while Percolator returned $17.60 to place and $11.20 to show. Magna Light delivered $8.60 to show. Tremont winner Cocked and Loaded, the 2-1 favorite, weakened late and finished sixth.
Owned by Michael Dubb and several other partners, Magna Light raced smoothly before the stretch incident, leading the field through a quarter-mile in :22.52 and a half-mile in :45.98. He reached the wire first in 1:10.92 on a fast track, three-quarters of a length in front of Uncle Vinny.
"I thought they were going to look at it, but not take it down," said Magna Light's trainer Rudy Rodriguez. "He's a good horse. Unfortunately we got taken down. We have to get over it, but it's a shame. You come to Saratoga to bring the horses the best way you can."
In stewards' notes posted to NYRA.com, the officials ruled that Magna Light shifted out several paths just past the eithth pole, forcing Percolator to steady, then drifted back down toward Percolator in the final strides.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who picked up his sixth Sanford victory, Uncle Vinny launched his move in the far turn and sustained it to the wire.
"I really, really do feel bad for Rudy Rodriguez, Michael Dubb and all his connections, because they really did run a winning race," said Starlight's Don Lucarelli. "It's unfortunate to have to win them this way. We ran huge, too, but (Magna Light), today, was a better horse. Bottom line is, we get to cash a ticket. It is what it is."
Bred in Florida by Gilbert Campbell, Uncle Vinny is out of the stakes-winning Untuttable mare Arealhotlover. Starlight purchased Uncle Vinny for $175,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Stanford Grabs Stakes Win in Long Branch
After finishing second in his two most recent stakes tries, Stanford took care of business Saturday, July 11 to win the $103,000 Long Branch Stakes atMonmouth Park. Watch Video
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, Stanford rallied three wide off the final turn to seize the lead and then held off Souper Colossal, who had led early and proved determined in the stretch, to post the 1 1/4-length victory.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had considered M.V. Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Stonestreet Stable's Stanford for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after the Malibu Moon colt finished a close second to International Star in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). But Pletcher opted to skip that race and Stanford ultimately missed the Triple Crown races before returning June 6 with a runner-up finish to Japan in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard June 6.
In Saturday's race, Stanford raced just off the pace set by Live Oak Plantation's Souper Colossal, who went a half-mile in :48.01 and six furlongs in 1:12.63. Coming off the turn, Souper Colossal was first challenged by longshot Total Joint but Stanford quickly made it three across and surged to the lead.
Winning jockey Joe Bravo believes Stanford could put together a nice summer and fall campaign after winning the local prep race for the Aug. 2 William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I).
"He is a really classy horse. They were going an honest pace up front. I asked him to go a little bit before the quarter pole to just get him going and he answered really nicely," Bravo said. "If he comes back for the Haskell, the good thing is that we know he likes the course."
Favored Stanford paid $3 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show while Souper Colossal returned $3 and $2.60. Total Joint returned $4 to show.
Iamahandsome Man was pulled up and vanned off. A track spokesperson said the son of Musket Man appeared to be standing fine before loading on the van.
Stakes Winner Temper Mint Patty Tops F-T Sale
Fasig-Tipton Kentucky saved the best for last at its July horses of racing age session, when the last horse through the ring, Temper Mint Patty, brought the session's top price of $350,000.
The 3-year-old daughter of Congrats , whose victories include the New York Oaks for New York-breds, was purchased by Mike Repole. Jacob West of Taylor Made Sales Agency signed the ticket on behalf of Repole.
The filly consigned by Bluewater Sales will be sent to trainer Todd Pletcher and likely be pointed toward state-bred stakes.
Trained by Jeremiah Englehart for Mark Stanley, Temper Mint Patty increased her earnings to $274,050 when she rolled to a 9 1/2-length victory in the New York Oaks July 3 at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack. She was supplemented to the F-T sale following that victory.
Bred by Gallaghers Stud, Temper Mint Patty was initially purchased by Becky Thomas for $30,000 from the Denali Stud consignment to the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale and then resold to Stanley for $95,000 at the F-T Florida March sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Another recent stakes winner added to the sale later, Come to Mischief, a 2-year-old daughter of Into Mischief who won the My Dear Stakes at Woodbine June 26, was bought back by her connections for $500,000.
Come to Mischief races for Horen'n Around Stable and Martha Gonzalez.
"We were trying to get a little more money and didn't get it," said Nicholas Gonzalez, who trains the filly. "She's a real nice filly and got great vet reports (at the sale). In this market, we just thought she was worth a little more than that. So we're going to take the next step and try to make her worth a little more."
Gonzalez said Come to Mischief would either return to her base atWoodbine or be sent to Saratoga Race Course for her next start.
Another high-profile buyback was multiple graded-placed War Story, who was returned to Loooch Racing Stable and Glenn Ellis after failing to meet his reserve on a final bid of $545,000. Trained by Tom Amoss, War Story finished second in the Risen Star (gr. II) and LeComte Stakes (gr. III) and third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). After checking in 16th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the son ofNorthern Afleet was given a breather, returning to be fourth in the June 20 Ohio Derby.
The gross and average were down, but the median was up this year from the 2014 auction that was boosted by horses from the dispersal of Eugene Melnyk's Melnyk Racing Stables. Melynk's Bedford Landtopped that sale when purchased by Three Chimneys Farm for $1,075,000.
This year, 65 horses were sold for $3,996,000, an average price of $61,477. A year ago, 109 horses grossed $8,426,000. This year's $48,000 median price was well above the $35,000 figure a year ago. There were 31 horses bought back this year.
The horses of racing age sale was preceded by the July selected yearlings sale.
Second-highest price of $270,000 was paid by West Point Stables for three-time grade III winner Divine Oath, a 4-year-old son of Broken Vow who has earned $464,210, was sold for $270,000. West Poinit's Terry Finley said the colt will be campaigned in New York, possibly with trainer Christophe Clement.
Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the colt was trained by Todd Pletcher for Let's Go Stable to win five of 14 starts to date. Bred in Kentucky by Sanford B. Robertson, Divine Oath was a $200,000 yearling purchase by Pletcher.
Dixiana Farms went to $250,000 to acquire Lutine Belle, a 3-year-old daughter of Bellamy Road who has won three of 10 starts and earned $114,950. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for KMN Racing, Lutine Belle won the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita Park Jan. 1.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and John R. Penn, the filly had been purchased for $40,000 by Litt Bloodstock from the Taylor Made Sales consignment to the 2013 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale.
Got Lucky Surges to Molly Pitcher Victory
Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings and Philip Steinberg's homebred Got Lucky turned the tables on rival Stiffed in emphatic fashion July 3, pouncing first and pulling away to win by 5 1/2 lengths in the $150,000 Molly Pitcher (gr. III) atMonmouth Park. Watch Video
Off at 1-5 odds under Paco Lopez, the 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy stalked early leader J's Two Step Halo in third and blew by coming out of the final turn in the 1 1/16-mile dirt test. Stiffed closed from last in the six-horse field to finish second, but could not make up significant ground on the winner.
Last time out, Stiffed was a half-length better than Got Lucky in the Monmouth Beach Stakes. The Molly Pitcher victory is Got Lucky's first graded stakes score.
J's Two Step Halo set early fractions of :24.46, :49.85, and 1:14.38 through a six furlongs, before Got Lucky took command, running the mile in 1:38.30 and hitting the wire in 1:44.12.
"I knew Stiffed would be coming to the outside again," Lopez said. "This time the pace was a little easier for us. We were able to sit comfortably just off the pace along the backstretch. She wanted to go a little early, but I had to hold her back. Once we were in the clear I let her go, she sprinted away perfectly."
J's Two Step Halo held to finish third, 4 1/4 lengths behind Stiffed.Lucky Liberty was fourth, followed by Oasis At Midnight and Mary n' Eileen to complete the order of finish.
The winner paid $2.60, $2.10, and $2.10 across the board. Stiffed returned $2.80 and $2.40, while J's Two Step Halo brought $5.
"She was impressive today," said Anthony Sciametta Jr., assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "She stumbled just a bit out of the gate, but seemed to overcome that just fine. It looked like she was on cruise control out there and (Lopez) just steered her in the right direction."
Got Lucky was bred in Kentucky, out of the Deputy Minister mareMalka. She has a 4-5-0 record from 13 starts and earnings of $451,340.
Race Day Heads Loaded Salvator Mile
Matthew Schera's Race Day, winner of the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and Razorback Handicap (gr. III) in consecutive graded scores for trainer Todd Pletcher, is the 123-pound highweight for the $150,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III) July 5 at Monmouth Park.
The 4-year-old Tapit colt will have Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the irons from post 8 in a field of 10 for the mile test, which attracted the likes of George and Lori Hall's old-timer Pants On Fire, Crossed Sabres Farm's grade II winner Valid, Fox Hill Farm's grade II winner Coup de Grace, and multiple grade III winner Bradester.
The Salvator Mile will be broadcast live by Fox Sports 1 along with the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Monmouth Park , Sunday, July 05, 2015, Race 10
Red Rifle Rallies to Dominion Day Victory
Red Rifle secured his first stakes victory of the 2015 season when he rallied on the outside to win the $150,000Dominion Day Stakes (Can-III) July 1 atWoodbine. Watch Video
With the 1 1/4-length victory, Twin Creeks Racing Stables homebred Red Rifle ended a four-race skid that dated back to his clear victory in last year's Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) atHawthorne Race Course. The 5-year-oldGiant's Causeway gelding bounced back from a ninth-place finish in the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes June 5 at Belmont Park.
Sent off the 2-1 favorite, Red Rifle settled in sixth under Alan Garcia, while Patrioticandproud cruised through a half-mile in :47.26, six furlongs in 1:12, and still held a clear lead through a mile in 1:36.61. But Red Rifle had launched his rally on the outside before the quarter pole, while last year's Ontario Derby (Can-III) winner Florida Wonwould soon find room inside under Patrick Husbands.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Red Rifle took command at the eighth pole and had enough to hold off Live Oak Plantation's Florida Won, completing Wednesday's 1 1/4-mile race in 2:01.93. Veteran Pender Harbour finished third, giving Canada's champion 3-year-old male of 2011 the 22nd stakes placing of his career.
Garcia, who was riding Red Rifle for the first time, said multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Pletcher gave him some good advice before the race.
"He told me let him run his race," said Garcia, who earned his meet-leading seventh stakes win at Woodbine. "(He said) If he breaks good, then go on with him. He's got a beautiful stride and can run all day long. He broke a step slow, so I said, 'let me be patient and come running.'
"Unbelievable, today, this horse. Pletcher also said if he's rating and he's happy, don't worry about what position you are in."
Red Rifle paid $6.40, $3.50, and $3, while Florida Won returned $3.80 and $3.20. Pender Harbour paid $2.70 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks and Tom and Nancy Clark, Red Rifle is out of the stakes-winning Gulch mare May Night, who also has produced stakes winner Notte d'Oro, by Medaglia d'Oro .
Golden Lad Popular Winner of Cornhusker
Heavily favored Golden Lad got by 31-1Ecleto Red late to win the $300,000Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) June 27 atPrairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Watch Video
Ridden by Javier Castellano for owner E. Paul Robsham Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher, Golden Lad sat in third through moderate fractions set by Ecleto Red in the 1 1/8-mile race, before making his bid on the final turn. He surged past Ecleto Red, who had won his last two starts at Prairie Meadows, near the wire to win in 1:49.86 on a track rated fast.
Mid-Atlantic shipper Page McKenney, second in the grade III Pimlico Special in his last start, finished third after a wide trip, with Carvefourth. Golden Lad paid $4.60 to win.
Castellano hopped a plane to Iowa from New York and arrived in time to win the grade III Iowa Derby aboard Bent On Bourbon. He then won the Cornhusker in the next race.
"He's very competitive," said Castellano, who rode Golden Lad to a five-length win in the Mountainview Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in his previous start. "I've learned a lot about him. He has done phenomenal in his last two starts."
Golden Lad, a 5-year-old horse by Medaglia d'Oro out of theSeeking the Gold mare Broadway Gold, was bred in Kentucky by Robsham Stables. He now has eight wins in 15 starts.
Dame Dorothy Speeds to Bed O' Roses Victory
Bobby Flay's Dame Dorothy added another victory to her already-impressive résumé with a 1 1/2-length win in the $150,000 Bed O' Roses Handicap (gr. III)June 20 at Belmont Park. Watch Video
The 4-year-old daughter of Bernardini is now two-for-two at Belmont and four-for-four at the Bed O' Roses distance of seven furlongs, where she also won the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downslast time out May 2. Jockey Javier Castellano was aboard for both victories.
Dame Dorothy received a lucky break when apparent pace-setterRoom for Me lunged at the start and was left at the gate by the rest of the five-horse field.
That allowed the Dame Dorothy, trained by Todd Pletcher, to settle into an easy lead, opening up fractions of :23.96 and :47.65 through a half-mile, while Street Story stalked a length back.
"I didn't expect to be on the lead, but after (Room for Me) didn't break out of the gate, I took a shot," Castellano said. "When the only speed horse didn't break, I was able to dictate the pace."
Whispering Oaks Farm's Street Story provided a challenge in the stretch, nearly going head-to-head with Dame Dorothy, but the 3-5 favorite battled back on the rail to prevail by a comfortable margin. Longshot Expression (14-1) was six lengths back in third.
La Verdad, another speed threat who was 2-1 on the morning line, was also a key scratch before the race. Room for Me finished fourth, followed by Tahoe Tigress.
"The race didn't unfold as we anticipated it would, when Room for Me missed the break, but anyways, it worked out well," Pletcher said. "Certainly, with La Veradad coming out, it was a significant scratch. When we originally picked up the overnight, we didn't anticipate being on the lead, but it worked out."
Dame Dorothy finished off the seven furlongs in 1:24.19 and paid $3.50, $2.20, and $2.10 across the board. Street Story brought $3.40 and $2.60. Expression delivered $3.20 to show.
Bred in Pennsylvania by Derry Meeting Farm, out of the Woodmanmare Vole Vole Monamour, the filly now has $709,740 in earnings and a 7-1-1 record from nine career starts.
"My filly likes to be competitive," Castellano said. "Every time we see a horse, she goes forward."
Dame Dorothy Returns in Bed O' Roses
Humana Distaff (gr. I) winner Dame Dorothy is scheduled to make her first start since that May 2 victory at Churchill Downs when she faces an expected seven other older fillies and mares in the $150,000 Bed O' Roses Handicap (gr. III)June 20 at Belmont Park.
A winner of six of eight career starts, Bobby Flay's Dame Dorothy scored at the top level in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff, when the 4-year-old Bernardini filly edged last year's champion female sprinter Judy the Beauty by a neck. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Pennsylvania-bred will try seven furlongs again Saturday, a distance at which she boasts three wins in as many starts—including this year's Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park.
"She's doing well and we decided to run her in this spot," Pletcher said. "She's been very consistent and she's coming off of her biggest win last time going seven-eighths so it seems like that might be the trick."
Carrying just one pound less than 123-pound highweight Dame Dorothy will be the speedy New York-bred La Verdad, who will try to pick up her third straight graded stakes victory this season. The daughter of Yes It's True opened her 5-year-old season with a victory in the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack followed by a May 16 score in the Vagrancy Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont.
Lady Sheila Stable's La Verdad has won five of her six career starts at Belmont, but in her third start at the distance, she will be looking for her first career win at seven furlongs.
Also entering Saturday's race off a graded stakes win is Whispering Oaks Farm's Street Story, a 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry who won the Winning Colors Stakes (gr. III) May 25 at Churchill.
Belmont Park, Saturday, June 20, 2015, Race 8
Curalina Wins First Stakes in Acorn
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina, making her first start in stakes company, prevailed in a very deep field for the $750,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 6 (VIDEO).
The 3-year-old daughter of Curlin , with John Velazquez in the irons, won by a neck over longshot By the Moon, who is owned by Jay Em Ess Stable. Wonder Gal finished 4 1/2 lengths back in third. The final time in the mile race was 1:35.13 over a dirt course rated fast. The winner is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by John Velazquez.
Curalina paid $16.40, $8.90, and $6.20. By the Moon returned $26.40 and $13.40. Wonder Gal delivered $9.70 to show.
"She's a filly we'd had high hopes for for a long time," Pletcher said. "We felt she was one of our best 2-year-old fillies last year, unfortunately she had some baby stuff that she needed some time off for."
The filly faced some challenges right at the start of the Acorn, having gotten squeezed from both sides right after the break. She got clear and stalked the pace set early by Promise Me of Silver, who took the field through an opening quarter in :22.89 and a half in :45.42. Miss Ella tracked a length behind in second until the turn when she took the lead briefly.
As the field moved through the turn, By the Moon began to rally and had a clear and widening lead at the top of the stretch. About an eighth of a mile from the wire By the Moon was sailing in front with Curalina and Wonder Gal hooked up two lengths back. As Curalina and Wonder Gal battled, they ate away at By the Moon's lead. Curalina broke free and chased down the leader for the win.
"We ended up far back," said Velazquez. "I put her in the clear, and she got a little bit rank on the backstretch. I let her do a little bit and tried to settle her on the turn, which she did, and she finished up well."
Michelle Nevin, trainer of Samantha Siegel's homebred By the Moon, said she was very happy with her filly's performance.
"She ran a huge race," Nevin said. "It's unfortunate we could not hang on for the win, but I have nothing to complain about."
The final order of finish was Danzatrice, Oceanwave, Bar of Gold, Miss Ella, Calamity Kate, Condo Commando, Promise Me Silver, Light the City, and Shook Up.
Shook Up, who finished second in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), was vanned off after the race. She had an inflatable cast put on her right front leg.
Coach Inge Outruns V. E. Day in Brooklyn
Repole Stable's Coach Inge and jockey John Velazquez outran 2014 Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner V. E. Day for a game neck victory in the Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II) on the Belmont Stakes presented by DraftKings (gr. I) June 6 card (VIDEO).
Coach Inge, who provided trainer Todd Pletcher with his first stakes win on the card, was always forwardly placed, battling early with longshot Call Me George, as the large field went through the mile in 1:38.80, with Sky Kingdomand jockey Victor Espinoza tracking in third.
Rounding the second turn in the 1 1/2-mile test over a fast main track, Coach Inge, Call Me George, and Sky Kingdom were closely bunched, as V. E. Day made a strong move on the outside. Those four battled into the top of the stretch before Coach Inge and V. E. Day pulled away from the rest of the field. Coach Inge led throughout the length of the stretch, with V. E. Day pressing all the way, but eventually prevailed.
"For a horse that went all the way around, kind of head-and-head with (Call Me George) in the backstretch, he put in a good fight, and he put in another fight down the lane," Velazquez said. "That's a lot of guts."
Coach Inge, coming off a 12 1/2-length romp in allowance optional claiming company, completed the distance in 2:27.17. He paid $7.90, $4.30, and $3.20. V. E. Day, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, was worth $5.00 and $3.60, while Sky Kingdom, trained by Bob Baffert, was another 5 1/2 lengths back and paid $3.10. The top two combined for a $39 exacta.
The Brooklyn marked the stakes debut for Coach Inge, who was making his 10th start. It took the gelded son of Big Brown five attempts to break his maiden and he has subsequently had three victories.
"He came in off a very powerful allowance race and we just kind of had a feeling he'd handle the mile and a half, so we've kinda been targeting this for a while," Pletcher said. "I'll tell you, it was a heck of a horse race."
The winner's purse of $220,000 improved his bankroll to $376,177.
Coach Inge was bred in Kentucky by Paul Pompa, Jr. and was a $150,000 purchase at the 2013 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Rock Fall Keeps Streak Alive in True North
Stonestreet Stables' Rock Fall earned his fifth straight victory and first graded stakes win June 5, taking the $250,000True North Stakes (gr. II) by 3 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old Speightstown colt completed six furlongs in 1:08.37 on a fast track while favored heavily at odds of 6-5 in a seven-horse field. It was his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher since taking an April 18 allowance by nine lengths going the same distance atKeeneland.
"When he broke his maiden last year, I thought he as going to be a good horse, and then he followed it up with a nice allowance win," Pletcher said. "He hat to take a little time off, but to win five in a row now is pretty hard to do, especially sprinting. He really found his groove."
Jockey Javier Castellano allowed Rock Fall to find his natural rhythm from his post on the far outside while Favorite Tale scooted out to lead the group. As a quarter went in :22.35, the colt moved up to third, his sights set on the frontrunner and on the pace-pressing Eastwood.
Heading around the turn through a :45.01 half, that trio was briefly three across the track, but Rock Fall kicked into second gear after straightening for home and drew off while clocking five-eighths in :56.48.
Stallwalkin' Dude came from last to get second, while Dads Caps also closed a neck back for third.
"This is a special hose," Castellano said. "You can do whatever you want with him. Everything worked out perfect for us."
Rock Fall returned $4.40, $3.10, and $2.40 while Stallwalkin' Dude brought $5.30 and $3.40. Dads Caps paid $2.80. Eastwood, Favorite Tale, Clearly Now, and Tenango completed the order of finish. Captain Serious scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock out of the stakes-winning Medaglia d'Oro mare Renda, Rock Fall was a $250,000 purchase from the Woods Edge consignment at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale. The dark bay or brown runner improved his record to those five wins from six starts for earnings of $299,180.
Competitive Edge Provides Class in Stephens
Competitive Edge puts his undefeated record on the line in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 6.
Fresh off of a powerful score in the Pat Day Mile (gr. III) at Churchill Downs May 2, Competitive Edge is one of six talented 3-year-olds entered in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens.
NOVAK: Competitive Edge Takes Pat Day Mile
Owned by Nancy Favreau, Kathy Psoinos, and Michael Tabor, Competitive Edge began his career by breaking his maiden by 10 1/4 lengths in his debut at Saratoga Race Course in July of last year.
In just his second start, Competitive Edge won the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga by 5 3/4 lengths, but suffered a hairline fracture to his left-front foot, ending his 2014 campaign.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Competitive Edge didn't make his 3-year-old debut until March 27, when he easily took the Tamarac Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park.
From there, trainer Todd Pletcher sent the son of Super Saver to the Pat Day Mile and watched the colt set the stakes record, when he completed the mile 1:34.18.
Competitive Edge drew post 3 and will be ridden by John Velazquez, who has ridden the colt in all four career starts.
Chalk Racing's Ready for Rye will look to rebound in the Woody Stephens after tiring to third as the favorite in the April 4 Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Prior to the race, Ready for Rye upset the Mar. 7 Swale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream, when he took the field gate-to-wire, defeating favored Daredevil.
The 3-year-old son of City Zip has been working steadily for his return to the races for trainer Tom Albertrani and might be the one to catch breaking from the rail under Luis Saez.
The gelding already owns a victory at Belmont, where he broke his maiden Oct. 11.
Besides saddling Competitive Edge, Pletcher will also start Two Weeks Off in the Woody Stephens, a month after the colt weakened to third as the favorite in the May 9 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II).
Two Weeks Off be back to seven furlongs Saturday, however, the distance at which he is two-for-two, breaking his maiden at Saratoga Aug. 30 and scoring in an allowance race at Keeneland April 4.
Two Weeks Off will be ridden by Javier Castellano and will leave from post 4.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/92384/competitive-edge-provides-class-in-stephens#ixzz3cBdu25JQ
Five Aim for First Stakes Score in Easy Goer
A pair of colts best known to this point in their careers for strong runner-up finishes in graded stakes this spring, Stanford and Donworth, head a field of five 3-year-olds in the $150,000 WinStar Farm Easy Goer Stakes that will open the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) day of racing June 6 at Belmont Park.
Stonestreet Stables, M.V. Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith's Stanford will be making his first start since finishing a close second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 28 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The son of Malibu Moon led most of that 1 1/8-mile race before getting edged late by International Star.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had considered starting Stanford in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but ultimately opted to skip the Derby and the Triple Crown races.
Regis Racing's Donworth finished second to Divining Rod in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) April 11 at Keeneland and the son of Tiznow enters Saturday's 1 1/16-mile test off a third-place finish to Fame and Power in the Sir Barton Stakes May 16 at Pimlico Race Course.
While the field doesn't feature a previous stakes winner, two other Easy Goer horses are stakes-placed in Wounded Warrior Stables' Combat Diver, who finished a close second in this year's Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park; and Repole Stable's Nonna's Boy, who enters off a runner-up finish in the May 1 Gold Fever Stakes at Belmont.
Rounding out the field is Barry Schwartz's Japan, who registered a seven-length maiden victory April 30 at Churchill Downs.
Belmont Park, Saturday, June 06, 2015, Race 1
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/92376/five-aim-for-first-stakes-score-in-easy-goer#ixzz3cBf2YcjF
Pletcher Seeking Third Belmont Stakes
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) twice and finished second four times, has three opportunities to improve on that record in the June 6 renewal of the classic at Belmont Park.
As of May 31, Pletcher plans to run Carpe Diem, Madefromlucky, and Materiality in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont and will make rider decisions by June 2.
The three, who breezed May 29, walked the shedrow Sunday, as Pletcher continued preparations for his stable that will have as many as 19 runners during the June 5-6 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Carpe Diem, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner owned by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables, sat out the Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes (gr. I) after finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Alto Racing's Materiality also sat out the Preakness after he got off to a poor start and finished well to be sixth in the Derby.
Madefromlucky, owned by Cheyenne Stables and Mac Nichol, ran fourth in American Pharoah's Arkansas Derby (gr. I) win and then won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont, the same race used by Tonalist as a prep for his 2014 Belmont victory.
"I can't make an excuse for Carpe Diem (in the Derby), other than the fact he may not have relished the Churchill Downs surface," Pletcher said. "We've seen horses over the years who didn't like it in the past.
"Materiality unfortunately missed the break (in the Derby), but closed well after that. Both have trained well since the Derby. Madefromlucky has a win over the (Belmont) track in the Peter Pan, which has been a good Belmont prep in years past, so that's encouraging. We think he'll handle the mile and a half."
In addition to not having his jockey assignments, Pletcher said he will await the June 3 post position draw to try to come up with a race strategy for each in the Belmont.
Pletcher won his first Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches in 2007 and in 2013 he sent out Palace Malice for his second win in the classic.
His runner-up efforts were with Bluegrass Cat (2006), Dunkirk (2009), Stay Thirsty (2011), and Commissioner (2014).
"Commissioner's beat last year was as tough of a beat you will take in any race, much less a classic," Pletcher said. "To essentially lead every step of the way, except for the last one—that was a tough beat.
"Stay Thirsty's beat was actually pretty tough, too," he continued. "And Dunkirk, he ran very well, and led most of the way. Our results overall have been very good (in the Belmont), but we're kind of a length away from having won four or five of these."
In addition to his Belmont three, here are Pletcher's other Belmont Festival probables:
June 5: Uncle Vinny, $250,000 Tremont Stakes; Enchantress, $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes; Eastwood and Rock Fall, $250,000 True North (gr. II); and Red Rifle and Unitarian, $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational.
June 6: Micromanage and Coach Inge, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II); Stopchargingmaria, $1 million Ogden Phipps (gr. I); General a Rod and Jack Milton, $1 million Knob Creek Manhattan Stakes (gr. IT); Competitive Edge and Two Weeks Off, $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II); Curlina, $750,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I); and Stanford and Nonna's Boy, $150,000 WinStar Farm Easy Goer Stakes.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/92293/pletcher-seeking-third-belmont-stakes#ixzz3cBgrEFsR
Materiality, Frosted Drill Toward Belmont
Materiality and Frosted, two candidates for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) worked a half-mile May 29 at Belmont Park. The moves came later in the day following the early-morning efforts put in by Carpe Diem and Madefromlucky.
HAMMONDS: Carpe Diem, Madefromlucky Work in Company
Materiality, the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) winner, got the slightly better time, getting his four furlongs in :47.78, the fourth-fastest of 33 of the day. Materiality, Carpe Diem, and Madefromlucky are trained by Todd Pletcher.
Materiality was sixth behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The work was his third since the Derby over Belmont's main track. He went five furlongs in 1:00.04 May 22 and four furlongs in :49.03 May 16.
Godolphin Racing's Frosted, winner of the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) and fourth in the Derby, worked a half-mile in :47.84. The move was the co-sixth-fastest of 33 on the day at the trip.
Frosted, a son of Tapit —Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister, is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. The May 29 work was the colt's third since the Derby. He went five furlongs in 1:01.45 May 22.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/92252/materiality-frosted-drill-toward-belmont#ixzz3bd1Me3vu
Carpe Diem, Madefromlucky Work in Company
Carpe Diem and Madefromlucky, a pair of colts trained by Todd Pletcher, worked a half-mile in company May 29 at Belmont Park. Both are under consideration for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and a bid at thwarting American Pharoah's bid for the Triple Crown.
Carpe Diem, a grade I-winning son of Giant's Causeway , recorded a half-mile of :47.66 (the third fastest of 33 on the day) for the four furlongs while Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) winner Madefromlucky got the trip in :47.84 (co-sixth fastest)
Carpe Diem, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 4 at Keeneland, was tenth behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables' runner has won four of six starts and has earned $1,519,800. He is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Rebridled Dreams.
Madefromlucky, a one-length winner of the May 9 Peter Pan at Belmont, was second behind American Pharoah in the March 14 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and was fourth behind the dual classic winner in the April 11 Arkansas Derby (gr. I). This was his second move since the Peter Pan. He went five furlongs in a bullet :59.01 May 22.
Madefromlucky, by Lookin At Lucky —Home From Oz, by Pulpit, is owned by Cheyenne Stables and Mac Nichol. Home From Oz is a full sister to leading sire Tapit .
Another top Pletcher 3-year-old, the unbeaten Competitive Edge, also worked May 29. The son of Super Saver went four furlongs in :48.87. The winner of last year's Hopeful Stakes (gr. I), Competitive Edge won the Pat Day Mile (gr. III) at Churchill Downs on Derby day in his last outing.
Last year's Belmont winner, Tonalist (by Tapit), worked five furlongs in 1:01.23 for trainer Christophe Clement.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/92241/carpe-diem-madefromlucky-work-in-company#ixzz3bYPVYVZY
Race Day Excels in Oaklawn 'Cap
Race Day Excels in Oaklawn 'Cap
Photo: Coady Photography
Race Day wins the Oaklawn Handicap.
Schera purchased the gray son of Tapit
at the 2014 Keeneland November sale for $285,000 and transferred the colt to the care of Todd Pletcher. Since that purchase, Race Day has won three of his last four starts, also taking the March 14 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn.
"It certainly looks like that," said Schera, after being asked if the horse was a good purchase. "He's done everything right since we got him."
Breaking alertly from the rail under John Velazquez, Race Day was involved from the start, battling with Carve
through a half-mile in :46.71 and into the stretch, before drawing off to score by 3 3/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite.
"It worked out perfect," Velazquez said. "We went a little quicker than I expected to, but we had no choice to be up front. We got good position going into the first turn and I tried to save enough horse for the run home. He did everything so easy coming to the quarter pole. When I asked him right at the eighth pole he responded. Very proud of the way he ran today."
It was also the first grade II win for Race Day, who has now won five of eight career starts, with earnings of $610,450.
"It was a super effort," said Pletcher, who also saddled Lawyer Ron to victory in the 2007 Oaklawn Handicap.
After the race Schera said Race Day may try grade I competition next in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap from Belmont Park
on June 6, as part of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard.
"It's very exciting," Schera said. "We're thinking the Met Mile next and see how he comes out of it. We always put the horse first."
"I'm not really going to complain," said jockey Jesus Castanon, aboard Carve. "He was really in the bridle today and was happy doing it. He was up there with the winner for most of the race and really tried. He was second best today."
Race Day ran the 1 1/8-mile event in 1:47.93 and returned $4.40 to win, $3.60 to place and $2.80 to show.
Carve paid $7.20 to place and $4.80 to show, while Tapiture returned $3.20 to show.
Race Day was bred in Kentucky by James Miller and is out of the More Than Ready mare Rebalite.
The gray 4-year-old began his career under the care of trainer Kellyn Gorder, finishing third in his debut on Aug. 8 of last year at Ellis Park
. He then finished second at Ellis on Aug. 29, before finally breaking his maiden in his third career start at Keeneland
on Oct. 3.
He then won an allowance race at Churchill Downs
on Nov. 2 before being placed in the sale.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/91215/race-day-excels-in-oaklawn-cap#ixzz3X67Eku5L
Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali Score
Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali Score
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
After being eased during his seasonal debut in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park, Protonico bounced back with an easy victory in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) April 11 at Keeneland.
With the front-running victory, Sumaya U.S. Stables' Protonico secured the third graded stakes win of his career. The 4-year-old son of Giant's Causeway won last year's Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Smarty Jones Stakes (gr. III) at Parx Racing.
With a pair of recent bullet works signaling his readiness, including a four-furlong breeze in :47 2/5 April 5 at Keeneland, Protonico took control of the 1 1/8-mile race from the start under jockey Javier Castellano. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Protonico led through a half-mile in :47.49 and then left no doubt in the stretch, easily drawing off while completing the test in 1:48.79 on a fast track.
It marked the first gate-to-wire victory for Protonico since his career debut—a six-furlong maiden race in September of 2013 under Castellano at Delaware Park.
"When we were handicapping the race, I didn't see much speed," Castellano said. "I took advantage—my horse has speed. I rode him before (when he broke his maiden in September 2013 at Delaware Park) and was in the lead wire to wire. I tried to do the same today, and it worked out very well. The way he did it (was) very easy. Turning for home, when I asked he responded so well."
Sent off the 4-5 favorite, Protonico returned $3.60 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. A. Stevens Miles Jr.'s Neck 'n Neck earned his second straight stakes placing, and returned $6.40 to place and $4.60 to show. Ami's Holiday finished 2 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up, finishing third and returning $4.40 to show.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/91208/protonico-bounces-back-with-ben-ali-score#ixzz3X67eGEdb
Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46
Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Gary Barber's Jack Milton went from last to first to claim his first grade I score in the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT), tracking down longshot Aripeka in the lane April 10 at Keeneland (VIDEO).
Off at 9-2 odds, the 5-year-old son of War Front sat last in the seven-horse field, 4 1/2 lengths behind early leader Long On Value after an opening quarter-mile in :23.89 and 5 1/2 back after a half in :47.42. He moved up to sixth when Long On Value covered six furlongs in 1:12, then went seven wide in the final turn to rally for a 2 1/4-length victory.
"I really like the way (it set up today)," jockey Javier Castellano said. "He's a come-from-behind horse and it was a beautiful pace—I think it went pretty quick early in the race. It set up perfect (for) a come-from-behind horse. He had a good kick today."
Jack Milton completed the mile in 1:36.30 on a turf course rated soft under Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the third win for each on Keeneland's Friday card.
"It was pretty special—special for everybody," Pletcher assistant Tristan Barry said. "We had two plans. If he broke well, we were going to sit close to the pace and pounce. If he didn't, we were going to sit back and make one run. Plan B worked well."
Favored Summer Front, off at odds of 6-5, tracked the early leader and appeared to get a dream rail trip when Long On Value came out of the final turn wide, but faded to finish sixth, 7 1/4 lengths behind the winner. Long On Value hung on to finish third, a head behind Aripeka.
""It seemed like he was struggling a little bit at the end," Summer Front's jockey, Victor Espinoza, said. "It was a little too soft for him. I was sitting patiently with him all the way around. It was wide open for me, but when it was time to go, he struggled a little bit."
Jack Milton returned $11.20, $6.20, and $4. Aripeka delivered $10.40 and $4.20, while Long On Value paid $4 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by Cherry Valley Farm out of the Forty Niner mare Preserver, Jack Milton improved his record to 5-1-5 from 15 career starts and now has $751,161 in career earnings.
Prior to the Maker's 46, Jack Milton's only graded victory came in the mile Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park last May.
Beyond Long On Value, Legendary closed to finish fourth, followed by Za Approval, Summer Front, and Skyring, to complete the order of finish.
Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/91196/jack-milton-goes-last-to-first-in-makers-46#ixzz3X0JX58P5
Carpe Diem Rumbles in Blue Grass
Carpe Diem Rumbles in Blue Grass
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Carpe Diem won for fun in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 4 at Keeneland, living up to his 2-5 favoritism and the hype that surrounded him leading into the race (VIDEO).
The 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway put steady pressure on pacesetter Ocho Ocho Ocho and then powerfully took command coming out of the final turn, drawing away down the stretch under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to finish three lengths ahead. Danzig Moon put in a good closing run to get second, but could not reach the winner, who finished the 1 1/8-mile test on a fast track in 1:49.77.
"We had a really good trip. He was pretty close to the pace and then he just stayed there," Velazquez said. "I tried not use him too much the first part of the race.
"There wasn't much speed in the race. It was a nice slow pace and I didn't want to fight him very much. He was doing it pretty easy. Like (trainer) Todd (Pletcher) said, 'Don't fight him, just let him do it.' Down the lane, I asked him and he responded right away. Once he gets to the lead, he wants to wait, so I have to make sure I keep his mind on running.
"He's done everything right to this point, so hopefully we can keep him like that when we go to Churchill Downs."
Ocho Ocho Ocho held for third, 2 1/2 lengths back, after showing the way through opening fractions of :24.15, :48.05, and 1:12.18, leaving trainer Jim Cassidy uncertain as to his next move.
"His effort was fine," Cassidy said. "I knew (Carpe Diem) was going to go with us. I'm sure Pletcher wasn't going to change his style, but he knew we were going to go and he didn't want us to open up too much on him. It was a hell of a match race there for a bit. We'll see what happens after this. I don't think I have any big plans right at the moment."
The Blue Grass was worth 100 points to the winner on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), bumping Carpe Diem's total on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard to 164 points. Danzig Moon ranks 12th on the list for the 20-horse field with 45 points, and Ocho Ocho Ocho has 30 to rank 19th.
"He likes the surface here and we like the surface here, so we'll probably stay here a couple weeks or a week at least and then decide if we want to have one breeze at Churchill or two," Pletcher said of future plans for Carpe Diem, one of the trainer's key Kentucky Derby contenders along with Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Materiality.
The victory for Pletcher was his third in the race, tying him with Ben Jones, Woody Stephens, LeRoy Jolley, and Nick Zito for the most triumphs in the classics prep. Pletcher's other wins came with Bandini in 2005 and Monba in 2008.
It was the second Toyota Blue Grass victory for Velazquez, who rode Bandini for Pletcher in 2005.
Carpe Diem came off a March 7 victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), his first start of 2015 for WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable after running second in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). He won the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland as a 2-year-old straight off his powerful maiden win Sept. 1 at Saratoga Race Course, and became just the third horse to complete a sweep of the Breeders' Futurity as a 2-year-old and the following spring's Blue Grass, joini