Bode's Dream Makes Return in House Party
Undefeated stakes winner Bode's Dreamis set for a return to Gulfstream Parkand a return to action Dec. 10, when the daughter of Bodemeister comes off a sixth-month layoff for a scheduled start in the $75,000 House Party Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for St. Elias Stable, Bode's Dream showed an affinity for the Gulfstream surface May 11, when she rolled to a 3 3/4-length debut victory going 4 1/2 furlongs. The Kentucky-bred filly came right back a month later to show the way throughout the 5 1/2-furlongs of the $200,000 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park to score by 2 3/4 lengths.
Though Pletcher initially planned to send the gray filly the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga Race Course, the seven-time Eclipse Award winner wasn't satisfied with how his charge was training leading up to the test and opted to rest her for a late-season return.
"She just wasn't moving great after the Astoria and we were preparing as though we might run in the Schuylerville, but she just didn't seem to be thriving," Pletcher said. "We'll hope that we've got her ready off the layoff. She's training well. Hopefully, we've got her fit enough to be ready."
Bode's Dream, who had things go pretty much her own way while winning her two career starts, may face an early challenge from Yes I'll Go, an impressive debut winner at Gulfstream Park West Nov. 13. The Jorge Navarro-trained filly was a runaway front-running winner by nine lengths under Emisael Jaramillo while debuting at six furlongs.
"She came out of her race good. She had a bullet work (Friday). She breezed in 46 (seconds) and galloped out in 59," Navarro said. "Jaramillo was very delighted with the work."
The daughter of Yes It's True's debut had been delayed when she sustained an entrapped epiglottis while training for her first start.
"I had her in at Parx for $40,000. The owner wanted to see her and I told him, 'There's a $40,000 race at Parx. I don't think anyone will claim her,'" said Navarro, who trains the Florida-bred filly for Hernandez Racing Club. "So, I took her at the gate at Monmouth and I told one of our exercise riders to break out of the gate, give her an easy furlong and pull her up. He let her go a half in :45 (seconds), so I scoped her and found out that she was entrapped. She had surgery."
The six-furlong House Party is one of six stakes for 2-year-olds worth $450,000 in purses on the 11-race Juvenile Showcase Day program. Also part of the lineup is the $75,000 Buffalo Man at six furlongs, as well as the Hut Hut and Smooth Air Stakes contested over one mile on the main track. The Wait a While and Pulpit Stakes are each at run over eight furlongs on the turf.
Anchor Down Retired to Gainesway
Anchor Down , a multiple graded stakes-winning miler by Tapit who defeated eventual Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) victor Tamarkuz in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II), has been retired and will enter stud at Gainesway.
Anchor Down is being syndicated and will stand for $10,000 in 2017. He is available for inspection at the farm from 12:30-2:30 p.m. daily.
Out of Successful Outlook, a graded stakes winner at 2, Anchor Down is a half brother to grade I-winning sprinter Sweet Lulu and a full brother to grade I-placed Iron Fist.
Campaigned by Alto Racing and trained by Todd Pletcher, Anchor Down won his first two starts in 2014 as an early 3-year-old at Gulfstream Park, including a seven-furlong allowance in 1:21.67 when he finished 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Danza , winner of the grade I Arkansas Derby in his next start.
"He was very impressive in his first two starts and was on the course for a Kentucky Derby prep," Pletcher said. "We felt like he was quickly moving to the head of our class as a Kentucky Derby candidate, particularly with his performance over Danza, who came back to win the Arkansas Derby and run third in the Kentucky Derby."
Anchor Down had been targeting the Wood Memorial (gr. I) before being sidelined, but in 2016 he developed into one of the country's top milers. He led gate-to-wire and romped by 6 3/4 lengths in the Westchester Stakes (gr. III) and was runner-up to Frosted in the Met Mile (gr. I), defeating grade I winners Tamarkuz and Noble Bird, among others.
Not only did Anchor Down wire the field and break 1:33 in the one-mile Kelso, but he also earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, the second-highest dirt figure of 2016 at the distance.
MITCHELL: Anchor Down Scorches Kelso Field
"Ultimately his forte was as a brilliant miler," Pletcher said. "He had the ability to set a high cruising speed, which historically bodes well for him as a stallion prospect. I believe Anchor Down is one of only four horses ever to run a sub-1:33 mile at Belmont, so that's rarefied air."
Anchor Down's half sister, Test Stakes (gr. I) winner Sweet Lulu (by Mr. Greeley), sold for $3 million as a broodmare. His full brother Iron Fist, who placed behind American Pharoah in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I), sold for $1.55 million as a yearling.
Anchor Down, who was bred by Gainesway, returns to his birthplace to take up stud duties. Gainesway president Antony Beck said, "Anchor Down's unique combination of pedigree, physical, and raw miler speed gives him the potential to make a very successful sire."
Four-Time Graded Winner Protonico Retired
Protonico has been retired from racing and will enter stud at Taylor Made Stallions near Nicholasville, Ky., for 2017. The four-time graded stakes-winning son of Giant's Causeway will stand for $6,500 stands and nurses. Taylor Made Stallions is offering lifetime breeding rights for breeders that have two live foals and pay the stud fees.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Protonico was bred in Kentucky by Oussama Aboughazale’s International Equities Holding and was raced by his Sumaya U.S. Stable. The dark bay or brown colt won seven of 16 starts over four seasons in training and earned $997,587.
“We are excited to have Protonico join our expanding stallion roster for 2017,” said Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Stallions. “He was very unfortunate not to win a grade I, but he ran a 107 Beyer Speed Figure and defeated 22 graded stakes winners, including grade I winners Honor Code and Constitution. Besides being a tremendous value for breeders, Mr. Aboughazale is committed to supporting him heavily and wants to reward breeders who join him with the opportunity to earn a lifetime breeding right in Protonico.”
Protonico’s four graded stakes wins is more than any other son of Giant’s Causeway standing in North America, and he won them over four different tracks.
He broke his maiden at first asking at six furlongs in September of 2013. At 3 he won Parx Racing’s Smarty Jones Stakes (gr. III) at a mile and 70 yards and the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.
During his 4-year-old campaign he added Keeneland’s Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) in April and added the grade II Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs in May.
While he was unable to land the coveted grade I win, he did run second to Hoppertunity in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) in 2014 and finished third in this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) to Hopperturnity and Effinex at Belmont Park in his finale.
“Protonico was a serious racehorse who showed grade I talent at every stage of his career,” Pletcher said. “He beat some top-level horses in several graded races at major tracks such as Churchill, Keeneland, and Aqueduct. I believe Protonico was very unlucky not to win a grade I, but he was one of the most versatile and better-looking horses we had in the barn.”
Protonico is the first foal out of the A.P. Indy mare Alpha Spirit. Alpha Spirit is out of the Chilean-bred Wild Spirit, Horse of the Year in Chile and winner of Saratoga’s Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) and Delaware Handicap (gr. II) in 2003.
Breeders interested in a lifetime breeding right in Protonico must breed two mares, have two live foals, and pay the stands and nurses stud fees for each. They can elect to breed two mares in 2017, or one mare in each of 2017 and 2018. After the fees are paid, the breeder would then earn a free breeding right every year for the life of the stallion. Taylor Made is offering a limited number of the lifetime breeding rights, and they will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Protonico will also participate in Taylor Made’s multiple-mare program in 2017, with offers discount to breeders who breed more than one mare.
Isabella Sings Wires My Charmer
In concert with meet-leading rider Edgard Zayas, aboard for the first time, Siena Farm homebred Isabella Sings led every step of the way Nov. 26 to register a front-running 1 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park West. Watch Video
Favored at 2-1 in a field of nine, Isabella Sings broke from post 8 and raced on an uncontested lead through fractions of :23.85 for the quarter-mile and :48.20 for a half, and six furlongs in 1:11.19 with 90-1 long shot Artesian in closest pursuit.
"We thought she was going to take the lead comfortably and she did what we expected her to do, so we're pretty happy," said Juan Tovar, South Florida-based assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "On paper it looked like we were the speed, so I told Edgard, 'If anybody comes up to you don't try to fight her. Let her do her race.'"
Isabella Sings remained in command turning for home as Artesian, the lone 3-year-old filly in the group, began to drop back and Sea Coast, one of two horses trained by Christophe Clement, began to launch her bid between horses to stay on for second.
A 4-year-old daughter of Eskendereya, Isabella Sings completed the distance in 1:46.52 over a firm turf course.
"It went just like we planned. Todd said to just let her run," Zayas said. "Last time they took hold of her a little and she doesn't like that. She's a free runner. I just put the hands down and let her do her own thing. I was waiting for one of Clement's horses to finish strong, but she relaxed a little bit the first quarter so I was really confident that she'd give me a kick at the end."
The 17-1 long shot Dad's Princess finished third, with another length back to Clement-trained Stormy Victoria in fourth, while multiple graded stakes winner Strike Charmer was never in contention, finishing fifth.
Isabella Sings won the Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) last fall at Churchill Downs and the June 25 Eatontown Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park.
She faded to eighth after setting the pace in the July 23 Diana Stakes (gr. IT) and was placed third after finishing fourth as the favorite in a tightly run Violet (gr. IIIT) Sept. 10 at Monmouth, her previous start.
"She's a nice filly and the whole team is happy she got the win," Tovar said. "We'll see what the next step will be. We're looking forward with her."
The 1 1/16-mile My Charmer for fillies and mares, 3-years and up, was the second of three stakes and first of two graded stakes on an 11-race program that highlighted closing weekend of the Fall Turf Festival Meet. Gulfstream Park opens its Championship Meet Dec. 3.
Also on Saturday's card was the $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.
Mshawish Tops Taylor Made Roster, For Now
For now, Taylor Made Stallions' 2017 stallion roster is led by its entering-year sire Mshawish , a multiple grade I winner who will stand his first season for $20,000.
The son of Medaglia d'Oro's fee was announced Oct. 25 along with breeding fees for the rest of the farm's stallions that include freshman sire Astrology , first-crop yearling sire Graydar , and veteran Northern Afleet . Soon enough the spotlight will shine brightest on the farm's other marquee stallion, California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit ), whose introductory stud fee will be announced after he runs in the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
"These are very exciting times at Taylor Made Stallions," said Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Stallions. "We could not be happier to have the opportunity to grow our stallion roster with the likes of two new multiple grade I winners of the caliber of Mshawish and California Chrome. Our entire staff is energized and ready to get to work in serving the breeders this upcoming breeding season."
An earner of $2,421,351, Mshawish (pronounced em-SHUH-wish) retired to Taylor Made Stallions as his sire's most accomplished son to date, with five graded stakes wins among seven stakes victories. He won grade Is on dirt and turf. He earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure in his victory in the Donn Handicap (gr. I), his third lifetime start on the dirt, and the year before captured the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT), in which he produced a 104 Beyer. Mshawish retired with an 8-2-3 record in 24 starts. Besides winning five stakes in the U.S. for Al Shaqab Racing, he also won stakes in France and Dubai.
Graydar heads the established stallions on Taylor Made's roster, as the imposing grade I-winning son of Unbridled's Song will stand in 2017 for a fee of $12,500 stands and nurses. Also a winner of the Donn , Graydar has his first 2-year-olds hitting the racetrack next year. His yearling fillies sold for up to $250,000 and his yearling colts up to $210,000 in 2016.
Taylor Made Stallions has two stallions standing at the value-based fee of $6,500 again in 2017 with Astrology and Northern Afleet.
Astrology, a son of A.P. Indy, was a graded stakes winner at 2 and finished third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at 3. He has nine winners to date from his first crop to race and is one of five freshman stallions leading their sire class with two black-type winners each through Oct. 24. His debutante Arella Rockstar recently remained undefeated after a victory in the Matron Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park.
Northern Afleet enjoyed another solid year in 2016, siring six graded winners on three different continents including World Approval, who became his 12th lifetime grade I winner in the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT).
The 2017 roster for Taylor Made Stallions, stands & nurses fees:
Curalina, Syndergaard Breeze at Belmont
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina continued preparations for her start in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), turning in a half-mile bullet work on the Belmont Park training track in company with 2016 Fountain of Youth (gr. II) runner-up Zulu.
The 4-year-old Curlin filly, who has been training up to the Nov. 4 Distaff since her runner-up finish in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) Aug. 27, breezed five furlongs in :59.59, the fastest of 15 at the distance on the day.
"She's always been a good workhorse," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "A lot of times, we don't work her in company because she does things pretty willingly on her own, but for today's work we wanted to make sure we got a good, solid work. This is her most significant breeze leading into it and we wanted to make sure she got a good one and she certainly did."
Curalina galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 and seven furlongs in 1:27, according to Pletcher's watch, finally pulling up after a mile in 1:44 and change. Third in last year's Distaff, Curalina will be pre-entered in the Distaff as well as the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I).
"It gave me confidence that she's in excellent form," Pletcher said, "and it puts her in a position that we can feel comfortable that she's ready to go a mile and an eighth off a little bit of freshening and sharp enough that, if we decide to go seven-eighths, she could do that as well."
Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) hopeful Syndergaard made his first appearance on the worktab since finishing a close second to Practical Joke in the Champagne (gr. I) Oct. 8 at Belmont.
A son of Majesticperfection , Syndergaard breezed five furlongs with John Velazquez aboard in company with 2-year-old maiden Kahramani, covering the distance over the training track in 1:00 4/5. Pletcher said Syndergaard will be joined by Futurity Stakes (gr. III) winner Theory as a pre-entry in the Juvenile.
Rounding out Pletcher's Breeders' Cup workers Oct. 23 were Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) dead-heat winner Sweet Loretta, who is pointed toward the Breeders' Cup 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), and breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 in her first local work since arriving from Saratoga last week; Made You Look and J. S. Choice, both headed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT), worked four furlongs in company on the dirt in :50.22; and First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) heroine Photo Call, who will be pre-entered in both the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) and Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), worked a half-mile in :49.23.
Theory Impressive Again in Futurity
China Horse Club and WinStar Farm'sTheory parlayed his success from a standout debut win at Saratoga Race Course into the graded stakes ranks Oct. 15 with another impressive score in the $200,000 Futurity Stakes (gr. III) atBelmont Park. Watch Video
The Todd Pletcher-trained juvenile son ofGemologist stalked early leaderMoves Like Ali, moved alongside the frontrunner in the stretch, and pulled away late to win by 3 1/2 lengths.Star Empire passed Moves Like Ali late to pick up place honors.
Off as the 1-5 favorite, Theory finished the six furlongs in 1:09.91 under first-time jockey Javier Castellano.
"Anytime you're a prohibitive favorite like that, you always want things to go well," Pletcher said. "He broke alertly, put himself in a good spot, and Javier gave him a little chance to get his feet underneath him and looked like when he called him, he finished up strongly."
Moves Like Ali set fractions of :22.62 and :45.35 through a half-mile, and held a head advantage with a furlong to run, but Theory's pressure on the outside proved too much.
"I loved the way he did (it). He does everything with such class," Castellano said. "He was composed in the post parade. I think you can stretch him out, he'll appreciate going long. I rode his father, Gemologist, so I enjoyed riding him."
The winner paid $2.70, $2.30, and $2.10 across the board. Star Empire brought $4.10 and $2.90, and Moves Like Ali brought $3 to show.
The Walk and Reckling, who trailed the top trio early, never threatened and finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Bred in Kentucky by Fred Hertrich and Ronald Kirk, out of the Officermare Gem Sleuth, Theory now has $169,800 from his two victories in as many starts.
Pletcher said after the race that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) could be an option for Theory off relatively short rest.
"Today, with the way he ran—the way he galloped out and came back—I think we at least have to sit down and have that discussion," the trainer said.
Later on the card, Matthew Schera's 15-1 shot Thundering Sky stole the $200,000 Pebbles Stakes for trainer George Weaver. The 3-year-old Sky Mesa filly came off a third in the Sept. 24 Ontario Colleen (Can-IIIT) and picked up her first win since breaking her maiden six starts back. She rallied wide to the wire under jockey Antonio Gallardo, running a mile in 1:33.47 and returning $33.80, $15, and $9 with her three-quarters of a length win over Mom's On Strike. Favored Ancient Secret was third.
Thundering Sky was bred in Kentucky by Almar Farm out of the Unbridled's Song mare Uninhibited Song, and was purchased by her owner for $145,000 from the Select Sales consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale in 2014. She improved her record to 2-3-3 from 11 starts for earnings of $250,390.
Photo Call Upsets Tepin in First Lady
Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux doesn't get many calls from trainer Todd Pletcher, but when he does, he takes the mount.
And so it was that Desormeaux found himself speeding out to the early lead in the $400,000First Lady (gr. IT) Oct. 8 at Keeneland aboardPhoto Call, opening a 10-length margin, and leaving champion Tepin with too much work to do in her title defense. Watch Video
"Todd told me to cover her up, but that was not going to happen," Desormeaux said, and the audible worked out.
On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 28,101—on a day when all-sources wagering on the 10-race card reached $15,926,396 to surpass the previous Fall Stars Saturday record of $14,135,204 from Oct. 6, 2007—29-1 shot Photo Call stole the one-mile First Lady by 2 3/4 lengths and left 2-5 favoite Tepin in her wake.
It was the first time since August of 2015 that the Mark Casse-trained Tepin was beaten, snapping an eight-race win streak for the mare who trounced males in her past two starts and concluded her 2015 season with a win in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
"We didn't want her to run her 'A' race today," assistant trainer Norm Casse said. "The goal is the Breeders' Cup Mile. I haven't lost any confidence in her. I think this will set her up and she'll move forward from this race."
Photo Call took the lead shortly after the break and set uncontested fractions of :24.10 and :47.29 as Tepin raced in the clear in tandem with grade I winner Celestine. The eventual winner was 10 lengths on top at the quarter pole, with Tepin's rally too little too late as Photo Call completed the mile on a firm turf course in 1:35.62.
"At the top of the lane you could just tell that horse had too much of a lead," Casse went on. "She kicked away. She beat another really good horse today. Bill Mott's horse (Celestine). ... We handled her and put her away. The winner just got away from us. That's all it is. It's horse racing. If anything, it relieves a little bit of pressure heading into the Breeders' Cup Mile. I don't think she ran disrespectful today. She ran a good race, the other horse just had a better trip and things went her way."
Turned back to a mile for the first time since July of 2015, Photo Call returned to victory for Teresa Viola Racing Stables with a look four starts back to April, when she won the Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park. As a 4-year-old trained by Graham Motion for Mrs. P. K. Cooper, the daughter of Galileo took the Rodeo Drive (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park. She was a $3 million purchase from Keeneland's 2015 November breeding stock sale days after running fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT).
The victory increased Photo Call's bankroll to $827,102 with a record of 6-3-4 from 21 starts.
Photo Call returned $61.40, $10.60, and $5.60. Tepin paid $2.20 and $2.40. Celestine ($2.40) completed the trifecta and was followed home byNemoralia, She's Not Here, Cash Control, Onus, Now Or Never, Secret Someone, and Mississippi Delta.
Anchor Down Scorches Kelso Field
Alto Racing’s 2-1 favorite Anchor Downzipped along on the front end and went gate to wire for an impressive two-length victory in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II), just missing the track record for the one-turn mile at Belmont Park. Watch Video
The 5-year-old Tapit ridgling trained by Todd Pletcher, who came into the $350,000 race off an uneventful sixth in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes (gr. I) atSaratoga Race Course, was quick out of the gate under Javier Castellano, closely tracked by Tamarkuz and Mike Smith.
Leading the five-horse field shortened by the scratches of Upstart andBaccelo, those two set the pace in fractions of :23.30 and :45.74. After stopping the timer in 1:09.05 for six furlongs, Anchor Down continued to roll, with Tamarkuz still about a length back. Castellano let out the leader down the lane as he raced uncontested to victory in the final time of 1:32.90, just off the track mark of 1:32.24.
The victory was the fifth in 15 starts for Anchor Down, who improved his earnings to $719,254.
He returned $6, $3.70, and $2.70 across the board. Tamarkuz was worth $3.80 and $2.50, with Ocean Knight third at $3.70. They were followed byPoint Piper, a West Coast shipper for Jerry Hollendorfer, and second choice Tommy Macho, also trained by Pletcher.
"He's run well every time in a one-turn mile at Belmont, it seems to be his thing," Pletcher said. "It was no disgrace being second to Frosted in the Met Mile that day; I don't think anyone was going to beat Frosted. To come back and run a mile in 1:32 and four-fifths, as a well-bred son of Tapit, it's a big win for him."
Considering the winner’s affinity for one-turn mile races, Pletcher said Anchor Down likely would make his next start in the Nov. 26 Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack rather than contest the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) around two turns at Santa Anita Park.
"We'll wait and see how he comes out of it. I would probably think a one-turn mile is a little more to his liking. We'll enjoy this one for the moment, but if I were guessing right now I'd probably lean toward the Cigar Mile."
"My main concern was focusing on breaking good out of the gate because this horse has had a couple of issues out the gate," Castellano said. "He got a good clean trip and a good break so using my best judgment I put him on the lead. He's a great horse. He's a pro and he showed up today."
Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Anchor Down was bought by agent Steve Young for $250,000 from his breeder at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Unraced at 2, Anchor Down won both of his two starts at age 3, but then was off for more than a year. Anchor Down posted his first stakes win when he rolled to a 6 3/4-length victory in the Westchester Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont May 7.
Ectot Stuns Flintshire in Hirsch Turf Classic
Jockey Jose Ortiz took 9-1 shot Ectot gate to wire to post a stunning upset over 1-5 favorite Flintshire in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. Watch Video
A British-bred 5-year-old son ofHurricane Run trained by Todd Pletcher for Al Shaqab Racing and Gerard Normand, Ectot earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) atSanta Anita Park with the Oct. 1 victory.
Although it was contested over a yielding 1 1/2-mile Widener turf course that was considered not to his liking, Flintshire still looked like a standout in his final race before the Breeders' Cup Turf, considering the Juddmonte Farms homebred faced only three opponents while seeking his fourth graded stakes triumph from as many starts this year.
But Ectot, winless in two North American starts this year after 10 starts in France and one in Great Britain, was out of the gate first and loped along in moderate fractions of 1:15.03 for six furlongs while stalked by Money Multiplier who, like Flintshire, is trained by Chad Brown.
Meanwhile, Flintshire, ridden by Javier Castellano, was settled into last early and made his move on the outside rounding the turn after a mile was completed in 1:39.78. Although the prohibitive favorite had no problem passing Twilight Eclipse and Money Multiplier, Ortiz and Ectot had a lot left in the tank and drew off to win by five lengths.
The final time was 2:28.76, well off the course record of 2:23.39. Twilight Eclipse was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third, followed by Money Multiplier.
With no show wagering, Ectot paid $20.80 and $4.40, with Flintshire returning $2.10.
The victory was the seventh in 14 starts for Ectot and increased the horse’s earnings to $840,010. The victory was the first in the U.S. for Ectot after finishing fourth, only a length behind the winner, in the restricted Lure Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, followed by a second in allowance company as the 9-10 favorite at the Spa.
The victory was the first since the horse bred in Great Britain by Skymarc Farm and Ecurie Des Monceaux, Ectot won the Qatar Prix Niel (gr. IIT) in September 2014. The previous year, Ectot annexed the French group I Criterium International two additional group III stakes in France.
From three starts last year, all in group company in France, Ectot’s best effort was a third in the group III Prix la Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte.
"He's trained exceptionally well for us since he came in,” Pletcher said. “He went off form in his last few starts in Europe but came to us in great condition. His races leading up to this were sneaky good and he seemed to be improving. We made some minor adjustments with equipment and shoes and figured it out as we went along.
The trainer said Ectot was keen in his last start and one key to the Hirsch win was Ortiz being able to get him to settle. Also, the weather and off turf course were in his favor.
“We thought it would help when it rained. We felt we had a lot going for us, but you still have to have tremendous respect for a horse like Flintshire, who is accomplished and for what he's done in his career. We were optimistic that our horse would run well and we couldn't be more pleased with the way he did it.
“Today's race was a big step. We don't anticipate we'll get a lot of rain in California (for the Breeders’ Cup) but at the same time, he's run well on firm ground. We're delighted with his efforts today."
"My strategy was to go to the lead and slow down but my horse is a little strong in the early stages,” Ortiz said. “So, I just needed to break and try to relax him. When we got to the backside, he relaxed very well for me. When I passed the three-eighths pole, I looked and I saw Twilight Eclipse three lengths behind me and I saw Flintshire in the clear, so I still had to run to win. When we got to the quarter pole, I saw Johnny (Velazquez, aboard Money Multiplier) all out and Flintshire was passing and I opened two lengths without even asking, so I thought I had a really good shot. When I asked him to go, he responded very well.”
Brown said the yielding turf course was a factor in Flintshire’s performance and he will go on to the Breeders’ Cup.
"He didn't handle the ground. We knew the risk going into the race running on soft ground. He has a poor record on it. I didn't see another option; I didn't feel comfortable going into the Breeders' Cup without a prep. So, we gave it a shot and it didn't work out. Hopefully he'll come out of the race sound and will get a chance to redeem himself in the Breeders' Cup on firm ground."
"I was surprised because I think he's one of the best horses in the country,” Castellano said of the beaten favorite. “It was really soft ground and heavy. I think he didn't like it much. He dictated the pace. We all fell in great position. I wasn't too far, but my horse just didn't like (the soft turf)."
Made You Look Finds Way in With Anticipation
In many ways the $200,000 With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 31 atSaratoga Race Course proved to be a tale of two trips, as winner Made You Look found room inside after a ground-saving run while runner-up Keep Quietraced three-wide throughout before finishing two lengths behind the winner.Watch Replay
Made You Look, favored at 8-5, secured a second straight win in three starts, all on turf, and his first stakes win for Let's Go Stable and Three Chimneys Farm in the 1 1/16-mile test for juveniles. Trainer Todd Pletcher credited multiple Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano with a top ride and the son of More Than Ready for being willing to punch through on the inside in early stretch.
"We were getting a beautiful trip; it was just a matter of whether he was able to find a spot to go through. I thought for a young horse to shoot through there was pretty brave on his part," Pletcher said. "He's been training really well, we were looking forward to a good effort, he got a good trip, and he delivered."
Longshot Gemologister, a maiden, registered contested fractions of a half-mile in :49.34 and six furlongs in 1:14.14 as longshot Monsoon K S Astayed close early. But more eyes were on 9-5 second-choice Keep Quiet, three-wide about a half-length behind the top two; and Made You Look, who raced inside about a length behind the leader.
Made You Look held that inside position through the far turn before cutting the corner and forging to the lead with an inside bid. He drew clear in the stretch, completing the race in 1:43.12 on firm turf. Keep Quiet continued well to the wire for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Bird's Eye View.
"I had a beautiful trip. The way he followed in the race, you don't see too many 2-year-olds racing like that," Castellano said. "The pace was slow and he was right behind the horse (in front). It set up beautiful. Turning for home, I didn't have too much room and I had to squeeze a little bit inside the rail. It was unbelievable, he went right through and took off. The way he did it, he was phenomenal.
"I was concerned a little bit just to get him to go through it. He's only run two times, he doesn't have that experience to go through a little tiny hole but when I asked him, he went through like an old horse, like a well-bred horse. Those kinds of horses are (the ones) you want to ride because they've got great minds, especially 2-year-olds. He didn't just sustain himself in that spot, he went through and he took off. I like that. He finished really well. Actually, I didn't even ask him much, he just took off. He picked it up himself."
Made You Look paid $5.30, $3, and $2.20 across the board while Keep Quiet paid $3.10 to place and $2.50 to show. Bird's Eye View returned $5.40 to show. The latter two earned stakes-placings for the first time.
Bred in Kentucky by the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust, Made You Look is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Night and Day. His second dam is champion 3-year-old filly and multiple grade I winner Serena's Song. Night and Day is a half sister to group I winner Sophisticat and three other graded stakes winners.
Pletcher trained both Night and Day and More Than Ready.
"He's got a fantastic pedigree, top and bottom side," Pletcher said. "It's a lot of fun for us to have a son of More Than Ready; it was 1999 when he won the Sanford (gr. II). He's just been so good to our stable, not only him but all of his offspring."
Pletcher said he will consider starting Made You Look in the Oct. 1 Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park or training him up to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT).
Unbridled Mo Edges Out Monmouth Oaks Victory
Red Oak Stable's Unbridled Mo sat off the speed of Tejana before pushing past the pacesetter in late stretch to capture the $100,000 Monmouth Oaks (gr. III) atMonmouth Park Aug. 20 by a neck.Watch Video
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Uncle Mo filly went 1 1/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:44 1/5 and paid $6.80, $3.20 and $2.60 as the third choice in the field of six 3-year-old fillies. Tejana, a perfect two-for-two coming into the Oaks, settled for second, paying $3.20 and $2.60 and completing the $22.60 exacta. Mo d'Amour, who closed strongly on the outside, was another three-quarters of a length back in third.
"I had a good trip," said winning jockey Paco Lopez. "My filly doesn't have too much speed so I wanted to just sit off the pace. She didn't have too much patience and wanted to go pressure the horse on the lead in the backstretch. She ran very well today and had to work for the win."
A homebred from the Unbridled mare Unbridled Waters, Unbridled Mo has won her last three starts and is three for four lifetime. She has earned $103,680.
"I told Paco in the paddock how great she's doing," assistant trainer Anthony Sciametta Jr. said. "I was surprised to see her so close early, but they weren't going too fast and no one was really pressing the leader. She had to grind out the win today. I was real impressed. She's a very solid filly."
Nonna Mela Dominant in Adirondack
St. Elias Stable's Nonna Mela wasn't supported too much at the betting windows, but put in the performance of a heavy favorite Aug. 19 in theAdirondack Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course. Watch Video
Off at 8-1 in the 6 1/2-furlong event on the main track, the Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of Arch took command at the top of the stretch and pulled away from the six other fillies in the field to win by six lengths lengths under jockey Javier Castellano.
Castellano deftly guided Nonna Mela after they broke well from post 2, but found themselves inside the speedy Silvertoni. Castellano dropped his filly back to stalk Silivertoni, and most importantly got her to the outside.
"I liked the way she broke from the gate. It was a great performance," Castellano said. "There was a lot of speed out of the gate, but she broke sharp and put me in a good position. I moved her a little outside, (because) I didn't want to get stuck on the rail. That was the key to win the race."
The first quarter went in :21.81 and the half in :45.13, and Nonna Mella pulled ahead late in the turn, but 3-2 favorite Libby's Tail loomed with a three-wide move. The favorite lacked any punch in the stretch, however, and flattened out to finish fourth. Silvertoni held for second 3 1/4 lengths clear of Olive Branch.
"When I saw that Silvertoni tried to dictate the pace and go to the lead, I didn't want to go too fast," Castellano said. "My filly didn't have to be on the lead. She had control in the race and finished strong. I really liked the way she did it."
The winner hit the wire in 1:16.83 and paid $19.80, $8.70, and $5.90 across the board. Silvertoni delivered $5.60 and $4.70, and Olive Branch brought $5.
Ever So Clever finished fifth, followed by Romantic Music and Dial Me, to complete the order of finish.
Nonna Mela was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, out of the Storm Cat mare Cool Storm. She broke her maiden by 7 1/4 lengths last time out July 2 at Monmouth Park in her second start in New Jersey for Pletcher. She was a $310,000 purchase in 2015 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
"I thought one of her works here was really good and the other one I thought was just OK," Pletcher said. "The track here's been a little quirky and we felt like she showed us enough to give it a try. We weren't completely surprised (by the effort), although this was a pretty dominating performance, really."
Genre 'All Heart' In Molly Pitcher Win
Stablemates Genre and Eskenformoneybattled down the stretch in $100,000Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr. III) July 31 atMonmouth Park before Genre thrust out her neck for the victory. Watch Replay
With two previous stakes placings this year, Genre broke through for her first stakes win while stopping the teletimer in 1:43.10 for the 1 1/16-mile event on a sloppy track.
Genre, who was guided by Paco Lopez, becomes the 50th black-type winner forBernardini , a 13-year-old son of A.P. Indy who stands at Darley's Jonabell Farm near Lexington. He was champion 3-year-old male of 2006 after wins in the Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup (all gr. I). Genre is one of 36 graded or group winners from his seven crops racing.
Genre paid $7.60, $3.80, and $2.40 and Eskenformoney returned $3.80 and $2.20, and Birdatthewire paid $2.40 to show.
With Eskenformoney off the pace in third, Genre stalked pacesetter and 9-5 favorite Super Majesty from second, two wide and about a length back, before pressing that that opponent through a half mile in :47.19. She grabbed a slight lead on the turn, then carried out Eskenformoney a bit wide turning into the lane. Eskenformoney got her head in front of her stablemate briefly in early stretch but Genre fought back for a game neck victory.
"She's all heart," said Anthony Sciametta, an assistant to Pletcher. "She was headed in the lane and fought back all the way to the wire. We wanted to be sitting second early, but she looked to be real keen today. I think she really liked the off going this afternoon."
Grade I winner Birdatthewire, trying to halt a five-race winless streak, was third with a mild rally after she was reluctant to load into the starting gate then was tardy to start.
Genre, campaigned by Cheyenne Stables, has four wins and four seconds from 10 career starts. In her two starts prior to the Molly Pitcher, she was second, two lengths behind Angela Renee, in the Lady's Secret Stakes July 4 at Monmouth and runner-up to I'm a Chatterbox in the Obeah Handicap June 11 at Delaware Park.
Genre, a $200,000 purchase from Gaineway's agency at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, was bred in Kentucky by William E. Graves and Gainesway Thoroughbreds. Her dam is multiple graded stakes winner French Park (Ecton Park), a half sister to the dam of multiple grade I winner Palace. Genre is a half sister to restricted stakes winner Parc Monceau.
Curalina Shines for Sire Curlin in Shuvee
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalinaran away to a 9 1/4-length triumph in the slop July 31 at Saratoga Race Courseafter shaking clear of Carrumba in early stretch in the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. III). Watch Replay
Curalina was among three graded stakes winners, and four stakes winners overall, in the span of three days for HIll 'n' Dale Farms resident sire Curlin. She was the first in a graded stakes double Sunday for her sire, whose son Exaggerator won the $1 million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational (gr. I) later in the day atMonmouth Park. Exaggerator was the second grade I winner of the weekend for his sire following Stellar Wind's upset of Beholder in the $300,000 Clement L.Hirsch the previous day at Del Mar. On July 29 at Saratoga, son Connect captured the $100,000 Curlin Stakes to ignite a banner weekend
The Shuvee predictably unfolded as a two-horse contest between three-time grade I winner Curalina and Carrumba, the only other graded winner in the four-horse field, and both at nearly equal odds of 9-10. The pair sprinted away together leaving the gate, with Curalina eventually settling about a half-length behind Carrumba, who set a leisurely tempo throughout the 1 1/8-mile event. But entering the stretch, Curalina exploded to the front and opened an insurmountable lead in the matter of just a few commanding strides to get the win.
Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher, Curalina covered 1 1/8 miles 1:49.85 as the 122-pound highweight.
Carrumba held on for second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Sweetgrass, withJoint Return finishing another 10 1/4 back in fourth.
Curalina paid $3.80 and $2.10 and Carrumba returned $2.10. There was no show wagering.
Carrumba and Jose Ortiz ticked off early fractions of :24.28, :48.59, and 1:12.75 for six furlongs with Curalina stalking a half-length back. The winner was alongside Carrumba as the pair drew away from the Sweetgrass and Joint Return on the far turn. The top two entered the lane together, but at the three-sixteenths pole Curalina kicked away unchallenged.
"The only speed was Carrumba and myself, so I wanted to make sure that she didn't get away with an easy lead there," Valazquez said. "I stuck with her the whole way around. When I asked my horse, she responded very well.
Added Pletcher: "On paper it looked like kind of a match race. It looked like Carrumba loves an off track, so we didn't want to let her get away. Assuming that Jose was going to go a little bit from the rail, (Johnny) decided when he wanted to turn the pressure up. It looked like when he did he had a lot of horse."
Curalina improved to 6-2-2 from 11 starts that include grade I wins in La Troienne this spring, and 2015 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks. She came into the Shuvee off a fourth in Odgen Phipps (gr. I), in which Carrumba was third, June 11 at Belmont Park.
Curalina was bred in Kentucky by CASA Farms I from the Graeme Hall mare Whatdreamsaremadeof. Her breeder sold her via Denali Stud for $125,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Sweet Loretta Powers to Schuylerville Win
St. Elias Stable's Sweet Loretta kicked off stakes action at Saratoga Race Coursewith an impressive victory in the $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) for 2-year-old fillies July 22, opening day at the upstate New York track. Watch Video
The daughter of leading sire Tapit provided trainer Todd Pletcher a sixth win in the six-furlong test after she collared front-runner Made Me Shiver in the stretch and drew clear to stay perfect in two career starts.
After lunging at the start, Sweet Loretta settled in sixth as Inspired Flightset a swift pace of :21.68 and :44.79 through a half mile tracked by Made Me Shiver in second. John Velasquez who brought her four wide into the stretch and she was full of run to chase down Made Me Shiver took charge in early stretch. Sweet Loretta ran her down on the outside and gained control past the eighth pole and coasted to a 4 1/4-length triumph. She finished the distance in 1:10.89 as longshot Fun came up to take second.
"Obviously there's a lot of speed but the track was a little slow," Velazquez said. "But it worked out my way. She did everything well. I talked to Todd in the paddock before the race and he told me she breaks well, (so) give her a chance and let her run down the lane and that's what she did."
Sweet Loretta was bred by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stable from theBluegrass Cat mare Ithinkisawapudycat, a half sister to Canadian champion Spring in the Air. She was a $750,000 weanling purchase by Roma Farm via agent J. J. Crupi at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. She started her career with a seven-length maiden triumph June 18 at Monmouth Park.
"I told Johnny in the paddock, 'I don't think she's as quick as some of these other fillies, just don't rush her off her feet. Give her a chance to get her legs underneath her.' It actually probably worked in her favor that she didn't break well," Pletcher said. "They went fast early but she ran professionally; she ran into the dirt well. She kept gaining ground in the early part of the race and put herself in a good position coming off the turn."
Sweet Loretta paid $10.80, $5.70, $3.70, Fun returned $16.20 and $7.10, and Harlands Thunder paid $4.80 to show.
Made Me Shiver stayed on for fourth, followed by Olive Branch, Summer Sally, Lightning Dove, and Insprired Flight to complete the order of finish.
Tapit, a resident of Gainesway near Lexington, has 15 black-type stakes winners this year, and 83 overall from nine crops of racing age.
American Patriot Makes the Grade in Kent
WinStar Farm homebred American Patriot overhauled pacesetter He'll Payin the stretch and edged away to win the $200,000 Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT) July 16 atDelaware Park. Watch Video
A son of War Front trained by Todd Pletcher, American Patriot scored by 1 1/2 lengths and finished the 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds in 1:47.19 on firm ground.
Jose Ortiz rated 9-5 favorite American Patriot in fourth, then third, as He'll Pay ticked off moderate early fractions—:24.61, :48,20, and 1:12 through six furlongs. The winner was ready to roll into the stretch and briefly engaged the front-runner before he secured the victory in the matter of a few powerful strides.
American Patriot, who has three wins and two thirds from six career starts, came in off three-length triumph in an allowance optional-claiming race at the same distance June 25 at Belmont Park.
Saturday's win was the first in a stakes for American Patriot, who was unplaced in the 1 1/16-mile American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) May 7 atChurchill Downs.
American Patriot is one of two winners from the winning Tiznow mare Life Well Lived, a full sister to 2009 Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) victor Well Armed, also a grade I winner in the U.S. He is the 46th black-type winner for War Front.
American Patriot paid $5.40, $3.60, and $2.40. He'll Pay returned $12.40 and $4.80, and Inspector Lynley came on for third late to pay $2.80 to show.
Converge came in fourth, followed by Keystoneforvictory, Mighty Mo, and Madtap to complete the order or finish.
Off the Tracks Wires Mother Goose
Off the Tracks led all the way in the $300,000 Mother Goose (gr. I) July 2 at Belmont Park, turning back dual grade II winner Lewis Bay at the end to gamely earn her first grade I score. Watch Video
The 3-year-old Curlin filly came off a runner-up finish to Carina Mia in the June 11 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at the New York track, and went one better under Jose Ortiz this time after setting quick opening fractions of :22.79 and :45.53.
"She broke good and was very alert. We went a bit fast but she wasn't pushed all the way to do that," Ortiz said. "She was relaxed and did it by herself. She was in a good rhythm. As we passed the three-eighths pole, she gave me a lot of confidence to go on. She responded very well."
Off the Tracks turned back longshot Mom's On Strike and then finished 3 1/2 lengths clear of Lewis Bay, who was making her first start for trainer Chad Brown since a third-place finish in the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
"It's disappointing," Brown said of the runner-up effort. "She was sitting there loaded the whole way. I thought when she tipped out she'd go right by that horse and she just ran even down the lane. She got a good trip, and she looked like a winner every step of the way until she just flattened out in the middle of the stretch."
The final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:41.01 on a fast main track. Off the Tracks returned $8.10, $3.60, and $2.70 at odds of 3-1. Bred in Kentucky by Lee McMillin out of the Boston Harbor mare Harve de Grace and a $50,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase by agent Chad Summers, she improved her record to 4-1-1 from six starts, for earnings of $485,594 for Newtown Anner Stud and J Stables.
"(We were) just trying to figure out how we thought the race would unfold," Pletcher said. "We weren't positive what a couple horses would do but we felt that if (Off the Tracks) got a clean break there was a decent chance that she would be on the lead, so that was 'plan A' with her.
"Even though the fractions were very fast, the track seems to be playing pretty fast today, so I was a little concerned going as fast as they were, but she seemed to be doing it comfortably and in good rhythm. I was happy to see her have something left to finish."
Lightstream rounded out the trifecta a length back, followed by Mo d'Amour. Grade I winner Rachel's Valentina, favored at 9-5 in the field of seven, finished fifth under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Mom's On Strike and Linda Mimi completed the order of finish.
"I really don't have a great explanation (for Rachel's Valentina)," Pletcher said. "It looked like she was in a decent spot, but Johnny seemed like he had to start asking her for a lot earlier than you would expect him to. We'll see how she comes out of it and try to regroup."
It was Off the Tracks' third outing for Pletcher; she first won three in a row for Rudy Rodriguez, including the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III), then ran third in her first start for her new trainer—the April 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) on a sloppy track. She continued to progress when she placed second by 1 1/4 lengths to Carina Mia in the Acorn with Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia in third.
"She is a filly who has always shown big potential," Pletcher said. "Everyone was sort of down on her after the Gulfstream Oaks, but I thought it was a sneaky good race."
Isabella Sings Sails Home in Eatontown
Siena Farm's homebred Isabella Singswent right for the lead out of the gate and never looked back in the $100,000Eatontown Stakes (gr. IIIT) June 25, posting a three-length victory after showing the way at Monmouth Park. Watch Video
With Paco Lopez aboard, the 4-year-old daugher of Eskendereya covered the mile and a sixteenth over the firm turf course in 1:40.57 and paid $2.80, $2.10, and $2.10 in the field of eight fillies and mares. Hard-closing Sea Coast split horses for second and paid $3.80 and $3.00. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Bureau de Change, who paid $3.40.
"I just wanted to break sharp and see where she placed herself," Lopez said. "There wasn't a whole lot of speed in the race and she was nice and relaxed in front. She was just the best horse in the race."
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Isabella Sings made it two in a row over theMonmouth Park turf after taking the May 29 Miss Liberty Stakes. That was her first win of the season after tangling with champion turf mare Tepin twice; a runner-up finish in the March 12 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) in her season debut, and a seventh in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIT).
She is now 3-for-4 at Monmouth Park and with this win boosts her record to 6-4-0 in 15 career starts, including a career-best performance in the 2015 Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT), good for earnings of $451,950.
Far From Over Victorious in Return
n his first start in more than 16 months, Black Rock Thoroughbreds, Madaket Stables, and James Covello's Far From Over kept his undefeated record intact in a June 24 allowance race at Belmont Park. Watch Video
The son of Blame won the Withers (gr. II) in February of 2015 and was training toward the Wood Memorial (gr. I) when he was knocked off the Triple Crown trail with a non-displaced condylar fracture in his left hind leg.
HASKIN: Fracture Knocks Far From Over Off Derby Trail
On Friday at Belmont, in the one-turn 1 1/16-mile main-track test, Far From Over settled into fourth on the outside early behind blazing fractions, moved to the rail late in the turn, and outfinished two rivals to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
The Todd Pletcher-trained 4-year-old ridgling now has a three-for-three record with one win apiece at age 2, 3, and 4.
"We're very happy that we got the win and excited that he's back," said Steven Marshall of Black Rock Thoroughbreds. "It's been about 16 months since his last race and he's come back very strong. We're just happy that he's healthy."
It's All Relevant surged to the lead early and set fractions of :22.71, :44:89, and 1:08.65 through six furlongs, but was done soon after. Far From Over easily put away the tiring front-runner at the top of the stretch, got to even terms with Three Alarm Fire, and proved best late.Mills closed from last to nose out Three Alarm Fire for second. With John Velazquez aboard, Far From Over hit the wire in 1:41.40 and paid $3.70 to win.
"Even though he's a little green, he put on a good run," Velazquez said. "He's a big horse and he won his first two races. It took him a little while to get back to the races, but he looked good. The talent is there. He just needs to put it together."
"He's been breezing well and we knew that if he was going to be as talented as he was last year, he would run like this," added Pletcher assistant Byron Hughes. "It just shows you, he still has the talent."
Donegal Moon Gets First Stakes Win in Pegasus
Donegal Racing's Donegal Moon, fourth in the LARC Sir Barton Stakes in his last start, broke through for his first graded stakes victory in the $100,000Betfair.com Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds June 19 at Monmouth Park.Watch Replay
Ridden by Joe Bravo for trainer Todd Pletcher, Donegal Moon was reserved early, split horses in the stretch, and pulled away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over last-out claim Extinct Charm, who finished a neck in front of Awesome Slew. Heavily favored Unified, undefeated in three starts with wins in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) and Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III), came under a ride from Jose Ortiz on the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus but failed to hit the board.
Donegal Moon, a colt by Malibu Moon out of the Giant's Causewaymare Perfect Cause, won for the third time in 11 starts. He broke his maiden at Keeneland last fall, and in early March easily won a first-level allowance test at Parx Racing; after that race he finished eighth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
The May 21 Sir Barton was won by the promising American Freedom.Voluntario, the second-place finisher, came back to win a Pimlico Race Course allowance event by 5 3/4 lengths June 18.
The pace in the Pegasus was set by Parx allowance winner Saratoga Jack, who set fractions of :23.70 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.63 for a half-mile, and 1:11.78 for six furlongs with Abiding Star in close pursuit. Awesome Slew, who saved ground, and Unified made their moves on the far turn, but it was Awesome Slew who grabbed the advantage as the favorite began to fall back.
Awesome Slew had a short lead in the lane but Donegal Moon took over before one mile in 1:37.61 and fought off the late rally of Extinct Charm, the winner of a New York-bred stakes who was claimed for $80,000 at Belmont Park in May.
Donegal Moon finished up in 1:44.15 on a track rated fast. He paid $15, $7.20, and $9.60 across the board as the second choice; a minus show pool on 1-5 favorite Unified created higher show payoffs.
Donegal Moon, bred in Kentucky by Patchen Wilkes Farm, was a $220,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The victory capped off a big weekend for Bravo, who on June 18 won the $100,000 Don LeVine Memorial Stakes at Parx with Green Lantern Racing's homebred A.P. Indian, and traveled to Kentucky that evening to win the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) with Joseph Sutton's Bradester.
"It's so fun to ride for Team Pletcher," Bravo said after the Pegasus. "Todd texted me earlier and the instructions worked out perfectly. There was so much early speed in the race and the race set up great for us. In the stretch, he really came running strongly. This was a fun two days."
Ortiz and Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Unified for Centennial Farms, had no immediate excuses for the Candy Ride colt's effort. It was his first start around two turns; the Peter Pan was 1 1/8 miles but around one turn at Belmont.
"He broke really well from the gate and he was going good for the first half mile," Ortiz said. "I asked him to go around the three-eighths pole and just didn't have it today."
"He seemed like he was in a good position and backed up around the three-eighths pole," Jerkens said.
The Pegasus is a local prep for the $1 million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational (gr. I) July 31 at Monmouth.
Mission Impazible Gets First Stakes Winner
New York-based freshman sire Mission Impazible got his first black-type stakes winner June 10 when Silver Mission captured the $200,000 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park. Watch Video
The 2-year-old colt out of Nashinda, by Silver Deputy, became Mission Impazible’s first winner earlier in the year, when he won a $100,000 maiden special weight event April 21 atAqueduct Racetrack.
In the Tremont’s short field of four, Silver Mission broke cleanly and took a quick lead that he never relinquished. He rolled through early fractions of :22.99; :45.89, and :57.61 before widening the winning margin to six lengths. The final time for 5 1/2 furlongs was 1:03.78. The complete order of finish behind Silver Mission was Hey Mike, Pachi Cruze, and Saratoga Two Step.
Silver Mission races for her breeders Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Sequel Thoroughbreds. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by John Velazquez.
"It was pretty easy,” Velazquez said. “He broke well coming out of there. He got to the lead and he kept going. He handled it very well."
"He's pretty quick for a little guy. He's also pretty talented for as little as he is,” the rider said.
Silver Mission is also the first stakes winner for his dam Nashinda, a grade III winner who has produced four winners from four starters. The Tremont winner is the first foal bred out of the mare by Twin Creeks and Sequel. She was previously owned by George Strawbridge Jr.
Mission Impazible stands at Sequel Stallions New York for $7,500.
Bodemeister's First Stakes Winner in Astoria
First-crop sire Bodemeister's first winner also become his first stakes winner whenBode's Dream, a gray or roan filly out of Frolic's Dream (by Smoke Glacken), won the $200,000 Asotria Stakes at Belmont Park.
Bode's Dream took the lead early and led the field through opening fractions of :22.13 and :45.56 in the 5 1/2-furlong stakes that attracted a field of seven. Bode's Dream was never challenged and won easily by two lengths in 1:03.66.
China Grove finished second and Anna's Bandit prevailed in a close finish for third. Bode's Dream was ridden by John Velazquez.
Bode's Dream won her career debut May 11 at Gulfstream Park in a maiden special weight event. The Astoria was her second start.
"In these type of races everyone's sort of in the same boat," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "Everybody for the most part has run one time and won. Generally, in these type of races most of the horses that have won have been on the pace. Things have to shake out and you find out who the fastest of the fastest is.
"I was kind of concerned how the track was playing. It didn't seem like speed was holding up very well. There was a very strong headwind down the backside but like I told Johnny in the paddock, 'Maybe don't overthink it; we're only going five and a half (furlongs)—you're not running that far into the wind'. She just caught a flyer at the start and was right on the lead right away. Johnny did a smart thing and took advantage of it."
The filly, owned by Vincent and Teresa Viola's St. Elias Stable, was sold for $135,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale to Walter Bloodstock out of the Bedouin Bloodstock consignment. She was then offered at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale by Paramount Sales, where Jim Crupi bought her for $300,000 under the name of his Crupi's New Castle Farm.
Crupi in turn put Bode's Dream in this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March 2-year-olds in training sale, where she was bought back at $340,000.
Bodemeister (Empire Maker —Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat) was raced by Zayat Stables. He won the 2012 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) before he came in second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) to I'll Have Another. Bodemeister stands at WinStar Farm for $30,000.
Lost Raven Makes the Grade in Miss Preakness
Repole Stable's Lost Raven showed a new dimension May 20 at Pimlico Race Course and it paid off for her first graded stakes victory.
On or near the front in all seven of her starts prior to Friday, the homebredUncle Mo filly raced in eighth in the 10-filly field in the Adena Springs Miss Preakness (gr. III) field early (13 1/2 lengths back after a quarter in :22.69 and 9 1/2 back after a half in :45.94) and still had to make up five lengths in sixth at the top of the stretch.
But she made up the ground quickly. Under jockey John Velazquez, the Todd Pletcher-trained filly blew by pacesetter Quick Release with fellow closer One True Kiss and prevailed by three-quarters of a length, finishing off the six-furlong, $100,000 race in 1:11.43. Watch Video
Last time out, Lost Raven won the six-furlong Cicada Stakes atAqueduct Racetrack March 26 by leading at every point of call.
"I was a little concerned, because she's never been that far back in her career," Pletcher said. "I knew that (:22.69) at Pimlico is flying, so I was hoping the fractions were fast enough to allow her to come from behind."
Off as the 7-2 second choice Friday, Lost Raven paid $9.80, $5.20, and $3.80 across the board. One True Kiss brought $14.20 and $8.60, and Quick Release delivered $9 to show.
She's All Ready finished an even fourth, followed by Right There,Moment Is Right, Ultra Brat, R Girls a Charmer, Simple Surprise, andBanree to complete the order of finish.
Lost Raven was bred in Kentucky, out of the Elusive Quality mare Elusive Raven, and has a 4-1-1 record from eight starts with $290,350 in earnings.
Bode's Dream is Bodemeister's First Winner
Grade I winner and dual classic-placedBodemeister got his first winner as a sire May 11 in the second race atGulfstream Park, where Bode's Dreamwon a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight event by 3 3/4 lengths. Watch Video
Bode's Dream, trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by Edgard Zayas, was making her first start. The filly is owned by Vince and Teresa Viola's St. Elias Stable and was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock.
The gray or roan filly, out of Frolic's Dream (by Smoke Glacken), was sold for $135,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale to Walter Bloodstock out of the Bedouin Bloodstock consignment. She was then offered at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale by Paramount Sales, where Jim Crupi bought her for $300,000 under the name of his Crupi's New Castle Farm. Crupi in turn put Bode's Dream in this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale where she was bought back at $340,000.
Bodemeister (Empire Maker —Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat) was raced by Zayat Stables. He won the 2012 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) before he came in second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) to I'll Have Another. Bodemeister stands at WinStar Farm for $30,000.
Anchor Down Runs Away in Westchester Stakes
Alto Racing's Anchor Down splashed his way to a 6 3/4-length victory in the $150,000 Westchester (gr. III) May 7 at Belmont Park, picking up his first graded stakes win and stamping himself a contender for the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) on June 11.
Most recently seen finishing fourth in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) in April, Anchor Down was sent straight to the lead by jockey Jose Ortiz, where he ticked off fractions of :23.28, :46.88 and 1:10.84 with Stormin Monarcho and Samraat in pursuit. Shaking clear of those rivals once straightened for home, the 5-year-old gray son ofTapit rolled unchallenged to the finish line, covering the mile in 1:35.10 over the muddy, sealed track.
"The horse broke great and when I asked him to go at the quarter pole, he just exploded and gave me everything he had; I didn't have to use my whip," said Ortiz. "I didn't push him too much and he gave me a great run."
The victory was the first of the year for Anchor Down, who began 2016 with a pair of third-place finishes at Gulfstream Park, including the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II), in which he was disqualified and placed fourth. Overall, he is 4-1-2 from 13 career starts and now has earned $276,920.
"This race has been on our radar for a while," said Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "I wasn't surprised he won so convincingly; he's put in some big efforts before against some nice horses. He'd breezed well for this race, and he'd been training well since his last race. The Metropolitan Handicap is possible; we'll see how he comes out of this."
Sent off at odds of 9-5, Anchor Down returned $5.70 for a $2 win bet.
Multiple graded stakes winner Samraat, making his third start since June 2014, was second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Mylute.
"He ran terrific," said Rick Violette, who trains Samraat for My Meadowview Farm. "It was nice to see him handle a little bit better quality of horse than he ran against last time. Moving forward we are going to have a lot of fun.
"We'll think about (the Met Mile)," added Violette. "Really, his 'A' game is running a little bit further than a mile. This was a perfect spot timing wise. I'll talk with the owner and see what his thoughts are but the Met Mile isn't out of the question."
Red Vine, the 4-5 favorite, was fourth, followed by Stormin Monarcho and Matterhorn.
Curalina Opens Year with La Troienne Win
Curalina returned to her grade I-winning form May 6 at Churchill Downs, where she drew off to an easy victory in the $300,000La Troienne Stakes presented by Spirited Funds (gr. I) to begin two days of top stakes races in Louisville, Ky. Watch Video
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina closed out 2015 with three straight losses, although she placed in each of those grade I races, including a third in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). Friday's 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares marked the season debut for the 4-year-old daughter ofCurlin , who won a pair of grade I races last year in New York.
On Friday Curalina returned to her very best form. Guided by Racing Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Curalina tracked in second as Don Alberto Stable's Angela Renee set the pace of :24.24 for a quarter-mile and :48.38 for a half-mile. Angela Renee and Javier Castellano continued to lead through six furlongs 1:12.36, but Curalina took command coming off the turn.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Curalina added to her advantage through the stretch to win, completing the race in 1:42.45 on a fast track.
Well back in second was longshot Engaginglee. She just edged race favorite Sheer Drama, who saved ground racing behind the winner.
"Once I got my position, I made sure to stay there," Velazquez said. "I wanted to keep Sheer Drama in the tight spot. When we came into the lane, my horse just took off. There was no competition coming after her. She won easy."
Pletcher credited Velazquez for a top ride.
"Johnny did a good job of getting in perfect position with her," Pletcher said. "He rode a very good race."
Curalina returned $6.60, $4.40, and $2.40 across the board, while Engaginglee paid $13.20 and $3.80 and Sheer Drama paid $2.10 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by CASA I, Curalina is out of the grade II-placed Graeme Hall mare Whatdreamsrmadeof, who also produced grade III-placed Dream Spinner. Consigned by Denali Stud for her breeder to the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, Curalina was landed by Eclipse and Dogwood Stable for $125,000.
The victory was worth $184,140 and increased Curalina's earnings to $1,190,940 to go along with a record of 5-2-2 in nine starts. It was the third grade I victory for Curalina, who won the Acorn and Coaching Club of America Oaks (both gr. I) in 2015. Pletcher secured his third La Troienne win, following Authenticity in 2013 and Oonagh Maccool in 2006. Velazquez previously won the La Troienne on Authenticity.
Stanford Gate to Wire in Charles Town Classic
Stanford, who just missed winning the $500,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in his previous start, got the lion's share of a much bigger pot with a victory in the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic (gr. II) April 23 at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. Watch Video
Owned by Stonestreet Stables, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, Stanford quickly established the early lead under Javier Castellano from post 7 entering the first of three turns in the 1 1/8-mile event for 4-year-olds and up, and held off Page McKenney, the only real challenger he had from start to finish. Page McKenney broke sharply as well from post 9 and sat just outside the leader throughout under Horacio Karamanos.
It was the first graded stakes win for Stanford, a 4-year-old colt byMalibu Moon out of the Distorted Humor mare Rosy Humor. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Stanford was a $550,000 buy at the 2014 Barretts March selected 2-year-olds in training sale.
As a 3-year-old Stanford finished a neck shy of winning the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and later won the Long Branch Stakes. After a disappointing effort as the favorite in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in late July, he was put on the shelf until earlier this year.
Stanford, trained by Todd Pletcher, in February finished second in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (gr. III) and followed up with another second-place finish, a neck behind Blofeld, in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Both of those races were at the one-turn-mile distance.
Stanford traditionally is prominent early in his races, and the Charles Town Classic was no exception.
"He had a fantastic trip," Pletcher said. "He broke very well and got the position we hoped for going to the first turn. He was on cruise control from there."
Fractions for the Classic were :24.75 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.85 for the half-mile, and 1:13.75 for six furlongs. Stanford passed the one-mile mark in a moderate 1:38.26 as the field entered the stretch and opened up a bit on Page McKenney. He held him off to win by two lengths in 1:50.55 on a track rated fast.
Stanford paid $9.40 to win as the third choice in a field of 10. Adam Staple and Jalin Stables' Page McKenney had 1 3/4 lengths onDonworth, who finished a neck ahead of Imperative.
Page McKenney, third in last year's Charles Town Classic, was a game second in an attempt to win his fourth consecutive stakes. Donworth did well to finish third after a troubled start and wide trip throughout, while Imperative, who won the Classic in 2014 and finished second last year, had to make up ground from ninth early.
"I really like the way he did it," Castellano said of Stanford. "He broke sharply and there wasn't much speed in the race. He usually just falls into position, and I'm satisfied with how he did it today."
When asked if the tighter turns and shorter stretch run aided Stanford, Castellano said: "I think it's helpful with horses that have speed. I think this race will help the horse go forward."
Pletcher said the connections have "no firm plans" for Stanford's next race, but the June 11 Metropolitan Mile (gr. I), also worth $1.25 million, is under consideration.
Mission Impazible's First Starter Wins Debut
Sequel Stallions New York's Mission Impazible is off to a winning start as a sire.
Silver Mission, the first starter for his sire, won a $100,000 maiden special weight 2-year-old race April 21 at Aqueduct Racetrack by three-quarters of a length. The colt, who races for breeders Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Sequel Thoroughbreds, withstood an inquiry to win the race. Watch Video
Mission Impazible, who was campaigned by Twin Creeks, won three of his 21 starts, including the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II). He was also second in the Donn (gr. I), beaten a nose by Hymn Book.
A son of Unbridled's Song, Mission Impazible is out of the Hold Your Peace mare La Paz. He stands for $7,500.
New York-bred Silver Mission is trained by Todd Pletcher, who also conditioned Mission Impazible.
Outwork Outlasts Longshot in Wood Memorial
Five years after Mike Repole's 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo ran a disappointing third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack, Repole's homebred Outworksecured the prize that eluded his sire.
Outwork withstood a furious late charge from 81-1 Trojan Nation to take the Wood by a diminishing head April 9, giving the jubilant Repole another shot at the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Watch Video
When it was suggested to Repole that Outwork's gritty victory offered a measure of vindication for Uncle Mo's flop in the Wood amid high expectations, he replied, "It's not maybe. It is vindication."
Adventist took third for the third time in as many Derby preps at Aqueduct. Matt King Coal, who dueled Outwork for much of the mile-and-an-eighth contest on a sealed muddy track, weakened to fourth.
Outwork, making only his fourth career start, covered the distance in 1:52.92 for jockey John Velazquez. He paid $6.80 to win, $4.80 to place and $3.90 to show.
The Wood was worth 100 points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth, according to the system established byChurchill Downs to select the 20 horses allowed in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.
Shagaf, winner of the Gotham (gr. III) and the 9-5 favorite in the Wood, ran a dull fourth but, according to trainer Chad Brown, will go on to the Derby. "If the horse is healthy, we'll hope for a dry track at Churchill Downs," Brown said.
Brown was extremely disappointed in Flexibility, who faded to seventh. "He is no longer under consideration for the Derby, that's for sure," he said.
As much as trainer Todd Pletcher welcomes the spot in the Derby starting gate, that was not foremost on his mind.
"Forget the Derby. Forget everything other than the fact it was a huge win for him in only his fourth lifetime start," Pletcher said. "To win a grade I in only his fourth start is extra gratifying for our team because five years ago Uncle Mo didn't win the Wood Memorial."
In fact, Uncle Mo, a brilliant winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), never quite made it to the opening leg of the Triple Crown. A downcast Repole was forced to announce that he was scratched due to a rare liver ailment.
Outwork made only one start as a 2-year-old, taking his debut by 2 1/4 lengths in a 4 1/2-furlong contest last April 23 at Keeneland. He returned at 3 to pull away from an allowance field at Tampa Bay Downs by 4 1/4 lengths Feb. 13 before losing a torrid duel with Destinby one length in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 12.
It turned out the Tampa Bay Derby perfectly positioned Outwork for the $1 million Wood.
Todd was so confident. So was Johnny. They said he was 100 percent better from the Tampa Bay Derby to here," Repole said.
Matt King Coal took the Wood field through a snappy opening quarter of 22.91. He went the first half-mile in 46.93 and three-quarters in 1:12.31 with Outwork all but glued to his side. Outwork made the lead at the top of the stretch—and that is when the trouble began. Trojan Nation, a Patrick Gallagher trainee who shipped in from the West Coast and never ran better than third in five maiden special weight tries, rallied gamely on the rail but just missed.
"I think he lost focus a little bit when he made the lead," Pletcher said. "Johnny said he idled a bit on him. Plus he was getting a little tired."
Special horses fight through the fatigue, and that is what Outwork did. Repole, a native of nearby Middle Village, Queens, was so excited he almost knocked Pletcher off his feet when he ran to congratulate him.
For a moment, Repole coud not help but relive Uncle Mo's Wood failure.
"That was one of my toughest racing days," he said. "This was one of my best racing days."
Photo Call Takes Lead, Victory in Orchid
Teresa Viola Racing Stables' grade I winner Photo Call returned to her winning ways in the $200,000 Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT) April 2 at Gulfstream Park.
The 5-year-old Galileo mare stalked leader Quiet Kitten early, but jockey Javier Castellano put her on the lead on their first trip through the stretch in the 1 3/8-mile turf event and couldn't be passed. Songoficeandfire made a valiant effort late, but could only get within three-quarters of a length at the wire.Achnaha came in third, another 1 1/2 lengths back. Watch Video
It was her first victory since her top-level score in the Rodeo Drive (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park in September, but her two starts in between were against tough company. She ran fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) and ran fourth behind Tepin in the Endeavour (gr. IIIT) last time out Feb. 13. The Endeavour was also her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"We just didn't want to fight her," Pletcher said. "Last time we tried to cover her up—she got covered up, but never really relaxed. Plan A was that if someone wanted to go, we would tuck in, but if she wasn't turned off, to not fight her. Javier executed Plan B perfectly."
Quiet Kitten led through the first quarter in :25.31, before Photo Call pushed ahead at every other call, running the half in :49.89, six furlongs in 1:15 flat, and a mile in 1:38.69. The winner hit the wire in 2:16.38 on good turf and paid $4, $2.80, and $2.40 across the board.
"I had a great trip," Castellano said. "I wanted to rate. That was my goal, but unfortunately, she wouldn't rate. She's not that kind of horse. You need to let her run. If you rate her too much, she's not going to run. If you fighter her too much, she's not going to finish. The key today, let her run."
Songoficeandfire brought $6.20 and $4.20, and Achnaha paid $6.20 to show.
Maximova made mild gains to finish fourth, followed by Suffused,Pretty and Sweet, My Sweet Girl, Quiet Kitten, and Crisolles, to complete the order of finish.
Photo Call was bred in Ireland by Mrs. Evie Stockwell, out of the Rock of Gibraltar mare Theann, and now has a 5-2-4 record from 16 starts with $526,102 in earnings.
Pletcher, Castellano Take Gulfstream Titles
Trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Javier Castellano, and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey were honored by Gulfstream Park
April 1 for leading their respective standings during the 2015-2016 championship meet.
The 85-day meet, the highlight of which is the 14-race Florida Derby (gr. I) card Saturday, concludes April 3.
Pletcher ended Friday's program tops in wins (61) and purse earnings ($3.04 million), giving him an unprecedented 13th consecutive training title. He also set Gulfstream's overall record, surpassing Arnold Winick, who won 12 titles between 1959 and 1973.
"When you're able to string something together like that, it makes it a little more meaningful," Pletcher said. "We appreciate how hard any of them are to win and it's a great team effort. A lot of people doing a lot of work and having a lot of good horses is the main thing."
Pletcher also reached 4,000 career victories with Eagle Scout
March 18 at Gulfstream.
"It's been a great meet for us from a number of standpoints," Pletcher said.
Castellano had 112 wins at the end of Friday's racing, good for his fifth consecutive title, each with at least 100 wins. He also was first with $3.8 million in purse earnings.
"I always had the dream to be leading jockey at Gulfstream Park," Castellano said. "It's a very prestigious honor to participate with the best jockeys in the country. It's a tough colony. They come from everywhere. I have a lot of support and I've been very lucky in my life. I've been able to ride a lot of good horses."
The Ramseys, of Ramsey Farm near Nicholasville, Ky., earned their fourth straight owner title, leading the standings with 29 wins and $882,239 in purse earnings.
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.
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 effo