Undefeated Valiance ‘Gains Experience’ With Open Mind Stakes Win
by Press Release| 06.30.2019 | 5:55pm
Valiance #2 with Nik Juarez riding won the Open Mind Stakes at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ on Sunday June 30, 2019.
Unbeaten Valiance continued to live up to her lofty yearling price, swinging out from a stalking trip in mid-stretch and going on to 1¼-length victory in Sunday's $75,000 Open Mind Stakes at Monmouth Park.
A $650,000 yearling purchase, the Todd Pletcher-trained filly improved to 3-for-3 lifetime while recording her first stakes victory in an evenly-matched field of nine 3-year-old fillies.
She covered the mile and a sixteenth over a turf course labelled “good” in 1:41.84.
“Todd said it was time to give her a shot and see where she's at,” said Anthony Sciametta, who oversees the Pletcher stable at Monmouth Park. “I thought this was a competitive race with a good field. It's a nice win. She keeps progressing, which is what you want to see. She's a horse that tries.
“This race she went around horses instead of coming inside, so she's learning as she gains experience. It's probably too early to know how good she is. If she keeps going up the ladder and her numbers keep going up on the sheets we'll have to test her again.
The daughter of Tapit-Last Full Measure by Empire Maker, unraced at 2, won an allowance race on the grass in her last start at Monmouth Park. She broke her maiden on the turf in a Maiden Special Weight race at Gulfstream Park on April 13.
Sent off at 3-1, Valiance sat in third as Karama cut out most of the early fractions while pressured by Ellyb. Jockey Nik Juarez gave his filly her cue early in the stretch and she responded, easily holding off the late-running Her Royal Highness. It was another half-length back to Ellyb in third.
“I think she's just starting to show her ability,” said Juarez. “She does so well rating off the pace and she has such a great kick coming from home. She was very valiant today. The reason I made the move when I did is because Karama is very tough on the lead. She's a filly I have ridden. I couldn't keep waiting with the way the turf course was playing today. It seemed there was a speed bias on the grass if you looked at the earlier races.
“When I was four lengths off the pace and still on a hold and Karama was kicking away I knew I had to make a move because of the way the turf course was playing.”
Karama faded to seventh.
Juarez, Monmouth Park's leading ride, improved his victory total to 41 after 21 days of live racing with two more winners on Sunday's card. He has 11 more wins than runner-up Jose Ferrer, who won the riding title at the track last year.
The Chad Brown-trained Beautiful Lover, who came into the Open Mind Stakes on a three-race winning streak, finished fifth as the 2-1 favorite.
Racing resumes at Monmouth Park on Thursday, July 4, as part of a four-day stretch of live racing. There are two steeplechase races on Thursday's eight-race card as well as the $75,000 Rumson Stakes.
First race post time on Thursday and Friday is 1:15 p.m. It is 12:50 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
King for a Day Stuns Maximum Security in Pegasus
King For a Day takes the Pegasus Stakes over Maximum Security at Monmouth Park
· By Bob Ehalt
Some six weeks after being disqualified from first in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), Gary and Mary West's Maximum Security was defeated in a more conventional manner June 16 at Monmouth Park.
Dropped from first to 17th for interference in the Kentucky Derby, the homebred son of New Year's Day suffered his first clear defeat in the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds as Red Oak Stable's King for a Dayhounded him throughout and then edged clear in the final sixteenth-of-a-mile to post a length victory over the 1-20 favorite.
"It stinks getting beat, but it's horse racing," said Jason Servis, who trains Maximum Security.
Maximum Security stumbled at the start, but still grabbed the lead along the rail in the 1 1/16-mile stakes, with King for a Day about a half-length behind him, through six furlongs in fractions of :23.58, :46.82 and 1:10.57.
Maximum Security led by a half-length at the eighth pole but could not withstand a final surge from King for a Day, who was coming off a win in the May 18 Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico Race Course for trainer Todd Pletcher in his 2019 debut.
"I think the stumble cost me the race," said Servis, who did not make a final decision to run Maximum Security until shortly before the June 14 post position draw. "I think his next race will be better."
The July 20 TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park has been targeted as Maximum Security's next start.
"He hasn't run for a while so he was a little desperate in the gate," jockey Luis Saez said about Maximum Security. "He wanted to break so he broke so fast he stumbled. He was all right after that but I sensed he was getting a little tired in the final half-mile. When we came to the half-mile pole, I asked for a little more but he got a little tired when I asked him to keep going. In the end he was a little tired. I'm not disappointed. Definitely not. He will be OK. I think he needed the race. This is horse racing. Anything can happen. He's a real good horse. That hasn't changed. I think the next time he will be OK."
The final time over the fast track was 1:42.59.
M and A Racing's Direct Order, who is also trained by Servis, finished 5 3/4 lengths behind Maximum Security in third.
For owner Steve Brunetti of Red Oak Stable, the Father's Day victory was highly emotional as it came about 15 months after his father, longtime Hialeah Park owner John Brunetti, passed away.
"Todd was extremely confident and it seems every move we've made with Todd throughout the years in a big race has proven to be very satisfactory. I just put my trust in him," Brunetti said about the victory by his homebred son of Uncle Mo . "It's Monmouth Park, it's Father's Day and I thought maybe in some strange way it was meant to be. It was. I'm very humbled. This means so much. I just wish my dad was here to enjoy horses like King for a Day and (grade 1 winner) Mind Control."
King for a Day is out of the French Deputy mare Ubetwereven and his victory, the third in five career starts, made Brunetti even happier that he decided to send some of his mares to Uncle Mo a few years ago.
"I got lucky. I bred a few mares to Uncle Mo when he was $20-25,000 (stud fee)," he said. "I'm reaping the rewards now."
King for a Day, ridden by Joe Bravo, paid $13.80 to win as the second choice in the field of six.
"I liked how his paper looked," Bravo said. "The horse has been coming into his own. I texted Todd Pletcher this week and he called me back in two seconds to tell me how high he was on this horse. He was in full control the whole race. Maximum Security stumbled the first couple of jumps and I am sure that hurt him a little bit and he was playing catch-up the rest of the time—even though he was in front until we got to him late. I just tried to keep my horse relaxed and ride my horse. He was good when he needed to be."
King for a Day's victory also added even more chaos to a muddled 3-year-old picture. Heading into the Pegasus, the Triple Crown had featured three different winners of a classic plus a fourth horse in Maximum Security, who was disqualified from first in the Kentucky Derby and did not race again until Sunday.
Having beaten a horse who crossed the wire first in the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths and also captured the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) by 3 1/2 lengths, King for a Day earned inclusion among the division's leaders.
"Last year we heard how well he was training at (Saratoga Race Course) and Todd thought he was the best 2-year-old in the barn," Brunetti said. "But he had a slight setback (after finishing fourth in the grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his 2-year-old finale) and we had to miss the classics."
The Haskell seems as good a starting point as any for King for a Day to collect a grade 1 win, but Red Oak racing manager Rick Sacco was in no rush to talk about the next start.
"We have a 72-hour rule at Red Oak before we talk about the next race," Sacco said. "We're going to enjoy this performance to the fullest and then think about the Haskell and the Travers."
For Pletcher, there was satisfaction in the group decision to run in the Pegasus, when King for a Day was sharp and eager to race, as opposed to waiting for the Ohio Derby (G3) or the Indiana Derby (G3), both of which carry a purse of $500,000.
"We're really proud of him. He found a little more late today and I think he'll enjoy even more distance. He had been training very well. After the Sir Barton, we mentioned this as a possibility, but we were looking at the (June 22) Ohio Derby or (July 13) Indiana Derby. But after he worked last week, I didn't know if we could hold him on the ground much longer, so we chatted and felt this was a good option for him," Pletcher said. "It's a wide-open division at this point and a lot will be decided in the summer and fall. It's nice to be in that picture with him."
Marconi Makes the Grade in Brooklyn Invitational
Marconi wins the Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont Park
Chad B. Harmon
· By Christine Oser
Since returning from a lengthy layoff, Marconi has successfully stretched out and taken three consecutive stakes races. The 4-year-old Tapit colt made the grade for the first time June 8 in the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (G2), the last of 13 races on the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) undercard at Belmont Park.
"It seems like he's really found his niche. He's gradually improving and been a lot more consistent in not only his races, but also training," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I was happy to see him continue moving forward.
The effort has Pletcher considering the July 6 Suburban Stakes (G2) going 1 1/4 miles at Belmont for Marconi's next start.
"A prestigious race like that would mean a lot for him," he said.
Like the Belmont Stakes, the Brooklyn is contested at 1 1/2 miles, but for 4-year-olds and up. Marconi and jockey Jose Lezcano went straight to the lead and set an easy pace with fractions of :25.16, :50.87, 1:16.17, and 1:40.45 through the first mile. You're to Blame, Marconi's stablemate, was a close second.
When the eight horses turned for home, You're to Blame did not kick on with Marconi, but Realm moved up from fourth and nearly drew even with the leader. Marconi put away Realm but then had a fast-closing challenger in Rocketry to hold off.
Marconi dug in and finished a half-length ahead of the proven marathon runner. The final time was 2:28.97 over a fast track.
"He broke a little slow. He was looking around a little bit, but after that, I sent him and let him gallop alone on the lead," Lezcano said. "When I asked at the three-sixteenths pole, he gave me everything he had and went on to win the race. I wanted to be close. When the other Pletcher horse came to me, I wouldn't give him the lead."
Realm, Campaign, You're to Blame, Sonneteer, Biblical, and War Story completed the order of finish.
"The plan wasn't to be on the front, but we wanted him to be in the race," Pletcher said of Marconi. "Especially from the one hole, I didn't want him to be shuffled back and overcomplicate things for him. Once Jose was able to establish that spot, the fractions were very reasonable. He kept finding a way to get it done."
Marconi was bred in Kentucky by Brushwood Stable out of the stakes-winning Ponche mare Ponche de Leona, most notably the dam of Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Mucho Macho Man . Marconi's full sister Southern Girl is also a stakes winner at Laurel Park.
Campaigned by Bridlewood Farm and Coolmore's Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor, Marconi was a $2 million purchase from the Eaton Sales consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He's earned back $424,702 total to date including his Brooklyn performance, which improved his record to 4-1-1 from nine starts.
After three starts on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2018, Marconi was on the shelf for 10 months before returning to the races in February. He was fourth in allowance optional claiming Feb. 6 at Gulfstream Park before scoring in the March 29 Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream and May 9 Flat Out Stakes at Belmont.
Vino Rosso Closes Late to Score in Gold Cup
Vino Rosso earns his first grade 1 score in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
· By Meredith Daugherty
A change of scenery and a trip to California proved to be just the right move for Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso, who closed late over grade 1 winner Gift Box to take the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1) May 27 over 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita Park.
Snapping a five-race win streak for owner Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler in the Southern California handicap division, the son of Curlin earned his first graded win since April of his sophomore season, when he took the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Longshot Blitzkrieg led the way from the break on the rail, dueling with Gift Box and jockey Joel Rosario, who split runners to find a space between Blitzkrieg and Core Beliefs.
Never more than a half-length behind the leader, Gift Box stalked the pace through fractions of :22.97, :46.37, and :1:10.70 for six furlongs before Blitzkrieg dropped back dramatically leaving the second turn and gave way. A head in front for brief seconds, Gift Box was overtaken by Vino Rosso, who drifted in towards the rail to do battle with the new leader down the stretch.
Driving home under urging from Johnny Velazquez, Vino Rosso increased his margin by increments and was ahead by three-quarters of a length as the field of seven reached the wire in a final time of 2:03.
"I didn't have to give John any instructions, just a leg up," said Pletcher's assistant trainer Amy Mullen. "John got here six hours ago and he had a conference call with the owners and Todd. I've been here a week with Vino Rosso and Mike McCarthy, we trained over the track to get ready for this race."
"Todd told me he was ready for a mile and a quarter," Velazquez said. "I talked to Mike Repole on the phone and he said to make sure to thank him because he's the one who gave me instructions to win the race. So thank you Mike and thank you Todd. We come from seven eighths, we knew we were going to be close.
"I knew the pace would be fast early and I just wanted to stay close. He broke very well and we settled in there. When it was time to go, we knew we had to engage Joel (Rosario) to play the game because he was the horse to beat. And we got the job done. Vino Rosso seemed to have it all put together today."
Lone Sailor took third followed by Mongolian Groom and Higher Power. It was another 6 1/2 lengths back to Core Beliefs, who finished nine lengths in front of Blitzkrieg.
"He broke well out of there," said Rosario of Gift Box, who entered the race off a win in the April 6 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1). "In the beginning, they all got into position and I thought I was in a good spot. I guess he was just second best today. I used him a little in the beginning to get my spot but he settled and was very comfortable after that. Everything he did was just right, he just got a little tired in the end.
"I still think he's one of the best handicap horses in the country and he'll improve off of this. I had the trip I wanted, the other horse just ran a better race today."
Monday's win was a long-awaited grade 1 score for Vino Rosso, who has competed unsuccessfully in four prior top-level events beginning with last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs in which he finished ninth. He ran fourth next out in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at Belmont Park before closing out the year two starts later with a fifth-place finish in the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.
Vino Rosso entered Monday's race off a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (G1) April 6 at Aqueduct. Prior to that effort, the 4-year-old colt won his season debut in the one-mile Stymie Stakes March 9 at Aqueduct. His victory also marked the first Gold Cup win for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther, Vino Rosso is the second foal out of the Street Cry mare Mythical Bride, who has also produced grade 3-placed So Alive. Consigned by the Gunther's Glennwood Farm to the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Vino Rosso was purchased by J.J. Crupi on behalf of Repole and St. Elias for $410,000.
Vino Rosso holds a 5-0-2 record from 12 starts and earned $1,253,125 in purses.
Marconi Gets Second Straight Stakes Win in Flat Out
Marconi wins the Flat Out Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park
Coglianese Photos/Elsa Lorieul
Marconi added a second consecutive stakes victory to his résumé in the rescheduled Flat Out Stakes May 9 at Belmont Park.
The Todd Pletcher trainee came into the 1 3/8-mile contest for older horses off a win in the 1 3/16-mile Skip Away Stakes March 29 at Gulfstream Park. The 4-year-old son of Tapit was the youngest of five that made up the Flat Out field.
"Looking at it tactically, we felt like Kendrick (Carmouche, aboard Tour de Force) would be on the lead, and we wanted to make sure to get away from there," Pletcher said. "It's not a long run to the first turn, so we wanted to get out and get position and ended up getting the spot we thought we'd be in.
"The leader opened up a little more than we thought, but the main thing was to get into a good rhythm and not take away anything that came easily to him."
While the favored Rocketry trailed the field, Tour de Force opened a widening lead while clicking off early fractions of :24.68 and :48.97 through a half-mile, ahead by as much as six lengths. But soon after he finished six furlongs in 1:13.37, Marconi, who had been running in second with Monongahela following closely in third, cut that distance to less than two lengths.
Rounding the final turn, jockey Jose Lezcano aboard Marconi bided his time, continuing a length off the leader. Entering the stretch, Lezcano asked Marconi for run and was soon beside the leader, with Monongahela giving chase and Rocketry making up ground.
Marconi pulled clear of the others, finishing 2 3/4 lengths ahead in a final time of 2:15.35.
"We got a very good trip," Lezcano said. "My horse broke good, and we got in a spot where we were second all the way around. When I asked him at the quarter pole, he changed leads and took off."
Rocketry just got up by a nose for second, while Tour de Force outran Monongahela for third by a neck. Twisted Tom rounded out the field.
"(Rocketry) was trying really hard, but the horse in front kept going," jockey Joel Rosario said of his mount. "The track was playing a little quick. I wish it was a longer distance."
Owned by Bridlewood Farm and the Coolmore connections of Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor, Marconi is a half brother to grade 1 winner and sire Mucho Macho Man . The owners paid $2 million for the gray colt at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Marconi broke his maiden in his second start as a 2-year-old and returned the next year to finish third in the Withers Stakes (G3). But after off-the-board finishes in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), he did not race again until his February season debut.
Bred in Kentucky by Brushwood Stable, Marconi is the third stakes winner for his dam, Ponche de Leona, who has two other winners from five foals to race. Marconi brought his record to 3-1-1 from eight starts, and his earnings now total $204,702.
Another Broad Rewards New Connections in Top Flight
By Christine Oser
Madaket Stables, Elayne Stables, and Brian Martin's Another Broadcaptured the $200,000 Top Flight Invitational Stakes April 13 at Aqueduct Racetrack, rewarding her new connections with a stakes victory in her second start for them.
Another Broad broke last of six in the 1 1/8-mile feature for older fillies and mares, while Frostie Anne pulled ahead by five as she set fractions in :24.05, :47.91, and 1:12.91. Another Broad, Forever Liesl, and My Miss Lilly all came up to challenge the leader, with Another Broad and jockey Manny Franco splitting horses and getting up by 1 1/4 lengths. The final time was 1:52.99 over a muddy track.
"She shipped up here from Palm Beach Downs on Wednesday in good form," said Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "We galloped her at Belmont for a couple of days, and she was ready to run. We wanted her to get into a nice rhythm, and Manny was very patient with her. Coming around the second turn, he found a good spot and he was able to split horses and get up. That was nice."
Forever Liesl, My Miss Lilly, Frostie Anne, Midnight Disguise, and Jump Ruler completed the order of finish.
"The pace was hot and I knew that, so I just tried to give my filly a chance and wait as long as I could," Franco said. "She was there for me when I asked her. By the three-eighths pole, I kind of followed Joe Bravo (aboard Miss Lilly). In the stretch, I stayed to the inside and waited for a hole to open. When it did, she was there for me."
Another Broad was bred in Maryland by Fitzugh, which campaigned her at Laurel Park with trainer Michael Trombetta in 2018. The 4-year-old daughter of Include was second in the Geisha Stakes Nov. 24 before moving to Pletcher's barn. She was fourth on debut this year in the Royal Delta Stakes (G3) Feb. 16 at Gulfstream Park.
Another Broad is out of the Deputy Minister mare Dynamic Deputy, who won the Shine Again Stakes at Pimlico Race Course and was second in the Delaware Handicap (G2). She has produced five winners from seven starters, including three-time stakes winner Dynamic Strike. Another Broad now holds a 4-2-0 record from nine starts and has earned $222,095.
Earlier on the card, Isabelle de Tomaso's homebred Regally Irish, from the family of multiple grade 2 winner Irish War Cry , nipped frontrunning Skole to win the $100,000 Bridgetown Stakes. The Bridgetown was the first stakes win for the New Jersey-bred Regal Ransom colt, who completed the six furlongs over yielding turf for 3-year-olds in 1:10.28.
Skole set fractions of :22.39 and :45.32 through the first half-mile while Regally Irish, trained by Graham Motion, was fourth of five in the field. There appeared to be no challengers for Skole as the field turned into the stretch, but jockey Rajiv Maragh unleashed Regally Irish, the 8-5 favorite, and was up to win by a neck on the outside.
"I think he can go on for more distance as well," Maragh said. "He's a pretty versatile horse. He can go to the lead or come from behind and go different distances. (Motion) said this horse is pretty straightforward. This horse is pretty adaptable, so we didn't have to commit to any specific thing. The horse always put himself in a good spot."
Skole, Mount Travers, Skychief, and Wonder Stone completed the order of finish.
Prior to Saturday's race, Regally Irish was third in the Dec. 15 Inaugural Stakes and then won a Jan. 11 optional-claiming allowance event, both at Tampa Bay Downs. The Bridgetown improved his record to 3-1-1 in seven starts and his earnings to $110,945.
"That was good. He ran well down at Tampa," Motion's assistant Adrian Rolls said. "We weren't sure it would be on the grass because of the rain, so it was nice that they kept it on. When he got running, Rajiv said he really sprinted away from them. He appeared to be happy with him. We'll have to see how he comes out of this race (before deciding on a next start)."
Regally Irish is the first of three foals out of the Even the Score mare Irish Score. His second dam, Irish Sovereign, produced Irish War Cry—another homebred for Tomaso trained by Motion—who won the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) on the 2017 Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Life’s A Parlay Stretches Out Successfully In Excelsior
by NYRA Press Office | 04.06.2019 | 4:27pm
Life's A Parlay wins the Excelsior
St. Elias Stable and Repole Stable's Life's a Parlay took command out of the final turn and fended off Monongahela's deep-stretch challenge from the outside to capture the 107th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday, Wood Memorial Day, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Life's a Parlay, stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time, bumped with Shivermetimbers at the start but recovered to stay in third position as New York-bred Hit It Once More set the early pace, going the opening quarter-mile in 23.48 seconds and the half in 47.38 on the fast main track.
With Tour de Force challenging Hit It Once More, with three-quarters in 1:12.10, Life's a Parlay was urged up and gained command near the three-sixteenths pole under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Velazquez, bidding for his second straight graded stakes triumph after piloting Mind Control to a victory in the Grade 3 Bay Shore the race before, persevered with Life's a Parlay as Monongahela, under jockey Jose Lezcano, made a strong move to his outside. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt held on for the one-length win, hitting the wire in 1:51.54 to earn his first trip to the winner's circle in a stakes.
“He runs well every time,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “We shipped him to Oaklawn and ran there; shipped him back to Florida and came up to New York all in three weeks. It was a lot to ask of him, but he's been training well. He had a nice breeze the other day, so we felt confident that he bounced out of his last race in good shape. I think there's a little more in the tank. He has a tendency to idle a little bit when he gets to the lead like he did today, but I was proud of him for doing it.
“We felt like there would be a little bit of speed in there, we weren't sure. We just left it in Johnny's hands and when the other two horses went, I thought he was in a good stalking position and Johnny looked like he was just biding his time.”
Off as the 3-2 favorite, Life's a Parlay returned $5.10 on a $2 win wager to cap an impressive graded stakes debut. Bred in Kentucky by Bell Tower Thoroughbreds, he improved his career bankroll to $248,720.
“I had a perfect trip,” said Velazquez, who registered his third win on the day. “There were two speeds in the race, Mike [Repole] had another horse [Tour de Force] in there and I knew Gary Sciacca's horse [Hit It Once More] normally gets sent out of there, so it worked out perfect to let them go and sit behind the pace.
“This horse is better than I think he is but when he gets to the lead, he waits,” he added. “He sees everything in front of him and I have to wait for the horses to come to him for him to run again. He is very talented.”
Monongahela, trained by Jason Servis, edged the Rudy Rodriguez-trained Tour de Force by a neck for second. It was the seventh time in the last eight starts Monongahela finished on the board.
“I had a good trip. I got the position I wanted, and he ran a very good race,” Lezcano said. “At the quarter-pole, I had to wait a little longer than what I wanted but when I got out I still had plenty of time to go on and win the race, but the other horse [Life's a Parlay] just kept going.”
Nicodemus, Hit It Once More, Holiday Bonus and Shivermetimbers completed the order of finish.
Discreet Lover, the 9-5 morning-line favorite, was scratched due to a temperature.
Always Shopping Scoops Up Kentucky Oaks Spot in Gazelle
Always Shopping wins the Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack
· By Bob Ehalt
The ever-increasing role that spacing of races is playing in the sport was vividly reflected after a victory by Always Shopping in the $300,000 Gazelle Stakes (G2) April 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
In a perfect world, owner Mike Repole might wait two months for Always Shopping's next race, just as he and trainer Todd Pletcher did when the 3-year-old filly went from a maiden win in the Feb. 3 Busanda Stakes to skipping the March 9 Busher Invitational to posting a 1 3/4-length victory in the Gazelle.
But when the logical race four weeks away is the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), then there is surely sufficient cause to run back in a month.
"(The Oaks) is a special race," Repole said, "and we have to make a decision. We have spaced her races out strategically. We scratched out of the Busher, and that's hard to do when your horse is doing well and is 5-2. If we win the Gazelle, we look really, really smart. If we lose, we look dumb. Everything pieced together today, and we'll make a decision. It's hard to pass up the Oaks, but when you bring 50 family members to a race, it's expensive."
The Gazelle assured Always Shopping of a spot in the Kentucky Oaks; she picked up 100 points and now ranks second on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 110 total.
The rest of the race's qualifying points on a 40-20-10 scale went to Positive Spirit, who was second, followed by Off Topic and Proud Emma. Favored Expresso Shot was fifth.
As for Always Shopping, her victory Saturday came at the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, which was important to Pletcher.
"She's made improvement in each start," Pletcher said after the homebred daughter of Awesome Again out of stakes-winning the More Than Ready mare Stopshoppingmaria notched her second straight win and first graded stakes triumph. The first graded winner out of Stopshoppingmaria, who produced fillies by Uncle Mo in 2017 and 2018 and was bred to Medaglia d'Oro for 2019, Always Shopping now has two wins from five starts, with earnings of $252,000.
"The key is if she can continue to move forward," Pletcher said. "She's proved that two turns, a mile and an eighth, is her thing."
Always Shopping rallied from midpack in the Busanda but was second in the Gazelle behind Positive Spirit, who reeled off soft splits of :24.92, :50.09, and 1:14.95. Repole's filly dueled with the early leader from the quarter pole until the eighth pole, when she drew clear under Manny Franco. Final time for the race was 1:52.91.
"We let Manny do his thing," Pletcher said. "He put her in a good spot, she put him in a good spot. He said he felt like he had a lot of horse the whole way. I think she'll be better off with a pace where she can settle in and make one run. We're proud of her."
Proud enough to run in the Kentucky Oaks? Probably. Even Mike Repole knows that a chance to win a race as prestigious as the Kentucky Oaks does not come around too often.
Bulletin Kicks Off Season in Big Way for WinStar
Bulletin soars clear in the Palisades Turf Sprint at Keeneland
Anne M. Eberhardt
· By Claire Crosby
Javier Castellano's white pants didn't have a speck of dirt on them.
After cruising gate-to-wire aboard Bulletin in the $100,000 Palisades Turf Sprint Stakes April 4 on opening day of the spring meet at Keeneland, all that remained was for Castellano to pose for the win photo, do a few interviews, and meet WinStar Farm CEO and racing manager Elliott Walden for a trophy presentation.
For Walden and WinStar's partners, China Horse Club and SF Racing, the 1 1/2-length season-debut victory for the colt nicknamed "Bullet" reopened the door to dreams of a trip to Royal Ascot—an idea that percolated in November when Bulletin won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs in impressive fashion.
"We've talked about it (going to Royal Ascot) and wanted to see what happened today," Walden said. "You don't know if horses are going to come back to their form. Sometimes 2-year-olds disappoint you when they run at 3, so it's nice to see him come back to his form."
Trainer Todd Pletcher had Bulletin ready to run in his first start since Nov. 2. The City Zip colt sped to the lead after an alert beginning from post 10 in a field of 12 and maintained a clear advantage under a hand ride while setting quick fractions of :22.10, :45.65, and :57.03 and was never challenged.
"This horse did it the right way," Castellano said. "He was pretty sharp out of the gate. He's a special horse. You don't see too many horses like that. He's got so much talent. I just enjoyed the ride."
Real News closed from fifth to be second, and Abyssinian was 2 1/4 lengths back in third.
The final time for the 5 1/2-furlong 3-year-old test was 1:02.92 on turf rated firm.
Walden said the race, run for the first time Thursday, was a perfect fit for Bulletin.
"We've been looking at this for a while since the stakes calendar came out. … We circled it, hoping the weather was going to be good—April 4, you never know. But everything worked out well."
Bulletin was bred in Kentucky by CresRan out of the Woodman mare Sue's Good News and was a $250,000 purchase from Paramount Sales' consignment to the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by WinStar's Maverick Racing and China Horse Club. He is now undefeated in three starts, with earnings of $655,570.
"He's very special, very fast," Walden said. "That's what you like to see. We're going to keep him sprinting for now, but I really think he'll stretch out to a mile as well. I don't know if he'll go further than that, but you look at him gallop out in the Breeders' Cup and you look at him today—he doesn't seem to get tired yet. He's had three starts and he's been perfect, so what else can you say? He's pretty special."
The June 21 Commonwealth Cup (G1), a six-furlong contest at Royal Ascot, could be in the cards for Bulletin. WinStar took American Patriot to the prestigious meet in 2017 (he ran 11th in the group 1 Queen Anne Stakes) and was joined by China Horse Club, SF Racing, and Head of Plains Partners to campaign Yoshida in the same event in 2018 (he finished fifth).
"We fizzled with American Patriot the first year and probably didn't belong," Walden said. "He did win the Maker's Mark Mile (G1T), but his form other than that was not great. Yoshida definitely deserved to be there and he was fifth beaten two lengths, so he gave a big thrill. We want to go with the right horse. We don't want to just go to go. This horse is definitely the right horse if he's healthy and everything. I think he'll fit really well with what they've got over there.
"It's a little tricky with these 3-year-olds that are sprinters like this on the turf," Walden continued. "There aren't that many options. There's a race at Churchill in a few weeks, there's a race at Belmont four weeks before Royal Ascot, so we'll just see how it plays out, and we might not run him again until Royal Ascot. He runs good fresh, so we've proven that when he broke his maiden first time out in a stake. He had a big gap to the Breeders' Cup and he had a big gap until today, so it's not like he's a horse that you need to run often. We'll just have to see how Todd thinks we should get to Royal Ascot, that's the main goal. … So it just depends on if we want to run him again or not (before then), and Todd will make that decision based on how he's doing."
Coal Front Edges Heavy Metal to win Godolphin Mile
Coal Front rallied sharply in deep stretch to catch frontrunning defending champion Heavy Metal and win the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G2) by three-quarters of a length March 30 at Meydan.
Coal Front, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Jose Ortiz—in his first Dubai World Cup Day race—waited well back of the early battle between Heavy Metal and the international favorite, Muntazah. Heavy Metal began to edge clear as the field hit the Meydan Racecourse stretch.
Ortiz, however, had kept Coal Front wide of the leaders and in the clear and was in full flight 200 meters from home, closing ground on the tiring, 9-year-old leader. He hit the lead five strides short of the wire in the one-turn, 1,600-meter (about one-mile) test and finished in 1:36.51.
"He's a frontrunner," Ortiz said. "Being where I was, I didn't want to put him behind horses and take the kickback. I was happy where I was. Coal Front was a tough customer. But we had it. I was riding for the win."
Muntazah, winner of the local prep for the Godolphin Mile, held off surging Kimbear to salvage third by a short head.
Coal Front, a 5-year-old Stay Thirsty ridgling, came to Dubai after a victory in the Feb. 18 Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park in his first start of the year. He closed an abbreviated 2018 campaign with a win in the Dec. 22 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. As a 3-year-old, he won the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing and the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course.
Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly out of the Mineshaft mare Miner's Secret and owned by Robert LaPenta and Sol Kumin's Head of Plains Partners, Coal Front now has seven wins from nine starts. Saturday's score marked the most lucrative of his career, earning $900,000.
LaPenta said the owners and Pletcher, who scored his first win on a World Cup card, debated whether to even send Coal Front to Dubai because they didn't know if he'd handle the travel.
"Up until three weeks ago, we spent a lot of time on this," LaPenta said. "He's very nervous, and we thought about the travel, the quarantine, all those things. Should we go? Todd did a great job."
LaPenta said he was worried as Heavy Metal took a substantial lead in the stretch.
"What was going through my mind at the sixteenth pole was, 'Call a doctor!'" he said. "He is a frontrunning horse. This time, he had to catch a horse. We're so proud of him."
LaPenta said there are no firm plans for Coal Front's future.
Consigned by Kirkwood Stables to the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, Coal Front went to LaPenta for $575,000. His dam produced an American Pharoah colt in 2018 and was bred to Arrogate for 2019.
Prince Lucky Runs to His Odds in Gulfstream Park Mile
By Christine Oser
Daniel McConnell's homebred Prince Lucky kept the Todd Pletcher stable rolling March 30 when he drew clear to win the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Longshot All Golden led the first quarter-mile in :24.14 before Prince Lucky, the odds-on favorite, took over at the half-mile mark and set fractions of :47.04 and 1:11.31 through six furlongs. Tale of Silence moved up on Prince Lucky's outside from fourth turning for home, but once jockey Johnny Velazquez asked Prince Lucky for more, the 4-year-old Corinthian gelding drew off to a 4 3/4-length win. The final time was 1:35.21 over a track rated fast.
"The first quarter seemed like it was sensible," Velazquez said. "He got into the bridle. It was a nice pace. It wasn't a crazy pace. After that, it was pretty easy. He was kind of playing around, looking around. He's never been in the lead that soon."
Tale of Silence, Guy Caballero, Be Gone Daddy, Millionaire Runner, and All Golden completed the order of finish.
"In these kinds of races, you always worry because you feel like you have the best horse and you just want everything to go smoothly," Pletcher said. "He broke alertly, and Johnny was a little concerned because there was some pace in here and he didn't want to get in a duel, so he kind of just bided his time and then secured his spot on the rail. It looked like he had plenty of horse from there."
It was the fifth Gulfstream Park Mile victory for Pletcher, who took the race with Harlington in 2006, Discreet Dancer in 2013, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice in 2014, and Blofeld in 2016. The performance followed stablemate Coal Front's Saturday victory in the Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G2) at Meydan, which was Pletcher's first victory on Dubai World Cup night.
Prince Lucky wrapped up his sophomore season early last year with a victory in the June 9 Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park. He returned to the track for his 2019 debut in the Feb. 23 Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream and scored a six-length win, his first graded score.
"I think he's a very good miler, but I do think he will stretch out as well," Pletcher said. "It was a matter of timing when he was ready for the last one, and after he did so well in that race, this made perfect sense five weeks later. We'll see what we're going to do next. It might be a mile race for the next one, but down the road we'll try to stretch him out a little further."
Unbeaten in two starts in 2019, Prince Lucky improved to 6-0-2 from 10 starts, including a victory in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes at Parx Racing during his juvenile season with trainer Larry Jones. His earnings total $475,970.
Bred in Pennsylvania, Prince Lucky is the third foal out of the Great Notion mare Lucky Notion. He is a half brother to McConnell's 5-year-old mare Saint Main Event, who finished third in the All Brandy Stakes at Laurel Park in September. Lucky Notion foaled a Birdstone filly this year and has three winners from three starters.
Cutting Humor Scores Big In Sunland Park Derby
By Meredith Daugherty
Starlight Racing's Cutting Humor put himself on the map March 24 with a record-setting win over favorite Mucho Gusto in the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby (G3) at Sunland Park.
With only six weeks left until the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), Sunland Park's only prep race for 3-year-olds looking to compete in the first leg of the classics started out predictably enough.
Bob Baffert-trained Mucho Gusto broke well from his spot on the rail and established an early lead. The heavy favorite—and last-out winner of the Feb. 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park—looked comfortably in command, setting a relatively fast pace for the 1 1/8-mile test.
The first quarter went in :22.76 with Mucho Gusto still holding his advantage over Hustle Up to his outside. Behind them, Anothertwistafate pressed the pace next to the rail with Cutting Humor just behind in fourth to his outside.
Mucho Gusto was still the one to beat as the field passed the half-mile point in :45.63 and then six furlongs in 1:09.63. Guided by jockey John Velazquez, Cutting Humor made his move along the backstretch and was hustled three wide as they got up to challenge the leader and Anothertwistafate faded back between the dueling pair.
As the mile went in 1:34.76, Mucho Gusto had nothing left in reserve, and Cutting Humor forged a half-length lead in midstretch.
Just when the race looked to be won, Anothertwistafate found his second wind and stormed home down the middle of the stretch in an attempt to run down Cutting Humor. Not to be denied, Cutting Humor battled on and prevailed by a neck at the wire.
"Once I got to the quarter pole, I thought he was going pretty easy," Velazquez said. "Then I asked him, and as soon as he found himself on the lead, he started waiting. He idled pretty badly, and I'm thinking, 'Come on buddy. You've got to get your mind back on running.'
"I waited until the eighth pole, switched to left-handed, and he responded."
The final time of 1:46.94 is a track record for the distance.
Mucho Gusto held for third, almost six lengths behind the winner. Wicked Indeed took fourth, followed by Eye Cloud, Pasamonte Man, Hustle Up, Collusionist, and Walker Stalker to complete the order of finish. Anothertwistafate earned 20 points, Mucho Gusto 10, and Wicked Indeed five points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Cutting Humor, who had not won since breaking his maiden in November at Gulfstream Park West, is now firmly on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The son of First Samurai picked up 50 points and now sits in fifth place on the leaderboard. He improved his record to 2-2-1 from six starts, with earnings of $516,967.
Bred in Kentucky by Dell Hancock and Bernie Sams, Cutting Humor is the fifth foal out of the Pulpit mare Pun and is a half brother to stakes winner Irish You Well. He was purchased for $400,000 in 2017 by Starlight from the consignment of Taylor Made Sales Agency to The Saratoga Sale, Fasig-Tipton's selected yearling sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
One race earlier on the card, Kaleem Shah's homebred All Out Blitz earned his first black-type win in the Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes. He now has a 4-2-2 record from 14 starts and $251,030 in earnings.
Vino Rosso Victorious in Stymie Return
Vino Rosso shook off the cobwebs and turned back a game opponent March 9 to win the $150,000 Stymie Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, his first start since a fifth-place finish in the Aug. 25 Runhappy Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
After racing four wide in fourth under Hall of Famer John Velazquez early in the mile test, the 4-year-old son of Curlin made a five-wide move around the turn for home and looked as though he might have to settle for second after he was challenged by the rallying Title Ready. But when Title Ready dug in and the two raced head-to-head down the stretch, 9-5 choice Vino Rosso gamely turned back his opponent and edged forward to hit the wire with a three-quarter-length advantage. The final time was 1:35.27 on a fast track.
"It feels great to have him back," said Mike Repole, who co-owns the Todd Pletcher trainee with St. Elias Stable. "He had a pretty busy 3-year-old campaign. Todd said he's been training great down at Palm Beach Downs, and Johnny came up and they got the job done here today.
"He really broke sharp out of the gate and spotted the field several lengths before he decided to work his spots. He came off the pace, came back on the pace, then came off the pace again. I thought this was his first race where he was sharp the whole time. When he finally got to the lead, he waited again, and the best thing that could have happened is that horse that hooked up with him (Title Ready) gave him a bump, and that got him focused and reminded him why he was here today, and he took off. I think they could have went around four times and nobody would have caught him."
Vino Rosso took over after longshot California Night showed the way through an opening quarter in :23.34 and a half in :45.93. He then reeled in Stan the Man, who briefly led as three-quarters went in 1:10.02.
"I thought it was a good race," said assistant trainer Byron Hughes. "He broke well, and Johnny got him in a good spot in the clear on the outside. He had enough to finish it out, and he looked good. I think it was a good starting point for him to get back into the races going a one-turn mile, and hopefully he comes out of it in good shape and we'll go from there."
Winner of the 2018 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) and now 3-for-3 at Aqueduct, where he also broke his maiden at first asking, Vino Rosso was bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther out of the Street Cry mare Mythical Bride and was a $410,000 purchase by Mike Repole and St. Elias from his breeder's Glennwood Farm consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. His dam produced an Uncle Mo colt in 2018 and was bred back to Curlin for 2019. Her 2-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt was a $575,000 purchase by Coolmore at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and was exported to Ireland.
Prince Lucky Powers Home in Hal's Hope Stakes
By Meredith Daugherty
Luck took a back seat to talent Feb. 23, when Daniel McConnell's homebred Prince Lucky drew off in the stretch to win the $100,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park by six lengths.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Pennsylvania-bred gelding broke well in the one-mile dirt test and briefly challenged for the lead before being edged back to stalk the pace in third.
Tracking steadily as stablemate Copper Town dueled with Quip for the lead, Prince Lucky slowly gained ground and was only a head behind Copper Town as they reached the six-furlong mark in 1:21.88 and was on equal terms midway through the turn for home.
Continuing to battle with Copper Town through the stretch, Prince Lucky pressed his advantage and powered forward with energy to spare. Copper Town proved no contest as Prince Lucky cruised clear to win in a final time of 1:34.84.
"I knew the other horse in Todd's entry had speed, but my horse was doing it easy," said jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard Prince Lucky. "I was just sitting on my horse and watched those horses and how they were doing. He kind of jogged me little by little to where I was, and when I asked him, he ran very good."
Copper Town took second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Quip in third. Tale of Silence, Sir Anthony, Fellowship, Mr. Jordan, and Breaking Luckycompleted the order of finish.
The first race of the year for Prince Lucky followed an 8 1/2-month layoff. Pletcher was more than pleased with the 4-year-old gelding's performance and said a likely next target will be the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) March 30.
"We just felt like the distance suited him well, he was doing well, and then he drew a really favorable post position (8) for him," Pletcher said. "I was happy to see him come back strong off the layoff, and hopefully (there are) bigger and better things to come."
Out of the Great Notion mare Lucky Notion, the son of Corinthian improved his record to 5-0-2 from nine starts, with earnings of $291,830. It was the first graded victory for Prince Lucky, who was a black-type winner at 2.
Pletcher has won three of the last four runnings of the Hal's Hope and four in all. He won in 2016 with Mshawish and again in 2017 with Tommy Macho. His first win in the race came in 2010 with Quality Road .
The Hal's Hope was the featured race on Saturday's card, which also included a pair of five-furlong, $75,000 turf stakes for 3-year-olds and 3-year-old fillies.
Klein Racing's Play On picked up her first stakes win in the Melody of Colors Stakes. It was the third consecutive win for the daughter of Country Day who broke her maiden Nov. 18 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots before closing her freshman year with another win in a Dec. 20 optional-claiming allowance race at the same track.
One race after the Hal's Hope, Florida-bred Yes I Am Free edged Jackson by a half-length to take the Texas Glitter Stakes. Owned by Gary Barber, the Uncaptured colt is now 2-for-2, having broken his maiden on debut Jan. 17 at Gulfstream.
Coal Front Shines in Razorback Score
By Mary LaRue
Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners' Coal Front held off Copper Bullet to win the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3)by a neck on Presidents Day at Oaklawn Park.
The 1 1/16-mile race for horses 4 and up drew a full field of 14, and Coal Front had the outside post with John Velazquez aboard. Bolting out of the gate and darting to the lead, Coal Front and Copper Bullet, from the rail, along with All Out Blitz from post 10 vied for the early lead.
Retreating to second, Coal Front conceded the lead to All Out Blitz while Copper Bullet settled in third. The three held the order through fractions of :22.78 and :46.59 for a half-mile, although Copper Bullet fell back about four lengths and then into fourth after six furlongs went in 1:11.84.
As All Out Blitz was determined to keep his place on the lead, several horses made their move around the turn and Coal Front moved up to press the leader. Eventually All Out Blitz gave way as Coal Front took the lead to complete the distance in 1:43.45.
"He broke sharp and then I was able to give him a little break to get him off somebody," Velazquez said. "It worked out perfect."
"We were a little concerned when we saw the post, but the real key to his success today was getting away cleanly and getting a good position going into the first turn," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He had to go a little quick to get to the first turn, but turning up the backside he relaxed nicely."
The winner returned $4.60, $4, and $3.20 across the board.
Copper Bullet re-rallied to get up for second and paid $5.20 and $4.60, while Rated R Superstar closed to get third, returning $15.40.
"I followed Johnny (Velazquez)," Jose Ortiz said of his ride aboard Copper Bullet. "I thought they were going a little fast early. Down the backside, they were going plenty fast. That horse that pulled out the win is very impressive."
Jockey David Cabrera aboard rated R Superstar said his horse may have finished better, but he may have been intimidated by the close quarters.
"When I turned for home, I thought I was the winner," he said. "I tried to shoot for a hole, and he just kind of got intimidated. If he wouldn't have gotten intimidated, I think we would have gotten it."
Coal Front raced five times as a 2-year-old, winning the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course in his stakes debut and then taking the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing to close his freshman season. As a 3-year-old the son of Stay Thirsty only raced twice, placing fifth in the Nov. 2 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) and then ending the year with a win in the Dec. 22 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The Razorback score was his first victory beyond seven furlongs and brought his total earnings to $777,280 from six wins out of eight lifetime starts.
Bred by Michael Edward Connelly in Kentucky, Coal Front is the forth foal and first graded stakes winner for his dam Miner's Secret (Mineshaft ). Coal Front is a half brother to stakes winner Conquest Titan and was a $575,000 purchase by LaPenta from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Spring 2-year-olds in Training Sale.
Always Shopping Closes to Take Busanda
Repole Stable homebred Always Shopping, under a perfect trip engineered by meet-leading rider Manny Franco, broke her maiden in the $100,000 Busanda Feb. 3 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the bay daughter of Awesome Again , out of the stakes-winning More Than Ready mare Stopshoppingmaria, got the better of rivals Filly Joel and Miss Marilyn, who had kept her a maiden in her last two starts, to score a 1 1/4-length victory as the 2-1 post-time favorite.
With the win in the 1 1/8-mile test for sophomore fillies, Always Shopping picked up 10 points toward a berth in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), slated for May 3 at Churchill Downs. The Busanda was the second race in the Oaks qualifying series at the Big A, following the grade 2 Demoiselle, held Dec. 1, which was won by Positive Spirit.
Filly Joel, with Jose Lezcano in the irons, emerged from a sextet of frontrunning contenders to mark the opening quarter-mile in :23.91, as Miss Marilyn was hung wide through the opening turn.
Always Shopping broke from the inside post, saved ground along the rail from fifth position, and was content to track the leaders through a half-mile in :48.52. Filly Joel continued to dictate terms under close watch from Getting Warmer and Miss Marilyn on the main track labeled fast.
Filly Joel maintained her lead through the final turn, as Franco urged Always Shopping off the rail and began to reel in the leader with every stride. Always Shopping swooped by a determined Filly Joel and secured the win in a final time of 1:52.24.
"We were cautiously optimistic about this spot. We were always looking to stretch her out and get her to race at two turns. She hadn't broke her maiden yet, but she had run well in her last start," said assistant trainer Byron Hughes. "Manny did a great job saving ground and tilted her out down the stretch. She's the grinding type and kind of grinded out the win. At this point we'll see how she comes out of this race and go from there."
Franco, who leads the meet with 51 wins, said the nine-furlong distance suited his filly.
"The distance helped her a lot. Last time (when she was runner-up to Miss Marilyn Dec. 14 at Aqueduct) she went a mile and the speed held up. I liked the distance today for her," Franco said. "The trip worked out great. I just wanted to make sure she came out of there well and get my position before the turn, and that's what she did. After that, she did it nice."
Filly Joel held second, 5 1/2 lengths in front of Afleet Destiny, who closed belatedly to finish third.
Lezcano, who guided Filly Joel to a romping 6 1/4-length maiden win over Always Shopping Oct. 25 at Belmont Park, said his outside post was a factor in the outcome of the race.
"I had a pretty good trip. The first turn kind of hurt me a little bit. I had to use her a bit to get down towards the rail from my post," Lezcano said. "It might have hurt us in the end, but she gave a good effort, and it was a good race. She tried hard the entire way."
Miss Marilyn finished fourth and was followed by Discreet Sister, Lady Banba, Getting Warmer, Floss Dancer, and Destiny Over Fate to complete the order of finish.
World of Trouble, Cherry Lodge Take Off-Turf Sprints
By Jeremy Balan
World of Trouble didn't get his rematch with champion Stormy Liberal when the $150,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes was taken off the grass because of soggy conditions Jan. 26, but he put on an impressive performance nonetheless.
Second choice Recruiting Ready pressed the 4-year-old Kantharos colt for as long as he could but couldn't keep up. World of Trouble didn't break perfectly in the scratch-shortened field of five but still found his way to the front under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., set fractions of :22.18 and :44.37 on the sloppy (sealed) main track, and easily kicked away to win under wraps.
The Jason Servis trainee finished the five furlongs in :56.44, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Recruiting Ready, who came in 3 3/4 lengths clear of Belle Tapisserie in third.
After the race, Servis said World of Trouble presented some difficulties before he got out to the track but found a way to persevere.
"We couldn't get bandages on him behind," Servis said. "I mean, the whole thing coming to the race, I really wasn't thrilled about. And he was just doing OK. So getting it done, man, was gratifying. He ran on no toe grabs. I was happy with the mud, but he's not an easy horse to deal with. We had a hard time getting the bridle on him and the back bandages."
It was the second straight sloppy stakes win for World of Trouble, who races for Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Bethlehem Stables. He took the Dec. 15 FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and prior to that won two turf sprint stakes in New York before missing by a neck to Stormy Liberal in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T). Stormy Liberal was scratched early Saturday along with Oak Bluffs and Pay Any Price when Gulfstream Park management moved the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint off the grass course.
Bred in Florida by Darsan out of the Valid Expectations mare Meets Expectations, World of Trouble is a half brother to Nieve Morena, a grade 3 winner in the Dominican Republic, and to stakes winner Money Or Love. His dam produced a filly by The Big Beast in 2018. World of Trouble, a private purchase by his current connections, now has six wins from 10 starts and $671,400 in earnings.
Also on the Saturday card, Gainesway Stable's Cherry Lodge took an off-turf edition of the $150,000 Ladies' Turf Sprint Stakes in frontrunning fashion. The Todd Pletcher-trained Bernardini mare earned her first stakes win by 1 3/4 lengths when she hit the wire in :57.10 for five furlongs under jockey Jose Ortiz.
"To be honest, I thought our chances improved when it was taken off the turf," Pletcher said. "She'd been training well on dirt. I actually gave some thought about running her in the Hurricane Bertie based on the strength of her last dirt breeze, but it seemed like it was coming up to be such a tough race, we opted to go in here.
"She got away alertly, and the track has been playing well to speed. Our strategy was pretty straightforward: Try to make the lead. She responded gamely."
Backing up in distance also aided Cherry Lodge, who faded to 10th in Gulfstream's $100,000 My Charmer Stakes (G3T) going a mile on turf Dec. 15 in her last start. Early in her career, she was third in the Spinaway Stakes (G1) on dirt at Saratoga Race Course. Her record now stands at 4-1-2 from 10 starts, with earnings of $322,422.
Bred in Kentucky by Mrs. William L. Currin out of the Carson City mare Wilshewed, Cherry Lodge is a half sister to grade 1 winner Stormello and grade 2 winner My Best Brother, and a full sister to grade 3 winner Gala Award. Her dam produced a Medaglia d'Oro filly in 2018. She was a $450,000 purchase by Gainesway from Valkyre Stud's consignment to the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Bellavais Makes the Grade in Marshua's River
Bortolazzo Stable's Bellavais finally added graded stakes winner to her résumé Jan. 12 when she scored a decisive 3 1/2-length win in the Marshua's River Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park.
In just her third start in graded company, 5-year-old Bellavais took full advantage of her position on the rail Saturday, breaking alertly in the field of eight older fillies and mares. Running at an unhurried pace under jockey Javier Castellano, Bellavais settled in fourth as I'm Betty G shot forward for the early lead.
Hustled to the front by Irad Ortiz Jr., I'm Betty G showed the way and set fractions of :24.07, :48.34, and 1:12.04 through six furlongs, followed closely on the outside by La Signare.
With her lead dwindling to a half-length as they entered the stretch, I'm Betty G fought to hold off a late challenge from La Signare at the quarter pole just as Bellavais made her move.
Boxed in briefly with furlongs to run, Bellavais hugged the rail and slipped past her competition in deep stretch, kicked clear of the dueling leaders, and crossed the wire well clear of her rivals. Final time for the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf was 1:41.98.
"I loved the way she was training coming into the race," said the mare's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "She drew the rail, and Javier's plan was to try to save ground and maybe tip out at some point, but a hole opened up and she shot through it like a star."
I'm Betty G held for second, followed by Valedictorian, Bombshell, Hogans Holiday, La Signare, Rose Tree, and Monte Crista to complete the order of finish.
The race gave Castellano a sweep of the two stakes on Saturday's card. The Hall of Fame jockey took the Tropical Turf Stakes (G3T) aboard Doctor Mountyearlier in the day.
"This is why you work hard, to have a day like this. Everything was good today," Castellano said. "Before the race, I thought the horse might be better on the outside, but the hole opened. Those kinds of things you just have to use your best judgment, and it worked out perfect."
It was the third win in four years for both Castellano and Pletcher, who took back-to-back renewals of the race in 2016 and 2017 with Sandiva.
A daughter of Tapit , Bellavais was bred in Kentucky by Phillips Racing Partnership out of the Ghostzapper mare La Cloche. She was purchased for $485,000 by agent Steven Young from the Darby Dan Farm consignment to the 2018 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale.
Bellavais improved her record to 5-2-2 from 14 starts, with earnings of $340,720.
Coal Front Fires in Mr. Prospector Stakes
Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Parners' Coal Frontproved he was back in top form Dec. 22, when he turned in a dominating performance in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
After suffering a condylar fracture to his right front leg in 2017 that required surgery and a layoff of 13 months—the second condylar fracture of his short career—the multiple stakes winner returned to racing in the fall of 2018.
The 4-year-old Stay Thirsty colt's first effort back in the Nov. 2 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrackwas not on par with his prior efforts, and he finished fifth in the six-horse field.
"Last time at Aqueduct, he drew the one hole going a demanding distance in his first start off a layoff," said trainer Todd Pletcher, "He got in a speed duel that day, and the track was very deep and tiring. It's hard to win in those scenarios off that long of a layoff."
Saturday proved to be a much different story.
After a sharp break from the far outside post 11, Coal Front rated well on the outside in third behind early leader Kroy, who led the field through a half-mile in :45.31.
Four wide with a quarter-mile to go, Coal Front advanced steadily and dueled briefly with Kroy in the upper stretch, where the two made brief contact.
Edging past his rival with a final kick, Coal Front straightened out and pulled away to win by 3 3/4 lengths. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:23.16.
"It ended up being perfect out there, with so much speed in the race," said winning jockey John Velazquez. "I let him do his own thing out there, relax well outside horses, and when I asked him he was there for me."
Cutting through the pack to find clear trip on the rail, Storm Advisoryrallied for second and was followed by Heartwoodin third. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to last-out Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes victor Uno Mas Modeloin fourth.
"We've targeted this race since then, and he's trained as well (as) we'd hoped he would have—actually, as well or better than ever—and got the trip we were wanting today," Pletcher said. "To be honest I'd be really disappointed had he not performed well today based on the way he's been training.
"The things he’s been showing us training and the way he ran today and galloped out, I think he’s wanting to stretch out. We’ve got to see if that’s a mile or two turns. We’ve got all kinds of options."
Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly, out of the Mineshaft mare Miner's Secret, LaPenta purchased Coal Front for $575,000 from the consignment of Krikwood Stables to the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sale April Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. He has won five of his seven starts and earned $477,480.
Bal Harbour wins Gio Ponti S.
Two races prior to the Comely, Bal Harbour finished 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Life's a Parlay in the $150,000 Gio Ponti Stakes. With the 1 1/16-mile race moved off the turf and changed to one mile over the main track, the field was scratched down to three starters. Roaming Union finished 4 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up.
"It seems like the freshening and castrating have made a big difference," trainer Todd Pletcher said of his charge, Bal Harbour. "His two starts since then have been very impressive. I thought today's race—even though it was a short field and the track has been pretty slow—for them to run 1:37.21 off of pretty moderate fractions was a strong effort."
Village King Victorious in Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct
In an off-the-turf running of the $200,000 Red Smith Stakes Nov. 17 at Aqueduct Racetrack, Angels of Catalina's Argentina-bred Village King scored his first stakes win on North American soil.
With more than half the field scratched for Saturday's 1 1/8-mile test, Village King was sent off at odds of 9-2. Breaking from post 1 under jockey Javier Castellano, the 4-year-old colt was coaxed from the gate and raced just off the inside rail in third.
Moving up to take early command of the field, Exulting led the pack through a half-mile in :50.49. Racing between second- and third-placed contenders Control Group and Soglio, Village King dropped back to fourth as the field turned for home.
Still running in the two path at the top of the stretch, Village King swung wide to the outside behind Exulting, who still led the pack as they reached the six-furlong mark in 1:15.16. Guided back toward the rail by Castellano, Village King found his opening and kicked home, edging past Control Group and Exulting to take the lead at the eighth pole.
Village King's lead was threatened by a rallying Soglio to his outside. Dueling neck-and-neck to the wire, Village King was declared the winner by a nose in a photo finish. Final time for the race was 1:52.95.
"It was perfect," Castellano said. "In the beginning of the race, I was outside, and I kept tracking the two speed horses up front. I was able to cover up a little bit and save all the ground. On the inside, turning for home, I tried to get out. I cut the corner, saved all the ground, and made the inside move. It was too close to call. I mean, basically it could have gone either way. I think I am very lucky today, very fortunate to win the race."
Soglio took second, followed by Control Group two lengths back in third. Exulting, Red Knight, and Galope Americano completed the field.
"This horse had trained pretty well on the dirt," said trainer Todd Pletcher. Village King was transferred to the barn of the Eclipse award-winning conditioner upon arriving in the U.S. in September.
"He had also run well in South America on the dirt, so we felt it was worth a try," Pletcher continued. "He kept fighting and cut the corner, and we ended up on the right end of a head bob. It kind of gives us a ton of options going forward from here. He seems versatile, and we'll see what's next."
Bred in Argentina by Santa Maria de Araras out of the Pleasant Tap mare Villard, Village King was a grade 1 winner in South America. The son of Campanologist improved his record to 4-0-3 from 8 starts with $358,104 in earnings.
Audible Returns With Facile Victory in Cherokee Run
Audible, not seen under silks since his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), made his return to the races a winning one when he steamed up from mid-pack and drew off easily to win the $200,000 Qatar Cherokee Run Stakes for 3-year-olds Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs to kick off the stakes action on the second day of the Breeders' Cup.
Audible was riding a four-race win streak heading into the first Saturday in May, with wins in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1), before he surged late to finish 2 1/2 lengths behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby. The two colts shared ownership groups, as WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, and Head of Plains Partners own Audible, a son of Into Mischief —Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time, bred in New York by Oak Bluff Stables.
Five horses lined up on the lead when the gates opened for the Cherokee Run, with Super Sol, Principe Guilherme, and Dak Attack trading punches through a brisk opening quarter-mile in :22.75 in the seven-furlong contest. Jockey Javier Castellano had Audible reserved in mid-pack early, as Principe Guilherme and Dak Attack continued to slug it out through a half-mile in :45.69.
Castellano steered Audible wide on the turn, and once the Todd Pletcher trainee hit his stride, the outcome wasn't in doubt. Audible blew past the field to hit the wire in 1:22.46, two lengths to the good of Honorable Treasure. Principe Guilherme checked in third and Cowboy Creed was along for fourth.
Audible came out of the Kentucky Derby with minor issues and was given time to get back on track. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) in late January is a target for the colt, who has won five of seven races and $1.2 million.
As the heavy favorite, Audible returned $4.60, 4, and $3.20. Honorable Treasure paid $15.20 and $9.80, with Principe Guilherme good for $11.20 to show.
Bulletin Makes the Call in Juvenile Turf Sprint
Breaking like a shot from post 5, WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing's Bulletin made every call a winning one Nov. 2 in the inaugural $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. The son of City Zip traveled the 5 1/2 furlongs over a yielding turf course in 1:05.54.
Hat Creek Racing's Chelsea Cloisters, who hounded the winner for the lead, finished second, with So Perfect third. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Bulletin pulled away in the lane to win by 2 3/4 lengths in his second start.
A bit stubborn to load, Bulletin was quick from the gate under Javier Castellano and established an open-length lead from the bell. The first quarter went in :23.19 as the leader was chased by the filly Chelsea Cloisters and Strike Silver. The runner-up advanced on the leader after a half-mile in :46.89, but Bulletin was able to spurt clear after five furlongs in :59.01.
"I love this Juvenile Turf (Sprint)! I love it," WinStar president Elliott Walden said after the race.
"He broke really well and was sharp," Pletcher said. "He took it to them the whole way. It was a big race. We wanted to leave there running. He finished up nicely; nothing like winning one."
"He broke like a shot and put me in a real great position," Castellano said. "We were in good shape the whole way. I'm very impressed. He was very professional."
Bred in Kentucky by CresRan, Bulletin is out of the grade 3-winning Woodman mare Sue's Good News. The winner is a half brother to grade 1 winner Tiz Miz Sue. Maverick Racing (WinStar) and China Horse Club paid $250,000 for Bulletin at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale from Paramount Sales, agent.
The colt made his debut Sept. 29 at Gulfstream Park, where he rolled through the five-furlong Hollywood Beach Stakes, scoring by seven lengths in :56.95.
"Todd felt like the horse needed to go Florida," Walden said. "The horse put on a show down there. Since then, he's trained exceptional. To win by daylight twice is special."
It was WinStar's fourth Breeders' Cup win.
The winner paid $10.60, $6.20, and $4.40. Chelsea Cloisters returned $19.80 and $10.60, and So Perfect paid $5.80.
"The trip worked out perfectly," said Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard the runner-up. "She broke sharply and put herself where she needed to be. I thought we had the horse in front of us, but when Javier (Castellano) got into (Bulletin), he had something left. My filly ran huge."
"What are you going to do? We got beat by the king," said Wesley Ward, trainer of Chelsea Cloisters. "We ran second for my great friend Gatewood Bell, so that is fantastic. We knew going in that the turf would be really, really soft, and it was, but there is nothing you can do about that."
Twenty-eight juveniles were pre-entered for the Juvenile Turf Sprint, with 12 making the cut at the time of entry (along with four also-eligibles). Shang Shang Shang, the morning-line third choice, was scratched, allowing Big Drink of Water, who ran fifth, into the field.
Current Stamps Breeders' Cup Ticket With Bourbon Win
Making his stakes debut, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta's Current won a three-way photo finish to take the $250,000 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (G3T) Oct. 7 at Keeneland and stamped his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T).
War of Will, installed as the 7-5 favorite after finishing second in the Summer Stakes (G1T) at Woodbine, took the early lead, posting moderate times of :23.59 and :48.82 for the first half-mile while tracked by Ice City Ghost.
War of Will continued to dominate rounding the second turn in the 1 1/16-mile turf test and was racing well down the lane before first being overtaken by Henley's Joy and then Current, who unleashed a quick turn of foot under Jose Ortiz, aboard for the first time. As War of Will faded along the inside, Current won by a scant nose over Henley's Joy, with another late closer, Salvator Mundi, another nose back in third.
Stopping the timer in 1:45.10 over the firm course, Current paid $11.80 for the win, with Henley's Joy returning $4.80 for place and Salvator Mundi paying $14.60 for third.
The victory was the second in three starts for Current, a son of Curlin who finished third at Saratoga Race Course in his debut and then broke his maiden at Belmont Park for trainer Todd Pletcher. Bred in Kentucky by Hinkle Farms, the colt produced from the Storm Cat mare Crosswinds was purchased by Whitehorse Stables & Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners for $725,000 from Hinkle Farms at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
"He's been training very professionally," said Pletcher's assistant, Ginny DePasquale. "We've really thought a lot of this horse. Todd thought he had a good future, so he sent him here and, of course, he was right. We're really happy about today."
"When we straightened for home, I felt like he started running," Ortiz said. "I put him in the clear, but when I hit him left-handed, he drifted out in the two or three path. But he was running. Inside the eighth pole to the wire, I was hoping I'd get there. It was so close, I didn't know if I had it. He broke OK. He was very relaxed the whole time, and that's the point—get your horse to relax. He kicked home very well."
"I had a good trip, sat inside, waited for a spot, and asked him in the stretch," said Tyler Gaffalione, rider of runner-up Henley's Joy. "He finished up strong. He just didn't get the bob (at the wire). I had a lot of confidence when we hit the wire. I was a little worried because (Current) was running strong late. When we galloped out, he ran by us pretty quickly, but I was just hoping we got to the wire quick enough."
Army Mule Retired to Hill 'n' Dale
Undefeated grade 1 winner Army Mule, who raced in the colors of St. Elias Stable, has been retired from racing and will stand stud duty at Hill 'n' Dale Farms for 2019, the farm announced Oct. 6. The horse will stand for a $10,000 fee.
An $825,000 2-year-old purchase, the son of Friesan Fire broke his maiden impressively for Todd Pletcher at Belmont Park, where he demolished the field by 8 1/2 lengths. Sent off as the clear favorite in his next start at Gulfstream Park, Army Mule reaffirmed his talent with a 7 1/2-length romp in 1:08.87, which was :0.75 off the track record established by Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Big Drama.
His crowning achievement came at Aqueduct Racetrack in his stakes debut, the Carter Handicap (G1), where he drew off and stopped the clock for seven furlongs in 1:20.94. The race established him as the leader of his division and earned him a 114 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest up to a mile in 2018.
"From the moment I watched the video of his work at the Timonium sale, I was determined to have Army Mule in our stable," said St. Elias owner Vinnie Viola. "His performance on the track, culminating in a dominating win in the Carter Handicap with his 114 Beyer, confirmed our decision to bid aggressively for him. Army Mule retires as an undefeated grade 1 winner. Our confidence in him was rewarded, and with his racing performance and beautiful physical, we look forward to Army Mule going on to a great stud career at Hill 'n' Dale, where we are excited to support him."
"Army Mule was a special talent," Pletcher said. "He was a pleasure to train, with a terrific disposition and gorgeous conformation. He had a high cruising speed that allowed him to win a grade 1 sprint, but I also believe he could have carried it over a route of ground had he been given the opportunity."
"Army Mule won his first three starts by more than 22 lengths," said John Sikura, president of Hill 'n' Dale Farms. "His facile win in the Carter in near-track-record time left no doubt he was a generational talent. When breeders see the horse in person, they will be overwhelmed by his presence and understand why he was the talk of the Maryland 2-year-old sale, making $825.000. Undefeated, brilliant and beautiful, the same qualities we saw in Candy Ride and Maclean's Music . Breeders will love him."
Army Mule was bred in Pennsylvania by Hope Hill Farm out of the Crafty Prospector mare Crafty Toast and was a $35,000 purchase by Scanlon Training & Sales from Bill Reightler's consignment to Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale in 2015. He was pinhooked by Scanlon to the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, where Crupi's New Castle Farm signed the ticket.
Tapwrit Entering Stud at Gainesway
Classic winner and and millionaire Tapwrit has been retired from racing and will enter stud at Gainesway for a $12,500 stud fee in 2019, the farm announced Oct. 1.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray son of three-time leading sire Tapit captured Gulfstream Park's one-mile Pulpit Stakes as a 2-year-old. At 3, he set a new stakes record in the 1 1/16-mile Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), winning by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:42.36. He then followed a troubled sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) with a two-length score in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1). Tapwrit's 103 Beyer Speed Figure is the second-highest figure for a Belmont winner in the last decade, behind only American Pharoah 's 105.
"Tapwrit always showed a great deal of ability, but in the Belmont Stakes he demonstrated the class and competitiveness you need to win a classic race," Pletcher said. "With his outstanding physical and pedigree, Tapwrit certainly has the credentials to be a top sire."
Tapwrit was a $1.2 million yearling purchase by Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert V. LaPenta from Denali Stud's consignment to the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale. He is out of Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner and multiple graded-stakes producer Appealing Zophie, who is also the dam of 2018 Del Mar Derby (G2) winner Ride a Comet.
Eclipse president Aron Wellman said: "Tapwrit gave our partners one of the greatest highs a racehorse owner can have when he won the Belmont Stakes. Tapwrit remains the most expensive yearling Eclipse has ever acquired and formed a partnership for—a strong, well-made, beautiful yearling by champion sire Tapit out of a grade 1-winning 2-year-old. He rewarded our confidence in him, and I look forward to him rewarding breeders in his new career at stud."
Tapwrit is available for inspection at Gainesway from 1-2 p.m. daily.
"We are excited to be standing a classic-winning son of Tapit," said Gainesway president Antony Beck. "Physically, Tapwrit is as impressive of a stallion as you will find. He's going to have beautiful yearlings and make a tremendous sire."
Channel Cat cruises in Bald Eagle Derby
Channel Cat is hickory. Just 17 days after he won the $400,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs over 1 5/16 miles, he won the $150,000 Bald Eagle Derby over 1 1/2 miles on Saturday at Laurel Park. And he won it easily.
Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Feargal Lynch guided Channel Cat to a 5 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Bald Eagle Derby.
Channel Cat, Feargal Lynch riding for Todd Pletcher and Calumet Farm, collared pace-setting Neepawa on the far turn and put him away in a matter of strides. He opened a clear lead and widened it to the finish, winning by 5 3/4 lengths over late-running Admission Office. Nakamura finished third, and claims of foul by the jockey of fourth-place Neepawa against the top two finishers both were quickly dismissed by Laurel stewards.
Todd Pletcher trains Channel Cat for his breeder, Brad Kelly’s Calumet Farm, and Channel Cat – by English Channel out of Carnival Kitten, by Kitten’s Joy – has thrived since Pletcher stretched him to longer distances the second part of this season. Channel Cat was a solid fourth going 10 furlongs in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, second to the good older horse Focus Group in an 11-furlong allowance race, and winner last out at Kentucky Downs before comfortably staying 12 furlongs in his first try Saturday.
Neepawa went out to set splits of 25.85 seconds, 51.33, and 1:17.23 which, on a standard course, would be slow, but Laurel’s turf Saturday, called yielding, was radically tiring, and not just by American standards.
“The only place I’ve ridden this soft is Sligo on the west coast of Ireland, which is a bog when it’s wet,” said Lynch, who has plied his trade globally.
Channel Cat didn’t mind it and was only galloping along while tracking the pacesetter.
“He was a bit off the bridle, but he was asleep,” said Lynch. “He wasn’t using up much energy. It was only when I set him alight at the three-eighths pole that he started running."
And Channel Cat has yet to run a distance over which he stops running. He was timed in 2:40.07, a relatively meaningless clocking under conditions this extreme, and paid $6.20 to win.
Channel Cat proves best in Dueling Grounds Derby
FRANKLIN, Ky. – Channel Cat turned back a sustained stretch bid from Cullum Road when posting a hard-fought victory Wednesday in the $398,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.
Luis Saez was in from New York to ride Channel Cat, a Calumet Farm homebred trained by Todd Pletcher. The colt was always close to the pace in the 1 5/16-mile race, forging to the front for the long stretch run before prevailing under strong urging.
“I was going to ride him a different way, like covered up,” said Saez. “But he broke so sharp, and he was right there in the clear, and he was pulling all the way, I just said, ‘I’ll take it,’ even though I was trying to get him settled as much as I can.”
After Channel Cat struck the front near the quarter pole, Cullum Road, a 19-1 shot under Tyler Gaffalione, loomed boldly to his outside – but Channel Cat held sway to win by a head.
“He is really a fighter,” said Saez.
Channel Cat, by English Channel, returned $7 as second choice after finishing in 2:15.51 over a turf course rated good. Captivating Moon was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third, with Bandua, the 9-5 favorite, finishing fourth in a field of 10 3-year-olds.
The stakes victory was the first for Channel Cat, whose two wins from 10 prior starts had come in a maiden and first-level allowance race. Two starts back, the colt had been a respectable fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.
Pletcher, who watched the Dueling Grounds Derby from the Keeneland Yearling Sales in Lexington, was the leading trainer here in 2009 with a 5-for-8 record but was represented by only four starters from 2010 through 2017. Channel Cat was his fourth starter of the 2018 meet.
The Dueling Grounds Derby and its sister race, the Dueling Grounds Oaks, anchored a 10-race Wednesday card that was held over from Sunday, when racing was canceled because of heavy rain.
La Fuerza Ships to Finger Lakes, Takes Aspirant Stakes
Barry Schwartz's La Fuerza shipped in to Finger Lakes Sept. 8 and impressively won the $112,850 Aspirant Stakes to score his second stakes victory in the fourth start of his career.
The Flatter colt trained by Todd Pletcher went off at 1-4 in the field of seven for the six-furlong sprint for New York-bred colts and geldings, but didn't look like such a sure shot in the turn.
After a break from the rail under jockey Christopher DeCarlo, La Fuerza was a half-length in front through a first quarter in :22.69, but second choice Kadens Courage made an early move to take command in the turn and opened up a 1 1/2-length lead through a half-mile in :46.68. Patiently handled by DeCarlo, La Fuerza remained on the rail in the turn, angled out in the stretch, and easily went by Kadens Courage. He finished off the six furlongs in 1:12.97 in a three-length victory.
Bred by Stonewall Farm, out of the Proud Citizen mare Jonata, La Fuerza won his debut June 22 at Belmont Park, then took his second start, the Rockville Centre Stakes, July 14 at Belmont. Prior to his first start at Finger Lakes, La Fuerza finished fifth in the Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. He now has $172,910 in earnings.
A race later at Finger Lakes, Sassy Agnes edged Ma Meatloaf by three-quarters of a length to take the $112,388 Lady Finger Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies. She covered the six furlongs in 1:12.94. Sassy Agnes is the first black-type stakes winner for her sire, Central Banker , who stands at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in New York.
Always Dreaming Retired to WinStar Farm
Always Dreaming, winner of the 2017 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1), has been retired from racing and will join the stallion ranks at WinStar Farm, it was announced Sept. 5.
A son of Bodemeister , Always Dreaming was campaigned for most of his career by Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stables, MEB Racing Stables, Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds. WinStar Farm, SF Bloodstock, and China Horse Club joined the ownership group for the dark bay colt's 4-year-old season and stallion career.
"He was brilliantly fast, and he has everything you want in a stallion—looks, pedigree, and performance," said Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm. "We dream about the Kentucky Derby every day, but the race I really liked was the Florida Derby. When I saw the teletimer, I was amazed. We are excited to add a potentially breed-shaping stallion from the Unbridled line, which has proven to be today's preeminent classic sire line."
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Always Dreaming broke his maiden by an eye-catching 11 1/2 lengths in January of his 3-year-old season and rattled off four consecutive victories, culminating with his triumph in the Kentucky Derby. He captured the Florida Derby by five lengths in his stakes debut, finishing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.47—the fastest since Alydar in 1978.
That Florida Derby performance made Always Dreaming the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, which he won by 2 3/4 lengths, the largest margin of victory in the Run for the Roses in the last half dozen years.
"He was one of the most athletic horses I have ever trained," Pletcher said. "He has a terrific bounce to him. I compare him to a panther—a fluid mover."
"When we think about investing in a stallion, I want them to be athletic, fast, and out of a top mare," said Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock. "Always Dreaming has it all."
Bred in Kentucky by Gerry Dilger and Mike Ryan's Santa Rosa Partners, Always Dreaming was a $350,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale Book 1 purchase from the first crop of Bodemeister. He is out of grade 3-winning, grade 1-placed, and multiple grade 1-producing Above Perfection and is a half brother to grade 1-winning juvenile Hot Dixie Chick.
Always Dreaming concluded his racing career with a record of 4-2-2 from 11 starts and earnings of $2,415,860. He went winless in five starts after his Kentucky Derby victory. He has taken up residence at WinStar, where he will begin his new career as a stallion in 2019 for a stud fee of $25,000.
Opry is Grand in Winning With Anticipation Stakes
Todd Pletcher-trained colt rallied from last to break his maiden in graded company.
· By BloodHorse Staff
Opry rallied from last in the stretch before closing strong from the outside in the final furlong for an impressive maiden-breaking effort Aug. 29 in the $150,000 With Anticipation Stakes (G3T) for juveniles at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Gaillardia Racing and Cheyenne Stables, Opry broke last in a six-horse field as Joyful Heart went to the front on the Mellon turf course labeled firm, going an opening quarter-mile in :23.29 and the half in :47.91.
Under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, Opry stayed behind the pack along the backstretch, falling nearly six lengths behind the pacesetter, before gaining ground close to the far turn. Near the eighth pole, Castellano set down Opry, who surged from the far outside to overtake the entire field, outkicking even-money favorite Somelikeithotbrownby 1 1/2 lengths, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.00.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said the Declaration of War colt who ran third in his Aug. 11 debut at the Spa—a seven-furlong race moved off the turf—didn't break well but still was impressive running on turf for the first time.
"I thought he'd break a little better than he did his first time out with that experience, but he clearly didn't. Talking to Javier after, he said even though he was pretty far back, he felt like he had a lot of horse and he was finding a good rhythm, so he felt very confident down the backside," Pletcher said. "The plan was to run him on the dirt when we initially entered him, and he drew the also-eligible. That race came off the turf, and we decided not to run even though we could've drawn in.
"We entered him back, and the race came off the turf again, and so I figured he trained well enough on the dirt that we needed to get him started," he added. "He ran a respectable race that day, and I'd been impressed enough with his turf works to think it wasn't crazy to enter here. For now, we'll look to stay on the turf and see what he does."
Off at 7-2, Opry paid $9.80 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career earnings to $92,700.
"He broke a bit slow out of the gate, but he didn't panic," Castellano said. "This was his second start and first time on the grass. I wanted to let him figure it out by himself a little, and this is a nice horse. Todd told me in the paddock that he really liked this horse and the way he's worked on the grass. … I really liked the way he finished. He came on really strong and was impressive. After the wire, he continued to gallop out past the field. I think this is a horse to look out for in the future on the grass."
Somelikeithotbrown, a New York-bred trained by Mike Maker, bested Joyful Heart by 2 1/4 lengths for second in his stakes debut.
Sombeyay Gives Pletcher Seventh Sanford Triumph
For all of its giant-killer reputation, there are certain ingredients that, when mixed together at Saratoga Race Course, more often than not produce a reliable result. The combination of a Todd Pletcher-trained juvenile showing up in the entry box for the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (G3) is one pundits can pretty much take to the bank.
The seven-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner celebrated his seventh triumph in the Sanford Stakes July 21 when Starlight Racing's Sombeyaycaught Strike Silver at the wire to prevail by a neck in the six-furlong test.
Pletcher has been regularly using the Sanford as one of his favorite launching pads for young talent since he saddled More Than Ready to victory in 1999. Though the field of seven who went to post Saturday was fairly wide-open on paper, 5-2 favorite Sombeyay made sure the dominant barn kept its reign going.
Where the son of Into Mischief just missed getting up in the June 8 Tremont Stakes, his closing kick was timed to perfection by jockey Javier Castellano in the Sanford. As Bano Solo was pushed by Strike Silver through fractions of :22.26 and :45.49, Sombeyay raced along on the inside in third, with Lexitonian to his outside.
When Bano Solo started to weaken in the stretch, Strike Silver took over and, for a few strides, looked home free to the wire. Sombeyay had tipped out by that time and steadily chipped away at that rival's advantage en route to earning his second win from three starts in a final time of 1:10.35 over a fast track.
"He's not a particularly impressive work horse in the mornings. He's always run better than he breezes," Pletcher said. "I'm perfectly happy with that as long as he's happy and healthy and continues to perform in the afternoons. But he's not one that would blow you away in the mornings. I think in these early 2-year-old races, experience is huge. Having two starts compared to others with only one, I think that helped today."
Sombeyay got some early foundation this spring when he broke his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths at first asking at Gulfstream Park April 27. His runner-up effort in the Tremont was impressive in its own right as he stumbled at the start and was next to last but rallied to fall just three-quarters of a length short of Our Braintrust.
"Today, I didn't want to be too far back," Castellano said of his mount. "It worked out the way we wanted today. When I asked, he took off. I loved the way he finished. He's a good come-from-behind horse. It was very satisfying."
Strike Silver was 3 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Whiskey Echo, with Bano Solo fourth. Knicks Go, Lexitonian, and Chase Greatnesscompleted the order.
Bred in Kentucky by J. D. Stuart and Mueller Farms, Sombeyay is out of the stakes-placed Limehouse mare Teroda and was purchased by Starlight for $230,000 out of Taylor Made Sales Agency's consignment to the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Taylor Made Bloodstock Investments pinhooked the colt as a weanling from the 2016 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, where he was consigned by Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services.
"I think the (grade 1, $350,000) Hopeful Stakes (Sept. 3) would be the next logical step with three starts under his belt if he was tearing the barn down," Pletcher said.
La Fuerza cruises to Rockville Centre victory
ELMONT, N.Y. – As good as he looked on paper entering Saturday’s $100,000 Rockville Centre Stakes, La Fuerza looked even better winning the race for New York-breds as the 2-5 favorite at Belmont Park.
Manny Franco piloted La Fuerza to a 4 1/2-length win in Saturday's Rockville Centre Stakes at Belmont.
Shuffled back to last approaching the top of the stretch in the five-horse field, Manny Franco tipped La Fuerza four paths wide at the top of the lane and without being hit, La Fuerza glided to a 4 1/2-length victory over Bustin Mach Four. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Red Zinger in third. Hushion and What the Luck completed the order of finish.
There were two foul claims in the race. Dylan Davis, who had to steady second-choice What the Luck at the quarter pole, claimed foul against Bustin Mach Four for interference. Mike Luzzi, the rider of fourth-place finisher Hushion, claimed foul against Joel Rosario and third-place finisher Red Zinger. Both foul claims were dismissed.
La Fuerza, named for a wine made at the Jonata Winery in Southern California – Jonata is the dam of La Fuerza – is now 2 for 2. In his debut, La Fuerza overcame a bad start and made an eye-catching middle move to win by 7 3/4 lengths.
Saturday, Franco was attempting to save ground on La Fuerza while sitting just behind a modest pace set by Hushion and pressed by Bustin Mach Four. When Red Zinger made a four-wide move to the leaders around the turn, Franco let him go by before swinging to the outside.
“Joel was in my sights, I knew he was going to move to try and keep me in there, so I say 'Let me grab my horse now and take him to the outside,'” Franco said. “I got shuffled a little bit, but I knew I had horse.”
La Fuerza, a son of Flatter owned by Barry Schwartz and trained by Todd Pletcher, covered the six furlongs in 1:12.27 and returned $2.90.
Schwartz said La Fuerza would likely get a chance against open company in a race like the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special on Aug. 12.
“I don’t breed these horses for New York-bred races,” Schwartz said. “He’s out of a Kentucky mare by a Kentucky stallion, why do you have to think New York-bred?”
Prince Lucky Scores in Easy Goer Blanket Finish
By Lenny Shulman
Prince Lucky, coming off a decisive defeat to Ax Man in the LARC Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Stakes (G1) day at Pimlico Race Course, opened up the stakes action on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 9 at Belmont Park with a late-charging victory in the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes. Last year's Easy Goer winner, West Coast, went on to be voted champion 3-year-old male of 2017.
Prince Lucky was reserved early in mid-pack in the Easy Goer as Lunar Beauty spurted to an early lead pursued by Dark Vader. After an opening quarter in :23.27, Lunar Beauty maintained his advantage and passed the half-mile mark in :46.26. Off the turn,Rugbyman grabbed the lead with Prince Lucky and Dark Vader in close attendance. Four runners briefly lined up across the track and Prince Lucky, in between horses, prevailed by a neck over Rugbyman in 1:41.41 for the 1 1/16 miles. Dark Vader was a nose farther back in third, with favored Mask checking in fourth.
"He had a very good work last week and we decided he was in sharp form and that we would take a shot," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "We castrated him after his first start for us (the grade 3 Sunland Derby March 25) and I think that started to turn around his behavior. He was exemplary in the paddock and post parade and I think it has allowed him to get his mind completely on his business."
Prince Lucky is a gelded son of Corinthian--Lucky Notion, by Great Notion , bred in Pennsylvania by Daniel McConnell, who also campaigns Prince Lucky. Prince Lucky took the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes late last year but finished well back in both the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and Sunland Park Derby before hitting the board in the Sir Barton behind the brilliant performance by Ax Man. John Velazquez provided the winning ride in the Easy Goer.
Prince Lucky returned $30.00, $11.80, and $6.60 to his backers. Rugbyman was good for $5.30 and $3.60, while Dark Vader paid $3.80 to show.
Prince Lucky has won half of his eight lifetime starts and has earned just north of $230,000.
Gidu punches ticket to Commonwealth Stakes
Gidu returned $2.90 as the 2-5 favorite in the Paradise Creek at Belmont on Saturday.
In a race that likely earned him a trip to England and the Group 1 Commonwealth Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in June, Gidu held off a late run from Curlin’s Honor to win Saturday’s $100,000 Paradise Creek Stakes by a neck at Belmont Park.
It was one length back to Masked in third. Ambassador Jim and Black Stetson completed the order of finish in the compact five-horse field.
For Gidu, it was his third win from five starts with two runner-up performances. Prior to the race, trainer Todd Pletcher said he and owner Ahmed Zayat said a good performance Saturday would earn Gidu a trip to the Commonwealth, a six-furlong race that is run on a straight course on June 22.
“Coming into this we were thinking about going to Ascot if this went well, and it went well enough to continue to consider that,” Pletcher said.
Gidu, a son of the magnificent Great Britain-bred Frankel, had not run in 11 weeks, or since taking the Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10.
Velazquez was expecting to sit third behind Masked and Black Stetson, but only Masked went for the lead. Velazquez hustled Gidu to be second and stalked Masked through a half-mile in 22.05 seconds and a half-mile in 44.31.
Gidu had to work to get by Masked, which he did at the sixteenth pole, but then Curlin’s Honor, under Javier Castellano, was coming. Gidu held him at bay for the victory.
Gidu covered the seven furlongs in 1:20.44 over firm turf and returned $2.90 as the 2-5 favorite and getting an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.
Bottom of Form
“He hadn’t run since Tampa, so he was a little more keen than I wanted him to be, but he put up a good fight,” Velazquez said. “Nice horse, he just needs to relax a little bit.”
Added Pletcher: “He kept finding a little more. I thought it was a good race considering he hadn’t run in a while.”
Hi Happy Breaks Through in Man o' War Stakes
They always knew he had it in him.
La Providencia's homebred Argentinian Triple Crown winner Hi Happy, a four-time group 1 winner and 2015 Horse of the Year in his native country, first raced in the United States in November of 2016 and was never started outside graded company.
Eighteen months later, he continued his steady improvement for trainer Todd Pletcher, notching his first top-level North American win when he held off fellow grade 1 winner Sadler's Joy May 12 to take the $700,000 Man o' War Stakes (G1T) at Belmont Park.
Off a 2 3/4-length victory in the March 31 Pan American Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park, the 6-year-old Pure Prize runner tracked One Go All Go through most of the 1 3/8-mile test on the inner turf, as that rival set opening fractions of :23.95, :49.50, and 1:15.15.
Angled out into the stretch by Luis Saez, Hi Happy chipped away at One Go All Go's lead as Sadler's Joy, last through the early going, put in a late run in the middle of the track. Hi Happy ran down the pacesetter in deep stretch, then stayed clear of Sadler's Joy to win by a half-length in a final time of 2:14.79 on good turf.
"It was just a perfect trip, exactly what we were hoping for," Pletcher said. "He delivered a big performance. We're very proud of him."
Hi Happy won six straight races in his native country, topped by the 2015 Carlos Pellegrini (G1) over older horses. But after he was sent to the West Coast, he failed to win in four starts in graded company for trainer Felipe Souza, including a fourth on dirt in the 2017 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1). He was away from the races from April of 2017 until Feb. 10, when he made his first start for Pletcher and finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1T). He has since rattled off two in a row in similar fashion, both times tracking One Go All Go before making his winning move.
"He was perfect. He broke pretty good, pretty clean, sharp," Saez said. "He was right there in the perfect position. We had a feeling we would be right there, but everything came so well. When we came to the three-eighths, he was ready to run. I felt the other horses coming, but he never gave up. He was always trying, so I just kept going with him and he finished very strongly."
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite in an eight-horse field, Hi Happy returned $5.90 on a $2 win wager. One Go All Go held for third, a half-length behind Sadler's Joy. Call Provision, Catcho En Die, Postulation, Bigger Picture, and Wake Forest completed the order of finish. Money Multiplier and Scholar Athlete were scratched.
Hi Happy achieved millionaire status with the win, pushing his record to eight wins and two thirds from 13 starts for earnings of $1,092,961. Pletcher said the $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (G1T) June 9 at Belmont is a possible next target, which would set up a rematch with the Tom Albertrani-trained Sadler's Joy.
"He ran well," Albertrani said of the runner-up. "He finished strong, and he had a good trip. Nothing to be ashamed of. The horse comes running every time, just a matter of getting in front by a half or losing by half. We're still looking forward to running in the Manhattan."
Patch Victorious in 4-Year-Old Debut
Off the fourth in the Aug. 5 West Virginia Derby (G3) that capped his sophomore year, one-eyed fan favorite Patch returned to racing May 12 with a Belmont Park allowance win.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Union Rags colt broke from post 2 in a field of nine and raced midpack, seven lengths behind early leader Mr. Buff, who set fractions of :23.48, :46.91, and 1:11.10 through six furlongs. Angling out seven wide in the stretch as he rounded the turn, Patch dug in and drove to the wire to win the 1 1/16-mile event by a neck in a final time of 1:42.61.
Patch captured the hearts of racing fans last year with his runner-up finish in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) and a start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), where he finished 14th before going on to run third in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
"He's never funny about his off side," Pletcher said. "He's very confident about himself and very self-assured."
The Calumet Farm homebred out of the winning A.P. Indy mare Windyindy lost his left eye because of an ulcer as a 2-year-old. He has a 2-2-1 record in seven starts, with earnings of $471,520.
"If every horse had his heart, it'd be a lot easier," said winning rider John Velazquez. "He tries hard. He gives you every bit he can. ... He keeps finding more and more."
Maraud Prevails in American Turf With Late Move
Maraud made a strong move down the middle of the Churchill Downs turf course rated yielding to capture the $300,000 American Turf Stakes presented by Ram Trucks (G2T) for 3-year-olds under the Twin Spires May 5.
The son of champion Blame out of the Empire Maker mare Unbridled Empire won his second graded event after winning the Palm Beach Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park in March. He was fifth in the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania Stakes (G3T) in his most recent start before the American Turf.
The bay colt is owned by Treadway Racing Stable and was bred in Kentucky by John and Frank Penn. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden to victory by John Velazquez.
Speed Franco was fastest into stride from the inside gate but was hounded every step of the way by Inscom from the 2 post. They passed the opening quarter mile in :23.79 and went the first half in :48.39 pursued by Admiralty Pier. There was no change in the order up the backstretch. Favorite River Boyne made a move coming off the second turn as Speed Franco cut the corner and briefly opened up turning for home.
But the scene changed down the lane as Maraud, Untamed Domain, and Captivating Moon stormed down the center of the course, while Arawak was making a big move at the hedge. Arawak ultimately did not get cleanly through on the inside, however, and Maraud prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:47.52 for the 1 1/16 miles. Captivating Moon and Untamed Domain dead-heated for the place spot, with Arawak checking in fourth.
"I didn't think my horse liked the soft turf, so I took him back and made one run with him," said Velazquez. "He showed me something and came through for me."
Maraud returned $18.80, $8.40, and $6.20. Captivating Moon was good for $5.40 and $6.40, while Untamed Domain paid $4.60 and $5.80.
"I thought Johnny (Velazquez) gave him a clever ride," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "We were concerned about the weather today, and I'm glad we decided to take a shot."
With four wins in seven lifetime starts, all on turf, Maraud nearly doubled his lifetime earnings in the American Turf to $337,770. He has won three of four starts this season.
Magnum Moon Stays Perfect With Arkansas Derby Win
Magnum Moon Stays Perfect With Arkansas Derby Win
Son of Malibu Moon is unbeaten in four starts.
· By Alicia Wincze Hughes
There are clearly lessons Magnum Moon still needs to learn, as evidenced by the fact that as he reached the Oaklawn Park stretch April 14, both his focus and his stride started to wander.
That the son of Malibu Moon looked every bit like the novice he is while never once appearing to be in danger of losing, however, was the most noteworthy part of the Todd Pletcher trainee's performance.
Magnum Moon, b, 3/c
Malibu Moon — Dazzling Song, by Unbridled's Song
Owner: Robert E. & Lawana L. Low
Breeder: Ramona S. Bass, LLC (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Luis Saez
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
Malibu Moon stands at Spendthrift Farm for $75,000 (2018).
KEESEP2016 • $380,000 • Consignor: Claiborne Farm, agent • Buyer: Robert E. & Lawana L. Low.
In a barn bursting with top contenders for the first leg of the Triple Crown, it is the colt who didn't even start his career until January who has accumulated the most qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). Despite facing pressure from Quipon the front end and then drifting out several paths in the lane, Robert and Lawana Low's Magnum Moon proved much the best with a gate-to-wire, four-length victory in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
After picking up the 100 qualifying points bestowed to the winner of Saturday's 1 1/8-mile test, Magnum Moon now sits atop the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 150. Considering how green he was still acting in the stretch, you could argue that if the bay colt gets his mind right by May 5, he could the top dog in a Pletcher armada that includes Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) winner Audible, Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2) hero Vino Rosso, and Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) victor Noble Indy.
"I thought (his race) was very good," said Pletcher, whose charges occupy four of the top five positions on the points standings. "Very pleased with the outcome. (I was) a little concerned that he drifted out the last part, but it looked like he sort of halfway thought about jumping over the tire marks when he went by the eighth pole where the gate was and sort of skipped over those.
"I think he was maybe just drifting away from that. Aside from that, I thought he finished with good energy and was pulling away from some nice horses."
Unraced as a juvenile, Magnum Moon began his assault on the so-called 'Curse of Apollo'—no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without a start as a 2-year-old—when he broke his maiden at first asking at Gulfstream Park Jan. 13. Following an allowance optional-claiming win at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 15, Magnum Moon let it be known he was a legit contender in a 3-year-old class packed with talent when he captured the March 17 Rebel Stakes (G2) by 3 1/2 lengths over grade 1-placed Solomini.
Even with Solomini back in for the Arkansas Derby and graded stakes winner Quip shipping in for his first try in a top-level test, Magnum Moon was sent off as the clear 4-5 favorite in the nine-horse field Saturday. Jockey Luis Saez said it wasn't necessarily the plan to go to the lead, but his mount took him there when he broke sharply out of post 6 and outran Quip for the advantage going into the first turn.
"I thought there was going to be a little speed," Saez said. "We were in a good position. He broke really sharp. I'm not going to choke him. I am just going to stay there, and he was very comfortable into the turn. He was traveling pretty good. When I came to the stretch, I felt like he was looking at the gate marks, so when we got there, I touched him a little and he went on."
Quip stayed right off Magnum Moon's neck through fractions of :23.34 and :48.60, and he was about on even terms with the pacesetter as they rounded the far turn. Combatant and Solomini tried to join the fight with three- and four-wide moves, respectively, but Magnum Moon made all those challenges futile as he reached the stretch.
"He had me worried to death when I saw we were on the lead. But Luis (Saez) gave him a masterful ride," Robert Low said.
Added Pletcher, "He showed his versatility. He's won a number of different ways now, and I think he's proven that he's the kind of horse that doesn't need the race to unfold a certain way, that he's able to kind of make his own race."
Magnum Moon covered the distance in 1:49.86 over a track rated fast, with Quip holding on for place money. Solomini, who needed a top-three finish to secure enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field, got his head down over Combatant for third despite not switching leads in the stretch.
"He didn't break as sharply as we would have liked. He was third-best today," said Justin Zayat of Zayat Stables, which co-owns Solomini with Coolmore partners. "The winner is a really nice horse. We'll talk to (trainer) Bob (Baffert), but I thought it was a good race, and now it's on to Kentucky."
Bred by Ramona Bass out of the Unbridled's Song mare Dazzling Song, Magnum Moon bolstered his earnings to $1,177,800 while remaining unbeaten in four starts. He was purchased by the Lows for $380,000 from Claiborne Farm's consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Unbridled Mo Upsets Unique Bella in Apple Blossom
Unbridled Mo Upsets Unique Bella in Apple Blossom
Favored Unique Bella missed the break, rushed up to the front, and finished second.
· By Jeremy Balan
Red Oak Stable's homebred Unbridled Mo pulled off an impressive upset April 13, when she closed late to win the $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
After 1-5 favorite Unique Bella missed the break, she rushed up to challenge early leader Farrell in the first turn and dueled with the leader wide in the backstretch and entering the final turn. The Todd Pletcher-trained Uncle Mo mare, who had tracked the pace in fourth, made her bid on the outside and powered past the favorite under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
Unbridled Mo, b, 5/m
Uncle Mo — Unbridled Waters, by Unbridled
Owner: Red Oak Stable (Stephen Brunetti)
Breeder: Red Oak Stable (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
Uncle Mo stands at Ashford Stud for $125,000 (2018).
"I was sitting fourth, and at the five-eighths (pole), I took her out a little bit, and then she came on pretty good," Santana said. "At the three-eighths pole, I was just waiting for the turn for home because I didn’t want to move too soon. When I turned for home, I asked her, and her class won out.”
Unbridled Mo finished in 1:43.94 on a good (sealed) track to secure her first grade 1 win by 2 1/4 lengths over Unique Bella. Farrell, who had a 2 1/2-length lead through a first quarter in :23.41, had that lead cut down to a head through a half in :46.94. The pressure from Unique Bella, who took over and held a one-length lead through six furlongs in 1:11.40, took a toll, and Farrell came in last of seven, 10 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
"(Unique Bella) squatted in the gate. I was trying to stand her up. The next thing I knew, they opened the gates and she squatted back," said jockey Mike Smith. "She totally missed the break. I wish I could have stayed last. If I could have, I would have. She was very strong and very fresh. After she got left, she just wanted to catch up. I could have thrown her down, but I never had to do that, and I wasn't about to start. It was just unfortunate."
Streamline, who won the Bayakoa Stakes (G3) on a wet track at Oaklawn two starts back, also loomed at the top of the lane behind the gray favorite, but she flattened out in the final furlong and lost third by a neck to Fuhriously Kissed. Tiger Moth, Beach Flower, and Farrell completed the order of finish.
The Apple Blossom was Unbridled Mo's seventh win from 10 starts and fourth graded victory. In 2016, she won the Monmouth Oaks (G3), and she scored the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) and Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) in 2017. The Apple Blossom was her second start of 2018, following a fourth-place run in the Royal Delta Stakes (G3) Feb. 19 at Gulfstream Park.
"We thought, ultimately, a grade 1 was sort of the only thing missing on her résumé," Pletcher said. "She's a very consistent mare. We knew that there's a very short-priced favorite we had to beat. We felt like if she'd won—even if she was second or third—it would be a positive result. (We) decided to go ahead and take a shot, and (we're) very happy that we did."
Bred in Kentucky out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Waters, Unbridled Mo now has $960,880 in earnings for Red Oak Stable owner Stephen Brunetti.
"This is our first time we've ever been to Hot Springs, and I'm sure we'll be back again," Brunetti said. "We were going back and forth between a couple of different races, and Todd told us how well she was training and he said, 'Let's take a shot in the Apple Blossom.' You never knew what would have happened with Unique Bella. She was shipping, and it was a sloppy track. (It) just all worked out for the best."
Vino Rosso Wears Down Enticed to Take Wood Memorial
Vino Rosso Wears Down Enticed to Take Wood Memorial
Son of Curlin rebounds from Tampa Bay Derby loss.
· By Bob Ehalt
In a word, Vino Rosso's journey to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) has been bumpy.
Back in November, when Vino Rosso lived up to his sharp morning works and won at first asking for owners Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola of St. Elias Stable, the son of Curlin seemed a bona fide Derby candidate. But after a tumultuous third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and a fourth in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), the horse named for red wine dropped to a distant fourth behind the likes of Audible, Magnum Moon, and Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Noble Indy in the pecking order among 3-year-olds in trainer Todd Pletcher's talent-laden barn.
Vino Rosso, ch, 3/c
Curlin — Mythical Bride, by Street Cry (IRE)
Owner: Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable
Breeder: John D. Gunther (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: John R. Velazquez
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
Curlin stands at Hill 'n' Dale Farms for $150,000 (2018).
KEESEP2016 • $410,000 • Consignor: Glennwood Farm, agent • Buyer: J.J. Crupi, agent for Mike Repole & St. Elias.
All of that changed April 7 when Vino Rosso put the disappointment of his two Tampa Bay Downs losses behind him. Returning to top form, the chestnut colt survived an inquiry for, yes, bumping in the stretch to post a three-length victory over 6-5 favorite Enticed in the $1 million Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2) and give Pletcher a quartet of Derby starters.
"I've got memories of losing in this race at 1-9 (with Uncle Mo in 2011) and winning a photo two years ago with Outwork ," Repole said. "This is a special race for me. I grew up coming to Aqueduct ... and I was involved in one of the biggest upsets in the race. Now I've won two out of three years. That's how it works."
How it worked for Vino Rosso was he received 100 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, punching his ticket to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Coming into the Wood, Vino Rosso had just seven points and was 38th on the leaderboard.
Enticed, who received 40 points for finishing second, already had a Derby berth wrapped up with 63 points coming into the 1 1/8-mile Wood. According to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, the Godolphin homebred will continue on to the Derby.
"I'm sure there will be no change (in Derby plans)," McLaughlin said. "He ran a great race."
Gary and Mary West's Restoring Hope, coming off a maiden win at Santa Anita Park for trainer Bob Baffert, was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and picked up 20 points. He will need a slew of defections to compete in the opening leg of the Triple Crown.
Firenze Fire, who competed in all four New York preps for the Derby, was fourth, picking up 10 points to bump his total to 39 and put him on the Derby bubble. Having the winner of last year's Champagne Stakes (G1) in the field triggered a $250,000 bonus and pushed the purse to $1 million.
Vino Rosso kept alive Viola's dream of capturing the Run for the Roses in back-to-back years after being a part owner of 2017 winner Always Dreaming.
"It's unrealistic to think about winning the Derby two years in a row," said Viola, who also won the Carter Handicap (G1) with Army Mule on the April 7 card. "But like the horse who won it for us last year, I'll be dreaming about it every day (until May 5)."
In Vino Rosso, Viola, who also owns the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers, will head to Louisville with a much different runner than Always Dreaming, who was no worse than second at any call in the Derby. Vino Rosso figures to be charging from the back of the pack. The son of the Street Cry mare Mythical Bride rallied from sixth in the field of nine to capture the Wood as the 4-1 third choice ($10.40).
"He finished up great. We kept feeling we were seeing a horse with that kind of talent, and he had been training well. We felt the mile and an eighth was something he was looking for, and I think even farther will be better for him. This was the performance we were hoping for," said Pletcher, who notched his fifth win in the Wood.
Old Time Revival, runner-up to Enticed in the Gotham Stakes (G3), sprinted away to a six-length lead after a half-mile in :46.68, but as he shortened stride on the far turn, Enticed and Restoring Hope went by, followed from the outside by Vino Rosso and jockey John Velazquez.
At the top of the stretch, a determined Enticed and a surging Vino Rosso came together as Vino Rosso drifted in a bit and the rivals bumped. After Vino Rosso pulled away in the final furlong and crossed the finish line in 1:49.79, jockey Junior Alvarado on Enticed lodged a claim of foul that was disallowed.
"I got bumped three times. I got pinched on the rail. This was way too much. I didn't even bump him once. I don't know what to say. This is unacceptable. If somebody else rode that way, he would have been taken down. It's not the right thing. I got bumped three times, I got fouled. What else do I need to get?" Alvarado said.
In the eyes of the winning connections, the stewards made the right call.
"There's no question there was some contact. Johnny's interpretation was (when) he came over close to him, and the other horse kind of touched him, he touched him back," Pletcher said. "No question there was contact. I thought it was mutual, but I don't think it affected the outcome of the race."
Vino Rosso, bred by John D. Gunther in Kentucky and bought for $410,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, earned $535,000 for his victory and improved his record to three wins in five starts with career earnings of $620,500.
While the win was the second in the Wood for the trio of Pletcher, Repole and Velazquez, who won the 2016 Wood with Outwork, the victory added to a remarkable partnership. According to Equibase statistics, horses owned, trained, and ridden by the trio have teamed for 30 stakes wins and more than $9 million in earnings entering this year. Velazquez alone had more than 1,600 wins and $139 million in earnings with Pletcher-trained horses entering January.
The Wood has produced 20 winners of the Kentucky Derby, but none since Funny Cide in 2003. In 2000, Fusaichi Pegasus became the last horse to win both races.
Last year's Wood played a key role on the Triple Crown trail as Cloud Computing, who was third, won the Preakness Stakes (G1) in his next start and Irish War Cry, who won the Wood, finished second in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
Army Mule Rolls in Carter Handicap
Army Mule Rolls in Carter Handicap
Friesan Fire colt drew off to a 6 1/4-length win at Aqueduct Racetrack.
· By Bob Ehalt
A horse like Army Mule can test the patience of an owner and trainer, but the lightly raced colt surely made up for lost time in a huge way and in a rather prestigious spot.
The 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of Friesan Fire lived up to every bit of the potential trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Vinnie Viola saw in him as he romped to a 6 1/4-length victory in the $400,000 Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack April 7. The decisive win in the seven-furlong test was just the third start of his career and his stakes debut.
Army Mule, b, 4/c
Friesan Fire — Crafty Toast, by Crafty Prospector
Owner: St. Elias Stable
Breeder: Hope Hill Farm (PA)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
Friesan Fire stands at Country Life Farm for $4,000 (2018).
FTMMAY2016 • $825,000 • Consignor: Scanlon Training & Sales, agent • Buyer: Crupi's New Castle Farm.
FTMSEP2015 • $35,000 • Consignor: Bill Reightler, agent • Buyer: Scanlon Training & Sales
"I think this horse can be special for the sport," said Viola, who races under the banner of St. Elias Stable and also owns the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League.
Army Mule, an $825,000 purchase as a 2-year-old, surely looked "special" in the Carter, as he scooted through a hole along the rail on the turn under jockey Joe Bravo and overpowered 10 seasoned rivals to increase his combined winning margin to 22 1/4 lengths.
In second behind the 2-1 shot was Awesome Slew, the 9-5 favorite who finished third in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Great Stuff was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third.
Army Mule won in 1:20.94 on a track labeled fast, but Viola described it as "heavy and dewy."
"I don't even think the track is that fast today, and to go (1:20.94) is something very special," said Pletcher, echoing Viola's opinion. "The sky's the limit with him. He's a super-talented horse. It's a matter of keeping him healthy.
"You never expect to win a grade 1 by that many lengths, but he was training really well coming into it, and he showed exceptional ability in his two races. It's not a move we make that often from a non-winners-of-one to a grade 1 stakes, but his last race was so powerful."
Army Mule arrived at Pletcher's barn last year as a 3-year-old and posted an 8 1/2-length win in a Belmont Park maiden race April 30. Any thoughts about his future plans were put on hold when Army Mule's knee acted up, and he did not return to the races until Jan. 31, when he registered an even more impressive 7 1/2-length score in a Gulfstream Park allowance optional-claiming race.
"He had a flare-up in his knee. It wasn't a surgical issue. We just had to give him time," Pletcher said after his third win in the Carter. "When you have a horse break his maiden like he did, and with Saratoga around the corner, you starting thinking (about the future), but it's a tribute to Vinnie's patience as an owner that we gave him the time he needed. I told him he's a very talented horse, and we have to stop and give him a break, and the patience paid off today."
After his colt successfully handled the prodigious jump in class, Pletcher said the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1) June 9 at Belmont would be an appropriate target.
"The way he finished at seven furlongs today, it makes sense to have the Met Mile on the radar," the trainer said.
For Viola, the Carter underscored what he first saw in Army Mule at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale, when he purchased the eye-catching colt.
The winner's share of $240,000 lifted Army Mule's earnings to $311,400.
"It's a bit of a contrarian path in developing a horse from a nondescript sire, but when you think about horses as athletes, the moment we saw him, Dennis O'Neill and myself, he was a premier athlete," Viola said.
Bred by Hope Hill Farm, Army Mule was originally purchased for $35,000 by Scanlon Training & Sales at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale.
Jockey John Velazquez, who was on Awesome Slew in the Carter but rode Army Mule in his April 2017 debut, succinctly expressed what happened Saturday.
"I had a great trip," he said. "I into ran a monster."
Perhaps a "special" monster.
National Flag Makes Grade in Bay Shore
National Flag Makes Grade in Bay Shore
Pletcher-trained colt clinches first graded stakes win.
· By BloodHorse Staff
WinStar Farm and China Horse Club International's National Flag used a rush along the outside to win the $250,000 Bay Shore Stakes (G3), covering seven furlongs in 1:23.16 on the main track April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Todd Pletcher-trained colt captured his first graded stakes victory despite getting squeezed at the start by 6-5 favorite Engage to his outside and A Different Style to his inside. After settling, the Speightstown colt ran five-wide down the backside as A Different Style set fractions of :22.82 for the opening quarter-mile and :45.77 for the half-mile.
Jockey Flavien Prat, unhurried up to this point, angled National Flag to the inside and gave him his cue to run. Forced to search for room, Prat angled his colt seven-wide into the stretch, passing the pack in mid-stretch to score by four lengths under a hand ride.
"I was concerned after the rough start," Pletcher said. "He had never really been in that position. He got hit pretty hard from both sides and I was afraid at that point. You never know how a horse is going to react from getting bumped that hard in the beginning. It looked like he gathered himself up and Flavien rode a smart race from that point. He didn't panic and just gave him time to get his legs up and underneath him. He produced and put in a big run down the lane.
"He's always been a beautiful horse and a fantastic looking yearling, you can tell by his price tag (a $600,000 Keeneland September yearling)," Pletcher continued. "He's one that we've always liked, and has always shown speed. A little bit of it was us figuring out how he needs to be ridden and not rushing him. He showed promise last year and he benefited from a little bit of a break afterwards."
National Flag's victory was the third of his career, and second in a row after driving clear to win a non-other than allowance March 3 at Gulfstream Park. The Kentucky-bred faded to fifth after getting bumped at the break in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sep. 4 at Saratoga Race Course.
National Flag returned $4.90 to win.
The Bay Shore was one of a few options Pletcher and his connections had for his fifth career start, but distance and timing led to the decision that proved a winning one for Pletcher.
"We had kicked around the idea of possibly going to the Lexington Stakes (G3), and then we just thought at the last minute that the horse is doing well and he was just coming off a big effort at seven-furlongs," Pletcher said. "Let's stick with what he knows. At some point down the road we might stretch him out. We'll probably look for a one-turn mile next or something like that. We'll play it by ear and see how he comes out of this."
Engage, who was making his fourth career start and first since drawing clear to win the Futurity Stakes (G3) Oct. 14 at Belmont Park, rallied hard through the stretch, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Aveenu Malcainufor second.
I'm An Ocala Dude finished fourth, followed by A Different Style, Aqua Bel Sar, and Justaholic remained last in the seven-horse field.
Hi Happy Notches First Stateside Win in Pan American
Hi Happy Notches First Stateside Win in Pan American
Argentine son of Pure Prize returned to winner's circle for first time since 2015.
· By BloodHorse Staff
La Providencia's homebred Hi Happy, who took the 2015 Carlos Pellegrini (G1) in his native Argentina, returned to the winner's circle for the first time since that score to land his first stateside win in the $250,000 Pan American Stakes (G2T) March 31 at Gulfstream Park.
The 6-year-old Pure Prize runner took over from frontrunner One Go All Go after tracking second with a furlong left to run in the 1 1/2-mile test and carried on to a 2 3/4-length win under Luis Saez.
After showing the way through fractions of :23.96, :49.21, 1:13.79, and 1:38.15, One Go All Go held for second by a half-length over Classic Covey, while defending race winner and 9-5 favorite Sadler's Joy came in fourth.
Hi Happy won six straight races in his native country, four of them group 1 events, but failed to win in four starts in graded company when he was sent to the West Coast, including a fourth in the 2017 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1). He was away from the races from April of 2017 until Feb. 10, when he made his first start for Todd Pletcher and finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1T).
"We felt that he ran well at a mile and an eighth last time, and today we felt with that race under his belt, he would perform," Pletcher said.
Hi Happy finished the distance in 2:23.85 on a firm turf course and returned $6.80, $4.60, and $3.80 at odds of 2-1.
"Everything went perfect," Saez said. "We sat second. At the half-mile pole, I asked my horse, and he kept battling. When we made the straight, he just took off."
Earlier on the card, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's homebred Lull, making her first start since finishing fifth in the Matriarch Stakes (G1T) at Del Mar in November, set a fast pace and had just enough at the finish to hold off Res Ipsa to win the $250,000 Honey Fox Stakes (G3T).
A 4-year-old daughter of War Front trained by Christophe Clement and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Lull went to the front and set fractions of :22.44, :45.06 and 1:08.56 while being chased around the first turn and backstretch by Team of Teams and Conquest Hardcandy. Entering the stretch, Ortiz and Lull opened up a two-length advantage and were just able to hold off Res Ipsa, who closed from last, by a nose.
The winning time was 1:33.14 over a firm, 1-mile course.
"Jose is a great rider, that's why he rides so much for us," Clement said. "We were a touch worried because it was her first time back, but we knew she was big enough to win. She's top-class. Six, seven furlongs, a mile is probably her best. She's a wonderful filly to be around. Belmont day is definitely on our radar for her."
"Christophe told me she has speed and just not to take a big hold, and if she wants to be there (on the lead), let her be there," Ortiz said. "We were expecting softer fractions than that, but she was going fast but very relaxed. That was important in getting home."
Audible Makes Florida Derby Statement
Audible Makes Florida Derby Statement
The Holy Bull winner backed up that effort with an emphatic triumph March 31.
· By Alicia Wincze Hughes
One of the knocks on Audible in the weeks since he first stamped himself as a contender on this year's Road to the Kentucky Derby was that he didn't exactly sell his potential.
His morning training has a workman tone rather than a tease of brilliance. And in a time when every move a top 3-year-old makes can be scrutinized by every self-described expert on the internet, his workouts leading into the $1 million Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) were commonly described as mediocre at best.
Audible, b, 3/c
Into Mischief — Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time
Owner: China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Starlight Racing, WinStar Farm
Breeder: Oak Bluff Stables, LLC (NY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: John R. Velazquez
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
Into Mischief stands at Spendthrift Farm for $100,000 (2018).
FTFMAR2017 • $500,000 • Consignor: Crupi's New Castle Farm, agent • Buyer: China Horse Club & WinStar Farm.
FTNAUG2016 • $175,000 • Consignor: Winter Quarter Farm, agent • Buyer: J.J. Crupi, agent for 4H.
Those trying to dissect the form of the son of Into Mischief over the next five weeks will have to stick to analyzing his moves outside of race day because, once again, he saved his best for when the real running began.
Audible doubled down on the form he flaunted during his breakout victory in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes (G2) when he sat well off a hot pace March 31 before advancing outside and kicking on in the lane en route to a three-length triumph over Hofburg in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
"You'd love for horses like this to breeze well all the time and put on a show in the morning, but once you get to know them and their personalities ... we felt like he was training as well as he ever had," Pletcher said of the colt who gave him his fourth Florida Derby win in the last five years. "We were cautiously optimistic."
There was every reason for Audible's camp to feel good about the colt's ability heading into Saturday's 1 1/8-mile prep race, which offered 100 qualifying points to the winner toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
When he captured the Holy Bull Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths over Free Drop Billy during his season debut, it marked his third straight win since running third in his debut at Belmont Park in September. With each race, he has shown different levels to his game—from being able to sit in the first flight off the pace, to handling himself between rivals, to showing he could take back and rally if others wanted to push the issue up front.
It was the latter strategy that was called upon in the Florida Derby as Promises Fulfilled and Strike Power—the 1-2 finishers in the Xpresssbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)—dueled right out of the gate for the lead, with the former working hard to register the opening quarter-mile in a wicked :21.95. With the top two wearing each other out while opening up about five lengths on third-place Mississippi down the backside, jockey John Velazquez let Audible drop back to eighth while keeping him outside as the half-mile went in a taxing :46.37.
"We wanted to get some position into the first turn, which he was able to do beautifully. I was a little concerned at the five-eighths pole because he started to drop back a little bit, but I could tell Johnny wasn't panicked," Pletcher said. "He kind of grabbed him up, and sometime midway down the backstretch he started to pick up horses, and I started to feel better and better. You could tell the pace up front had developed pretty swiftly, so you felt like those horses were going to start to come back at some stage."
As Promises Fulfilled rounded the far turn, the toll of those fractions showed and he backed out as Mississippi made his surge to the front with Audible looming to his outside. That threat from Audible turned into reality a few strides later when he took command at the head of the lane and put daylight between himself and a game Hofburg, who made a rally of his own after being near the back of the nine-horse field.
"Once he got to the horses on the lead, I just tried to keep him busy down the lane, and he kicked pretty good," Velazquez said. "I didn't ride him last time, but he way he ran today, he was definitely impressive. (The distance) didn't seem to bother him at all. I think the farther he goes, the better he gets."
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Audible covered the distance in 1:49.48 over a track rated fast. Hofburg, a half sibling to grade 1 winner Emollient who was making his graded stakes debut, was 7 3/4 lengths clear of Mississippi and picked up 40 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.
"We've certainly got to think about that (the Kentucky Derby)," said Bill Mott, trainer of Hofburg. "He ran well enough and galloped out good enough. I guess we've got to take everything into consideration, but we're certainly not going to rule anything out at this point."
Graded stakes winner Catholic Boy finished fourth, while Promises Fulfilled faded badly and ended up ninth.
"You live by the sword, you die by the sword," said Dale Romans, trainer of Promises Fulfilled and seventh-place finisher Storm Runner. "We went wire-to-wire last time, but that doesn't mean we don't regroup and go back in the Derby."
Audible's victory capped a stellar day in general for Gulfstream Park. The Hallandale Beach, Fla., track reported it generated a record total handle of $49,909,070.
The previous record for the highest single-day handle at Gulfstream excluding Breeders' Cup was this year on Pegasus World Cup Day when reigning Horse of the Year Gun Runner won and fans wagered $41.9 million. Saturday's handle was also a Florida Derby Day record, eclipsing the record of $32.082 million in 2017.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners, Audible earned his fourth win in five starts while improving his earnings to $882,920. He was bred in New York by Oak Bluff Stables out of the Gilded Time mare Blue Devil Bel and now has a chance to give his seven-time Eclipse Award winning-trainer some déjà vu.
Last season, Pletcher brought Always Dreaming to the Kentucky Derby off a sublime Florida Derby victory and watched that colt progress right into the blanket of roses. Though Pletcher also has graded stakes winner Magnum Moon and Noble Indy poised for May 5, Audible is invoking some positive comparisons to his classic-winning stablemate.
"It was similar to what we did with Always Dreaming last year. We knew we had to perform well in the Florida Derby or we weren't going to accumulate enough points to get in, but we also all felt like if you don't run well in your final prep, then you're probably not going to Churchill anyway," Pletcher said. "The most important thing is we thought he ran a huge race in the Holy Bull ... that we could hopefully take another step forward by giving him some space between those races, and the fact that the Florida Derby is a grade 1 is super-important to a stallion like he's going to be."
Noble Indy Takes Louisiana Derby
Noble Indy Takes Louisiana Derby
Son of Take Charge Indy latest classic prospect for WinStar, partners.
· By Alicia Wincze Hughes
Noble Indy (inside) fights off Lone Sailor to capture the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course
Last month, Noble Indy used his time at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots to show what a baby he still was, tantrums and all.
WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden called him "a real brat" in the paddock prior to the Feb. 17 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2), and when it came time for the son of Take Charge Indy to go through a hole after racing on the lead in his first two starts, he got a bit intimidated as others went on to take the accolades.
Noble Indy, b, 3/c
Take Charge Indy — Noble Maz, by Storm Boot
Owner: Repole Stable (Mike Repole) and WinStar Farm LLC (Kenny Troutt)
Breeder: WinStar Farm, LLC (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: John R. Velazquez
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
Take Charge Indy stands at KRA Jeju Stud Farm.
KEESEP2016 • ($45,000 RNA) • Consignor: Denali Stud, agent.
He finished a solid third place in his graded debut, but, most important, he received an education. When he returned to the New Orleans track March 24 and had his mettle tested in the stretch of the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), the bay colt showed how quickly he had learned his lessons and how much room for growth there still is over the next six weeks.
Noble Indy put the lengthy Fair Grounds stretch to good use Saturday when he battled back on the rail in the final furlong after being passed by Lone Sailor in the lane to edge that one by a neck and put 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) on his young résumé.
It takes guts to snatch a victory from what looked to be strong jaws of defeat, especially considering Noble Indy raced right on top of a pace that favored his late-running challengers. That he got keen with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez while rating second through fractions of :22.97 and :46.64, lost his lead after turning into the stretch, and still was able to find another gear says a mouthful about how far he has come for trainer Todd Pletcher in a short period.
"Todd has done a great job with him. He won his first two starts and came here and got a real education ... but he grew up today," said Walden of the colt WinStar Farm owns in partnership with Mike Repole. "He's still only run four times. He's bred for (the Kentucky Derby), and as we saw today, distance is not a problem."
What may be a happy problem for the WinStar team is a case of whiplash while tracking all their hopefuls on the Kentucky Derby trail. In addition to Noble Indy, Kenny Troutt's operation has partial ownership of Holy Bull Stakes (G2) winner Audible, Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) victor Quip, and budding phenom Justify, with New York Central set to start in the March 25 Sunland Derby (G3).
"It's been a great day," grinned Walden, who also watched Good Samaritan—also owned by WinStar in partnership—win the New Orleans Handicap (G2) earlier on the Fair Grounds card.
Despite the presence of Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair— the 1-2 finishers in the Risen Star—and Southwest Stakes (G3) winner My Boy Jack in the 10-horse field, Noble Indy had the faith of the betting public, who made him the 5-2 favorite. Though he bumped the gate at the break, he moved well into the first turn as 141-1 longshot Marmello set the early pace.
With Bravazo to his outside in third, Noble Indy stalked in the two-path and kept begging Velazquez to let him do more. Velazquez complied, allowing the colt to range up and take the lead at the half-mile pole, opening up two lengths on the field as they reached three-quarters in 1:11.47.
"He had to fight the whole way," Velazquez said of his mount, who was racing with blinkers for the first time. "Going into the first turn, I had to use him to get position, then I grabbed him back in the middle of the turn. He got keen on the backstretch and ... at the half-mile pole, I put my hands down and tried to give him a nice break. I decided not to fight him anymore and let him run down the lane."
Velazquez said Noble Indy never saw Lone Sailor coming with his three-wide bid in the stretch, and for a handful of strides it looked like a storybook ending was on tap. Lone Sailor is campaigned by trainer Tom Amoss for G M B Racing, the stable owned by the late New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle. Tom Benson passed away March 15 and was laid to rest in New Orleans March 23.
"The best horse probably won today, I won't deny that. But our boy stepped up and ran a great race, and I'm happy for G M B," Amoss said. "I went running after work this morning, and a voice kept saying, 'Do you believe it can happen?' As a trainer ... I tried to ignore that, but now I'm going to answer that voice. They were right.
"I'm not going to get spiritual about this whole thing, but I really felt like Mr. Benson was with us today."
Though Noble Indy fought back to cover the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:50.28 over a fast track, Lone Sailor picked up 40 qualifying points, likely locking himself into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
My Boy Jack came with a sustained run down the middle of the track but leveled out and ended up third. Givemeaminit was fourth with Snapper Sinclair fifth. Bravazo came home eighth.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Noble Indy is out of the multiple stakes-winning Storm Boot mare Noble Maz. He debuted Dec. 3, winning by 8 3/4 lengths over seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park, and he took an allowance optional claiming test going 1 1/16 miles over the same track in his season debut Jan. 11.
"He's still green," Velazquez said of Noble Indy. "But when he saw that other horse, he came back and fought."
Ivy Bell Overcomes to Win Inside Information
Ivy Bell wins the Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park
Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
A stumble at the start and heavy traffic late did nothing to deter Ivy Bell March 17 at Gulfstream Park, as the Archarcharch mare overcame with a late-closing victory in the $200,000 Inside Information Stakes (G2).
Making her first start for Mathis Stable, Madaket Stable, and trainer Todd Pletcher, the 5-year-old dark bay mare earned her first graded stakes score in her first try at the grade 2 level.
"We felt confident coming in. She had been training well," Pletcher said. "She's had a little history of some quirks around the gate and the paddock. I'm glad she behaved well today. She still broke a little bit on her nose, but she recovered quickly and found a good spot and delivered from there."
Ivy Bell, who finished first or second in six of her last seven races for her former connections, stumbled out of the gate from her rail post position but was well within range of a pace contested by Rich Mommy, Moonlit Promise, and Mines and Magic.
Those three raced three deep along the backstretch and into the far turn through fractions of :23.63 and :47:03. Jordan's Henny, who captured the Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3) last time out, joined the fray four wide leaving the turn into the stretch as Javier Castellano waited for room aboard the Pletcher trainee. When a hole failed to open in the wall of horses, Castellano swung Ivy Bell five wide at the eighth-pole, and the veteran mare kicked in powerfully past Jordan's Henny to win by a length as the even-money favorite.
"I was just worried that she found the seam too late. That was a pretty impressive turn of foot she turned in the last eighth of a mile," Pletcher said. "That's not always easy to do at Gulfstream, to make up that much ground the last part of the race."
"I had a perfect trip. That's what I was looking for," Castellano said. "I saved all the ground, I tipped outside. I was kind of concerned a little because everyone hooked up in the same spot, but I had so much confidence. I really liked the way she worked and the way she finished. I felt comfortable the way she did it. Todd did a phenomenal job, and I know she's going to move forward. I rode with a lot of patience and had good results today."
The final time was 1:23.29 on a fast track. Jordan's Henny held for second, a neck ahead of a game Mines and Magic.
Ivy Bell, bred in Kentucky by T/C Stable out of the Forest Wildcat mare Fallseed, notched her fifth win and 12th in-the-money finish in 16 starts. She has sprinted exclusively during her career, but Pletcher said a stretch-out in distance is a possibility.
"We have a couple options. We'll see how things go. There's a seven-furlong grade 1 at Churchill, and there's also a mile and a sixteenth race there as well. She's always run well at Churchill in the past. That's an option," Pletcher said. "She's impressed us in her training that she can run further than seven furlongs."
Magnum Moon Shines Brightest in Rebel Stakes
Magnum Moon draws off to win the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park
Less than 24 hours after one of the last holy grails in sports fell, Magnum Moon took on one of the longest-standing obstacles in Thoroughbred racing.
If this is the year a No. 16 seed can dethrone a top seed for the first time in the NCAA men's basketball tournament—as the University of Maryland-Baltimore County did to Virginia March 16—the curse of Apollo, which has reigned since 1882, may be ripe for the picking this season.
In the stretch of the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park March 17, Magnum Moon presented himself as such a candidate, when he drew off from multiple grade 1-placed Solomini to score a 3 1/2-length victory and remain unbeaten in three starts.
While the Bob Baffert-trained Justify has gotten buzz off his two victories, as one with the potential to become the first horse who did not race as a 2-year-old to win the first leg of the Triple Crown since Apollo, Robert and Lawana Low's Magnum Moon has gone one better, by capturing a prep race and earning 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
In his debut at Gulfstream Park for Todd Pletcher Jan. 13, the son of Malibu Moon earned his connections' confidence with his quick progression in his first two outings—faith he solidified Saturday in his first try against stakes company.
"We were confident but nervous," Robert Low said. "He got the job done. Todd is very organized. We knew he had him ready for the race."
Magnum Moon had already shown versatility, when he won his maiden outing by 4 1/2 lengths while racing on the front end, then proved he could rate when he wheeled back to take a Feb. 15 allowance test at Tampa Bay Downs.
Against a solid group of nine challengers in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, the 3-1 shot used a couple different tools en route to his emphatic win. With Title Ready hustled to the lead out of the inside post, Magnum Moon settled in the three-path, with grade 1 winner Sporting Chance to his outside and Solomini to his inside, as the opening quarter went in :23.42. As Title Ready left the half-mile in :47.15, Magnum Moon advanced to third outside of Curlin's Honor and reeled in the pacesetter as they moved around the final turn.
"He was traveling pretty good," said winning jockey Luis Saez, who gave up the mount on Sporting Chance to ride Magnum Moon in the Rebel. "He broke good and was in the right spot. When he came to the stretch, he just kept running and never stopped. He proved today that he can really run."
Magnum Moon took command as they settled in for the stretch run, which left even-money favorite Solomini and jockey Flavien Prat to fend off Combatant for place honors. The winner covered the distance in 1:42.68 on a track rated fast.
"We felt like we had a very talented colt," Pletcher said. "(We were) very pleased with his first two races, but this was a step up in class and running against accomplished, seasoned colts. We were confident that he was training very well, coming into it in great shape, and just hoped he could handle the continued rise in class."
Solomini, who made his first start since he hit the wire first but was disqualified to third in the Dec. 9 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (G1), got going again late after falling back to fourth in the stretch.
"He had a good race. ... We had a good trip," Prat said. "We got on the inside, and that's not the best for him, but then I wasn't going to keep him off. And he made a nice run. ... He ran a good second."
Combatant, second in the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes (G3), got another on-the-board placing, as Title Ready and Sporting Chance were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Magnum Moon was bred in Kentucky by Ramona Bass, out of the unraced Unbridled's Song mare Dazzling Song, and was a $380,000 purchase by his owners from Claiborne Farm's consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Pletcher indicated a return trip to Oaklawn for the April 14 Arkansas Derby (G1) is "likely and logical" for Magnum Moon. From there the next target is expected to be a shot at history May 5.
"There's nothing like seeing it actually happen," Pletcher said. "You can always prepare for it and hope for it and all that. It's still up to the horse to go there out and prove it. Very proud of him for doing it today.
Horses a Timeless Pursuit for J. J. Pletcher
By Chris McGrath
Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, 1968. J.J. Pletcher, 30 years old, is trying his luck with a few Quarter Horses–and by now some Thoroughbreds too–applying skills first learned helping his uncle, a weekend rodeo roper, in Texas. And here was this guy, D. Wayne Lukas, drawing attention to himself round the backside–and not just with those unbelievable white chaps of his.
“We used to call him Mr. Clean,” Pletcher remembered, half a century later. “That was some guy on an advertisement for cleaning fluid, so that’s what we called him, Mr. Clean, everything had to be just right. Got to know him pretty well. He was getting big at that time. He had a gift for gab, for lack of a better word; didn’t spoil the story for lack of material, put it that way. And he could back up a lot of it. He was good at what he did.”
Well, all the world knows that now. And, of course, there would be another charismatic defector from Quarter Horses a couple of decades later. But if Lukas and Bob Baffert represent the gleaming twin peaks, nobody celebrating the transfusion of Quarter Horse lore into the modern Thoroughbred should be leaving Pletcher in their shadow.
Not just because it was his compass, through nature and nurture alike, that set his son Todd on the path to records beyond even Lukas or Baffert; nor simply because it was Lukas who took Todd under his wing, as he was learning the trade. Year by year, Pletcher Sr. retains a far more tangible role in his son’s success.
For one thing, it was his seasoned eye that picked out many of the horses who first made Todd’s name. To this day, moreover, he supervises the conversion of each new draft of raw recruits into battle-ready cadets at his Payton Training Center in Ocala.
One way or another, then, he has stitched another deep Quarter Horse seam into the manual of training Thoroughbreds in the 21st Century. I mean, really deep. Listen to Pletcher, in his soft tones, conjuring memories of the old days; of an adolescence in the care of his grandparents, small farmers in the Texas panhandle.
“Those county fairs in the summertime…” he mused, sitting at the desk of his office at Payton. “Maybe a $1,000 purse, 220 yards, 350 yards, a distance race would be a quarter of a mile– that was a marathon. But it was fun. And you learned a lot. You’d take your pick-up and trailer, load your horse and go; unload, tie it up to a tree, probably it was a bit like it must have been in Ireland 100 years ago. It was the farm during the week, and race on the weekends. These little bush tracks round Texas, there’d be three or four horses in the race and you’d bet a little on the side.”
Yes, the odd wager was essential. Because there was no real money to be made otherwise.
“You had to enjoy it to do it, because you barely could make a living,” Pletcher said. “That’s why you had to get out of the business, why they switched to Thoroughbreds: out of necessity. And then Wayne went to New York and started putting these horses on the front end–and they just somehow kept going. These guys had been training them to come from behind for 100 years, they didn’t know what had happened. All of a sudden he had it figured out. Pretty smart. Wayne probably changed the Thoroughbred industry as much as he did the Quarter Horse one.”
Pletcher’s own impact, if barely less profound, would be in a lower key. He dismisses his record as a trainer of Thoroughbreds–“won a few races, enough to keep a few clients, but nothing big”–but one of his patrons did have some land in Florida. And, when Pletcher tired of the track life, he accepted an invitation to establish a training center down there in 1985. It was the right time to put down some roots. Pletcher’s wife Joan able to start what has itself become a thriving business, as a realtor specialising in equine facilities.
And then there was Todd, heading off to college in Arizona.
“He was raised on the racetrack, more or less,” Pletcher said. “Being an only child, he was at the barn when he wasn’t at school. He wanted to learn all the time. He could have done whatever he made up his mind to do, he was that smart. Everybody could tell you that, seeing this little kid with such personality, such work ethic. And he always knew what he wanted to do.”
So every summer during college Todd would be sent to one of his father’s old track buddies: Charlie Whittingham, Henry Moreno and, of course, Lukas–whose barn Todd joined, full-time, on graduation. Father and son drove non-stop from Texas to New York, taking turns at the wheel, and Todd started work next morning.
During the next seven years, against that unique Lukas whetstone, Todd sharpened the instincts and knowledge already absorbed from his father. In the meantime, as in every life, there were the usual unreadable shifts of fate. On the one hand, the Lukas team also included Gerard Butler, who would go on to train Group 1 winners in Europe and is now assistant to Pletcher Sr. On the other, there was the terrible day when the loose Tabasco Cat galloped over Jeff Lukas, the trainer’s son and right hand man. Todd found himself assuming many of that tragic figure’s responsibilities.
By the time Todd set up his own barn, in 1996, his father was also at a crossroads following the death of the patron who had brought him to Florida. They sat down together.
“You gotta have young horses in this game,” Pletcher told his son. “Gotta have them coming in every year.”
So they agreed to set up their own breaking and pre-training complex; it would be named after Pletcher’s first grandson, Payton, born the year after the 80-acre, 96-stall facility was built.
Pletcher had been going to sales forever, of course, but just about the first he attended for their new venture was Keeneland September 1998. He went to look at a horse way out the back hill, happened to look across–and there he was: a son of Southern Halo.
Joan saw him coming back with sparkling eyes. She knew that look. “Pletch, what have you seen?” she asked.
“I seen this horse, he’s put together so good! He’s not big but, I mean, he just has this lift in his walk.”
Signed for by Edward Rosen at $187,000, the colt was taken on by James Scatuorchio. Pletcher took him down to Florida, broke him, and found him such a natural that he reckoned him ready for a 4 1/2-furlong race at Keeneland in the spring. Todd objected that he didn’t even have a name yet.
“Todd,” Pletcher Sr. said. “This horse can run.”
“So he called up Scat,” he recalled. “And he said: ‘Scat, where you at?’ And Scat said: ‘I’m in France.’ ‘We gotta name this horse, there’s a race for him next week, last day of the meet.’ ‘Well, is he ready to run?’ And Todd said: ‘He’s more than ready.’ And Scat’s wife was sitting there with him, and she said: ‘Well, call him More Than Ready!’ Won nine lengths. And paid $9.00. I’ll never forget it. We all made a little. We loved those kind of deals, you didn’t have to do anything sneaky but now a horse breezes one time it’s in every publication in the United States!”
Though he did hang on for fourth in the Kentucky Derby, More Than Ready really blossomed when dropped in distance, notably in the GI King’s Bishop S. Pletcher’s only regret–in view of the horse’s long record of accomplishment at stud, in both hemispheres–is selling his share. No matter: it was only the beginning.
Back at the same sale in 2003, way down the catalogue, Pletcher fell for a diminutive colt by Smart Strike. So diminutive, in fact, that Todd and the rest of their team teased him about it. “Didn’t have a lot to look at,” Pletcher admitted. “But I liked the horse, for some reason; he was just very balanced. He was selling Saturday, everybody left Friday, I made two bids and bought him for $50,000. So I called Scat and said: ‘I bought this little horse–but if you don’t want him, I’ll keep him.’ He said: ‘No, no, I want him.’ And I’ve kicked my ass many times for not saying I’ll have half. English Channel. Won $5 million, champion grass horse, won the [GI] Breeders’ Cup [Turf]. No, he wasn’t very big. But he was the gutsiest S.O.B. you ever saw.”
And then, two years later, the horse that would embed Scaturchio’s nickname in the lexicon of the breed.
“Horse was next to last for sale that day,” recalled Pletcher. “Scat came out to the bar and told Todd: ‘I’m going to 150. No more.’ ‘Yes Scat.’ Got to $150,000, Todd just kept on bidding. Bought him for $250,000. And Scat just said: ‘Man!’ We just decided, we stayed that long we were gonna buy him. We’d have sold him to somebody, if Scat didn’t take him. The good part was that Scat, next day or so, said: ‘I’m giving you and Todd half this horse.’ That’s why we’re living in a nice house. Just the kind of guy he is, there’s very few people like him.”
As Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) began to shine on the track, the Pletchers sold their half to another valued client in Michael Tabor. There was still a breeding stake in the horse, however–and what might that be worth now, had Scat Daddy not dropped dead aged just 11?
“He was so well balanced, one of those you knew he was a runner just by looking at him,” said Pletcher, shaking his head. “Best moving horse I ever broke. I breezed him coupla times and I rang Todd and said: ‘I’m sending you this horse; I’m not gonna keep him here. He’s too good, I’m not messing him up.'”
Two old allies, Tabor and More Than Ready, have meanwhile opened a new chapter in the latter’s son Verrazano, now trying to fill the breach left by Scat Daddy at Ashford.
“Think we’ve got a chance with him,” Pletcher said. “Watch him, his covers sold pretty good.”
And so the legacy continues to grow. Who can say how far any of these sires might have gotten, without Pletcher to find them? Without Pletcher, to give them a grounding; and, of course, to have given their trainer an education of his own?
At 80, true, he greatly values the prodigious energy and talent of Butler. (“Just like Todd,” he says. “A workaholic, daylight to dark.”) But nor can there be many keener eyes in the game, having sifted crop after crop for so many decades.
“You look at a good Thoroughbred, you’ll see a lot of Quarter Horse in there,” Pletcher said. “Well balanced, a big ass on him, a lot of drive. When you bought a Quarter Horse, you didn’t want it muscle-bound or too skinny, you wanted that balance. So I think that’s one of the reasons Baffert and Lukas done good, too–it helped those guys a lot.
“You do train them so different, of course. With Quarter Horses, they had to be ready to go when you said go; Thoroughbreds, you’re trying to get them to relax. But whether you’re training jumping horses, trotters, whatever, basically it all still boils down to soundness, and getting into their heads.”
So here he is, testing the fruit of his judgement once again. The latest bunch of youngsters started breezing at the start of the month, and wheat will soon be sorted from chaff. Todd, needless to say, is getting his daily bulletins.
“It don’t take long to spot a runner,” Pletcher shrugs. “Most of the real good ones have a good brain. They wouldn’t run off or flip over or do something crazy. But the better the education they get as yearlings, 2-year-olds, the better chance they’ll have as racehorses.”
But the vagaries of life, especially the horseman’s life, remain ever in mind. After a lifetime of horse-trading, from the Texas fairgrounds to Scat Daddy, Pletcher never forgets the gambler’s prayer.
“Dear Lord,” he recited, smiling. “Help me break even.”
Audible Much the Best in Holy Bull
Audible Much the Best in Holy Bull
Son of Into Mischief rolls to a 5 1/2-length win in first graded test.
By Alicia Wincze Hughes
At the start of the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G2), Audible had to straighten himself out after taking contact from the longest shot on the board. On the final turn, he had a grade 1 winner breathing down his neck, threatening to give a lesson in what really comes with a step up in class.
But the good ones know how to shake off such challenges, and in the 1 1/16-mile test at Gulfstream Park Feb. 3, the latest wunderkind from the barn of Todd Pletcher proved his mettle. In his first try against graded company against some of the more well-regarded members of his class, it was Audible who looked most professional of all in a statement-making outing on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
It wouldn't be prep season without a Pletcher-trained youngster throwing down an eye-catching run at Gulfstream, and Audible fulfilled the tradition in emphatic fashion Saturday for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and SF Racing. After racing three-wide down the backstretch, the son of Into Mischief turned back a challenge from Free Drop Billy on the far turn, then thoroughly humbled all eight of his foes with a 5 1/2-length victory.
The Holy Bull offered qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale towards a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and succeeded in luring a field considered among the saltiest of the preps thus far. In addition to Free Drop Billy, graded winner Enticed came in with 9-5 favoritism off his victory over fellow entrant Tiz Mischief in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in November. Instead, it was Audible who ran off with the lion's share, which vaulted him to 12th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Bred in New York by Oak Bluff Stables out of the winning Gilded Time mare Blue Devil Bel, Audible was purchased by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club for $500,000 from Crupi's New Castle Farm at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-olds in training sale. Though he didn't try stakes company in his three starts as a juvenile, he did show signs of being one to monitor once the march towards the first Saturday in May started to heat up. After breaking his maiden second-time out in a one-mile test at Aqueduct Racetrack Nov. 15, the bay colt stalked-and-pounced his way to a sizzling 9 3/4-length allowance win over the same track and distance Dec. 6.
"We actually brought him down (to Florida) a little bit later because we were entered in the New York-bred stake, and then all the bad weather hit in New York and it got delayed and carried over," Pletcher said. "Maybe it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The original plan was to run him in the New York-bred stake and then bring him down, but when all the bad weather hit we came up with a different strategy and it seemed to work out well today.
"He shipped in great and trained really well when he got here, so it kind of made it an easy decision that this was an easy race to target."
Audible showed in his two prior wins he was handy enough to rate wherever needed. That tractability was on display in the Holy Bull, when the eventual winner recovered from a bump with 108-1 longshot Bandito at the start and settled between horses three-wide in second as Master Manipulator led the field through an opening quarter-mile in :23.59.
Jockey Javier Castellano had Audible tracking third as they reached the half-mile in :47.14, and confidently began asking for a sustained run approaching the final turn. With the weakening pacesetter dropping out of it just past the three-eighths pole, Audible then had to deal with Free Drop Billy rolling on his outside in that one's first start since running ninth in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
The battle ended in quick order, with Audible putting the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) winner away at the head of the lane and drawing off handily to hit the wire in 1:41.92 over a fast track.
"I love the way he did it today, compared to our last race, because his last race he was still developing and a bit laid back," Castellano said of his mount. "I really had to ride him last time out. ... Today he was sharp and had tactical speed in the race and we could move and he'd give me everything I asked of him. I love these kinds of horses ... where you can move quick and can put them in a good position.
"It's only a mile and sixteenth today, but the way he galloped out was amazing. I look forward to the next race."
Free Drop Billy was a clear second-best under Luis Saez, finishing 7 3/4-lengths in front of Dale Romans-trained stablemate Tiz Mischief in third. Enticed had no response after a ground-saving trip under Joel Rosario and ended up fourth, well clear of Pony Up in fifth.
"He ran hard. He tried hard. The winner was tough," Saez said. "Maybe after the layoff he got a little tired, but he tried. I think he'll be ready for his next start."
Added Rosario of Enticed, "I got a good trip. He just didn't give me a run."
Audible improved his record to three wins from four starts with $287,720 in earnings.
"I think the question now is do you run him two more times or one more time and we'll let him tell us kind of how he bounces out of this," Pletcher said. "He's a very kind horse to train, very easy on himself in the morning. I love the way he came over here and handled everything. He was perfect in the paddock, post parade, gate—all those little intangibles that really help with horses that are pointing for big days."
Tommy Macho Wins Hooper
Tommy Macho Wins Hooper
Paul Pompa Jr.'s Tommy Macho powered to the front around the far turn and fended off game longshot Conquest Big E to snap a six-race losing streak in the $175,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3)Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.
Tommy Macho was the 2-1 favorite in his season debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. Unraced since running fourth in the Sept. 23 Kelso Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park, it was the sixth victory and third at Gulfstream for the 6-year-old Macho Uno horse, who won the Hooper in 2016 and took the Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) in January of 2017, which was his most recent win until Saturday.
Moves Like Ali was fastest from the gate and took the field through a quarter-mile in :24.09 and a half in :46.57, as jockey Luis Saez had Tommy Macho poised to strike in the clear three wide. As three-quarters went in 1:10.79, the eventual winner surged to the lead approaching the stretch. He was followed by 15-1 Conquest Big E, who chased down the lane as they separated from their rivals, but was unable to get by.
"That stretch run was really impressive," Saez said. "He was really ready for this race today. He broke well, we got a perfect position, and when we hit the stretch, he just took off."
Tommy Macho ran the mile in 1:36.10 over a fast main track to win by three-quarters of a length over Conquest Big E. He returned $6.20, $4.40, and $3, while the runner-up brought $11.60 and $6.20. Tale of Silence ($3.40) finished third, another 4 1/4 lengths back, with Giuseppe the Great fourth. Frammento, First Growth, Beasley, Eight Town, and Moves Like Alicompleted the order of finish.
"He's a cool horse," Pletcher said. "I give the horse a lot of credit. He loves Gulfstream. He loves the one-turn mile. He's been awfully good to us. We'll probably skip the (Feb. 24 Hal's Hope) and go to the race on March 31 (the grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile)."
Tommy Macho was bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis, out of the Awesome Again mare Starstream, and sold for $25,000 to Juan Naciff through the War Horse Place consignment to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall 2013 yearling sale.
Bal Harbor Takes Flight in $75,000 Smooth Air
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Red Oak Stable homebred Bal Harbour came with a steady drive down the center of the racetrack to reel in stubborn longshot Whereshetoldmetogo and win Saturday’s $75,000 Smooth Air by a neck at Gulfstream Park.
The one-mile Smooth Air was the second of three stakes featuring 2-year-old males and one of six overall for juveniles to kick off an all-stakes 11-race Clasico Internacional del Caribe program being held outside Latin America and the Caribbean for the first time since its inception in 1966.
Bal Harbour ($6.60), a narrow second choice at 2-1 to Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Coltandmississippi, completed the distance in 1:38.01 over a sloppy and sealed main track. Whereshetoldmetogo, well-beaten by Bal Harbour in the Sapling Stakes Sept. 2, was 6 ¾ lengths clear of Stronger in third.
It was the second straight stakes win for Bal Harbour, a chestnut son of multiple Grade 1 winner First Samurai, following his 1 ¼-length triumph in the one-mile Sapling, his most recent start. Pletcher also won last year’s Smooth Air with Fact Finding.
“He’s had a pretty active 2-year-old campaign and we wanted to freshen him up a little bit,” Pletcher said. “We thought that since he had already handled the mile, we didn’t want to shorten him up and this would be the logical place to bring him back. He’s trained well and with the rain we didn’t feel it’d hurt his chances at all since he’s shown some form on an off track.”
Bon Raison, the third of Pletcher’s Smooth Air triumvirate, was quickest from the gate and led the field of 10 through an opening quarter-mile in 23.50 seconds with Winking At Thedude and Coltandmississippi in closest pursuit.
Javier Castellano had Bal Harbour relaxed running fifth, moving up after a half in 46.70 seconds and steering to the outside at the top of the stretch following six furlongs in 1:12.21. The Hall of Fame jockey set Bal Harbour down for the run to the wire and gained ground with every stride to edge clear late.
Forever Taken, Coltandmississippi, Winking At Thedude, Handsome Franco, Renaissance Frolic, Bon Raison and Tip Sheet completed the order of finish.
“I had a perfect trip, sitting right behind the speed,” Castellano said. “We went pretty quick. I tried to save some ground and love the way he finished today. Todd told me to take my time, just put him where he belongs and go from there. Down the stretch I knew I had it.”
Pletcher said he would likely point to Gulfstream’s series for 3-year-olds that starts with the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Jan. 6 and concludes with the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 31.
“He’s a hardy little horse and tries hard. It looked like he had a fight on his hands from the eighth pole to the wire and kept fighting a little more,” Pletcher said. “The great thing about the winter and spring is that there are plenty of choices to run. Timing for the Mucho Macho Man would make sense to run him there if he trains accordingly.”
Destin Prevails in Marathon Stakes at Del Mar
Belmont Stakes runner-up from 2016 relishes 14 furlongs Nov. 3 at Del Mar
By Lenny Shulman
Destin, who lost the 2016 Belmont Stakes (G1) by a heartbreaking nose to Creator, raced close up the entire journey and pulled away late to defeat longshot Infobedad by a length in the $200,000 Marathon Stakes Presented by TAA (G2) going 1 3/4 miles Nov. 3 on Breeders’ Cup Friday at Del Mar.
Destin raced just off the frontrunning Infobedad through the early stages of the Marathon through fractions of :23.87, :49.06, and 1:14.26. Up the backstretch Ground Rules made an impression at the rail but did not gain level terms with the two frontrunners, who ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:05.97 and 1 1/2 miles in 2:32.06.
Favored Hard Aces made a menacing move around the final turn but could not sustain it, as Destin pulled ahead of Infobedad to hit the wire in 2:57.77, just .37 seconds off the track record. Destin had 1 1/4 lengths on the runner-up, with Hard Aces settling for third and Noble Nick finishing fourth.
Destin is a 4-year-old son of Giant's Causeway —Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer bred in Kentucky by James Weigel and Taylor Made Stallions. He is owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and was ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Destin won an allowance-optional claimer in August at Saratoga Race Course before stumbling at the start and losing all chance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) Oct. 7 at Belmont Park. His previous victory had come in last year’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2) before he ran sixth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
Destin, the 2-1 second choice in the Marathon, returned $6, $4.20, and $2.80. Infobedad paid $21.80 and $9.20, and Hard Aces was good for $2.40 to show.
Madefromlucky Retires to Northview Stallion Station
Madefromlucky, a multiple graded stakes winner and earner of $1,351,500, has been retired to Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md., for the 2018 season. Northview is syndicating the stallion, with details to be announced at a later date.
"Madefromlucky has a combination of racing ability and pedigree that we just could not pass up," said Northview president Richard Golden.
The 5-year-old, who is by two-time champion Lookin At Lucky and out of a full sister to three-time leading sire Tapit , retires with a record of 6-5-5 from 24 career starts.
Madefromlucky won his final two starts—the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing in September, which he won by 12 1/4 lengths, and the Temperence Hill Invitational at 1 5/8 miles at Belmont Park Oct. 1. He was a graded stakes winner twice at 3, taking the West Virginia Derby (G2) and Peter Pan Stakes (G2), both at 1 1/8 miles.
Madefromlucky was a winner at 2 by 4 3/4 lengths in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park, and after taking his 3-year-old debut, also at Gulfstream, he competed exclusively in stakes competition. In addition to his wins, he finished second to American Pharoah in the grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in his stakes debut.
From the first crop of classic winner Lookin At Lucky, Madefromlucky is out of Home From Oz (by Pulpit) and is a half brother to A Shin Gold, a stakes-placed earner of $805,785 in Japan. His second dam, stakes winner Tap Your Heels, is a half sister to champion sprinter and successful sire Rubiano. The family also includes Belmont Stakes (G1) winner, champion, and grade 1 sire Summer Birdand sire Glitterman.
Madefromlucky arrived at Northview and is available for inspection.
"We're very excited to have Madefromlucky at the farm. He has the looks to back up his high-profile pedigree and race record," said David Wade, general manager of Northview. "I'd encourage breeders to make an appointment to come to the farm and see for themselves."
Bonus Points Storms Home in Maryland Million Classic
Majestic Warrior colt was ninth early, but blew by his rivals late.
By Jeremy Balan
Back racing in the state of his birth for just the third time in his career, Three Diamonds Farm's Bonus Points stormed home to take the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic Oct. 21 at Laurel Park.
Having raced against graded company for much of his 3-year-old campaign, the drop in class was noticeable in the stretch, as the Majestic Warrior colt trained by Todd Pletcher inhaled his rivals and pulled away late to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
Ninth early in the field of 11 under jockey Nik Juarez, as many as 10 1/2 lengths behind early leader and two-time Maryland Million Classic winner Admirals War Chest, Bonus Points still had plenty of work to do as he exited the final turn in the 1 1/8-mile test, but rallied wide to finish off the distance in 1:50.50. Fellow closer Southside Warrior finished second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Ghost Bay.
Admirals War Chest, who was seeking his third straight Maryland Million Classic victory, set fractions of :23.53 and :47.83 through a half-mile, but began to back up in the final turn and finished last (Jerandson was pulled up early, did not finish, and was vanned off with a fractured rear ankle). John Jonestook over to run six furlongs in 1:12.74, but also didn't last in the top spot and finished seventh as the closers took over late.
"I just sat behind the speed, knowing they were going pretty quick up front for us, and just had plenty of horse coming for home," Juarez said. "I had much the best underneath me today. When you ride for Todd, you're always going to be confident. He's a great horseman.
"I spoke to him this morning and he was very confident in however the race played out. He thought that we had something special today. He just said he's versatile. He can come from off of it or go to the lead. Either way, just ride how it comes up."
Bred by Country Life Farm out of the Not For Love mare Baby Love, Bonus Points now has a 3-3-2 record from 14 starts and $340,650 in earnings.
Juarez, the son of Maryland trainer Calixto Juarez, won two other races on the Maryland Million card, with Clever Mind in the $100,000 Nursery and Spartianos in the $125,000 Turf.
"It's special. It's really great to come back home and just to be back here for a day like this, but to win three is even better," Juarez said. "I'm just very thankful."
Three Maryland sires got their first black-type stakes winners on the Million card. Buffum , who stood for $2,500 at Northview Stallion Station in 2017, was represented by Clever Mind in the Nursery. Freedom Child , who stood then 2017 season for $3,000 at Country Life Farm, got his with Limited View in the Lassie. Etched, a Bonita Farm stallion for $2,000 in 2017, sired My Sistersledge, who took the Ladies.
Other winners on the card were Blu Moon Ace (Sprint) and Crabcakes(Distaff).
Seabhac Breaks Maiden With Pilgrim Victory
Making only his third career start and wearing blinkers for the first time, Donegal Racing's Seabhac rallied late to break his maiden, winning the $200,000 Pilgrim Stakes (G3T) Sept. 30 at Belmont Park.
Breaking from post 4 with Luis Saez aboard, the pair stalked from second position as Looking Ready led the field of eight through fractions of :24.61 for the opening quarter-mile, with the half-mile in :49.51.
Seabhac, dk b/br, 2/c
Scat Daddy — Curlin Hawk, by Curlin
Owner: Donegal Racing
Breeder: Three Chimneys Farm (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Luis Saez
Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
Scat Daddy stood at Ashford Stud for $100,000 (2016).
KEESEP2016 • $170,000 • Consignor: Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent • Buyer: Jerry Crawford, agent for Donegal Racing.
At the quarter-pole, stablemate Maraudbegan to make a run toward the leader shifting from the two-path to the rail while 6-5 post-time favorite Voting Controlbegan to make his way from the back of the pack.
Grabbing the lead at the eighth-pole, Seabhac held off a late charging Voting Control to secure the victory by half a length.
The winning time for the 1 1/16-miles on the inner turf was 1:43.48.
"It was just a good trip," said Saez. "It was pretty exciting. He broke pretty good. He was right there, and when I asked him at the three-eighths, he just took off. When he came into the stretch he was running. I can't wait to ride him next time."
Returning $12.80 for a $2 win wager, the son of Scat Daddy boosted his career earnings to $144,100.
Finishing second by a half-length in his debut at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 5, Seabhac followed up with a fourth-place finish in the grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes before finally putting things together Saturday, winning trainer Todd Pletcher said.
"I think blinkers and experience; a combination of those things helped," said Pletcher." "He ran good races both times at Saratoga. He just encountered a little bit of traffic, especially in his first start. He seems like a talented colt who is still figuring it out."
"We were hoping he would break a little more alert and put himself in a good spot. If you watch the replay of the With Anticipation, he got stopped pretty hard at the quarter pole and it was kind of an impossible spot to rally from, but he still closed well."
Following Voting Control in second was Maraud, Looking Ready, Morrison, Stolen Pistol, Evaluator, and Desert Stone completing the order of finish.
Coal Front Digs In to Win Gallant Bob Stakes
Coal Front looked beat as he sprinted down the Parx Racinghomestretch in the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) Sept. 23, but the son of Stay Thirsty was able to come back to win by a half-length.
After shooting to the lead in the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds, which drew a field of 10, Coal Front cranked out fractions of :22.21, :45.21, and :57.07 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
Coming off the turn for home he looked free and clear, but American Pastimemade a move on the outside to get a head in front near the eighth pole. Losing the lead only briefly, Coal Front was able to re-rally and edged away to score for owners Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners in a final time of 1:08.94 over a fast track.
The winner paid $3.60, $2.20, and $2.60 across the board as the 4-5 betting favorite. American Pastime finished second to return $3.40 and $3.00. Coupled in the betting, Coal Front's stablemate Petrov got up for third.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Coal Front came into the Gallant Bob off a fifth place finish in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course, which was won by Practical Joke. Coal Front won his first three starts prior to that race, including a July 29 victory in the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.
In his first start, Coal Front drew away to a 6 1/2-length victory at Keeneland April 20 and followed his debut score with an allowance win at Belmont Park June 8 by 2 3/4 lengths. With a record of four wins from five starts, the colt pushed his earnings to $411,000.
Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly, Coal Front is out of the unraced Mineshaft mare Miner's Secret. Robert LaPenta paid $575,000 for the colt during the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sale April 2-year-olds in training sale. He was consigned by Kirkwood Stables.
Pletcher, Ortiz, Dubb take Saratoga Titles
The race for top trainer, jockey, and owner came down to the wire at Saratoga Race Course, with Todd Pletcher capturing his 13th H. Allen Jerkens trainer title, Jose Ortiz winning his second Angel Cordero Jr. riding title in a row, and Michael Dubb and his various partnerships taking his fourth straight owners title on the final day at the Spa.
Pletcher finished the meet with 40 wins, tying the record set last year by Chad Brown, who finished second in this year's standings with 39 wins.
"I've never won 40 and it's hard to do," Pletcher said. "I told Chad last year when he did it that it was a hell of an accomplishment. Those guys are tough to beat. We exceeded expectations and I'm proud of it."
Among Pletcher's wins were the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) with Coal Frontand the Adirondack Stakes (G2) with Pure Silver.
"The whole team put a lot of work into it. I'm proud of the whole staff. Anthony Sciametta at Monmouth sent up winners and Byron Hughes from Belmont sent up winners. It was a big effort by everyone."
Linda Rice finished third with 16 wins.
In the first race of the Saratoga meet, Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard Indycott dueled down the stretch with his brother Jose Ortiz aboard River Date, winning by three-quarters of a length. The duel foreshadowed the competition the two would have for the whole meet. While Jose Ortiz lost that race, he won the war for leading jockey, capturing his second straight title with 58 wins.
"Just being able to be here and win races here is huge," he said. "To win leading rider for a second year in a row, I feel blessed and I just thank all trainers and owners that give me an opportunity to ride the horses and my agent, who has done a great job and worked really hard for me. The owners, the trainers, all the people on the backstretch, the grooms, exercise riders, hot walkers, without them I couldn't do this."
Victories in the Alabama Stakes (G1, Elate), the Longines Test Stakes (G1, American Gal), and the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap (Paulassilverlining) highlighted the meet for Ortiz, who also collected five wins on Aug. 21.
Jose's brother finished second with 53 wins. John Velazquez was third with 46 wins.
Dubb and his various partnerships won the owners title for the fourth straight year. He had 15 winners this summer. Klaravich Stable and William Lawrence were second with 13 winners. Repole Stable and Midwest Thoroughbreds tied for third with nine victories.
Hieroglyphics follows plan to perfection in Better Talk Now Stakes
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hieroglyphics has been consistent, racing forwardly and finishing first or second in five of his six most recent starts. On Monday in the paddock prior to the $100,000 Better Talk Now Stakes, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez decided to try and take him farther off the pace.
The plan worked to perfection as Hieroglyphics settled several lengths back while saving ground and then finished strongly to run down the battling leaders in the final sixteenth of a mile. He held off a frantic final bid from Small Bear to win by a neck.
The Better Talk Now was restricted to 3-year-olds who had never won a stakes of a mile or more. Hieroglyphics came into the race with wins at a mile and 1 1/16 miles, but Monday was his stakes debut.
Adonis Creed came barreling out of the gate to seize the early lead from even-money favorite Blind Ambition, who also is trained by Pletcher. He set solid splits of 23.28 and 47.13 before being joined on the far turn of the mile turf race by Blind Ambition and three-wide Holiday Stone.
Those two took over in upper stretch following six furlongs in 1:10.75, but the taxing pace began to take its toll. At that point, Velazquez took Hieroglyphics off the rail and to the outside of the top pair. He surged to the lead leaving the sixteenth pole and then held off Small Bear and a late run from Snap Decision.
"The race played out perfectly," Velazquez said. "We wanted to sit back with him and save ground, and when I took him outside he was full of run."
Hieroglyphics, a son of Pioneerof the Nile who races for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, paid $17.40 in the six-horse field and was timed in 1:33.69.
"This colt is putting everything together," Pletcher said. "He had a great trip and really finished well."
Hieroglyphics now has a 7-3-3-0 record and earnings of $164,272.
Small Bear finished a half-length in front of Snap Decision. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Holiday Stone in fourth. Blind Ambition finished a nose farther back in fifth.
The Better Talk Now was Pletcher's 33rd win of the meet, tying him with Chad Brown atop the trainer standings with a week to go in the Saratoga season.
Pure Silver Dominates Adirondack Stakes
In her first time outside of New York-bred company, Pure Silver showed she was up to the challenge when she shook free of her competition and pulled away to win the Aug. 12 $200,000 Adirondack Stakes (G2) by 9 1/2 lengths.
Now undefeated in three starts, Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Mission Impazible filly gave trainer Todd Pletcher his fifth victory in the grade 2 race at Saratoga Race Course.
"She won pretty convincingly," Pletcher said. "She's pretty fast. She didn't actually get away quite as easily as she normally does, but she made up for it quickly and got to the lead the right way. She kind of ran them off their feet from there.
"It's been a hard track sometimes to make up a lot of ground on. We knew that this filly was naturally fast and we were going to let her do her thing."
The trainer said that he would consider the grade 1 Spinaway Stakes for the filly's next start.
"I think we'll certainly take a look at it (the Spinaway)," he said. "She's a filly who has carried her condition really well. Now having run three times, she looks fantastic."
In the 6 1/2-furlong test for juvenile fillies, Pletcher stablemate Stainlessstumbled out of the gate as longshot Di Maria tried to take the early lead but was beat out by Pure Silver, who assumed control. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, Pure Silver led the field of eight through quick fractions of :22.44 and :45.48 for the first half-mile.
Limited View, a last-out maiden winner at Laurel Park in her only other start, began to pressure the leader around the turn, but Pure Silver shook off the challenge, took off down the stretch, and opened up on the field. Southampton Way launched a mild bid down the middle of the track but was nowhere close to catching the runaway winner and had to settle for second. Wall of Compassion checked in third, and Stainless recovered from her stumble to finish fourth.
The final time over the fast track was 1:17.22. Sly Roxy, Limited View, Proportionality, and Di Maria completed the order of finish.
"We expected to be on the lead," Velazquez said. "We did break very well. I used her a little bit to make sure I was going to be close to the pace. Once I got to the spot I wanted to be in, I just waited there. She did a good job settling around the turn and finished up really well."
Off as the 8-5 favorite, Pure Silver returned $5.40, $3.30, and $2.90.
Pure Silver made her debut June 22 at Belmont Park, another front-running effort she won by 1 1/2 lengths. She picked up a black-type win in her next start, the July 16 Lynbrook Stakes at Belmont, where she lost her footing at the start, traveled two-wide on the backstretch, and won by 1 1/2 lengths. She now has earnings of $217,200.
Bred in New York by her owner Twin Creeks Farm, Pure Silver is out of the stakes-winning Forest Wildcat mare Jehan. The filly was a $125,000 purchase by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, as agent, at this year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Twin Creeks also raced her sire, a multiple graded stakes winner and earner of more than $1.2 million.
Pure Silver is the first graded stakes winner for Mission Impazible, a current second-crop sire at Sequel Stallions New York who stood for a $7,500 fee in 2017.
Coal Front Continues Streak in Amsterdam
Winning his first two starts by a combined 9 1/4 lengths, Coal Front took another step forward in his short career when he extended his win streak to three races and picked up his first graded score in the July 29 $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (G2). Watch Video
In the 6 1/2-furlong test for 3-year-olds, the Stay Thirsty colt led the entire way and held off a driving Excitationsin the stretch to score by 1 1/2 lengths. The colt, owned by Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners, gave jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher their fourth wins of the day at Saratoga Race Course.
"We weren't committed to the lead, the thing we were focused on was letting him break and kind of find his rhythm," Pletcher said. "We knew he was fast, but we didn't want to be in a speed duel, but we didn't want to take away what is coming easy to him. We kind of left it in Johnny's hands. Johnny said he was very relaxed, really comfortable. A really talented horse."
Before the Amsterdam, jockey Luis Saez needed help reigning in longshot Aquamarine in preparation for the start. Out of the gate, Coal Front broke evenly out of post 2 and assumed the lead along the rail as second choice Mo Cash pressed the pace in second and Singing Bullet tracked from third.
Traveling through fractions of :22.37 and :45.90 for a half-mile, Coal Front had a three-length lead in the stretch as Excitations, under Javier Castellano, came surging from fifth. Coal Front held off his competition and hit the wire in a final time of 1:16.05 on a track rated fast. Excitations finished second, and Singing Bullet was third 7 1/2 lengths back.
Mo Cash and Toga Challengercompleted the order of finish. Aquamarine was eased but was able to make it off the track under his own power.
Off at 3-5, Coal Front returned $3.20, $2.60, and $2.40 across the board.
"It really worked out good," Velazquez said of the win. "We liked the post position and we wanted to get into position anyway. He broke really well. He settled really well where he was. It was pretty easy, really. He was playing around a little, and once I got serious with him, as soon as I let him know he needed to run, he responded right away."
In his debut in a six-furlong maiden race in April at Keeneland, Coal Front tracked the pace early and traveled five wide around the turn before drawing off for a 6 1/2-length score.
And in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Belmont Park in June, he had difficulty loading but broke well and pressed the leader before taking over after a half-mile and holding on for a 2 3/4-length score.
Coal Front has accumulated $216,000 from three wins and Pletcher said the colt could start next in the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) Aug. 26.
"It's hard to win a race, much less the first three," Pletcher said. "He beat a pretty strong group of older horses last time, and then to step up into a graded stakes, it just seems like he's getting better and better.
"We talked about the Allen Jerkens, we'll see how he comes out of it. He's a horse with a strong pedigree and enough talent to stretch out, when the time is right."
Bred by Michael Edward Connelly, Coal Front was a $575,000 purchase by LaPenta at the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April 2-year-olds in training auction. Out of the unraced Mineshaft mare Miner's Secret, he is a half brother to graded-stakes placed Conquest Titan.
Outplay Outclasses Competition in Curlin Stakes
During the stretch run of the $100,000 Curlin Stakes July 28, Repole Stable's Outplay managed to showcase both how much maturing he still has to do and how much upside his connections have to look forward to.
The few erratic strides the son of Bernardini produced down the lane of the 1 1/8-mile test did little to deter from the dominant effort he was in the midst of, as the Todd Pletcher-trainee had little company to keep his interest during his 5 3/4-length win at Saratoga Race Course. Watch Video
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Outplay earned his third win in the same gate-to-wire manner he flaunted during his prior two victories. Allowed to cruise through the opening quarter-mile in :24.06 and the half-mile in :48.71, with Hemsworth as his nearest challenger, the bay colt held the lead out of the far turn and kept clear of Small Bear in the stretch. He completed distance in 1:50.59 despite running a bit green through the lane.
"I don't know that we expected a dominant performance," Pletcher said. "We felt like the horse was training very well and we felt like, on paper, we had a bit of a pace advantage. You never know what everyone else's strategy is, but we felt like we had the most natural speed and we wanted to take advantage of that.
"He got a little bit green down the lane when he was by himself. He went back to his inside lead and Johnny had to correct him, but overall I thought it was a very impressive performance."
Outplay entered the Curlin Stakes off a third-place effort in the June 10 Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park, his first step up from allowance company. His maturation process has necessitated some patience, as he took four tries to break his maiden and finally got the job done with a front-running, 8 1/2-length win going a mile at Aqueduct Racetrack April 8.
He followed that run up with a 1 1/2-length score at Parx Racing May 6, and Pletcher indicated a return trip for the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 23 could be on the table.
"I don't know for sure. I don't want to commit to the (grade 1) Travers yet," Pletcher said. "He did have a huge win at Parx earlier in the year. The Pennsylvania Derby could make some sense, but I'll talk to (owner Mike) Repole about it. I'm sure he'd be excited to run in the Travers. We'll see how things go tomorrow and how the Travers shapes up and go from there."
Small Bear finished three-quarters of a length in front of Perfect Partnerfor second place. You're to Blame, Everybodyluvsrudy, Thirst for Victoryand Hemsworth completed the order of finish.
Sent off at 2-1 odds, Outplay paid $6.10, $3.80, and $3.20 across the board and improved his record to three wins from seven starts with $163,000 in earnings.
Bred by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Outplay is out of the Storm Cat mare Miss Kate and was purchased by Repole Stable for $275,000 from the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale.
Pure Silver Goes Gate-to-Wire in Lynbrook
Going off as a four-horse race, the $100,000 Lynbrook Stakes at Belmont Park for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies was nothing short of a match race on paper, but in the end it was Todd Pletcher-trained Pure Silver who prevailed July 16.
Much like she had done in her June 22 debut, the Twin Creeks homebred Pure Silver bounced out of the gate and took the lead, with 2-5 favorite I Still Miss Yourunning just off her flank to the outside. Second-choice Pure Silver completed the six furlongs in 1:11.4 under jockey John Velazquez.
The Jeremiah Englehart-trained I Still Miss You was urged on by jockey Javier Castellano, but had to work hard to stay with the daughter of Mission Impazible once they entered the stretch and finished 1 1/2 lengths back.
"After the last start we knew she had the speed out of the gate and she showed it again today," Pletcher's assistant Byron Hughes said. "She was able to hang on. We will see how she comes out of the race and from there it will be somewhere at Saratoga for sure."
"We just broke good and got to the lead," Velazquez said. "I tried to save something for the end and she put in a good fight in the lane. She broke so fast, it was kind of weird. She was so fast, she was on the ground and in the next step, she's up and running. She got pressed and when she had to put in a fight, she did it all the way."
Prior to Sunday's loss, the daughter of Majestic Warrior, owned by Gold Star Racing Stable, Matthew Hand, and Brian McKenzie, was a perfect two-for-two and came into the race off a 2 1/4-length victory in the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria Stakes at Belmont June 8.
"She ran good. She was second best today," Castellano said. "I had the opportunity to go by and I just couldn't get by the other filly today. She was much the best. She dictated the pace and set good fractions, :46 and 1:11. We were rolling. You could see the separation from the other two horses in the race.
"She was really comfortable, she rated perfect, and she settled behind (Pure Silver). She did everything the right way, except she couldn't get by that other horse. She's got a lot of potential and I give a lot of credit to the winner."
The winner paid $6.20 and $2.20 with no show wagering and I Still Miss You returned $2.10 for the place. The pair finished 14 1/2 lengths in front of Pletcher's other entry One Last Cast, who finished third. Northernstreetgal rounded out the field.
Pure Silver is out of the stakes-winning Forest Wildcat mare Jehan. Twin Creeks purchased Jehan for $150,000 at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale from Lane's End, agent. Mission Impazible, last year's leading first-crop sire in New York, stands at Sequel Stallions New York. His 2017 fee was $7,500.
Declaration of War, Justin Phillip Get Stakes Winners
The first black-type winners came abroad and stateside, respectively, for Declaration of War and Justin Phillip July 15.
Declaration of War, a son of War Front who stands at Ashford Stud in Kentucky for $35,000, had the 2-year-old filly Actress win the Jebel Ali Silver Anglesey Stakes (G3) at the Curragh for Coolmore connections and trainer Aidan O'Brien. Actress took on males and came home a 1 3/4-length winner of the six-furlong test on turf rated good to firm. She was a $250,000 purchase by Cromwell Bloodstock from the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2016 select yearling sale, and was bred in Ireland by Lynch Bages out of the multiple graded stakes winner Nasty Storm, a daughter of Gulch.
Justin Phillip, a son of First Samurai who stands at Castleton Lyons for $5,000, had his first black-type winner score when Gary Barber's 2-year-old What a Catch took the Rockville Centre Stakes at Belmont Park for trainer Todd Pletcher. Watch Video What a Catch was a $265,000 purchase in March at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale, when agent Justin Casse bought the chestnut colt from SGV Thoroughbreds' consignment. SGV picked up What a Catch for $90,000 from Paramount Sales' consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2016 preferred New York-bred sale. He was bred by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate out of the Yes It's True mare Catch My Fancy.
What a Catch is undefeated in two starts, and took the six-furlong dirt test by a game, frontrunning length under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. He finished the distance in 1:11.21 on a fast track.
Keen Ice Blows By Shaman Ghost in Suburban
Somewhere in the back of his mind, trainer Todd Pletcher could have had a mantra from his Hall of Fame mentor playing in his head every time he walked past grade 1 winner Keen Ice's stall.
"We don't give up on them," D. Wayne Lukas has been known to say, especially of runners who take a less-than-straightforward road to the winner's circle.
So when Travers Stakes (G1) winner Keen Ice—yes, that Travers, where Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was handed a stinging defeat—dropped not only his first start for Pletcher after he was moved from the barn of Dale Romans, but his second, third, fourth, and fifth tries as well, Pletcher regrouped, got his big bay runner together, and won the $750,000 Suburban Stakes (G2). Watch Video
Keen Ice, racing for Donegal Racing and Calumet Farm the first time since his seventh-place finish in the March 25 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1)—that loss on the heels of a fourth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1)—found the perfect trip and perfect distance for his steadfast closing style in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban at Belmont ParkJuly 8.
"We were hoping he'd be able to run fresh coming from Dubai and we gave him a little freshening at Calumet following that race, and he was coming into this race training well," Pletcher said. "That was a great effort, he really ran a huge race."
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Glencrest Farm out of the Awesome Again mare Medomak, and was a $120,000 purchase by Donegal from Three Chimneys Sales at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. He was previously sold for $48,000 to Chesapeake Bloodstock from Four Star Sales' consignment to the 2012 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Sent off at odds of 5-1 in a short field of five led by 1-2 choice Shaman Ghost, the 5-year-old son of Curlin raced fifth behind a tepid :25.28 quarter set by frontrunner Matt King Coal, moved to fourth along the rail as the half went in :50.01, and advanced to third behind three-quarters in 1:13.81 and a 1:37.89 mile.
"Coming into it, we were a bit concerned with the lack of pace on paper," Pletcher said. "We thought he might have to be a little bit more forwardly placed and (jockey) Jose (Ortiz) gave him a great ride to position him towards to the rail. The fractions weren't fast up front, but Jose had him in a perfect position and when he was able to swing out, you really saw him extend to the wire."
Shaman Ghost, who chased Matt King Coal throughout, issued a successful takeover at the head of the lane after he was strongly asked for run around the far turn, but Ortiz shifted Keen Ice outside and the big bay kept plugging along to take over in the final furlong. The final time was 2:02.02 on a fast track.
Keen Ice returned $12, $3.90, and $2.80, while Shaman Ghost brought $2.30 and $2.10. Follow Me Crev finished third, worth $3.70, and was followed home by Watershed and Matt King Coal. Keen Ice improved his record to 3-2-5 from 22 starts, for earnings of $3,037,245. According to Pletcher, the Oct. 7 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) could be his next goal.
"I know that Shaman Ghost is a really good horse but how the race developed, my horse pulled me really close to him," Ortiz said. "I thought I was going to be a little farther (behind). When we hit the three-eighths pole, I was right next to (Shaman Ghost), on his heels, without asking, so I was in a very good position. Keen Ice gave me everything he had. He was full of run today."
Kentucky Derby Winner Always Dreaming Gets Back to Work
There are certain achievements time cannot dull. No matter the months that march forward, Always Dreaming will always be the winner of the the first leg of the 2017 Triple Crown, the outing that had his entrepreneurial owners bouncing like school kids in the mud at Churchill Downs May 6.
Time can also benefit those worn out by their successful exploits. After a freshening following his disappointing outing in the middle classic, Always Dreaming has officially gotten back to the business of trying to regain his prior brilliance.
The Todd Pletcher-conditioned winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) put in his first workout since finishing eighth in the May 20 Preakness Stakes (G1), covering four furlongs in :49.96 over the Belmont Park training track July 1.
Where the son of Bodemeister was extremely aggressive in his training lead-up to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness—prompting Pletcher to add draw reins to his morning equipment—Always Dreaming appeared much more settled in his first work back and smoothly went through his paces under no urging from exercise rider Hector Ramos.
Pletcher previously stated that the July 30 Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park and July 29 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course were both under consideration for his charge, although co-owner Anthony Bonomo said Saturday they are leaning toward the latter.
"I think he's doing great after getting some time off and getting over being so tired from that demanding race (in the Preakness)," said Bonomo, who owns Always Dreaming along with fellow majority partner Vinnie Viola, as well as MeB Racing, Teresa Viola, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds. "When he works, it doesn't even look he's working, because he is so smooth and has such a beautiful stride. We're thrilled that his first work back was a good one and hopefully he'll continue to work well and be ready for the Saratoga meet.
"Todd has made some great decisions so far, so I'm going to leave (the start) up to him, but I guess, sure, being from New York you think about (the Jim Dandy). We just hope he continues to make progress. Sometimes a little time can be good."
The divisional parity that was prevalent during the prep season won out during the classics, as three different horses ended up taking each leg of the Triple Crown. Always Dreaming is still the only 3-year-old male who has earned multiple grade 1 wins this year. He captured the April 1 Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) by five lengths to tout himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite he would ultimately become—and make good on.
"We've won two prominent races. Those are two big grade 1 races to have under his belt," Bonomo said. "Of course there are a lot of good horses in this division, and that's what makes it so interesting. I don't think there is one horse who is overriding as 'wow, this horse is far and away the best,' as we've seen in recent years.
"This year's is division is still pretty open. ... and for the rest of the year, they'll continue to go after each other. But I'm still proud of Always Dreaming and what he's accomplished this year. Having the two grade 1 wins, I like where we are."
Pletcher added that Always Dreaming is scheduled for three more breezes before the Jim Dandy.
Joining Always Dreaming on the Belmont work tab Saturday was Preakness winner Cloud Computing, who continued his preparations toward a Jim Dandy start with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.84 over the Belmont main track. The son of Maclean's Music has turned in three workouts since he bested champion Classic Empire by a head in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
"He looked very good," said trainer Chad Brown. "He galloped out well and is still on target for the Jim Dandy. I love where we're at with him."
Tapwrit Wears Down Irish War Cry to Win Belmont Stakes
One year ago, a gray Todd Pletcher-trained colt was the pursued. In 2017, Pletcher—and another gray—were in pursuit.
With an inside trip just off favored Irish War Cry most of the way, Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert LaPenta's Tapwrit angled out late in the final turn under jockey Jose Ortiz, as the top pair kicked well clear of the rest in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
After setting pressured fractions of :23.88, :48.66, 1:14.01, and 1:38.95 through a mile, though, Irish War Cry had enough. The 5-2 favorite fought on for most of the stretch, but the final stages were Tapwrit's, as the Tapit colt powered by near the sixteenth pole and won by two lengths.
"It's an unbelievable feeling that I can't explain," said Ortiz, who won his first Triple Crown race. "I'm very happy right now. ... The distance—I was sure he could handle it. It was a great training job by Todd. I always liked him and had a lot of faith in him. Today he showed up."
A year after Pletcher-trained, Eclipse-co-owned Destin got caught at the wire by Creator in the Belmont, Tapwrit stopped the clock in 2:30.02 for 1 1/2 miles to give the trainer his second classic win of the year, after Always Dreaming's victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Pletcher-trained Patch finished third, another 5 3/4 lengths back.
"Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip," Pletcher said. "It was everything we talked about in the paddock before the race. We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunch time. It looked like Irish War Cry still had something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep."
In the Derby Tapwrit finished sixth, 10 1/4 lengths behind his winning stablemate, but had to steady early when Irish War Cry cut across the field soon after the start. The gray colt had a less-than-ideal trip the rest of the way beneath the Twin Spires, but had smooth sailing Saturday on Big Sandy.
"I've said all along I think he ran a very sneaky-good race in the Derby, and there's a lot made about the trouble at the start," Pletcher said. "He got as much of that as anyone. ... (We thought post 16 in the Derby was) a great spot ... and it turned out it was the worst position, because Irish War Cry took a left leaving there, and it was just a chain reaction from there."
"We got (Irish War Cry) back today, though," Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbreds said with a laugh during the post-race press conference.
In front of a crowd of 57,729 at Belmont Park Saturday, Irish War Cry broke well from post 7 and again crossed over the horses inside of him to get to the front entering the first turn, but speedster Meantime was only a head back on the outside after the first quarter. Graham Motion said the plan wasn't for the son of Curlin to have the lead, but the trainer was not unhappy with the trip or performance by his colt.
"We kind of hoped that somebody else would go for (the lead), but he had to go to plan 'B' and (jockey) Rajiv (Maragh) did a great job," Motion said. "At the eighth pole, I thought we might be home free, but it's the Belmont. It's a tough race. I'm very proud of how he ran. I thought he ran a very game race."
The Belmont run fit with Irish War Cry's up-and-down form cycle. He started on the road to the Triple Crown with a 3 3/4-length victory in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2), ran seventh by 21 3/4 lengths in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2), won the Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets (G2) by 3 1/2 lengths, and came in 10th in the Kentucky Derby.
"It's very vindicating—for the horse and for me, and the owners and everyone," Motion said of Irish War Cry's classic placing.
Gormley made a simultaneous move with Tapwrit entering the final turn and hung on for fourth, 4 1/4 lengths behind Patch. He was followed by Senior Investment, Twisted Tom, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, J Boys Echo, and Multiplier. Dallas Stewart trainee Hollywood Handsome was pulled up in the backstretch when jockey Florent Geroux lost his irons after getting squeezed coming into the first turn. The son of Tapizar was vanned back to the barn area, where he was treated for a laceration behind his left knee that required surgical staples, according to Dr. Keith Latson of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Tapwrit's victory was the third Belmont win for his sire, following Creator and Tonalist (2014).
The ownership trio purchased Tapwrit for $1.2 million from the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.
"This was a team effort from the start," said Pletcher disciple Jonathan Thomas, the trainer at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla., who broke Tapwrit after the sale. "That's what makes it special. I mean, we all basically ran into each other and loved this horse, and figured out a way to get him bought. And luckily Mr. LaPenta came in and we had the ammunition to get it done."
The journey—from a last-place debut at Saratoga Race Course in September of 2016, to a Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) win, to a perplexing fifth-place Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) run—also added to the overall sweetness of the classic victory.
"When things kind of went not quite how we planned it, no one freaked out or wanted to change the course of what we set out to do, and everything has been very organic," Thomas said. "Having worked for Todd, to be able to develop a horse like this is really meaningful."
Justin Phillip Gets First Winner in a Romp
Castleton Lyons' grade 1-winning freshman sire Justin Phillip had his first winner June 2 when What a Catch took a $62,000 maiden special weight at Belmont Park by 5 1/2 lengths.
The chestnut colt out of the black-type stakes winner Catch My Fancy (by Yes It's True) was bred in New York by Castleton Lyons with Kilboy Estate and is raced by Gary Barber. Todd Pletcher trains the 2-year-old colt, who had jockey John Velazquez in the irons for his debut.
What a Catch lost his back footing at the start, which put him in a stalking position for the first three-sixteenths of a mile. He caught the pacesetters Barbarossa and Freudian Flip after the opening quarter went in :22.37. The winner clocked a half-mile in :46.64, and completed the five furlongs in :59.79.
Castleton Lyons acquired Catch My Fancy for $195,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton February mixed sale out of the Bluewater Sales consignment. The mare has now produced five winners from five foals to race.
Justin Phillip is one of five graded stakes winners produced by blue hen Ava Knowsthecode. The 9-year-old son of First Samurai won the 2013 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1), 2011 Woody Stephens Stakes (G2), and the 2013 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) and placed in nine other graded stakes. He retired with $1,293,437 in earnings and now stands for $5,000.
Always Dreaming True in Kentucky Derby Win
The horse's name is Always Dreaming.
A horse with New York-based owners, some who have known each other since childhood—friends who remember long, sunny, summer days at Belmont Park with their fathers, impressed by a sport that included fans who would recognize seats covered with newspapers or race programs as reserved.
A horse with a Hall of Fame jockey and future Hall of Fame trainer, who combined to win many of North America's top races, teamed up this Louisville day in pursuit of America's greatest race.
On the first Saturday in May in Louisville, dreams most assuredly come true. To reach those dreams, it helps to have a fast horse.
With so many dreams on the line May 6 before 158,070 fans, Always Dreaming delivered, executing a flawless tracking trip under John Velazquez before taking command in the stretch to score a 2 3/4-length victory in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) at Churchill Downs. Watch Video
Owned by the partnership of MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz Stable, Teresa Viola, St Elias Stable, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, Always Dreaming was sent off the 9-2 favorite after his five-length victory in the XpressBet.com Florida Derby (G1). The son of 2012 Derby and Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up Bodemeister —a WinStar stallion who now has a Kentucky Derby winner from his first crop—has four wins in as many starts this season.
"Growing up as kids, we’ve won a lot of Kentucky Derbys, but not in reality," said part owner Anthony Bonomo of Brooklyn Boyz. "We just knew when we got together something special was going to happen. It’s been a family affair."
The present reality had the owners recalling childhood dreams.
"We represent everybody who went to the racetrack with their dads and were astonished by these athletes and fell in love with them," said Vincent Viola, who owns St. Elias. "We are truly kids, in our hearts, from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. We always dreamed and this is one of the dreams that came true."
The victory took some pressure off Todd Pletcher, a multiple Eclipse Award winner who entered the Derby with one win in 45 starts.
"My Derby record has been talked about a lot. … When you look at it now, we’ve been here 17 years and we’ve been fortunate to have two wins, two seconds, and three thirds," Pletcher said. "I feel like I really needed that second one."
As much success as Pletcher and Velazquez have enjoyed together over the years, their prior Derby wins came with others. Pletcher sent out Calvin Borel to victory aboard Super Saver in the 2010 Derby and Velazquez guided home Animal Kingdom for Graham Motion in the 2011 edition of the classic.
In the 2001 Derby, Velazquez guided Invisible Ink to a runner-up finish for Pletcher. But it took them 16 more years to win the race together.
"I felt like Johnny and I needed one together as well," Pletcher said. "We have had a great relationship for a long time now, and we have won a lot of races together. This one we hadn't, and this is the one we wanted to win together. And I'm glad we could do it."
"This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with," Velazquez said. "Nothing against the others, but this was the best horse."
Always Dreaming completed the 1 1/4-mile classic in 2:03.59 on a sloppy track, the first off-track for a Derby since 2013. He was followed home by longshots Lookin At Lee in second and Battle of Midway another five lengths back in third. Morning-line favorite Classic Empire, the champion juvenile male of 2016 who entered off a score in the Arkansas Derby (G1), finished fourth, just edging Practical Joke.
L and N Racing's Lookin At Lee, by Lookin At Lucky , entered off a third in the Arkansas Derby and earned his third grade 1-placing Saturday. Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm's Battle of Midway, a son of Smart Strike, entered off a runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Early on, longshot State of Honor sailed to the lead under Jose Lezcano. He completed the first quarter in :22.70 while Always Dreaming, who broke well and saved ground, raced in second. After State of Honor completed a half-mile in :46.53, Velazquez moved Always Dreaming to the early leader's outside and they were soon on even terms.
After Always Dreaming put a head in front and ran six furlongs in 1:11.12, he was engaged in the far turn by Battle of Midway and Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2) winner Irish War Cry. Asked the question, Always Dreaming had the answer. He put away Irish War Cry coming out of the turn and stayed in front of Battle of Midway after reaching the quarter pole in 1:37.27, before edging away from that rival in early stretch.
Trainer Graham Motion was feeling pretty good in the far turn, but Irish War Cry couldn't quite get the lead from the determined eventual winner.
"He went from having a lot of horse at the head of the stretch to not having enough pretty quickly," Motion said. "He was surprised how quickly he emptied out on him. Could it be the distance? He said he didn't seem like he was real crazy about the track. It was quite tacky. We'll have to see."
Despite the extra space provided for the final post in the main gate, post 14 for Classic Empire, and the first post in the auxiliary gate, post 15 for McCraken, the two bumped hard shortly after the start. They bumped again in the stretch as they tried to rally.
"We got wiped out at the start," said Classic Empire's trainer, Mark Casse. "That's the problem with the auxiliary gate. ... Classic Empire really got clobbered. The track is impossible. Our horse ran extremely well, considering."
In mid-stretch Lookin At Lee launched an inside rally, but just as his connections' hopes began to rise, Always Dreaming found one final gear to avoid any serious late threat.
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners and born Feb. 25. A Kentucky-bred colt, he is out of the grade 3-winning In Excess mare Above Perfection, who also has produced grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick.
Bonomo's son, Anthony Bonomo Jr., went to $350,000 to land Always Dreaming at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. The younger Bonomo went over a limit his father put in place that day, but that transgression was most assuredly forgiven Saturday in Louisville.
Always Dreaming was consigned to that sale by Dromoland Farm and Steve Young, agent, signed the ticket.
Always Dreaming is the fifth straight favorite to win the Derby and 10th horse to win the classic after starting from post 5. He returned $11.40, $7.20, and $5.80 across the board. Lookin At Lee returned $26.60 to place and $15.20 to show. Battle of Midway paid $20.80 to show.
Steve Asmussen was proud of the run by Lookin At Lee, who was guided by Corey Lanerie.
"He just keeps coming," Asmussen said. "Drawing (post) 1 was tough. He's the first horse in 20 years to run in the top three from the one hole. A lot of credit goes to Corey for navigating a very good course from there.
"To me, the Kentucky Derby—everything about it is a thrill. I'm just proud of the effort of Lookin At Lee and the whole team."
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, like Asmussen a Hall of Famer, thought Battle of Midway delivered a top effort under Flavien Prat.
"We had a good position coming into the lane, but Todd's horse was too good," Hollendorfer said.
Following Practical Joke in fifth were Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Gormley, Irish War Cry, Hence, Untrapped, Girvin, Patch, J Boys Echo, Sonneteer, Fast and Accurate, Irap, and State of Honor, to complete the order of finish.
Thunder Snow was pulled up shortly after the start, after breaking extremely rank and bucking hard in the opening sixteenth. An initial veterinary exam revealed no injury and he was able to walk to the backstretch.
The victory was worth $1,635,800 to Always Dreaming's connections. Saturday's payday increased his earnings to $2,284,700. He has a record of 4-1-1 from six starts, including two grade 1 victories in as many attempts. His connections plan to start in the Preakness in two weeks.
Admiral Jimmy is First Winner for Jimmy Creed
Siena Farm homebred Admiral Jimmy became the first winner for Spendthrift Farm's freshman sire Jimmy Creed when he took a Gulfstream Park maiden special weight May 3 by 3 1/2 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher as the even-money favorite.
Admiral Jimmy is out of the Bernardini daughter Zayanna, who is the dam of black-type stakes winner Velvet Mood (Lonhro). The 8-year-old mare now has two winners from as many starters.
Siena Farm also bred Zayanna, after acquiring her dam Heavenly Cat for $750,000 at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale from Viking Stud as agent. Zayanna never placed at the races but she held plenty of value as a producer. She is a half sister to grade 3 winners Heavenly Ransom (Red Ransom) and Dilemma (Grand Slam) and graded-placed black-type stakes winner Capitano.
Grade 1-winning sprinter Jimmy Creed, who Spendthrift bought for $900,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, is a son of Distorted Humor out of grade 1 winner Hookedonthefeelin. He won the Malibu Stakes (G1) and placed in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G1) at 3 and took the Potrero Grande Stakes (G2) at 4.
SHINAR: Jimmy Creed Gives Mandella 5th Malibu Win
Jimmy Creed has had one other starter to date. He stands at Spendthrift Farm for $5,000 and will shuttle for the third season this summer to Spendthrift Farm Australia, where he stands for AU$7,700 (approximately US$6,000).
Unbridled Mo Finds More in Doubledogdare Stakes
As owner/breeder John Brunetti watched the bay legs of Power of Snunner get ever closer to his filly in the Keeneland stretch April 21, the flips in his stomach got that much more intense.
What comforted Brunetti, and ultimately sparked an emotional jolt of a happier kind, was the fact that Unbridled Mo's past wasn't going to let the presence at her hip win out.
"I was a little bit (nervous)," Brunetti said. "But this filly, she doesn't let anyone pass her."
After making her connections sweat, Unbridled Mo allowed them to celebrate as the 4-year-old bay filly turned back a game showing from Power of Snunner in the lane en route to taking the $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) by three-quarters of a length. Watch Video
Friday's triumph before an announced crowd of 16,664 marked the second straight graded stakes score for the daughter of Uncle Mo and her third graded triumph overall in eight career starts. Her mettle once she strikes the front has indeed yet to be conquered with her only two losses coming when she ran sixth after tracking fifth in the Comely Stakes (G3) last November and her maiden outing last April when she never got running and hit the wire eighth.
"When (Unbridled Mo) got to the lead, she started waiting. When the other horse (Power of Snunner) got to her, she put in a nice fight," said jockey John Velazquez, who won the Doubledogdare for the fifth time. "It was her, just waiting, looking at the crowd and everything. Thank God the other horse came to her and made her run again."
Unbridled Mo reeled off a four-race win streak at one point last year—including a victory in the Monmouth Oaks (G3)—but really signaled herself on the distaff scene when she bested multiple grade 1 winner I'm a Chatterbox during her seasonal bow in the Jan. 29 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) at Sam Houston. Sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the four-horse lineup for the 1 1/16 mile Doubledogdare, the Todd Pletcher trainee was her normal handy self in her Keeneland debut.
Velazquez rated the filly second in the three path behind early pacesetter Dear Elaine as the former cut fractions of :23.61 and :46.77 over a track rated fast. The compact field became a two-horse race coming off the final turn with Unbridled Mo advancing to take command coming into the head of the lane only to be met by Power of Snunner doing all she could under jockey Mike Smith.
Unbridled Mo let her rival range up, but never let herself be headed as she covered the distance in 1:45.11, setting herself up for a likely run in the June 10 Odgen Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park.
"She's been lightly raced and we found out the secret with her is how much time she should get between races and how we should train her between races," said Brunetti, who purchased Unbridled Mo's dam, Unbridled Waters, for $155,000 at the 1999 Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale. "You know when you experiment, you're taking up a lot of time but we have the right combination with her now, so we just hope we can keep going."
Power of Snunner was 7 1/4-lengths clear of third-place finisher Lady Fog Horn while Dear Elaine rounded out the order of finish. Twirl Girl was a scratch.
Unbridled Mo paid out $2.80 and $2.10 with no show wagering and improved her record to six wins from eight starts with $531,180 in earnings.
"You wait a long time (with homebreds), you go through generations of mares and foals ...and then you get something nice like this," Brunetti said.
Team Repole Delivers First Winner for Overanalyze
Freshman sires are on a roll April 20 aided by Analyze the Odds, who became the first winner for WinStar Farm's grade 1 winner Overanalyze . The colt won a $100,000 maiden special weight at Aqueduct by 4 1/2 lengths, about an hour after Hill 'n' Dale Farms' freshman Violence got his first winner at Keeneland.
Analyze the Odds, the first foal produced by the winning Mineshaft daughter The Sense Angel, is raced by Repole Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, the team that won three graded stakes and earned $1,046,381 with Overanalyze.
Lansdowne Thoroughbreds bred Analyze the Odds in New York. Agent Jim Crupi bought the dark bay colt on Repole's behalf for $15,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale in Kentucky through the Indian Creek consignment. The colt is out of the family that produced English and Irish champions El Gran Senor and Try My Best (both are full brothers to Analyze the Odds' third dam, Golden Oriole, a winner by Northern Dancer and out of Sex Appeal). Analyze the Odds' second dam, Sense of Class (Fusaichi Pegasus) has not produced a black-type runner yet but she has five winners out of six to race.
Analyze the Odds broke sharply in the 4 1/2-furlong race but conceded the lead early to Magnanimus Man, the first starter for Hill 'n' Dale Farms' freshman sire New Year's Day . Magnanimus Man rolled through fractions of :23.18 and :46.54, holding onto the lead through mid-stretch. Coming out of the turn, Analyze the Odds and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. quickly closed the gap with the leader and rolled easily past to win in a final time of :52.53.
Magnanimus Man finished third behind Analyze the Odds' stablemate Surprise Wonder, who kicked in late to get second.
Overanalyze was one of the top 2-year-olds of his crop, winning the five-furlong Futurity Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park and nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct in 2012. He captured his biggest victory as a 3-year-old, decisively winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Overanalyze bred 151 mares in his first book in 2014, making him one of six in his sire class to breed more than 150 mares. The 5-year-old son of Dixie Union out of Unacloud, by Unaccounted For, stands at WinStar for $10,000, stands and nurses.
Always Dreaming Exits Florida Derby in Good Order
The first order of business for Todd Pletcher upon arriving at Palm Beach Downs the morning of April 2 was to check on his 3-year-old star of the moment, Always Dreaming, who gave both the trainer and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez their record fourth victory in the $1 million Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1).
Pletcher couldn't have been happier with the dark bay or brown son of Bodemeister , a commanding five-length winner in his stakes debut.
NOVAK: Always Dreaming Runs Away With Florida Derby
"He's excellent. It seemed like he recuperated quickly after the race, cooled out good, looked good this morning, settled back here into Palm Beach Downs and all is well," Pletcher said.
"He seems to be in excellent form. I was really pleased with the way he came back to the winner's circle. It just seemed like he recovered quickly from the race and cooled out quickly, and was bright, alert, and happy back in his stall. Initially, he's showing us all the signs you're hoping for."
After steadying between rivals on the first turn, Always Dreaming settled off early leader Three Rules on the outside before rolling to the lead after straightening for home and drawing off to win in 1:47.47, the fastest Florida Derby since Alydar's 1:47 flat in 1978.
"Honestly I can't say it surprised us," Pletcher said. "It was what we felt like he was capable of doing based on the way he had been training, but you're always pleased to see him deliver the type of performance you're hoping for. He certainly did that, and then some."
Always Dreaming, owned by the partnership of Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stable, MeB Racing Stables, Siena Farm ,and West Point Thoroughbreds, will remain at Palm Beach Downs for at least the next couple weeks before shipping to Churchill Downs for the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
"I've got to kind of map out a schedule in terms of when we'll ship to Churchill," Pletcher said. "We'll look to have a breeze or possibly two breezes at Churchill, but we'll kind of play it by ear and see what the shipping arrangements look like and see what the weather's doing in Kentucky and take all those into consideration."
Trainer Mark Casse reported Sunday that State of Honor, Floriday Derby runner-up, exited his race in good order and is bound for Churchill mid-week, where he will also target the Kentucky Derby.
Immediately after State of Honor finished second by five lengths, Casse said he was inclined to run the son of To Honor and Serve , who is owned by his breeder, Conrad Farms, in the Louisville classic.
Sunday morning, Casse was even more bullish on the idea. In the Florida Derby, State of Honor, with Julien Leparoux up, was racing without blinkers, a change the trainer initiated in hopes of getting the Canadian-bred to relax.
"The winner was very impressive," Casse said. "Was there anything we could have done to change the outcome? No. I think if he had settled a little better ... you know, he's still learning to settle, which we're trying to achieve. I think he did that in the middle of the race, he didn't do it early. He was probably a little bit intimidated down inside, turning for home, where (Always Dreaming) kind of got first kick on him, where we had to play catch-up.
"I was actually, after watching the replay, more impressed with his performance than initially," he added. "He's a very consistent horse and ran well, so I think he deserves a shot. The owners are excited, we're excited, and he's going to Kentucky."
State of Honor, who ran second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in March, currently sits in fifth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 62 points.
Florida Derby beaten favorite Gunnevera emerged from his third-place finish in good order, said trainer Antonio Sano Sunday morning.
"Gunnevera is very good, very good. He was checked by the vet, and everything is very good," said Sano, whose even-money favorite trailed the 10-horse field after breaking from the far outside post and rallied late to finish third.
"I'm very happy with my horse," Sano said. "Considering everything, it was a good race for my horse."
Gunnevera previously finished a troubled second in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and then won the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) to establish himself as a prime candidate for the Derby.
Sano said the son of Dialed In is scheduled to ship to Churchill April 22 to begin preparations, which includes a planned breeze April 29.
Trainer Dale Romans said he had no plans as of yet for Impressive Edge, who finished fourth Saturday.
"We'll see how he comes out of this race, but I will find a good spot for him," Romans said. "I think the winner is a really good horse, I think the second horse is a really good horse, I think they're all really good horses and I think they will all have an impact on the Triple Crown series."
All Included, Summersault Make Grade on Gulfstream Turf
Wertheimer and Frere's homebred All Included stormed by Delta Prince with a late run in the stretch to take the $200,000 Appleton Stakes (G3T) April 1 by a half-length.
After not running his best and finishing eighth in last year's edition of the Appleton, the 6-year-old son of Include entered this year's race off two close seconds over the Gulfstream Park turf. The Todd Pletcher trainee had a nine-month layoff before losing by a neck in a Jan. 15 optional-claiming allowance race and by three-quarters of a length in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1T) in February.
All Included's score Saturday was his first graded stakes win in his 17 starts, and he now has a bankroll of $507,440.
"My concern was I tried to wait as long as I can in the race," jockey Javier Castellano said of his ride on the winner. "I have the type of horse that comes from behind. I took my time and rode with a lot of patience and confidence because I had the best horse in the race."
Siding Spring jumped out of the gate and went for the early lead in the one-mile test on the firm turf. Diamond Bachelor raced in second just off the frontrunner and Delta Prince, a half brother to champion Royal Delta, raced comfortably in third in the six-horse field. All Included traveled at the back of the pack.
After clocking :23.41 and :46.29 for a half-mile, Diamond Bachelor began to pressure Siding Spring as the rest of the field closed on the frontrunners. As six furlongs went in 1:09.73, Delta Prince and jockey Jose Ortiz maintained a narrow advantage out of the turn, but proved to be no match for All Included, who swung wide and ran down Delta Prince to stop the clock in 1:33.12.
Our Way finished a length back in third, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Siding Spring in fourth. My Point Exactly and Diamond Bachelor rounded out the order of finish.
Sent off as the even-money favorite, All Included returned $4.20, $2.40, and $2.10 across the board.
"I thought the mile would actually suit him well," Pletcher said. "Like it is in a compact field, you're just hoping you get a good trip. (Castellano) gave him plenty of time to get his run together. It took him a little longer to do last time than he wanted.
"They have a race here at the end of the month (the grade 3 Miami Mile). He seems to really like Gulfstream, so we would consider staying here for that."
In the next race on the card, the $200,000 Orchid Stakes (G3T), it was William Parson Jr. and David Howe's homebred Summersault who ran down odds-on favorite Olorda to win by three-quarters of a length.
After winning back-to-back allowance races on Gulfstream's grass, the 5-year-old Rock Hard Ten mare proved that she could step up in class on Saturday, her first graded stakes attempt in 22 starts.
Second choice Maquette took command early and set a rapid pace through a mile, with fractions of :23.47, 46:12, 1:10.54, and 1:35.12. Olorda raced off the pace in second, Quiet Kitten in third, while Summersault and Temple Fur settled near the back. After a mile, Summersault was in fourth, 4 1/2 lengths off the leader.
In the last turn of the three-turn, 1 3/8-mile test, the field bunched up and Olorda had a one-length advantage heading into the stretch. After going three wide in the last turn, Summersault began to edge her competition under some urging from jockey Paco Lopez and prevailed, stopping the clock in 2:12.24 to become the 25th black-type stakes winner for her sire.
Quiet Kitten got a nose in front of Temple Fur for third, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Maquette.
"I know (pacesetter Maquette) was going very, very fast," Lopez said. "My filly is always running a little more close, but I don't push. At the half-mile/five-eighths (pole), I ask my filly. She was coming and coming. She finished very well."
Sent off as the 9-1 longshot, Summersault returned $20, $5.20, and $3 across the board. The Mark Hennig trainee now boasts a record of 6-5-2, with earnings of $374,983.
Undefeated Ghalia Takes Sunland Park Oaks
Sumaya U.S. Stable's Ghalia remains undefeated in three starts after a late drive in the stretch resulted in a neck in front to win the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks March 26. Watch Video
In her first try around two turns, the Medaglia d'Oro filly, under jockey Jose Ortiz, raced just off the frontrunners who stayed close together while setting a quick pace in the 1 1/16-mile test over a fast track at Sunland Park.
Out of the gate, co-favorite Noted and Quoted and Soft Cheese battled for the early lead. For the first half-mile Soft Cheese maintained a half-length advantage and set fractions of :22.41 and :45.75. Grade 1 winner Noted and Quoted dropped back a half-mile and was eased by jockey Martin Garcia.
Co-favorite at 9-5, Kell Paso and jockey Ry Eikleberry moved up to assume control and Ghalia, who was four lengths back in fourth, began to advance as six furlongs went in 1:10.64. Into the stretch, Ghalia went wide and in her last strides prevailed over Kell Paso at the wire for a final time of 1:44.24.
What What What was 5 3/4 lengths back in third, another 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Conquest Slayer in fourth. Soft Cheese and McKenzie Honey rounded out the field.
Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Ghalia returned $6, $3, and $2.40 across the board. Kell Paso paid $3 and $2.40, while What What What was worth $3.80.
With her win, Ghalia earned 50 points toward a start in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 5. Points were awarded 50-20-10-5.
The Todd Pletcher-trainee entered off two wins earlier this year at Gulfstream Park. Most recently, she took a Feb. 15 6 1/2-furlong optional-claiming allowance race by 1 1/2 lengths. Her first time out in a six-furlong maiden special weight Jan. 22 she scored by 6 3/4.
Bred by Darley, Edward Seltzer, and Beverly Anderson, Ghalia is out of graded stakes winner Verdana Bold. The filly was purchased by Oussama Aboughazale's International Equities Holding for $600,000 as a weanling out of the Warrendale Sales consignment to the 2014 Keeneland November sale. She now has $166,800 in earnings.
Malagacy Flaunts His Talent in Rebel Stakes
It is rare the winding path that leads to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) gets too trampled upon without the barn of seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher stealing some focus along the way.
Like a train arriving on schedule, another late-blooming Toddler has emerged to make his presence known just before crunch time.
One month after stablemate One Liner made a splash on the Triple Crown trail over the Oaklawn Park track, fellow Pletcher trainee Malagacy gave his future Hall of Fame conditioner another legitimate sophomore to point toward the first Saturday in May when he captured the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) by two lengths over Sonneteer at the Hot Springs oval March 18. Watch Video
Pletcher may not have come into 2017 with any of the perceived leaders of the 3-year-old male class, but as is typical for his dominant operation, it hasn't taken him long to get some still-developing talents to step forward at just the right moments.
Sumaya U.S. Stable's Malagacy is one such horse. Unraced at 2, the son of Shackleford didn't debut until Jan. 4, when he blew the doors off Gulfstream Park with a 15-length win going 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track. Eight days before One Liner took the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn, Malagacy was giving his own sign of what was to come when he won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance test at Gulfstream by seven lengths.
"He was so impressive in his first two starts that (sending him to the Rebel) wasn't a question of talent," said Pletcher, who also conditions Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tapwrit. "It was just a question of handling different things and one of those was shipping from his Florida base to Hot Springs, and he handled that well. Of course, the other questions were stretching out around two turns and stepping up into graded stakes company.
"We were very confident in the way the horse was training. He had been training very well. He had shown us in his breezes that the added distance wouldn't be an issue, but we just don't know until they do it. There's some stamina in his pedigree, but he's also a very quick and a very fast horse."
The 1 1/16-mile Rebel was Malagacy's first two-turn test and first try against graded company. The chestnut colt shrugged off both challenges Saturday, rating in second with Royal Mo to his outside, as pacesetter Uncontested cut an opening quarter in :23.03 and a half-mile in :47.04.
As the 11-horse field reached the far turn, Malagacy advanced outside to eyeball Uncontested, while 8-5 favorite American Anthem was trying futilely to get into gear. With jockey Javier Castellano keeping him to task late, Malagacy edged clear in mid-stretch to stop the teletimer in 1:43 as 112-1 longshot and maiden Sonneteer won a tight battle for runner-up honors.
"He doesn't do anything wrong, very impressive the way he did it today. I rode with a lot of confidence," Castellano said.
Untrapped put in a rally on the far outside for third, with Petrov hitting the wire fourth.
Silver Dust completed the top five, while American Anthem, who was aiming to give trainer Bob Baffert his seventh win in the Rebel, faded to tenth.
"(He) slipped really bad leaving there in behind and stayed that way the whole race," said Mike Smith, jockey of American Anthem. "(He) just struggled for whatever reason. I was OK as long as we were all slow. As soon as we had to pick it up ... his head, legs just went everywhere."
Bred by John Trumbulovic and purchased by agent Steve Young for $190,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale, Malagacy is unbeaten in three starts with $586,800 in earnings. He earned 50 qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard to put him fourth in the standings.
"The (grade 1) Arkansas Derby would be the logical next step," Pletcher said. "We'll bring him home tomorrow to Palm Beach Downs and see how he bounces out of it. The Arkansas Derby timing-wise would be good, and getting a mile-and-an-eighth race under his belt would also be beneficial. That would be 'Plan A,' but in this business we all know that sometimes you have to call some audibles. Right now that's what the thinking is."
Tapwrit Shows His Class in Tampa Bay Derby
Tapwrit took the opportunity presented to him on paper March 11 and turned the $350,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) into his personal showcase of improving ability.
With unbeaten McCraken missing the 1 1/16 mile-test because of a slight ankle strain discovered last week, many figured the door was open for Tapwrit to take his runner-up finish behind the former in the Feb. 11 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) over the same track and distance and do himself one better Saturday. Despite incurring some traffic trouble around the first turn, the son of Tapit became the latest sophomore to make a play for a starring role in the ever-evolving 3-year-old male picture when he drew clear by 4 1/2 lengths over pacesetter State of Honor in stakes-record fashion. Watch Video
"He just exploded," Aron Wellman, president of co-owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, said of Tapwrit. "That was what we were hoping for, and he delivered."
The even-money favoritism Tapwrit carried as he went to post proved more than justified in what was an otherwise wide-open field for