Todd A. Pletcher Racing Stables, Inc.

Commissioner Ends Career on High Note

Commissioner Ends Career on High NoteWinStar Farm's Commissioner   went out on a high note Nov. 28, ending his career with a 2 1/2-length victory in the $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Hawthorne Race Course. Watch Video

The 4-year-old from the final crop of champion A.P. Indy retires to stud at WinStar near Versailles, Ky. for 2016, where he'll stand for a $7,500 fee.

BLOOD-HORSE STAFF: Commissioner to WinStar Farm for 2016

Rating close to the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner tracked third outside under jockey Florent Geroux while Majestic Harbor showed the way down the backside. Early fractions of :23.50 and :47.24 went up while the order remained unchanged, Majestic Harbor maintaining the advantage by about three-quarters of a length with Valiant City in pursuit and Commissioner galloping along wide behind them.

As three-quarters went in 1:11.21, Majestic Harbor widened the advantage to about two lengths, but then Geroux gave Commissioner the signal to advance. The bay colt rolled steadily to the lead in a prolonged drive for home, taking over for a 1:37.80 mile and finishing in 2:02.09 on a fast track.

"He's a very big, heavy horse and it takes him a while to get going, so I wanted to make sure I wasn't taking him back too far ... I wanted to make sure I was forwardly positioned," said Geroux. "When I asked him to go, he showed he was the best today."

Commissioner, favored at 4-5 and the 119-pound highweight in a field of eight older runners, paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.10. Neck 'n Neck, who closed to get second, brought $4 and $2.60. Majestic Harbor held for third, worth $2.60. Completing the order of finish were Street Spice, Valiant City, LahshadMister Marti Gras, and Fordubai

The winner was bred in Kentucky by WinStar out of the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart, and built a 5-3-2 record from 15 starts that includes victories in the Pimlico Special (gr. III) and Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) earlier this year. His earnings stand at $962,237.

Mrs. Revere New High Note for Isabella Sings

Mrs. Revere New High Note for Isabella SingsIsabella Sings opened a clear advantage early and carried her speed to the wire Nov. 14 to secure the first graded stakes win of her career in the $200,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) on the Churchill Downs turf. Watch Video

Paco Lopez and Isabella Sings, sent off at 27-1, seized a two-length advantage through a half-mile in :48.07, then held off a stretch challenge from another longshot, 44-1 Rainha Da Bateria, for a half-length win. The daughter of Eskenderya enjoyed a clear advantage at each early point of call, cruising through a quarter-mile in :23.5 and six furlongs in 1:13.41, and had just enough left late under Lopez's smart handling.

Anthony Manganaro's Siena Farm homebred Isabella Sings won this year's Little Silver Stakes on the Monmouth Park turf and had previously placed in a pair of grade II stakes on the grass for trainer Todd Pletcher before nailing down her first graded score Saturday. Isabella Sings completed the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies in 1:44.74 on good turf.

"She had been training really well and coming into it in good shape and we felt like she had a fighting chance in what appeared to be a deep and competitive field," Pletcher said. 

With the win Isabella Sings improved her career mark to 4-3-0 with earnings of $303,950. Isabella Sings also becomes the first graded stakes winner for second-crop sire Eskendereya, who boasts a total of four stakes winners.

"She can be kind of a headstrong filly and Paco was able to kind of coax her along a bit and get her to settle," Pletcher said. "The first quarter was solid, but then they were able to talk her out of it and get a kind second quarter. It looked like it was game on from there. I was hoping she could continue on." 

While Isabella Sings was 8-1 on the morning-line, she was largely ignored at the windows and returned $56.60 to win, $28.60 to place, and $15.80 to show. Raina Da Bateria paid $30.60 to place and $14.80 to show. The $2 exacta on the top two returned $1,799.20. Devine Aida, who rallied for third, returned $6.60 to show.

Out of stakes-placed Isobel Baillie, Kentucky-bred Isabella Sings is a half sister to stakes winner Alaura Michele.

Curalina Named Aiken-Trained Horse of Year

Curalina Named Aiken-Trained Horse of YearEclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina, a two-time grade I winner this year, has been named the 2015 Aiken-trained horse of the year.

Curlina joins Country Star (2007) and It's Tricky (2011) as the only females honored since the award was inaugurated in 2002.
A 3-year old Curlin   filly out of Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall, Curalina won or placed in all seven starts this year and posted victories in the Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks (both gr. I) among four wins for trainer Todd Pletcher. She was second in the Beldame and third in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff and Alabama (all gr. I) en route to $990,200 in earnings.  
Curlina, bred in Kentucky by CASA Farms I, was broken and trained at the Aiken Training Track by Brad Stauffer.
The Aiken-trained horse of the year award was created to honor local Thoroughbreds who have had an excellent racing season by winning at least one grade I race. Past winners are Congaree (2002), Wando (2003), Limehouse (2005), Bob and John (2006), Country Star (2007), Midshipman (2008), Quality Road (2009 & 2010), It's Tricky (2011), Alpha (2012) and Palace Malice (2013 & 2014).
A ceremony will be held Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 2 p.m. ET at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Memorabilia from Curalina's 2015 racing season and her career will be on display. The public is invited to attend the ceremony. The Hall of Fame is located at 135 Dupree Place, Aiken, SC 29801 inside historic Hopelands Gardens.
Tommy Macho Pulls Away in Discovery 'Cap

Tommy Macho Pulls Away in Discovery 'CapTommy Macho got the best of stablemate Madefromlucky for the second straight start Nov. 11 atAqueduct Racetrack, taking the $150,000 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) by a commanding margin. Watch Video

The 3-year-old Macho Uno   colt, owned by Paul Pompa Jr. and All American Horses and trained by Todd Pletcher, pressed the pace of frontrunner Ocean Knight through the backstretch and into the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile event on a sloppy main track and kicked clear in the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths.

"We felt like Ocean Knight was the horse to beat and was the main pace in the race, and we didn't want to allow him to walk the dog up front," Pletcher said. "So we felt like Tommy Macho's running style would hopefullyif he broke wellput him in a position to keep some pressure on the favorite."

Madefromlucky, one of three Pletcher entries in the seven-horse field, stalked and rallied late to finish second, followed by Ocean Knight, who held for third.

Ocean Knight set fractions of :24.25, :49.45, and 1:14.63 through six furlongs, and Tommy Macho finished off the nine furlongs in 1:51.67.

"My only concern was getting a good break out of the gate," said winning jockey Javier Castellano. "Sometimes he misses the break, but today he felt sharp... He broke out of the gate perfect and I knew I had enough horse in the stretch coming home."

It was the first graded win for Tommy Macho, who finished third in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) last time out, when Madefromlucky finished seventh. A start prior, Tommy Macho finished seventh in Madefromlucky's victory in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II).

"(He) ran a sneaky good race in the West Virginia Derby," Pletcher said of Tommy Macho. "The inside was very dead that day and he got stuck on the rail the whole way. Then I thought he ran an incredible third in the Pennsylvania Derby. He tends to run well fresh and I don't think he minded the off track."

The winner paid $9.30, $4.50, and $2.80 across the board. Madefromlucky brought $3.40 and $2.60, while 8-5 favorite Ocean Knight delivered $2.40 to show.

Smart Transition finished an even fourth, followed by First Spark,Total Joint, and Made in Detroit to complete the order of finish. 

Tommy Macho, out of the Awesome Again   mare Starstream, was bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis. He now has a 3-0-3 record from seven starts with $363,050 in earnings.

Stopchargingmaria Prevails With Distaff Win

Stopchargingmaria Prevails With Distaff WinStopchargingmaria held off Stellar Windby a neck and withstood a review by the stewards to score a close victory in the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) Oct. 30 at Keeneland. Watch Video

Town and Country Farms' Stopchargingmaria drifted out in the stretch, leading to a stewards' inquiry and objection after the race. The stewards ruled there was insufficient evidence to change the order of finish.

With the victory, Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano completed a sweep of the two Breeders' Cup dirt races on the card before a record Breeders' Cup Friday crowd of 44,947. The 4-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat   completed the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:48.98 and now boasts three grade I wins.

Pletcher acknowledged that his filly drifted out but told NBC Sports Network that he didn't think a foul occurred, noting that he didn't think it was as bad as Bayern's start in last year's Classic.

Stopchargingmaria returned $16.20 to win, $8.40 to place, and $6 to show. Hronis Racing's Stellar Wind paid $9.20 and $6.60 while Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina returned $7 to show.

Early in Friday's race, My Sweet Addictionwho stumbled at the startand Yahilwa dueled through a half-mile in :47.28. My Sweet Addiction faded in the turn, but Yahilwa was one of seven horses lined up across the track as they turned for home. Stopchargingmaria and Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) winner Stellar Wind would emerge from that group and they continued well to the wire.

HAMMONDS: Stellar Wind Rolls in Santa Anita Oaks

Pletcher, who picked up his ninth Breeders' Cup win, said a key was when the owner allowed him to rest Stopchargingmaria after her fourth-place finish in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 29 atSaratoga Race Course.

"The real key was when we made the decision not to run back after the Personal Ensign and train her up to this," Pletcher said. "Being able to her in her 2- and 3-year-old years, I know that she runs her best races sometimes when she's fresh. I think that was the key, and how she trained here.

"I thought her work here on (Oct. 24, four furlongs in :47) was exceptional. She's the kind of filly who when she breezes like, that, she tips herself. I thought that's what she did in her breeze the other day."

BALAN: Sheer Drama Plays Spoiler in Personal Ensign

Winning jockey Javier Castellano, who secured his sixth Breeders' Cup win, said the filly out of the Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom, ran a great race.

"You always get scared when this happens because it's such a big race and you don't want to get taken down, but I did nothing wrong," Castellano said of the inquiry. "My horse ran a great race, and I kept a straight path and was keeping the horse straight."

Trainer John Sadler thought Stellar Wind put herself in position for Eclipse Award consideration as champion 3-year-old filly.

"I am thrilled with our filly," Sadler said. "She ran a great race and she showed herself to be the top 3-year-old filly in the country. I think she is deserving of an Eclipse Award. She really ran an outstanding race. She had to go so wide. She had a lot of work to do on this kind of tight-turn track. But she really ran well."

Kiki Courtelis' Town and Country Farms' privately bought Stopchargingmaria before this racing season and that purchase paid dividends Friday.

Repole Stable campaigned Stopchargingmaria to a pair of 2014 grade I victories then opted to sell the filly after last season. When Stopchargingmaria failed to reach her reserve at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale, Town and Country reached out to Repole through Pletcher to buy the filly.

Pletcher had trained Stopchargingmaria for Repole. The new owners kept the filly with the multiple Eclipse Award winner. 

Liam's Map Rallies to Dirt Mile Win

Liam's Map Rallies to Dirt Mile WinThe connections of Liam's Map   may have had a few "What ifs?" in their heads after opting to run in the $1 million Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I)rather than the $5 million Classic (gr. I), as the 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song rallied from fourth for what turned out to be an easy 2 1/2-length victory Oct. 30 at Keeneland. Watch Video

Pinched a bit at the start the speedy Liam's Map, who entered off a gate-to-wire victory in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), raced an uncharacteristic fourth early in the Dirt Mile as Bradester set the pace through a quarter-mile in :23.10 and raced close to Mr. Z who led through a half-mile in :46.73.

ANGST: Liam's Map Reaches Destination in Woodward

Liam's Map and jockey Javier Castellano were boxed inside early but did appear to be comfortable throughout.

In the far turn, grade I winner Lea   moved first for jockey Jose Lezcano and opened a clear lead into the stretch as Liam's Map was moved into the clear. Liam's Map surged past Lea before mid-stretch on his way to the clear victory, his second straight grade I score. Liam's Map completed the mile test in 1:34.54, as one might expect a track record on the relatively new track and rarely run Keeneland distance.

The race will be the final career effort for Teresa Viola Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds' Liam's Map, who will stand at Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Ky., in 2016. Before the race Lane's End announced it had bought into the colt. Viola said she wasn't that nervous despite the change in running style as she thought Liam's Map was capable of rallying.

ANGST: Liam's Map to Stand at Lane's End in 2016

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who secured his eighth Breeders' Cup win, was not as confident.

"I was very concerned. The one thing Javier talked about is that he's a horse with a lot of speed, but he's not always quick away from there on the first step. We were hoping he'd get a clean break, but he didn't and was behind horses," Pletcher said. "I was very concerned at that point."

Prior to the Woodward, Liam's Map also led early in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) before being edged by Honor Code   at the wire. Honor Code will go in the Classic Saturday. Pletcher liked how Liam's Map handled the early challenges.

"What was so impressive is that he recovered a couple times. He got steadied about the five-eighths pole and didn't have anywhere to go," Pletcher said. "But every time Javier had to tap on the brakes a little bit, you could see Liam's Map jump back into the bridle. I kept hoping. I kind of lost him at the five-sixteenths pole, but when I saw him turning for home I could see he had some momentum."

Liam's Map was followed home by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's Lea and Jon and Sarah Kelly and Don and Joan Cimpi'sRed Vine. The biggest favorite in the history of the Dirt Mile, Liam's Map returned $3 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Lea brought $4.20 and $3, while Red Vine paid $3.40 to show.

Castellano, now a five-time Breeders' Cup winner, said he had planned to go to the lead early.

"Unfortunately he didn't break sharply," Castellano said. "In this game you have to a Plan B. I think the key was patience. He showed a lot of patience. He waited behind horses and it was phenomenal. He showed great skill. He can run on the pace or off the pace. I had to fight a little to put him behind horses, but when he was in the clear, he exploded."

Rachel's Valentina Adding to Family History

Rachel's Valentina Adding to Family HistoryShe's second on the morning line but first in the hearts of many racing fans. 

Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner Rachel's Valentina, the daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, will try to add to her mom's already historic legacy in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 31.

A tie to a Breeders' Cup win is about the only thing missing on the résumé of Rachel Alexandra. The now-9-year-old winner of the 2009 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) followed that dominating 20 1/4-length with a win in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Her championship campaign also included beating the boys again in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) and against older males in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) atSaratoga Race Course.

Now, the enthusiasm for Rachel Alexandra is transferring to her offspring, based on crowd reactions for the 2-year-old and her 3-year-old half brother, Jess's Dream (by Curlin  ). The mare's first foal also won at Saratoga this summer for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, but is out until winter with an injury.

Rachel Alexandra "was an extremely popular horse, so I think we saw after Jess's Dream (that) any of her foals are going to get extra attention, as they should," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Rachel's Valentina.

The first win for Rachel's Valentina was a come-from-behind, four-wide score going six furlongs at Saratoga in August. She followed that with the Spinaway win at seven furlongs in September, where she rallied after a slow start and earned an automatic entry in the Juvenile Fillies.

NOVAK: Rachel's Valentina Solid in Spinaway

"For her to be able to come out and win her first two races and a grade I in her second start, I think she's heightened the awareness," Pletcher said. "And it's certainly understandable (that) people would be excited about it, and Rachel Alexandra's fans would be excited about her."

Rather than making another start following the Spinaway, Pletcher elected to train Rachel's Valentina up to the Oct. 31 Juvenile Fillies where she is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line behind 7-5 favorite Songbird.

Rachel's Valentina will start from post nine while Songbird will start outside her in the 10-horse 1 1/16-mile race.

"Ideally we'd be a few posts in, but it's fair enough," Pletcher said. "It's only a 10-horse field. Hopefully we can work out a good trip from there."

BALAN: Songbird vs. 'Valentina' in Juvenile Fillies

It's been a good trip with the filly so far for Pletcher.

Getting a filly like Rachel's Valentina in the barn, "you hope" she can live up to her pedigree, Pletcher said. "It doesn't always guarantee you just because they have a great pedigree. She had pleased everyone at the farm, and it sounded like her training was good coming in."

Like her mother, Rachel's Valentina is owned by Stonestreet Stables. The homebred daughter of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini   is the last foal for Rachel Alexandra, who hasn't been mated again since complications from the foaling of Rachel's Valentina sent her to a clinic.

Stonestreet officials have not commented on whether any decision has been made on whether Rachel Alexandra will be mated next year.

Pletcher said he and his staff didn't know immediately how good Rachel's Valentina was after she arrived in the barn, "but she kind of passed every test that we gave her along the way. And we were pretty confident once we got up to the five-eighths level that she was pretty special, and so far she's proven that to be true."

For Pletcher, that's meant no added pressure in training a celebrity's baby.

"It's been easy for us because the filly's been so impressive and such an easy filly to prepare for her first start," Pletcher said. "And she's given us a lot of confidence based on what we've seen in her training, so from that perspective I haven't felt any more pressure."

Liam's Map Takes on All Comers in Dirt Mile

Liam's Map Takes on All Comers in Dirt MileWould he, or wouldn't he?

It was a question asked by racing fans and pundits alike in the weeks leading up to the Breeders' Cup World Championships, as the connections of Woodward Stakes (gr. I) winner Liam's Map mulled a start in the loaded Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) or an easier spot in the Oct. 30 Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) at Keeneland.

In the end, trainer Todd Pletcher broke the news Oct. 7 that the dappled gray son of Unbridled's Song would take the conservative route, running the shorter distance rather than throwing in his swift turn of foot against the likes of American Pharoah and Beholder in the Classic. Liam's Map drew post 3 of 11 for the Dirt Mile and will have Javier Castellano in the irons.

ANGST: Liam's Map Reaches Destination in Woodward

"He's a horse that is very, very fast," Pletcher said. "He's brilliantly fast. He also has the ability to carry it over a distance of ground ... he's got a high cruising speed—if you don't go with him you're in trouble and if you go with him, you're in more trouble."

In the Woodward Liam's Map was making his second straight start in grade I company after finishing as the runner-up to Classic contenderHonor Code in the Aug. 8 Whitney Stakes (gr. I), his first graded stakes try. He has progressed steadily in his training at Keeneland, most recently breezing five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 Oct. 22 in his final pre-race work.

Awaiting in the Dirt Mile—which actually will have a 210-foot run-up, making it a mile and 70-yard race—are the likes of last year's Dirt Mile runner-up Tapiture and grade I winner Lea  . The latter's connections decided to run him in the Dirt Mile instead of the Mile due to concerns over the soft going, and also after Lea worked a strong four furlongs in :47 2/5 Oct. 26 at Keeneland.

ANGST: Dirt Mile to be Contested at a Mile (Well a Bit Longer)

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Lea, a 6-year-old by First Samurai  who won the 2014 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on dirt and comes off a runner-up finish in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (gr. IT) on the lawn, runs well on both surfaces. Jose Lezcano picked up the mount from the 5 hole.

"Lea is going in the Dirt Mile, number one, because he can run on the dirt," Mott said. "He's a grade I winner on the dirt, he's got a track record on the dirt, and it looks to me like the turf is going to be extremely soft. It was soft today, and I think with another couple inches of rain, it's going to be soft on Saturday."  

NOVAK: Lea to Dirt Mile After Solid Main Track Work

Also breezing Oct. 26 was Tapiture, who went four furlongs in :49 1/5. The 4-year-old son of Tapit  trained by Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds, missed the 2014 edition by 1 1/4 lengths to two-time Dirt Mile winner Goldencents  . Tapiture's 2015 season has been less than inspiring, but he did rebound from a six-race skid with a win last time out in the Sept. 26 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. He drew post 9 under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.

BALAN: Tapiture Returns to Form in Ack Ack

"It's a good race, they'll go really fast, and I think Tapiture will fly home if he's allowed," Asmussen said. "And when I say 'allowed,' I mean if he's not completely eliminated in the first turn, either through how far you go or how rough it is.

"I thought the most important thing about his draw is who was where. With the Mile, the configuration here, I think that where you drew, it was extremely important compared to other horses, moreso than the post position, because of the obvious style of some very talented horses... (Liam's Map) most likely takes all they can give and makes it look like nothing, as we've seen in his previous races this year, but we are imagining a scenario which is favorable for us.

"And I think the key word is 'imagining.' "

Centennial Farms' Wicked Strong   finished second in the Oct. 3 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) to Classic runner Tonalist. The 4-year-old Hard Spun   colt was third in the Woodward behind Liam's Map and Coach Inge. He seeks to snap a nine-race losing span for trainer Jimmy Jerkens dating back to last year's Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), in which he defeated Tonalist off that one's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) win.

Stakes-winning millionaire Mr. Z, grade I-placed on this track, comes in off a fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) and cuts back in distance in search of his first win since the June 20 Ohio Derby for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. 

NOVAK: Mr. Z Has His Day in Ohio Derby

Also of interest are Kelso runner-up Red Vine for trainer Christophe Clement; grade II winner Bradester for trainer Eddie Kenneally; and grade II winner Valid for trainer Marcus Vitali. War StoryStreet Strategy, and War Envoy complete the field.

'Super' Breeze for Stopchargingmaria in Rain

'Super' Breeze for Stopchargingmaria in RainConcerned that Keeneland would seal the main track as rain began to fall early Oct. 24, trainer Todd Pletcher went ahead and sent Breeders' Cup Longines Distaff (gr. I) contenderStopchargingmaria to the track for a "super" breeze.

Owned by Louise Courtelis' Town and Country Farms, the 4-year-old Tale of the Cat   filly was timed in a quick :47 for a half-mile, with splits of :12 3/5 and :24 3/5 and gallop out times in :59 and 1:12.

"She went super," Pletcher said at his barn shortly after the 6:15 a.m. work. "That was a very strong gallop out. It was lively. For her to do it that fast and pretty easy and come back and cool out as quickly as she did is a sign she is doing really well and I'm happy with it. She's doing really well."

Watching the weather made for a sleepless night for Pletcher.

"We were down to just her (among Pletcher stable Breeders' Cup hopefuls) and I was laying awake last night thinking I should have gone (Friday). But I woke up a couple of times and looked at the radar and said 'I think we're going to be OK if we get it in early.' I checked the track at 4:15 and the tractors were out there harrowing and I said let's go early."

The winner of eight of 15 starts, Stopchargingmaria is coming into the Breeders' Cup off a fourth, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, in the Personal Ensign (gr. I). Included among her seven stakes wins, all graded, were back-to-back wins in the CCA Oaks and Alabama Stakes, both grade I.

Trainer Pletcher: 'Couldn't Be More Pleased'

Trainer Pletcher: 'Couldn't Be More Pleased'With one week go before the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course, trainer Todd Pletcher is confident in how his large contingent of hopefuls is coming into their respective races.

"I feel really, really good about the way the horses are training," he said Oct. 23 after five horses from his stable worked at Keeneland Race Course. "Over the last two days, we've just seen the kind of works you like to see coming into big races, (with) horses finishing well, galloping out strongly, cooling out quickly, staying in the feed tuball those little signs you're looking for.

"Right now, I couldn't be any more pleased with all of them," he said.

The Oct. 23 workers, Breeders' Cup races (all grade I), and splits (where available) were:
Rachel's Valentina (14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies): five furlongs in 1:00 4/5, split of :37 1/5 and gallop out six furlongs in 1:13 1/5 and seven furlongs in 1:28 1/5
Red Rifle (Longines Turf): four furlongs in :49, splits of :12 4/5, and :25 4/5, out in 1:02 and 1:14 3/5.
Dame Dorothy (Filly and Mare Sprint): four furlongs in :49, splits of :13 1/5 and :25 3/5,gallop out in 1:02 3/5 and 1:15 2/5
Mshawish (Mile): four furlongs in :47 4/5, splits of :13 1/5 and :25 4/5, gallop out in 1:01 and 1:14 1/5
Sweet Whiskey (Longines Distaff) four furlongs, :48.

Rachel's Valentina, the only Pletcher runner to work following the track maintenance break, ran away from her overmatched workmate,Ransack, a 2-year-old who is unplaced in his only career start.

"She basically toyed with her workmate, who couldn't keep up at any point," Pletcher said. "So it was almost like a solo work. I thought she looked great; did it very easily, galloped out easily."

Pletcher said he chose Ransack as the undefeated Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner's workmate because "I didn't want one that would go too fast. She was just too much for him."

In his analysis of the other workers, Pletcher said:

"Sweet Whiskey went very well. I had her finish in :23 flat. It was a good breeze for her.

"Red Rifle I had in :49 1/5, with a big strong gallop out, which we would expect since he's going in a mile-and-a-half race. It was another very solid work for him.

"Then I thought Dame Dorothy went extremely well and finished strongly.

"Mshawish, I had finishing :22 and change for the last quarter and galloped out really great. I thought it was a very impressive work for him."

Pletcher's works will be completed Saturday when Stopchargingmaria finishes her Distaff preparations.

Productive Morning for Pletcher Stable

Productive Morning for Pletcher StableIt was a typically busy morning for the Todd Pletcher stable, as racing's all-time leading money-earner sent five Breeders' Cup hopefuls to the track at Keenelandthe morning of Oct. 22.

The workers, their respective times, and Breeders' Cup races in which they were pre-entered were:

Liam's Map (Dirt Mile): five furlongs in 1:01 1/5
Curalina, (Longines Distaff), in company with Race Day  : four furlongs in :48 1/5, with splits of :12 3/5 and :25 2/5. Galloped out in 1:00 4/5 and 1:14.
Azar (Juvenile Turf) and Thrilled (Juvenile Fillies Turf): worked together four furlongs in :48, with splits of :13 and :25 2/5, and gallop outs in 1:00 3/5, and 1:13 2/5.
Got Lucky (Longines Distaff), in company with Zambian Dream: four furlongs in :48 2/5, splits of :12 and :23 4/5, and gallop outs to five furlongs in 1:01 2/5.

"Overall, we had a very productive morningsatisfying breezes," Pletcher said, offering the following analysis of each:

"For Curalina, it was a typical breeze for her. (She was) much on the bridle throughout. Good gallop out. Standard, excellent breeze we've come to expect from her. She continues to handle the track really well. She looks good. I think she actually has put on a couple of pounds since the Beldame (gr. I).

"Thrilled and Azar both went really well. For horses that have run only on the turf I thought they handle the dirt here really well. It was a good, energetic breeze for both of them. Finished up well, galloped out great, cooled out good. 

"Liam's Map, I thought, was outstanding. He got into a steady rhythm. Was very relaxed and very comfortable. He lengthened his stride (and) galloped out extremely well.

"It was a standard Got Lucky type breeze. She's a filly who knows the difference between practice and game time. That was a typical :49 half work for hera maintenance work. I thought her gallop out was good. I think she has done well since the Spinster (gr. I)."

The trainer gave a rundown of jockeys set to ride his Breeders' Cup contenders: Javier CastellanoLiam's Map, Red Rifle (Longines Turf-gr. IT) and Stopchargingmaria (Distaff); Frankie DettoriMshawish (Mile-gr. IT); Irad Ortiz Jr.Got Lucky; Joel RosarioCuralina; John VelazquezAzar, Dame Dorothy (Filly & Mare Sprint), Thrilled and Rachel's Valentina (14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies-gr. I).

On Friday, Pletcher is to work his remaining Breeders' Cup contenders with the exception of Stopchargingmaria, who is to breeze Saturday.

"Traditionally, she's run well with her final breeze six days before the race, so we're going to stick to that plan," he said. 

Liam's Map Reaches Destination in Woodward

Liam's Map Reaches Destination in WoodwardThis time Teresa Viola Racing Stables'Liam's Map completed his grade I mission, with style.

One race after being caught late in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) by Honor Code, Liam's Map led at every call in the $600,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course, drawing off to earn his first grade I victory by 4 3/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile test. Watch Video

"The Whitney was as tough a loss as you'll experience. He ran an unbelievable race that day and everything he indicated to us from that time until today was that he was ready to come back over and put forth another big effort," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I'm just happy to see him get that grade I that he deserves so much."

The connections and backers of Liam's Map certainly were taking nothing for granted after watching Honor Code rally in the stretch and edge them by a neck in the Whitney, but they had to be feeling good when the 4-year-old colt and jockey Javier Castellano enjoyed a clear lead through a half-mile in :47.49 and six furlongs in 1:10.94. The half-mile time was 1.49 seconds slower than what Liam's Map ran in the Whitney, also a 1 1/8-mile race he led early, and 1.22 seconds slower than his six-furlong pace.

"The opening fractions were very much in his favor, and he has that style where he can get into a cruising speed and just keep carrying it," Pletcher said. "The thing that he did after he went that 47 1/5 is he came back with another 23 and change to go 1:10 and change, and then 1:34 and change (1:34.97). He just gets into that rhythm and he just runs horses off their feet."

Racing well within himself early certainly didn't hurt Saturday, as Liam's Map opened up turning for home and cruised to victory, completing the race in 1:47.44 on a fast track. The final time of the Whitney, also contested on a fast rack, was 1:47.82.

"When I got to the lead and dictated the pace, by the half-mile, he began to relax and I was thinking I could win the race," Castellano said. "Liam's Map put in a great effort today."

Never seriously threatened, Liam's Map, by Unbridled's Song, was followed home by stablemate Coach Inge. Grade I winner Wicked Strong finished third. Liam's Map paid $4.40 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.60 to show, while Coach Inge returned $6.50 and $4.20. Wicked Strong paid $3.20 to show.

Pletcher also was pleased with Coach Inge, who earned his first grade I placing.

"I'll tell you, Coach Inge ran unbelievable. It was a super, super effort," Pletcher said. "Good enough to win a lot of Woodwards."

Pletcher also sent out fifth-place Mylute and Protonico, who was last of eight.

Bred in Kentucky by Albaugh Family Stable, Liam's Map was making just his third start of the season Saturday but he has won five of his seven career efforts and finished second in his two career losses.

St. Elias Stables, agent J.J. Crupi, purchased Liam's Map for his current owner for $800,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale from the consignment of Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent.

Liam's Map is out of the grade III-winning Trippi mare Miss Macy Sue, who also has produced stakes winner Taylor S, by Medaglia d'Oro  .

Rachel's Valentina Solid in Spinaway

Rachel's Valentina Solid in SpinawaySix years after her dam beat the boys with a brilliant performance in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), Rachel's Valentina put in an impressive run of her own Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course to take the $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) for Stonestreet Stables. Watch Video

The homebred 2-year-old Bernardini  filly, the second foal out of championRachel Alexandra, galloped her record to a perfect 2-for-2 on Woodward Day, as she won the seven-furlong test in a final time of 1:23.10 on a fast dirt track.

Slow to start, Rachel's Valentina nevertheless moved up into a good tracking spot, third along the rail, behind a pace set by rival Tonasah, while Constellation ran second.

A quarter went in :22.75 with a half in :45.38, and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez swung Rachel's Valentina out to make her move. Constellation had taken the lead through three-quarters in 1:10.09, but Rachel's Valentina surged past her inside the final furlong to take control, holding off the late-closing run of Tap to It to win by a length.

Off as the 8-5 favorite in a field of six, Rachel's Valentina returned $5.50, $3.10, and $2.60, while Tap to It paid $3.30 and $2.70, Constellation held 3 1/4 lengths back for third ($3.40), with Anna Rae, Tonasah, and Banree completing the order of finish.

Rachel's Valentina came off a maiden-breaking debut Aug. 2 at the Spa for trainer Todd Pletcher. The score upped her earnings to $259,800.

NOVAK: Rachel's Valentina Sparkles in Debut

"I thought she ran fantastic," Pletcher said. "Actually, she put herself into the race a little more than I thought she would, but she seemed to be handling tracking those horses well, and getting a little dirt well. I felt like, turning for home, knowing her style and watching her train, that she was going to keep coming. I've always felt like the farther she goes, the better she gets, and I think that's proven to be true."

With her victory in the Spinaway, a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event, Rachel's Valentina picked up an automatic berth in the Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Keeneland. Pletcher said the Oct. 3 Frizette (gr. I) at Belmont Park or the Oct. 2 Alcibiades (gr. I) at Keeneland are the straightforward options for another start before then.

"I haven't really thought about (what's next). I'll talk to the Stonestreet people and see," he said. "I think she'll have one more race if she's doing good."

Rachel's Valentina becomes the 12th grade I winner for Bernardini, an impressive group that includes this year's Humana Distaff winnerDame Dorothy and Test Stakes winner Cavorting.

Isabella Sings Tuned for Boiling Springs

Isabella Sings Tuned for Boiling SpringsSiena Farm's homebred Isabella Sings, a winner of the faster division of the July 26 Little Silver Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Monmouth Park turf, figures to add her voice to the outcome of the Boiling Springs Stakes (gr. IIIT). The $100,000 race for 3-year-old fillies "down the shore" drew a well-matched field of 10.

There are plenty of angles for the Boiling Springs: Isabella Sings has a win over the course for trainer Todd Pletcher; trainer Chad Brown has a trio in the line-up; trainer Graham Motion has a pair including import Jellicle Ball; and Pine Needles, trained by turf master Christophe Clement, was a close second to Isabella Sings as the favorite in the Little Silver.

Last July Isabella Sings was the first winner for her sire, Eskendereya  . She is out of French stakes-placed mare Isobel Baillie, and is a half sister to Alaura Michele, winner of the 2011 P.G. Johnson Stakes and the 2012 Nani Rose Stakes, both turf events at Saratoga.

Isabella Sings took the second division of the Little Silver Stakes in 1:40.79, which was 0.86 seconds faster than the first division. The Buttonwood Group's Rachel Walltrained by Motionjust missed by a nose in that division and is a Boiling Springs contender from the rail. The winner, Stormy Regatta, came back and won Saratoga Race Course's Riskaverse Stakes Aug. 27. Isabella Sings is 3-2-0 in eight career starts, all on the turf and sports a last-out Equibase Speed Figure of 107, the second highest in the cast.

Of Brown's trio, Strict Compliance appears the strongest on paper, having won the $150,000 Penn Oaks in May and getting to within 3 1/2 lengths of division standout Lady Eli in the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (gr. I) on the Fourth of July. By Into Mischief  , Strict Compliance was third last time out in the grade II Lake Placid Stakes at the Spa going the Boiling Springs trip, finishing ahead of a pair of her rivals at Monmouth. She sports back-to-back 109 Equibase numbers, tops in the field.

Michael Dubb, Bethlemen Stables, and Stuart Grant's The Elkstone Group's Bishop's Pond has won her last two for Brown in New York. She popped a 106 Equibase figure topping allowance foes at Saratoga July 24 going 1 3/16 miles on the grass. By the red-hot sire Curlin  , she was a Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sales graduate for $250,000.

Motion's other runner, Jellicle Ball, placed in the group III Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling Stakes this spring in England and ran in the Qipco One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I). In her U.S. debut she was bottled up along the inside but rallied to finish sixth, beaten just a length, in the Lake George.

Jellicle Ball, an Irish-bred by Invincible Spirit, was a $473,252 Tattersalls sale yearling in 2013.

Pine Needles, by Giant's Causeway  , has a 2-2-1 mark from six starts, but has been beaten less than a length in all three of her placings, which have come in stakes company. At Belmont in May she was just a half-length off of Lady Eli in the Wonder Again Stakes and was the 11-10 favorite against Isabella Sings.

Boiling Springs S. (gr. IIIT)

Monmouth Park , Saturday, September 05, 2015, Race 10
  • 1 1/8m
  • Turf
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo Fillies
  • 5:21 PM (local)
1 Rachel Wall (KY) Daniel Centeno 116 H. Graham Motion
2 Cali Thirty Seven (KY) Andre Shivnarine Worrie 116 Joseph F. Orseno
3 Strict Compliance (FL) Joe Bravo 120 Chad C. Brown
4 Pine Needles (KY) Trevor McCarthy 116 Christophe Clement
5 Red Sashay (KY) Julian Pimentel 118 Jane Cibelli
6 Jellicle Ball (IRE) Matthew Rispoli 116 H. Graham Motion
7 Gypsy Judy (KY) Jevian Toledo 116 Robin L. Graham
8 Sivoliere (IRE) Gabriel Saez 116 Chad C. Brown
9 Isabella Sings (KY) Paco Lopez 116 Todd A. Pletcher
10 Bishop's Pond (KY) Abel Castellano, Jr. 120 Chad C. Brown
Rachel's Valentina, Tonasah Head Spinaway

Rachel's Valentina, Tonasah Head SpinawayRachel's Valentina, the 2-year-oldBernardini   filly out of championRachel Alexandra, looks to take a step up for Stonestreet Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher in the $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course.

One of just two foals produced by Rachel Alexandra, and raised by a nurse mare after her dam required multiple surgeries post-delivery, Rachel's Valentina impressively broke her maiden going six furlongs Aug. 2 at Saratoga, surging to a two-length win after a five-wide rally.

NOVAK: Rachel's Valentina Sparkles in Debut

Rachel's Valentina is the 5-2 favorite in a group of six juvenile fillies for the seven-furlong Spinaway, and will leave post 2 with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the irons. She will be joined by fellow Pletcher trainee Tonasah, the Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Malibu Moon  who runs for StarLadies Racing.

Tonasah is the wiley miss who was entered in the June 5 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park for her debut, but dumped jockey Javier Castellano coming onto the track and then proceeded to lead outriders in a spirited chase up and down the stretch of the 1 1/2-mile track before she was finally captured several minutes later.

Entered back July 2 at Belmont, she aired gate-to-wire by 5 1/2 lengths going five furlongs, this time with Castellano firmly aboard. Tonasah was the runner-up to Just Wicked in the 6 1/2-furlong Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 15 at Saratoga after setting the pace in her second start. Castellano gets the return call from post 3.

Horses that are not from the Pletcher barn include three solid winners last out: Tap to It, for trainer Ralph Nicks; Anna Rae, for trainer Jeremiah Englehart; and the Steve Asmussen trainee Constellation

Tap to It made a brave Aug. 16 debut for Whisper Hill Farm, recovering from being steadied and shuffled back to draw clear by two lengths when closing in a six-furlong maiden special weight. Joel Rosario has the return call aboard the daughter of Tapit   and the duo leaves from the rail.

Anna Rae, by Tiz Wonderful, aired by 11 1/2 lengths Aug. 14, after closing from fifth in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at the Spa, her first start for owner Neal Allread. Luis Saez will ride again from post 4.

Constellation, the most expensive purchase in the field at $800,000 from the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March sale of 2-year-olds in training, when spotted by Alex Solis II and Jason Litt, was a 4 1/2-length victress Aug. 9 for LNJ Foxwoods going 5 1/2 furlongs after pressing the pace and edging clear. Irad Ortiz Jr. sticks with the Bellamy Road   filly from the 5 hole.

Completing the field is Mark Dodson's Banree, who won at first asking at Keeneland in April for trainer Wesley Ward, but since then was fourth in the June 5 Tremont Stakes and second in the July 24 Schuylerville (gr. III). Rafael Hernandez has been aboard the daughter of Macho Uno   for all three starts and returns from the outside.


Spinaway S. (gr. I)

Saratoga Race Course , Saturday, September 05, 2015, Race 9
  • 7f
  • Dirt
  • $350,000
  • 2 yo Fillies
  • 5:11 PM (local)
1 Tap to It (KY) Joel Rosario 118 Ralph E. Nicks
2 Rachel's Valentina (KY) John R. Velazquez 118 Todd A. Pletcher
3 Tonasah (PA) Javier Castellano 118 Todd A. Pletcher
4 Anna Rae (KY) Luis Saez 118 Jeremiah C. Englehart
5 Constellation (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 118 Steven M. Asmussen
6 Banree (KY) Rafael Manuel Hernandez 118 Wesley A. Ward
Back to Business for Liam's Map in Woodward

Back to Business for Liam's Map in WoodwardFour weeks after just missing his first grade I victory—his first graded stakes victory for that matter—in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I), Liam's Map will try again when he faces an expected seven other horses in the $600,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 at Saratoga Race Course.

Making his graded stakes debut in the Whitney for trainer Todd Pletcher, Liam’s Map dueled with Moreno through a half mile in :46 and six furlongs in 1:09.72, put that one away and opened a 4 1/2-length advantage in the stretch of the $1.25 million race before Honor Code got up in the final jump to win by a neck.

While that outcome disappointed the connections of Teresa Viola Racing Stables’ Liam’s Map, the son of Unbridled’s Song certainly delivered a memorable performance. Consider the first three quarter-mile times turned in by Liam’s Map in the 1 1/8-mile test of :22.79, 23.21, and :23.72 in a race that was completed in 1:47.82.

The horses closest to that early Whitney paceMoreno, who was second through each of the first three calls; Noble Bird, who was third through the opening quarter-mile; and Normandy Invasion, third through the opening half-milefinished second-last, last, and third-last, respectively, in the field of nine. They were beaten from 17 1/4 lengths to 24 1/4 lengths. Meanwhile, Liam’s Map defeated all but the winner and finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of third-place Tonalist.

"I thought he ran a huge race," Pletcher said. "It was very disappointing not to win, to run as well as he did. He got beat by a very good horse and I think he earned as much respect as you can earn without winning a race. We prefer to win but we're proud of the horse's effort all the same."

The biggest question for Liam’s Map Saturday will be the relatively short turnaround of four weeks since that big effort, as he tries the 1 1/8-mile distance for a second straight start. Liam’s Map closed out last season with three straight wins, capped by a victory in his stakes debut, the Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park. He prepped for the Whitney with a front-running victory in an allowance-optional claiming race June 19 at Belmont Park.

Liam’s Map will not be the only horse looking to claim his first top-level win Saturday, as the lone previous grade I winner in the field is Centennial Farms’ Wicked Strong, who won last year’s Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) and enters off a fourth in the Whitney, finishing six lengths behind Honor Code.

Two of those horses looking to break through are Godolphin Racing’sBay of Plenty, who cruised to his first stakes win in the Alydar Aug. 9 at Saratoga, and Effinex, who edged Tonalist to win the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) July 4 at Belmont.

Besides Liam’s Map, Pletcher will send out four other horses looking to break through at the highest level. Protonico will be making his first start since winning the Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) May 1 at Churchill DownsMylute enters off a second in the Alydar, and Coach Inge led early before fading to third in the Suburban.

"All four of them are coming up to the race really well," Pletcher said of his Woodward contingent. "I think they're all proven horses that on a given day are all capable of running big races. I feel good about the way that all four of them are doing."

Rounding out the field is late-running Commanding Curve, who finished second in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).


Woodward S. (gr. I)

Saratoga Race Course , Saturday, September 05, 2015, Race 10
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $600,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:47 PM (local)
1 Wicked Strong (KY) Luis Saez 122 James A. Jerkens
2 Liam's Map (KY) Javier Castellano 118 Todd A. Pletcher
3 Commanding Curve (KY) Shaun Bridgmohan 118 Dallas Stewart
4 Bay of Plenty (KY) Joel Rosario 120 Kiaran P. McLaughlin
5 Mylute (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 118 Todd A. Pletcher
6 Coach Inge (KY) John R. Velazquez 120 Todd A. Pletcher
7 Effinex (NY) Junior Alvarado 120 James A. Jerkens
8 Protonico (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 120 Todd A. Pletcher
Azar Captures With Anticipation Stakes

Azar Captures With Anticipation StakesAlto Racing's Azar won for the first time—in a big way—Sept. 2, taking the $200,000 With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course. Watch Replay

Off at odds of 11-1 in the field of five juveniles for the 1 1/16-mile turf test, theScat Daddy   colt ran down pacesetting 15-1 shot Next Shares inside the final furlong. It was his third start for trainer Todd Pletcher, coming off an Aug. 16 maiden special weight runner-up finish going 1 1/16 miles at the Spa after failing to fire July 19 with a seventh going six furlongs on the inner turf at first asking at Belmont Park.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was in the irons aboard Azar, who finished in a final time of 1:41.68 on firm turf. Following Next Shares 2 1/2 lengths back came Unbridled Daddy, 2 lengths ahead of 3-5 favorite Site ReadMonster Bea and Runaway King completed the order of finish.

"I thought he ran a much-improved race last time," Pletcher said. "He was on the lead most of the way, and came back and worked really well. We were thinking of maybe running back in a maiden race when this came up a short field. (Running a maiden in a stakes race) is not something we do often, but we felt like with two-race experience, and that he did everything except win last time (it was worth a shot) ... Johnny thought he was much more focused and more professional following horses. He gave a big last hundred yards."

The 2015 edition of the With Anticipation got off to an interesting start when longshot Runaway King lived up to his name by breaking through the gates as the field was loaded. The errant runner was quickly aprehended by an outrider and returned to his post 3. Following that small mishap came an equipment adjustment on Monster Bea, who was backed out of post 1 to have his girth tightened.

Finally, the field was sent on its way, with Velazquez slipping over to a ground-saving rail trip in third while Next Shares set early fractions of :23.19, :47.63, and 1:12.39. Around the turn for home, Azar had work to do to catch the leader, but once shifted out from his inside path through a 1:35.56 mile to close outside Next Shares, he found another gear and kicked on to win by three-quarters of a length.

"It worked out better today," Velazquez said. "The last time he ended up being on the lead and getting out and looking around and not really focused on what he needed to do. Today he was following somebody and when I pulled him out, he responded right away. Coming to the last turn I had to squeeze him pretty good, and once I got him going and I put him to the outside and he saw the light, that's when he started running."

Azar returned $24.40 for a $2 win bet as he increased his earnings to $136,850. He was bred in Kentucky by Mike Connelly out of the Mineshaft mare Miss Ocean City, and was a $300,000 purchase by agent Steven Young from consignor Michael C. Byrne at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Red Rifle Blasts Through in Bowling Green

Red Rifle Blasts Through in Bowling GreenWith four horses lined up across the course in the stretch, Red Rifle emerged from the two path and drew off to a clear victory in the $250,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 1 at Saratoga Race Course. Watch Video

With Javier Castellano showing the way, Twin Creeks Racing Stables homebred Red Rifle moved into the two path at mid-stretch, just outside Iron Power and inside Imagining, with War Dancerwidest in the four-horse tussle. Red Rifle proved to have one final gear, bravely punching through on his way to a second straight graded stakes win.

The race was marred by the catastrophic breakdown of Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Innovation Economy, who won the Belmont Gold Cup Invitationial Stakes June 5 on the turf at Belmont Park. Innovation Economy was euthanized after the race.

Red Rifle entered off a clear victory in the Dominion Day Stakes (gr. III) July 1 on the Woodbine Polytrack. The 5-year-old Giant's Causeway  gelding completed the 1 3/8-mile race in 2:13.69 on firm turf, returning $15.40 to win, $6.60 to place, and $4 to show. War Dancer finished second, paying $4.10 and $2.80, while Imagining returned $2.90 to show.

A ground-saving trip early in the Bowling Green likely helped Red Rifle late.

"I was able to take advantage all the way inside on the rail," Castellano said. "In a long distance, on the grass, the most important thing is to save all the ground. And that's exactly what I did. He did it very professionally today and I'm very satisfied with the way he did it."

Oddly enough, the first six finishers were in order of program numbers, as the top three finishers were followed by No. 4 Iron Power, No. 5 Morning Calm, and No. 6 Golden Soul.

Winning trainer Todd Pletcher earned three graded stakes wins in the space of 35 minutes Saturday, taking the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) with Rock Fall at 5:15 p.m. EDT, where he also teamed with Castellano; the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) at 5:23 with Madefromlucky, and then the Bowling Green with Red Rifle at 5:50. 

With his Bowling Green win on grass, Dominion Day victory on Polytrack, and his 2014 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) score on theHawthorne Race Course main track, Red Rifle boasts graded stakes wins on turf, synthetic, and dirt surfaces.

"He's just a throwback kind of horsehe's hardy, he's tough. He's a gelding now, (so) we just need to look at the opportunities and place him where he fits," Pletcher said. "He won the Hawthorne Gold Cup last year, he just won a race on Polytrack at Woodbine and now on the turf. All options are on the table."

Red Rifle was bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks and Tom and Nancy Clark. 

Madefromlucky Gets Job Done in WV Derby

Madefromlucky Gets Job Done in WV DerbyCheyenne Stables and Mac Nichol'sMadefromlucky, out of the shadow of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, rallied nicely from off the pace to capture the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II)Aug. 1 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort. Watch Video

With Joe Bravo riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, Madefromlucky captured his second grade II stakes. In May he won the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old colt by Lookin At Lucky  , out of the Pulpit mare Home From Oz was bred in Kentucky by RMF Thoroughbreds.

"He's a special horse," Nichol said. "We've known that for a long time. We were looking forward to him running a big race today, because we thought this race would suit him and it didn't hurt that we didn't have to worry about American Pharoah."

The latter is entered in the Aug. 2 William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park for his first start since the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

The 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby drew a field of 11 that was reduced to nine after the scratches of Stanford and Tekton, who both raced in the July 31 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Bettors settled on the right horse, as Madefromlucky was the slight 5-2 choice in a contentious field.

In a race that appeared loaded with speed, it was Cleveland Gold Cup winner Alliseeisgold who ended up with the lead—and he kept it through surprisingly easy fractions of :24.19 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.67 for a half-mile, and 1:13.01 for six furlongs. He was tracked by Bent On Bourbon and Thirtysilverpieces, while the eventual winner sat is sixth, about six lengths off the leader.

Despite the slow pace, the top three began to fade under pressure on the far turn. Souper Colossal and second choice Iron Fist rallied in tandem with Madefromlucky, and those three blew by into the lane. Souper Colossal grabbed a short advantage after a mile in 1:38.66, but Madefromlucky wore him down to win by 1 1/2 lengths. War Story, last most of the way, closed well for third, a half length behind Souper Colossal. Iron Fist was fourth.

The final time was 1:51.40 on a track rated fast. Madefromlucky paid $7.20 to win.

"Isn't Todd Pletcher the best?" Bravo yelled to crowd as he entered the winner's circle aboard Madefromlucky, who now has four wins, three seconds, and a third in 10 starts for earnings of $875,200.

"I was calm in knowing I had the best horse today," Bravo said. "He's such a relaxed, cool horse. You know this game. Let's just keep him sound and healthy."

Nichol said Madefromlucky wasn't 100% in the Belmont Stakes, but had rebounded well.

"When he's at the top of his game, he's full of himself," he said. "That's how he was when he won (the Peter Pan)."

"It's a real thrill," Dobson said. "I'm just thankful to be part of the horse. I'm very pleased with the job Todd Pletcher and his team has done with him, and Joe Bravo gave him a tremendous ride. Joe actually described the race beforehand and he followed it to a T."

The Derby was one of nine races on an all-stakes program at Mountaineer Saturday afternoon. The total pari-mutuel handle of $3,003,673 was up from $2,925,034 for nine races on the program last year.

Rock Fall Edges The Big Beast in Vanderbilt

Rock Fall Edges The Big Beast in VanderbiltRock Fall continued his dazzling win streak and stepped up to the top level with a game performance in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 1 at Saratoga Race Course, edging grade I winner The Big Beast in a photo at the line. Watch Video

The 4-year-old son of Speightstown  , who won the 2004 edition of the Vanderbilt for trainer Todd Pletcher, has not been defeated in six straight starts at the six-furlong distance and is 4-for-4 in 2015. Making his grade I debut, he would not allow 2014 King's Bishop (gr. I) winner The Big Beast past him, as they duked it out in the final strides.

"He finished powerfully and we were fortunate to be on the right side of a very close head bob," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "It's tough to win a photo against a horse as big as The Big Beast. If you're head-and-head, he's got a head on you. We got a fortunate bob and it was a great horse race."

It was the first grade I win for Stonestreet Stables' Rock Fall, who last time out won the June 5 True North Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park. Javier Castellano was in the irons aboard the bay colt, who closed from third to run down his game rival in the nick of time, while favored at even money in a field of seven.

"It was too close to call," Castellano said. "The bob could have gone either way. I was lucky it went my way."

The Big Beast, 7-2 second choice in his first start off a layup and racing for the first time since a fourth in the April 4 Carter Handicap (gr. I), held a determined second by a nose. Pacesetter Favorite Tale was third, two lengths behind a final time of 1:08.75 on a fast track.

Favorite Tale headed out to the early lead as expected in the Vanderbilt, with The Big Beast tracking a length back and Rock Fall keeping close about another length behind in third. The opening quarter went in :22.74 with a half in :45.31, before The Big Beast took over with a determined charge for home.

Rock Fall was in close pursuit, however, and hooked up with his more accomplished rival down the lane before catching him just in time.

"He was a really nice horse the way he did it today, off the pace," Castellano added. "There was a lot of speed in the race and he covered up perfect. Turning for home, I let him go outside. That's where he likes it and it paid off today. My horse fought back to win the race. I give all the credit to him."

"(In the stretch), I thought we had him, and then I thought he was coming back and he had us, and Javier said The Big Beast just re-rallied," Pletcher said. "It wasn't like Rock Fall was slowing down, they were coming home. The True North was a good field. These were some really top horses. ... This was a big win."

Trainer Anthony Dutrow said he was pleased with The Big Beast's effort under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez as well.

"I thought our horse was good. I thought Johnny (Velazquez) was good. I thought it was all good—and I thought we lost the bob. ... He broke well, like he does, and picked it up when Rock Fall came for him."

The winner returned $4, $3, and $2.40, while The Big Beast paid $4.10 and $2.80, with Favorite Tale bringing $3.20 at odds of 5-1. Salutos AmigosViva MajorcaClearly Now, and Departing completed the order of finish.

Rock Fall was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock, out of the Medaglia d'Oro   mare Renda, and was a $250,000 purchase from the Woods Edge consignment at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale. His record now stands at six wins from seven starts for earnings of $509,180.

Angela Renee, Competitive Edge Drill at Spa

Angela Renee, Competitive Edge Drill at SpaTodd Pletcher sent out several of his stable stars for workouts July 26 atSaratoga Race Course, including graded stakes winners Stopchargingmaria,Angela Renee, and Competitive Edge.

Breezing early in company, Stopchargingmaria and Angela Renee are both targeting graded stakes at the Spa. Stopchargingmaria, who swept the grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama last summer at Saratoga, went four furlongs in a bullet :47.03. It was the best of 62 works at the distance and .09 seconds faster than Angela Renee.
Stopchargingmaria is being pointed to the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares Aug. 2, and Angela Renee is expected to go next in the $500,000 Longines Test Stakes (gr. I) for 3-year-old filly sprinters Aug. 8.
Also breezing a half-mile together on the main track were 2014 Hopeful (gr. I) winner Competitive Edge (:48.34), who is on the list of probables to take on Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the next week's William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park, and Long Branch Stakes winner Stanford (:48.23).
Graded stakes winners Palace Malice (1:01.68) and Protonico (1:01.76) were five-furlong workmates on the main track.
"I thought we had a really good morning," Pletcher said. "I was a little concerned when I woke up and it was raining a bit, but the track was in good shape and I thought we had some pretty powerful workouts this morning. I didn't see anything this morning that would deter anyone from pointing for the next spot."
Other notable workers for Pletcher were multiple grade I winnerConstitution, unraced since taking the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 7, going four furlongs in :50.07; and 2-year-old filly Rachel's Valentina. Under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, the daughter of championBernardini  , out of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, was clocked in :48.55 out of the gate with workmate Preppy and has Pletcher ready to look for a debut spot.
"I thought she worked very well," Pletcher said. "She's not super quick away from the gate, but she makes up for it once she gets going. She's got a big, long stride to her and it seems like the farther she goes, the better she gets. We'll see how she comes out of it, and look through the condition book, and try and figure something out."
Uncle Vinny Placed First in Sanford Stakes

Uncle Vinny Placed First in Sanford StakesA late move into second place by Uncle Vinny paid off, when the son of Uncle Mo   was placed first in the $150,000Sanford Stakes (gr. III) July 25 atSaratoga Race Course after Magna Lightwas disqualified from first. Watch Video

Magna Light ran a perfect race until he shied from three left-handed cracks from jockey Jose Ortiz and veered out about five paths. Stewards ruled that when Magna Light veered out just past the eighth pole, the son of Magna Graduate   interfered with Percolator, who was attempting to rally under jockey Kendrick Carmouche. Magna Light also appeared to drift back into Percolator's path after veering out.

The stewards took a few moments, but soon posted the inquiry and Carmouche also objected. They ruled interference and placed Magna Light third, behind Main Line Racing Stable's and John Servis's Percolator, who entered off a June 6 victory in a maiden special weight race at Monmouth Park.

Starlight Racing's Uncle Vinny and rider John Velazquez avoided any of that trouble with an outside rally that saw him get by Percolator late, a half-length at the wire, a key move in the six-furlong race for 2-year-olds, as it would determine the winner.

"Perfect trip. He was running coming down the lane," Velazquez said. "We were getting to the point where he was rolling from the eighth pole to the wire and he inherited the win. Nothing I can say. He definitely was coming running. (Magna Light) ran a great race, too."

Uncle Vinny bounced back with the victory after he finished sixth as the favorite in the June 5 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park. He earned that favoritism with a 4 1/2-length maiden special weight victory there in his debut. Uncle Vinny is the first stakes winner for freshman sire Uncle Mo  , who stood for $25,000 this season at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky.

Uncle Vinny paid $10 to win, $5.80 to place, and $5.30 to show, while Percolator returned $17.60 to place and $11.20 to show. Magna Light delivered $8.60 to show. Tremont winner Cocked and Loaded, the 2-1 favorite, weakened late and finished sixth.

Owned by Michael Dubb and several other partners, Magna Light raced smoothly before the stretch incident, leading the field through a quarter-mile in :22.52 and a half-mile in :45.98. He reached the wire first in 1:10.92 on a fast track, three-quarters of a length in front of Uncle Vinny. 

"I thought they were going to look at it, but not take it down," said Magna Light's trainer Rudy Rodriguez. "He's a good horse. Unfortunately we got taken down. We have to get over it, but it's a shame. You come to Saratoga to bring the horses the best way you can."

In stewards' notes posted to, the officials ruled that Magna Light shifted out several paths just past the eithth pole, forcing Percolator to steady, then drifted back down toward Percolator in the final strides.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, who picked up his sixth Sanford victory, Uncle Vinny launched his move in the far turn and sustained it to the wire.

"I really, really do feel bad for Rudy Rodriguez, Michael Dubb and all his connections, because they really did run a winning race," said Starlight's Don Lucarelli. "It's unfortunate to have to win them this way. We ran huge, too, but (Magna Light), today, was a better horse. Bottom line is, we get to cash a ticket. It is what it is." 

Bred in Florida by Gilbert Campbell, Uncle Vinny is out of the stakes-winning Untuttable mare Arealhotlover. Starlight purchased Uncle Vinny for $175,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Stanford Grabs Stakes Win in Long Branch

Stanford Grabs Stakes Win in Long BranchAfter finishing second in his two most recent stakes tries, Stanford took care of business Saturday, July 11 to win the $103,000 Long Branch Stakes atMonmouth Park. Watch Video

Sent off as the 1-2 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, Stanford rallied three wide off the final turn to seize the lead and then held off Souper Colossal, who had led early and proved determined in the stretch, to post the 1 1/4-length victory.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had considered M.V. Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Stonestreet Stable's Stanford for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after the Malibu Moon   colt finished a close second to International Star in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). But Pletcher opted to skip that race and Stanford ultimately missed the Triple Crown races before returning June 6 with a runner-up finish to Japan in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard June 6.

In Saturday's race, Stanford raced just off the pace set by Live Oak Plantation's Souper Colossal, who went a half-mile in :48.01 and six furlongs in 1:12.63. Coming off the turn, Souper Colossal was first challenged by longshot Total Joint but Stanford quickly made it three across and surged to the lead.

Winning jockey Joe Bravo believes Stanford could put together a nice summer and fall campaign after winning the local prep race for the Aug. 2 William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I).

"He is a really classy horse. They were going an honest pace up front. I asked him to go a little bit before the quarter pole to just get him going and he answered really nicely," Bravo said. "If he comes back for the Haskell, the good thing is that we know he likes the course."

Favored Stanford paid $3 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show while Souper Colossal returned $3 and $2.60. Total Joint returned $4 to show.

Iamahandsome Man was pulled up and vanned off. A track spokesperson said the son of Musket Man   appeared to be standing fine before loading on the van.

Stakes Winner Temper Mint Patty Tops F-T Sale

Stakes Winner Temper Mint Patty Tops F-T SaleFasig-Tipton Kentucky saved the best for last at its July horses of racing age session, when the last horse through the ring, Temper Mint Patty, brought the session's top price of $350,000.

The 3-year-old daughter of Congrats  , whose victories include the New York Oaks for New York-breds, was purchased by Mike Repole. Jacob West of Taylor Made Sales Agency signed the ticket on behalf of Repole.

The filly consigned by Bluewater Sales will be sent to trainer Todd Pletcher and likely be pointed toward state-bred stakes.

Trained by Jeremiah Englehart for Mark Stanley, Temper Mint Patty increased her earnings to $274,050 when she rolled to a 9 1/2-length victory in the New York Oaks July 3 at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack. She was supplemented to the F-T sale following that victory.

Bred by Gallaghers Stud, Temper Mint Patty was initially purchased by Becky Thomas for $30,000 from the Denali Stud consignment to the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale and then resold to Stanley for $95,000 at the F-T Florida March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Another recent stakes winner added to the sale later, Come to Mischief, a 2-year-old daughter of Into Mischief   who won the My Dear Stakes at Woodbine June 26, was bought back by her connections for $500,000.

Come to Mischief races for Horen'n Around Stable and Martha Gonzalez.

"We were trying to get a little more money and didn't get it," said Nicholas Gonzalez, who trains the filly. "She's a real nice filly and got great vet reports (at the sale). In this market, we just thought she was worth a little more than that. So we're going to take the next step and try to make her worth a little more."

Gonzalez said Come to Mischief would either return to her base atWoodbine or be sent to Saratoga Race Course for her next start.

Another high-profile buyback was multiple graded-placed War Story, who was returned to Loooch Racing Stable and Glenn Ellis after failing to meet his reserve on a final bid of $545,000. Trained by Tom Amoss, War Story finished second in the Risen Star (gr. II) and LeComte Stakes (gr. III) and third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). After checking in 16th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the son ofNorthern Afleet   was given a breather, returning to be fourth in the June 20 Ohio Derby.

The gross and average were down, but the median was up this year from the 2014 auction that was  boosted by horses from the dispersal of Eugene Melnyk's Melnyk Racing Stables. Melynk's Bedford Landtopped that sale when purchased by Three Chimneys Farm for $1,075,000.

This year, 65 horses were sold for $3,996,000, an average price of $61,477. A year ago, 109 horses grossed $8,426,000. This year's $48,000 median price was well above the $35,000 figure a year ago. There were 31 horses bought back this year.

The horses of racing age sale was preceded by the July selected yearlings sale.

Second-highest price of $270,000 was paid by West Point Stables for three-time grade III winner Divine Oath, a 4-year-old son of Broken Vow   who has earned $464,210, was sold for $270,000. West Poinit's Terry Finley said the colt will be campaigned in New York, possibly with trainer Christophe Clement.

Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the colt was trained by Todd Pletcher for Let's Go Stable to win five of 14 starts to date. Bred in Kentucky by Sanford B. Robertson, Divine Oath was a $200,000 yearling purchase by Pletcher.

Dixiana Farms went to $250,000 to acquire Lutine Belle, a 3-year-old daughter of Bellamy Road   who has won three of 10 starts and earned $114,950. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for KMN Racing, Lutine Belle won the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita Park Jan. 1.

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and John R. Penn, the filly had been purchased for $40,000 by Litt Bloodstock from the Taylor Made Sales consignment to the 2013 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale.

Got Lucky Surges to Molly Pitcher Victory

Got Lucky Surges to Molly Pitcher VictoryHill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings and Philip Steinberg's homebred Got Lucky turned the tables on rival Stiffed in emphatic fashion July 3, pouncing first and pulling away to win by 5 1/2 lengths in the $150,000 Molly Pitcher (gr. III) atMonmouth ParkWatch Video

Off at 1-5 odds under Paco Lopez, the 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy stalked early leader J's Two Step Halo in third and blew by coming out of the final turn in the 1 1/16-mile dirt test. Stiffed closed from last in the six-horse field to finish second, but could not make up significant ground on the winner.

Last time out, Stiffed was a half-length better than Got Lucky in the Monmouth Beach Stakes. The Molly Pitcher victory is Got Lucky's first graded stakes score.

J's Two Step Halo set early fractions of :24.46, :49.85, and 1:14.38 through a six furlongs, before Got Lucky took command, running the mile in 1:38.30 and hitting the wire in 1:44.12.

"I knew Stiffed would be coming to the outside again," Lopez said. "This time the pace was a little easier for us. We were able to sit comfortably just off the pace along the backstretch. She wanted to go a little early, but I had to hold her back. Once we were in the clear I let her go, she sprinted away perfectly."

J's Two Step Halo held to finish third, 4 1/4 lengths behind Stiffed.Lucky Liberty was fourth, followed by Oasis At Midnight and Mary n' Eileen to complete the order of finish. 

The winner paid $2.60, $2.10, and $2.10 across the board. Stiffed returned $2.80 and $2.40, while J's Two Step Halo brought $5.

"She was impressive today," said Anthony Sciametta Jr., assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "She stumbled just a bit out of the gate, but seemed to overcome that just fine. It looked like she was on cruise control out there and (Lopez) just steered her in the right direction."

Got Lucky was bred in Kentucky, out of the Deputy Minister mareMalka. She has a 4-5-0 record from 13 starts and earnings of $451,340.

Race Day Heads Loaded Salvator Mile

Race Day Heads Loaded Salvator MileMatthew Schera's Race Day, winner of the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and Razorback Handicap (gr. III) in consecutive graded scores for trainer Todd Pletcher, is the 123-pound highweight for the $150,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III) July 5 at Monmouth Park.

The 4-year-old Tapit   colt will have Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the irons from post 8 in a field of 10 for the mile test, which attracted the likes of George and Lori Hall's old-timer Pants On Fire, Crossed Sabres Farm's grade II winner Valid, Fox Hill Farm's grade II winner Coup de Grace, and multiple grade III winner Bradester.

The Salvator Mile will be broadcast live by Fox Sports 1 along with the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.


Salvator Mile S. (gr. III)

Monmouth Park , Sunday, July 05, 2015, Race 10
  • 1m
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:12 PM (local)
1 Fabulous Kid (FL) Trevor McCarthy 117 Tim A. Ice
2 Pants On Fire (KY) Paco Lopez 119 Kelly J. Breen
3 Bradester (KY) Corey J. Lanerie 117 Eddie Kenneally
4 Just Call Kenny (VA) Daniel Centeno 117 Patrick B. McBurney
5 Valid (VA) Orlando Bocachica 121 Marcus J. Vitali
6 Red Vine (KY) Joe Bravo 117 Christophe Clement
7 Coup de Grace (KY) Kerwin D. Clark 117 J. Larry Jones
8 Race Day (KY) John R. Velazquez 123 Todd A. Pletcher
9 Don Dulce (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 117 David Jacobson
10 Decisive Moment (FL) Abel Castellano, Jr. 117 Kathleen O'Connell



Red Rifle Rallies to Dominion Day Victory

Red Rifle Rallies to Dominion Day VictoryRed Rifle secured his first stakes victory of the 2015 season when he rallied on the outside to win the $150,000Dominion Day Stakes (Can-III) July 1 atWoodbine. Watch Video

With the 1 1/4-length victory, Twin Creeks Racing Stables homebred Red Rifle ended a four-race skid that dated back to his clear victory in last year's Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) atHawthorne Race Course. The 5-year-oldGiant's Causeway   gelding bounced back from a ninth-place finish in the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes June 5 at Belmont Park.

Sent off the 2-1 favorite, Red Rifle settled in sixth under Alan Garcia, while Patrioticandproud cruised through a half-mile in :47.26, six furlongs in 1:12, and still held a clear lead through a mile in 1:36.61. But Red Rifle had launched his rally on the outside before the quarter pole, while last year's Ontario Derby (Can-III) winner Florida Wonwould soon find room inside under Patrick Husbands.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Red Rifle took command at the eighth pole and had enough to hold off Live Oak Plantation's Florida Won, completing Wednesday's 1 1/4-mile race in 2:01.93. Veteran Pender Harbour finished third, giving Canada's champion 3-year-old male of 2011 the 22nd stakes placing of his career.

Garcia, who was riding Red Rifle for the first time, said multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Pletcher gave him some good advice before the race. 

"He told me let him run his race," said Garcia, who earned his meet-leading seventh stakes win at Woodbine. "(He said) If he breaks good, then go on with him. He's got a beautiful stride and can run all day long. He broke a step slow, so I said, 'let me be patient and come running.'  

"Unbelievable, today, this horse. Pletcher also said if he's rating and he's happy, don't worry about what position you are in."  

Red Rifle paid $6.40, $3.50, and $3, while Florida Won returned $3.80 and $3.20. Pender Harbour paid $2.70 to show.

Bred in Kentucky by Twin Creeks and Tom and Nancy Clark, Red Rifle is out of the stakes-winning Gulch mare May Night, who also has produced stakes winner Notte d'Oro, by Medaglia d'Oro  .

Golden Lad Popular Winner of Cornhusker

Golden Lad Popular Winner of CornhuskerHeavily favored Golden Lad got by 31-1Ecleto Red late to win the $300,000Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) June 27 atPrairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Watch Video

Ridden by Javier Castellano for owner E. Paul Robsham Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher, Golden Lad sat in third through moderate fractions set by Ecleto Red in the 1 1/8-mile race, before making his bid on the final turn. He surged past Ecleto Red, who had won his last two starts at Prairie Meadows, near the wire to win in 1:49.86 on a track rated fast.

Mid-Atlantic shipper Page McKenney, second in the grade III Pimlico Special in his last start, finished third after a wide trip, with Carvefourth. Golden Lad paid $4.60 to win.

Castellano hopped a plane to Iowa from New York and arrived in time to win the grade III Iowa Derby aboard Bent On Bourbon. He then won the Cornhusker in the next race.

"He's very competitive," said Castellano, who rode Golden Lad to a five-length win in the Mountainview Stakes at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in his previous start. "I've learned a lot about him. He has done phenomenal in his last two starts."

Golden Lad, a 5-year-old horse by Medaglia d'Oro   out of theSeeking the Gold mare Broadway Gold, was bred in Kentucky by Robsham Stables. He now has eight wins in 15 starts.

Dame Dorothy Speeds to Bed O' Roses Victory

Dame Dorothy Speeds to Bed O' Roses VictoryBobby Flay's Dame Dorothy added another victory to her already-impressive résumé with a 1 1/2-length win in the $150,000 Bed O' Roses Handicap (gr. III)June 20 at Belmont ParkWatch Video

The 4-year-old daughter of Bernardini  is now two-for-two at Belmont and four-for-four at the Bed O' Roses distance of seven furlongs, where she also won the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downslast time out May 2. Jockey Javier Castellano was aboard for both victories.

Dame Dorothy received a lucky break when apparent pace-setterRoom for Me lunged at the start and was left at the gate by the rest of the five-horse field.

That allowed the Dame Dorothy, trained by Todd Pletcher, to settle into an easy lead, opening up fractions of :23.96 and :47.65 through a half-mile, while Street Story stalked a length back. 

"I didn't expect to be on the lead, but after (Room for Me) didn't break out of the gate, I took a shot," Castellano said. "When the only speed horse didn't break, I was able to dictate the pace."

Whispering Oaks Farm's Street Story provided a challenge in the stretch, nearly going head-to-head with Dame Dorothy, but the 3-5 favorite battled back on the rail to prevail by a comfortable margin. Longshot Expression (14-1) was six lengths back in third.

La Verdad, another speed threat who was 2-1 on the morning line, was also a key scratch before the race. Room for Me finished fourth, followed by Tahoe Tigress

"The race didn't unfold as we anticipated it would, when Room for Me missed the break, but anyways, it worked out well," Pletcher said. "Certainly, with La Veradad coming out, it was a significant scratch. When we originally picked up the overnight, we didn't anticipate being on the lead, but it worked out."

Dame Dorothy finished off the seven furlongs in 1:24.19 and paid $3.50, $2.20, and $2.10 across the board. Street Story brought $3.40 and $2.60. Expression delivered $3.20 to show.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Derry Meeting Farm, out of the Woodmanmare Vole Vole Monamour, the filly now has $709,740 in earnings and a 7-1-1 record from nine career starts. 

"My filly likes to be competitive," Castellano said. "Every time we see a horse, she goes forward."

Dame Dorothy Returns in Bed O' Roses

Dame Dorothy Returns in Bed O' RosesHumana Distaff (gr. I) winner Dame Dorothy is scheduled to make her first start since that May 2 victory at Churchill Downs when she faces an expected seven other older fillies and mares in the $150,000 Bed O' Roses Handicap (gr. III)June 20 at Belmont Park.

A winner of six of eight career starts, Bobby Flay's Dame Dorothy scored at the top level in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff, when the 4-year-old Bernardini   filly edged last year's champion female sprinter Judy the Beauty by a neck. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Pennsylvania-bred will try seven furlongs again Saturday, a distance at which she boasts three wins in as many starts—including this year's Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park.

"She's doing well and we decided to run her in this spot," Pletcher said. "She's been very consistent and she's coming off of her biggest win last time going seven-eighths so it seems like that might be the trick."

Carrying just one pound less than 123-pound highweight Dame Dorothy will be the speedy New York-bred La Verdad, who will try to pick up her third straight graded stakes victory this season. The daughter of Yes It's True   opened her 5-year-old season with a victory in the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack followed by a May 16 score in the Vagrancy Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont.

Lady Sheila Stable's La Verdad has won five of her six career starts at Belmont, but in her third start at the distance, she will be looking for her first career win at seven furlongs. 

Also entering Saturday's race off a graded stakes win is Whispering Oaks Farm's Street Story, a 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry who won the Winning Colors Stakes (gr. III) May 25 at Churchill.


Bed o' Roses H. (gr. III)

Belmont Park, Saturday, June 20, 2015, Race 8
  • 7f
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 4 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 4:57 PM (local)
1 Hot Rendezvous (NY) John R. Velazquez 113 Gary C. Contessa
2 Medaglia d'Argento (KY) Luis Saez 114 Linda Rice
3 Room for Me (KY) Cornelio H. Velasquez 115 David Jacobson
4 Dame Dorothy (PA) Javier Castellano 123 Todd A. Pletcher
5 Expression (KY) Junior Alvarado 115 Charlton Baker
6 La Verdad (NY) Jose L. Ortiz 122 Linda Rice
7 Tahoe Tigress (NY) Rajiv Maragh 113 Jeremiah C. Englehart
8 Street Story (KY) Jose Lezcano 117 Steven M. Asmussen
Curalina Wins First Stakes in Acorn

Curalina Wins First Stakes in AcornEclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina, making her first start in stakes company, prevailed in a very deep field for the $750,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 6 (VIDEO).

The 3-year-old daughter of Curlin  , with John Velazquez in the irons, won by a neck over longshot By the Moon, who is owned by Jay Em Ess Stable. Wonder Gal finished 4 1/2 lengths back in third. The final time in the mile race was 1:35.13 over a dirt course rated fast. The winner is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by John Velazquez.

Curalina paid $16.40, $8.90, and $6.20. By the Moon returned $26.40 and $13.40. Wonder Gal delivered $9.70 to show.

"She's a filly we'd had high hopes for for a long time," Pletcher said. "We felt she was one of our best 2-year-old fillies last year, unfortunately she had some baby stuff that she needed some time off for."

The filly faced some challenges right at the start of the Acorn, having gotten squeezed from both sides right after the break. She got clear and stalked the pace set early by Promise Me of Silver, who took the field through an opening quarter in :22.89 and a half in :45.42. Miss Ella tracked a length behind in second until the turn when she took the lead briefly.

As the field moved through the turn, By the Moon began to rally and had a clear and widening lead at the top of the stretch. About an eighth of a mile from the wire By the Moon was sailing in front with Curalina and Wonder Gal hooked up two lengths back. As Curalina and Wonder Gal battled, they ate away at By the Moon's lead. Curalina broke free and chased down the leader for the win.

"We ended up far back," said Velazquez. "I put her in the clear, and she got a little bit rank on the backstretch. I let her do a little bit and tried to settle her on the turn, which she did, and she finished up well."

Michelle Nevin, trainer of Samantha Siegel's homebred By the Moon, said she was very happy with her filly's performance.

"She ran a huge race," Nevin said. "It's unfortunate we could not hang on for the win, but I have nothing to complain about."



The final order of finish was DanzatriceOceanwaveBar of GoldMiss EllaCalamity KateCondo CommandoPromise Me SilverLight the City, and Shook Up.

Shook Up, who finished second in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), was vanned off after the race. She had an inflatable cast put on her right front leg.

Coach Inge Outruns V. E. Day in Brooklyn

Coach Inge Outruns V. E. Day in BrooklynRepole Stable's Coach Inge and jockey John Velazquez outran 2014 Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner  V. E. Day for a game neck victory in the Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II) on the Belmont Stakes presented by DraftKings (gr. I) June 6 card (VIDEO).

Coach Inge, who provided trainer Todd Pletcher with his first stakes win on the card, was always forwardly placed, battling early with longshot Call Me George, as the large field went through the mile in 1:38.80, with Sky Kingdomand jockey Victor Espinoza tracking in third.

Rounding the second turn in the 1 1/2-mile test over a fast main track, Coach Inge, Call Me George, and Sky Kingdom were closely bunched, as V. E. Day made a strong move on the outside. Those four battled into the top of the stretch before Coach Inge and V. E. Day pulled away from the rest of the field. Coach Inge led throughout the length of the stretch, with V. E. Day pressing all the way, but eventually prevailed.

"For a horse that went all the way around, kind of head-and-head with (Call Me George) in the backstretch, he put in a good fight, and he put in another fight down the lane," Velazquez said. "That's a lot of guts."

Coach Inge, coming off a 12 1/2-length romp in allowance optional claiming company, completed the distance in 2:27.17. He paid $7.90, $4.30, and $3.20. V. E. Day, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, was worth $5.00 and $3.60, while Sky Kingdom, trained by Bob Baffert, was another 5 1/2 lengths back and paid $3.10. The top two combined for a $39 exacta.

The Brooklyn marked the stakes debut for Coach Inge, who was making his 10th start. It took the gelded son of Big Brown   five attempts to break his maiden and he has subsequently had three victories.

"He came in off a very powerful allowance race and we just kind of had a feeling he'd handle the mile and a half, so we've kinda been targeting this for a while," Pletcher said. "I'll tell you, it was a heck of a horse race."

The winner's purse of $220,000 improved his bankroll to $376,177.

Coach Inge was bred in Kentucky by Paul Pompa, Jr. and was a $150,000 purchase at the 2013 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Rock Fall Keeps Streak Alive in True North

Rock Fall Keeps Streak Alive in True NorthStonestreet Stables' Rock Fall earned his fifth straight victory and first graded stakes win June 5, taking the $250,000True North Stakes (gr. II) by 3 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park (VIDEO).

The 4-year-old Speightstown   colt completed six furlongs in 1:08.37 on a fast track while favored heavily at odds of 6-5 in a seven-horse field. It was his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher since taking an April 18 allowance by nine lengths going the same distance atKeeneland.

"When he broke his maiden last year, I thought he as going to be a good horse, and then he followed it up with a nice allowance win," Pletcher said. "He hat to take a little time off, but to win five in a row now is pretty hard to do, especially sprinting. He really found his groove."

Jockey Javier Castellano allowed Rock Fall to find his natural rhythm from his post on the far outside while Favorite Tale scooted out to lead the group. As a quarter went in :22.35, the colt moved up to third, his sights set on the frontrunner and on the pace-pressing Eastwood.

Heading around the turn through a :45.01 half, that trio was briefly three across the track, but Rock Fall kicked into second gear after straightening for home and drew off while clocking five-eighths in :56.48.

Stallwalkin' Dude came from last to get second, while Dads Caps also closed a neck back for third. 

"This is a special hose," Castellano said. "You can do whatever you want with him. Everything worked out perfect for us."

Rock Fall returned $4.40, $3.10, and $2.40 while Stallwalkin' Dude brought $5.30 and $3.40. Dads Caps paid $2.80. Eastwood, Favorite Tale, Clearly Now, and Tenango completed the order of finish. Captain Serious scratched.

Bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock out of the stakes-winning Medaglia d'Oro mare Renda, Rock Fall was a $250,000 purchase from the Woods Edge consignment at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale. The dark bay or brown runner improved his record to those five wins from six starts for earnings of $299,180.

Competitive Edge Provides Class in Stephens

Competitive Edge Provides Class in StephensCompetitive Edge puts his undefeated record on the line in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 6.

Fresh off of a powerful score in the Pat Day Mile (gr. III) at Churchill Downs May 2, Competitive Edge is one of six talented 3-year-olds entered in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens.

NOVAK: Competitive Edge Takes Pat Day Mile

Owned by Nancy Favreau, Kathy Psoinos, and Michael Tabor, Competitive Edge began his career by breaking his maiden by 10 1/4 lengths in his debut at Saratoga Race Course in July of last year.

In just his second start, Competitive Edge won the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga by 5 3/4 lengths, but suffered a hairline fracture to his left-front foot, ending his 2014 campaign.

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Competitive Edge didn't make his 3-year-old debut until March 27, when he easily took the Tamarac Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park.

From there, trainer Todd Pletcher sent the son of Super Saver   to the Pat Day Mile and watched the colt set the stakes record, when he completed the mile 1:34.18.

Competitive Edge drew post 3 and will be ridden by John Velazquez, who has ridden the colt in all four career starts.

Chalk Racing's Ready for Rye will look to rebound in the Woody Stephens after tiring to third as the favorite in the April 4 Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Prior to the race, Ready for Rye upset the Mar. 7 Swale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream, when he took the field gate-to-wire, defeating favored Daredevil.

The 3-year-old son of City Zip   has been working steadily for his return to the races for trainer Tom Albertrani and might be the one to catch breaking from the rail under Luis Saez.

The gelding already owns a victory at Belmont, where he broke his maiden Oct. 11.

Besides saddling Competitive Edge, Pletcher will also start Two Weeks Off in the Woody Stephens, a month after the colt weakened to third as the favorite in the May 9 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II).

Two Weeks Off be back to seven furlongs Saturday, however, the distance at which he is two-for-two, breaking his maiden at Saratoga Aug. 30 and scoring in an allowance race at Keeneland April 4.

Two Weeks Off will be ridden by Javier Castellano and will leave from post 4.


Five Aim for First Stakes Score in Easy Goer

Five Aim for First Stakes Score in Easy GoerA pair of colts best known to this point in their careers for strong runner-up finishes in graded stakes this spring, Stanford and Donworth, head a field of five 3-year-olds in the $150,000 WinStar Farm Easy Goer Stakes that will open the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) day of racing June 6 at Belmont Park.

Stonestreet Stables, M.V. Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith's Stanford will be making his first start since finishing a close second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 28 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The son of Malibu Moon   led most of that 1 1/8-mile race before getting edged late by International Star.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had considered starting Stanford in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but ultimately opted to skip the Derby and the Triple Crown races. 

Regis Racing's Donworth finished second to Divining Rod in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) April 11 at Keeneland and the son of Tiznow   enters Saturday's 1 1/16-mile test off a third-place finish to Fame and Power in the Sir Barton Stakes May 16 at Pimlico Race Course.

While the field doesn't feature a previous stakes winner, two other Easy Goer horses are stakes-placed in Wounded Warrior Stables' Combat Diver, who finished a close second in this year's Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park; and Repole Stable's Nonna's Boy, who enters off a runner-up finish in the May 1 Gold Fever Stakes at Belmont.

Rounding out the field is Barry Schwartz's Japan, who registered a seven-length maiden victory April 30 at Churchill Downs.


Winstar Farm Easy Goer S.

Belmont Park, Saturday, June 06, 2015, Race 1
  • STK
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 3 yo
  • 11:35 AM (local)
1 Stanford (KY) Javier Castellano 115 Todd A. Pletcher
2 Combat Diver (MD) Rajiv Maragh 115 Gary C. Contessa
3 Japan (KY) Junior Alvarado 115 William I. Mott
4 Nonna's Boy (KY) John R. Velazquez 115 Todd A. Pletcher
5 Donworth (KY) Joel Rosario 115 H. Graham Motion


Pletcher Seeking Third Belmont Stakes

Pletcher Seeking Third Belmont StakesTrainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) twice and finished second four times, has three opportunities to improve on that record in the June 6 renewal of the classic at Belmont Park.

As of May 31, Pletcher plans to run Carpe DiemMadefromlucky, and Materiality in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont and will make rider decisions by June 2.

The three, who breezed May 29, walked the shedrow Sunday, as Pletcher continued preparations for his stable that will have as many as 19 runners during the June 5-6 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Carpe Diem, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner owned by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables, sat out the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) after finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Alto Racing's Materiality also sat out the Preakness after he got off to a poor start and finished well to be sixth in the Derby.

Madefromlucky, owned by Cheyenne Stables and Mac Nichol, ran fourth in American Pharoah's Arkansas Derby (gr. I) win and then won the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont, the same race used by Tonalist as a prep for his 2014 Belmont victory.

"I can't make an excuse for Carpe Diem (in the Derby), other than the fact he may not have relished the Churchill Downs surface," Pletcher said. "We've seen horses over the years who didn't like it in the past.

"Materiality unfortunately missed the break (in the Derby), but closed well after that. Both have trained well since the Derby. Madefromlucky has a win over the (Belmont) track in the Peter Pan, which has been a good Belmont prep in years past, so that's encouraging. We think he'll handle the mile and a half."

In addition to not having his jockey assignments, Pletcher said he will await the June 3 post position draw to try to come up with a race strategy for each in the Belmont.

Pletcher won his first Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches in 2007 and in 2013 he sent out Palace Malice for his second win in the classic.

His runner-up efforts were with Bluegrass Cat   (2006), Dunkirk (2009), Stay Thirsty   (2011), and Commissioner (2014).

"Commissioner's beat last year was as tough of a beat you will take in any race, much less a classic," Pletcher said. "To essentially lead every step of the way, except for the last onethat was a tough beat.

"Stay Thirsty's beat was actually pretty tough, too," he continued. "And Dunkirk, he ran very well, and led most of the way. Our results overall have been very good (in the Belmont), but we're kind of a length away from having won four or five of these."

In addition to his Belmont three, here are Pletcher's other Belmont Festival probables:

June 5: Uncle Vinny, $250,000 Tremont Stakes; Enchantress, $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes; Eastwood and Rock Fall, $250,000 True North (gr. II); and Red Rifle and Unitarian, $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational.

June 6: Micromanage and Coach Inge, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II); Stopchargingmaria, $1 million Ogden Phipps (gr. I); General a Rod and Jack Milton, $1 million Knob Creek Manhattan Stakes (gr. IT); Competitive Edge and Two Weeks Off, $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II); Curlina, $750,000 Acorn Stakes (gr. I); and Stanford and Nonna's Boy, $150,000 WinStar Farm Easy Goer Stakes.


Materiality, Frosted Drill Toward Belmont

Materiality and Frosted, two candidates for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) worked a half-mile May 29 at Belmont Park. The moves came later in the day following the early-morning efforts put in by Carpe Diem and Madefromlucky.

HAMMONDS: Carpe Diem, Madefromlucky Work in Company

Materiality, the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) winner, got the slightly better time, getting his four furlongs in :47.78, the fourth-fastest of 33 of the day. Materiality, Carpe Diem, and Madefromlucky are trained by Todd Pletcher.

Materiality was sixth behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The work was his third since the Derby over Belmont's main track. He went five furlongs in 1:00.04 May 22 and four furlongs in :49.03 May 16.

Godolphin Racing's Frosted, winner of the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) and fourth in the Derby, worked a half-mile in :47.84. The move was the co-sixth-fastest of 33 on the day at the trip.

Frosted, a son of Tapit  Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister, is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. The May 29 work was the colt's third since the Derby. He went five furlongs in 1:01.45 May 22.


Carpe Diem, Madefromlucky Work in Company

Carpe Diem and Madefromlucky, a pair of colts trained by Todd Pletcher, worked a half-mile in company May 29 at Belmont Park. Both are under consideration for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and a bid at thwarting American Pharoah's bid for the Triple Crown.

Carpe Diem, a grade I-winning son of Giant's Causeway  , recorded a half-mile of :47.66 (the third fastest of 33 on the day) for the four furlongs while Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) winner Madefromlucky got the trip in :47.84 (co-sixth fastest)

Carpe Diem, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 4 at Keeneland, was tenth behind American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables' runner has won four of six starts and has earned $1,519,800. He is out of the Unbridled's  Song mare Rebridled Dreams.

Madefromlucky, a one-length winner of the May 9 Peter Pan at Belmont, was second behind American Pharoah in the March 14 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and was fourth behind the dual classic winner in the April 11 Arkansas Derby (gr. I). This was his second move since the Peter Pan. He went five furlongs in a bullet :59.01 May 22.

Madefromlucky, by Lookin At Lucky  Home From Oz, by Pulpit, is owned by Cheyenne Stables and Mac Nichol. Home From Oz is a full sister to leading sire Tapit  .

Another top Pletcher 3-year-old, the unbeaten Competitive Edge, also worked May 29. The son of Super Saver   went four furlongs in :48.87. The winner of last year's Hopeful Stakes (gr. I), Competitive Edge won the Pat Day Mile (gr. III) at Churchill Downs on Derby day in his last outing.

Last year's Belmont winner, Tonalist (by Tapit), worked five furlongs in 1:01.23 for trainer Christophe Clement.


Race Day Excels in Oaklawn 'Cap
Race Day Excels in Oaklawn 'CapPhoto: Coady Photography
Race Day wins the Oaklawn Handicap.
Matthew Schera's Race Day is proving to be a bargain after taking the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Oaklawn Park on April 11.
Schera purchased the gray son of Tapit   at the 2014 Keeneland November sale for $285,000 and transferred the colt to the care of Todd Pletcher. Since that purchase, Race Day has won three of his last four starts, also taking the March 14 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn.
"It certainly looks like that," said Schera, after being asked if the horse was a good purchase. "He's done everything right since we got him."
Breaking alertly from the rail under John Velazquez, Race Day was involved from the start, battling with Carve through a half-mile in :46.71 and into the stretch, before drawing off to score by 3 3/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite.
"It worked out perfect," Velazquez said. "We went a little quicker than I expected to, but we had no choice to be up front. We got good position going into the first turn and I tried to save enough horse for the run home. He did everything so easy coming to the quarter pole. When I asked him right at the eighth pole he responded. Very proud of the way he ran today."
It was also the first grade II win for Race Day, who has now won five of eight career starts, with earnings of $610,450.
"It was a super effort," said Pletcher, who also saddled Lawyer Ron to victory in the 2007 Oaklawn Handicap.
After the race Schera said Race Day may try grade I competition next in the $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap from Belmont Park on June 6, as part of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) undercard.
"It's very exciting," Schera said. "We're thinking the Met Mile next and see how he comes out of it. We always put the horse first."
Carve lasted to be a clear second, while second-choice Tapiture edged out Golden Lad by a neck for third. The field was completed by Street Strategy, Hard Aces, For Greater Glory, Russellin, and Sammy Mandeville.
"I'm not really going to complain," said jockey Jesus Castanon, aboard Carve. "He was really in the bridle today and was happy doing it. He was up there with the winner for most of the race and really tried. He was second best today."
Race Day ran the 1 1/8-mile event in 1:47.93 and returned $4.40 to win, $3.60 to place and $2.80 to show.
Carve paid $7.20 to place and $4.80 to show, while Tapiture returned $3.20 to show.
Race Day was bred in Kentucky by James Miller and is out of the More Than Ready mare Rebalite.
The gray 4-year-old began his career under the care of trainer Kellyn Gorder, finishing third in his debut on Aug. 8 of last year at Ellis Park. He then finished second at Ellis on Aug. 29, before finally breaking his maiden in his third career start at Keeneland on Oct. 3.
He then won an allowance race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2 before being placed in the sale.


Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali Score

Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali Score

Protonico Bounces Back with Ben Ali ScorePhoto: Anne M. Eberhardt
Protonico winning the Ben Ali Stakes.
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After being eased during his seasonal debut in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park, Protonico bounced back with an easy victory in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) April 11 at Keeneland.

With the front-running victory, Sumaya U.S. Stables' Protonico secured the third graded stakes win of his career. The 4-year-old son of Giant's Causeway   won last year's Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Smarty Jones Stakes (gr. III) at Parx Racing.

With a pair of recent bullet works signaling his readiness, including a four-furlong breeze in :47 2/5 April 5 at Keeneland, Protonico took control of the 1 1/8-mile race from the start under jockey Javier Castellano. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Protonico led through a half-mile in :47.49 and then left no doubt in the stretch, easily drawing off while completing the test in 1:48.79 on a fast track.

It marked the first gate-to-wire victory for Protonico since his career debuta six-furlong maiden race in September of 2013 under Castellano at Delaware Park

"When we were handicapping the race, I didn't see much speed," Castellano said. "I took advantage—my horse has speed. I rode him before (when he broke his maiden in September 2013 at Delaware Park) and was in the lead wire to wire. I tried to do the same today, and it worked out very well. The way he did it (was) very easy. Turning for home, when I asked he responded so well."

Sent off the 4-5 favorite, Protonico returned $3.60 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. A. Stevens Miles Jr.'s Neck 'n Neck earned his second straight stakes placing, and returned $6.40 to place and $4.60 to show. Ami's Holiday finished 2 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up, finishing third and returning $4.40 to show.


Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46

Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46

Jack Milton Goes Last to First in Maker's 46Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Jack Milton flies home to win the Maker's 46 Mile.
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Gary Barber's Jack Milton went from last to first to claim his first grade I score in the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT), tracking down longshot Aripeka in the lane April 10 at Keeneland (VIDEO).

Off at 9-2 odds, the 5-year-old son of War Front   sat last in the seven-horse field, 4 1/2 lengths behind early leader Long On Value after an opening quarter-mile in :23.89 and 5 1/2 back after a half in :47.42. He moved up to sixth when Long On Value covered six furlongs in 1:12, then went seven wide in the final turn to rally for a 2 1/4-length victory.

"I really like the way (it set up today)," jockey Javier Castellano said. "He's a come-from-behind horse and it was a beautiful paceI think it went pretty quick early in the race. It set up perfect (for) a come-from-behind horse. He had a good kick today."

Jack Milton completed the mile in 1:36.30 on a turf course rated soft under Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the third win for each on Keeneland's Friday card.

"It was pretty special—special for everybody," Pletcher assistant Tristan Barry said. "We had two plans. If he broke well, we were going to sit close to the pace and pounce. If he didn't, we were going to sit back and make one run. Plan B worked well."

Favored Summer Front, off at odds of 6-5, tracked the early leader and appeared to get a dream rail trip when Long On Value came out of the final turn wide, but faded to finish sixth, 7 1/4 lengths behind the winner. Long On Value hung on to finish third, a head behind Aripeka.

""It seemed like he was struggling a little bit at the end," Summer Front's jockey, Victor Espinoza, said. "It was a little too soft for him. I was sitting patiently with him all the way around. It was wide open for me, but when it was time to go, he struggled a little bit."

Jack Milton returned $11.20, $6.20, and $4. Aripeka delivered $10.40 and $4.20, while Long On Value paid $4 to show.

Bred in Kentucky by Cherry Valley Farm out of the Forty Niner mare Preserver, Jack Milton improved his record to 5-1-5 from 15 career starts and now has $751,161 in career earnings.

Prior to the Maker's 46, Jack Milton's only graded victory came in the mile Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park last May.

Beyond Long On Value, Legendary closed to finish fourth, followed by Za Approval, Summer Front, and Skyring, to complete the order of finish.


Carpe Diem Rumbles in Blue Grass
Carpe Diem Rumbles in Blue GrassPhoto: Anne M. Eberhardt
Carpe Diem takes the Blue Grass Stakes.
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Carpe Diem won for fun in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 4 at Keeneland, living up to his 2-5 favoritism and the hype that surrounded him leading into the race (VIDEO).

The 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway   put steady pressure on pacesetter Ocho Ocho Ocho and then powerfully took command coming out of the final turn, drawing away down the stretch under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to finish three lengths ahead. Danzig Moon put in a good closing run to get second, but could not reach the winner, who finished the 1 1/8-mile test on a fast track in 1:49.77.

"We had a really good trip. He was pretty close to the pace and then he just stayed there," Velazquez said. "I tried not use him too much the first part of the race.

"There wasn't much speed in the race. It was a nice slow pace and I didn't want to fight him very much. He was doing it pretty easy. Like (trainer) Todd (Pletcher) said, 'Don't fight him, just let him do it.' Down the lane, I asked him and he responded right away. Once he gets to the lead, he wants to wait, so I have to make sure I keep his mind on running.

"He's done everything right to this point, so hopefully we can keep him like that when we go to Churchill Downs."

Ocho Ocho Ocho held for third, 2 1/2 lengths back, after showing the way through opening fractions of :24.15, :48.05, and 1:12.18, leaving trainer Jim Cassidy uncertain as to his next move.
"His effort was fine," Cassidy said. "I knew (Carpe Diem) was going to go with us. I'm sure Pletcher wasn't going to change his style, but he knew we were going to go and he didn't want us to open up too much on him. It was a hell of a match race there for a bit. We'll see what happens after this. I don't think I have any big plans right at the moment."
Frammento, Classy Class, Gorgeous Bird, Unrivaled, and Pepper Roani completed the order of finish.
The Blue Grass was worth 100 points to the winner on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), bumping Carpe Diem's total on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard to 164 points. Danzig Moon ranks 12th on the list for the 20-horse field with 45 points, and Ocho Ocho Ocho has 30 to rank 19th. 

"He likes the surface here and we like the surface here, so we'll probably stay here a couple weeks or a week at least and then decide if we want to have one breeze at Churchill or two," Pletcher said of future plans for Carpe Diem, one of the trainer's key Kentucky Derby contenders along with Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Materiality.

The victory for Pletcher was his third in the race, tying him with Ben Jones, Woody Stephens, LeRoy Jolley, and Nick Zito for the most triumphs in the classics prep. Pletcher's other wins came with Bandini in 2005 and Monba in 2008.

It was the second Toyota Blue Grass victory for Velazquez, who rode Bandini for Pletcher in 2005.

Carpe Diem came off a March 7 victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), his first start of 2015 for WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable after running second in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). He won the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland as a 2-year-old straight off his powerful maiden win Sept. 1 at Saratoga Race Course, and became just the third horse to complete a sweep of the Breeders' Futurity as a 2-year-old and the following spring's Blue Grass, joining Round Table (1956-1957) and Dullahan (2011-2012).

"He just continues to get better and you want to have a horse that's moving forward this time of year—you want to have a horse that's blooming and he's doing that," said Elliott Walden, WinStar's president and CEO.

The winner returned $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10 while Danzig Moon paid $7.80 and $5 with Ocho Ocho Ocho bringing $3.20. 

Norm Casse, assistant to Danzig Moon trainer Mark Casse, had high praise for their runner-up.

"He ran a big race, and with a better trip, we might have been even closer," Casse said. "I'm just glad the real Danzig Moon showed up today and showed that he's a serious racehorse. This race is redeeming, because we thought he had a big shot (in the Tampa Bay Derby) and he ran a bad fourth (behind winner Carpe Diem). But I think he just didn't handle the track that day and today is a better indication of his ability. I'm sure we'll take him over to Churchill and see where he stands and how he's doing."

MCCARTHY: Coffee Pot Brews a Good One in Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem was bred in Kentucky by Coffee Pot Stable out of the Unbridled's Song mare Rebridled Dreams, and is the first grade I winner produced by that outfit. He was a $1.6 million purchase by WinStar and Stonestreet from the Northwest Stud consignment to the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. selected sale of 2-year-olds in training. The Blue Grass brought his career record to four wins and a second from five starts, for earnings of $1,519,800.


Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida Derby

Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida Derby

Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida DerbyPhoto: Coglianese Photos
Materiality comes home strong to take the Florida Derby.
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In his graded stakes debut, Alto Racing's Materiality proved up to the challenge as he outlasted grade II winner Upstart in an extended duel and scored a 1 1/2-length victory in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) Saturday, March 28 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).

A son of dual classic winner Afleet Alex  , Materiality picked up his third victory in as many starts in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile race. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who earned his second straight Florida Derby win and third overall, Materiality won a maiden special weight event in January at Gulfstream before taking the Islamorada Handicap March 5 at the South Florida track.

On Saturday in the biggest start of his young career, Materiality and Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner Upstart drew off from the other seven 3-year-olds in the far turn and battled into deep stretch, thrilling the crowd. Materiality finally separated himself from Upstart near the sixteenth pole. 

Racing inside of Upstart, Materiality drifted out in the stretch but there was no inquiry or objection after the race. In his previous start, Ralph Evans' Upstart finished first in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) but was disqualified for stretch interference and placed behind Itsaknockout.

"We got very close (to Upstart), that's for sure. We got out a little bit further than I thought I did," Velazquez said. "I had my head down, looking over to make sure I didn't bump him. There was a little brushing, maybe, but there was no contact. I was very conscious to pull back in and you can see the two horses spread apart."

Upstart's trainer Rick Violette Jr. didn't have a problem with the stretch run but wondered if things would have been different if the son of Flatter   hadn't started from the outside in the field of nine.

"I don't want to hear from the guys that say, 'Don't worry about the nine hole,' because it made all the difference," Violette said. "If we had (Materiality) on our hip the whole way, maybe the result would have been different. (Materiality) beat us fair and square. He is obviously a very nice horse, he comes off a really fast race and didn't regress."

Materiality completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.3 on a fast track. Ami's Flatter finished well behind the top two finishers—12 1/2 lengths behind Upstart—to secure his first grade I placing while Itsaknockout followed in fourth.

In the Islamorada, Materiality defeated stablemate Stanford, who on Saturday ran second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots after leading that race into the stretch. Pletcher noted the 22-day turnaround from the Islamorada was a concern.

"So we monitored how he was training; he looked great. He's a big, strong colt and he holds his weight really well. He's got a big appetite," Pletcher said. "He put forth a really good breeze a week ago so we felt like he was showing us all of the right signs.

"Yet you still worry about those situations when you get to the eighth pole. Watching Stanford finish a very good second in the Louisiana Derby about a half-hour before gives you a little more confidence, but you're still concerned about the short turnaround."

Materiality returned $5.60 to win, $3 to place, and $2.40 to show. Upstart, who was sent off as the even-money favorite, returned $2.60 and $2.20, while Ami's Flatter paid $3 to show.

Pletcher won the Florida Derby with Constitution last year and Scat Daddy   in 2007. Materiality, a bay colt, was guided to victory by John Velazquez, who also earned his third Florida Derby win after taking the key prep race aboard Orb   in 2013 and Quality Road   in 2009.

The Florida Derby is a 100-40-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, ensuring the winner enough points to qualify for a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Upstart also has secured enough points.

Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, Materiality is out of the Langfuhr mare Wildwood Flower, who also has produced grade II winner My Miss Sophia.

Materiality sold twice before his racing career, most recently being landed for $400,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale where he was purchased by Steven Young, agent, for Gil Moutray's Alto Racing from the consignment of De Meric Sales, agent. As a yearling, Materiality was purchased for $260,000 by Venture Six from Gunther's Glennwood Farm consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.


Commissioner Edges 'Quisqueyano' in Skip Away

Commissioner Edges 'Quisqueyano' in Skip Away

Commissioner Edges 'Quisqueyano' in Skip AwayPhoto: Coglianese Photos
Commissioner gets by Sr. Quisqueyano to win the Skip Away.
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WinStar Farm's Commissioner put away stubborn rival Sr. Quisqueyano March 28 at Gulfstream Park, winning the $150,000 Skip Away (gr. III) by a head after a prolonged battle (VIDEO).

Both runners rebounded from failed efforts at tougher starts, 4-year-old Commissioner coming in off a sixth-place finish in the Feb. 7 Donn Handicap (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher, and 5-year-old Sr. Quisqueyano returning to Florida after shipping to take on Shared Belief in the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, where he finished ninth for Loooch Racing, Christopher Dunn, and trainer Peter Walder.

Sr. Quisqueyano and jockey Edgard Zayas set the pace in the 1 3/16-mile Skip Away, clicking through opening fractions of :24.38 and :48.97 with 7-5 favorite Commissioner and jockey Javier Castellano tracking about two lengths behind in a group of six. 

Commissioner, a son of A.P. Indy, gradually made up the difference through three-quarters in 1:13.81 and looked ready to drive clear with an outside closing move sweeping around the far turn. Once on even terms with the leader, however, he had his work cut out for him, as 10-1 Sr. Quisqueyano fought back determinedly on the rail while a mile went in 1:38.72.

It was a neck-and-neck battle down the length of the stretch, with Commissioner finally edging out the victory by a neck.

Final time was 1:58.60 on the fast main track.

"We knew Sr. Quisqueyano is a tough horse to get by," Pletcher said. "Javier gave him a good ride. This horse has been knocking on the door for a while. We're happy to get a graded stakes with him, so that he could have a spot in the WinStar stallion barn. These A.P. Indys, we know they just get better with age. We'll probably point to the (June 6) Brooklyn (Handicap, gr. II, at Belmont Park), the only question is whether we run before that or not."     

Commissioner, a Kentucky homebred out of the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart, returned $4.80, $3.20, and $2.40. Sr. Quisqueyano, by Eluisve Quality, paid $6.80 and $3.60. Encryption returned $2.60 far back in third, while East Hall, Ulanbator, and Tryer completed the order of finish.

The Skip Away win improved Commissioner's record to 3-3-2 from 11 starts for earnings of $617,237. Runner-up by a head to Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the bay colt earned his first graded score. 


Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback Handicap

Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback Handicap

Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback HandicapPhoto: Coady Photography
Race Day fights off Midnight Hawk to win the Razorback Handicap.

Matthew Schera's Race Day edged past a stubborn Midnight Hawk near the wire to capture the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) for 4-year-olds and up March 14 at Oaklawn Park (VIDEO).

Race Day, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, sat just off the pace set by Midnight Hawk from the start in a race that had little movement throughout. Race Day came into the 1 1/16-mile Razorback off of a third-place finish in the Fred Hooper Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park.

In a field of six shortened by the scratch of I Got It All earlier Saturday afternoon, Midnight Hawk, ridden by Victor Espinoza for trainer Bob Baffert, grabbed the early lead on a good, sealed track and methodically set fractions of :23.87 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.26 for the half-mile, and 1:12.58 for six furlongs. Race Day was in no hurry to challenge the leader, with Carve and Tapiture further back in third and fourth, respectively.

Race Day, a 4-year-old colt by Tapit   out of the More Than Ready mare Rebalite, hooked Midnight Hawk at the top of the stretch, but Midnight Hawk, to his inside, didn't give in. It wasn't until the late stages that Race Day got past the leader to win by a neck in 1:44.88 for the distance.

Carve, winner of the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn in his previous start, and Tapiture, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) in his last start, had nothing to offer in the lane. They were passed late by Golden Ticket, who finished third, 7 1/4 lengths behind Midnight Hawk. Carve was fourth, followed by Tapiture and Ride On Curlin.

Velazquez said Race Day, whom he rode in the Hooper and the previous race in which the colt won a second-level allowance race in Florida, needed some urging late.

"Last time there was a lot of pace at Gulfstream, but he didn't break well," Velazquez said. "He broke well today, but was a little rank on the first turn. When he came down the lane, he started waiting a little, so I got after him again, and he put up a good fight."

Race Day is the first horse owner Schera has had with Pletcher. Schera, who lives in Connecticut, makes his living in the hedge-fund business and brought eight friends with him to Arkansas.

"We all flew down; a bunch of friends came," Schera said. "We felt we had a good shot. The last race, he had a little bit of traffic problems, and we know he is a good horse."

Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said Midnight Hawk, despite defeat, showed improvement.

"He ran huge, and he ran straight, which makes us really happy because in a lot of his past races he has been very erratic," Barnes said. "We could not be happier with him and how well he did today."

Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode fifth-place finisher Tapiture, who carried high weight of 119 pounds for trainer Steve Asmussen, made no excuses.

"He just got tired," Santana said. "He was coming off a layoff and probably just needed this race."

Race Day returned $6.20, $4.80, and $3.60 across the board. Midnight Hawk, in from California, paid $6.80 and $4.40, while Golden Ticket was worth $5.60 to show. The $2 exacta returned $69 and the $1 trifecta $260.30. 

Race Day, bred in Kentucky by James Miller, was purchased by his current owner for $285,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The colt now has four wins, a second, and two thirds in seven starts.


Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby Winner

Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby Winner

Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby WinnerPhoto: SV Photography
Carpe Diem and John Velazquez take the Tampa Bay Derby.

Carpe Diem made his 2015 debut in style March 7, taking the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs by five lengths to claim his third victory from four starts (VIDEO).

Runner-up in the Nov. 1 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last time out, the 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway   tracked fourth behind pacesetter Divining Rod, who set fractions of :23.10, :46.65, and 1:11.35. Carpe Diem made his move heading into the far turn, striking the lead heading for home and lengthening away through a 1:37.22 mile under confident handling.   

"He was very fresh warming up and when they finally got him into the gate and I got on, he settled down," said Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who had to dismount momentarily before the start due to Carpe Diem's reluctance to load. "We broke very well and I took a position just where I wanted to be, right behind the leaders. He rated very well and I was able to wait with him until nearing the stretch. When I asked he came away very nicely."

Carpe Diem races for WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He covered the Tampa Bay Derby's 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.60.

The 3-year-old Triple Crown prep race was his second graded-stakes score; Carpe Diem took the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in October after breaking his maiden at first asking on Labor Day over Ready for Rye, who on March 7 won the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Swale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.

NOVAK: Ready for Rye Upsets Daredevil in Swale

"When they leave their 2-year-old season behind, you hope they come out like he did," said Elliott Walden, WinStar president and chief executive officer. "Everyone who has watched him train said he has been training better than any horse in Florida, and it's nice to see him put it together like that. He is just a natural athlete and has a great rhythm to him.

"We missed him as a yearling, but thankfully John (Moynihan, representative for co-owner Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables). and I got together on him as a 2-year-old."

Bred in Kentucky by Coffee Pot Stable out of the Unbridled's Song mare Rebridled Dreams, Carpe Diem was a $1.6 million purchase by WinStar and Stonestreet from the Northwest Stud consignment to the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. selected sale of 2-year-olds in training. He improved his earnings to $919,800.

MCCARTHY: Coffee Pot Brews a Good One in Carpe Diem

"We couldn't be more pleased," Pletcher said. "Johnny put him in a perfect position and he really kicked on at the top of the stretch. It was exactly what we were hoping for. He has a history of (reluctance to load) a little, and we will continue to work to try to get that corrected. He has a lot of (sire) Giant's Causeway) and (grandsire) Storm Cat about him; that's what makes him good. We're delighted with the way he ran today."

Off at even money, Carpe Diem returned $4, $3, and $2.40. He was followed home by 13-1 shot Ami's Flatter, who paid $9 and $6.80, and Divining Rod, worth $5.60.
Danzig Moon, Great Stuff, and Moonlight Bandit came next, followed by Sam F. Davis (gr. III) winner Ocean Knight— previously undefeated in two starts and also a Stonestreet Stables runner who failed to fire when asked for run. My Johnny Be Good brought up the rear in the group of eight; Souper Colossal scratched.

"Ocean Knight seemed very flat and maybe it was a minor off day because he had been training like a really good horse," said winning co-owner Barbara Banke of Stonestreet.


Itsaknockout Wins FOY
Upstart DQ'd in FOY, Itsaknockout WinsPhoto: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Itsaknockout (right) finishes second to Upstart in the Fountain of Youth, but is awarded the win.
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Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner and 4-5 favorite Upstart was disqualified after crossing the wire first in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 21 at Gulfstream Park, with lightly-raced Itsaknockout elevated from second to his first graded win (VIDEO).

Upstart, with Jose Ortiz in the irons, closed steadily in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth to take control from 7-2 second choice Frosted in the final sixteenth. But he bore out under steady left-handed urging from Ortiz against Starlight Racing's Itsaknockout in deep stretch, causing not only a stewards' inquiry, but a jockey's objection by Itsaknockout's rider, Luis Saez.

Itsaknockout, a 3-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid  , won his first two races and stepped into stakes company in just his third start Saturday. He now has a 3-for-3 record at Gulfstream and will target the March 28 Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).

"That was a tough decision," Saez said. "I did think (Upstart) would get taken down, because he really bothered me. When we came into the stretch, I felt like my horse wanted to run, so I thought we'd win the race. But the other horse came out and bothered me. I couldn't ride my horse. He's a little better on the outside. Today there was a little speed outside of us, so we had to play with that. At the three-eighths he really responded." 

Todd Pletcher trainee Itsaknockout rated just off the leaders early on, as Bluegrass Singer went a quarter in :24.27 and a half in :47.87 while tracked by Frosted, the second choice at 7-2. Frosted ranged up to take the lead as three-quarters went in 1:11.65. But a determined Upstart was closing to his outside with Itsaknockout off his right hip.

"(Frosted) came out on me and I bumped (Itsaknockout) after that," Ortiz said. "I bumped him just a little, but I don't think enough to take me down."

The stewards thought otherwise. Although Upstart eked out the advantage through a 1:38.98 mile and then drew ahead by 2 3/4 lengths to finish in 1:46.28 on a fast track, the way he drifted out under Ortiz's steady stick while doing so caused them to place him second despite his finish ahead.

"I feel bad for the connections of the other horse," Pletcher said. "He crossed the finish line first, but definitely we got impeded a bit and Luis (Saez) had to stop riding for a couple strides. I don't know how it would eventually affect the outcome."

"Bad call," trainer Rick Violette said of the Upstart disqualification. "(The stewards) have to understand that when the horse gets hit behind the girth, the only place the horse can go is to the right. It's disappointing. The horse ran great, we just don't get credit for it. Don't know what's next, but we might have to go to New York." 

The Fountain of Youth is worth 50 points to the winner for a spot in the starting gate of the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with 20,10, and 5 going to the second- through fourth-place finishers. Itsaknockout jumped to the second spot on the leaderboard with his tally.

With 71 points, International Star tops the leaderboard after winning the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Upstart, with 36 points, is now third.

NOVAK: International Star Carries On in Risen Star

Itsaknockout paid $12.80, $5, and $4 at odds of 5-1. Upstart paid $2.60 and $2.10. The late-closing Frammento got up over Frosted to return $12.80. Gorgeous Bird, Bluegrass Singer, Juan and Bina, and Danny Boy completed the order of finish.

"The thing I'm most proud of is for this horse to run this well in his third lifetime start, first time around two turns and first time in a (stakes)," Pletcher said. "It was a very, very good effort. He was in between horses in a situation he hasn't been in before, so it was a big effort."

Itsaknockout was bred in Kentucky by Brookfield Stud out of the Cherokee Run mare Stormy B. He was a $350,000 purchase by agent Frank Brothers from the consignment of Dromoland Farm, agent, at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale after being pinhooked for $130,000 by Black Cherry Farm from the Elm Tree Farm consignment at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2012.

"We knew he had the talent, but you have to always wonder until they do it," said Starlight managing partner Don Lucarelli. "This sealed it. We had never won this race and naturally it gives us a lot of aspirations for going to the Derby. We're just excited for all the partners. We had a big crowd here today. We really rolled the bones and it paid off."


Graydar's First Foals Have Arrived!

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