Week of August 13, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
While injuries forced three fan favorites into retirement this week, the top juvenile contenders on both coasts strengthened their positions with impressive wins.
In a repeat of the Landaluce result, Bob Baffert-trainee and top West Coast 2-year-old filly Executiveprivilege (First Samurai) held off Speedinthruthecity (City Zip) in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes (chart) on Wednesday — both now appear aimed for a rematch in the September 1 Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante. For Executiveprivilege, there’s a rich family history to uphold, as her third dam is the great champion and Hall of Fame mare Davona Dale. Meanwhile, at Saratoga, speedy Kauai Katie (Malibu Moon) remained undefeated for Todd Pletcher, winning the Grade 2 Adirondack (chart) with Rosie Napravnik aboard. Calder stakes winner Salamera (Successful Appeal) finished second, ahead of Fully Living (Unbridled’s Song). One race later, in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special (chart), the scratch of favorite Shanghai Bobby (Harlan’s Holiday) allowed Spurious Precision (High Cotton) to win in wire-to-wire fashion. Eased up, he still won by five lengths over former claimer He’s So Fine (Purge) and In Harm’s Way (Hook and Ladder). Next up for him: the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes on October 6.
In the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks (chart), two blue-blood contenders finally lived up to their breeding. The daughter of 11-time Grade 1 winner (not to mention 2002 Horse of the Year) Azeri and 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, Wine Princess never looked back in capturing her first stakes victory. Runner-up Proud Pearl (Proud Citizen) is a full-sister to Eclipse champion Proud Spell, but had not previously demonstrated the same type of success her sibling did. She finished a mere nose in front of Jemima’s Pearl (Distorted Humor), a filly who closed well to finish third in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes back in April before failing miserably in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
In the Grade 3 Gardenia (chart) at Ellis Park, last year’s Grade 1 Mother Goose runner-up Joyful Victory went off favorite, but ultimately could not outrun Salty Strike, a rather underachieving filly who finished behind Joyful Victory in the Mother Goose. Both were well ahead of third-place finisher (and 21-1 longshot) Ridgester; former Grade 1 performers Absinthe Minded and Sassy Image finished a distant fifth and sixth, respectively.
Highlighting this upcoming weekend’s racing will be the International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park, with three Grade 1 turf races — the Secretariat Stakes, the Beverly D Stakes, and the Arlington Million. No grass racing of that quality occurred this week, but there were four Grade 2 turf races of some interest. At Saratoga, Wise Dan put on a tour-de-force performance over a boggy turf course in the Fourstardave Handicap (chart). It was only his third turf race in 17 starts, but he left no doubt about his affinity for the green. After rating well on or near the lead, 6-year-old Get Stormy ultimately failed to hold his position, finishing third, two lengths back of Corporate Jungle and over three lengths ahead of fourth-place finisher Guys Reward.
One day earlier, 11-1 longshot Quick Wit (Sharp Humor) shocked favored Csaba (Kitten’s Joy) and wise-guy pick Daddy Nose Best (Scat Daddy) in the off-the-turf National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (chart). Given the sloppy track, it was surprising Quick Wit won as he did since he had previously failed over a similar track in the Grade 3 Derby Trial — but that race has proven to be a strong indicator of form, given runner-up Paynter‘s subsequent success, in first the Belmont Stakes and then winning the Grade 1 Haskell, not to mention Stealcase‘s third-place finish in the Haskell and Bourbon Courage‘s runner-up performance in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby. Hindsight is definitely 20-20, though, isn’t it?
At Del Mar, only a small field of four contested the La Jolla Handicap (chart), but it was an exciting race, with the top three hitting the wire together. The winner (by a nose) was the Smarty Jones colt Old Time Hockey, whose dam Grat is a half sister to the unraced dam of Grade 1 winner and blossoming turf sire Scat Daddy. Runner-up My Best Brother (Stormy Atlantic) is likewise well-bred, being a full brother to Grade 1 winner Stormello. Just a head back in third was Chips All In (North Light), leaving the Artie Schiller gelding Blingo bringing up the rear. It was another close finish on Sunday in the John C. Mabee Stakes (chart), as City To City (City Zip) won by a nose over All Star Heart (Arch). Go Forth North (North Light) finished third while favorite Nereid (Rock Hard Ten) raced well early, but couldn’t stay the distance, fading to finish last in the six-horse field.
As for those retirements, fans will definitely miss both Awesome Maria and Winter Memories, two gray mares with several things in common. Both were graded stakes winners at age 2, and then later Grade 1 winners — albeit the former on dirt, and the latter on turf. They also have impeccable bloodlines, being direct descendants of Grade 1-winning mares (Alabama winner Pretty Discreet and Beverly D winner Memories of Silver, respectively) who are proven producers. Those facts make both tremendously valuable as potential broodmares, so it’s not surprising that both will now head off to the breeding shed after suffering career-ending injuries. For Awesome Maria, it was a tendon injury discovered after her disappointing third-place finish in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap, won by Royal Delta. Recent Grade 1 Diana winner Winter Memories was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease, devastating her connections; she will join her dam and two half-sisters in the broodmare band at Darby Dan Farm.
Finally, he may not have been well-known outside of Louisiana, but Star Guitar was a hard-knocking local legend. The son of Quiet American won 24 races in 30 starts, from age 2 to age 7, and, at the time of his retirement this week due to recurring quarter crack issues, he was in the midst of a 10-race win streak — all state-bred stakes races. Only twice he ventured outside of Louisiana, finishing third in the 2009 Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs (behind subsequently Grade 1 Whitney Handicap winner Bullsbay and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth victor Cool Coal Man), and fourth in the 2010 Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park (behind subsequent Grade 1 Woodward runner-up Mythical Power and Grade 1 Bing Crosby winner Euroears). Star Guitar will stand at Clear Creek Stud, in Folsom, Louisiana.
Video courtesy of NYRA
Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup
Video courtesy of NYRA
Video courtesy of NYRA
Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!