Week of August 29, 2011
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
It was a wild weekend with plenty of upsets, several clunkers and a few fabulous comebacks. Favorites did not fare well on Travers day: Aviate didn’t fire in time in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa, Jealous Girl didn’t fire at all in the Grade 3 Victory Ride, Sassy Image bolted in the Grade 1 Ballerina, Uncle Mo was nailed on the wire in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop and the real Coil didn’t show up in the Grade 1 Travers.
Sassy Image’s odd performance was explained by an injury as she grabbed a quarter coming out of the gate. Trainer Dale Romans posted an image on his Facebook page and noted that she’ll be sore for a few days but is fine. Hilda’s Passion, the dominant Ballerina winner, didn’t fare as well, sustaining a minor injury that will keep her out for the rest of the year. After the Travers trainer Bob Baffert noted that Coil seemed to be “discouraged being that far back in the field” but has come out of the race OK. Official prognosis? He ran a clunker.
Despite the Travers being the featured race on the card, the seven furlong King’s Bishop was one of the most anticipated races of the weekend with Uncle Mo making his first start since running a dull third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in April (replay). Would the previous Kentucky Derby favorite and reigning juvenile champion return to form? The answer was yes, despite the fact that he finished second to Grade 2 Amsterdam winner Caleb’s Posse. Owner Mike Repole seemed to suffer a momentary freak out after the race, stating that the King’s Bishop might have been Mo’s last race, but cooler heads prevailed and now it looks like Mo will point to either Breeders’ Cup Mile or Classic. No word yet on what’s next for Caleb’s Posse, who’s been on top of his game since cutting back to sprint distances.
Stay Thirsty, stablemate of Uncle Mo, made it a Saratoga two-fer winning the Grade 1 Travers and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy (replay) in July. Preakness winner Shackleford set the early pace but faded to eighth. Trainer Dale Romans didn’t have any explanation for the uncharacteristic performance but said the colt was still on track for the Breeders’ Cup. Stay Thirsty might make his next appearance in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct 1 on his way to the Breeders’ Cup. Racing was cancelled at Saratoga on Sunday due to hurricane Irene. The Personal Ensign, which was scheduled to be run on Sunday, will now be run this Sat on Sept 3. Also at Saratoga over the weekend, former Kentucky Derby hopeful To Honor and Serve got a confidence building allowance win and is likely on his way to the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept 24 at Parx.
At Del Mar, the third time was a charm for Caracortado, who got up in time in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile. He’s been close after getting back on the turf and cutting back in distance, being beaten by less than length in his last two starts. Keeping him closer to the pace seemed to do the trick. A change in plans also resulted in a win, and potentially a trip to the Breeders’ Cup, for Celtic New Year in the Del Mar Handicap. The original plan was for him to be on the lead but jockey Victor Espinoza kept Celtic New Year behind the pace and snuck through on the rail for the win. The Factor defeated older sprinters going seven furlongs in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes in his first start since the Arkansas Derby in the spring. The Bob Baffert trainee turned in an exceptional effort, dueling with Smiling Tiger and pulling away in the stretch. In the post race interview Baffert said that either the Breeders’ Cup Sprint or Dirt Mile could be on the horizon for The Factor.
Acclamation made it four in a row with a crafty front-running victory, holding off Twirling Candy and setting a new track record in the Pacific Classic. The win, his third Grade 1 this year, assures him a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but this flexible Cal-bred could go to the Breeders’ Cup Turf given that has previous three wins were over the turf. No word yet on what’s next for newly minted millionaire.
The upcoming long holiday weekend holds plenty of racing, including six Grade 1 races: the Del Mar Debutante, Woodward, Forego, Spinaway, Hopeful and the rescheduled Personal Ensign. The Debutante, Spinaway and Hopeful are juvenile races and our look at First Time Starters and Juvenile Pedigrees can help you make the most of the holiday weekend! We also have Ten Things for the Hopeful, the Washington Park Handicap and the Personal Ensign Stakes.
This weekend will be the last Summer at Saratoga broadcast but NBC will use the same format for Keeneland’s fall meet with broadcasts starting on October 7.
NBC Sports scheduled coverage of Saratoga:
Sat Sept 3: Woodward – Versus
Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!