Week of July 15, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Turf is where the action was last week, with several big races at both Arlington and Colonial Downs, not to mention the final spring/summer action at Hollywood Park.

Four Grade 3 turf events highlighted Million Preview Day at Arlington, beginning with the 1 1/2 miles Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Stakes for 3-year-olds and up. The favorite Dark Cove has been on a roll as of late, first winning the Grade 2 Elkhorn and then the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap last out. Last year’s Stars and Stripes winner Ioya Bigtime not surprisingly took the early lead, but faded once Dark Cove passed him as they exited the final turn, ultimately finishing fourth, 6 1/4 lengths behind third-place finisher The Pizza Man. Not only did Dark Cove make this victory look easy (even when toting 7 pounds more than the runner-up Suntracer), but he did it in a new course record time (2:27.39) with jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard—the first of two Grade 3 stakes wins for Napravnik on the day.

In the 1 3/16 miles Grade 3 Modesty Handicap, the surprising 8-1 winner was Ausus, a 4-year-old daughter of Invasor that seems to click nicely with jockey James Graham. The 2-1 favorite La Tia took the early lead, but could only get third after being passed first by the runner-up Artemus Kitten and then the eventual winner in the stretch. The final time (1:53.94) was just a tick off the course record (1:53.20)—and far faster than the 3-year-old males posted in the next race, the Grade 3 American Derby (1:55.41). Next up for Ausus: the August 17 Grade 1 Beverly D.

While it may not have been as fast, the American Derby did provide an exciting blanket finish, with 12-1 longshot Infinite Magic prevailing by a head over favorite Admiral Kitten. It was just a nose back to third-place finisher Stormy Len. What a way for jockey Channing Hill to return from his recent shoulder injury! For Infinite Magic and perhaps his closest rivals, the Grade 1 Secretariat on August 17 is likely next.

Even though he had already won two past runnings of the 1 1/4 miles Grade 3 Arlington Handicap (including last year’s in wire-to-wire fashion), 9-year-old veteran Rahystrada went to post as the bettors’ third-choice, behind Grade 1 winner Dullahan (making his first start since a dreadful Dubai jaunt) and local stalwart Coalport, winner of two state-bred turf races in his most recent efforts. Imagine their surprise when Rosie Napravnik and the brilliant old-boy made the lead coming out of the final turn and never looked back, easily holding off late-closing 29-1 longshot Temeraine to win by a half length. It wasn’t a bad race for Dullahan who finished just a neck back of the runner-up, in third-place, but Coalport was a non-factor, finishing back in sixth. For Dullahan, a defense of his Pacific Classic title on August 25 is next, while Rahystrada’s connections are considering either the Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 17, or the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf on September 4.

The horse that Rahystrada beat in last year’s Arlington Handicap, Boisterous got his first Grade 1 victory on Saturday, easily capturing the 1 3/8 miles Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont. The Shug McGaughey-trainee has been razor-sharp since his disappointing ninth-place performance in last year’s Arlington Million, now with four victories and two narrow runner-up finishes. Twilight Eclipse ran second, a half length in front of third-place finisher Exclusive Strike, the 22-1 longshot making a huge class jump (having run in a $16,000 optional claiming allowance race last out). It was another 3/4 lengths back to Finnegan’s Wake. Second-choice Optimizer, who had run a gallant second to the now-injured Point of Entry last out in the Grade 1 Manhattan, ran below par and ended up fifth. For Boisterous, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer appears more likely than the Arlington Million (both are scheduled for August 17), but McGaughey isn’t counting out a crack at Del Mar’s Polytrack and the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.

Earlier on the Man o’War card, the oddly-named Notacatbutallama continued his winning ways in the non-graded Solar Splendor Stakes, upsetting last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Noble Tune and third-place finisher Balance the Books, as well as Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity victor Joha and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third-place finisher Capo Bastone.

At Colonial Downs, 3-year-olds also took center-stage on turf. In the 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Virginia Oaks, the 2-1 favorite, Grade 3 Regret runner-up Praia, was upset by last-out maiden winner Nellie Cashman, a Pennsylvania-born Mineshaft filly ridden by Forest Boyce that went to post at odds of nearly 20-1. A much-deeper field contested the 1 1/4 miles Grade 2 Virginia Derby, but the result was nearly equally as surprising with one-time Grade 2 placed War Dancer finishing a head in front of Grade 1-placed Charming Kitten and Grade 3 Transylvania winner Jack Milton. The post-time favorite, Grade 3 Palm Beach winner Rydillic ran well early, but could not sustain his momentum, ultimately finishing in a dead-heat with 33-1 Gefest for eighth-place.

In the 1 1/4 miles Grade 1 American Oaks, Grade 1 Ashland winner Emollient proved that turf was much to her liking, winning in grand fashion by a half length over a proven turfster, Emotional Kitten. Last-out maiden special weight turf winner Topic was an impressive third, just 3/4 length behind the runner-up—she’s definitely one to watch next out.

Hollywood Park concluded its final spring/summer meet on Sunday, with the 5-year-old mare Marketing Mix challenging five male competitors in the 1 1/2 miles Grade 3 Sunset Handicap. It was the first time last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf runner-up has competed in open company, but if the result is anything to be considered, it may not be her last. The last-out winner of the Grade 1 Gamely had also never raced the 12-furlong distance either, but it didn’t prove to be a problem as Gary Stevens, content to let Hawk’s Eyes take the early lead, galloped along nicely, only taking the lead as they rounded the final turn and easily holding off late closing Dhaamer for the win. It was nearly 7 lengths back to third-place finisher Extensive. For Marketing Mix, the Grade 1 Beverly D on August 17 is next.

For dirt aficionados, the only graded stakes action this weekend was the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Delaware Oaks—and there wasn’t much in the way of top-notched fillies running. The favorite ended up being Maracuya, a lightly-raced Big Brown filly who finished fourth, a distant 12 lengths back, in the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan last out. After initially racing well on or near the lead early, she faded as they rounded the final turn, finishing seventh of nine fillies entered. The winner: yet another Pennsylvania-bred filly, Dancing Afleet, which went off at nearly 10-1. Minor stakes winner Ile St. Molly couldn’t sustain her early lead, but did hang on for second, just a half length behind the winner. It was nearly two lengths back to Sagamore Farm’s Tell a Great Story in third.

Over Hollywood’s all-weather track, a field of five fillies and mares contested the 7-furlong Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap, and it was Bob Baffert-trainee Book Review who made her successful return to the track after being away for nearly five months. She’d won the 7-furlong Grade 1 La Brea last December, but her last two starts were at route distances—second-place finishes in both the Grade 2 La Canada and Santa Maria, both going 1 1/16 miles. With regular rider Rafael Bejarano aboard, she made her typical late-move to get up and win by 2 1/2 lengths over favorite Teddy’s Promise. It was another head back to third-place finisher Byrama—runner-up in the 7-furlong Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland earlier this year, Byrama was last seen winning the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Vanity Handicap. For Book Review, the Grade 2 Rancho Bernardo Handicap at Del Mar on August 18 may be her next start, but this win insured a starting spot for her in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

On Wednesday the boutique meet at Del Mar opens—where the turf meets the surf; opening day at the Spa is Friday, July 19. Ah, now it feels like summer is finally here!

Keep up with all the racing commentary and news at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

2013 Man o’War Stakes Replay
Boisterious lives up to the hype.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Landaluce Stakes Replay
She’s a Tiger duels and pulls away.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 A Gleam Handicap Replay
Book Review silences those who think she couldn’t win on synthetics.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 American Oaks Replay
Emoillent ships west to win.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Arlington Handicap Replay
Rahystrada wins his third Arlington Handicap.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Sunset Handicap Replay
Marketing Mix becomes the first female to win the Sunset Handicap.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 A Gleam Handicap Chart
2013 American Derby Chart
2013 American Oaks Chart
2013 Arlington Handicap Chart
2013 Delaware Oaks Chart
2013 Landaluce Stakes Chart
2013 Man o’War Stakes Chart
2013 Modesty Handicap Chart
2013 Stars and Stripes Stakes Chart
2013 Sunset Handicap Chart
2013 Virginia Derby Chart
2013 Virginia Oaks Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet