Week of July 2, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Excessive heat played havoc on racing up and down the East Coast this weekend, with cancelled cards and extra precautions taken to keep both horses and humans alike well hydrated. Churchill Downs even made the unprecedented decision to move post times for the final three days of their spring meet to the evening hours. Fittingly, the closing stakes race, the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap (chart), was won on a heavily rain-affected turf course by Guys Reward, trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Corey Lanerie; both captured the meet’s leading trainer and leading jockey titles, respectively.

In Ireland, a saturated Curragh turf proved no problem for the unbeaten 3-year-old colt Camelot, as he won the 1 1/2 miles Group 1 Irish Derby on Saturday. The runner-up: Born to Sea, a three-quarter brother to Arc winner Sea the Stars. Already the winner of the 2000 Guineas and the Investec (Epsom) Derby, Camelot will attempt to become the first English Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky 42 years ago when he contests the Group 1 St. Leger at Doncaster in September. At the Curragh on Sunday, Izzi Top snagged a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf by winning the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes.

The only Grade 1 action in North America was at Hollywood Park on Saturday. Jeranimo won the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile (chart), earning himself a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Promising Grade 1-winning Argentinian import Suggestive Boy finished an impressive second in his first American start, ahead of Eastern invader Little Mike. Making his first start since a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, The Factor was the odds-on favorite in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap (chart), but, after leading most of the race, he was passed late by one-time $40,000 claimer Camp Victory in a satisfying karmic upset — Camp Victory’s trainer Mike Mitchell underwent surgery this past week to remove a brain tumor and had to watch the race from his hospital bed.

At Belmont, the top three-finishers in May’s Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay returned in the Grade 2 New York Stakes (chart), with Mystical Star pulling an upset over favored Aruna and Hit It Rich. The Grade 2 Bed o’ Roses Handicap (chart) saw Derwin’s Star record her first graded stakes victory over a field that included last-out Grade 2 Vagrancy victress C C’s Pal. Trainer/owner Steve Klesaris mentioned the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes on August 24 at Saratoga as a possible next start for Derwin’s Star, the same race which Coolmore’s newly-acquired mare Turbulent Descent may also be aimed.

Sad news from Sagamore Farm on the death of Grade 2 Matron Stakes winner Millionreasonswhy during a training accident at the farm — a press release from Sagamore noted “she will be buried whole with her blanket, halter and a basket of treats” alongside the farm’s greats including Bed o’ Roses.

A number of former Derby horses also made track appearances this week, some more successfully than others and, strangely, in races marred by breakdowns. 2010 Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes victor Stately Victor ran a distant third to Hunters Bay and Pender Harbour in Sunday’s Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes (chart) at Woodbine; after leading in the early going, Grade 1-placed Straight Story was pulled up and vanned off late. 2011 Santa Anita Derby runner-up Comma To The Top finished third in the Robert Kerlan Memorial Handicap at Hollywood on Sunday, a race won by Kristin Mulhall-trained John Johny Jak who was later euthanized due to a shoulder injury suffered on the gallop-out.

While he didn’t make the Derby field, Grade 1-placed Teeth of the Dog continued his winning ways, capturing the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes (chart) at Belmont over Easy Goer runner-up Fast Falcon and Grade 3 Illinois Derby runner-up Morgan’s Guerrilla. Unfortunately, two Dwyer contestants failed to finish, Unstoppable U and Monarchic.

It wasn’t all bad news, though, as last year’s Eclipse-winning juvenile champion Hansen handily won the Grade 3 Iowa Derby (chart) by 10 lengths. Next on his agenda: the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby on August 4, and then perhaps the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga on August 25.

On the same Prairie Meadows card, Uptown Bertie lived up to her family’s stakes-winning tradition, taking the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks (chart) in her first stakes attempt: her Grade 2-placed full sister Get Ready Bertie won the 2007 Tiffany Lass Stakes, while her half sister Whirlie Bertie captured the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap in 2009 — their dam De Bertie won the Grade 2 Rampart Stakes at Gulfstream Park. In the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap (chart), Fort Larned rebounded from his last-place finish in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap to win in front-running fashion over heavily-favored Successful Dan, while gutsy veteran Awesome Gem got up for third.

And speaking of gutsy hard-knockers, Louisiana-bred Star Guitar won his 10th straight stakes race on Saturday night, the Louisiana Legends Classic Stakes at Evangeline — his 24th victory in 30 lifetime starts, and in track-record time to boot! It may be the superstars that draw people to the sport, but true fans appreciate horses (especially geldings) like Awesome Gem and Star Guitar who always give their all, and just keep running.

Keep up with all the commentary at Raceday 360 Wire.

Last Week’s Races

2012 New York Stakes Replay
Mystical Star holds off the charge of a fast-closing Aruna.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Dwyer Stakes Replay
Teeth of the Dog was faster than Fast Falcon.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Triple Bend Handicap Replay
Camp Victory makes a name for himself.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2012 Shoemaker Mile Replay

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2012 Bed o’Roses Handicap Replay
Derwin’s Star does it easy.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Iowa Derby Replay
Hansen is back!

2012 Irish Derby Replay
Camelot remains unbeaten.

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