Week of July 23, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

While the ranks of the top 3-year-old colts continue to be depleted — this week, Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags joined Derby-Preakness winner I’ll Have Another in retirement — older champions stepped up to provide plenty of racing excitement.

At Del Mar, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning older horse Acclamation repeated his victory in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes (chart) and stretched his winning streak to seven races, with veteran Pat Valenzuela aboard. Whether or not he next attempts to defend his Grade 1 Pacific Classic title, Acclamation appears aimed for the Breeders’ Cup as his owner recently paid the $50,000 supplemental fee to make him eligible.

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic victress Royal Delta continued her post-Dubai win streak, hanging on to capture an exciting Grade 2 Delaware Handicap (chart) over a game Tiz Miz Sue, a Grade 1-placed locally-based mare sent off at odds of 28-1. While her stablemate Love and Pride set blazing early fractions on the lead (much like she had in winning the Grade 3 Obeah most recently), second-choice Awesome Maria could do no better than third after flattening out in the stretch, leaving the top two to battle it out to the wire.

Similar close finishes occurred at Woodbine on Wednesday night between 2011 Sovereign Award-winning sprinter Essence Hit Man and previously-undefeated Eternal Rule in the Grade 3 Bold Venture Stakes (chart), and at Ascot on Saturday when last year’s Arc winner Danedream snatched victory from last-out English Group 1 Coral-Eclipse winner Nathaniel in the English Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. For the German-bred filly it was a promising return to form after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the French Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. Still, she’ll have her hands full repeating in the Arc, particularly if potential English Triple Crown winner Camelot also aims for the autumn Longchamp race. For his connections, Nathaniel‘s narrow loss was tempered by his full sister Great Heavens‘ victory on Sunday in the Group 1 Irish Oaks.

Juveniles took center stage at Saratoga on opening weekend, with Maggi Moss-owned So Many Ways becoming the first stakes-winner for her sire Sightseeing, in the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes (chart) on Friday. On Sunday, jockey Rosie Napravnik won the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes (chart) aboard Bern Identity for trainer Kelly Breen and owners George and Lori Hall, the same connections for which Napravnik rode Pants on Fire to victory in last year’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. Bern Identity is likely to be aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, according to his connections.

Saturday’s highlight race at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks (chart), featured a tremendous field of 3-year-old fillies, including Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan winner In Lingerie, Grade 2 Davona Dale victress Yara, and the first two finishers from the recent Grade 1 Acorn, Zo Impressive and Disposablepleasure. However, it was the English-bred Questing (Hard Spun) who captured her first American graded-stakes event, giving young jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. his first Grade 1 win. With Zo Impressive a clear second over In Lingerie, it was an impressive 1-2 finish for daughters of Hard Spun.

Colonial Downs featured stellar turf racing on Saturday night, including the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks (chart) where yet another Hard Spun daughter Filare l’Oro closed well, but could not get by Volcat. Trainer Dale Romans captured his third Grade 2 Virginia Derby (chart) when Silver Max led wire-to-wire. Romans had previously won with Kitten’s Joy and Paddy O’Prado, and this year also took third-place with Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake. After a disappointing trip to Dubai where he ran a distant seventh in a field of 14 in the Group 2 UAE Derby, Lucky Chappy ran well to get past Finnegans Wake and finish second. Long-suffering on the Triple Crown trail, D. Wayne Lukas-trained Optimizer appreciated the return to grass, coming on to finish fourth.

It’s also worth noting that on the Virginia Oaks/Derby undercard, Barbaro‘s 5-year-old full brother Lentenor won his first stakes race, the Kitten’s Joy Stakes, by passing last year’s winner Action Andy in the final yards before the post and winning by a head.

Late Sunday, Grade 1 Las Virgenes winner Eden’s Moon made her turf debut a winning one, capturing the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap (chart) at Del Mar in wire-to-wire fashion. Third-place finisher in the Las Virgenes, Open Water got up to finish second in the San Clemente, with Irish-bred Indigo River gaining third over English import Byrama; both of those fillies had good form lines against Grade 1 American Oaks winner Lady of Shamrock who could face Eden’s Moon in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks next.

Looking forward to this coming week, at Saratoga on Saturday it’s the Grade 1 Diana for fillies and mares on turf, and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy for 3-year-olds prepping for the August 25 Grade 1 Travers, Saratoga’s Mid Summer Derby. The other key event will be Sunday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth, where the field will likely include Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Dullahan, Grade 1 Wood Memorial victor Gemologist, and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter. After all, with I’ll Have Another and Union Rags now out of the picture, championship honors are still up for grabs if the right horse puts together a stellar second-half campaign, culminating in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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

Last Week’s Races

2012 Bold Venture Stakes Replay
Essence Hit Man proves his mettle.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2012 James Marvin Stakes Replay
Pacific Oceans takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Schuylerville Stakes Replay
So Many Ways rallies for the win

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Coaching Club American Oaks Replay
Questing stalks and pounces.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Delaware Handicap Replay
Tiz Miss Sue makes champion Royal Delta earn her win.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Eddie Read Handicap Replay
Acclamation brings his win streak to seven

2012 Sanford Stakes Replay
Bern Identity runs down the speed Handsome Jack.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Matron Stakes Replay
Stars to Shine runs down Hooh Why .

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2012 Nijinski Stakes Replay
Riding the River holds off the late charge of Hotep.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2012 San Clemente Handicap Replay
Eden’s Moon takes the turf.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

Kauai Kate Maiden Replay
Kauai Kate makes an eye-catching debut

Video courtesy of NYRA

Upcoming Graded Stakes Races

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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