Week of July 9, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

The Breeders’ Cup may still be four months away, but the maneuvering of contenders in preparation for the big event has already begun.

This week featured three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races, led by the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup (chart) where Chantal Sutherland became the first female jockey to ever win the 1 1/4 mile race, aboard last year’s BC Classic runner-up Game on Dude. It was a training exacta for Bob Baffert, with his other entry Richard’s Kid running second, well ahead of third-place finisher Kettle Corn. Attempting to become the first filly since Princessnesian in 1968 to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, Grade 1 Vanity winner Love Theway Youare could only manage a fifth-place finish against her male competition.

Meanwhile, back on the East Coast, California-based jockey Mike Smith savored his win on Mucho Macho Man in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap (chart) at Belmont Park. It was a salty field with three Grade 1 winners – Donn Handicap victor Hymn Book, Cigar Mile winner To Honor and Serve, and Travers victor Stay Thirsty. None, however, was a match for the grandson of newly-pensioned Holy Bull, as he cruised to victory in a quick 1:46.58. Next up for him and several others in this race (as well as Grade 2 Monmouth Cup (chart) victor Rule): the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on August 4.

At Monmouth, in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes (chart) – a Challenge Race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf – Turbo Compressor won his first graded stakes in wire-to-wire fashion over his Colonial Turf Cup nemesis Air Support. With Rosie Napravnik aboard for the first time, veteran Al Khali looked rejuvenated finishing third ahead of 65-1 longshot Freud’s Honour. Fresh off his second-place effort behind Acclamation in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, favorite Slim Shadey was never a threat, finishing fifth. For Turbo Compressor and other potential Breeders’ Cup Turf contenders, Saratoga’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap on August 18 is a likely next start.

At Woodbine on Sunday, the Medaglia D’oro filly Marketing Mix proved too good (once again) in the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes (chart), easily overtaking Inglorious in the stretch. Surprising 24-1 longshot Moment of Majesty – narrow runner-up in the 2010 Woodbine Oaks – made a determined run to pass 2011 Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious who had to settle for third. Among the races mentioned next for Marketing Mix is the August 18 Grade 1 Beverly D at Arlington.

This weekend’s third Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race was for sprinters, the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap (chart) at Calder. The winner Gantry was no match last out against the likes of Shackleford and Amazombie, but he drew off with ease against a much lesser field for his first graded stakes victory. Unfortunately, the race was marred by the breakdown of 7-year-old Field Commission, a Grade 2 winner making only his second start since November 2010. He suffered a career-ending condylar fracture in his right hind leg, and is expected to undergo surgery.

Also at Calder on Saturday, 3-year-old Trinniberg, impressive winner last-out of the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont, opted to stick with his own age group rather than take on older horses in the Smile, perhaps thinking the Grade 3 Carry Back (chart) would be easy pickings. However, trainer Stanley Gold and jockey Fernando Jara had other ideas, as they sent Florida-bred Fort Loudon with Trinniberg early, not letting the favorite get an easy lead. In what turned into a virtual match race, the gutsy Fort Loudon prevailed in the end for the upset.

Calder’s female sprint races were all about romance, as Another Romance captured the Grade 3 Azalea Stakes (chart) for 3-year-olds, while defending Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion Musical Romance prevailed over Nicole H in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap (chart).

Trinniberg wasn’t the only short-priced favorite to lose on Saturday. Previously unbeaten Agave Kiss appeared on paper to have the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes (chart) field at her mercy, but it’s on just these occasions that 83-year-old veteran trainer Allen Jerkens thrives. “I was being optimistic when I picked out this race,” Jerkens later admitted, but his 39-1 longshot Emma’s Encore shocked everyone, winning easily by nearly 3-lengths over 7-1 runner-up Jamaican Smoke ($7.60 place, $18.60 show) and 11-1 third-place finisher Tu Endie Wei ($25.60 show). With all the money on Agave Kiss, the show payouts were huge, even larger than to place, and the $2 trifecta paid a whopping $2,643. For Emma’s Encore, a $2 win ticket paid $80, as well as $26.00 to place and $61 to show. Anyone wise enough to invest $6 to play her across the board got back $167 – that’s why playing the ponies beats slots machines any day. That and watching a master trainer like Jerkens enjoy a well-earned victory.

Last Week’s Races

2012 Poker Stakes Replay
Clear Attempt steps up for the upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Swaps Stakes Replay
Blueskiesnrainbows goes wire to wire.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2012 Victory Ride Stakes Replay
Emma’s Encore sneaks up on the outside for a huge upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Suburban Handicap Replay
Mucho Macho Man flexes.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Smile Sprint Replay
Gantry does it easily.

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

2012 United Nations Replay
Turbo Compressor takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of NAME

2012 Royal Heroine Stakes Replay
Quiet Oasis gets the job done.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2012 Dance Smartly Stakes Replay
Marketing Mix does not give up.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2012 Hollywood Gold Cup Replay
Game on Dude moves early and pulls away.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

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