Week of June 11, 2012
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
With the late defection and retirement of Triple Crown contender I’ll Have Another, the Belmont was looking like the Bummer Stakes. But like the eventual winner, it rallied to provide an exciting end to another long, strange Triple Crown season.
Dullahan inherited the mantle of the horse to beat but ended up only being slightly favored over eventual Belmont Stakes (chart) winner Union Rags. The race unfolded with some oddities, such as Optimizer running close to the pace and second place finisher Paynter losing a shoe. But, when the time came it was Union Rags who rallied to run down Paynter. He even overcame a traffic issue!
Dullahan never fired, finishing seventh. Jockey Javier Castellano said of Dullahan in the post-race press conference, “I donâ€™t think he really liked the track today. Heâ€™s the type of horse who likes the turf or Polytrack more. The track was a little deep today and he kind of struggled a little bit.” Bob Baffert, trainer of second place Paynter, stablemate to Bodemeister (second in the Derby and Preakness), joked “Is there a Triple Crown for seconds?”
Union Rags and Paynter seem destined to meet again as both will point to the August 25 Travers at Saratoga, possibly using the July 28 Jim Dandy as prep. Ken McPeek’s third-place Atigun and sixth-place Unstoppable U will also head to Saratoga for the summer. No specific plans have worked out for Dullahan yet according to trainer Dale Romans.
A cut back in distance brought both Caixa Electronica and Trinniberg back to the winner’s circle. Caixa Electronica ran fourth two weeks ago in the Met Mile at Belmont Park but came from last to first in the six-furlong Grade 2 True North (chart), running down last year’s Woody Stephens winner, Justin Phillip. Trinniberg followed in the footsteps of his sire, Teuflesberg, following up his 17th place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a win in the Woody Stephens (chart). Unlike his sire, he’ll skip the Carry Back at Calder and will point to Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga (where Teuflesberg ran fourth to Hard Spun in 2007). Giant Ryan, Trinniberg’s stablemate, is awaiting surgery after his injury in the True North.
Trainer Dale Romans may not have won the Belmont Stakes, but he did win the Grade 1 Just a Game (chart) for the second year in a row. Last year C.S. Silk scored a 12-1 front-running victory, and this year Tapitsfly scored 3-5 front-running victory, denying favorite Winter Memories and notching her first Grade 1 victory. The win also vaulted Tapitsfly into the millionaire’s club with earnings of $1,253,836. No word on a next start but Romans noted that he’s considering the Grade 1 Diana Stakes Saratoga.
Chad Brown, trainer of Zagora, continues to do well with European turf horses. Desert Blanc, making his second start in the U.S., ran down favorite Hudson Steele and held off Papaw Bodie to win the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap and stay on course for the Arlington Million, the race Brown had in mind when he purchased Desert Blanc.
Elsewhere, 2011 champion older male Acclamation kicked off his 6-year-old campaign with his third consecutive win the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (chart). The victory also marked his sixth straight win. While trainer Donald Warren is not entirely sure of the path he’ll use to get there, the goal for Acclamation is the Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 3 at Santa Anita Park. Warren noted that he might even give the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup a try but that ultimately he’d like to keep him on turf.
The end of the Triple Crown series marks the beginning of summer racing, and next weekend things heat up at Churchill Downs with the Grade 1 Stephen Foster and the return of 2011 champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta in the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis. The Stephen Foster will be run under the lights for the first time in 31 years as a part of of the Downs after Dark program. The potential contenders include Wise Dan, Alternation, Ron the Greek, Fort Larned, Mission Impazible, Rogue Romance, Successful Dan, Nate’s Mineshaft and Astrology.
And finally, 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin has his first entrant this week! Evolutionary is scheduled to start in the first race at Arlington Park on Wednesday June 13.
Keep up with all the post-race commentary on the Belmont Stakes at Raceday 360 Wire.
Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!