Week of June 13, 2011
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
After a long Kentucky Derby trail full of upsets, surprises and the occasional unfathomable result, Ruler on Ice’s upset in the Belmont Stakes was somewhat of a fitting end to the 2011 Triple Crown. But the Belmont Stakes wasn’t the only stunner on the card as only one favorite, Trappe Shot, took top honors.
It’s Tricky ($22) in the Acorn Stakes, the first leg of the Triple Tiara, came off the bench to validate her winter form at Aqueduct when she denied heavily favored Turbulent Descent. Last out It’s Tricky faded to a distant fourth to R Heat Lightning in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. The next race in the Triple Tiara is the Mother Goose on June 26. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin noted that the Mother Goose might be a bit early, but indicated that the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 and the Alabama on August 20 were on the radar. Trappe Shot ($4.60), also trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, was the dominate winner of the True North Handicap. After spending the later part of his 3-year-old campaign routing in the Haskell and Travers last year, McLaughlin noted that they’re like to keep him at a mile or under going forward. Possible targets include the Alfred G. Vanderbilt on August 7 and the Forego on September 3 both at Saratoga.
Like Trappe Shot last year, Woody Stephens winner Justin Phillip ($10.80) spent the first half of his 3-year-old campaign running at route distances. The combination of the cutback in distance and mud allowed him to show what his connections thought he could do all along, win in stakes company. Trainer Steve Asmussen said that the August 27 King’s Bishop might on the horizon for Justin Phillip. C.S. Silk ($27.20) notched her first Grade 1 in the Just A Game when jockey Javier Castellano got the front-runner to relax and slow it down in the first quarter, allowing them to make it more difficult for the runners with a closing kick to catch them in the final quarter. The fact that second place Fantasia was able rally into the soft pace was as impressive as the winner’s ability to kick away after setting the slow pace. No word yet on what’s next for any of the entrants.
The longshot parade really intensified in the Manhattan Handicap as Mission Approved ($44) wired the field with second place longshot Bim Bam rounding out the $1,108 exacta. Reigning turf champ Gio Ponti got up for third place making his first start since running in Dubai in March. Mission Approved almost upset Gio Ponti in last year’s Man o’War (replay) but got his revenge this time. The two could meet again in this year’s Man o’War on July 9 at Belmont Park.
The Belmont Stakes started off with Animal Kingdom clipping heels with Isn’t He Perfect. Not only did the Kentucky Derby winner stumble, jockey John Velazquez lost his footing in the irons. Plenty of harsh words have been flying the about the incident but there was no ruling by stewards. Velazquez was able to get his foot back in the iron but the damage had been done to Animal Kingdom’s chances although it didn’t stop him from trying. Preakness winner Shackleford set a moderate pace with pressure from the winner, Ruler on Ice, who took over as the pacesetter started to tire. Holding off the charge of fellow longshots Stay Thirsty and Brilliant Speed, Ruler on Ice provided another fabulously surprising Belmont Stakes outcome.
All but fourth place Nehro seem to have come out of the race in good shape. Nehro is reported to have a bone chip that will require surgery, but his connection hope to have him back to the track in time for the Breeders’ Cup in the fall. No word yet on what’s next for Ruler on Ice, but Animal Kingdom may try turf over the summer while Brilliant Speed will stick to dirt. Shackleford (5th) will spend a few weeks on the farm and Santiva (8th) may point to Saratoga. Second place Stay Thirsty will point towards the July 30 Jim Dandy and August 27 Travers at Saratoga. No word on plans for seventh place finisher Mucho Macho Man, but apparently his shoes stayed on!
At Hollywood Park Acclamation wired the Charles Whittingham field for the second year in row joining the great John Henry as the only horse to win multiple editions of the race. The Hollywood Gold Cup (July 9) or the United Nations (July 2) might be next for Acclamation. Havre de Grace easily won the Obeah Stakes, putting in what seemed to amount as a paid work out. Never asked for anything she cruised right by the over matched field in her prep for next month’s Delaware Handicap.
Royal Ascot, England’s premier race meet, kicks off on Tuesday and attracts the likes of Frankel, Goldikova and Canford Cliffs. American trainers Todd Pletcher and Wesley Ward will also be well represented at the meet.
Coming up next week are the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs for older males, the Ogen Phipps at Belmont Park for older females and Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park for older turf females, to name a few. Giant Oak, First Dude and Regal Ransom are a few of the probable starters for the Foster.
This week we’ll do a Ten Things You Should Know about the Ogden Phipps.
Don’t miss all the commentary and Belmont Stakes wrap-ups at Raceday 360 Wire!
Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!