Week of June 24, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
A proliferation of upsets highlighted the week, with the failure of heavy favorites and a Derby winner retired on a losing note.
In the Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes, many were willing to forgive Dreaming of Julia for her disappointing fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaksâ€”they made her the 1-5 favorite. Alas, nothing went right for the daughter of Dream Rush, as it appears sheâ€™s lost her nerve when it comes to racing in close quarters. At one point, she was shuffled back to last in the short field of five, yet despite not seeming like herself, she did get up late to finish second. However, no one was beating Close Hatches who looked incredibly strong, accelerating with ease when asked by jockey Joel Rosario, winning by over 7 lengths. Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan runner-up Marathon Lady finished a half length behind Dreaming of Julia in third, while early leader Toasting faded to a distant fourth, over 8 lengths back of Marathon Lady. Sister State was last. Next up for Close Hatches may be Saratogaâ€™s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 20, the likely next start for Dreaming of Julia as well.
Much like the Mother Goose, the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks didnâ€™t draw a large field of 3-year-old filliesâ€”and the 4-5 post-time favorite was a bit of a surprise, given that sheâ€™s nearly solely been raced in state-bred company. Still, Doinghardtimeagain had no problem handling this field, winning as the 119-pound top-weight over Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Iotapa and last-out allowance winner Ondine. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has said that he may run Doinghardtimeagain out of state next, in the July 13 Delaware Oaks.
A future star in the making made her stakes debut a winning one in Churchill Downsâ€™ down-graded Debutante Stakes on Friday. After destroying a field of 10 in winning her maiden effortâ€”by 10 lengthsâ€”at Lone Star Park, Fiftyshadesofgold was made the 6-5 favorite against 10 other juvenile fillies, all winners. She didnâ€™t disappoint her backers, drawing off to win by 8 lengths over More Than Beauty, the only filly to really challenge her. The second-choice in the field was Teardrop, a three-quarter sister to Breedersâ€™ Cup Juvenile runner-up Pyro; she raced up close early on, but faded in the stretch to finish in seventh-place.
Another juvenile filly to watch is Conquest Whiplash. In her maiden effort on Saturday she defeated five male competitors in winning the 5-furlong Victoria Stakes at Woodbineâ€”going directly to the lead, she was never challenged and accomplished her nearly 3-length victory under a strong hand ride. Sheâ€™s definitely one to watch.
The rest of the weekâ€™s major action was on turf, particularly at Colonial Downs on Saturday. In the non-graded Da Hoss Stakes, Grade 2 winner Hudson Steele made his first start since last Julyâ€™s Grade 1 Man oâ€™War Stakesâ€”and it was a winning one for the now 6-year-old old as he hung on to win by a neck over New Zealand-bred Hoofit. Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano also teamed up to win the Grade 3 All Along Stakes with Channel Lady, although she didnâ€™t go off as the favorite. That role went to Appealing Cat who finished third last-out in the Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap. Although she was prominent early on, Appealing Cat gave way in the stretch, finishing a disappointing fifth. Running on-pace early, Channel Lady surged to the lead late, winning by a length over wily veteran Idle Talk, a 7-year-old East Coast fixture making her 41st lifetime start. It was another 2 lengths back to last yearâ€™s All Along runner-up, Clare Skies Ahead.
The biggest upset of the weekend occurred in the 1 3/16 miles Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup where 3-2 favorite Atigun came in off an impressive runner-up performance in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap. Others who looked promising included last yearâ€™s Colonial Turf Cup runner-up Air Support and multiple Grade 3 winner Swift Warrior, coming in off a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico. After battling Two Notch Road early on, Swift Warrior was able to hang on for third, just a head back of runner-up Hyper, but Atigun and Air Support were non-factors. The surprising winner: 50-1 longshot London Lane, a Maryland-bred son of Langfuhr whoâ€™s rarely found the winnerâ€™s circle, but certainly shone brightly this day as he came roaring up the outside from dead-last to win by nearly a length.
On Sunday at Woodbine, the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes came down to a blanket finish, one in which the favorite and defending stakes victor Riding the River prevailed by a head in a photo with Valentino Beauty. 2010 Queenâ€™s Plate runner-up Hotep made a nice late run to get up for third, a neck in front of 34-1 longshot So Long George.
Internationally, a lot happened this week, including three â€œWin-and-Youâ€™re-Inâ€ Breedersâ€™ Cup Challenge races. The Argentine Grade 2 Clasico Belgrano served as a platform for last yearâ€™s Marathon winner Calidoscopioâ€”this yearâ€™s contest was upset by 28-1 Ever Rider, a 4-year-old Rider Stripes colt whose connections have already indicated they plan to accept their Marathon invitation.
Spots in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Turf were offered to the winners of the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen in Japan and the French Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. In the former, 2012 Japanese Horse of the Year and race-time favorite Gentildonna could only manage a third-place finish, nearly 4 lengths back of the winner Gold Ship, last yearâ€™s champion 3-year-old colt. In the latter, one of the worldâ€™s top rated horses, Cirrus Des Aigles could manage only a fifth-place finish in his 2013 debut (admittedly an admirable effort considering it was his first start since suffering an ligament injury late last year). Aussie-raced Dunaden, winner of the 2011 Melbourne Cup and 2012 Caulfield Cup, managed a strong runner-up finish, but the winner was Novellist, last yearâ€™s victor of the Group 1 Gran Premio del Jockey Club Italiano.
The career finale of Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom turned out to be a dud, as the 5-4 favorite finished a disappointing 11th in the English Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday. The winner, Declaration of War, does have some American connections, howeverâ€”his dam is a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags. Trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Joel Rosario teamed up to give the U.S. a Royal Ascot winner in No Nay Never, a juvenile son of Scat Daddy who beautifully broke his maiden at first-asking at Keeneland back in April. On Thursday, he captured the English Group 2 Norfolk Stakes in record-setting fashion. The plan is to keep him in training at Keeneland and ship back to Europe in August for the French Group 1 Prix Morny.
From the tragic collapse of the late Sir Henry Cecilâ€™s colt Thomas Chippendale after his victory in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes to the impressive 4-length victory of Sky Lantern in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes, it was an eventful Royal Ascot meet, to be sure. Undoubtedly one of the purest moments of joy was the filly Estimateâ€™s win in the Group 1 Gold Cupâ€”her owner is the first reigning monarch to win this race in its more than 200 year history, Her Majesty the Queen.
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