Week of June 6, 2011
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
We caught a glimpse of the summer stars this weekend as several runners stepped-up into the spotlight. Already in the spotlight and sure to be a summer star was Hilda’s Passion, who dominated the Vagrancy Handicap field at Belmont Park. The Todd Pletcher trainee stumbled out of the gate but easily pulled herself together to win by 5 and a quarter lengths. Her final time of 1:08.54 was just .35 seconds off the track record. The Bed o’Roses at Belmont Park on July 3rd is the next target for Hilda’s Passion followed the Ballerina on August 27 at Saratoga.
Also impressive was Twirling Candy in the American at Hollywood Park. His first start without blinkers didn’t go as planned as trainer John Sadler indicated that they took the blinkers off because they wanted him to relax. Rider Joel Rosario held Twirling Candy off the pace, which turned into a battle that involved the colt getting bottled up at the back of the pack. When they finally found a way through Twirling Candy unleashed a powerful run, getting the final quarter in an eye-popping :11.66. The Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9 is the next target for Twirling Candy.
Trainer Ken McPeak swept the stakes races at Churchill on Saturday winning the Aristides & Dogwood. Noble’s Promise, winner of the Aristides, seems to have found his distance niche bringing his 6-furlong record to two for two. His career earnings now total over a million dollars. Salty Strike earned her first stakes win with an incredibly game effort in the Dogwood. Both McPeak trainees will be working towards Saratoga with Salty Strike pointing The Test (August 6) and Noble’s Promise pointing towards the Vanderbilt (August 7) and Forego (September 3) with Breeders’ Cup sprint as his goal. Also at Churchill Downs on Saturday, Afleeting Lady, a half sister to Preakness winner Shackleford, broke her maiden at odds of 19-1. We recently profiled her sire, Afleet Alex, who also won the Preakness.
The Belmont Stakes field started to more and more like the Kentucky Derby field when Dale Romans, trainer of Shackleford, announced on Saturday that the Preakness winner will be entered in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. So far the top seven Derby finishers are among the expected Belmont contenders. Derby winner Animal Kingdom arrived at Belmont on Sunday (video) while second place Derby finisher Nehro arrived on Friday (video). Both colts are planning to breeze over the track on Monday. Santiva, who ran sixth in the Derby, put in a 5-furlong drill at Churchill and is scheduled to arrive at Belmont on Tuesday. Also scheduled to arrive to at Belmont on Tuesday is Master of Hounds, who was fourth in the Derby.
Mucho Macho Man, who was third in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness worked on Sunday under new jockey Ramon Dominguez. Prime Cut who was third in the Peter Pan Stakes, will arrive at Belmont on Tuesday while Ruler on Ice will stay at his home base of Monmouth Park as long as possible.
The Belmont Stakes undercard features several other graded races, including the Acorn Stakes, which is the first leg of the Triple Tiara! Reigning turf champion Gio Ponti looks to avenge his second place finish to stablemate Winchester in last year’s edition of the Manhattan Handicap. The 6-year-old has been prepping steadily and the Manhattan marks his first start of the year. Others likely on card include Prince Will I Am in the Manhattan, Aviate, Gypsy’s Warning and Cherokee Queen in the Just a Game, Turbulent Decent in the Acorn, Travelin’ Man, Justin Phillip and Little Drama in the Woody Stephens and Smiling Tiger, Trappe Shot and D’Funnybone in the True North. Look for more information throughout the week at our Facebook page.
This week at the site we’ll bring you a profile of Better Than Honour, the dam of two Belmont Stakes winners (Jazil and Rags to Riches). We’ll also bring you a Ten Things on the Manhattan Handicap in addition to our Ten Things You Should Know About the Belmont Stakes. We’ll also take a look at who can get the Belmont Stakes distance and bring you a Belmont Stakes Cheat Sheet along with our picks and analysis at Raceday 360.
Keep up with all the Belmont Stakes news & commentary at Raceday 360 Wire!
Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!