Week of September 10, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
Rather than catching our collective breath with a light schedule, this weekend provided plenty of performances that managed to take our breath away.
A year ago, it appeared a serious tendon injury would prevent the Irish-bred mare Snow Fairy from ever racing again. A dual Group 1 winner of the English and Irish Oaks at three, and a two-time winner of the Japanese Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, the globe-trotting diminutive miss had been bought back by her breeder-owner for â‚¬1,800 (US$2,300) after failing to muster any excitement with bidders as a yearling at auction. How wrong they were! With earnings now topping Â£4 million, she bested a field that included two of the top European stayers, Group 1 Eclipse winner Nathaniel and defending Breeders’ Cup Turf champion St. Nicholas Abbey, in winning the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday â€“ and setting a track record in the effort. The victory earned her a berth in November’s Breeders’ Cup Turf race, which her trainer Ed Dunlop has indicated is one of several options for her.
Also in Ireland, on Sunday, Sky Lantern (Red Clubs) captured the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, a Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re In” challenge race for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and her connections have indicated a trip to Santa Anita is certainly an option.
Since its inaugural running in 2007, the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (chart) has proven to be an incredible effective prep for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, with winners Informed Decision (2009) and Musical Romance (2011), as well as runner-up Dubai Majesty (2010) ultimately capturing the season-ending championship. If history is any precedent, then bet big on Groupie Doll come November 3. Not seen since her track record-setting effort in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff in early May, the 4-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band made a convincing comeback, winning the 6.5-furlong event by nearly four lengths and setting the stage for another tough match-up with defending BC champ Musical Romance. Last-out Grade 3 Chicago Handicap victress Kitty In A Tizzy prevailed in a photo for second over 97-1 longshot Sally Sally and front-runner It’s Me Mom who set scorching early fractions, but couldn’t last.
Speaking of speedy sprinters, remember multiple-Grade 1 winner Dream Rush? Winner of the 2007 Prioress and Test stakes, she finished third behind Wild Gams and Miss Macy Sue in the 2008 PID Masters Stakes. Retired in 2009, her first-born is now burning up the track. On Sunday, 2-year-old Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy) crushed the Meadow Star Stakes (chart) at Belmont, winning by over 16 lengths with jockey John Velasquez barely encouraging her. Runner-up Fully Living had finished third behind Kauai Kate in the Grade 2 Adirondack, so while the time wasn’t exceptional, the manner in which she won was. Definitely a filly to look for to go longer, as well. She’ll be aimed next at the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes on October 6.
Dolphus Morrison, breeder and original owner of Rachel Alexandra, has another good filly on his hands. Modestly-bred Gold Edge (Eddington) extended her unbeaten streak to three races, capturing the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (chart) on Saturday. Her dam Gold Spike ran 56 races in six years, nearly all at the claiming level, so what a coup to get a graded stakes winner as her first offspring! Gold Edge finished a neck ahead of La Song who barely held off Larry Jones-trained third-place finisher Dancinginthecircle. According to her connections, Gold Spike will next be aimed at the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland on October 5.
One race earlier, trainer Tom Proctor won the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity (chart) with Pataky Kid (Rockport Harbor), a colt interesting enough to bring jockey Garrett Gomez to Chicago for the mount. Pataky Kid wasn’t the only juvenile progeny of Rockport Harbor to win impressively on Saturday. In the 9th race at Calder, his daughter R Free Roll put on a masterful performance, winning a 5.5 maiden special weight event by nine lengths over stakes-placed Dreamlicious.
The only US-based Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge race this week was the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity (chart), held on the track’s closing day. Apropos that trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Raphael Bejarano should find the winner’s circle with Rolling Fog (Posse). Beautifully-bred, his dam is a half sister to the dam of Breeders’ Cup Classic victor and Eclipse-winning Horse of the Year Saint Liam. The victory â€“ Baffert’s 11th in the Futurity â€“ came just two days after the death of his father William.
It had been 14 months since Air Support last recorded a victory, but Shug McGaughey had him ready to fire in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap (chart), as the 4-year-old Smart Strike colt got up to defeat first-time stakes runner Bombaguia who looked headed for an upset after being left on the lead early. Grade 1-placed Brilliant Speed was no match for the top two, finishing a distant third.
While certainly not the prestigious race it once was, the Grade 2 Super Derby (chart) provided some excitement at Louisiana Downs on Saturday, with recent Grade 2 West Virginia Derby runner-up Bourbon Courage getting the win over Peruvian Grade 1 winner Fly Lexis Fly, and Master Rick hanging on for third over late-closing Rousing Sermon. The failure of Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Hero of Order and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby third-place finisher Blueskiesnrainbows doesn’t particularly reflect well on this rather baffling 3-year-old crop.
And yet, there’s always the hope and promise of juveniles to warm the racing fan’s heart. The contests that bookended the Super Derby did just that, with the Sunday Silence Stakes (chart) featuring a dynamic closing battle between Java’s War (War Pass) and Brown Almighty (Big Brown), and then in the fillies’ Happy Ticket Stakes (chart), a thrilling late run by maiden Always Kitten (Kitten’s Joy) for the win.
Keep up with all the racing commentary and news at Raceday 360 Wire!
Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup
Video courtesy of NYRA
Video courtesy of NYRA
Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!