Week of September 6, 2011
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder
Like all good things, summer racing comes to an end with the conclusion of Saratoga on Monday and Del Mar on Wednesday. Summer potential turns into fall preparation, bringing some of the best racing of the year across all divisions as eyes, and hopes, turn to the Breeders’ Cup in November.
Havre de Grace’s win in the Woodward Stakes was undoubtedly the highlight of the final weekend at Saratoga. The daughter of 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam put herself high on the list for any discussions about 2011 Horse of the Year with a decisive victory in a race it took her sire two tries to win! Her next stop will be the Grade 1 Beldame against females at Belmont Park on Oct 1 and then on to the Breeders’ Cup, where she could take on males again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Former Triple Crown contenders Jackson Bend (2010) and Brilliant Speed (2011) got down to business after their respective connections put them in more appropriate spots. In the Grade 1 Forego Jackson Bend became a serious contender for the Breeders’ Cup Mile with an emphatic victory at seven furlongs. He cut back in distance last out in the ungraded James Marvin (replay) and just needed to prove his class. Favorite Sidney’s Candy dueled up front and faded to eighth while Jersey Town and Aikenite came on for second and third. Jackson Bend and Jersey Town could meet again on Oct 1 at Belmont Park in the Grade 2 Kelso. Brilliant Speed was back on the turf in the Grade 3 Saranac after a lackluster performance in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy (replay) on dirt early in the meet. His win in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes (replay) at Keeneland in April took him off the turf and on the Derby trail but he made the transition back to turf with ease. No word on what’s next but the Breeders’ Cup turf seems like a logical target given his distance pedigree.
It was a big weekend for juveniles with three Grade 1 races. At Saratoga, Delaware shipper Grace Hall ended the winning streaks of Judy the Beauty and Georgie’s Angel in the Spinaway. Favored Judy the Beauty was three for three over three different tracks but did well for second on her first attempt over dirt. Longshot Trinniberg almost stole the Grade 1 Hopeful at 68-1 after setting a blazing pace, but favored Currency Swap surpassed him in the final strides. JC’s Pride was pulled up going into the stretch but appears to be fine. Currency Swap is likely to make his next start in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont on Oct 8. At Del Mar, Weemissfrankie lived up to the hype after setting a new track record for 5F at Del Mar in her first start in July. The talented speedster is partially owned by professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, who was more than elated with with the win. Her next stop will be the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita on Oct 2, which will give her connections a better idea of how their talented 2-year-old will handle dirt. From there they’ll decide whether to target to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies or the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Banned shipped west to take the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby by a nose over Midnight Interlude but the exciting race was marred by the breakdown of Burns, who sadly could not be saved. Banned will stay on the west coast for a likely run in the Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita on Oct 15 but the Breeders’ Cup seems unlikely. Grade 1 Personal Ensign winner Ask the Moon will also ship west to train for the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret at Santa Anita on Oct 1, where she’s likely to encounter reigning 3-year-old champion female, Blind Luck. At Calder reigning sprint champion Big Drama made his first start since January, gearing up to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup in November.
Also over the weekend, recently inducted Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer scored his 6,000th win at his home base of Golden Gate Fields, becoming only the fourth trainer to reach the milestone. Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom was cleared to start exercising this weekend after recovering from his post-Belmont Stakes surgery. Trainer Graham Motion stated that his goal will be the Dubai World Cup in March 2012.
It was no surprise that the trio of John Velasquez, Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole took top honors for leading Jockey, Trainer and Owner for the second year in a row at Saratoga. Racing resumes at Belmont Park on Saturday. Del Mar wraps up it summer meet on Wednesday with the featured Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds. Also on the card, Square Eddie, who’s been been retired to stud duty twice, will make his second return to the races in the Pirates Bounty Stakes. The field also includes 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner, California Flag. Southern California racing moves to Fairplex for three weeks before going back to Santa Anita.
Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker
See you at the track!