Week of June 3, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Only a light schedule of racing in the U.S. this weekend, as the European classics got underway.

You know it’s a slow weekend for racing when the most anticipated event was an inaugural non-graded turf race at lowly Penn National. Slots-fueled purses topping $1 million were on display when the much-maligned track outside of Harrisburg hosted six stakes races on Saturday, one of which (the 5-furlong Penn Dash) brought so many entries it was broken into two divisions each with a purse of $50,000. A host of top trainers shipped in contestants, but surprisingly not all of them left town with their pockets overflowing.

In the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup (a 5-furlong turf sprint), wily veterans Bridgetown, Ben’s Cat and Chamberlain Bridge could not catch front-running Tightend Touchdown, a 4-year-old Pure Precision gelding who has bounced around the claiming ranks, having been most recently reclaimed by previous owners Mr Amore Stable for $35,000. It was an impressive effort, as the final time (54.62) was literally just a tick off the track record (54.61). Coming in off a narrow third-place effort in the Turf Sprint Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day, Bridgetown finished second, while Ben’s Cat who was heavily interfered with going around the final turn by Kyma and forced extremely wide, amazing closed well to get third over Kyma who would be disqualified and placed last in the 10-horse field. Chamberlain Bridge, also forced to check on the turn, faded to finish eighth.

In the 1-1/8 mile $250,000 Mountainview Handicap, last year’s Grade 2 West Virginia Derby winner Macho Macho went off the short-priced favorite, but after a slow start could only manage a fourth-place finish. It was 2011 Grade 1 Travers runner-up Rattlesnake Bridge who contested the early lead with 2011 Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire, but the former began to fade as they entered the stretch, and the latter (who eventually finished third) was passed first by Norman Asbjornson and then by the winner Easter Gift. Trained by Chad Brown, the son of Hard Spun has yet to lose in four starts in the state of Pennsylvania—his biggest previous win was the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx last September. His final time (1:49.96) wasn’t far off the track record (1:49.15) set by Toby’s Corner in winning this race last year.

The main event, the inaugural running of the $500,000 Penn Mile going one mile on turf for 3-year-olds, drew a talented field of eight that included last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Noble Tune who most recently captured the Grade 2 American Turf on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. However, he was made the second-choice among handicappers, with the post-time favorite being impressive Grade 3 Palm Beach winner Rydilluc, a Medaglia d’Oro colt undefeated on turf, but coming in off a narrow fourth-place effort over Keeneland’s Polytrack in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes. Here he was well-rated early on behind extreme longshot Yougotthatgoinforu; when jockey Edgar Prado asked him to go rounding the final turn, Rydillic responded nicely, taking the lead and then was never seriously challenged, hitting the wire in 1:33.99 (the track record is 1:33.12). Charming Kitten ran on well late to gain second, three-quarters of a length behind the winner and just a nose in front of last-out Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes winner Jack Milton. A disappointing Noble Tune ended up in fifth. His trainer Gary Contessa has pegged the July 13 Grade 2 Virginia Derby as Rydillic’s new start, followed by the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington on August 17.

In graded stakes action, sprinters took center stage at both Churchill Downs and Woodbine. Only 5 horses went to post went the Churchill track turned sloppy for the 6-furlong Grade 3 Aristides Stakes, and it was Scatman who outhustled Jasizzle for the win; 8-5 post-time favorite (and last year’s Aristides winner) Rothko was third. Later on the same card, the non-graded Opening Verse Stakes was taken off the turf and run in the slop, causing three pre-race scratches and leaving only four runners. Last year’s Grade 1 Woodward third-place finisher Cease went to post as the favorite, but it was last year’s Grade 2 Virginia Derby winner Silver Max who went to the lead and never looked back, winning by nearly 10 lengths over last year’s Grade 3 Sunland Derby winner Daddy Nose Best; it was another 23 lengths back to Cease.

At Woodbine on Saturday, older fillies and mares contested the 6-1/2 furlong Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes, and the winner was the favorite Delightful Mary, a 5-year-old Limehouse mare last seen finishing last in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct, in March 2012. Returning to the track after more than a year’s absence revealed no rust as the Grade 1-placed mare closed from the back of the pack to win by a length over Heavenly Pride. The top three finishers from the Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes—Acting Naughty, Starship Universe and Katie Get Excited—fleshed out the next three spots here, although not exactly in that order; here, third-place finisher Starship Universe was a half-length in front of Katie Get Excited, with Acting Naughty nearly two lengths back in fifth.

Appalling for a track as prestigious as Woodbine, the 7-furlong Grade 3 Vigil Stakes on Sunday only drew four entries. Coming in off an impressive victory in the non-graded Jacques Cartier Stakes in April, Essence Hit Man looked primed to repeat his Virgil victory of last year, but it was not to be, as he was passed late in the stretch by Laugh Track.

The weekend’s only other graded stakes were at Hollywood where last-out runner-up of the Charles Town Classic, Clubhouse Ride emerged from the shadow of Game on Dude, winning the Grade 2 Californian Stakes over Bob Baffert-trained Liaison. Longshot Oilisblackgold finished third. For Clubhouse Ride, a rematch with Game on Dude looms, as both are expected for the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 6. In Sunday’s Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds, Tiz a Minister chalked up his first graded stakes victory, coming up late along the rail to win by a length over Grade 1-placed Den’s Legacy; both caught front-running favorite Manando who finished third. For Tiz a Minister, the Grade 2 Swaps on July 4 could be his next start.

While the North American action was light, it was a different story in Europe where two classic races were contested—and both had interesting American connections. On Saturday at Epsom, the pre-race favorite (and previously undefeated in 7 starts) Dawn Approach flopped in the 12-furlong Group 1 Investec (English) Derby, finished dead-last in the field of 12 runners and seemingly validated concerns regarding his stamina. The winner, the Galileo colt Ruler of the World, entered off a victory in the 12-furlong Group 3 Chester Vase, the same path followed by fellow Galileo colts Soldier of Fortune (2007) and Treasure Beach (2011), both who went on to capture the Group 1 Irish Derby which may be Ruler of the World‘s next start on June 29. He’s certainly regally bred—a half brother to five-time Group 1 winner and European champion Duke of Marmalade, Ruler of the World is a direct damline descendent of A.P. Indy, Summer Squall and a whole host of terrific American dirt horses.

On Sunday, yet another Galileo colt captured the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly—the German-bred colt Intello. An unlucky third in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Two Thousands Guineas) last out, Intello did not disappoint as the favorite here, winning the first Prix du Jockey Club for his owners/breeders Wertheimer & Frere. Looking at his damline, we find five generations of top female runners that ultimate lead back to Grade 1 Matron winner Fall Aspen, 1994’s Broodmare of the Year; among her four Grade/Group 1 winners was Preakness victor Timber Country, Gamely victress Northern Aspen, July Cup winner Hamas and Grand Prix de Paris hero Fort Wood. Quite a family!

Keep up with all the racing commentary and news at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

2013 Californian Stakes Replay
Clubhouse Ride makes it look easy.

Video courtesy of Betfair Hollywood Park

2013 Hendrie Stakes Replay
Delightful Mary closes like a freight train.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2013 Penn Mile Replay
Rydilluc kicks off the Penn Mile with style.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Affirmed Handicap Replay
Tiz a Minister makes up 12 lengths for the win.

Video courtesy of Betfair Hollywood Park

2013 Vigil Stakes Replay
Laugh Track gets the last laugh.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2013 Epsom Oaks Replay
Talent shows hers.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Epsom Derby Replay
Ruler of the World, indeed.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Prix du Jockey Club Replay
Intello with authority.

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Affirmed Handicap Chart
2013 Aristides Stakes Chart
2013 Californian Stakes Chart
2013 Hendrie Stakes Chart
2013 Penn Mile Chart
2013 Vigil Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

See you at the track!

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet