Week of August 12, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

A bevy of juvenile races highlighted the weekend’s stakes action, and two Breeders’ Cup champions returned to the track with mixed results.

About the only thing that could have defeated Breeders’ Cup Mile victor and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap was the weight he had to tote: 129 lbs. which was 11 to 14 lbs. more than his five competitors. Once again though, the 6-year-old did not disappoint, relentlessly closing on front-running King Kreesa in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths—in near record-setting time to boot. His connections have indicated that he’ll follow a similar route to last year’s BC: either the September 15 Grade 1 Woodbine Mile or October 5 Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile is next on his agenda.

Unfortunately, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion Groupie Doll did not enjoy her return to the track, finishing third behind Devious Intent and Magic Hour in the one mile Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park. Still, it was less than a length between the top two finishers and the 1-5 post-time favorite, which isn’t all that bad considering the 5-year-old Bowman’s Band mare last ran more than eight months ago when she finished an impressive second and just a nose behind Stay Thirsty in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile—a mere three weeks after her BC victory. Additionally, the two fillies that defeated her in the Gardenia did so in near track record time (1:34.97) for the one mile distance (1:34.60). Interestingly, both top finishers also came in off solid runner-up performances at Prairie Meadows, with Devious Intent stretching out after her second-place finish in the 6-furlong Saylorville Stakes, and Magic Hour backing up off the 1 1/16 miles Iowa Distaff. For those paying close attention, recent stakes races at Prairie Meadows have carried excellent form beyond Iowa.

Case in point: Prairie Gold Lassie Stakes winner Designer Legs who shipped in and won the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes on Sunday (albeit it by the disqualification of front-running Who’s in Town, a Speightstown filly trained by Michael Matz). A Graeme Hall filly that began her career at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, Designer Legs is the daughter of a multiple juvenile stakes winner, Elegant Designer—going to post at odds of nearly 17-1 and being unbeaten in two starts, she was undervalued by handicappers undoubtedly due to her experience at only “minor” tracks. She was only a neck back of the disqualifiedWho’s in Town who came in and impeded multiple runners at the beginning and end of the race. Thank You Marylou, a touchingly-named Birdstone filly that finished nearly two lengths back of Designer Legs, was moved up to second, while the post-time favorite Fiftyshadesofgold fleshed out the trifecta. Overall, it was a roughly run race, although that fact apparently did not contribute to the unfortunate breakdown and subsequent euthanization of Charmed Hour.

One race later, the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes was a much more cleanly run event, one that also provided an exciting photo finish that broke the stakes record. In the end, trainer Todd Pletcher got his first Saratoga Special win with Corfu, a colt by red-hot sire Malibu Moon. A heartbreaking nose back in second was Wired Bryan, runaway winner of the Grade 2 Sanford last out. Pletcher’s other starter, Danza finished third, while the post-time favorite, Candy Dandy was a disappointing (and distant) fifth.

In other juvenile stakes action, the trio of owner Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez (of I’ll Have Another fame) saw Concave be victorious in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar on Wednesday. The daughter of Colonel John had broken her maiden on turf, but had no problem making the transition to an artificial surface. Landaluce winner She’s a Tiger—a three-quarter sister to multiple Grade 1-winning Smiling Tiger—gave way late to finish second, just a half length behind the winner. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to third-place finisher Stop Smiling, the somewhat surprising post-time favorite. Then again, perhaps it wasn’t too surprising given that Stop Smiling is a half sister to speedy, track-record setting Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante victress Weemissfrankie. The brilliantly-named Einstein filly E Equalsmcsquared was fourth.

On Saturday, Skylander Girl (Stroll) captured the Ontario Debutante by an emphatic 2 1/2 lengths over Sweetsoutherndame, another Colonel John filly. A nose back in third was Madly Truly (Malibu Moon). Last-out Victoria Stakes winner Conquest Whiplash went off as the favorite, but after rushing to the early lead, could not hold it in the stretch and finished last in the 5-horse field. On Sunday, Colin Stakes winner Go Greeley (Horse Greeley) and dominating Arlington Park maiden victor Heart to Heart (English Channel) battled the entire six furlongs in Woodbine’s Vandal Stakes, with the local horse hanging on to win by a nose. It was three lengths back to third-place finisher Man o’ Bear (Corinthian), a first-time starter who finished just a head in front of yet-another Malibu Moon colt, first-time starter Matador.

Also on Sunday, a full field of 10 juvenile fillies challenged the 5-furlong Colleen Stakes over the Monmouth turf. The gallant winner Flay Mignon (Yesbyjimminy) is (surprisingly) not owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, but she ran like a star, winning by nearly two lengths over Pennsylvania-bred Pure Lady Like (Pure Precision) who, ignored by bettors, went off at the longest odds in the field, at 54-1. A length back in third was Aibhilin (Sky Mesa), who was a neck ahead of Sara Bay (Ready’s Image) while early challenger Jonesin for Jerry faded to fifth.

Seaneen Girl hadn’t seen the winner’s circle since last November’s Grade 2 Golden Rod, seven races ago. That included a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Fair Ground Oaks, a disappointing next-to-last finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and a decent runner-up finish behind Fiftyshadesofhay in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks. Back on dirt, she clearly stood-out in terms of form and class in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks—and for once she rewarded her loyal backers, moving to the lead around the final turn to crush the 8-horse field and win by six dominating lengths. Local heroine Mr Hall’s Opus (owned by, who else, George and Lori Hall) came on late to outfinish Lucky Rag Doll for second-place.

On Friday, relentless rain forced the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes off the Saratoga turf, leading to the scratches of Grade 1-placed Balance the Books and Grade 3 Palm Beach winner Rydilluc. Three of the five remaining entries belonged to trainer Todd Pletcher including favorite Charming Kitten who, while a monster on turf, had already failed miserably over a sloppy dirt track, in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. Based on his recent red-hot form—not to mention his proven ability on a sloppy track—the oddly-named Notacatbutallama made a suitable second-choice to bettors. He outperformed their expectations, happily slogging past North Slope in the stretch to win by nearly a length. Main Track Only (MTO) entry Battier ran third, finishing just a neck in front of Charming Kitten while his front-running stablemate Get in Line stopped badly and ended up nearly 20 lengths back of the winner.

At sunny Del Mar, both Grade 2 turf events of the weekend stayed on the grass. In the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap, jockey Garrett Gomez made a triumphant return to the track, guiding the Scat Daddy colt Dice Flavor to an upset victory, flying from the clouds to pass Den’s Legacy, a Bob Baffert-trained colt that Gomez had previously guided to a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap in early June. Ah, sweet revenge! A neck further back in third was Pure Loyalty. Dice Flavor’s final time (1:39.82) was just a tick off the track record (1:39.52) set by Sidney’s Candy in the 2010 La Jolla. In the 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 John C. Mabee Stakes, last-out Grade 1 Gamely runner-up Tiz Flirtatious returned to her winning ways, handily defeating Lady of Shamrock once again.

There’s much to look forward to this coming weekend, including the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational on turf, both at Saratoga. Next Saturday, Arlington Park celebrates its International Festival of Racing with five stakes races, including the Grade 1 Secretariat, Grade 1 Beverly D and Grade 1 Arlington Million.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Sorrento Stakes Replay
Concave with a professional first stakes win.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

2013 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes Replay
Notacatbutallama makes it three in a row.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Fourstardave Handicap Replay
Wise Dan is still going strong.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 La Jolla Handicap Replay
Dice Flavor rallies for the win.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

2013 Adirondack Stakes Replay
Designer Legs inherits the win after Who’s in Town is DQed.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Saratoga Special Stakes Replay
Corfu sets a blazing pace and still holds off Sanford winner Wired Bryan.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 John C. Mabee Stakes Replay
Tiz Flirtatious wins with a beastly late kick.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Adirondack Stakes Chart
2013 Fourstardave Handicap Chart
2013 Gardenia Stakes Chart
2013 John C. Mabee Stakes Chart
2013 La Jolla Handicap Chart
2013 Monmouth Oaks Chart
2013 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes Chart
2013 Saratoga Special Stakes Chart
2013 Sorrento Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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