Week of August 26, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Saturday’s “Midsummer Derby” muddled rather than clarified the top 3-year-old picture, but there’s absolutely no doubt as to who is the number one older dirt horse in America.

On Sunday, Game on Dude dominated a top field in the 1 1/4 miles Grade 1 Pacific Classic, taking an early lead under replacement rider Martin Garcia and then pulling away as they entered the stretch, ultimately winning by a jaw-dropping 8 1/4 lengths. Truly one of the most outstanding performances this year, especially considering the quality of runners he defeated. Behind him, it was a blanket finish for the minors, with last-out Grade 2 San Diego Handicap victor Kettle Corn finishing second, just a nose in front of surprising former claimer You Know I Know who went off at nearly 41-1. Two-time Pacific Classic winner Richard’s Kid was just a nose back in fourth, a head in front of Brazilian Group 1 winner Holding Glory. With his win, Game on Dude is now guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic—as if that were ever in doubt.

Dare we dream of a BC match-up against Royal Delta? After her facile victory in Sunday’s 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap, trainer Bill Mott indicated the defending older female champion will be cross-entered in both the Distaff (formerly Ladies’ Classic) and the Classic, although her owner has stated the Distaff is the intended goal. Regardless, we will see her race before then, in the September 28 Grade 1 Beldame Stakes.

The Pacific Classic undercard included the one-mile turf Grade 2 Del Mar Mile with 5-year-old Irish-bred Obviously repeating his 2012 winning-performance, finishing just a tick off (1:32.64) his own track-record time (1:32.10). This year he toted 125 lbs., giving 6- to 8-pounds to his rivals. Despite getting off a tad slowly, he gamely defeated He Be Fire N Ice by a half-length, with Silentio a neck back in third. An impressive winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile last out, Obviously looks in prime condition to once again try and outrun Wise Dan early in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, a race in which he finished third last year, a half-length behind the late-closing (and now retired) Animal Kingdom. Just like last year, he will prep for his BC start in the Grade 2 Arroyo Seco Mile Stakes on October 6.

While Obviously may not have broken his own track record on Sunday, the 4-year-old Fed Biz did in winning the 7-furlong Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes in a blistering 1:21.12. It certainly didn’t appear as if he was in position to claim the victory early on, however, as 3-year-old Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby winner (and last-out Grade 1 Bing Crosby runner-up) Goldencents battled No Silent for the early lead, seemingly taking control of the race as they rounded the final turn. It wasn’t until quite late that Fed Biz got going on the far outside, and when he did—wow! Who would have thought a Giant’s Causeway son could sprint? Goldencents did hang on to second, but first-time stakes starter Gonna Fly Now finished well on the inside to get third, a length in front of fourth-place finisher Wine Police, the 5-year-old Speightstown gelding who was making only his second start after more than 1 1/2 years absence from the track. With his win, Fed Biz earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, just as when, on Saturday, Vagabond Shoes earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf with his victory in the 1 3/8 miles Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap.

The other Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge race in North America this week was Friday’s 7-furlong Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga, with a guaranteed entry in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Off her impressive win in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap, California invader Book Review was made the post-time favorite, but it was the ever-gutsy (not to mention red-hot) Speightstown filly Dance to Bristol who determinedly stayed on for the win. Progressively moving up in class, from a breathtaking 9-length win in the ungraded Sugar Maples Stakes on the Charles Town Classic undercard to victories in the Grade 3 Bed O’Roses and Grade 2 Honorable Miss Stakes, the Ballerina was Dance to Bristol’s seven consecutive victory. Three-time Grade 1 runner-up Judy the Beauty was a late scratch after acting up in the gate—her trainer Wesley Ward has indicated that she could next start in the September 9 Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes.

Three-year-old filly sprinters contested the 7-furlong Grade 1 Test Stakes on Saturday, with the top four finishers out of the Grade 1 Prioress—Lighthouse Bay, Wildcat Lily, Irish Lute and So Many Ways—returning to stretch out another furlong. However, the lightly-raced California invader Sweet Lulu took all the money—and the race, winning by a head over Wildcat Lily. It was a neck back to third-place finisher My Happy Face, a filly shortening up after her distant runner-up performance behind Princess of Sylmar in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Always love that “cutting back in distance” angle!

One race later, Laughing laughed all the way to the bank, wiring the field in the grassy 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes. The top three finishers (including runner-up Pianist and third-place finisher Hard Not to Like) all raced on the lead early, and 5-2 post-time favorite Hungry Island couldn’t close fast enough to catch them, settling for fourth. Winner of the Grade 1 Diana Stakes in her last outing, Laughing has now won three straight.

While deep closers were not making headway over Saratoga’s rock-hard turf course, the dirt track was another story, at least in the 7-furlong Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes. However, it wasn’t 2-1 favorite Forty Tales who made the greatest impact late. It was his stablemate, 28-1 Capo Bastone, who popped the huge upset, although given his narrow runner-up finish behind Forty Tales in the Grade 3 Derby Trial perhaps bettors shouldn’t have let him get away at such astronomical odds. He finished two lengths in front of runner-up Mentor Cane, a John Shirreffs-trained Mizzen Mast colt that had faded to fourth in the Grade 2 Amsterdam behind Forty Tales last-out. This time he held off everyone in the 14-horse field—except Capo Bastone. It was 3 1/4 lengths back to Central Banker in third, a neck in front of Forty Tales. Interestingly, Capo Bastone’s workmate in the mornings is Pletcher superstar Verrazano.

In the 1 1/4 miles Grade 1 Travers Stakes (colloquially known as the “Midsummer Derby”), it was last out Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner Verrazano who was made the 8-5 post-time favorite, and after sitting just behind front-running Moreno in the early going, it looks like he’d live up to the hype—and that’s when things went wrong, as he inexplicably tired and finished seventh in the 9-horse field, beating only Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul and Transparent, both of who showed nothing in the effort. Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Belmont Stakes victor Palace Malice were also in the race hoping to solidify their individual claims to the 3-year-old male horse title, but the best they could do was third and fourth, respectively. Shockingly, 31-1 longshot Moreno just kept running, and for awhile it looked like the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes winner would claim the prize over Orb. That’s when D. Wayne Lukas-trained Will Take Charge made his move, closing like a freight train to nip Moreno by a nose in a photo finish. Both of the top two finishers are exceeding well-bred, especially in their damline. A son of Hall of Fame and Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, Moreno’s Hall of Fame second and third dams—Dancethruthedawn and Dance Smartly—both won the prestigious Queen’s Plate against males. As for Will Take Charge, his three-time Grade 1 winning dam Take Charge Lady (runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks) has also produced the recently-retired Grade 1 Florida Derby victor Take Charge Indy. In all three Triple Crown races, Will Takes Charge was a complete non-entity, but rebounded nicely with a runner-up performance behind Palace Malice in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy last-out—2 1/4 lengths ahead of Moreno.

So, where does this leave the 3-year-old male division? Certainly without a clear leader, as several horses can lay claim to at least a piece of the pie? For Moreno (who after the race it was revealed had run with a large abscess on his throat) the September 21 Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby is next, a race in which he may again meet Will Take Charge. Lukas may also choose to run the Travers winner in the September 28 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup where he would meet Orb, as well as older horses for the first time. Even if he does win either of those two races, how right would it be for Will Take Charge to be named the top 3-year-old after performing so abominably in the Triple Crown races? A hot mess, indeed.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Ballerina Stakes Replay
Dance to Bristol earns her first Grade 1 and her 7th win in a row.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Test Stakes Replay
Sweet Lulu holds off a game Wildcat Lily

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Ballston Spa Stakes Replay
Laughing is no joke.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 King’s Bishop Stakes Replay
Capo Bastone kicks home for the upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Travers Stakes Replay
Will Take Charge finally does!

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Del Mar Handicap Replay
Vagabond Shoes comes wide for the win.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Personal Ensign Handicap Replay
Royal Delta by daylight.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Pat O’Brien Stakes Replay
Fed Biz gets down to biz and closes for the win.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Pacific Classic Replay
Game on Dude dominates.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Ballerina Stakes Chart
2013 Ballston Spa Stakes Chart
2013 Cliff Hanger Stakes Chart
2013 Del Mar Handicap Chart
2013 Del Mar Mile Chart
2013 King’s Bishop Stakes Chart
2013 Test Stakes Chart
2013 Travers Stakes Chart
2013 Pacific Classic Chart
2013 Pat O’Brien Stakes Chart
2013 Personal Ensign Handicap Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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