Week of August 27, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

The ill-fated fortunes of this year’s 3-year-old male crop continued with injuries to Bodemeister and Hansen – the former is officially retired, while the latter is likely to be. Illness also led to Grade 1 Haskell winner Paynter missing the Travers. Yet, this unlucky bunch of sophomores also provided us with some of the week’s most exciting racing.

Last-out winner of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, Alpha was the logical choice to be the $1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes’ (chart) post-time favorite. And though he came flying home late, Kiaran McLaughlin’s Bernardini colt could only manage a rare dead-heat with trainer Ken McPeek’s unheralded Golden Ticket, runner-up in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, but unseen on the track since a second-place finish in an allowance optional claiming race at Churchill on Derby Day. Thus, Golden Ticket went postward at odds of nearly 34-1, the dead-heat heartbreaking to his few backers, as he paid only $26.80 (rather than $70) to win. As if that historic finish weren’t surprising enough, how about Nick Zito’s 33-1 Fast Falcon closing strongly to get third? Both Alpha and Golden Ticket are likely for the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby next on September 22, or they could possibly take on older horses in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup a week later. The ever-colorful Nick Zito said he’d love another shot at Alpha, but only in the JCGC since “I’m not going for this Derby or Indiana or that. That doesn’t do no good for us. This is what we like to do, right?”

Street Life who was vanned off after the Travers suffered a soft tissue injury that will be evaluated before a decision is made on his future.

One race earlier on the Saratoga card, the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes (chart) saw the battle-tested favorites Currency Swap and Trinniberg fail. Instead, controversial trainer Rick Dutrow – facing a 10-year ban from racing – popped a huge upset with Willy Beamin, a former $25,000 claimer running on only three days’ rest after his last race. Grade 3 Carry Back victor (and Nick Zito trainee) Fort Loudon gamely finished second, just a nose ahead of Unbridled’s Note, a lightly-raced Steve Asmussen trainee who had run a deceptively good race in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes last out. With the top three finishers all at double-digit odds, the $2 trifecta payoff was a generous $3,571. To say this result throws the 3-year-old male sprint division into upheaval is an understatement.

As if Saturday’s results weren’t crazy enough, along comes Dullahan to stake his claim as top 3-year-old male by winning the $1 million Grade 1 Pacific Classic (chart) over a salty bunch of West Coast horses, including Grade 1 winners Richard’s Kid, Rail Trip and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up (and recent Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup victor) Game On Dude. What makes this feat by Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird’s little half-brother even more impressive is that he did so in a new Del Mar track record time for 10-furlongs (1:59.54), shaving more than a full second off the mark set in last year’s Pacific Classic by Eclipse Award winner Acclamation. It was a smart ride by Joel Rosario, letting him make one sustained late run at Game On Dude who finished second, followed by the recently-sold Richard’s Kid and veteran Rail Trip fleshing out the superfecta. The Chilean filly Amani finished sixth. Next year’s Dubai World Cup is now a long-range goal for Dullahan.

Also at Del Mar on Sunday, lightly-race 5-year-old Capital Account captured the 7-furlong Grade 2 Pat O’Brien (chart) over 2011 Grade 1 Haskell winner Coil; last year’s runner-up Camp Victory could only manage a third-place finish this year as the second choice. The other major sprint races of the week were at Saratoga. Returning to the site of her devastating victory in last year’s Grade 1 Test , Turbulent Descent defeated recent Grade 3 Bed O’Roses victress Derwin’s Star in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes (chart) on Friday, while Grade 1 Acorn winner Contested got back to her winning ways by shortening up in the Grade 1 Test Stakes (chart) on Saturday. Wesley Ward’s Gypsy Robin finished second, a half length in front of New York state-bred stakes winner Beautiful But Blue. Two fillies who found success earlier this year – Grade 2 Fantasy runner-up Amie’s Dini and Grade 2 Davona Dale winner Yara – were well beaten here, finishing sixth and last of 10, respectively. Both had raced in January, while the top two finishers began their seasons in April, perhaps a sign of just how long and tiring a racing campaign can be?

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta was upset in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap (chart), by 10-1 longshot Love and Pride, a filly that Royal Delta had defeated by over nine lengths in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap last out. However, for perceptive handicappers, there were clues to Royal Delta’s vulnerability here — and Love and Pride’s legitimate chances, especially with the 10-pound weight advantage and trainer Todd Pletcher’s attempt to harness Love and Pride’s early speed by removing the blinkers. It was just enough, as Royal Delta fell a half-length short of catching Love and Pride. After a terrible stumble at the start, It’s Tricky managed a gusty third, a half-length in front of Delaware Handicap runner-up Tiz Miz Sue.

In the other big Saratoga weekend stakes event, the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes (chart) on Saturday saw the talented Grade 1 winner Zagora establish a new track record for 1-1/16 miles on the turf, as she defeated Hungry Island and Summer Soiree. For Summer Soiree, it was her first start since a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park last November, so it’s particularly good to see her back and in good form.

In addition to the Ballerina (Female Sprint), the Personal Ensign (Ladies Classic) and the Pacific Classic (Classic), the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap (chart) was a designated Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” challenge race for the Turf. Earning a spot in that event was Casino Host who held off even money favorite Dhaamer for the win. As a perfect demonstration of how extraordinary results can be achieved in breeding, consider that Casino Host, a son of proven stamina turfster Dynaformer, is out of a mare whose dam Desert Stormer won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint against males. Speed and stamina in balance – how cool is that?

A couple other winners of note: unplaced in six starts since his second-place finish behind Secret Circle in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, the hard-knocking Optimizer finally won an allowance optional claiming race (chart) at Saratoga on Saturday for D. Wayne Lukas – on turf, with Joel Rosario aboard. The runner-up? The equally-hapless Film Making, eldest son of the great turf mare Film Maker, a colt whose sole victory in 14 starts was a maiden effort back in December 2010. After a disappointing last place finish in the Grade 1 American Oaks, Colonial Flag headed north of the border on Saturday, capturing the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen Stakes. A three-quarter sister to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Shared Account, Colonial Flag was the post-time favorite; it was her first graded stakes victory, although she had run second to Centre Court in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill in mid-June.

Finally, how can we not mention two extraordinary performances at York this week? On Wednesday, the unbeaten Frankel stretched out beyond a mile for the first time in his career – and absolutely devastated a talented Group 1 Juddmonte International field that included this year’s Group 1 Coronation Cup (not to mention last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf champion) St. Nicholas Abbey and four-time Group 1 winner Twice Over. It’s a breathtaking effort, as jockey Tom Queally barely moves on him (reminiscent of Mike Smith on Zenyatta, perhaps?)

In a much-less heralded event (at least on this side of the Atlantic), on Friday the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes was also won in devastating fashion, by the 7-year-old Aussie mare Ortensia, who came from last to first on a rain-soaked turf that was most definitely not to her liking. Yet, as her jockey William Buick noted afterwards, she kept hitting one gear and then another, digging in every time she passed another rival. For the globe-trotting mare, it was her third Grade/Group 1 victory in the past nine months – on three different continents! By winning the Nunthorpe, Ortensia gained an automatic entry into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, but from all accounts it’s unlikely she’ll stay in training until November. Still, what a feat that would be to attempt! Four Grade 1 wins on four continents in one year.

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

Last Week’s Races

2012 Ballerina Stakes Replay
Turbulent Descent makes a smooth re-entry at the Spa.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Ballston Spa Replay Replay
Zagora wins with authority.

Video courtesy of SOURCE

2012 The Test Stakes Replay
No contest for Contested.

Video courtesy of SOURCE

2012 King’s Bishop Stakes Replay
Willy Beamin scores the upset.

Video courtesy of SOURCE

2012 Travers Stakes Replay
Golden Ticket and Alpha hit the wire together.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Del Mar Handicap Replay
Casino Host holds off the late charge of Dhaamer.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Personal Ensign Stakes Replay
Love and Pride out games the big guns.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Pacific Classic Replay
Dullahan is more game than the Dude.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Nunthorpe Stakes Replay
Ortensia flies home late.

Video courtesy of Racing UK

2012 Juddmonte International Replay
Frankel has no problem with the added distance.

Video courtesy of Racing UK

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