Week of July 1, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Just as weather extremes divided the country, favorites and longshots equally played a role in shaping this week’s racing storylines.

The only Grade 1 action was at Hollywood Park on Saturday, and both events were Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge races. In the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, Joe Talamo took 1-5 favorite Obviously to the early lead and they never looked back, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over last-out Grade 3 Red Bank winner Za Approval; Wilkinson was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Now assured a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, next up for Obviously is the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile on August 25.

The 7-furlong Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap provided one of the weekend’s most surprising outcomes, particularly considering the quality of horses entered. Winner of last year’s Grade 1 Malibu and a victor in his only previous start this year (in the grade 2 Potrero Grande), Jimmy Creed had been working gangbusters in advance of this start, but his chances were comprised from the start—and he finished dead-last. Making his first start of the year was 8-year-old Rail Trip, runner-up in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but the best he could do was fifth. 2011 Grade 1 Carter Handicap victor Morning Line hadn’t raced in over a year, but the 6-year-old made an impressive return, finishing third. The top three finishers from the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap—Comma to the Top, Centralinteligence and Camp Victory—had the best recent form, but virtually no one expected Centralinteligence to be the one to prevail. Yet, he did, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over Comma To the Top, and becoming the American Grade 1 winner for his sire Smarty Jones. Trainer Ron Ellis has stated that Centralinteligence will now be rested, skipping the Del Mar meet in favor of Santa Anita’s fall meet and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Torrential rain delayed the start of the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill and turned the fast track to slop, but that wasn’t enough to slow down the juvenile colts entered as they set a blazing early pace, making the first quarter mile in just under 21 seconds. While My Corinthian and Hollywood Talent battled on the front-end, Debt Ceiling bid his time just off the pace in third. Entering the turn, the son of Discreet Cat made a huge move, sweeping around those two, and never looked back, winning easily by nearly 3 lengths geared down. Interestingly, when their sires met in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile over a sloppy Monmouth track, it was Corinthian who put away Discreet Cat—their sons obviously had other ideas…

Three scratches meant 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan only had four horses to beat in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap. Still, having to overcome a monstrous 128 pound impost (giving an 11- to 13-pound advantage to each of his competitors), a yielding wet turf and plenty of traffic issues all provided the favorite a serious chance to shine—which he did with aplomb. He’ll next head to Saratoga (with his sibling Successful Dan) where trainer Charles LoPresti says there are four races they are considering for him—two on turf and two on dirt, including the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap and Grade 1 Woodward Handicap.

While the weather was atrocious in Kentucky on Saturday evening, in Iowa at Prairie Meadows perfect weather greeted the locals and shippers entered in their three graded stakes races. In the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks, it was all Fiftyshadesofhay as the Bob Baffert trainee followed up her win in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico with another victory, this time over Seaneen Girl and a gutsy So Many Ways. Owned by Iowa horsewoman Maggi Moss, Grade 1 Spinaway winner So Many Ways was attempting to stretch out after capturing the 7-furlong Grade 3 Eight Belles in her last outing—and for awhile she gave Fiftyshadesofhay all that filly could handle as the two battled for the lead. It was when they hit the stretch that the illusion ended, as Martin Garcia guided Fiftyshadesofhay to the easy lead and she won geared down by over 3 lengths. Seaneen Girl got up to pass So Many Ways in the final strides to gain second by a length.

Without a single graded stakes winner entered, the Grade 3 Iowa Derby was a wide-open affair. Our Double Play and Bashaar had run one-two in the Prairie Mile last out, while Manando’s third-place finish in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap certainly recommended him. It was Our Double Play and Manando who set the early pace, but in the end it was 17-1 longshot Looking Cool who powered through late for the victory, winning by a neck over 7-1 Betweenhereandcool and nearly 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Bashaar who got up for third. A son of Candy Ride, Looking Cool had some positive indicators for savvy bettors. In addition to it being his second race up off a break, he had form against top horses—Frac Daddy, Oxbow and Orb. Admittedly it wasn’t necessarily good form, but it was more than most of the others entered here.

In the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, Dale Romans must have thought the lack of serious competition gave his Silver Max a major advantage—or maybe he was just praying for rain, since the only time his Grade 2-winning turf star has won on dirt was on an off-track. It didn’t work out that way, and, after leading for much of the race, Silver Max gave way in the stretch, finishing over 5 lengths back of the runner-up Taptowne—and 7 lengths back of the winner, Prayer for Relief. Although he’s had a pair of Grade 3 runner-up finishes this year, the Cornhusker was Prayer for Relief’s first victory since the Grade 2 Super Derby in September 2011.

Overlooked in the midst of all the hype surrounding Wise Dan’s Firecracker start were two terrific turf races for fillies and mares. At Monmouth, last year’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup victress Dayatthespa made only her second start of the year in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap, but despite leading nearly the entire race, the 2-5 favorite could not hold on, as Angel Serpa guided Laughing around her as they entered the stretch and the two battled to the wire, with Laughing prevailing by less than a length. For the well-bred Laughing, it was her first win since last July’s Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth. Her half brother is the excellent Hong Kong champion stayer Viva Pataca.

Belmont’s 1 1/4 miles Grade 2 New York Stakes featured an outstanding field of eight turf fillies and mares, including Chad Brown’s Grade 1-placed Dream Peace, a host of New York regulars, and California invader Lady of Shamrock. In a shocker, it was the longest shot on the board—Starformer at nearly 16-1—who prevailed, finishing nearly 2 lengths ahead of her nearest competitor. It was a blanket finish otherwise, with Lady of Shamrock running on from dead-last to gain second, a head in front of Dream Peace who was a neck in front of Minakshi, Mystical Star and Regalo Mia.

The longshot winners continued at Belmont, with former Rick Dutrow trainee Baby J upsetting the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes. The 3-year-old daughter of J Be K had placed behind So Many Ways and Kauai Katie during her juvenile campaign, but neither of her two previous efforts this year indicated she was ready to bust out here against the likes of Fusaichiswonderful, a narrow runner-up behind So Many Ways in the Grade 3 Eight Belles most recently, or Miss Preakness victress I’m Mom’s Favorite. However, those two disappointed, as the race was always between Baby J and eventual runner-up Bridgehampton, a rather-green but talented Bernardini filly entered off a maiden win last-out. After Bridgehampton gained the advantage as they entered the stretch, Joel Rosario guided Baby J off the rail and around Bridgehampton, attacking from the outside to win by 3/4 lengths. Post time favorite Fusaichiswonderful came on to finish third, while stablemate Teen Pauline didn’t do too badly in only her second start of the year, considering how hard she hit the gate at the start. For Baby J, the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on August 24 appears likely.

It was a much larger field at Arlington for the 7-furlong Grade 3 Chicago Handicap where last-out Grade 1 Humana Distaff winner Aubby K was attempting Polytrack for the first time—and without her regular rider Edgar Prado who stayed in New York to ride Starformer. Giving away 5- to 11-pounds to each of her competitors, Aubby K did manage a third-place finish, but it was in-form Cozze Up Lady who got the win, her first stakes victory. 10-1 longshot Queen’s Award, coming in off a third-place finish against Judy the Beauty in a Keeneland allowance race, finished second. While the top two finishers may aim for the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters on Tapeta, Aubby K will move on to Saratoga and the August 23 Grade 1 Ballerina.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 New York Handicap Replay
Starformer springs an upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Victory Ride Stakes Replay
Baby J goes all the way.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Shoemaker Mile Replay
Obviously gets it done very easily.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Triple Bend Handicap Replay
Centralintelligence blows right by Comma to the Top.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Firecracker Handicap Replay
Horse of the Year Wise Dan overcomes a bumpy trip.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Irish Derby Replay
Trading Leather springs an upset.

Video courtesy of Racing Post

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Bashford Manor Stakes Chart
2013 Chicago Handicap Chart
2013 Cornhusker Handicap Chart
2013 Eatontown Handicap Chart
2013 Firecracker Handicap Chart
2013 Iowa Derby Chart
2013 Iowa Oaks Chart
2013 Iowa Sprint Handicap Chart
2013 New York Handicap Chart
2013 Shoemaker Mile Chart
2013 Victory Ride Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet