Week of July 8, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

The long holiday weekend saw red hot action from sea to shining sea.

In the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, it was all Game on Dude, as the 6-year-old gelding (toting 127 pounds) easily dispatched his four rivals, most notably runner-up Kettle Corn who, carrying 11 pounds less, finished just a length behind the front-running son of Awesome Again. It was nearly 7 lengths back to third-place finisher Sky Kingdom. On a 5-race win streak since his disappointing seventh-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Game on Dude could make his next start in the August 25 Grade 1 Pacific Classic, a race which he narrowly lost last year to Dullahan, a Dale Romans-trained colt who is set to return to the track this coming weekend, in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, after a disappointing Dubai jaunt.

For Dullahan’s stablemate, the front-running Little Mike—first-up after his below par effort in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free in late March—the 1 3/8 miles distance of this weekend’s Grade 1 United Nations Stakes proved just a little too much, as he weakened in the stretch and finished fourth. The winner was Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Big Blue Kitten, fresh off a sharp late-closing runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes over this turf with “Jersey” Joe Bravo aboard. Positioned well back for much of the race, Bravo kept Big Blue Kitten firmly attached to the rail, only making his move as they entered the stretch, scraping the paint to gain the 1 1/4 length victory over 2011 winner Teaks North. Making his graded stakes debut, 47-1 Hangover Kid was the surprising third-place finisher. For Little Mike, a defense of his Grade 1 Arlington Million title is next, while Big Blue Kitten may or may not join him—his connections are also considering the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga as the next logical step towards his now-guaranteed start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

The weekend’s other Grade 1 event was the Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder, where Wesley Ward trainee Judy the Beauty was looking for her first Grade 1 win after two bridesmaid finishes (as a juvenile in the Spinaway and last year in the Prioress, both at Saratoga). With five entrants (out of 12 starters), local trainer Marty Wolfson basically threw everything but the kitchen sink into this race, with his best hopes being Grade 2 Inside Information runner-up Spectacular Sky and stakes-placed Oh Carole. Instead, it was his 8-1 Starship Truffles—one week after a 10-length victory against $6,250 level claimers in a starter optional claiming allowance race—who pop a huge surprise, winning by nearly 4 lengths over Judy the Beauty.

The Princess Rooney was not, however, a Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge race. The Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap was, and the post-time favorite was Trinniberg, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint victor. After a horrible trek to Dubai and an equally disappointing out-of-the-money finish in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes last out, the 4-year-old son of Teuflesberg was hoping to get back on track. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have enough as he finished 1 3/4 lengths behind the upset winner, Bahamian Squall. The ever-game Jackson Bend was just a nose behind Trinniberg, in third-place—his best finish since winning last year’s Grade 1 Carter Handicap. Another old fan favorite, Justin Phillip was just a neck behind in fourth-place.

Also on Calder’s Saturday program were two 6-furlong sprint races for 3-year-olds: the Grade 3 Carry Back Stakes, won by Mico Margarita, and the Grade 3 Azalea Stakes captured by Wildcat Lily. The weekend’s other sprint action included a rousing come-from-behind win by Ben’s Cat in the 5-furlong Grade 3 Parx Dash Handicap, and 3-year-old Rainbow Heir remaining a perfect 4 for 4, winning the 6-furlong Grade 3 Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth by five lengths in wire-to-wire fashion.

On the Fourth of July itself, last year’s Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap runner-up King Kreesa captured the one-mile Grade 3 Poker Stakes over the Belmont turf. Howe Great finished second, followed by Big Screen with the 3-5 favorite Data Link in fourth. Making the class dip after his runner-up finish behind Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mile last out, Data Link was quite a disappointment, although not for those bettors who wagered against him, as the show payouts were extremely generous for the top three finishers.

This weekend’s biggest upset, though, was 33-1 Raging Daoust winning the Grade 3 Salvator Mile, with nearly 18-1 Big Sur running second—the $2 exacta paid a whopping $420.60.

The Grade 2 Royal Heroine Mile Stakes at Hollywood was much more formful, as short-priced favorite Schiaparelli hung on to win by a half length over Egg Drop. It was also the third-straight victory for jockey Joe Talamo on Saturday’s card, as he won a total of four races and placed second in two others.

Saturday’s 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 Suburban Handicap belonged to 7-year-old Flat Out, who even after bobbling at the break came back to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Last Gunfighter, with Fast Falcon just a nose back in third. Last year’s Travers winner Alpha—fresh off a fruitless Dubai jaunt—lost the race before it even started, acting up and breaking through the starting gate. It’s a shame such a once-promising colt appears to have hit a rut. For Flat Out, the August 3 Whitney Handicap appears his next likely start, before defending his Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup title.

A field of only four 3-year-olds went postward in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood, with the well-bred Chief Havoc gaining a victory over last-out Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap winner Tiz a Minister. Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby victor Dice Flavor finished third, while Grade 1 Blue Grass winner Java’s War, making his first start since his disappointing 13th-place effort in the Kentucky Derby, brought up the rear. Three-year-olds also met in the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont, where (for some unfathomable reason) Battier was made the 7-5 favorite over his more battle-test stablemate Abraham and Grade 2 Peter Pan runner-up Saint Vigeur. Surprisingly, the winner turned out to be last-out maiden victor Moreno, a Ghostzapper gelding whose second dam is the Queen’s Plate victress Dancethruthedawn, a Canadian Hall of Famer whose own dam Dance Smartly captured the Canadian Triple Crown over male rivals.

All attention turned to Woodbine on Sunday, with the running of the 154th running of the Queen’s Plate, the first jewel in Canada’s Triple Crown for 3-year-olds. Because entrants are restricted to Canadian-bred horses, it is not a graded stakes race, but that doesn’t diminish its importance. However, there were three graded stakes races on the card preceding the big event, beginning with the 1 1/8 mile Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes on turf. The winner was Solid Appeal, last-out triumphant in the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes and making her first attempt at this distance. It was 2 lengths back to runner-up Julie’s Love, a Graham Motion-trained mare partially owned by chef Bobby Flay. It was another half length back to third-place finisher No Explaining, a 6-year-old mare making only her second start after a nearly 2-year absence from racing. The post-time favorite, last year’s Queen’s Plate runner-up and Woodbine Oaks winner Irish Mission, was never in contention, finishing seventh in the 10-horse field.

In the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes, favored Forte Dei Marmi didn’t disappoint, strongly pulling away to win by nearly 7 lengths over second-choice Perfect Timber over the yielding, rain-affected turf course. Back on the Polytrack for the 6-furlong Grade 2 Highlander Stakes, lightly-raced 4-year-old Go Blue Or Go Home followed up his win in the Karl Boyes Memorial Stakes at Presque Isle with an impressive 5 1/4 length victory over wily veteran Super Chunky and 3-year-old youngster Dan the Tin Man. Interestingly, all three top finishers came out of races over Presque Isle’s Tapeta surface, a factor that should have been strongly considered when the race—originally scheduled for the grass—was transferred to Woodbine’s all-weather surface.

In the 1 1/4 miles Queen’s Plate, post-time 8-5 favorite Up With the Birds made his trademark late run, but it wasn’t enough to catch 16-1 Midnight Aria, a Midnight Lute colt claimed for $35,000 at Gulfstream back in January who promptly broke his maiden next out and then had four straight third-place finishers leading up to this start. His half-brother Wanna Runner won both the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby and the 9-furlong WinStar (now Sunland) Derby, but there wasn’t much in his breeding to suggest Midnight Aria could get the Queen’s Plate distance—other than the tantalizing promise that champion sprinter Midnight Lute could pass along his sire Real Quiet’s stamina. Up With the Birds was just a half length back in second, while it was a distant 7 1/2 lengths back to Plate Trial victor Dynamic Sky in third. The two fillies, Woodbine Oaks winner Nipissing and runner-up Spring in the Air finished eighth and fourth, respectively. Midnight Aria will now be aimed for the second jewel, the 1 3/16 miles Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie on July 30.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Swaps Stakes Replay
Chief Havoc takes control early and doesn’t look back.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Suburban Handicap Replay
Flat Out wins his second Suburban

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Dwyer Stakes Replay
Moreno scores a front-running victory.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Royal Heroine Stakes Replay
Schiaparelli takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Hollywood Gold Cup Replay
Game on Dude wins the curtain call for the Gold Cup.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 United Nations Replay
Big Blue Kitten sneaks through on the rail.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Smile Sprint Replay
Bahamian Squall puts it all together.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Singspiel Stakes Replay
Forte Dei Marmi emerges from the fog.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2013 Highlander Stakes Replay
Go Blue or Go Home goes all the way.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2013 Queen’s Plate Replay
Midnight Aria takes them all the way for the upset.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Azalea Stakes Chart
2013 Carry Back Stakes Chart
2013 Dwyer Stakes Chart
2013 Highlander Stakes Chart
2013 Hollywood Gold Cup Chart
2013 Jersey Shore Stakes Chart
2013 Parx Dash Handicap Chart
2013 Poker Stakes Chart
2013 Princess Rooney Handicap Chart
2013 Queen’s Plate Stakes Chart
2013 Royal Heroine Mile Stakes Chart
2013 Salvatore Mile Stakes Chart
2013 Singspiel Stakes Chart
2013 Smile Sprint Handicap Chart
2013 Swaps Stakes Chart
2013 United Nations Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet