Week of June 17, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

A relatively light week in terms of racing was highlighted by who returned to the track—and who reluctantly departed it.

For Paynter and his connections, it was a triumphant week, as last year’s Grade 1 Haskell winner made his first start since his well-documented battle against a multitude of illnesses—fever, colitis, laminitis and intestinal surgery for an abscessed colon. On Friday, he began his road back to racing with a facile victory in an allowance race at Hollywood Park. He exited the race in fine condition, which is excellent news; his next start has yet to be determined.

The news from Ramon Dominguez was not so good—the 3-time Eclipse-winning jockey has retired from racing on the advice of his doctors. On January 18, Dominguez suffered a fractured skull after a spill at Aqueduct, and though he initially considered a comeback, he reluctantly announced his retirement on Friday. A stalwart rider and class individual, Dominguez rode such greats as Better Talk Now, Invasor, Gio Ponti and Havre de Grace. He ended his career with 4,985 wins in 21,267 starts, a remarkable 23% win record—and, even more stunningly, his mounts hit the board at a 56% clip. He will be missed.

So far in 2013, things have not gone well for Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned. He stumbled and lost his rider Brian Hernandez, Jr. in his first start, the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. He followed that up with lackluster fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, 10 lengths back of the winner Cyber Secret. With that in mind, handicappers made him the fourth-choice in Saturday’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill, behind last-out Grade 2 Alysheba winner Take Charge Indy, Grade 3 Ben Ali winner Successful Dan and even Ron the Greek who finished a narrow third to Game on Dude in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic. Well, don’t we all look like fools? The champ is back with a vengeance, wiring the field unchallenged and winning by 6 1/4 lengths. His time for the 1 1/8 miles (1:47.45) was just a tick off Victory Gallop’s 1999 track record (1:47.28). Take Charge Indy tracked him in second for much of the race, but faltered in the stretch, finishing last in the 6-horse field. Successful Dan also failed late after running well in third; he finished fourth behind the runner-up Golden Ticket and third-place finisher Ron the Greek. For Fort Larned, the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on August 3 is next.

The other Grade 1 event this weekend was the 1 1/8 mile Vanity Handicap for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at Hollywood. The post-time favorite Lady of Fifty won the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap over this track in December, but in the only other time she had run this distance, she had faltered and finished out of the money—albeit against males in last year’s Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate. Rather than being on or near the lead, Lady of Fifty actually dropped back to the rear of the pack and did her best running late, but it was only good enough for third, 1 1/4 lengths behind runner-up More Chocolate. The winner Byrama also had major distance questions to answer, as she’s been run nearly exclusively in sprints up to and including one mile. A promising second-place finisher in the 7-furlong Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland back in April, she disappointed in her only dirt start last out, in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff. With veteran Gary Stevens aboard for the first time, she raced well off the front-running Royal Tiger early on, but together with More Chocolate, pushed by Royal Tiger entering the stretch—then Stevens hit the gas and never looked back, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over More Chocolate.

There were two other 1 1/8 mile graded stakes for the distaffers this weekend. In the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs, reigning older female champion Royal Delta went off as the 3-10 favorite—even after her last start, a disappointing (and VERY distant) tenth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup. As the 125-pound topweight, she also conceded between 8 and 11 pounds to her rivals here. How much did those two factors contribute to her defeat? Funny Proposition, ridden by the red-hot Joel Rosario, won in wire-to-wire fashion, five lengths ahead of Royal Delta who was only 3/4 of a length in front of third-place finisher She’s All In; Ice Cream Silence was just a nose farther back in fourth, while early contender Wine Princess faded to last. At Delaware Park in the Grade 3 Obeah Stakes, post-time (and local) favorite Bryan’s Jewel didn’t disappoint, getting up at the wire to win by a neck over And Why Not. Amazingly, this win came exactly 7 days after her last race, a win in the off-the-turf John W. Rooney Memorial also here at Delaware.

Dance to Bristol extended her current win streak to 5 races after impressively capturing the 7-furlong Grade 3 Bed o’Roses Handicap at Belmont on Saturday. It was the first graded stakes effort for this 4-year-old Speightstown filly—and undoubtedly not her last. Her final time (1:20.81) was just off the track record set by Left Bank in winning the Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap in 2002 (1:20.17). Grade 2 Vagrancy runner-up Fantasy of Flight led in the early going with Delightful Quality just off her flank, but both were nabbed by Dance to Bristol in mid-stretch and she extended her lead to win by nearly 3 lengths.

With the Triple Crown hoopla ended, the 3-year-old males have shifted gears and begun plotting summer campaigns. For some, that path led them back to Kentucky where, on Saturday evening, the 1 1/16 mile Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes was contested with a field of 10. The favorite turned out to be the winner, and that was Bob Baffert’s Grade 2 Risen Star runner-up Code West with Rosie Napravnik aboard. The pair got up to win by a head over Uncaptured, a Canadian-bred son of Lion Heart who had previously captured the both the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Grade 3 Iroquois over the Churchill dirt surface late in his juvenile campaign.

In the 1 1/16 mile Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth, bettors saw it as a 2-horse race between Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Verrazano and Grade 1 Preakness runner-up Itsmyluckyday. Unfortunately, after the gates opened, jockey Mike Smith felt something was wrong with Itsmyluckday and pulled him up, leaving the victory to Verrazano who won by just over 9 lengths. Itsmyluckyday was vanned off, and initial x-rays showed no fractures. For Verrazano, the Grade 1 Haskell on July 28 appears to be next on his agenda.

Coming back off an injury, Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity winner Joha made his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes over the Belmont turf. All did not go as planned, however, as the Tom Albertrani-trained son of Johar ran well early, but tired to finish 10th in the 12-horse field. The post-time favorite, lightly-raced allowance winner Red Rifle was moving well late, managing to finish fourth, a length behind the equally-lightly-raced 12-1 longshot Chamois. The runner-up, Play It Loud went off at nearly 37-1, but is impeccably bred, with his dam being 2-time Grade 1-placed Bsharpsonata who won several turf stakes, including the Selima at Laurel and the Tropical Park Oaks at Calder. And the winner? The oddly-named Notacatbutallama who finished second behind Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Noble Tune in last year’s Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes.

The 3-year-old fillies ran on turf in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill on Friday, with Grade 3 Florida Oaks runner-up Kitten’s Dumplings continuing her winning ways, pulling away to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Praia, the Distorted Humor filly that she defeated last out in the ungraded Edgewood Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. It was another 3/4 lengths back to Oscar Party, and another 2 1/2 lengths back to Grade 1 Alcibiades runner-up Broken Spell.

With the boutique meets at Saratoga and Del Mar quickly approaching, it’s not too early to start looking more closely at the promising juveniles out there. On Saturday at Hollywood, 2-year-old fillies contested the 5 1/2 furlong Cinderella Stakes; the winner Sprouts is out of the first crop of 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie. In the 5 1/2 furlong Willard L. Proctor Memorial, the 2-year-old Holy Bull filly One More made her debut against the boys, but could only manage a fourth-place finish. The winner was another first-time starter, the Flatter colt Kobe’s Back, a half brother to Grade 3 Jersey Shore Stakes winner Well Spelled. The runner-up, Willie B Awesome is full brother to Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Willa B Awesome.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Stephen Foster Handicap Replay
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Fort Larned, gets the lead and never looks back.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Fleur de Lis Handicap Replay
Funny Proposition gets the last laugh on champ Royal Delta

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Vanity Handicap Replay
Byrama and Gary Stevens make it look easy.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Bed O’ Roses Stakes Replay
Dance to Bristol prevails.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Hill Prince Stakes Replay
Notacatbutallama turns back a game Play it Loud.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Paynter Allowance Race Replay
Paynter makes an impressive return off the bench.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Pegasus Stakes Replay
Verrazano gets away with an easy as Itsmyluckyday is pulled up.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Bed O’ Roses Handicap Chart
2013 Fleur de Lis Handicap Chart
2013 Hill Prince Stakes Chart
2013 Matt Winn Stakes Chart
2013 Obeah Stakes Chart
2013 Paynter Allowance Race Chart
2013 Pegasus Stakes Chart
2013 Regret Stakes Chart
2013 Stephen Foster Handicap Chart
2013 Vanity Handicap Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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