Week of May 27, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

The unofficial beginning of summer was marked by a plethora of racing action from coast-to-coast, including three Grade 1 events at Belmont Park on Memorial Day.

Perhaps the most satisfying win was that of Tiz Miz Sue in the Grade 1 Odgen Phipps Handicap. For past several years, the 6-year-old Tiznow mare has challenged the best of her generation, including narrow losses to Havre de Grace and Royal Delta. Making her 32nd start, she finally got a Grade 1 victory, gallantly battling Authenticity to the wire after sitting just off the leaders for much of the race. Nearly 20-1 longshot Centring came roaring late to get third, more than 10 lengths ahead of Disposablepleasure. After leading early, Joyful Victory had nothing left, beating only her stablemate, Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can who never looked comfortable on the track (much like her distant third-place effort in last year’s Grade 1 Mother Goose).

In the Grade 1 Acorn, a patient ride by Rosie Napravnik on Midnight Lucky was rewarded, as the pair sat just off the early leaders, sweeping around front-running longshot Momentary Magic as they rounded the final turn and pulling away to win by over 6 lengths. Bill Mott-trained Close Hatches got up for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Kauai Katie. Cue the Moon finished fourth.

The Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap (or Met Mile) is the first jewel of what is loosely recognized as the New York Handicap Triple Crown (the other races being the Brooklyn and Suburban handicaps). Given his propensity for sprinting, it’s unlikely that this year’s Met Mile winner Sahara Sky will contest either of those route events. Until Monday, the 5-year-old Pleasant Tap horse had never won beyond 7 furlongs—or even placed at one mile. That may have been why the last-out 7-furlong Grade 1 Carter Handicap runner-up went off as third-choice in the 9-horse field. After dawdling at the rear of the field, Sahara Sky made a huge move around the turn, weaving through horses and then closing resolutely on the outside to defeat the light-raced Cross Traffic by a nose in a photo finish. Late-closing favorite Flat Out encountered more traffic issues than did Sahara Sky, but finished strongly for third. Gallant Mark Valeski looked strong as they entered the stretch, but weakened to finish fourth, 1-1/2 lengths behind Flat Out.

The other graded stakes at Belmont on Memorial Day was the Grade 2 Sands Point, a 1-1/16 mile turf event for fillies that has in the past few years highlighted some terrific turfsters (Rutherienne, Gozzip Girl and Winter Memories). This year’s wire-to-wire winner was Discreet Marq, a Discreet Cat filly making her first start for trainer Christophe Clement—not to mention her first graded stakes effort. Jockey Jose Lezcano rode a masterful race, patiently laying down pedestrian fractions and then timing her late burst of speed perfectly to hold off Wave Theory. Last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf runner-up Watsdachances somewhat disappointed, flattening off to finish third, just ahead of 16-1 longshot Kitten’s Queen.

The only other Grade 1 race this weekend was the 1-1/8 miles Grade 1 Gamely over the Hollywood Park turf course. Making her 2013 debut was last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf runner-up Marketing Mix with the red-hot Gary Stevens aboard. Made the 3-2 favorite, the 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro mare didn’t disappoint her backers, as the topweight gutted out a photo-finish win over in-form Tiz Flirtatious. Two-time Grade 1 winner Lady of Shamrock launched her trademark late-run from last place rounding the final turn, but it was timed too late, as she could only manage a third-place finish. Last-out Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap winner Halo Dolly was fourth.

On Saturday, Arlington Park celebrated its first big race weekend of the season, with three graded stakes. First up, in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron, Mike Smith on Lotta Lovin controlled the early pace, with plenty left in the tank when the real running began as they entered the stretch. Unfortunately, she couldn’t quite hang on, only grudgingly gave up the lead as they neared the wire, with the “Nebraska Kid” Channing Hill guiding 8-1 Imposing Grace to a half-length victory. Sisterhood also got up to finish a neck ahead of Lotta Lovin, with post-time favorite Ausus another neck back in fourth. The final time for the 1-1/8 mile event (1:50.21) was less than a second off the track record (1:49.27). Next up for Imposing Grace (as well as Ausus) is likely the Grade 3 Modesty on July 13.

Another lightning-fast effort was put in by former claimer Hogy in winning the one-mile Grade 3 Hashin Cup over Mister Marti Gras and Hammers Terror. While he didn’t go off the favorite (that honor went to Seruni who ultimately finished fourth), Nates Mineshaft—last seen finishing a close-up third behind Ron the Greek and Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster—didn’t entirely disappoint in his return to the track after nearly a year’s absence. He and Hammers Terror set brutal early fractions and it wasn’t until Hogy swept by him rounding the final turn that his lack of bottom became obvious; jockey E.T. Baird wisely let up on him, and they finished last in the 9-horse field.

In the Grade 3 Arlington Classic, last-out Grade 2 American Turf runner-up Admiral Kitten looked on paper well-suited to favoritism, but it was first-time turf starter General Election pulled off the late-closing 13-1 upset along the rail. The son of Harlan’s Holiday had last been seen running a narrow second in the Grade 3 Lexington over Keeneland’s Polytrack, but his half-brother, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Ready’s Echo was Grade 2-placed on turf, so he shouldn’t have been so lightly considered. Admiral Kitten came roaring up on the outside to get second, just a head in front of Dorsett who was disqualified from third to fourth for interfering with Gefest, a Shakespeare colt who was then moved up to get the show money.

A Group 3 winner in Ireland last year, Tannery has been tiptoeing around the winner’s circle since arriving in the U.S. On Saturday, she finally broke through, capturing the 1-3/8 miles Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont. Content to linger at the tail end of the field, the 4-year-old daughter of Dylan Thomas took the inside path rounding the final turn and held off 21-1 Anjaz for the victory. Front-running Minakshi finished third, five lengths ahead of her nearest competitor, as the more favored competitors failed to perform to expectation. Interestingly though, Anjaz repeated the performance of her half-sister Giant’s Play who finished second in the 2011 Sheepshead Bay; both are daughters of the English champion juvenile filly, Playful Act.

Recently claimed for $50,000 by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, 6-year-old Dark Cove continued his winning ways, capturing his second consecutive graded stakes, the 1-1/2 miles Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. Last year’s Belmont Stakes third-place finisher, Atigun has certainly taken to the grass; sent off as the 2-1 favorite, he made a strong late move to finish just a half-length behind the winner—and just a nose ahead of Najjaar, a son of Jazil who appears to be well-suited to turf.

On Saturday at Hollywood Park, 2-5 favorite Obviously went to the lead and never looked back, as Joe Talamo guided the 5-year-old Choisir gelding to an easy victory in the one-mile Grade 2 American Handicap on turf. Last year’s French-Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Lucayan made an impressive U.S. debut, getting up to finish second, a neck in front of Japanese-bred Barocci. Making only his second start on turf, last year’s Grade 2 San Vicente winner Drill once again finished out of the placings, in fourth place.

Fillies and mares went one-mile on turf in the Grade 2 Nassau at Woodbine on Saturday, where the post-time favorite was last year’s open company Breeders’ Stakes winner Irish Mission. The Giant’s Causeway filly had weakened late in the 1-1/2 miles Grade 3 Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream in her last start, so shortening her up here appeared to make sense. However, despite having the rail open, she couldn’t close late on the well-moving Solid Appeal who popped the 8-1 surprise in winning her first graded stakes. Woodbine Oaks runner-up Northern Passion got up for third.

For those so inclined, there was plenty of sprint action too this weekend. At Woodbine on Sunday, the turf sprinters took center stage in the 7-furlong Grade 2 Connaught Cup. Intent on defending his title, Something Extra went to the early lead, and never looked back, always finding that something extra to hold off challenges by runner-up Riding the River and third-place finisher Upgrade.

Only 5 fillies and mares contested the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill Downs on Monday, with two-time Winning Colors runner-up Beat the Blues finally breaking through with a graded stakes win. It came at the expense of two-time Grade 1 runner-up Judy the Beauty—the 4-5 favorite finished second, over 4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Vuitton. Last-out Grade 1 Humana Distaff runner-up Burban did not meet the challenge of Judy the Beauty when passed by the favorite, nor could she withstand Vuitton, and finished fourth. The final time for the Winning Colors was a blazing 1:08.59, just a tick off the track record (1:07.55).

Most of the top West Coast sprinters turned up for the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap on Memorial Day, with topweight Comma to the Top wiring the field in a lightning-fast 1:09.11 for the 6-furlong event. The one-time Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby runner-up has turned into a fine sprinter; his connections have indicated the long-term goal this year is the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Runner-up Centralinteligence and third-place finisher Camp Victory repeated their placings from last year’s running, while 6-year-old Apriority continued his losing ways, finishing dead-last in the 6-horse field. His last win: the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream—on New Year’s Eve, 2011.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Sheepshead Bay Stakes Replay
Tannery pulls the upset

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 American Handicap Replay

Video courtesy of Betfair Hollywood Park

2013 Sands Point Stakes Replay
Discreet Marq takes them all the way

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Ogden Phipps Handicap Replay
Tiz Miss Sue earns her first Grade 1 win.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Acorn Stakes Replay
Midnight Lucky was more impressive than lucky.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Met Mile Replay
Sahara Sky nips Cross Traffic in a thrilling photo finish.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Los Angeles Handicap Replay
Comma to the Top dominates!

Video courtesy of Betfair Hollywood Park

2013 Gamely Stakes Replay
Marketing Mix holds off a game Tiz Flirtatious.

Video courtesy of Betfair Hollywood Park

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Acorn Stakes Chart
2013 All American Stakes Chart
2013 American Handicap Chart
2013 Arlington Classic Chart
2013 Arlington Matron Chart
2013 Connaught Cup Stakes Chart
2013 Gamely Stakes Chart
2013 Hanshin Cup Chart
2013 Los Angeles Handicap Chart
2013 Lone Star Park Handicap Chart
2013 Lousiville Handicap Chart
2013 Met Mile Chart
2013 Nassau Stakes Chart
2013 Ogden Phipps Handicap Chart
2013 Sheepshead Bay Stakes Chart
2013 Winning Colors Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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