Week of October 28, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

History was made at Woodbine this weekend by a veteran globetrotter, as Belmont and Keeneland wrapped up their fall meets and Churchill opened theirs with a look at the stars of tomorrow.

In three previous runnings of the Grade 1 Canadian International, Irish-bred Joshua Tree had scored two wins and a second-place finish—all while traveling the world in search of racing glory. From Europe (Ireland, England, Italy, Germany and France), to the Middle East (Qatar and Dubai), and on to Asia (Japan and Hong Kong), the 6-year-old son of Montjeu has hit the board more often than not in some of the world’s biggest races. This year, however, hadn’t been his best, with distant losses in Group 1 events behind the likes of St. Nicholas Abbey, Dunaden, Novellist, Orfevre and Treve. In fact, he came into the International without a victory in five tries, and thus went to post as a rather modest 6-1 third choice behind Bill Mott’s lightly-raced (and over-hyped) Slumber and Grade 1 Northern Dancer victor Forte Dei Marmi.

As it happened, Joshua Tree got the perfect rail ride from jockey Ryan Moore, running forwardly with Stormy Len before grabbing the lead at the top of the stretch, extending it to three lengths in the stretch before the late-runners closed the gap. Still, he finished three-quarters of length in front of Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s hard-trying Hyper, with German Group 1 winner Seismos in third, a neck in front of French Group 2 winner Now We Can.

With his victory, Joshua Tree became the first 3-time winner of the Canadian International in its 76-year history. Amazingly, he’s done it under three different trainers with three different training methods, not to mention three different jockeys. Plans are for him to retire to stud at in France (at Haras de Gastines) in 2014, but given his predilection for Woodbine’s turf, it’s a shame he won’t stand in Canada.

In the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes, it was all about the closers, somewhat surprisingly given how the soggy yielding turf course had been playing all week. Having taken on males in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer and her Breeders’ Cup-bound stablemate Laughing in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl suited post-time favorite Tannery well, as the Dylan Thomas filly was more than up to the task, coming from dead-last to win by a head over the in-form French-raced filly Fitful Skies. It was another two lengths back to third-place finisher Moment In Time; Grade 2 Canadian winner Minaskshi was fourth.

History was also made in Australia’s Group 1 Cox Plate. Only the scratch (and subsequent retirement) of favorite Atlantic Jewel allowed maiden 3-year-old colt Shamus Award and his 19-year-old apprentice jockey to draw into the field. Carrying a mere 109 lbs vs. the 130 lbs toted by more experienced foes like runner-up Happy Trails and third-place finisher (and Melbourne Cup favorite) Fiorente, the Snitzel colt broke his maiden in spectacular fashion, winning the most prestigious weight-for-age classic in the Southern Hemisphere in wire-to-wire fashion. He became the first maiden to ever win the event in its 91 year history.

Both Belmont and Keeneland closed their fall meets this weekend, with Javier Castellano and Rosie Napravnik, respectively, earning leading rider honors. Among trainers, Chad Brown led Linda Rice and Todd Pletcher for the Belmont title, while at Keeneland, Michael Maker had more than double the number of wins (17) than runner-ups Graham Motion and Wesley Ward (8 wins). Belmont’s leading owner was Darley, while Ken and Sarah Ramsey continued their amazing year winning the title at Keeneland.

Belmont’s two concluding graded stakes events—the 7-furlong Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap and the 1 1/16 miles Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap—were contested on Saturday. Forty Tales and Clearly Now returned for the Bold Ruler, a virtual rematch of the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes undercard. On that occasion Forty Tales was victorious, but not this time, as last-out Grade 3 Gallant Bob runner-up Clearly Now held on for his first win since the Grade 3 Swale back in early March. In the Turnback the Alarm, John Shirreffs-trained Stanwyck made the most of her first stakes attempt—and only her second race on dirt—winning by a head over the multiple Grade 1-placed Centring. A half sister to Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and Santa Anita Derby victor Tiago, Stanwyck paid a whopping $44.80 in victory.

At Keeneland, the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes also saw an upset winner, 11-1 longshot Nikki’s Sandcastle. Although a non-winner in four previous races this year, the 6-year-old gelding had finished a close-up fourth in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream in January, just a head behind the now-multiple Grade 1 winner Big Blue Kitten. He also ran second in last year’s Fayette, so perhaps his performance shouldn’t have been quite so surprising. The dead-last finish of post-time favorite Willcox Inn was, however. Also somewhat disappointing was last-out Grade 2 Bowling Green runner-up Finnegans Wake who was making his first attempt on Polytrack—he finished fourth, three lengths back of the winner.

Opening day at Churchill’s fall meet was reserved exclusively for potential “stars of tomorrow”—juveniles contesting everything from maiden special weight events, to non-winners of two allowance races, and even two non-graded stakes. Among the maiden winners: Playful Love (Tapit), the daughter of two-time juvenile Grade 1 runner-up Palacio de Amor, and first-time starter Son of a Preacher (Pulpit) whose dam Kimchi won the Woodbine Oaks. The one-mile Street Sense Stakes was captured in impressive fashion by the Speightstown colt Coastline—his dam Culinary won the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie in only her second start. A dominating 7 1/2 length winner over maiden claimers at Keeneland last-out, Ichiban Warrior (First Samurai) ran a credible second, four lengths ahead of third-place finisher Ride On Curlin, last seen running third, less than two lengths back of the winner Havana and runner-up Honor Code, in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes. In the one-mile Rags to Riches Stakes, Clever Beauty (Indian Charlie) outdueled Vexed (Arch) and Tepin (Bernstein) for the win. Interestingly, another Indian Charlie filly—Wishing Gate—won the one-mile Grade 3 Autumn Miss Stakes over the Santa Anita turf course on Saturday.

After the Breeders’ Cup Post Position Draw on Monday, we’ll post our annual Distaff and Classic Cheat Sheets. With so much BC handicapping information available via many sources in the coming week, we’re all likely to suffer from information overload. As a public mental health service (and especially for those who are just plain lazy), look for our HRF contributors’ Picks on race day later in the week.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Bold Ruler Handicap Replay
Clearly Now clears the field.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Turnback the Alarm Handicap Replay
Stanwyk steps up for the upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 E.P. Taylor Stakes Replay
Tannery by a nose.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2013 Canadian International Handicap Replay
Joshua Tree becomes the first three-time winner.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2013 Cox Plate Replay
Shamus Award takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of TVN Racing Network

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Autumn Miss Stakes Chart
2013 Bold Ruler Handicap Chart
2013 Canadian International Stakes Chart
2013 E.P. Taylor Stakes Chart
2013 Turnback the Alarm Handicap Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet