Week of October 8, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

As the countdown to the Breeders’ Cup continues, several leading contenders demonstrated their worthiness this weekend, while a few others surprised us – to say the least.

Juvenile Division
In the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes (chart) – a race decimated by two late scratches after Roveing Patrol became cast in the gate and also upset Grade 1 Spinaway runner-up Sweet Shirley Mae – Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy) and My Happy Face (Tiz Wonderful) thrilled us with a ding-dong battle to the wire. It was the daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Dream Rush who got to the wire first, besting My Happy Face by a mere head. It was another 11 lengths back to Toasting, while Canadian Grade 2-placed Nancy O was eased to finish last. Apparently, Dreaming of Julia is still being aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race, but it’s hard not to imagine that this effort took a lot out of her.

No decision has been made about Shanghai Bobby’s next race, but his emphatic victory in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes (chart) solidified his credentials as one of the top male juveniles – not to mention a promising 2013 Kentucky Derby horse for jockey Rosie Napravnik! Maiden victor Goldencents did well battling him early, but it was no contest when Rosie finally asked the Harlan’s Holiday colt to run. Grade 2 Hopeful runner-up Fortify ran on for third.

Back on Polytrack after a runner-up finish behind Spring Venture in the grassy Grade 2 Natalma Stakes, Canadian filly Spring in the Air (Spring At Last) came from well back in the field to capture the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes (chart) at Keeneland on Friday. One of those she battled late for the lead was maiden winner Magical Moon (Malibu Moon) who ultimately finished third, beaten by 21-1 longshot Broken Spell (Broken Vow), a filly whose dam is a half sister to the dam of Eight Belles. While the Alcibiades is a “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge race, there’s no guarantee that Spring in the Air will make the trip westward, according to her trainer Mark Casse who also trains her talented stablemate Spring Venture, undefeated winner of the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine on Saturday and likely entrant in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Magical Moon is definitely done for the year, although not because of any injury, according to her trainer.

On Saturday, Joha (Johar) popped a surprise, taking the early lead and never relinquishing it en route to winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (chart). Dismissed at nearly 9-1 odds, he’d lost by a mere head to Balance the Books last out in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes on turf, over the same 1-1/16 mile distance. Canadian import Dynamic Sky (Sky Mesa) came on late for second, with Java’s War (War Pass) third and Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity victor Pataky Kid (Rockport Harbor) fourth. Post-time favorite Tizracer (Tiz Now) faltered late, finishing next to last in the 13-horse field.

Scratched out of the Breeders’ Futurity, Balance the Books (Lemon Drop Kid) showed up on Sunday in the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes (chart) on turf, breaking last, but passing the entire field to win by a nose over Really Sharp who was disqualified for bumping and placed sixth. That allowed runner-up Brown Almighty (Big Brown) to earn his first graded stakes placing with maiden winner Sonofasamurai (First Samurai) gaining third. For the sire Big Brown it was a banner weekend overall, with two first-time starters winning maiden special weight events at Belmont on Saturday, Reaching Out and a very sharp Darwin. The latter is a $1.3 million half brother to juvenile stakes winner Dagnabit who, after a 4-year absence from the track, reappeared this year and unsuccessfully tumbled through the claiming ranks. For Balance the Books, the win earned him a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Filly & Mare Division
It was the 3-year-old fillies who stepped forward this weekend. At Keeneland on Sunday, In Lingerie once again demonstrated her affinity for all-weather surfaces, capturing the Grade 1 Spinster (chart) in convincing fashion over older mares like omnisurface winner Mystical Star who finished second. Upperline passed Starformer late to get third, while last year’s Spinster winner Aruna disappointed in running sixth. In the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks (chart) at Hoosier, Grace Hall made a spectacular return to the track after her bitterly disappointing performance in the Grade 1 Alabama. It was Grade 1 winner Eden’s Moon who challenged Grace Hall early, but she failed to match the Empire Maker filly when the real running began around the final turn. Lightly-raced Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks winner Wine Princess, daughter of the great Azeri, passed Eden’s Moon late to get second, while Charles Town Oaks runner-up Holiday Soiree finished fourth.

Dirt Males Division
Favorite Alternation threw a real clunker in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup (chart) on Saturday, taking the early lead but failing to hold it the entire 1-1/4 mile distance, and finished dead-last. Instead, it was little regarded Pool Play, at 16-1, who came from last to first and won his first race since last June’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. Recent Grade 1 Woodward third-place finisher Cease hung on for second, with 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon victor Eldaafer getting third. For the survivors of this year’s Triple Crown trail, the Grade 2 Indiana Derby (chart) offered little prestige. It was Grade 2 Jim Dandy runner-up Neck ‘n Neck who got the victory over Grade 2 Super Derby winner Bourbon Courage, with Bob Baffert-trained Fed Biz finishing third. Overall, it wasn’t a particularly fruitful trip to Hoosier land for Baffert, as three of his four entries finished in the show spot and another (Ellafitz) ran dead-last as the even-money favorite in the Mari Hulman George Stakes (chart).

Sprint Division
In arguably the best sprint performance of the weekend, Groupie Doll demonstrated why she’ll be favored come Breeders’ Cup day, recording her fourth straight victory in winning the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (chart) by nearly seven lengths. Winner of the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes last out, Groupie Doll hasn’t missed a beat since her winning streak started, in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes during the Keeneland spring meet – and now she’s come full circle. 25-1 longshot Strike the Moon came on for second, just beating out Honey Chile. Grade 1 Prioress victress Emma’s Encore continued her autumn downward slide, finishing well back in eighth place. If Strike the Moon’s name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s likely due to her dynamic duel with St. John’s River in last year’s Grade 2 Delaware Oaks – her sprint career since then has been relatively unremarkable. Even given her less than stellar competition, the ease with which Groupie Doll won should propel her to Breeders’ Cup favoritism. Meanwhile, down in Florida, her chief rival and defending Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion Musical Romance tuned up with a comfortable if unspectacular win in the non-graded Mike Sherman Memorial Stakes at Calder.

After a solid spring campaign that included a tough defeat at the hands of Shackleford in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes, defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint victor Amazombie came back to win the Grade 1 Bing Crosby in impressive fashion before resting for another tilt at end of the year honors. Unfortunately, it didn’t start well, as he finished out of the money in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (formerly, Ancient Title). It was last year’s Grade 1 Haskell winner Coil who uncoiled a whopper of a race, holding off his late-closing stablemate Capital Account for the win. Lightly-raced 3-year-old Jimmy Creed got third, a half length in front of Amazombie. All four appear headed for a rematch in the BC Sprint. In her first effort in open company, Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Reneesgotzip challenged early, but faded to finish last.

The other open company Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge race for sprinters this weekend was the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland, won in wire-to-wire fashion by the 3-year-old Speightstown colt Sum Of The Parts, last seen narrowly losing the non-graded Groovy Stakes on turf at Belmont. Veteran Noble’s Promise hung on for second over Laurie’s Rocket, while Aikenite – making his first start since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint – finished fourth. The turf sprinters also saw action at Keeneland, with last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Bridgetown capturing the Grade 3 Woodford Stakes in impressive fashion over Great Mills and 2010 BC Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge. In the non-graded Maryland Million Turf Sprint, it was wily veteran Ben’s Cat (coming in off a win in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap) who successfully executed a three-peat of the Laurel sprint feature, toting 128 pounds – 11 to 15 pounds more than all of his rivals.

Turf Division
Within a 10-minute period, we witnessed the worst and the best of Grade 1 American turf racing. First, in New York, the Jamaica Handicap turned into a farce as heavily-favored Dullahan (fresh off his victory in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic) apparently took an instant dislike to the wet Belmont turf and failed to fire, leaving it up to a last-out $35,000 claimer to win in his first stakes attempt of any kind. For jockey Rosie Napravnik, it was her second straight Grade 1 victory of the day, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks King David is a legitimate Grade 1 horse. At nearly 24-1, King Kreesa was an unlikely runner-up, but the two paid a surprisingly light $370 exacta. Off his decent third-place effort in the Grade 1 Secretariat, more was expected of Summer Front, but all he could manage was another third, nearly three lengths ahead of European import Cogito who finished a half length in front of Dullahan. Also disappointing was last-out Grade 2 Del Mar Derby runner-up Howe Great who faded to last.

It was a completely different kind of Grade 1 race at Keeneland, where Grade 1 Woodbine Mile winner Wise Dan continued his turf dominance, winning the Shadwell Turf Mile with ease. Last year’s Grade 2 American Derby victor Willcox Inn was gaining late, but never a real threat, and finished second. 100-1 longshot Slip and Drive shocked getting third place over multiple Grade 1 placed Doubles Partner and Grade 1 Makers’ Mark Mile victor Data Link, but it was all Wise Dan, who will now be aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile.

The only graded filly and mare turf race in the U.S. was the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes, won by Tapitsfly. Making her first start since the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard, Daisy Devine looked good in finishing second, well ahead of Hungry Island and Summer Soiree. Her victory in the French Group 1 Prix de l’Opera earned the 3-year-old Motivator filly Ridasiyna a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, although her connections did not commit her to the race. Likewise, runner-up Izzi Top is also unlikely for the race even though her victory in the Irish Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes earned her a start.

In France, two fillies captured major open company Group 1 events. In the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp, Wizz Kid bested 17 other contestants in capturing her first Group 1 race; she’s now headed to the October 20 Group 2 British Champions Sprint. In the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, it should have been defending champion Danedream’s day, but the German filly was forced to miss the race after her stable was placed under quarantine for an outbreak of swamp fever. That left Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre as favorite, and he looked a sure winner after he cleared the field in the final furlong. Little did anyone expect 4-year-old filly Solemia to dig in and chase him, catching and rolling past him in the final strides to win the great 1-1/2 mile classic race. Earlier this year, she had defeated last year’s Arc runner-up Shareta in the Group 2 Prix Corrida and, in her race prior to the Arc, she had finished third behind Shareta over this course and distance, so her 41-1 odds were a gift to those handicappers shrewd enough to see her potential especially over the rain-saturated turf. It was also the third time in the past five years that the Arc was won by a filly. For Solemia, the Breeders’ Cup Turf now beckons, but what are the chances of a monsoon in Los Angeles in early November?

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

Last Week’s Races

2012 Alcibiades Stakes Replay
Spring in the Air runs them down.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Phoenix Stakes Replay
Sum of the Parts takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Frizette Stakes Replay
Dreaming of Julia wakes up in the nick of time.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Champagne Stakes Replay
Shanghai Bobby makes it 4-4.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Jamaica Handicap Replay
King David scores a royal upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Woodford Stakes Replay
Bridgetown gets up in time.

Video courtesy of Trakus

2012 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes Replay
Groupie Doll makes it four in a row.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 First Lady Stakes Replay
Tapitsfly outgames Daisy Devine.

Video courtesy of Trakus

2012 Breeders’ Futurity Replay
Joha takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Shadwell Turf Mile Replay
Wise Dan, not a surprise.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Hawthorne Gold Cup Replay
Pool Play reminds everyone that he really likes dirt.

2012 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Replay
Coil holds on.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Bourbon Stakes Replay
Balance the Books overcomes a raucous stretch drive to get his nose down on the wire.

Video courtesy of Trakus

2012 Spinster Stakes Replay
In Lingerie beats older with ease.

Video courtesy of Trakus

2012 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe Replay
Solemia upsets Orfevre.

Video courtesy of Vidéos Quinté

2012 Miss Grillo Stakes Replay
Watsdachances mows them down.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Pilgrim Stakes Replay
Noble Tune circles the field and runs away.

Video courtesy of NYRA

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