Week of September 16, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

With his facile track record-setting effort this weekend, Wise Dan turned up the heat in his contest with Game on Dude for the Horse of the Year title.

Let’s be honest: Wise Dan merely toyed with his five competitors in Sunday’s Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. Settling just off the leaders early, when he powered to the lead it was with minimal effort. The resulting track record (1:31.75) could feasibly have been a new world record if he had been asked, but jockey John Velazquez was satisfied to cruise home, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile runner-up Za Approval. It was the gelding’s ninth consecutive victory and, if his connections follow last year’s successful championship campaign, he may next appear at Keeneland for the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile before a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Mile in early November.

As for whether or not Wise Dan will once again capture the Horse of the Year title, that remains to be seen as both he and Game On Dude are undefeated this year in five starts, with dirt runner Game On Dude winning California’s three biggest Grade 1 events for older horses: the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic. He also made a successful jaunt to the East Coast, taking out the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, so it’s going to come down to whether or not Game On Dude can win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The turf racing at Woodbine all weekend was superb, with 7-year-old veteran Forte Dei Marmi winning the 1 1/2 miles Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes by a neck over the upstart stablemate Perfect Timber. The Giant’s Causeway filly Irish Mission—last year’s Queen’s Plate runner-up and winning of the third leg of Canada’s 3-year-old Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes—made a game move in the stretch, but it was too little, too late, as she finished just a nose behind third-place finisher Stormy Len. American trainer Michael Matz launched a blitzkrieg in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 Canadian Stakes, as his charges Minakshi (7-1) and Colonial Flag (10-1) ran one-two, and earned the former a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The 2-1 favorite Solid Appeal—Grade 2 winner of both the Nassau and Dance Smartly Stakes here before failing in the Grade 1 Beverly D most recently—disappointed, finishing eighth in the 9-horse field.

On the Polytrack, His Race to Win aptly captured the 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Ontario Derby, outkicking favorite Winning Cause to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Late-closing Pyrite Mountain, who finished third, just a head behind the runner-up, looks to need longer—he should be an interesting turf marathoner if his connections aimed him that way.

Saturday at Woodbine featured two one-mile Grade 2 juvenile turf races, both guaranteeing automatic entry into Breeders’ Cup races as part of the “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge series. In the Natalma, it was the Sky Mesa filly Llanarmon who got the win, but only by taking advantage of the front-running favorite Ready to Act veering into the rail late and tossing jockey Rajiv Maragh. Emma-Jayne Wilson powered through on the well-bred Llanarmon, breaking her maiden in only her second start, just like her dam Gold Strike, a Manitoba-bred filly who as a 3-year-old went on to win both the Grade 3 Selene Stakes and the Woodbine Oaks before finishing third against males in the 2005 Queen’s Plate. Behind Llanarmon, the Artie Schiller filly Spanish Flower ran second, just a neck in front of third-place finisher Appreciating, another filly by Sky Mesa.

Scratched from the Natalma in favor of a start against males in the Summer Stakes, the first-time starter My Conquestadory (Artie Schiller) went off at 5-1, the fourth pick in the 9-horse field. Settling mid-pack along the rail in the backstretch, she made a powerful three-wide move around the turn and took control, winning with ease by 3 1/4 lengths and in a final time (1:34.81) more than a second faster than the fillies (1:35.89) two races earlier. Her stablemate Matador made a determined bid late, but fell just short of runner-up 27-1 longshot Go Bro. It was a brilliant debut for My Conquestadory, the first filly to win the Summer Stakes since subsequent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Champion 2-year-old filly Dreaming of Anna did it in 2006.

Turf racing was also featured at Belmont on Saturday. In the one-mile Grade 3 Noble Damsel Stakes, it was longest shot in the field, 16-1 Peace Preserver, who popped a huge surprise, defeating runner-up Hungry Island and favorite Better Lucky, both Grade 1-placed behind Stephanie’s Kitten in the Just a Game Stakes here back in June. Another post-time favorite, Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks winner Discreet Marq failed in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Garden City Stakes, as she was passed late by Chad Brown’s French invader, Alterite. Graham Motion-trained Concise was just a nose back of the runner-up, in third, followed in close order by Watsdachances and Summer of Fun, both of whom placed behind Flotilla in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf. For Alterite—a filly that likes a little give to the turf—the rock-hard turf at Santa Anita may not be in the cards; her connections have indicated the October 12 Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland and/or the October 27 Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine may be in the cards.

Three-year-old fillies also took the turf at Arlington on Saturday in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes, where Hatoof victress I’m Already Sexy repeated her winning performance over runner-up Every Way and third-place finisher My Option. However, the most impressive effort on the card came in Race 8, a 5 1/2 furlong juvenile maiden special weight. Making his second lifetime start, Cool Cowboy (Kodiak Kowboy) immediately went to the lead and lengthened his margin of victory to 10 1/2 lengths, clocking a final time (1:03.37) that was just a tick off the track record (1:03.02).

Saturday was Kentucky Downs Million Day, with a total of five stakes races with purses totaling more than $1 million. Leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey enjoyed a banner day with four winners on card, including three Kitten’s Joy progeny, the most notable being Lien On Kitten in the Juveniles Fillies Stakes and Coalport in the Franklin-Simpson Mile. Claimed for $16,000 back in April by the Ramseys, Longhunter continued his winning ways with them, capturing the Turf Dash. The only graded event on the card, the 1 1/2 miles Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup, was won by Temeraine; the Tom Proctor trainee came in off a runner-up finish behind Rahystrada in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, and a nice late-closing fifth in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. Brazilian Grade 1 winner Olympic Thunder was a neck back in second, followed by American St. Leger runner-up Suntracer.

In case you missed it, last Monday evening reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll successfully defended her title in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters Stakes, posting a final time that smashed the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs (1:14.88). Yes, due to the race’s generous weight allowances, she carried a mere 115 pounds (which was actually three pounds over her assigned weight)—in 2012, coming in off a victory in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff, she carried 123 pounds. Still, it was impressive, and certainly bodes well for her moving forward. Highly regarded Judy the Beauty finished third, but it was the runner-up, Purely Hot—claimed for $10,000 at Penn National back in March—who nearly stole the show. Talk about a “horse for the course”! Since transferring to Presque Isle (and its Tapeta surface) in late May, she had won five straight, including the Satin and Lace Stakes, prior to her runner-up finish against the defending champ. Too bad the Breeders’ Cup isn’t run at a little track in Erie, PA.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Noble Damsel Stakes Replay
Peace Preserver sneaks through on the inside for the upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Garden City Handicap Replay
Alterite makes her first U.S. start a winning one.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Natalma Stakes Replay
Llanarmom comes on to win after Ready to Act threw jockey Rajiv Maragh.

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

2013 Summer Stakes Replay
My Conquestoradory did not look like a first time starter.

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

2013 Canadian Stakes Replay
Minakshi earns her first North American win.

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

2013 Ontario Derby Replay
His Race to Win lives up to his name.

Video courtesy of Woodbine Racing

2013 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes Replay
Forte dei Marmi holds on for the win.

Video courtesy of Woodbine Racing

2013 Woodbine Mile Replay
Wise Dan continues to dominate.

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Canadian Stakes Chart
2013 Garden City Handicap Chart
2013 Natalma Stakes Chart
2013 Noble Damsel Stakes Chart
2013 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes Chart
2013 Ontario Derby Chart
2013 Presque Isle Masters Chart
2013 Summer Stakes Chart
2013 Woodbine Mile Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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