Week of September 17, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

There was no fairy tale ending for Camelot, as he failed in his bid to become the first English Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970. Instead, it was 25-1 longshot Encke who captured the Group 1 St. Leger, earning Godolphin its sixth victory in the classic race.

Despite his long odds, the American-bred Encke (Kingmambo) boasted superior stamina qualifications, as his dam Shawanda twice captured Group 1 events at 1 1/2 miles including the Irish Oaks — and her half sister is the dam of last year’s Arc runner-up Shareta. That filly turned in a terrific prep race for this year’s Arc on Sunday, impressively winning the French Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp. Another Arc contender, Japanese Horse of the Year Orfevre also won his tune-up, the French Group 2 Prix Foy, over last-out German Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin victor Meandre, a colt that had defeated Shareta and last year’s Arc winner Danedream earlier this summer in the French Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. Last-out Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes victor Bayrir was no match for Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club winner Saonois, finishing over a length behind the Chichicastenango colt in the Group 2 Prix Niel.

On that same Longchamp card, the 4-year-old filly Moonlight Cloud gamely won the Group 1 Prix du Moulin in advance of her start in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. A narrow second-place finisher to newly-anointed Australia Horse of the Year Black Caviar in the English Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot in June, Moonlight Cloud is owned by her breeder, American George W. Strawbridge, Jr., and trained by Freddie Head who also guided the career of three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile victress Goldikova.

In the Mile, Moonlight Cloud is likely to face Wise Dan who captured the Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re In” Grade 1 Woodbine Mile (chart) with ease on Sunday over what was, admittedly, a rather sub-par field. The only other Group 1 winner in the race was 2012 Dubai Duty Free victor Cityscape who finished third, more than four lengths back of the winner. The best previous efforts of runner-up Hunters Bay were a pair of Grade 3 victories at Woodbine before he failed in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational last out.

Also at Woodbine on Sunday, the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (chart) saw Wigmore Hall bounce back from his disappointing run in the Grade 1 Arlington Million and defeat last-out Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational runner-up Al Khali. It was virtually an identical performance to his Northern Dancer win last year, although in a much faster time. Forte Dei Marmi finished third. In the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes, Irish-bred Barefoot Lady made her North American debut a winning one, defeating All Star Heart and Stars to Shine who fleshed out the triactor (trifecta). Both favorite Kapitale and second-choice Laughing finished out of the money. In the non-graded Ontario Derby (chart), Grade 1 Haskell Invitational third-place finisher Stealcase rebounded from his disappointing effort in the Grade 1 Travers to win convincingly over allowance winner Any Given Royal and Plate Trial winner River Rush.

Saturday’s races at Woodbine were highlighted by two Grade 2 juvenile turf races, both Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re In” challenge races. In the Natalma Stakes (chart), it was all about freshman sire Spring At Last, with his daughters Spring Venture and Spring in the Air running one-two. Both had entered off facile maiden wins and performed as expected, but watch out for late-closing Nancy O (Pivotal) who finished third despite being stifled for running room – her dam Arravale won the Natalma a year before launching her Canadian Horse of the Year campaign, with wins that included the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. The colt Nancy O ran second to last out, Are You Kidding Me (Run Away and Hide) finished second in the Summer Stakes (chart) won by 11-1 longshot I’m Boundtoscore (Even the Score); Grade 2 winner Sharp Susan’s first-born son Indiano Jones was third, while favorite Best Play (a three-quarter brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Marsh Side) finished out of the money in fourth.

The other three graded stakes of note this weekend were restricted for fillies and mares. In the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes (chart) at Arlington Park, Group 2 Italian Oaks runner-up Angegreen made her debut for trainer Graham Motion with Lasix added, to no avail as she finished dead-last in the field of 12 as the 3-1 favorite. Instead, chalk one up for the home team, as Team Block’s last-out Hatoof winner Leading Astray took the prize by a neck over new Roger Attfield trainee Miss Cato. Grade 3 Virginia Oaks winner Volcat finished just a head back in third.

At Belmont, the Grade 3 Nobel Damsel Stakes (chart) saw trainer Chad Brown’s odds-on favorite Dealbata upset by 13-1 longshot Naples Bay…when will bettors learn to never discount a Christophe Clement horse on turf? In the very next race (and fresh off her narrow third-place finish in the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes) Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Samitar performed outstandingly for new trainer Chad Brown, winning the Grade 1 Garden City Stakes (chart) by a head over Somali Lemonade. Making her American debut for trainer Alan Goldberg, Irish Group 3 winner Tannery finished third, just a neck ahead of the lightly-raced Giant’s Causeway filly Ciao Bella, daughter of Grade 1-placed Bella Bellucci.

The week ahead features the return of 2010 juvenile champion filly Awesome Feather in the Nasty Storm Stakes at Belmont on Thursday, while Parx hosts the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Saturday. Those two races, along with the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont form a rather light schedule, a welcome respite before the orgy of 11 Grade 1 stakes at Belmont and Santa Anita the following weekend.

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

Last Week’s Races

2012 Nobel Damsel Stakes Replay
Naples Bay kicks home and holds off Dealbata.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Garden City Stakes Replay
Samitar and Somali Lemonade down to the wire.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Natalma Stakes Replay
Spring Venture will venture to the Breeders’ Cup in November!

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Summer Stakes Replay
I’m Boundtoscore to did it by wiring the field.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Ontario Derby Replay
Stealcase closes from the outside.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2012 Northern Dancer Stakes Replay
Wigmore Hall defends his title by holding off Al Khali.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2012 Woodbine Mile Replay
Wise Dan does it with ease.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 St. Leger Stakes Replay
The Triple Crown was not meant to be as Camelot got loose too late to catch Encke.

2012 Prix Foy Replay
Japanese Horse of the Year Orfevre wins at Longchamp.

2012 Prix Vermeille Replay
Shareta tunes up for the Arc.

2012 Prix Niel Replay
Saonois wins over Secretariat victor Bayrir

2012 Prix du Moulin Replay
Dynamic Moonlight Cloud holds on to win.

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