Week of September 2, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Rainy conditions in the East this Labor Day weekend led to plenty of upsets as Saratoga’s summer meet concluded.

Sloppy tracks and rain-softened turf affected Saratoga throughout the 3-day weekend, and, at times, horseplayers unwisely ignored proven mudlarks in favor of short-priced favorites. One of those was feel-good comeback horse Paynter who had previously run well on the slop, but evidently did not enjoy the going in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. After contesting the early pace with front-running Alpha and Flat Out, he faded to finish last in the 5-horse field. Making his first start since the July 6 Grade 2 Suburban Handicap, veteran Flat Out looked impressive, especially when pressing Alpha late, but it was the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Alpha who gamely hung on to win for the first time since last year’s Grade 1 Travers. He’ll next be aimed for the September 28 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, where he’ll likely face not only Flat Out, but last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned who was scratched from the Woodward.

In the 7-furlong Grade 1 Forego Stakes, the Zayat stablemates Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip went to post as the 3-4 favorites, but it was 15-1 longshot Strapping Groom—claimed by his current connections for $35,000 this past May—who went to the early lead and never stopped running, winning by a half length over Jackson Bend. Justin Phillip finished third while Fast Bullet faded to seventh-place late.

Yielding turf for the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap led to the scratching of last-out Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile runner-up Za Approval as well as Willyconker, leaving 4-5 favorite Silver Max free to wire the field as the 120-lb topweight. The longest shot in the field, 10-1 Paris Vegas finished second, two lengths back of the winner and 6 1/4 lengths in front of third-place finisher Tetradrachm.

In the 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Saranac Stakes, the oddly-named Notacatbutallama looked to continue his winning ways for Todd Pletcher, but just could not catch front-running Canadian-invader Five Iron who is in the midst of a good win-streak himself. One-time Grade 1 winner Joha ran well behind the leader early, but acquiesced when challenged by Notacatbutallama, running on well enough to get third. Finishing last in the 7-horse field was Frac Daddy, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby runner-up who, after two horrific finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, returned just one week ago with a solid turf allowance win—maybe this race was just a little too quick a turn-around for him?

Monday’s 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Glens Falls Stakes at the Spa was taken off the turf, resulting in a huge defection of eight turf fillies and mares. Of the original turf entrants, only White Rose and Cash for Clunkers remained as five Main-Track-Only runners drew into the field. Once again, the race was won in wire-to-wire fashion, this time by odds-on favorite Lady Cohiba, a Christophe Clement filly making her second start off a long break—and with proven wet track form. She easily held off late-closing White Rose, with Scampering back in third.

On Thursday, a firm turf course aided the War Front juvenile colt Bashart in his wire-to-wire victory the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes. Interesting, though, his regular rider John Velazquez chose to stay aboard his stablemate We Miss Artie (Artie Schiller) who, as the post time favorite, was up close early, but faded to finish sixth in the 7-horse field. Javier Castellano picked up the mount and certainly made the best of it. The Pioneerof the Nile colt River Dancer made an impressive move in the stretch, making his way from last place to gain second, 1 1/4 lengths behind Bashart and 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place finisher Marvin’s Miracle (Cosmonaut). During the gallop-back after the race, River Dancer was pulled up and vanned back to his barn. After the race it was reported that he suffered a strained tendon and will be out six to eight months.

Promising juveniles tested maiden special weight company throughout the weekend, especially at the Spa. Some of the most interesting including the A.P. Indy colt Honor Code, half brother to Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Noble Tune and direct damline descendent of the champion Hall of Fame mare Serena’s Song. Trained by Shug McGaughey, Honor Code came roaring up from last place (nearly 23 lengths back!) to win Race 3 on Saturday in his maiden attempt. His connections have indicated the October 5 Grade 1 Champagne Stakes is a likely next start. On Sunday, the Speightstown filly Recepta likewise proved her sire’s ability to get mud runners, easily capturing a 7-furlong maiden race—her half brother is the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap winner Taqarub, while her dam is a half to two Grade 1 turf winners, including Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf victress Soaring Softly.

The two Grade 1 events at Saratoga for juveniles—Sunday’s Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes and Monday’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes—were both captured by impressive fashion. The Street Sense filly Sweet Reason went to post as the second-choice, but was the clear winner in the end, finishing nearly six lengths in front of runner-up Stopchargingmaria. There’s no reason to doubt Sweet Reason won’t be a high-quality 3-year-old next year—her half sister Don’t Forget Gil not only set a new stakes record in winning the Grade 3 Florida Oaks, but she was also only beaten by a neck in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. This is also the family of Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby winner Timber Reserve.

In the Grade 1 Hopeful, trainer D. Wayne Lukas celebrated his 78th birthday with a dominating victory by—who else?—Strong Mandate. The aptly-named Tiznow colt absolutely crushed the race, winning by nearly 10 lengths geared down. Considering his now-deceased dam Clear Mandate won the 10-furlong Grade 1 John A. Morris Handicap over a similarly-sloppy Saratoga track back in 1997, his predilection for the off-going should have been a no-brainer, but he went off at 7-1, sixth choice in the 10-horse field. Both top and down, he’s got strong stamina breeding. In addition to his accomplished dam, his half brother is 10-furlong Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup runner-up Newfoundland, while another half brother Full Mandate is the sire of Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap victor Ron the Greek. Lukas has indicated that the September 28 Grade 1 Frontrunner (formerly the Norfolk) Stakes at Santa Anita may serve as a prep for Strong Mandate en route to a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The weekend’s highlight at Del Mar was the Saturday’s 7-furlong Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes. California icon Bob Baffert had three well-bred entrants and, somewhat surprisingly, it was the least experienced of them that went to post as the favorite, Awesome Baby. After dueling on the lead early, she faded to finished next-to-last in the 8-horse field. A $1.3 million Keeneland yearling purchase, Fascinating is a half-sister to dual Triple Crown race runner-up Bodemeister, but she entered this contest still a maiden after two starts, thus perhaps explaining her 6-1 odds. With jockey Mike Smith aboard, she rallied from dead-last to gain second, just a half length behind the 4-1 winner, She’s a Tiger, a three-quarter sister to 3-time Grade 1 sprint winner Smiling Tiger. Certainly moving forward, as the distances they are asked to traverse increase, it’s Fascinating who bears watching, as does the nicely-closing third-place finisher Concave, a Canadian-bred daughter of 10-furlong Grade 1 Travers winner Colonel John.

On Sunday, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Beholder made her first appearance on the track since her runner-up finish to Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Only four fillies were brave enough to tackle her in the non-graded Torrey Pines Stakes, but it was simply no contest as Gary Stevens guided Beholder to the early lead and never asked a thing of her as she won handily in what appeared to be a mere workout. On tap for her: the September 28 Grade 1 Zenyatta, followed by the November 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The grassy 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 Del Mar Derby was so popular, they had to split it into two divisions. Favorite Gabriel Charles took the first, closing late to sweep by runner-up Gervinho and early front-runner Redwood Kitten who managed to hold on for third. In the second (and much slower) division, 6-1 Ethnic Dance wired the field, as last-out Grade 3 American Derby winner Infinite Magic made a strong late move to finish second, a neck ahead of third-place finisher Den’s Legacy who was likewise caught late in the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap most recently.

Monday’s highlights were the non-graded Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes and the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap. In the former, it was Irish import Clenor who ran on from dead-last to win under a hand ride. The front-running Roman Ruler filly Nesso hung on for second, nearly two lengths ahead of third-place finisher Pleasant Miss. The Einstein filly E Equalsmcssquared could do no better than fifth in the 8-horse field. Despite a lengthy stewards’ inquiry, Egg Drop survived to win the Yellow Ribbon over runner-up Appealing and the unfortunate My Gi Gi who looked to have been impeded by the front two—but neither was taken down.

Del Mar closes this Wednesday with the 7-furlong Grade Del Mar Futurity as Race 8 on the 10-race card. The top three finishers from the Grade 2 Best Pal—Alberts Hope, Celtic Moon and Guns Loaded—return, but look for a lot of money to come for Baffert maiden winner Can the Man—not only has he been working gangbusters in advance of this start, but this Into Mischief colt has a regal bloodline, as his dam Smolensk is a half sister to Grade 1-placed Better Than Honour, dam of Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches. Post-time for the Del Mar Futurity is 5:40 p.m. local time, 8:40 p.m. Eastern.

Despite the wet going, Monday racing at Parx proved to be highly entertaining. In the 5-furlong ungraded Turf Amazon Handicap, the Dale Romans-trained Silverette seemingly toyed with the field, sitting just off the pace before leaping to the lead as they entered the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over front-running Subtle. In the 5-furlong Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap, wily veteran Ben’s Cat made his patent late-run, but it wasn’t quite enough to catch the 28-1 upset winner Stormofthecentury or runner-up Tightend Touchdown, and the King Leatherbury trainee had to settle for third.

In the 1 1/2 miles Grade 3 Greenwood Cup, only Eldaafer was proven in dirt over the 12-furlong distance. However, the question remained as to whether the 8-year-old had lost a step (or two) in the past year. Well, he settled that debate with a gutsy nose win over Indian Jones, a Smarty Jones gelding who certainly opened some eyes with his performance. Pool Play took third over the muddy surface. Two races later, it was the Lawyer Ron colt Edge of Reality—most recently third in the 1 1/8 miles Curlin Stakes at Saratoga—who held on to win by a neck over 10-1 longshot Speak Logistics, a High Cotton colt who earlier this year ran a distant third behind Orb in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. It was another 4 1/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Uncaptured, last-out winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes (the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown). The two Todd Pletcher runners—Battier and Micromanage—finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

In other weekend action, at Arlington, Willcox Inn returned to his winning ways, narrowly prevailing over Gallant Eagle and Hattaash in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap over the Polytrack in near track-record time. Next for him: the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland on October 5. At Woodbine on Monday, seven 3-year-old fillies went to post in the ungraded 6-furlong Inglorious Stakes, and if you missed it, shame on you, as Goldstryke Glory gave the performance of a lifetime, taking the early lead and lengthening it with every stride in blistering fractions (21.22; 42.94; 55.35). Just went you thought she’d cave and the rest of the field would catch up, she hit another gear, accelerating to win in a mere hand ride by 7 1/2 lengths in 1:09.18.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 With Anticipation Stakes Replay
Bashart takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Bernard Baruch Handicap Replay
Silver Max never looks back.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Forego Stakes Replay
Strapping Groom pulls a poignant upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Woodward Stakes Replay
Alpha reminds everyone that he love Saratoga, and the slop!

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Del Mar Debutante Replay
She’s a Tiger stalks and pounces.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

2013 Speed Boat Stakes Replay
Samitar gets back to winning ways.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Saranac Stakes Replay
Five Iron takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Spinaway Stakes Replay
Sweet Reason wins with ease.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Torrey Pine Stakes Replay
Champion Beholder comes of the bench for an easy win.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

2013 Del Mar Derby First Division Replay
Gabriel Charles gets it done.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

2013 Del Mar Derby Second Division Replay
Ethnic Dance goes all the way.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

2013 Glens Falls Stakes Replay
Lady Cohiba takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Hopeful Stakes Replay
Strong Mandate dominates the field.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Greenwood Cup Replay
Eldaafer holds off Indian Jones to join the millionaire club.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Bernard Baruch Handicap Chart
2013 Del Mar Debutante Chart
2013 Del Mar Derby First Division Chart
2013 Del Mar Derby Second Division Chart
2013 Del Mar Futurity Chart
2013 Forego Stakes Chart
2013 Glenn Falls Handicap Chart
2013 Greenwood Cup Stakes Chart
2013 Hopeful Stakes Chart
2013 Sapling Stakes Chart
2013 Smarty Jones Stakes Chart
2013 Spinaway Stakes Chart
2013 Torrey Pines Stakes Chart
2013 Turf Monster Handicap Chart
2013 Washington Park Handicap Chart
2013 Woodward Stakes Chart
2013 Yellow Ribbon Handicap Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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