Week of September 3, 2012
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Say good-bye to summer and hello to autumn, as the drive to the Breeders’ Cup intensifies over the next two months.

Labor Day week saw the end of the boutique meets at Saratoga and Del Mar, and thus the unofficial end of summer. At Saratoga, owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher captured their third consecutive titles, while jockey Ramon Dominguez’s 68 wins set a new record, including not one but two 6-race win days, topped by his victory in the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes (chart) on Sunday with Unbridled Command. Although Del Mar doesn’t close until Wednesday, Rafael Bejarano appears to have an insurmountable lead in the jockey standings, but it’s a tight battle between trainers Bob Baffert and Peter Miller.

Among Pletcher’s many Saratoga winners was Dominus, winner of last year’s Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes who made his first career turf start a winning one in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap (chart). Among those he defeated was Grade 1 Maker’s Mark victor Data Link and Grade 2 Firecracker winner Guys Reward. With the scratch of Shackleford from the Grade 1 Forego (chart), favoritism fell to Grade 1 Vanderbilt winner Emcee, who didn’t disappoint, pulling away late to win by over four lengths over Hamazing Destiny and Jersey Town. Last year’s winner Jackson Bend just hasn’t been the same horse since his narrow win over Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap – he finished last, more than 12 lengths back.

In the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes (chart), To Honor and Serve held on to win against a game Mucho Macho Man. Both are likely for the Breeders’ Cup, although whether it will be the Dirt Mile or Classic for To Honor and Serve remains to be seen. For Mucho Macho Man, the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29 is still an option, according to his trainer Kathy Ritvo.

Over a sloppy Parx track on Labor Day, the lightly-raced Hard Spun colt Easter Gift easily won the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes (chart) over PA-bred Traffic Light, a race in which Grade 2 Dwyer winner Teeth of the Dog was vanned off after finishing third. Over the soft turf, wily veteran Ben’s Cat successfully defended his Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap (chart) title, beating 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champ Chamberlain Bridge and third-place finisher Great Mills. Even though his victory earned him an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, it is unlikely Ben’s Cat will make the trip west, unfortunately.

Also unlikely for the Breeders’ Cup is the German-bred mare Danedream who captured her second consecutive German Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden, another BC “Win and You’re In” challenge race. Instead, she is set to defend her French Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe title on October 6. However, runner-up Ovambo Queen will either contest the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, or the Japanese Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup, according to the Racing Post.

Beyond those races significant for older horses geared towards the Breeders’ Cup, it was juveniles that dominated the racing scene this week. On turf, the well-bred maiden Balance the Books (Lemon Drop Kid) pulled off a bit of an upset in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes (chart), flying late to defeat Colin Stakes winner Joha (Johar) and post-time favorite Charming Kitten (Kitten’s Joy). His second dam Kooyonga was a four-time Group 1 winner in England, Ireland and Germany, but Balance the Books is only the second winner out of his dam’s five starters. Although only run since 2005, the With Anticipation has proven to be a successful producer of quality runners on both turf and dirt, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf victor Nownownow, Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame winner Interactif and Grade 1 Secretariat victor Paddy O’Prado, in addition to Grade 2 Fountain of Youth winner Soldat, Grade 2 Rebel runner-up Optimizer, and Grade 1 Pacific Classic victor Dullahan.

At Monmouth in the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes (chart), Brave Dave (Put It Back) overcame a stumbling start to win in wire-to-wire fashion over Special Jo (Johannesburg), while in the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes (chart) at Saratoga, Rosie Napravnik guided Shanghai Bobby (Harlan’s Holiday) to victory over favored Fortify (Distorted Humor) and Grade 2 Sanford winner Bern Identity (Bernstein). With his victory, Shanghai Bobby also earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but first he’s likely for the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont on October 6.

Undefeated Executiveprivilege (First Samurai) solidified her position as the top West Coast juvenile filly with her gutsy narrow victory over Beholder (Henny Hughes) in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante (chart); both are likely to meet again in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf (now Chandelier) Stakes at Santa Anita on September 29. Interestingly, Switch to the Lead (Songandaprayer), who finished third behind Executiveprivilege in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes last out, is scheduled to take on the boys in Wednesday’s Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” challenge race.

At Saratoga, in the Grade 2 Spinaway Stakes (chart), it was Maggi Moss-owned So Many Ways (Sightseeing) who continued her unbeaten ways with a driving victory over Sweet Shirley Mae (Broken Vow) and disappointing favorite Teen Pauline (Tapit). Trainer Tony Dutrow has said So Many Ways won’t run in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes, but could train her up to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 2. At Monmouth, in the ungraded Sorority Stakes (chart), it was Doubled (Exchange Rate) who shocked at nearly 16-1 odds – she’s a half sister to Grade 2 Pocahontas winner Dancinginherdreams. In addition to Doubled, Exchange Rate has really enjoyed a spate of high-quality runners as of late, including French Group 1 Prix Morny winner Reckless Abandon and Bison City Stakes victress Blue Heart.

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

Last Week’s Races

2012 Bernard Baruch Handicap Replay
Dominus likes the turf, a lot!

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Forego Stakes Replay
Emcee takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Woodward Stakes Replay
To Honor and Serve tops Mucho Macho Man.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Del Mar Debutante Replay
Executivepriveldge narrowly defeats Beholder.

2012 Spinaway Stakes Replay
So Many Ways remains undefeated.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Saranac Stakes Replay
Unbridled Command give Ramon Dominguez his 6th win on the day.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2012 Hopeful Stakes Replay
Shanghai Bobby separates himself from the pack.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Turf Monster Handicap Replay
Ben’s Cat by a whisker!

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2012 Longines – Grosser Preis von Baden Replay
Danedream wins a thriller.

Video courtesy of German Racing TV

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