Week of September 9, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Opening weekend for the fall meets at Belmont and Churchill Downs put the spotlight on juvenile stars-in-the-making.

Belmont’s fall meet opened on Saturday, highlighted by the 1 1/4 miles Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on the inner turf. After a disappointing effort last out in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, Boisterous looked to get back in form—and bettors obviously believed he would, making him the 3-5 favorite. Alas, it was not to be his day, as he ran into some traffic issues along the hedge and got out jumped as the field moved into the stretch. He finished third, two lengths behind the top two, 5-2 second choice Hyper who crossed the finish line first and runner-up Finnegans Wake. With their homebred Hyper, leading owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey continued their impressive 2013 run of winners.

It was also opening weekend for Churchill Downs, with three graded stakes races on Saturday. In the one-mile Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap, Pants On Fire continued his winning ways, defeating post-time favorite Taptowne by nearly three lengths. The final time (1:33.78) was a new stakes record, and just a tick off the track record (1:33.31). In addition to a possible start in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Pants On Fire is being considered for a possible trip to Japan by his connections.

The other two graded events at Churchill were keen route tests for the juveniles, both at 1 1/16 miles. In the Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes, it was maiden winner Untapable (Tapit) who, under the firm guidance of jockey Rosie Napravnik, got up late to defeat 8-5 favorite Stonetastic (Mizzen Mast). The second choice, Todd Pletcher trainee (and Grade 3 Schuylerville third-place finisher) Elena Strikes (Smart Strike) made the early lead, but faded to finish sixth in the 8-horse field. With her win, Untapable earned a paid entry into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race. It was an impressive effort for the half sister of Grade 1 hero Paddy O’Prado, as she successfully stretched out from 5 1/2- to 8 1/2-furlongs—and posted a time (1:44.38) that was much faster than the final time posted by the colts (1:45.65) in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes one race later. It’s also worth noting that the third-place finisher, Rosalind (Broken Vow) was moving extremely well late and certainly bears watching in her next start.

In the Iroquois, trainer Dale Romans popped a huge upset, with stablemates Cleburne (Dixie Union) and Smart Cover (Any Given Saturday) finishing one-two, and, at 34-1 and 26-1 respectively, triggered a massive $500 exacta. The two top favorites coming into the race, Ride On Curlin (Curlin) and Tapiture (Tapit) finished fourth and third, respectively, as Romans’ deep closers blew by them late. While Cleburne took the win (and thus earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), it was Smart Cover who was moving best late.

U S Ranger got his first American graded stakes winner on Saturday when his son Solitary Ranger cruised to a 5 1/2 length victory in the one-mile Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. He may have entered the race a maiden still, but his previous efforts included a runner-up finish at Keeneland back in April behind subsequent French Group 1 winner No Nay Never. And yet, at 7-2, he was only the third choice here, behind maiden winners High Roll (Roman Ruler) and Whyruawesome (Whywhywhy)—the former never threatened and finished fifth in the 7-horse field, while the latter ran a strong second. It was nearly seven lengths back to third-place finisher Cee ‘n O (Silver Train). For Solitary Ranger, a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf is likely.

Two races later, it was the juvenile fillies’ turn, in the non-graded Arlington-Washington Lassie. With an impressive 7-furlong maiden win over the track, Maria Maria (Curlin) was made the 5-2 favorite, but racing mid-pack in the large 11-horse field she endured heavy traffic late and could only prevail in a photo finish for third. The winner, She’s Offlee Good (Offlee Wild) took the wide overland route and pulled away to win by two lengths over Ontario Debutante runner-up Sweetsoutherndame (Colonel John). Next up for She’s Offlee Good: the October 4 Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland.

The good form line from July’s non-graded Toronto Cup continued to be demonstrated just one week after winner Five Iron invaded Saratoga and took out the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes. This weekend it was runner-up Are You Kidding Me who crushed six opponents in winning the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware in near course record time, falling just short (1:47.61) of the time (1:47.27) set in last year’s Kent Stakes by Optimizer.

In the Grade 2 Super Derby, Departing solidified his position as the leading second-tier 3-year-old in the country with an easy victory over his West Virginia Derby foe Ruler of Love and new shooter Cameo Appearance. According to his connections, he’ll continue his state Derby raids, with either the September 29 Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby or the October 5 Grade 2 Indiana Derby next.

There were two Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge races held in Ireland this weekend—and both proved to quite exciting. In the one-mile Group 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial, the well-bred Australia (Galileo) won by a dominating six lengths. The son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf victress Ouija Board may not make the trip to Santa Anita, however, as trainer Aidan O’Brien has indicated he may be aimed for a classics race campaign next year.

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf third-place finisher The Fugue appears to be back in form, following up her win in the 1 1/2 miles English Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks with a victory over males in the 1 1/4 miles Group 1 Irish Champions Stakes and thus earning herself a starting position in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Depending on turf conditions, her connections have indicated that The Fugue may contested the French Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 6 before traveling to California.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Del Mar Futurity Replay
Tamarandno closes from out of the clouds for the upset.

Video courtesy of Del Mar

2013 Bowling Green Handicap Replay
Hyper holds on.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Super Derby Replay
Departing is an easy winner.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Pocahontas Stakes Replay
Untapable was untouchable.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Iroquois Replay
Cleburne holds off the late charge of Smart Cover.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Irish Champion Stakes Replay
The Fugue puts in a fierce late run.

Video courtesy of Racingpost.com

2013 Presque Isle Masters Replay
Reigning filly & mare sprint champ Groupie Doll wins the Masters for the second year in a row.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Ack Ack Handicap Chart
2013 Arlington Washington Futurity Chart
2013 Bowling Green Handicap Chart
2013 Del Mar Futurity Chart
2013 Iroquois Stakes Chart
2013 Kent Stakes Chart
2013 Pocahontas Stakes Chart
2013 Presque Isle Masters Chart New
2013 Super Derby Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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