07/07/2010 11:00PM

Belmont roundup



New York-breds

As Harvey Pack was fond of saying whenever a New York-bred won against open company, "Circle marks the spot."

Indeed, the Fourth of July weekend was an historic one for the New York-bred program, as Haynesfield, Franny Freud, and Rightly So swept three graded stakes.

Haynesfield, who was sidelined by foot issues after closing out his 3-year-old season with wins in the Empire Classic and the Grade 3 Discovery, returned to wire a statebred optional claimer in his 4-year-old debut June 13 and was back 20 days later to mow down pacesetter Regal Ransom in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap with an outside stalking trip.

"The post position helped us, I think," said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen.

Sheets also credited jockey Ramon Dominguez for doing "a great job. When he took the lead at the three-eighths pole, Ramon was just sitting on him."

In winning the Prioress, Franny Freud improved to 8-2-0 from 11 starts and became the first Grade 1 winner for her sire, Freud. She is the third New York-bred to win the race, joining Carson Hollow (2002) and Acey Deucey (2005).

Franny Freud stalked a blistering half-mile in 44.97 seconds set by Stormandaprayer and outfinished Acorn winner Champagne d'Oro in the stretch.

"It looked like she was just waiting to pounce," said winning trainer John Terranova. "If everything is well, we'll look at the Test in Saratoga."

Rightly So, who lost a heartbreaking decision in the Vagrancy after setting a screaming pace earlier at the meet, held off a determined stretch challenge from even-money favorite Qualia to prevail by a nose in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses. A 4-year-old filly, Rightly So is 6-3-1 from 10 starts for trainer Tony Dutrow.

Mike Repole

Whether the horses are trained by Todd Pletcher, Bruce Brown, or Bruce Levine, there has been no stopping the ubiquitous blue-and-orange silks of the Repole Stable, which won with 4 of 5 starters to conclude the holiday weekend.

Pletcher sent out three of the four local winners:

Driven by Success ($3.10) won with a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure (101) for the second straight time and is being pointed to the John Morrissey Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 5. He finished second in the race last year at 2-5.

Nonna Mia ($6.90) was second back from a layoff and wired a first-level allowance sprint.

Stopspendingmaria ($4.50), named in honor of Repole's wife, blitzed 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.73 to wire maidens under a hand ride in her second career start, earning a Beyer Figure of 93.

"I'm shocked [at the figure]," Repole said. "The Beyer is one thing, but the way she did it is another. Johnny [Velazquez] only nudged her."

Later in the week, Zone Breaker ($13.60) wired statebred maidens in his career debut for Bruce Brown, who had been blanked with 40 previous first-time starters in 2009-10.

On the other side of the Hudson River, the Repole-owned Roaring Lion ($10.40) held off a fast-closing Wildcat Brief to win Monday's Mr. Prospector by a nose at Monmouth Park.

H. Graham Motion

He flew under the radar last week, shipping in with three turf runners and coming away with two wins and a runner-up finish.

Cherokee Artist ($13.40) and Holy Moment ($15.00) got the money for owner J. Mack Robinson, and Lisa Jean, who had returned from a 14-month layoff to garner a maiden win on Memorial Day, closed strongly to finish second in a first-level allowance.


Tactical speed fared exceptionally well on the main track through the six-day week, with 20 of 27 winners (74 percent) on the lead at the pace call of their respective races.

The best day for early speed was Monday, July 5, when four of five winners went wire to wire. The bias-busting winner was Mighty Irish ($19.40), who rallied from fifth in a field of seven to win a basement $7,500 claiming mile. She has won or placed in four consecutive starts.

From 17 races on the Widener turf, seven winners were no worse than second in the early going.

Of the 14 races on the inner turf, there were five wire-to-wire winners.


Despite a five-racing losing streak, Gio Ponti looms a prohibitive favorite to win Saturday's Man o' War for the second straight year. His chief opposition in the 52nd running of the Grade 1 fixture is expected to come from Expansion, winner of the Grade 2 Red Smith last fall and a good third in the Manhattan Handicap last time out; Grand Couturier, a multiple Grade 1 winner making his third start at age 7; and Interpatation, an 8-year-old who pulled off a 43-1 upset of Gio Ponti through a driving rain in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic last fall.

Next Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Jaipur Breeders' Cup, slated for six furlongs on the grass, wraps up the stakes schedule at Belmont's spring-summer meet.

Silver Timber, who has won five stakes since being claimed last year by Chad Brown, including the 2009 Jaipur, is among 29 nominations for the 27th running of the turf sprint.

Also nominated are Bribon, winner of the True North last time out for Pletcher, and Yield Bogey, fresh off an allowance win in 1:07.67 on the Widener course for Pat Kelly.


"There's a real horse shortage in the country right now, which is a reflection of what's going on in the economy. . . . I think the statistic which perhaps underscores this best is this: Gary Contessa has had the most horses entered at NYRA over the last three or four years. . . . Last year at this time, Gary had 120 horses. Gary Contessa today has 55 horses."

Those quotes belong to the New York Racing Association's president and CEO, Charles Hayward, from an interview with The Saratogian earlier this week.

So can someone please explain to me why NYRA management thought it was a good idea to have 11 racing days during a 12-day stretch from June 23 through July 5, culminating with 31 races last Saturday-Sunday-Monday?

Just 64 horses (survivors?) contested Monday's 10-race program, including one who pulled up in the stretch and needed a ride home, and another who pulled up shortly after the start and was escorted off the track.

Seeing as the NYRA circuit leads the nation in gate/vet scratches, during a 95-minute stretch between races 2 and 5 Monday, fans sat through Macho Joe being scratched at odds-on just before the start of race 3, reducing that field to five (four of whom crossed the wire), and Majestic Blue being scratched before the start of race 4, reducing that field to four.

Racing was scheduled to resume after a one-day respite Wednesday, July 7. But, as if she had seen enough, Mother Nature brought the heat and forced a cancellation of Wednesday's card.

No one missed it, and truth be told, just about everyone breathed a sigh of relief, the horses most of all.


Boys at Tosconova

Trainer: Rick Dutrow

Last race: July 2, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 12

Purchased following a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Kentucky Juvenile first time out, he quickly sped clear and widened at every call for a five-furlong maiden win in a meet-fastest 56.26 seconds, just .51 of a second off Kelly Kip's track record. "The sky is the limit," winning rider Ramon Dominguez said afterward.


Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Last race: June 30, 8th

Finish: 1st by nose

This 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor lost his first three starts by more than 39 lengths but is now 2 for 2 in six-furlong turf sprints after setting the pace and staving off a late run from 19-time winner I've Got Speed in a first-level allowance.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: July 1, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 7

A precociously bred 2-year-old filly by Montbrook, she finished third in her debut at Monmouth Park with a Beyer Speed Figure of 47, then nearly doubled that figure (92) wiring maidens under a hand ride. "It was a public workout," said owner Mike Repole, who added she would next start in either the Schuylerville (July 23) or the Adirondack (Aug. 15) at Saratoga.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: June 30, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 7 1/4

After a pair of seconds to begin her career, the third time was the charm for this $340,000 daughter of Tiznow, who attracted $135,329 of a $146,154 show pool and never gave her bridge-jumping bandwagon an anxious moment.