10/06/2012 6:56PM

Champagne: Shanghai Bobby wins but not definite for Breeders' Cup; Pletcher passes Frankel on earnings list

Barbara D. Livingston
Shanghai Bobby pulls away to a five-length victory in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Shanghai Bobby delivered another sterling performance, winning Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Champagne Stakes by five lengths at Belmont Park.

The win was the fourth in as many starts for Shanghai Bobby, confirming his status as the top 2-year-old colt in the country. Now, the question most people want answered is whether Shanghai Bobby will ship cross-country to Santa Anita for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race for which he earned a fees-paid berth as part of the Win and You’re in program.

It is not a question that was readily answered by part-owner Jack Wolf after the race. In 2001, Wolf said he felt he made the correct decision not sending Harlan’s Holiday to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. At 3, Harlan’s Holiday won the Florida Derby and Blue Grass and was the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, though he finished seventh.

“I was a believer then, and I probably am still, that the horses that run in the 2-year-old Breeders’ Cup race don’t come back,” Wolf said. “With the exception of last year; last year was unbelievable how they came back.

“We’ll take our time and decide,” Wolf said. “I really don’t know what the right answer is right now.”

Shanghai Bobby would certainly be one of the focal points of this year’s Breeders’ Cup. He is now 4 for 4 and has gotten better with each race.

[Breeders’ Cup Challenge 2012: Replays of all the Win and You’re In races]

Sitting off the pacesetting Goldencents through a half-mile in 47.45 seconds – the horses were running into a headwind down the backside – Shanghai Bobby, under Rosie Napravnik, forged to the front approaching the quarter pole. With a few taps of Napravnik’s whip, Shanghai Bobby drew clear with authority. He covered a mile in 1:35.55 and returned $5.30 to win as the 8-5 favorite.

Goldencents finished second by a length over Fortify.

“He’s really improving and maturing every race,” Napravnik said of Shanghai Bobby. “The sky’s the limit for him, he did this real easy. I probably shouldn’t have even hit him, but sometimes he gets a little distracted once he gets the lead. He’s growing, he’s very athletic, he’s maturing, and it’s all [ahead of] him.”

Pletcher said: “I thought his Hopeful looked easy, and this was sort of a repeat performance. Right now, he’s clearly stamped himself as the divisional leader. The fact he went 1:35 and 2 over a track that’s not super fast is very encouraging. He’s just a consummate professional and continues to do everything right.”

The victory was the second on the day at Belmont for Pletcher, who also won the Grade 1 Frizette with Dreaming of Julia. Shanghai Bobby’s victory pushed Pletcher past Bobby Frankel for second on the all-time earnings list.  At day’s end, Pletcher had $228,168,465 in purse earnings, surpassing Frankel’s second-place mark of $227,912,022. D. Wayne Lukas, Pletcher’s former boss, is the all-time leader with $260 million.

“When you’re in the middle of these situations, you’re going day to day, big races every weekend, sometimes you don’t have time to reflect,” Pletcher said. “Anytime you’re in that sort of territory with guys like that, it means something extra special.”

If there was one negative for Pletcher coming out of the Champagne, it was the performances of Archwarrior and Micromanage, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the six-horse field.

“They ran like horses that had only one start,” Pletcher said. “Archwarrior got stuck down inside in a position he’s never been in, got some dirt, just sort of ran evenly down the backside. I thought he did show some interest late when he got in the clear.”

* The Champagne was a 10-point qualifying race for the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs has moved to a points system to determine the field for the Derby, scrapping the previous system of graded stakes earnings. The first four Champagne finishers earned points: Shanghai Bobby, 10; Goldencents, 4; Fortify, 2; and Archwarrior, 1.