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DRF Breeding Weekend Wrap: Cross Traffic honors Unbridled’s Song, Justin Phillip reaches career peak
Historic Saratoga Race Course kicked its summer meeting into high gear last weekend with the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on Aug. 3 and the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on Aug. 4. Those races preceded a busy week in Saratoga Springs, with two Fasig-Tipton yearling sales scheduled and the annual National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday, Aug. 9.
In the Whitney, rising star Cross Traffic captured his first Grade 1 win in only his fifth career start, becoming the latest top-level winner for Taylor Made Farm’s elite sire Unbridled’s Song, who died July 26. The son of Unbridled, who has now sired 102 stakes winners, made an impact as a commercial stallion, as documented last week by Daily Racing Form’s Glenye Cain Oakford.
Cross Traffic did not make his first trip to the starting gate until last January. He is less than a length from being undefeated, losing to Flat Out by a head in the Grade 3 Westchester and to Sahara Sky by a nose in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. In both of those races, Cross Traffic set the pace before reluctantly yielding late. In the Whitney, he rebuffed defending race winner and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned at the top of the stretch and held off a late charge from Successful Dan to win by three-quarters of a length. Cross Traffic covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.39 and scored a 108 Beyer Speed Figure. Runner-up Successful Dan earned a 107.
Cross Traffic could resurface in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes on Aug. 31, again at 1 1/8 miles. Several of his Whitney foes may also point to the race.
Bred in Kentucky by Diamond A. Racing Corp., Cross Traffic is out of dual Grade 1 winner Stop Traffic, by Cure the Blues. Stop Traffic has also produced two stakes-placed winners, Bianco Tartufo and Into My Soul. The mare is a half-sister to stakes winner and producer Bionic Soul. Cross Traffic was bought for $310,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale by owner GoldMark Farm from Taylor Made’s consignment.
In contrast to Cross Traffic, who scored his Grade 1 in his fifth career race, in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt, veteran sprinter Justin Phillip broke through with his first Grade 1 win in his 29th career start. The 5-year-old son of Claiborne Farm stallion First Samurai overran dueling pacesetters Gentlemen’s Bet and Delaunay to pull away and win by two lengths over fellow closer Bahamian Squall. Justin Phillip finished in 1:08:59 and earned a 109 Beyer. He barely missed picking up his first Grade 1 in last year’s Vanderbilt, losing by a neck to Poseidon’s Warrior, and had been in good form heading into Sunday, winning the Grade 3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn before running second in the Grade 2 True North and a game fourth in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint at Calder.
Zayat Stables’ Justin Phillip moved over the $1 million mark in earnings with his win at the Spa. He is one of five stakes winners out of stakes-placed Ava Knowsthecode, by Crytpoclearance. The mare has also produced Grade 2 winner and sire Keyed Entry, Grade 3 winners Algorithms and Successful Mission, and stakes winner Alex’s Allure.
While Saratoga captured the bulk of attention over the weekend, those following the 3-year-old male division were re-acquainted with one of the most talented sophomores in training on Saturday at Mountaineer, as Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing rebounded from a disappointing Preakness start to demolish eight opponents in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby. Departing won the 1 1/8-mile race by 8 3/4 lengths, scoring a 102 Beyer, and has multiple options for his next start as trainer Al Stall told Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee that the gelding could point to either the Indiana Derby, the Super Derby, or the Pennsylvania Derby, all Grade 2 events.
Well-bred Departing is by Claiborne stallion War Front, who over the past three-plus years has become one of the most productive and versatile stallions in North America, with his progeny excelling in Europe as well. John Sparkman will discuss War Front’s success and Departing’s pedigree in more detail in the August 11 issue of DRF Breeding.
Weekend notes: At Del Mar, Lady of Fifty rallied five-wide to post a 1 1/2-length win in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch, her first top-level victory and first win in a five-start span since taking the Grade 2 Bayakoa last December at Hollywood. The 4-year-old daughter of Lane’s End stallion After Market improved her career record to seven wins from 16 starts with an even $593,000 in earnings. She covered 1 1/16 miles over Del Mar’s Polytrack in 1:42.96 for a 87 Beyer.
Lady of Fifty was sold by breeder Cloverleaf Farms II for $40,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale and bought by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who co-owns the filly with George Todaro. She is out of Grade 3-placed winner K. D.’s Shady Lady, by Maria’s Mon, who has also produced stakes winner Forestry Steel.
Del Mar’s feature stakes on Sunday, the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes for juveniles, was won by Alberts Hope, a son of young Darby Dan Farm sire Run Away and Hide. Alberts Hope improved his career bankroll to $121,200 while winning for the second time in as many starts. He took the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal by a half-length on trainer Mike Puype’s 47th birthday, finishing in 1:16.71 and earning a 74 Beyer.
Alberts Hope is out of the unraced Saint Ballado mare Accepting Fate. The gelding was modestly-valued in the sales ring, selling for $20,000 as a weanling at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale and for $40,000 last year at the Barretts October yearling sale. He now races for the Jaam Racing partnership. Alberts Hope is from the second crop of Run Away and Hide, who will be profiled this week as DRF Breeding’s Hot Sire.
Of note in the allowance and maiden ranks, highly regarded Majestic Hussar, by recent DRF Breeding Hot Sire Majestic Warrior, returned after a five-month absence with a solid 2 3/4-length win in a six-furlong optional claiming race on Sunday at Saratoga (98 Beyer). At Del Mar, California stallion Tribal Rule scored a triple on Saturday when three progeny won races. Pulla Train won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden (earning a 76 Beyer); Sunday Rules won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden (81 Beyer), her career debut; and Ethnic Dance won a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race (87 Beyer).