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Trip Notes: Ancient Title, Champagne, Shadwell Turf Mile, and more
Saturday, October 8
Jamaica (race 7)
Yet another blow struck by the Euros when shipping to the U.S. for a grass race as Western Aristocrat proved too good and got himself a Grade 1 win. The son of Indian Charlie hadn't really faced the best in England but coming right off the plane he used his speed to go right out to the lead, was able to set dawdling splits while under constant pressure from heavy favorite Brilliant Speed, and resolutely kept that rival at bay all the way around. He now stays in the U.S. to campaign for new trainer Steve Asmussen. Brilliant Speed got a dream trip, pressed the winner throughout, always seemed poised to strike, but just couldn't get to the game winner. Wilkinson wasn't far behind Brilliant Speed, took a while to get going into the lane but finished with good energy, though he never once looked like a winner. Casino Host, coming out of the very strong Grade 1 Secretariat, was last much of the way and never made an impression. Surely the pace and race shape worked completely against him.
Frizette (race 8)
My Miss Aurelia, the Grade 2 Adirondack winner, pushed her record to a perfect 3 for 3 and stamped herself the likely favorite for the Grade 1 BC Juvenile Fillies with a super performance. Using her speed she went right to the lead, took pressure from Spare Change, but had no trouble dispatching that rival on the turn and then powered away from her rivals under a hand ride. This $550,000 filly is by Smart Strike, a Grade 1 route winner and sire of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin so the longer distance of the Juvenile Fillies should be right up her alley. It's noteworthy she ran faster than Union Rags did 20 minutes later. Stopshoppingmaria, 3rd to My Miss Aurelia when they met July 22 before posting a huge maiden win there Aug. 14, found that rival just a bit too tough again as she stalked in 3rd, started to make a run at the winner on the far turn but then saw that rival draw away while finishing clear of the others. Miss Netta, an impressive debut winner, was last to the top of the lane and finished well, though she was never really a factor.
Champagne (race 9)
Union Rags, smashing winner of the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, validated that run with another big effort here and likely made himself the favorite for the Grade 1 BC Juvenile. The son of multiple Grade 1 winner Dixie Union bided his time, had some traffic issues when boxed in, showed the athleticism to extricate himself, was asked for run when finally in the clear and blasted past his rivals to win easily. He ran slower than My Miss Aurelia but his style was different and he won geared down. Alpha also showed himself the real deal as he was last early after a slow start but put in a solid, sustained rally. He was no threat to the big winner but this was just his 2nd start so there's a ton of upside here, particularly as he gets more ground. Right to Vote dogged pacesetter Power World from the start, got the better of that rival into the lane, still had the lead by midstretch but was no match for the winner and he only lost 2nd in the final strides. Takes the Gold stalked the pace, began a modest run into the lane but couldn't sustain it.
Hawthorne Gold Cup (race 9)
Headache, freshened since failing to threaten in the Grade 1 Whitney 2 months ago, responded to the layoff and the drop with a bounce-back to his best form and notched his first Grade 2 stakes win. He lagged back early, came with a strong run into the lane to challenge for the lead and doggedly kept to his task to edge past a couple stubborn rivals. Where's Sterling was just behind the winner early, got first run on that foe to surge to take the lead by midstretch but couldn't quite fend off Headache's sustained run. Cease stalked the pace, moved to the lead turning for home and battled gamely to the wire but just wasn't good enough. Giant Oak lagged back as usual, came with a smart run into the lane but flattened out. Rule, the favorite, stalked the pace but gave way when the real racing began.
Woodford (race 5)
Havelock moved back to turf, back to sprinting, caught his pace and took advantage with a powerful late run. He bided his time well back off the pace while Varsity and Great Mills battled through sizzling splits, pitched wide on the far turn and into the lane and powered home to win going away. Perfect Officer was midpack, came with a strong run into the lane, briefly looked like the winner but couldn't finish with Havelock in the final half-furlong. Country Day likewise sat back and finished with good energy though he never really looked like a winner. Great Mills, the tepid 3.80-1 favorite, dogged Varsity through hot splits but both paid the price as they retreated in the lane.
Thoroughbred Club of America (race 6)
Holiday for Kitten affirmed her love for this track, posting the upset and giving sire Kitten's Joy a big weekend (he sired Friday's Grade 1 Alcibiades winner as well). Holiday for Kitten, sent off at 18-1, chased pacesetter Rapport from the start, moved up to challenge that foe into the lane, got the better of her to take the lead and just got to the line before hard-trying Musical Romance. She's now 2 for 3 here. Musical Romance sat 3rd not far behind Holiday for Kitten until the top of the lane, doggedly went after that foe but just couldn't get to her. Switch, the heavy favorite, broke slowly to be well back early, came with a strong run but never really looked like the winner. After her big Grade 1 Santa Monica win at Santa Anita Jan. 30 she's now lost 5 straight. The extra furlong of the Grade 1 BC F&M Sprint could be key for her, however. Shotgun Gulch was slow into stride and while able to pass a few was never a factor.
First Lady (race 7)
Never Retreat, fresh off a game win in the very tough Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine last month, showed she's on top of her game as she notched her first Grade 1 here over some strong company and her 5th graded win of the year. As in the Canadian she used her tactical speed to her advantage. She got a great trip stalking in 4th, bided her time, came with her run into the lane, went past tiring leader Wasted Tears and spurted clear so she was in no real danger from 2 talented closers. Together, a scary multiple Group 1-placed miss from Europe, sat midpack, got shuffled back at a critical juncture turning for home but got going again and finished well, though the winner was already gone. Daveron was just in front of Together from the start, gamely chased after the winner into the lane but couldn't sustain her run and just lost 2nd in the final strides. Wasted Tears set the pace, as usual, battled back gamely when hooked into the lane but then couldn't quite keep up. C.S. Silk, 2nd in this last year, broke slowly and failed to muster any sort of run. Theyskens' Theory, coming off a strong 2nd to top-class Winter Memories in the Grade 1 Garden City, broke very slowly and never made a move.
Breeders' Futurity (race 8)
Dullahan, a maiden, showed his placement in this Grade 1 wasn't out of whack as the brother of Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird showed the same type of late power in posting the upset. He lagged well back early off a strong pace, steadily advanced to be within striking distance turning for home, stayed wide and closed fast to get up for the win. Majestic City stalked the pace, made a strong run to the lead on the far turn but in doing so went into the teeth of hot splits. He kept the run going to open up by midstretch but tired late and couldn't fend off the winner. He may prefer a shorter trip. Optimizer was far back early and closed smartly. Take Charge Indy got a dream trip stalking in 4th, started what appeared to be a threatening move into the lane but flattened out. Shared Property, the favorite off a big win in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity, was also well back but could make only modest headway without threatening.
Shadwell Turf Mile (race 9)
Gio Ponti made it 2 straight wins in this race, but it wasn't easy. The 2-time U.S. grass champ showed he indeed at his best on firm ground from a mile to 1 1/4 miles. He was bit more eager here so he wasn't as far back as usual while Sidney's Candy set a solid but not fast pace while chased by Get Stormy. Gio Ponti didn't appear to be doing enough turning for home but then produced an explosive surge late to carry him past the 2 speed horses. The Grade 1 BC Mile is likely next and another crack at Goldikova. Get Stormy showed some patience as he settled nicely behind Sidney's Candy, avoiding a duel. He bided his time, doggedly went after that rival into the lane, got the better of him but just couldn't fend off the winner's charge. Sidney's Candy bounced right out to the front, as expected, caught a bit of a break when Get Stormy opted to press instead of fight for the pace duties, battled back gamely when hooked but just wasn't good enough. Wise Dan, winner of his only grass start, a Grade 2, showed he indeed likes grass and can perform on it at a high level as he stalked and stayed on well for 4th. Big Euros Dance and Dance and Zoffany never really got involved.
Ancient Title (race 4)
The heavy favorite The Factor (2-5) was a bust here. Amazombie, who's been consistently among the division elite all year bided his time early behind sitting splits, swung out into the lane and finished strongly to roll past all his rivals. He looks ready to take his shot at the Grade 1 BC Sprint. Irrefutable was just in front of the winner to the far turn, didn't accelerate as quickly as that rival but found his best gear late and finished well though the winner already had first run and had gotten away. Mensa Heat was last early and finished well. The Factor surged up into a duel along the rail with Sirocco Strike, set dizzying splits and paid the price.
Oak Tree Mile (race 9)
After some close calls, Jeranimo got back on track, notching his 2nd Grade 2 win and first victory in 10 months. The son of Congaree broke on top but was quick to relinquish the lead to speedster Monterey Jazz. He chased that rival, surged past that tiring foe into the lane and opened up which gave him enough of a buffer to get to the line before hard-charging favorite Mr. Commons. His connections will reportedly contemplate the Grade 1 BC Mile. Mr. Commons was last for the first half mile, swung out into the lane and powered home but ran out of ground. He's also a candidate for the BC Mile. John Johny Jak stalked the pace and stayed on for 3rd though he was never really a threat. Crown of Thorns, trying grass for the first time, stalked, got shuffled back turning for home but got going again to get 4th though he was never a serious threat.
Sunday, October 9
Bourbon (race 8)
Animal Spirits may have been a maiden but his near-miss 2nd to the highly promising Fantastic Song Aug. 20 showed he had talent, and he confirmed that here with the upset victory. The son of Arch was well back early, remained there to the far turn, swung very wide into the lane and powered home to get up in the final yards. He did get some help as Here Comes Frazier, who was trying to go wire to wire, suddenly veered inward in midstretch and crashed through the rail. Coalport was midpack, came with a nice run to inherit the lead, but couldn't fend off the winner. Lucky Chappy was last much of the way but finished strongly in the lane to get 3rd. Monastic, the favorite, lagged back, got bumped hard to be forced very wide into the lane and was then unable to muster a run.
Spinster (race 9)
Aruna, the favorite off some superb grass form, showed yet again how well turf form translates to this Polytrack as gamely prevailed. She lagged back, surged into contention with a very wide run that carried her to the lead by midstretch and from there she gamely kept hard-charging Pachattack at bay. Pachattack, a proven beast on synthetic footing, did everything right as she sat midpack and came with a smart run but just couldn't get to the winner. La Gran Bailadora was far back early, still far back turning for home but finished strongly.