06/18/2012 11:16AM

Trip Notes: Stephen Foster, Fleur de Lis, Vanity, Hill Prince, and more


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Belmont Park
Hill Prince (race 8)

The move back to turf was just what the doctor ordered for Summer Front. He won his first three starts, all on turf, including two stakes, and was then a good second in the Grade 3 Lexington on synthetic before finishing a dull eighth in the Grade 2 Peter Pan on dirt here. He was dominant here, winning easier than the margin might suggest. The son of War Front stalked the pace while saving ground after leaping as the gates opened, had to wait from the far turn to the sixteenth pole for room while staying on the fence, eased out in midstretch when he found room, and surged through for the win. He’s now 4 for 4 on turf and will next target the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on July 21, according to his trainer. At some point, he and Silver Max, the other best 3-year-old turfer around, will go headlong into one another, and that ought to be a doozy. Howe Great, winner of three of his prior four grass starts and last time out third to Silver Max in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, stalked the pace in third, moved up to challenge into the lane, grabbed the lead late between calls, but couldn’t fend off the winner. Film Shot stalked the pace of Spring to the Sky with Howe Great and kept on gamely. He just wasn’t good enough. Margano, Barbaro’s little brother, sat back and finished smartly along the inside, basically in the winner’s wake, indicating he’s not out of his element at this level. With his pedigree, he likely prefers more ground than this, too.

Colonial Downs
All Along (race 6)

Snow Top Mountain, a Grade 3 winner at Gulfstream Park this winter but coming off a couple dull outings, bounced back to form to post the mild upset. She stalked the pace, waited for room turning for home, moved toward the inside for clear sailing, and came home determinedly to get the win in a three-horse blanket finish. She did have to withstand a claim of foul from the rider of runner-up Clare Skies Ahead (claimed winner interfered with him going into first turn). Clare Skies Ahead, a longshot despite two big wins (over much lesser) at Pimlico, showed she really has blossomed as she stalked early, steadied to lose position, ending up near the back, bided her time there, swung wide into the lane, and finished full of run to just miss in a super try. Shimmering Moment, last seen dueling and fading to sixth in the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland two months ago, was last early, steadily advanced to the top of the lane, and finished strongly to miss by just two necks. La Pernelle, the favorite off a win at Belmont in her U.S. debut after coming from Europe, stalked the pace, moved to the lead in midstretch as if she might go on to victory, but then died on her run.

Churchill Downs
Matt Winn (race 5)

Neck ’n Neck showed he may be the real deal as the son of Flower Alley (same sire at Kentucky Derby/Preakness hero I’ll Have Another) put up a second straight dazzling performance. He earned a shot at the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 and didn’t run badly (fifth). They opted to next try an N1X, and he romped while facing elders, too. He validated that and then some as he stalked the slow pace of Right to Vote, surged to the lead into the lane, and blasted well clear while winning in a romp. Off this, there’s every reason to believe he belongs in a race like the Grade 1 Haskell or Grade 2 Jim Dandy next month and then maybe the Grade 1 Travers in August. His win looks even bigger when you note he was fractious in the paddock and had to have a shoe repaired. Stealcase was last early in the small field and came with an energetic run, but the winner was already long gone. Macho Macho sat back as well and finished with good energy. Right to Vote, the favorite, set the pace but gave way readily once headed in the lane.

Churchill Downs
Regret (race 6)

Centre Court looked monstrous winning her maiden here last month, and she showed she’s the real deal as she took a huge step up in class here, not only facing winners but Grade 3 company, and still flourished. The daughter of Smart Strike showed speed to get a dream trip stalking in third, made her run along with Colonial Flag into the lane, and got the better of that rival in the final half-furlong. She did seem to bang into Colonial Flag at a critical juncture in the lane, but there wasn’t even an inquiry to look into the incident. Stewards apparently gonna let ’em play. Her trainer said the Grade 1 American Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 14 may be next. Colonial Flag, who beat Centre Court when they met on the Keeneland sod April 15, was just behind the winner from the start, made her move in tandem with that filly, but just couldn’t quite match that gal’s acceleration, though she took a hefty bump from that rival in the lane and that couldn’t have helped. Treasured Up, a winner of two straight before finishing fourth in the Edgewood here last month, bided her time in midpack and finished well.

Churchill Downs
Fleur de Lis (race 7)

That’s the Royal Delta we’ve been expecting this year. Freshened off a dull try versus males in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup, last year’s champion 3-year-old filly was freshened and came back in dazzling fashion here. She stalked the pace of Sterling Madame while sitting third, made a strong move on the far turn to roll past the leaders, opened up, and won with ease while under merely a hand ride. The way she won this, you could forgive trainer Bill Mott for thinking of taking another swing at the boys, particularly as she ran a full second faster than the boys did about 30 minutes later in the Foster, despite the fact she was geared down. However, he said the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on July 21 might be next. That being said, this wasn’t the strongest bunch of foes – but she sure did it the right way. Afleeting Lady, who was second chasing Sterling Madame early, stayed on decently for second, though she was never a threat to the winner while much the best of the rest. St. John’s River lagged back and made only modest headway, but was never a factor.

Churchill Downs
Stephen Foster (race 8)

Ron the Greek capped a huge night for trainer Mott, who having already won the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis with Royal Delta, got to pose with this talented runner in the winner’s circle as well. Ron the Greek, who in March won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and ran second to Alternation in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 14, bided his time early after being bumped and jostled, moved to the inside to save ground, steadily advanced to the far turn, mounted his challenge into the lane while remaining on the rail, and gamely prevailed. Mott said the horse may get a break now and point to the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 1 as a prep for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Wise Dan, the heavy favorite, did everything right. He dogged pacesetter Nates Mineshaft from the start, eagerly went after that foe in the lane, finally reeled him in, but couldn’t outfinish Ron the Greek. He may be headed to Saratoga for the summer and the Grade 1 Whitney and/or Grade 1 Woodward. Nates Mineshaft broke alertly, set a solid pace, looked the winner in midstretch when he opened up on his rivals, but couldn’t fend off the top two in the final half-furlong. Alternation and Nehro, first and second in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on May 18, were the main disappointments as the former stalked but never offered a challenge, while the latter was last much of the way and didn’t get going until far too late.

Delaware Park
Obeah (race 7)

Love and Pride provided more evidence that if you let a good horse have her way up front, you’re asking for trouble. The daughter of Horse of the Year A.P. Indy broke alertly and went right to the lead. She was able to set modest splits, easily rebuffed a challenge from heavy favorite Tiz Miz Sue into the lane, and drew clear to win easily. She may not be up for the big girls, but can certainly do some damage in the right spots. Such a spot could the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap here July 21. Tiz Miz Sue, favored off a good third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, bided her time, made her move into the lane to loom ominously, but was trying to catch a fresh horse and had no answer when Love and Pride spurted away again. Still, she finished far clear of the others (nine lengths). Her trainer said they may also try the Delaware Handicap and hope for a different pace scenario. Check Point sat back and finished decently, but was never really a factor. Pachattack, the morning-line favorite, scratched and ran in Colonial’s Grade 3 All Along on this day instead.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Vanity (race 9)

The race took a hit when two top contenders, Zazu (injury) and Ellafitz (illness) scratched. That left Include Me Out as the dominant force on paper. Trouble for her was, they don’t run the races on paper, and she was the victim of a big upset as Love Theway Youare picked the right day to run the race of her life. The daughter of Arch was well beaten by Include Me Out in a couple stakes at Santa Anita this winter, was a dull seventh in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, and last time lost her rider in the Grade 2 Everett here, so it was tough to predict this big run. Nevertheless, she was last from the start, still last turning for home, swung out when straightened away, and finished strongly to blow by the heavy favorite and win easily. Include Me Out, the heavy 3-5 favorite off three straight graded stakes wins, stalked the pace, surged to a clear lead into the lane as if ready to win another laugher, but then had no answer for the winner’s big charge. She finished far clear of the rest, but her reputation as a division leader took a hit. Zafeen’s Pearl, a former Euro, sat back and made modest headway while never really a factor.