08/29/2011 9:23AM

Trip Notes: Travers, King's Bishop, Pacific Classic recaps

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Sunday, Aug. 28

Del Mar -- Del Mar Handicap
Despite things not going according to plan for Celtic New Year, he still got the desired result: a Grade 2 win. Original plans were for him to go right to the lead in this marathon, but Make Music for Me took pacesetting duties instead. So Celtic New Year settled nicely in third, stalked the slow pace, cut the corner into the lane, burst through between horses to take the lead in midstretch, and just got to the line before heavy favorite Bourbon Bay. Bourbon Bay likewise stalked pacesetter Make Music for Me, but whereas the winner saved ground, Bourbon Bay ended up having to go wide to launch his challenge. He finished strongly but just ran out of ground. Imponente Purse bided his time, didn’t appear to be going anywhere even into the lane but suddenly found his top gear late and finished full of run to lose by just 2 heads. Make Music for Me, usually a closer, ended up setting the pace and weakened once headed into the lane.

Del Mar -- Pat O’Brien
The Factor was dazzling this spring before getting hurt (hairline fracture in a hind ankle) after the Arkansas Derby, knocking him off the Derby trail. But he showed here he’s back as good as ever -- maybe even better. The 3-year-old dominated some strong elders. He went right out to contest the lead with proven top-class Smiling Tiger. He dueled that rival into submission and edged away late for the score. This was Bob Baffert’s third straight win in this race (Zensational, El Brujo). Camp Victory was a bit slow into stride to be last early, moved up quickly, though, to get a stalking trip in third, doggedly chased after the winner through the lane but couldn’t really threaten. Crown of Thorns bided his time but didn’t find his best stride until the final furlong, closing well but failing to threaten. Smiling Tiger took the race to The Factor from the start, dueling through fast splits. However, he paid the price as he weakened. He seems most effective when stalking and finishing.

Del Mar -- Pacific Classic
Acclamation has used his speed to win multiple Grade 1’s on turf -- and now he’s used it to become a Grade 1 winner on synthetic footing. As usual, the son of Unusual Heat bounced right out to the lead. He took only modest pressure from Game On Dude, dispatched with that rival into the lane, braced for seemed to be a strong challenge from Twirling Candy and gamely held on to win the meet’s marquee event. Twirling Candy suffered another tough loss. He stalked in third, loomed ominously into the lane, looked as though he might roar past but was unable to get by the winner. He was much the best of the rest. Stately Victor sat well back much of the trip and put in a solid run through the lane, though he was never a factor. Game On Dude dogged Acclamation from the start but didn’t have the needed punch when it mattered. Tres Borrachos, the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap upsetter, sat midpack but never mustered a run.

Aug. 27

Saratoga -- Ballston Spa Handicap
Daveron made it four wins in her past five starts and showed her adaptability as well. She stalked in fourth, was content to remain there to the top of the lane, swung out for clear sailing and powered past her rivals to win going away. Tapitsfly went right out to set the pace, rebuffed challenges into the lane, still had the lead by midstretch but had no answer when the winner came storming past. She still gamely held second. Romacaca, winner of her last five, stalked in third, made a run at Tapitsfly through the lane, was no match for the winner, doggedly kept to her task, but just couldn’t get past Tapitsfly. Mekong Melody, 10th in this last year in one of her rare dull outings, lagged back, got shuffled back when bumped turning for home, made a mild threatening move but couldn’t sustain it. Aviate, the favorite, sat back but never mustered run.

Saratoga -- Victory Ride
A very competitive group of 3-year-old fillies duked it out with cut-backing comebacker Hot Summer prevailing. Last seen running third in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico May 20, the daughter of Malibu Moon sat well back early after being crowded soon after the start, moved to the inside to commence her run into the lane and finished strongly to edge past her rivals. Maple Forest set the pace, was under constant pressure, rebuffed all those challenges to kick clear by midstretch but just couldn’t quite fend off the winner. Roman Treasure chased Maple Forest from the start, couldn’t keep up with that foe but kept to her task well. A Z Warrior got a nice position stalking in fourth early but couldn’t improve from there. Jealous Girl, the favorite, pressed pacesetter Maple Forest from the start but weakened from those efforts.

Saratoga -- Ballerina
Hilda’s Passion proved her dull Bed o’ Roses run (dueled, faded to sixth) was an aberration as bounced back to form to reestablish herself among the distaff sprint elite with a powerful tally. She bounced right out to the lead, was able to set modest splits, and that left her in complete control as she bounded clear into the lane and didn’t have a nervous moment thereafter. Of course it didn’t hurt main speed foe Tar Heel Mom stumbled at the start and favorite Sassy Image bolted. They never found anything wrong with her after the Bed o’ Roses dud so maybe that drying-out track was quicksand to her. However, she came out of this with a season-ending injury (non-displaced condylar fracture of right fore). Tar Heel Mom, previously 3-for-4 here, stumbled at the start so instead of dueling she ended up chasing the winner, couldn’t keep up with that foe but gamely held second. Tamarind Hall, big winner of the Bed o’ Roses, likewise chased in third from the start, was no match for the winner and just ran out of ground before catching Tar Heel Mom. Sassy Image, the favorite, leapt at the break and bore out badly, basically bolting to the outside fence, to lose all chance. She reportedly tore a quarter off her left front, probably when she leapt at the start, and that may have explained the incident.

Saratoga -- King’s Bishop
It was a terrific comeback performance by last year’s 2-year-old champ Uncle Mo but it wasn’t quite enough to get the top prize. Caleb’s Posse, impressive winner of the Grade 2 Amsterdam here, showed that run no fluke with another impressive run. He lagged well back early off the strong pace, swung wide into the lane and put in a strong sustained run that just got him up to nip Uncle Mo on the line. Uncle Mo, coming back from a long layoff due to illness, looked every bit the old Uncle Mo. He stalked the brisk pace, surged to the lead into the lane, drew clear as if he was going to win but just got nipped in the final stride. Not to take anything away from the impressive winner but surely the layoff/illness may have been the biggest culprit in those final yards. It also didn’t help that Uncle Mo lost a right-hind shoe right after the start. Justin Philip sat back, came with a smart threatening run into the lane but couldn’t sustain it enough to challenge the top 2. Dominus likewise sat back, made a threatening move but flattened out. Flashpoint and Runflatout were the main pacesetters and both weakened from those efforts.

Saratoga -- Travers Stakes
With the 3-year-old division a complete puzzle at the top, Stay Thirsty may have brought a bit of order to the division with a smart win here -- at least for now. Impressive winner of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, he showed even more speed here to challenge pacesetter Shackleford, surged past that tiring rival into the lane, opened up some room, and kept the others at bay. The question is whether he’s as good away from Saratoga, the site of three of his four wins. At least that good secod in the Belmont helps the case that he’s not merely a Saratoga specialist. Rattlesnake Bridge ran the best race of his life as he sat midpack, came with a steady run through the lane and while really unable to threaten the winner was clearly second best. J W Blue was last early but made steady headway. Shackleford, the Preakness winner, set the pace while under constant pressure from the eventual winner and gave way once passed. He’s had a busy year and the way he faded may be a sign it’s taken a toll. Coil, the impressive Grade 1 Haskell winner, broke poorly and never really picked up a foot, finishing last well behind the rest of the field. The wins by Caleb’s Posse and Stay Thirsty mean the 12 3-year-old Grade 1’s this year have been won by 12 different horses.

Del Mar -- Del Mar Mile
The choice for Caracortado’s connections was this or Sunday’s Grade 1 Pat O’Brien, and they made the right call sticking with turf and a mile. Caracortado has been on the wrong side of a couple Grade 1 photos but is no doubt top-class at this game. As the favorite he relaxed nicely early while not too far off the pace, bided his time, and came home with a flourish to finally get on the good side of the cameraman. Mr. Commons, a 3-year-old, showed he could compete with elders as he  was just in front of the winner much of the way, got first run to surge to the lead between horses in midstretch, but just couldn’t quite fend off the winner in a good try. Calimonco stalked in third got shuffled back into the lane, but came on again gamely. Champ Pegasus, making his first start since Dubai in March, broke sluggishly and never made a move. He certainly needed this race and is better going longer.