08/26/2013 10:03AM

Trip Notes: Travers, Pacific Classic, Personal Ensign, and more


Saturday, August 24

Saratoga: Test (race 9)

COMMENT: There was no doubt that Sweet Lulu had talent but her display here showed she has plenty of guts as well, as she gamely prevailed in her first start on dirt to stay perfect in four starts. She broke alertly to contest the pace with Baby J., got rid of that foe turning for home but was immediately taken on and passed by Wildcat Lily by midstretch. However, Sweet Lulu battled back gamely along the inside to better that tough rival and get to the line before a hard-charging My Happy Face. The Grade 1 BC F&M Sprint at Santa Anita Nov. 1 is her main target. Wildcat Heir was just behind the winner from the start, pounced on that foe turning for home, put her head in front at the eighth pole as if she might go on to win, but then couldn’t counter the winner's re-rally. Still a very nice try. My Happy Face sat back, swung very wide into the lane and finished strongly to miss by just a head and a neck. So Many Ways stalked the pace, loomed a threat into the lane but couldn't sustain her run.

Saratoga: Ballston Spa (race 10)

COMMENT: Apparently Laughing's foes didn't learn their lesson in the Grade 1 Diana when she set a modest pace and led all the way to win. She used that tried-and-true strategy once again here and stamped herself the real deal. From her rail draw she went right out to the lead, took some pressure early from Pianist, but they weren’t traveling all that fast. Laughing maintained a short advantage, rebuffed a couple challenges from Pianist and was actually starting to edge away a bit at the wire. The Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont Sept. 28 and uncharted waters of 1 1/4 miles is her target. Pianist was on Laughing’s hip from the start. She loomed a challenge into the lane but couldn’t get past the stubborn winner. Hard Not to Like stalked in third and kept to her task decently though she was no threat to the top two in the lane. Hungry Island, the favorite, sat back and finished decently but the race shape played against her. Centre Court was the big disappointment. Considered by some the game's top turf distaffer earlier this year, she was unruly and rank and fighting waiting tactics, and then gave way badly in the lane. It may be time for a break.

Saratoga: King's Bishop (race 11)

COMMENT: Capo Bastone, once considered potential Kentucky Derby material, has apparently found his niche playing the short game, like his Grade 1-winning sire Street Boss, as he came from the clouds to post the big upset. He sat far back early as Let Em Shine and Mentor Cane dueled early. The former gave way badly into the lane and Mentor Cane opened up a commanding lead in midstretch to look like the winner, but Capo Bastone burst through from between horses to surge past that tiring rival and win quite easily in the end. This may be a breakout effort, though you get the feeling if you ran this race 10 times you might get as many different winners. Mentor Cane dueled Let Em Shine into submission, appeared home free in midstretch, but had no answer to the winner's charge. Central Banker sat well back early, just in front of the winner, didn't accelerate as quickly but came home with good energy. Forty Tales was far back early and finished decently, though he never looked like the same horse who won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens and Grade 2 Amsterdam. Let Em Shine dueled early with Mentor Cane but gave way badly once headed on the far turn in a disappointing run.

Saratoga: Travers (race 12)

COMMENT: Talk about a division tossed into disarray. Despite the presence of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner (Orb), Grade 1 Belmont winner (Palace Malice) and Grade 1 Haskell winner (Verrazano), none of those three made the necessary impression as Will Take Charge posted the upset, just edging another longshot, Moreno. Will Take Charge, 28-1 winner of the Grade 2 Rebel in March before poor outings in the three Triple Crown races, looks like a new horse since having blinkers removed as he was a fine second to Palace Malice in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy here last month. He sat midpack, bided his time, commenced a run on the far turn to get closer and doggedly kept to his task to just nip Moreno in the final strides. Moreno, romping winner of the Grade 2 Dwyer and third to Palace Malice and Will Take Charge in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, continued his progress. He again using his speed to grab the lead, was able to dictate tempo through a slow pace, frustrated the other speed types, and stayed on gamely. The top two reportedly are eyeing the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 21. Orb was alongside Will Tak Charge early, moved early to challenge Moreno into the lane with an inside bid, put his head in front in midstretch but couldn't sustain his run. Palace Malice appeared to slip and stumble at the start. He bided his time and came with a nice run in the lane. Of the big three his effort seemed best, but even so, he wasn't really a threat in the final furlong. Verrazano got a dream trip stalking the pace as the favorite but then gave way readily. His only two losses, both poor efforts, came when he tried 1 1/4 miles, so apparently this just isn't his game.

Del Mar: Del Mar Handicap (race 8)

COMMENT: It's taken a while, but Vagabond Shoes appears full acclimated to his new surroundings as he notched his first U.S. stakes win here. Coming off a fine second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read, he dropped a bit in class and was asked to do something new - 1 3/8 miles. He bided his time early as Mr T Bird set a solid pace for the distance, was last turning for home when he pitched out, came with a strong run to get past stubborn Huntsville and hold off hard-charging Lucayan. Lucayan, another Euro expatriate, showed quality when second to top-class Obviously in the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood in his first U.S. start May 25. He’d already experienced a trip close to this (1 1/4 miles in Europe) so this wasn't strange territory. He sat back with the winner while saving ground, had to steady off horse's heels coming into the lane, moved out for room and then back to the inside to finish well. Huntsville continued his strong form with a third straight third-place finish, as he sat back and made a run to grab the lead into the stretch.


Sunday, August 25

Saratoga: Personal Ensign (race 10)

COMMENT: We didn't need further proof but it was produced anyway - yes, Royal Delta is the queen. She dogged On Fire Baby early, took over from that rival before going a half-mile, opened up in to the lane and was geared down when the issue was no longrt in doubt in yet another powerhouse performance. The Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Sept. 28 will likely be next, according to trainer Bill Mott. She won that race last year by 8 1/2 lengths. Then they'll have a decision to make - whether to defend her Grade 1 BC Distaff title or take a swing at the boys in the Grade 1 BC Classic. Authenticity sat third early, tried to make a run at the winner on the far turn, but she was no match for Royal Delta. Centering was last early, still last turning for home, and plugged along to pass a couple tiring rivals and get herself some Grade 1 black type. On Fire Baby went right to the lead while hounded by Royal Delta, tried to keep up with that rival down the backstretch, but proved no match and weakened thereafter. It was her first start since May 3 so she can improve off this.

Monmouth: Cliff Hanger (race 10)

COMMENT: Summer Front, freshened since taking the Grade 3 Miami Mile in April, showed that while he isn't ready for Wise Dan he can do some damage in the right spot, as he blasted home to make it two straight Grade 3 wins. He sat back as the even-money favorite in the field of six and was bogged down on the rail, hemmed in by his rivals. He waited for room, finally found a seam turning for home, surged through, and powered home to grab the lead and win going away. Tune Me In went right to the lead, took some pressure from Hobo Ridge, finally got the better of that rival in midstretch but was immediately tackled by Summer Front and was no match for that foe’s big late kick. Howe Great, 9-5 second choice, stalked in third, loomed a threat into the lane but couldn't sustain his bid.

Del Mar: Del Mar Mile (race 5)

COMMENT: It wasn't easy but Obviously proved he's still the West's best turf miler with a game victory here. He broke flat-footed but rushed up to have the lead by the first margin call. He was under pressure from El Commodore, rebuffed that rival into the lane, and then had to fight gamely to the lane to keep hard-charging upstart He Be Fire N Ice at bay in the final yards. Next figures to be the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile (a race he won last year when it was called the Arroyo Seco Mile) at Santa Anita Oct. 5 and then another shot at Wise Dan in the Grade 1 BC Mile there Nov. 2. He Be Fire N Ice bided his time early, sitting last in the small field. He came through between horses into the lane with a strong run and gave the winner a scare but just couldn't quite get to him. Silentio stalked in third, came out into the lane and continued gamely to the wire, but just wasn't good enough. El Commodore popped the gate to grab the early lead before Obviously took control, seemed to content to hound that rival, was still there by midstretch, but weakened late.

Del Mar: Pat O’Brien (race 7)

COMMENT: Fed Biz seemed on his way to a big year when he won the Grade 2 San Fernando at Santa Anita Jan. 12, but he'd been winless since and has been trying turf and dirt and different distances. Well, he moved to synthetic, cut back to a sprint, and that did the trick as he posted the mild upset, setting a track mark. A winner of his only prior start here (won last year's El Cajon), he didn't show his customary speed and sat well off fast splits set by No Silent and Goldencents. He bided his time in ninth early, swung wide on the turn to put in a strong rally that carried him past the leaders in the final furlong. While this was a sprint he figures better suited to a race like the Grade 1 BC Dirt Mile. Goldencents, the favorite off a superb second in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby here earlier this meet, dueled with No Silent early, put that foe away turning for home, opening up a lead as though he might go on to win but then couldn’t counter Fed Biz's charge. Gonna Fly Now sat back and finished smartly. He looks like an up-and-coming sprinter. Wine Police likewise sat back, came with a nice run into the lane in tandem with the winner, but couldn't sustain it.

Del Mar: Pacific Classic (race 9)

COMMENT: Game On Dude may not be as good on synthetic as he is on dirt, but you wouldn't know it by the powerhouse performance he put up here, posting a record margin of victory of 8 1/2 lengths. Despite the presence of significant other speed Game On Dude still proved quickest as he bounced out of the gate to go right to the lead, was able to set slow splits while under only token pressure from Delegation, then blew the race wide open into the lane and bounded away to win in a romp. He couldn't handle Dullahan in this race here last year but is apparently a bigger, badder horse, and this year's surface may not be playing quite the same as it was last year. Surely the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita Sept. 28 is next and then another shot at the Grade 1 BC Classic there Nov. 2. Kettle Corn, who scared Game On Dude when second to him in Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup and was then a nice winner of the Grade 2 San Diego here last month, continued his form surge with the addition of blinkers. He was very slow into stride and last early, but put in a sustained rally to just get up for second. You Know I Know and Richard's Kid both lagged back and finished nicely for third and fourth. Dullahan, the defending champ, was well back early and never really made a move. Jeranimo, trying synthetic again after a big win in the Grade 1 Eddie Read, stalked in third, was still there turning for home, but then gave way readily in the final furlong. It’s probably safe to say he's better on grass.