07/15/2013 12:14PM

Trip Notes: Virginia Derby, American Oaks, Man o' War, and more


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Man o’ War (race 9)

Boisterous has always been a real nice horse and the Grade 2/Grade 3 winner proved a more than worthy replacement for more ballyhooed but hurt stablemates Point of Entry and Data Link as he notched his first Grade 1 win. He bided his time early while Folk Singer ran off to a clear early lead, moved closer going to the far turn, angled out at the quarter pole and finished strongly to easily roll past his rivals and clear. Twilight Eclipse stalked in 3rd, moved closer to the lead on the turn, was asked for run into the lane, grabbed the lead in midstretch between calls but had no answer for the winner’s charge. Exclusive Strike broke slowly, was content to sit last early, remained there down the backside, moved a bit closer turning for home and came with a decent run, though he was never a threat to the winner. Optimizer, who scared Point of Entry when 2nd to that top-class runner in the Grade 1 Manhattan, seemed in a good spot stalking in 4th but failed to produce his usual run when asked. He’s been awfully busy since last summer so this outing may be a sign he’s in need of a break. Speaking of Which, who looked back on his game with a sharp win at Monmouth last month, sat 2nd behind clear early leader Folk Singer, moved closer down the backside, grabbed the lead on the turn as if he might be a danger but then gave way. Apparently he’s not quite as good as first advertised.

Delaware Oaks (race 8)

Dancing Afleet continued her love affair with this track and stamped herself a 3-year-old  filly to watch as she posted a smart win despite the step up in class. She bided her time midpack while Ile St. Molly and Maracuya duked it out on the lead, moved closer turning for home, pitched outfor the stretch and doggedly kept after Ile St. Molly, running her down in the final strides. She’s now 3 for 3 here and also obviously loves wet going as all three local wins came on such footing. This may not mean she’s ready for the big girls in her division but she’s obviously got quality and another move forward may earn her such a shot. Ile St. Molly ran big in defeat, dueling with Maracuya from the start. She got rid of that foe turning for home, opened up a clear lead as if she might win but couldn’t quite fend off Dancing Afleet. Tell a Great Story stalked the pace, made a mild bid into the lane but then finished evenly. Maracuya, the favorite off a 4th in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico May 17, dueled with Ile St. Molly while under snug restraint but paid the price.

Virginia Oaks (race 6)

Nellie Cashman, a daughter of Horse of the Year Mineshaft coming off an explosive maiden win on turf at Penn National, took a huge step up in class here but it didn’t matter as she was up to the task and posted the big upset. She dogged pacesetter Three Hearts, went after that rival into the lane, got the better of her and managed to get to the line before hard-charging favorite Praia. Praia, coming off a sharp 2nd in the Grade 3 Regret on turf at Churchill June 15, bided her time, shifted out for clear sailing in the lane and finished strongly but just ran out of ground. Three Hearts, freshened since finishing 3rd in a grass stakes at Monmouth May 27, set the pace, battled back when hooked, couldn’t fend off the winner but continued on gamely. Cat’s Holiday sat back early and never mustered a run.


Virginia Derby (race 7)

War Dancer continued his strong form for Ken McPeek and really took to the 1 1/4 miles, which gives him all sorts of options. The son of top turf sire War Front showed courage as well as stamina. He sat midpack early, steadily advanced while between horses, continued in traffic, dug in gamely for the stretch run and narrowly prevailed. The Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Aug. 17 figures next. Charming Kitten did everything right – he just didn’t win. He was just in front of War Dancer from the start while saving ground, moved with that rival, did have to steady briefly when in tight in midstretch but got going again and finished gamely to just miss. Jack Milton also saved ground while sitting further back, had to steady on the far turn but got going nicely in the lane and finished well for 3rd losing by just two heads. These three were well clear of the rest and all could reappear in the Secretariat. Rydilluc, the favorite off four big grass wins in as many tries, seemed in a great spot stalking pacesetter Redwood Kitten but gave way turning for home. This may be the proof his connections needed that he’s a miler and not a 1 1/4-mile type.

Stars and Stripes (race 7)

Dark Cove, freshened a big since two big graded stakes wins in Kentucky in the spring, showed no signs of rust as the 6-year-old had little trouble taking care of business here. After wins in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland April 26 and Grade 3 Louisville at Churchill May 25, he got a brief freshening and came back as good as ever, sitting 2nd while Ioya Bigtime opened up a clear early lead. He moved closer to that foe down the backside, moved up to challenge on the far turn while seemingly still not asked for run, and had no trouble taking command, establishing a clear lead and holding the rest safe to the line. Nice stuff. He’s a legit stayer and this seemed like an ideal prep for the American St. Leger here Aug. 17. Suntracer bided his time early, moved closer going to the far turn, kept to his task nicely chasing the winner but never really appeared a threat to get him while gamely getting 2nd. The Pizza Man lagged back, was still a few lengths behind Suntracer turning for home but finished with good energy to just miss 2nd.

Modesty (race 8)

Ausus, freshened almost two months, came back seemingly better than ever as she posted a mild upset while notching her first stakes win. She stalked in 4th while saving ground, moved out into the lane for clear sailing and came with a smart, steady run that carried her past her rivals and well clear. Artemus Kitten sat 2nd behind clear leading La Tia, went after that rival into the lane, was getting the better of that foe only to have Ausus go past. La Tia, the favorite off romping wire-to-wire wins on this course in her only two starts this year, bounced out to a clear lead, was still clear turning for home, battled back when hooked by Artemus Kitten, and while no match for the big winner gamely kept to her task to only miss 2nd by a head. Colonial Flag stalked in 3rd but never mustered a run. A nice bunch, yes, but tough to believe anyone in here is ready to make an impact in the Grade 1 Beverly D. here Aug. 17.

American Derby (race 9)

Infinite Magic made good headway late to be 6th in the Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont June 15, though he was no threat to winner Notacatbutallama (who came back to win a grass stakes at Belmont Saturday). He took another step forward here and likely punched his ticket to the Grade 1 Secretariat here Aug. 17. He bided his time while saving ground, continued on the fence, found a seam and skirted through to just prevail. The Secretariat may be next but the water figures much deeper there. Admiral Kitten, 2nd to Infinite Magic when they met in an N2X on turf at Keeneland April 14, was favored but couldn’t quite get to that foe again. Freshened since a strong rallying 2nd in the Grade 3 Arlington Classic here May 25, he bided his time, as usual, swung wide into the lane and finished strongly but whereas the winner saved all the ground this guy got a wide trip. It may have been the difference. Of course, with his style often the rider has no choice but go around. Stormy Len, stepping up in class off a nice optional-claiming win at Belmont June 27, sat back and came with a smart run to lose by just a head and a nose. Procurement, a better-than-looked rallying 5th in the Grade 3 Arlington Classic here May 25, stalked but was pretty much one-paced throughout. General Election, winner of the Arlington Classic over many of these at 13-1, failed to duplicate that run as he lagged back and never made a run. He was vanned off afterward, though it was reported later that he cooled out sound.

Arlington Handicap (race 10)

The gallant old warrior did it again. Rahystrada became the first horse to win this race three times as he sat 2nd behind Beer Garden, who set slow splits. He moved closer turning for home, grabbed the lead into the lane and doggedly kept to his task to keep closers Temeraine and Dullahan at bay. No reason he shouldn’t take another swing – his 4th – at the Arlington Million Aug. 17, though that race has usually proved a little too much for him and may likely be so again. He was 4th in 2010, 5th in 2011 and 3rd in 2012. Temeraine sat back in 6th, bided his time, was still there turning for home but finished strongly along the inside. Dullahan, making his first start since a couple dull runs in Dubai, sat 5th early and came with a steady run to get 3rd. Not a bad return and this may serve as a useful prep for him to defend his title in Del Mar’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic on synthetic Aug. 25. Najjaar stalked, made a threatening move into the lane but couldn’t sustain it.

Betfair at Hollywood Park
Hollywood Juvenile (race 4)

Alpine Luck wired his rivals when he broke his maiden here June 22 and he employed his speed again for the repeat. Under rejuvenated rider Gary Stevens, the son of Lucky J.H. went right to the lead, was able to get away with very slow splits despite some pressure from Willie B Awesome, got the better of that foe into the lane but then had to fight gamely to fend off hard-trying Ontology. In all likelihood it’s on the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar Aug. 4. Ontology, 2nd to Alpine Luck in that aforementioned June 22 race, his only start, stalked in 3rd, doggedly kept after the winner and was getting to him but just couldn’t quite get on terms. Willie B Awesome dogged the winner from the start and gamely kept up the chase to lose by less than a length. The 2nd and 3rd finishers figure to target the Best Pal as well, though they all may have to deal with super-impressive maiden winner Kobe’s Back there. Knock Em Flat, the favorite despite being a first-timer (cost $350K at auction), stalked in 4th early after bobbling at the start but then did a steady retreat, ending up last.

Betfair at Hollywood Park
A Gleam (race 8)

Despite having not run since Feb. 16, Book Review came back at full strength to win this very tough race. She bided her time in 4th, made a three-wide move into the lane, and her strong rally carried her past her rivals and well clear for a relatively easy win. She’s now 5 for 6 at seven furlongs. This was also her first try on synthetic but it didn’t bother her at all. Teddy’s Promise, the favorite, lost nothing in defeat as she dueled early with Winding Way, got the better of that foe into the lane but couldn’t counter Book Review’s charge. Trainer Ron Ellis said she doesn’t care for the Del Mar Polytrack so she’ll be freshened with an eye on the BC F&M Sprint Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Byrama, shortening up after winning the Grade 1 Vanity here June 15, was last early, came with a strong rally and while never a threat to Book Review just failed to catch Teddy’s Promise for 2nd. Rumor, making her first start in over two months, seemed in a good spot stalking in 3rd behind the dueling leaders but never mustered a run.

Betfair at Hollywood Park
American Oaks (race 9)

Emollient shipped across the country to try turf for the first time and 1 1/4 miles for the first time, and situations like this show you why trainer Bill Mott is in the Hall of Fame as this filly flourished on the footing and gamely prevailed. She broke a step slowly but recovered to stalk early in 3rd while Sarach set the pace. She moved up to 2nd down the backside, stayed there to the top of the lane, moved up to challenge for the lead, got the better of Sarach and gamely stayed on while keeping Emotional Kitten at bay. She handles all three surfaces they have all sorts of options with her. Emotional Kitten wasn’t far behind the winner from the start, made her run in tandem but just couldn’t get to her. Topic sat back and finished with good energy. Scarlet Strike was the big disappointment. She was last early, remained there to the top of the lane and could then make only minimal headway.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Betfair at Hollywood Park
Sunset Handicap (race 5)

Despite facing males for the first time and racing 12 furlongs for the first time, Marketing Mix proved victorious. Last year’s Grade 1 BC F&M Turf runner-up sat comfortably in 3rd but then quickly took 2nd while Hawk’s Eyes opened up a big early lead. She had no trouble reeling in that tiring foe, grabbed the lead going into the turn, quickly opened up, and gamely held off hard-charging defending champ Dhaamer. Dhaamer ran splendidly in defense of his title, sitting well back early and finishing full of run – he just couldn’t get to the tough mare. This was strictly a two-horse race in the lane (Dhaamer finished 6 3/4 lengths clear of Extensive). Extensive was just in front of Dhaamer for the first mile or so, still in front of that foe as they both went after Marketing Mix into the lane, but couldn’t keep pace while staying on for 3rd.