While most of us were celebrating Decoration Day and a few others were getting ready for the Belmont Stakes, some Thoroughbred owners and trainers spent the Monday holiday looking forward to the Breeders' Cup Championships scheduled for Oct 26 at Arlington Park.
Trainer Laura de Seroux definitely is aspiring to the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf after her stable's star, Astra, won Monday's $500,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park. The 6-year-old Theatrical mare didn't get going right away and was just up at the wire to beat Starine by a head. But that was plenty of encouragement for the future.
"We'll look at the Beverly Hills (June 29 at Hollywood." And we want to win the Beverly D (Aug. 17 at Arlington) and we want to win the Breeders' Cup," de Seroux said.
But she admitted she had some doubts when Astra didn't get into the bridle until the race swung into the first turn. "I thought we couldn't get there," she said. "But like Kent (Desormeaux) said, it was like three, lunging, on-your-belly strides and she did it. That's a champ. She didn't want to get beat."
Astra ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.93.
Two races later, trainer Julio Canani got a Breeders' Cup call in the $500,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile as Ladies Din turned on the afterburners in the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Redattore. Spinelessjellyfish was third.
Ladies Din, a 7-year-old Din's Dancer gelding, toted Patrick Valenzuela over the firm turf in 1:33.39.
"I'm gonna try to win the Breeders' Cup this year," Canani said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. But that's my goal for this horse."
However he decides to approach the task, Canani knows how it's done. The trainer won last year's Breeders' Cup Mile with Val Royal. In 1999, he saddled Silic to win both the Shoemaker and the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Across the continent at Belmont Park, Swept Overboard provided some encouragement of his own in Monday's $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap -- the Met Mile. With Jorge Chavez up, the 5-year-old son of End Sweep got through on the inside turning for home and drew off to win by 4 ¾ length. Aldebaran was second and Crafty C.T. third. The mile went in 1:33.34.
Owner J. Paul Reddam said the hardest thing about the race was convincing trainer Craig Dollase to let Swept Overboard go the mile. "If I had to ride him here myself, he was going to get here," Reddam said. "I felt that he liked the track off of his race in the Breeders' Cup (a close-up fourth in last year's Penski Auto Center Sprint) and that he just needed some racing luck today."
Chavez said he was told to stay 4 or 5 lengths off the lead but, "He was pulling so hard, I couldn't hold him any more. He just exploded turning for home. I had horse but when I gave him a little rein, he exploded."
And at Churchill Downs, trainer Steve Asmussen clearly saw the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his future while he watched Posse win the $150,000 Kentucky Breeders' Cup. The easy, 3 ½-length victory over Del Diablo was a vindication after Posse finished third as the favorite in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day. "His race today is indicative of the type of 2-year-old that he is," Asmussen said of the son of Silver Deputy. He said he plans to run the colt back in the Bashford Manor on closing day, July 7.
In other Memorial Day racing:
Lone Star Park
While awaiting his chance to win the Triple Crown with War Emblem in two weeks' time, trainer Bob Baffert took a little side trip to Texas and picked up two more stakes wins.
Congaree stumbled at the start of the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap but quickly jumped into the race and led the field all the way around. At the wire, the 4-year-old son of Arazi was 2 lengths ahead of Prince Iroquois, with Mercenary third. Local favorite Unrullah Bull was last of 12. With Pat Day up, Congaree finished the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track but through a driving rain in 1:42.96. The race was his first start since he suffered a knee injury in the Jim Dandy last August at Saratoga.
"I'm just glad he made it today," Baffert said. "He wasn't really as tight as I would have liked."
Baffert also sent out Regiment, a Florida-bred son of Outflanker, to win the $200,000 Diamond "A" USA Stakes for 3-year-olds. The colt broke on top, surrendered the lead to Diamond Hope, then came back to win by 1 ½ lengths. Kamolia was third. The favorite, Legislator, was pulled up on the first turn and vanned off. Regiment ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.75.
Queen of Wilshire had to come out for running room in the $200,000 Winstar Distaff Handicap. But when David Flores found her room, she put it to good use, winning by 1 length over Pleasant State. Blushing Bride was third. Queen of Wilshire, a 6-year-old mare by Major Impact, ran the 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:38.96.
In the $100,000 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint Handicap, Nuclear Debate sat behind the speed, swung four-wide under David Flores and rolled home a 1-length winner over early pace-setter Joyful Tune. Boots on Sunday was third and the favorite, Testify, finished fourth. The 5 furlongs on "good" turf went in 55.74 seconds. Nuclear Debate is a 7-year-old Geiger Counter gelding.
Shibboleth went right to the lead in Monday's $100,000 Jaipur Handicap and kept going. At the wire, he was still in front, 2 lengths ahead of favorite Malabar Gold. Cozy Corner was third. Jerry Bailey rode Shibboleth 7 furlongs in 1:20.08. "I was a little surprised how fast he was out of the gate," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "I think he'll probably get a mile. We'll play it by ear." Bailey said the plan had been to stalk the lead. "He broke so well today, we made the lead comfortably and I didn't want to fight him." Shibboleth is a 5-year-old son of Danzig.
Captain Squire, the longest shot on the mutuel board, led all the way in Monday's $150,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Handicap for 3-year-olds, holding off Fonz's by a neck under the wire. Kamsack was third and the favorite, Raven Power, struggled home last of five. Captain Squire, a Florida-bred son of Flying Chevron, ran 7 furlongs under Chance Rollins in 1:21.95. "If I was surprised, it mostly was because I found myself on the lead," said Rollins. "There were a couple of other horses that I thought would go out there." Winning trainer Jeff Mullins said cutting back from longer distance was the key. "I knew he'd be fit. They'd have to come run and catch him."
Calder Race Course
Best of the Rest let Hal's Hope lead the way in Monday's $100,000 Memorial Day Handicap, took over near the quarter pole and went on to win by ½ length over High Ideal. Hal's Hope held third. "Hal's Hope is tough and my horse gave him a lot of weight," said winning rider Cornelio Velazquez. "I had the best horse. When we reached the head of the stretch, I had a lot left. He finished strong." Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said he is "seriously considering" sending Best of the Rest to the $400,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 6.
Emergency Status, toting emergency rider Roberto Alvarado, won Monday's $100,000 Jersey Derby by 3 lengths over Kris's Prayer. Rapadash was third, a neck farther back. Emergency Status, sent off at nearly 55-1, paid $112.20 for a $2 win ticket. Jose Ferrer had been scheduled to ride but suffered a bruised hip in a spill earlier on the card.
Joe's Son Joey -- a son of Fast Play -- rolled from near the back of the pack to win Monday's $100,000 Turf Monster Handicap by ¾ length over the favorite, Texas Glitter. Rudirudy was just a nose farther back in third. Joe's Son Joey, with Nick Santagata up, got the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.73 seconds.
Magical Madness started from the outside post in a field of 11 in Monday's $75,000 Memorial Day Handicap, jumped out to a 5-length lead and then held on to beat Irish Silence by 1 ½ lengths. Talkmeister, the favorite, was third with a late run from the back of the field. Magical Madness, a 5-year-old son of Sword Dance, completed the 7 ½ furlongs on firm turf in 1:27.48.
Also Monday, Flashing Lil got the lead in mid-stretch of the $75,000 Decoration Day Handicap, then just did hold off Elaine's Booboo by a head and Knight Dancer by another nose. Flashing Lil, a 4-year-old filly by Lil E. Tee, ran the 7 ½ furlongs on the grass in 1:28.75.
Cowboy Stuff rolled from off the pace to win Monday's $65,000 Gray's Lake Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds by nearly 4 lengths over Country Warrior. The son of Evansville Slew finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09 2/5 under Terry Thompson. Thompson said the colt "kind of just falls out of there and then gradually picks it up on the backside. At about the turn, he has everything in motion and really lies down and runs."
Lindsay Jean drew off in the stretch run to upset Monday's $55,000 Palo Alto Handicap. The 4-year-old Saint Ballado filly finished 4 lengths ahead of Kabylia, with Mimi's Café third and the favorite, Monrow, getting home fifth. Lindsay Jean ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.80.
Mus-If won Monday's $50,000 C. Edmund O'Brien Stakes, then survived a long inquiry into a traffic problem on the turn for home before the result was made official. When they were done, the stewards left Mus If first, with Cynics Beware second and Trooper Red third. Winning jockey Mario Pino said the going "got a little tight going into the far turn." But he said a rival runner "turned my horse in a little and that's what caused me to come in" on Trooper Red. "It probably looked a lot worse than what it was."