The long, convoluted Triple Crown trail is over, capped by a Belmont Stakes day that brought unprecedented attention to Thoroughbred racing and excitement to even casual fans.
The down side of the three-races-in-five-weeks schedule is that, when the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont are done, the competitors who are left standing scatter to the four winds. Many need a long rest. Others have fallen victim to the grueling schedule required to get to the Kentucky Derby, much less through the Triple Crown grind.
Other sports are finally winding down (have you noticed they're still playing hockey?) and racing has a chance to capitalize on the "buzz" that brought front-page coverage in national publications, attracted 103,222 people to Belmont Park, pumped mutuel handle nationwide and juiced TV ratings to attractive levels.
But after Sarava upset the Belmont Stakes at record odds of 70-1, ending the Triple Crown dreams of War Emblem, few trainers were interested in pressing the issue. Many suggested they will be looking to the big races at Saratoga in the late summer, including the $1 million Travers Stakes.
"He came out of the race great," trainer Kenny McPeek said Sunday of Sarava, who paid $142.50 as the stunning winner of the Belmont. "He had a great week at Belmont and was training as good as ever." But he said he has no immediate plans for the son of Wild Again, other than Saratoga.
"Absolutely. You'll see him at Saratoga," he said.
War Emblem, who lost his chance at a Triple Crown sweep when he stumbled out of the gate in the Belmont, also has an uncharted future. Trainer Bob Baffert said after the race only, "We'll freshen him up." Sunday, Baffert was discussing the disappointment of losing his third Triple Crown try, not the horse's future.
Bobby Frankel, who trained Medaglia d'Oro to a close second-place finish in the Belmont after a disappointing Preakness, said his horse might have one race before the Travers -- either the Jim Dandy at Saratoga or the Haskell at Monmouth Park -- both on Aug. 4. "He ran back to his Wood Memorial yesterday and I'm very excited about him," Frankel said.
Sunday Break also might go in the Haskell or the Jim Dandy, said trainer Neil Drysdale. The colt finished third in the Belmont and came back a little stiff in his hindquarters.
Proud Citizen finished fifth with a cracked left shin and trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he will be off for three to four months. "He seems comfortable and we'll give him the time he needs," Lukas said.
For the best of the remaining 3-year-olds, the ultimate goal should be the Breeders' Cup Classic against the best older horses from around the world on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park near Chicago.
In other weekend racing:
The Belmont Stakes was only the highlight of a weekend of stellar racing at Belmont Park.
Beat Hollow showed he has become one of the best turf horses in North America with a virtual gate-to-wire victory in Saturday's $400,000 Manhattan at Belmont Park. The lightly raced son of Sadler's Wells, took the most direct way to victory over seven rivals with multiple international credentials. Under a well-timed ride by Alex Solis, Beat Hollow cruised through a half mile in 45.57 seconds and a mile in 1:37.17. When the challengers put in their bid, the British-bred horse had plenty left in the tank. Under the wire, he was 2 lengths in front of Forbidden Apple, who last raced in December in Hong Kong. Strut The Stage, based in Canada, was third. With Anticipation, who finished ninth in the Japan Cup in Tokyo last November, was fourth in the Manhattan. "He's a very good turf horse," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "I don't want to get ahead of myself by thinking about what's next."
Explicit dueled Yonaguska into submission through the early furlongs of Saturday's $250,000 True North Breeders' Cup Handicap, then held off Entrepreneur in the late going to win by 1 length. Late Carson was third and Yonaguska faded to finish fourth. Explicit, a 5-year-old son of Distant View, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.98. Explicit now has won three of seven starts this year, including the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint in his last previous outing. Trainer Ian Jory said the horse will get a short break an come back in the $250,000 Forego at Saratoga on Sept 1, "with the Breeders' Cup Sprint as the main goal." Lonnie Meche had the mount.
Babae raced in second, well behind the early leader in the $200,000 Just A Game Breeders' Cup for fillies and mares, took the lead as the field turned for home and then just held on to beat Tates Creek by a neck. Stylish was third and the morning-line favorite, Voodoo Dancer, was a late scratch. Babae, a 6-year-old bred in Chile, covered the 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:34.57 under Jorge Chavez.
Gygistar ran right by pace-setting favorite Yankee Gentleman at the top of the stretch in the $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds and went on to win easily by 4 1/2 lengths. Draw Play came up the rail to take second and True Direction edged the fading Yankee Gentleman for third. Pat Day rode Gygistar, a Kentucky-bred son of Ogygian, over 7 furlongs took 1:22.61.
Too Scarlet overcame an awkward start and avoided an ugly spill in front of her to win the $65,000 WNBC Stakes for fillies and mares. The Colonial Affair 4-year-old opened up a daylight lead in the stretch and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Ellie's Moment. Belle Artiste was. Imadeed broke down at the top of the stretch and Pleasant Colony fell over her. Several other runners took evasive action behind the mishap.
On Sunday, Xtra Heat had all she could do to hold off Gold Mover by a neck at the end of the $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap. Shine Again was third, 4 lengths farther back. The 6 ½ furlongs went in 1:16.44. Xtra Heat actually turned back challenges from three of her four fivals before prevailing. "They came at her from all sides," trainer John Salzman said of his stable's star. He said he will "take a look at" the $400,000 Princess Rooney at Calder on July 13.
You was a dominant winner of Friday's $250,000 Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, drawing off to win by 7 ¼ lengths over Willa On the Move. The favorite, Bella Bellucci, never reached contention and finished third. You, a daughter of You and I, ran the 1 mile in stakes-record time of 1:34.05 under Jerry Bailey. "My filly ran a huge effort today," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "She likes the one-turn mile and that definitely helped us." He said he may give her a little time to recover before racing her again.
On Friday, Whywhywhy won the $100,000 Flash Stakes for 2-year-olds by 5 ½ lengths over Presence. The favorite, Renegade Warrior, broke down entering the stretch and Windsor Lodge fell over him. Whywhywhy, a son of Mr. Greeley, finished in 57.10 seconds. Renegade Warrior was euthanized on the track. Windsor Lodge suffered a laceration. Winning trainer Patrick Biancone said he would like to point Whywhywhy to the Sanford on July 25 at Saratoga.
Running Tide remained undefeated with a ¾-length victory in Saturday's $250,000 Leonard Richards Stakes -- a race that featured a few traffic jams. Running Tide, a son of Run Softly, got home ¾ length in front and survived a claim of foul from Mike McCarthy, who rode The Sewickley Kid to a third-place finish behind Nothing Flat. The favorite, Easyfromthegitgo, had to take up sharply on the second turn behind a tiring horse. Winning rider Ramon Dominguez said distance was the question in the 1 1/16-mile race. "It was just a matter of getting the trip and he did," Dominguez said. Trainer Rodney Jenkins said the colt will get at least five weeks vacation while he looks for another race for him.
Also Saturday, Rhum was up in the final strides to win the $75,000 Rosenna Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf. The 5-year-old daughter of Go For Gin finished a nose in front of Morena Park, with De Aar another nose back in third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:42.78.
Orchard Park had to search for running room at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds. But when the Hennessy colt and jockey Mark Guidry found a hole, they put it to best use, going through to score a 1-length decision over Mr. Mellon. Quest Star was third in the 9-furlong event over firm turf, clocked in 1:48.53. Guidry said a hole he was aiming for closed up at the last instant. "I'm just glad it opened back up and I got around them," he said. Ralph Nicks, assistant to trainer Bill Mott, said Orchard Park may go to the 3-year-old grass series at Arlington or to the Hall of Fame at Saratoga. "If he stay sound, stays together and stays good, we'll have a great year," said the cautious Nicks.
Palmeiro dueled Prodigious into submission in Saturday's $150,000 All American Handicap, then held off a late challenge from Moonlight Meeting to win by ¾ length. Prodigious held third. The 1 1/16 mile on the fast main track went in 1:42.31. "This is his third race as a gelding and we think that did the trick," said winning trainer John Sadler. "We thought he was a Derby contender last year and were really high on him. But he kept disappointing us.
Mandy's Gold battled down the stretch with Cat and the Hat before winning Saturday's $150,000
Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap by a head. Caressing was third, 6 lengths farther back. Mandy's Gold, a 4-year-old daughter of Gilded Time, raced 7 furlongs under Rene Douglas in 1:22.86.
On Sunday, Guana came three-wide on the turn and rolled home a 4 ¼-length winner over Haylie's Dawn in the $45,000 Flawlessly Stakes. Strikes No Spares was third. Guana, a 3-year-old, French-bred daughter of Sillery, got the "about" 1 1/16 mile over "good" turf in 1:45.66. The favorite, Lost At Sea, was fourth under the wire.
Megahertz rallied from the back of the field so strongly in Saturday's $200,000 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-old fillies that jockey Patrick Valenzuela found himself comparing her to Arazi at his best. Megahertz scored by ¾ length over Arabic Song, with High Society third. The 9 furlongs on firm turf took 1:51.97. "She has some kind of turn of foot," Valenzuela said. "I've been on some horses that... well, the last one I can remember with a turn of foot that quick was Arazi." Arazi's move on the turn as he race to victory in the 1991 Breeders' Cup Juvenile remains one of the legendary moments in all of Breeders' Cup history. "This is a very special filly," Valenzuela added.
Ragin T Rex went quickly to the lead in Sunday's $75,000 Manhattan Beach Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and held on to win by ¾ length over Carinae. Partytime was third and the favorite, Fun House, finished sixth. Ragin T Rex is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Silver Hawk. She ran the 5 ½ furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.99.
Ginger Gold probably won't be going on to the June 23 Queen's Plate despite her impressive victory in Saturday's $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks. The daughter of Golden Gear led much of the way, winning by 1 ½ lengths over Silver Nithi. Alpha Heat was third. Ginger Gold, with Richard dos Ramos up, ran 9 furlongs in 1:51.56. "We are going to play it by ear," said winning trainer Sid Attard. "We are not sure where we are going yet." But, he added, "I think we're looking at the Bison City Stakes to work towards the Triple Tiara." The Oaks, Bison City and the Wonder Where Stakes comprise the Triple Tiara for 3-year-old fillies and offer a $350,000 bonus for a sweep.
Tails Of The Crypt swept from near the back of the pack to capture Saturday's $125,000 Victoria Park Stakes -- the final major prep for the June 23 Queen's Plate. With Jake Barton up, the Regal Classic colt swept past rivals on his own initiative, winning by 6 ¼ lengths. Forever Grand, who led early, beat the rest of the field with Barbeau Ruckus third. Barton said Tails Of The Crypt, "He had an unreal turn of foot today. All the 'open' stakes are going to be his if he stays sound." The colt, who wintered in Florida, now has four wins in 11 lifetime starts.
In Sunday's $125,000 Ontario Matron, Extend tracked pace-setter Devastating into deep stretch, then was just up at the wire to win by a neck. Catch the Ring was third as the favorite. Extend, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Unbridled's Song, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.67.
It'sallinthechase was scratched before Saturday's $100,000 Canterbury Park Breeders' Cup Derby with an injured ankle and Afleet Buck was there to take advantage of the mishap. With Paul Nolan in the irons, Afleet Buck led all the way to a ¾-length victory over Montana Rush in the 1-mile turf event. Awol Soldier was third and Teague fourth as the favorite. Afleet Buck, an Illinois-bred son of Bucksplasher, finished in 1:37.97. After crossing the wire, Afleet Buck tossed Nolan to the track and took a riderless victory lap.
Cetewayo broke last in a field of eight in Saturday's $100,000 Greenwood Cup Handicap, circled the field on the turn and held off Serial Bride in the last going to win by ¾ length. Dawn of the Condor was third. Cetewayo, an 8-year-old son of His Majesty, ran the 1 ½ mile on firm turf in 2:35.01. He is trained by Michael Dickinson.
X Country had little trouble justifying his favorite's status in Saturday's $75,000 Slipton Fell Handicap. The Muhtafal colt, bred in England, took charge in the lane, drawing off to win by 6 ¾ lengths over Mo Mon. Tour the Hive was third. X Country finished the 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:40.62.
Reuben turned the tables on Sure Shot Biscuit in Saturday's $60,000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-breds. Sure Shot Biscuit, who had won the last two runnings, dueled with Reuben, last year's runner-up, through much of the race. At the wire, it was Reuben by ¾ length. Le Numerous was third. Reuben, a 5-year-old son of Rubiano, was ridden by Glenn Corbett. Trainer Tim Gleason said he hasn't planned a campaign for Reuben. "We'll just play it by ear," he added. John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, on May 26, 1907.
Downs at Albuquerque
Star Smasher rolled to a 4 ¼-length victory over Hooliea in Sunday's $50,000 Casey Darnell Handicap for state-bred 3-year-olds. The son of Full Choke raced the 7 furlongs in 1:21.01. Urlacher finished third but was disqualified to fourth for interference on the final turn with Jacks Romeo, who was promoted to third-place money by the stewards.
Bold World worked clear in the stretch run to win Saturday's $50,000 Ocean Hotel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3 ½ lengths. Little Out was second and Miss Atticus third. Bold World, a daughter of Fortunate Prospect, ran 5 furlongs on the fast main track in 56.73 seconds after the race was moved from the turf. Six horses were scratched due to the surface change.
Sunday's $50,000 Crank It Up Stakes remained on the grass and Runaway Choice came from well back to win by ¾ length over Lord Abounding. Stormy Day was third. Runaway Choice, a son of Runaway Groom, got the 5 furlongs on turf rated "good" in 57.29 seconds.
Also Sunday, Caught Out came from last in a field of seven to win the $50,000 Politely Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the turf. Sluice was second and Clearly a Queen was third. Caught Out, a 4-year-old Smart Strike filly, was timed in 1:37.11
High Chaparral outlasted stablemate Hawk Wing to win Saturday's Epsom Derby by 1 length. Moon Ballad was far back in third. Hawk Wing was the favorite in the race. Trainer Aidan O'Brien gave jockey Michael Kinane his choice of horses and Kinane picked the favorite. Johnny Murtagh rode High Chaparral to the victory.