Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner War Emblem returned to the races impressively Sunday, winning the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park by 3 ½ lengths and serving notice he will be a factor in the run-up to this year's $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
But War Emblem won't be the only 3-year-old in that mix. Medaglia d'Oro, who finished second in the Belmont Stakes while War Emblem staggered home eighth, put on an impressive display of his own on Sunday, winning the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga by a nifty 13 ¾ lengths.
Among the older horses, meanwhile, Grey Memo upset the $250,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Sunday while Left Bank beat Street Cry by 1 ¼ length in Saturday's $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga with Lido Palace just a nose farther back in third.
War Emblem, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, got a clean break in the Haskell and led all the way to the victory. Preakness runner-up Magic Weisner finished second and Like a Hero was third. The 1 1/8 mile went in 1:48.21.
"I asked Victor after the race when he knew he had the race won," Baffert said. "He said he knew as soon as he came out of the gate, he had so much horse. I hoped the race would be that easy. The easier the race, the longer they last."
War Emblem is expected to make his next start in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 25, where he would face older horses for the first time. Also under consideration is the Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga on Aug. 24.
The Travers might turn out to be the tougher race, particularly if Medaglia d'Oro is in it. The El Prado colt was dominating in the Jim Dandy, hustling to the front under Jerry Bailey and drawing away easily when Bailey stepped on the gas.
Quest finished second but was placed last for causing a pileup at the top of the lane that sent jockey Richard Migliore to the hospital for X-rays of his right arm. That moved up Gold Dollar to second-place money and Essence of Dubai to third.
"He broke well and we got to the front," Bailey said. "I was real happy once we were clear. He's just better than these."
In Saturday's Whitney, Left Bank let SaineVerre lead the way, surged to the front as the field straightened out for the stretch run and then held off a mild bid by Street Cry. Lido Palace, also closing in the lane, just missed getting second and Macho Uno was only 1 ½ lengths farther back in fourth. Left Bank, a 5-year-old son of French Deputy, ran 9 furlongs in 1:47.04, equaling the track record.
Said winning trainer Todd Pletcher: "Now, the logical thing would be to come back in the Woodward. If things go well there, we'll take a look at the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup Classic. We'll enjoy this one for now."
Street Cry's trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, said he was disappointed with his horse's effort. "He looked okay after the race but we'll have to see how he comes out before making a decision on his next race," he said.
The San Diego Handicap was the surprise of the weekend. Favored Congaree -- another Baffert trainee -- went right to the lead as the favorite but coughed it up when the pressure was applied. At the end, Grey Memo came three-wide down the stretch and drew off to win by 3 lengths at 14-1 odds. Euchre was second and Congaree barely held third.
"I just train him and feed him and he just does what I tell him -- more or less," said winning trainer Warren Stute. Asked about the Pacific Classic, he said, "We don't have any idea. That's the honest to God truth."
Congaree's jockey, David Flores, said his mount "just ran out of gas. No excuses. He was comfortable out there. He just ran out of gas."
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 26 at beautiful Arlington Park:
$1 million Filly and Mare Turf
In Saturday's Vodaphone Nassau Stakes at Goodwood in England, Islington took the lead 2 furlongs out and stayed on strongly to win by 4 lengths over longshot contender Sulk. The favorite, Quarter Moon, was third. Trainer Sir Michael Stoute said the victory was particularly satisfying after Islington's disappointing performance two months ago in the Vodaphone Oaks at Epsom. "It was simply too testing and soft for her at Epsom," he said. "She simply could not handle the ground at all and she was beaten coming down the hill." He said he will consider the Yorkshire Oaks for Islington's next start.
$1 million Sprint
Listen Here could see all seven rivals at the first call of Saturday's $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. With with "Patient" Pat Day at the controls, the Gulch colt angled to the outside turning into the stretch, put on a burst of speed and won by 2 ¼ lengths over Boston Common. Bold Truth was third and the favorite, Mayakovsky, faded to finish fourth. Listen Here, trained by Bill Mott, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.58. "We knew there was a lot of speed in the race," Day said. "Bill told me not to force him early, so I let him fall out and get comfortable. We had a good pace to run at." Mott said the 7-furlong King's Bishop on Travers Day, Aug. 24, "would be the logical next step."
At Saratoga on Friday, Mandy's Gold set all the pace and rolled home a 1 ¾-length winner in the $100,000 Honorable Miss Stakes for fillies and mares. Shine Again was second, Dat You Miz Blue third and the favorite, Gold Mover, a never-threatening fourth. Mandy's Gold, a 4-year-old daughter of Gilded Time, finished 6 furlongs in 1:09.24 and trainer Michael Gorham said he will consider the Aug. 25 Ballerina, at 7 furlongs, as the next step for Mandy's Gold. Jerry Bailey, aboard Gold Mover, said his mount "didn't really particularly handle the going."
$1 million Mile
Special Ring, a son of Nureyev, shaved 2/5 of a second off Del Mar's Jimmy Durante Turf Course record for 1 mile while winning Friday's $75,000 Wickerr Handicap. With David Flores up, Special Ring finished 2 lengths ahead of Touch of the Blues, with Fateful Dream third. Special Ring, trained by Julio Canani, finished in 1:32 3/5. "He's the push button type," said Flores. "He's got such a great turn of foot that all you have to do is ask him." Canani said the Atto Mile at Woodbine or the Oak Tree Invitational may be next.
$1 million Juvenile
Icecoldbeeratreds -- and do you need to be told he's owned by Mike Pegram and trained by Bob Baffett? -- scored a front-running victory in Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes for Cal-breds at Del Mar. The favorite, Jury Box, was second. Icecoldbeeratreds, a son of In Excess, finished in stakes-record time of 1:03.93. "We'll just see how he comes out of it and then go from there," Baffert said.
$1 million Long John Silver's Juvenile Fillies
On Saturday, Forever Partners led all the way in the $50,000 Colleen Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park, romping home first by 11 lengths over Grand Natalie Rose. Skipper's Mate was third. Forever Partners, a New Jersey-bred daughter of Not For Love, finished 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.12. Winning trainer Richard Dutrow said the filly will go next in either the Sorority at Monmouth on Aug. 25 or the Aug. 30 Spinaway at Saratoga.
In other weekend racing:
Clearly a Queen saved ground in the early going of Sunday's $100,000 Eatontown Handicap, then went to the lead on the turn for home when jockey Eibar Coa asked her to run. So, however, did 45-1 longshot Laurica, and those two battled to the wire before Clearly a Queen prevailed by a nose. "Eibar rode her perfectly," said winning trainer Terri Pompay. "He was patient and found a hole when he needed to."
Also on Sunday's Haskell undercard: Autonomy worked through traffic at the furlong marker in the $65,000 Battlefield Stakes and ran on to beat Reveed Up by ¾ length, finishing 9 furlongs in 1:50.66; Entitlement worked past pace-setting Jeb's Wild in the late going of the $65,000 Lamplighter Stakes for 3-year-olds on the grass, wining by 1 length and covering the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.07; and Summer Swing overcame a speed-favoring track to win the $65,000 Teddy Drone Stakes by a neck over True Passion with a late run, completing the 6 furlongs in 1:08.84.
Little Treasure held off Pina Colada by a nose under the wire to win Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies. Ridden by Kent Dersormeaux, Little Treasure ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33 4/5, shaving 1/5 of a second off the stakes record set by Flawlessly in 1991. Little Treasure, a French-bred, was making her first U.S. start.
Quick Blue, with Emile Ramsammy in the irons, led from gate to wire in Saturday's $150,000 Royal North Handicap. At the line, the 4-year-old Cure the Blues filly was 1 ½ lengths up on Mysterious Affair.Marisa Go was third. Quick Blue, bred in Ontario and trained by Linda Rice, got 6 furlongs on the turf in 1:09.53.
Syncline upset Saturday's $100,000 Sussex Handicap, catching Dr. Kashnikow in the final yards to win by a nose. Sardaukar was third, another ½ length back. Syncline, a 5-year-old son of Danzig, ran 11/16 mile on the turf in 1:42.17. "I had a lot of horse and I was sitting off the pace," said winning jockey Brent Bartram. "My mount found the wire under his own courage." Bartram and Syncline then withstood a claim of foul before the result was made official.
Calista had to wait for room to run at the top of the lane in Sunday's $100,000 Spicy Living Handicap but once the 4-year-old British-bred filly got daylight, she used it to good advantage. Accelerating down the lane, Calista won by 1 ½ lengths over Stylish, with De Aar third. Calista, a daughter of Caerleon from the Mr. Prospector mare Proskona, ran 9 furlongs over firm turf in 1:48.62.
Cat's Glow was supplemented into Saturday's $60,000 Audubon Oaks as an alternative to a conditioned allowance later in the month at Saratoga. The decision paid off for trainer Bernie Flint as Cat's Glow won by 1 length over Lotta Rhythm. Join was third. "We talked it over last week and decided to put up the $1,500 to supplement,"Flint said. "Sometimes things work out perfectly like this did." Cat's Glow, a daughter of Sir Cat, was clocked in 1:36.19 over firm turf.
Colterkind set a pressured pace in Sunday's $60,000 Governor's Handicap, shook off Makor's Mark a furlong from home and held on to win by a nose over late-closing Road Afleet. Jumron Won was third with a late effort. The 6 ½-furlong race, a final prep for the Longacres Mile, went in 1:14 3/5. Winning trainer Roy Lumm, who claimed Colterkind three races back for $12,500, said he will consider the Longacres Mile realistically. "If there are too many big horses, we won't go," he said. "I know the horse has his limits."
Generous Rosi led from gate to wire in Saturday's $50,000 Buckpasser Handicap, winning by 3 lengths over McMahon. On Your Mark was third with a late effort. Generous Rosi, a 7-year-old, English-bred son of Generous, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.53. Last year, Generous Rosi was second to Aptitude in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and won the Turfway Park Fall Championship. The Buckpasser was his first 2002 win in three tries.
Tic N Tin jumped out to the lead in Sunday's $50,000 Zen Handicap and wasn't caught. After 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.34, the 7-year-old son of Lac Ouimet won by 1 ¼ length over Manitowish. Freeway Ticket was third. The Zen was the second added-money victory of the meet for Tic N Tin.
Calder Race Course
Heavily favored Cellars Shiraz edged clear in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Convenience Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and won by 1 ½ lengths over Company B. Cagey Move was third in the 1 1/16 mile turf event, clocked in 1:42.79. Cellars Shiraz, by Kissin Kris, "won easy and ran in a good time," said winning trainer Bill Cesare. He said he might take Cellars Shiraz to the Pucker Up at Arlington and then to the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland -- or just keep her in Florida for the Calder Oaks on Oct. 12.
J.P. Jet hit the afterburners in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Minnesota Derby, flying off to win by 11 lengths over One Track Ata Time. Double Duces held third after challenging for the early lead. J.P. Jet covered the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:40 1/5, tying the track record. "He looked like he was going fast but he looked like he was doing it easy," said winning trainer David Van Winkle.
In Saturday's $50,000 Minnesota Oaks, Susie Blues led all the way to win by 1 length. Susie Blues, last year's 2-year-old filly champ at Canterbury, was clocked in 1:41 3/5. Derek Bell rode both winners.
Prince Iroquois stalked the early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Ark-La-Tex Handicap, seized the lead on the turn and rebuffed a challenge from Rebridled to win by 3 ¾ lengths. Big Numbers closed well to take third. The running time was 1:44.70. Trainer Cole Norman said Prince Iroquois is eligible for the Claiming Crown races at Philadelphia and said he will aim for that event.
Sunday, Hadif's Allstar used a pace-stalking trip to win the $40,000 Rebel Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by a head over pace-setting Princess Birdeye. Hadif's Allstar, a Texas-bred daughter of Hadif, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.35.
Bop came from the outside post position to press the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap, challenged for the lead in the stretch and just got home first by a nose over Sport d'Hiver. Manofglory was third. Bop, a 5-year-old son of Rahy, got the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 54.61 seconds.
Sassy Hound pressed the pace set by Rusty Spur in Saturday's $50,000 Dave's Friend Stakes. Then, as they turned into the stretch, Sassy Hound went for the lead and drew off to win by 1 ¼ lengths over Deer Run. Rusty Spur finished third. Horatio Karamanos rode Sassy Hound, finishing 6 furlongs in 1:09.34.
Sunday, Grundlefoot showed a good turn of foot in the stretch run of the $50,000 Lexington Park Stakes, outsprinting his rivals to the wire for a 1-length victory over Cool N Collective. Ewer All Wet finished third. "When I pulled him out (for running room), it was all over," said winning jockey Mario Pino. "It was a slow pace and it takes a good horse to run them down like he did today."
Don't Countess Out raced from off the pace in Saturday's $40,000 Iowa State Fair Stakes, took command in the stretch and won by 1 ½ lengths over the favorite, Sharky's Review. Trisha Runs was third. Don't Countess Out, a 3-year-old daughter of Take Me Out, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.27, equaling the track record.
Corrections, notes, etc.
I mixed up a few horse/trainer combinations in last week's roundup. I won't try to straighten it all out here for fear of compounding the errors. However, thanks to John McEvoy, who pointed out the mis-steps. And if you haven't purchased and read any of John's excellent racing-related books, do yourself a favor and do so.