The Triple Crown also-rans and walking wounded moved to the front during the weekend in prep races for this fall's $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
At Saratoga on Saturday, Medaglia d'Oro held off Repent in a dramatic stretch run to win the $1 million Travers for 3-year-olds. Medaglia d'Oro was fourth in the Kentucky Derby, eighth in the Preakness and second in the Belmont. Repent, once a top-ranked Kentucky Derby candidate, was making his first start since he was injured in the Illinois Derby on April 26.
And Sunday at Del Mar, Came Home rolled from off the pace to win the $1 million Pacific Classic, defeating older horses and putting to rest fears he couldn't run a mile and a quarter. Momentum was second and Milwaukee Brew third, while Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Haskell winner War Emblem got a bad start and faded to finish sixth.
Came Home, a son of Gone West, came into the Pacific Classic with only two losses in 10 previous starts -- the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby. The distance didn't seem to be a problem Sunday, however, as Mike Smith rallied the colt strongly through the stretch to win by ¾ length in 2:01.45.
Winning trainer Paco Gonzalez said if he hadn't thought Came Home could run the 10 furlongs, "we wouldn't run him. Everybody else was saying he was not a mile and a quarter horse. They were saying the only way he could get a mile and a quarter was to get in a helicopter....We showed them today."
War Emblem, who clearly needs the lead to run his best, balked at the starting gate, was backed out and reloaded. As soon as he walked into his stall, the starter sprung the barrier and the Our Emblem colt was off a step slow.
"I understand the starter was trying to help," said trainer Bob Baffert. "But I don't need that kind of help. I kind of think he caught him up in the air."
The Travers was compromised by heavy rain and an extremely sloppy track. That didn't bother Medaglia d'Oro, who got such a clean trip that jockey Jerry Bailey didn't have to send his silks to the cleaners after getting his picture taken. The El Prado colt ran in the clear with early leader Shah Jehan, got a clear lead turning for home and then held off a determined run by Repent to win by ½ length.
Winning trainer Bobby Frankel was impressed with his horse and also with the competition.
"It's hard to judge if he ran as well as he did in the Jim Dandy (a 13 ¾-length victory) because of the slop," Frankel said Sunday. "The thing that impressed me the most was Repent. He ran a huge race."
Repent's trainer, Kenny McPeek, agreed. "He proved he's one of the best 3-year-olds in the country and that's something we've always believed," McPeek said. "He's been on the shelf and that's been frustrating. But he fits. No doubt about that."
Medaglia d'Oro returned with an injured right front foot but Frankel said Sunday it appeared to be a bruise that broke and bled. "He might miss a week of training, but there's no rush, anyway," he said.
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at beautiful Arlington Park:
$2 million Distaff
Summer Colony lived up to expectations in Friday's $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga. After prompting the early pace, the 4-year-old Summer Squall filly took total command and drew off to win by 4 ½ lengths under John Velazquez. She ran 1 ¼ mile in 2:03.15. Transcendental was second and Dancethruthedawn third. Winning trainer Mark Hennig said he may run Summer Colony back in the Beldame at Belmont Park on Oct. 5. Summer Colony traveled to California in February and beat current division leader Azeri on her home dirt. Based on that head-to-head competition and the results of Friday's race, "I feel she is the best filly," Hennig said of Summer Colony.
$1 million Filly and Mare Turf
Dublino got the best of a duel to the wire with Megahertz in Saturday's $300,000 Del Mar Oaks. Dublino, a daughter of Lear Fan, also beat Megahertz to the wire in their last meeting, the American Oaks at Hollywood on July 6. In that race, however, Dublino was DQed for interfering with her rival. Saturday, she finished the 9 furlongs in stakes-record time of 1:47.16. Winning trainer Laura de Seroux said plans for Dublino "depend on the turf at Arlington for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. We've been invited to the Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland. That's a beautiful grass race for 3-year-old fillies."
$1 million Mile (turf)
Revved Up turned up the RPMs when he got running room in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Caesar Rodney Handicap at Delaware Park, running off to win by 4 ½ lengths over Rochester. Spruce Run was third. The 9 furlongs on "good" turf took 1:51.02. "There was five in front of me and I happened to pick the right horses to split," said winning rider Anthony Black, who picked up his 4,500th career win in the race. "I knew he was a winner at the head of the stretch because when he saw daylight, he just exploded." Revved Up, a son of Sultry Song, is trained by Christophe Clement.
$1 million Sprint
Saturday's Arlington Sprint, won by Bonapaw, could turn out to be a prep for either the Sprint or the $1 million Mile on the turf. Bonapaw, a 6-year-old gelding, had no trouble in Saturday's race, winning by 4 ½ lengths over Secret Romeo and running the 6 furlongs in 1:09.13 -- fastest time of the meet for the distance. Trainer Norman Miller said owners Jimmy and Dennis Richard are looking at the Sept. 29 Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington -- and beyond, even though Bonapaw is not Breeders' Cup nominated. "Maybe the owners could put up $100,000 and get somebody else to come up with the rest for a chance at the big purse," he said. "I'm not even sure whether we'd go in the Mile or the Sprint."
Sunday at Del Mar, Kalookan Queen took charge in the stretch run of the $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handcap, drawing off to win by 3 ½ lengths over Warren's Whistle. Fancee Bargain was third. Kalookan Queen, a 6-year-old daughter of Lost Code, ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16 2/5. "I never hit her," said winning rider Alex Solis. "I just showed her the whip." Trainer Bruce Headley said Kalookan Queen probably will run against males in the Ancient Title. "Then, we hope we can pick another race," he added.
And at Saratoga on Sunday, Shine Again got the job done in the stretch run of the $250,000 Ballerina Handicap for fillies and mares, outfinishing Raging Fever by ½ length. Mandy's Gold was third. Shine Again, a 5-year-old daughter of Wild Again, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.26 on a fast track. "I don't think she's that good at 6 furlongs to run her in the Breeders' Cup Sprint," said winning trainer Allen Jerkens. "You could get lucky coming from behind in the Breeders' Cup, though."
Another looking for an off-the-pace trip in the Breeders' Cup will be Gygistar, winner of Saturday's $200,000 King's Bishop for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. Overcoming the sloppy track, the son of Prospectors's Music drew off in the final furlong to win by 3 lengths over Boston Common, with Thunder Days third. The 7 furlongs took 1:22.85. "He's versatile," said winning trainer Mark Hennig, "and he could lay off the pace, which is something that a lot of times you need to be able to do. What we use to get there, I don't know yet."
$1 million Juvenile
--Kafwain scored an off-the-pace victory in Wednesday's $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar. With Victor Espinoza up, Kafwain ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17, beating stablemate Chief Planner by 1 length. Bob Baffert trains both, as well as favorite Icecoldbeeratreds, who finished fifth. Baffert also sent out Vindication to his second win in as many starts in a 6-furlong allowance race on Thursday at Del Mar. The Seattle Slew colt is owned by Padua Stables. Baffert appears to have a herd ready for the Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 11.
--Elusive City wrested the lead from pace-setting Zafeen a furlong out in Sunday's Prixo Morny at Deuville and crossed the finish line ¾ length in front. Zafeen held second and the favorite, Loving Kindness, could do no better than third. Elusive City, a Kentucky-bred son of Elusive Quality, is owned by The Thoroughbred Corporation.
$1 million Long John Silver's Juvenile Fillies
Wild Snitch, a daughter of Forest Wildcat, dominated Sunday's $100,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park, drawing off in the stretch to win by 6 ¾ lengths over Grand Natalie Rose. Runaway Chanel was third. Wild Snitch, now undefeated in two starts, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11. "I wish I could tell you how good this filly is," said jockey Eibar Coa. "But I don't know. I haven't asked her for run in either of the races she's been in." Trainer Ben Perkins said the filly's next race hasn't yet been selected.
In other racing:
Sabertooth was a 17-1 tiger in Sunday's $250,000 Longacres Mile, rating behind the leaders and then drawing off to score by 2 lengths over Moonlight Meeting. San Nicholas was third. The favorite, Mysterious Cat, mysteriously never reached contention. Sabertooth, a 4-year-old, Washington-bred son of Petersburg, got the mile in 1:34 3/5 under jockey Nathan Chavez. It was his first graded stakes victory and improved his career record to four wins from 12 starts.
Also Sunday, Always a Dixie stalked the early pace in the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff, went to the lead at the quarter pole and went on to win by 1 ¾ length over Graceful Cat. Whatdidshesay was third and the favorite, De Goddaughter, beat only one horse in the field of nine. Always a Dixie, a 5-year-old daughter of Dixieland Brass, ran 1 mile in 1:35.
Calldara drew off from the competition at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $75,00 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and won by an easy 5 lengths over stablemate Valour Road. The Sultry Song filly ran 1 mile in 1:36 4/5. "She pulled me around the turn and she made the lead a little early," said winning rider Nathan Chaves. "But she had a lot left in the end."
Also Saturday, Bub defeated Knightsbridge Road by a nose in the $40,000 WTBA Lads for 2-year-olds. The youngsters now have met five times in their young careers and Bub, a Slewdledo gelding, has had the better of the rivalry. "I don't remember any rivalry like this in my 50 years in Washington racing," said winning trainer Bud Klokstad. Bub -- not Bud -- now is 4-1-0 from five starts, with his lone loss to Knightsbridge Road. Bud -- not Bub -- won a record 34th Emerald Downs stakes race.
The Judge Sez Who won a three-horse stretch duel to take Sunday's $250,000 Oklahoma Derby by ½ length over Easyfromthegitgo. A.P. Five Hundred was third, a head back. The Judge Sez Who, a Florida-bred son of Judge T C, ran the 9 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:49.34. Trainer Milton Wolfson said the colt will get a short break and then will be considered for the Indiana Derby on Oct. 5 or the Super Derby on Sept. 21.
Saturday's $200,000 Fourstardave came off the turf, resulting in five scratches. Among the survivors, Capsized clearly was the best, splashing off to win by 3 ¼ lengths over Pure Prize. Pyrus was third. Capsized, a 6-year-old son of Summer Squall, finished the sloppy 9 furlongs in 1:50.90 under Jose Santos. "He's got good potential," said Santos. "Like a good bottle of wine, he's going to get better with age."
The Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup also came off the turf and only three were left to run after the scratches. Surya won, with Shooting Party and Solving completing the order of finish.
Runaway Love let his three rivals do the early work in Saturday's $125,000 Shepperton Stakes, went for the lead late in the stretch run and got up to win by ¾ length over Krz Ruckus. Sambuca On Ice was third and Trailthefox trailed them all. The time was 1:16.97 on a fast track. "Four-horse fields are always tough to race," said winning rider Emile Ramsammy.
Sunday, Strait From Texas came from last in a field of nine to win the $125,000 Ontario Colleen Handicap for 3-year-old fillies. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Judge T C was shuffled back at the start, made a five-wide move around the turn for home and won by a neck over the favorite, Hot Talent. The 1 mile on the turf took 1:34.59.
Calder Race Course
Gemma's Star battled his way to the lead at mid-stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Blazing Sword Stakes for 3-year-olds, then took charge and won by 2 ½ lengths over Susie's Poker. Say No Maw was third. Gemma's Star, a Florida-bred colt by End Sweep, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.93. Winning trainer David Brownlee said he is still trying to get Gemma's Star back from a 22-race juvenile campaign. "I was hoping he'd run well today but really wasn't expecting for him to win it," Brownlee said.
Dash For Daylight dueled with Danthebluegrassman early in Saturday's $75,000 Governor's Handicap, came away with the lead and then survived a charge by Frazee's Folly to win by ¾ length. Robin Zee was third. Dash For Daylight, a 5-year-old son of Cherokee Run, finished in 1:37.35. Winning rider Larry Melancon said he didn't mind coming to Henderson for the single ride. "Any time you can come to town and win a stakes race, it's a great day," he said. "And riding horses like this one is a pleasure."
Jeb's Wild rolled from off the pace to win Saturday's $50,000 Spend a Buck Stakes by 1 length over May Expectations. Lord Abounding was third. Jeb's Wild, a 3-year-old son of Wild Again, ran the 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:36. "We got a perfect trip," said winning rider Abdiel Toribio. "Those horses were going really fast up front and I was able to sit a perfect trip." Trainer Tim Hills removed the hood for the effort said said it made Jeb's Wild "much more relaxed."
Lady Shari broke slowly from the rail in Saturday's $150,000 Canadian Derby, advanced smoothly through the field and drew off when she got the lead to win by 7 lengths. A Kentucky-bred daughter of Judge T C, Lady Shari ran the 1 3/8 mile on a fast track in 2:19 4/5. Sweet Monarch was second and No Time Flat, the favorite, finished third.
Cielo Girl, a $25,000 claim earlier in the year, won Saturday's $50,000 Monique Rene by 1 ¼ length over Miss Photogenic. Mike's Sister was third. Cielo Girl raced in mid-pack until the turn, then came wide for room and finished the 6 furlongs in 1:20.51. "Everything kind of went our way," said winning rider Tim Doocy.
Offspring of North Prospect dominated Sunday's 11-race, $350,000 Minnesota Festival of Champions, winning three of the events. Crocrock won the Minnesota Sprint Championship for the third straight year, scoring by 6 lengths. Maywood's Jack captured the Northern Lights Futurity and Fancy For Sarah won the Minnesota Sprint Championship. The festival highlight, the $44,000 Minnesota Classic Championship, went to last year's Futurity winner, J.P. Jet, who led from gate to wire.