While it looks like every horse is trying to run as fast as possible from gate to wire, the race actually requires strategy and timing. Because it usually draws a big field, traffic problems can require adjustments of the strategy and modification of the timing. American breeding preferences result in a large pool of potentially top-quality sprinters. And fillies and mares historically have done well in the race.
So when trainer D. Wayne Lukas said after Sunday's $250,000 Forego Handicap at Saratoga that Orientate has "clearly established himself as the best sprinter in the country," he was saying a lot. Even for Lukas.
Orientate, a 4-year-old son of Mt. Livermore, actually let last year's Sprint champ, Squirtle Squirt, take the early lead in the Forego. But after prompting the first quarter mile in 21.45 seconds, jockey Jerry Bailey gave Orientate the go-ahead and he had no further competition. At the wire, he was 2 ¼ lengths ahead of a late-closing Aldebaran. Multiple Choice, a 48-1 choice, was third and Squirtle Squirt finished fourth. The time was 1:09.12.
Demonstrating some of the strategy of the event, Lukas told Bailey to be willing to fight for the lead. "I think we dispelled the theory that if he's hooked, he won't run on," Lukas said after the plan worked. "They went at it and you'd expect something to give. When the speed dropped off at the top of the stretch and we were still there, I felt pretty good."
"What you've got to expect when you get them from all sections of the country in the Breeders' Cup," the trainer added, "you might as well get ready for it because there's not going to be anyone waltzing out there 2 (lengths) in front....You might as well get used to taking the heat early."
Trainer Bobby Frankel, who sent out both Aldebaran and Squirtle Squirt, said his horses "ran good. Orientate just feaked."
In other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, to be run Oct. 26 at beautiful Arlington Park:
$2 million John Deere Turf
Delta Form upset Sunday's $250,000 Del Mar Handcap, collaring front-running The Tin Man in the final strides. With Goncalino Almeida in the irons, Delta Form finished the 1 3/8-mile event in a Jimmy Durante Turf Course record time of 2:12.15. Blue Stellar was third. Delta Form, a 6-year-old, Australian-bred gelding, is trained by Jenine Sahadi. Sahadi said Almeida had been able to work with the horse in training so she stuck with him for the race. "He switched leads on cue and that was a little strange because he hasn't done that before," she said. Co-owner Jeff Siegel said Delta Form is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup and will be pointed toward the Japan Cup on Nov. 24.
Full of Wonder caught Perfect Soul in the final yards to win Saturday's $300,000 Niagra Breeders' Cup Stakes. Full of Wonder, a 4-year-old son of Mr. Prospector, saved ground near the back of the field through the first mile, then rallied into challenging position on the turn for home. Jockey Todd Kabel took the colt to the leader in mid-stretch and he won by ¾ length. The 1 ½ mile over firm turf took 2:26.18. Trainer Mark Frostad said Full of Wonder "is beautifully bred and he's been running well this year."
$2 million Distaff
It might be a stretch to get her to the Breeders' Cup, but Victory Ride looked the part in winning Sunday's $50,000 Omnibus Stakes at Monmouth Park. The race was moved from the turf to the main track and Victory Ride, a 4-year-old daughter of Seeking the Gold, didn't seem to mind at all. She drew off handily in the stretch to win by 2 ½ lengths over Tap Dance. "She'll go to the Spinster at Keeneland next," said winning trainer Rusty Arnold. "This was her best race this year."
$1 million Juvenile
Sky Mesa came from off the pace to win Saturday's $200,000 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Pretty Wild was1 ¾ lengths back in third and the odds-on favorite, Zavata, could do no better than third. Sky Mesa, a son of Pulpit from the Storm Cat mare Caress, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.08 under Edgar Prado. "I would tend to say a two-turn effort," trainer John Ward said of Sky Mesa's next start, mentioning the Breeders' Futurity Oct. 5 at Keeneland. Zavata's trainer, Patrick Biancone, said Zavata "seemed to check a couple of times," then was caught in traffic and had to go five-wide. "We'll do it again later," he said.
Lawbook rated off the pace early in Saturday's $125,000Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder Race Course, then drew off in the stretch to win by 4 ¼ lengths over Supah Blitz. The Name's Bond was well back in third while the favorite, Trust N Luck, unseated his rider at the start. Lawbook, a son of Notebook now has won the first two legs of the series and will go for the sweep in the $400,000 In Reality Division on Oct. 12, trainer Thomas Heard Jr. said. "I've said all along that he will just get better as the distances get longer," Heard said.
$1 million Long John Silver's Juvenile Fillies
Awesome Humor was no joke for 11 rivals in Friday's $200,000 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, pressing the pace along the inside before drawing clear in the stretch to win by 2 ¾ lengths over the favorite, Forever Partners. Midnight Cry was third. Awesome Humor, a daughter of Distorted Humor, ran 7 furlongs under Pat Day in 1:24.36. "She is living up to our expectations," said winning trainer Elliott Walden. "It is nice when things turn out like this. They don't always do." He said the $400,000 Alcibiades at Keeneland on Oct. 4 is next for Awesome Humor. Trainer Anthony Dutrow said Forever Partners might try the $200,000 Matron at Belmont on Sept. 15.
Miss Houdini got the lead as the field turned into the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 Del Mar Debutante and, with a little help from a traffic jam, held off odds-on favorite Santa Catarina to win by a neck. Indy Groove was 9 ½ lengths back in third. Miss Houdini, undefeated in two starts, ran 7 furlongs is 1:23.43. Gary Stevens, recovering from surgery to remove chips from his knee, rode the winner, a daughter of Belong to Me. He said he heard Santa Catarina and jockey Mike Smith coming. But, he said, "I knew I could still win it. This feels awful good. It's a great way to come back." Previously undefeated Buffythecenterfold finished seventh of eight starters.
Ivanavinalot won by a lot -- 10 lengths -- in Saturday's $125,000 Susan's Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes. The West Acre filly, with Manoel Cruz up, went quickly to the lead and extended it throughout the stretch. She finished in 1:24.41.Heavenly Miss was best of the rest and Fortunate Card finished third. Trainer Kathleen O'Connell said Ivanavinalot will go next in the final leg of the filly series, the Oct. 12 My Dear Girl.
And on the Ohio circuit, Fabulous Brush rallied from off the pace to post a dominating, 5-length victory in Saturday's $100,0000 Pepsi Bassinet Stakes at River Downs. Moonlight Sonata was second and the favorite, Crystal Dancer, finished third. Fabulous Brush, a Florida-bred daughter of Cobra King, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11. 4/5. Kenny McPeek trains the filly.
In other weekend racing:
In Sunday's $125,000 Seaway Stakes, El Prado Essence got to the front as the field headed for home, then just held on to beat Hattiesburg by a nose under the wire. Feathers was third, some 7 lengths back. "We had a golden trip," said Kabel, who won another. "The only thing is, I had to move a little early." El Prado Essence, a 5-year-old El Prado mare, also won the Seaway last year by hanging on to the lead in the final yards.
Truly a Judge shipped from California to win Saturday's $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel. Taking command at the top of the stretch, Truly a Judge drew off to win by 5 ¼ lengths in the marquee attraction of the Claiming Crown, a series of starter handicap-type events on loan from Canterbury Park.
Local favorite Ruskin won the $50,000 Iron Horse for $5,000 claimers; Talknow came from Illinois to capture the $50,000 Express for $7,500 claimers; Won Moro came from Monmouth to pick up the winner's share of the $75,000 Glass Slipper for $12,500 distaffers; Risen Warrior, another local, won the $100,000 Rapid Transit for $16,000 claimers going 6 ½ furlongs; and Nowrass won the day's only grass event, the $125,000 Emerald.
Sea Bloom rallied on the inside after stalking the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 La Senorita Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, got to the lead and won by 2 lengths despite drifting out in mid-stretch. Prom Date was second and Amiga third. Sea Bloom, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Sea Hero, ran 1 mile on the grass in 1:37.06.
In the companion $100,000 El Jovan Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings, Zydeco Affair came from well off the pace to win by ¾ lengths over the favorite, Leo's Last Hurrahy. Alpler was third. Zydeco Affair, by Islefaxyou, finished the grassy mile in 1:37.81.
Souris dueled You Glitter Girl into submission in Saturday's $75,000 Top Flight Stakes, then went on to win by 2 lengths. Christmas Time rallied from last to finish second and You Glitter Girl held third. Souris now is undefeated in two starts. The daughter of Defrere ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.08. "I was just a passenger and I guided her in the right direction," said wining rider Robby Albarado.
High Maintenance rolled home first in Saturday's $75,000 Denise Rhudy Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, 4 lengths ahead of Garden Dance. The British-bred daughter of Danehill ran 11/16 mile on a "good" course in 1:45.38 under Aaron Gryder.
In a pair of juvenile races for local auction sellers, Crafty Guy won the $200,000 Futurity by 3 lengths over Mister Deux, finishing 6 furlongs in 1:12.15; and Collymore Hall captured the $200,000 Sorority by 1 ½ lengths over Niclie in 1:13.21.
Kiss the Devil survived some bumping at the start to win Saturday's $60,000 Dade Turf Classic. Running on the engine under Lonnie Meche, the 4-year-old Kris S. filly won by a head over San Dare. De Aar was third. Kiss the Devil was clocked in 1:46.43.
Channing Way turned back one challenge after another in Saturday's $60,000 Mae De Vol Sprint Handicap before finally holding off Onslaught to win by a neck. More Mascara was third. The 6 furlongs took 1:10.31."She only runs as hard as she has to," said winning rider Chad Schvaneveldt. Added trainer Fan Morgan, "they pay the same no matter how far they win by." He said he will freshen up the 4-year-old Smokester filly for the Nov. 2 Cal Cup Distaff.
Sunday, Mr. Technique used a come-from-behind technique to win the $60,000 San Mateo Stakes for 2-year-olds by a head over Hawaiian Lyon. Bases are Loaded was third. Mr. Technique, a Kentucky-bred son of Smart Strike, went off the heavy favorite and ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.66. "He has a lot of raw talent and is still learning how to run," said winning trainer Jeff Bonde. "I think you'll see a much better horse around two turns."
Glitzi's Classic came out for running room at the quarter pole in Saturday's $50,000 Prelude, got to the lead and held off Walk in the Snow to win by aneck. De Real Deal was third. Glitzi's Classic, a half-brother to Sarah Lane's Oates, earned an automatic berth in the Sept. 21 Super Derby and trainer Andrew Leggio Jr., said the son of Sky Classic probably will run in that event.
Sunday, Sheza Nasty Lady went quickly to the lead and made the advantage stand up to win the $50,000 Lyrique by a neck over Chula. Just Scarlet was third. Sheza Nasty Lady, a daughter of Sandpit, finished the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.91.
Maresha came from last in a field of five to win Saturday's $50,000 Miss Woodford Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a neck over Miss Marni. Al Max Diner was third. Maresha, a daughter of Judge T C, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.39.
And on Sunday, Final Round won the $50,000, off-the-turf Junior Champion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 2 ¼ lengths over Paisley Park. Final Round, a Storm Cat filly, got the 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:41, picking up her second win in three tries.