The juvenile races at this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are starting to look like a Bob Baffert festival -- at least in number of contenders.
Baffert-trained horses finished 1-2-3-4 in Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity. He then topped that by sending out Vindication, a son of the late Seattle Slew, to a spectacular victory in Saturday's $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile despite a terrible start.
Icecoldbeeratreds led the Baffert stampede at Del Mar. The son of In Excess, owned by Mike Pegram, got the early lead, turned back a challenge from Bull Market and cruised on home. He was followed under the wire by Kafwain, Chief Planner and Friendly Mike.
Icecoldbeeratreds redeemed himself in the Futurity after a dull effort as the favorite in the Best Pal Stakes on July 31. That, however, was his only career loss. Pegram said despite the poor effort in the Best Pal, "he's been a nice horse and he redeemed himself today." He said the colt is named for Red Tracton's restaurant near the track.
Baffert assistant Jim Barnes said all four horses would van back to Santa Anita and decisions about their future would await the results of the Kentucky Cup on Saturday and the Futurity at Belmont on Sunday.
The second installment of that "to be continued" was even more exciting than the first. Baffert shipped Vindication to Kentucky, he said, specifically to get him some experience. "This horse needs a little adversity around two turns," he said.
He got what he wanted. At the start, a longshot rival stumbled, dumping jockey Chandra Rennie and scrambling the rest of the field. Complicating matters, Vindication broke in the air. As a result, he was last out of the gate and jockey Mike Smith had his work cut out for him.
"I had to switch to Plan B," Smith said. "But Bob worked him behind horses at Del Mar and that made all the difference today."
Baffert picked up the story: "He made a quick move kind of like Point Given did when he won this race two years ago." Coming from far back, Vindication came five-wide around the turn, easily ran by the leaders and drew off to win by 6 lengths over Private Gold. Tito's Beau was third and Captain Amour fourth.
"He ranks way up there with my best 2-year-olds," Baffert said. "I just hope he keeps on going."
--A trainer with plans to un-Baffert the Juvenile is Patrick Biancone, who also has two of the division's highly regarded members in his barn -- including Whywhywhy, the winner of Sunday's $200,000 Futurity at Belmont.
Whywhywhy, who won the Sanford at Saratoga, raced close to the leaders Sunday, went to the lead with a wide move on the turn and held off a late bid by Pretty Wild. Truckle Feature was third home.
Biancone said Whywhywhy will go directly to the Breeders' Cup while his other prospect, Zavata, will contest the Champagne Stakes on Belmont's Breeders' Cup Preview Day. "Zavata will win the Champagne. Trust me," he said.
--In the Pacific Northwest, Condotierri pulled a minor upset in Sunday's $100,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs. The Kentucky-bred son of Candy Stripes came from next-last in a field of 10 to win by 2 ¼ lengths over Valour Road. Bub, the favorite, finished third after leading briefly at the top of the lane. Condotierri finished the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:45.
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at beautiful Arlington Park:
$1 million Long John Silver's Juvenile Fillies
Baffert has another hot prospect in Atlantic Ocean, easy winner of Saturday's $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies. The well-developed daughter of Stormy Atlantic raced behind the early pace, challenged theleaders on the stretch turn and drew clear, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Ruby's Reception. Jodys Deelite was third. Atlantic Ocean won for the first time on Aug. 29 at Del Mar when she stretched out to run at 1 mile. Jockey Mike Smith said he moved the filly to the lead too soon. "I hit her too soon but she's such a big filly and you want to get her running. She slowed down at the end but there was plenty left." Baffert said he isn't sure where the filly will run next. "We need to try to get the money back on her purchase price," he said. Baffert paid $1.9 million for the filly this March on behalf of The Thoroughbred Corporation.
--At Belmont Park on Sunday, Storm Flag Flying was flying herself in the stretch run of the $200,000 Matron. The Ogden Mills Phipps homebred, by Storm Cat out of My Flag, took off when jockey John Velazquez asked her at the top of the stretch and won by 12 ¾ lengths over Wild Snitch. Trainer Shug McGaughey said he was happy to see Storm Flag Flying close to the lead early. "It looks like now going a distance of ground, if she had to be, she could be on the lead," he said. McGaughey said he is considering the $500,000 Frizette at Belmont on Oct. 5.
--And at Philadelphia Park, Big Score lived up to her name in Saturday's $75,000 Kindergarten Stakes, racing off to win by 8 lengths over Eliza's Cat. Big Score, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Grand Slam, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.39. Steve Asmussen trains the filly.
$4 million Classic
Pure Prize raced up close to the leaders in Saturday's $400,000 Kentucky Cup Classic, went to the lead as the field turned into the stretch and then held on to beat Dollar Bill by 3/4 length at the wire. Hero's Tribute finished third and Abreeze was fourth. The 9 furlongs went in 1:51 1/5. Pure Prize, an Ogden Mills Phipps homebred by Storm Cat out of Heavenly Prize, scored his third win of the year in seven tries with a little change in tactics by trainer Shug McGaughey, who told jockey Mike Smith to keep him a little closer than usual to the pace. "That was the game plan," Smith said. "Shug said to keep him close because when he drops out of it, he kind of lags. So before the race, I took him away from the pony and really zipped him back and forth a couple of times to sharpen him up."
Despite the classic pedigree, Saturday's $254,000 paycheck more than doubled Pure Prize's career earnings. McGaughey assistant Buzz Tenney said Pure Prize "has a lot of ability....We'll have to think about the Breeders' Cup Classic now. At least, it's an option."
Pat Day, who rode Dollar Bill for the first time since the 2001 Belmont Stakes, said the Peaks and Valleys colt "just left himself too much to do" after racing last most of the way to the final turn. Craig Perret, up on Hero's Tribute, said he "had every opportunity to win. He was third, a good third." Niall O'Callaghan, whose Woodmoon finished seventh, said, "If I have any fans left, they ought to quit betting."
--Boston Common shot to the front in Saturday's $150,000 Jerome Handicap for 3-year-olds and steadily increased his advantage until he won by 5 lengths over Vinemaster. No Parole was third in the 1-mile event, clocked in 1:36.12. Boston Common, by Boston Harbor, was ridden by Jorge Chavez for trainer Michael Pino. "He broke well," Chavez said. "I was happy when no one ran with me." Pino said the colt is nominated to the Breeders' Cup, "but that is a slight possibility."
-- In New York, Richard Mulhall, president of The Thoroughbred Corporation, said Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner War Emblem has been sold to Japanese interests and will make his final start in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington.
$2 million Distaff
Mandy's Gold let Raging Fever slug it out with You through the early part of Saturday's $300,000 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont Park. When those two were done, the 4-year-old Gilded Time filly went by them to win by 2 ¼ lengths under Jose Santos. You held second and Shine Again came along to take third. "I thought if we could sit off it a little bit, things would work out," said trainer Michael Gorham. "It turned out to be a fast pace. Jose did an excellent job of sensing the pace." Gorham said the Breeders' Cup Distaff "is a possibility. That's why we wanted to stretch her out and get a feel." Mandy's Gold finished the 1 1/16 mile Ruffian in 1:42.57.
Trip remained undefeated in four starts at Turfway Park by posting a runaway, 5 1/2-length win in Saturday's $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares. After tracking Red n'Gold through a half mile, the 5-year-old daughter of Lord at War took charge and drew off to win ridden out by jockey Pat Day. Mystic Lady was up for second and Red n'Gold held third. Trip ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.01. The race is unlikely to have an impact on the Breeders' Cup, however, as Buzz Tenny, assistant to winning trainer Shug McGaughey, said other things are on the schedule. "I think her next race will be at Churchill Downs in a stakes around Thanksgiving," he said. After winning this race last year, Trip also bypassed the Breeders' Cup and ran instead in the Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap.
$1 million NetJets Mile (turf)
Startac waited until the field turned for home in Saturday's $200,000 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, then moved inside Volponi and won by ¾ length. Volponi held second and Dr. Kashnikow was third. The 9 furlongs on firm turf went in 1:46.60. Startac, a son of Theatrical, also won the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington this summer and trainer Bill Mott said he may be shipping the colt back there. "I guess maybe we'll look at the Breeders' Cup Mile," he said. "We'll have to see. Maybe he is one of those horses that don't excel at a particular distance." "I had a great trip," added winning rider Jerry Bailey. Bailey said he was prepared to go outside if Volponi, under Jose Santos, had closed up the rail.
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
Little Treasure picked up her second North American win in as many tries with a 1 ½-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington Park. The diminutive French-bred filly raced near the lead and finished the 9 furlongs over firm turf in 1:49.92. "She's a tiny little filly with a big heart," said winning rider Rene Douglas. I didn't expect to be on the lead but nobody wanted to take the lead. I had no choice." Trainer Laura de Seroux said Little Treasure may be pointed to the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Oct. 12 at Keeneland, rather than the Breeders' Cup.
$1 million Sprint
Day Trader jumped right to the front in Saturday's $150,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park and coasted home on top, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Premier Performer. Day Trader, a 3-year-old son of Phone Trick, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:10.01 -- a fast time as the track was playing. The win was a step up for the colt, who had been struggling since he won the $100,000 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on May 11. In his last outing, he was beaten 13 lengths over a sloppy track in the King's Bishop at Saratoga. "We may go directly to the Breeders' Cup," said winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
In Belmont Park's $100,000 Floral Park Handicap for fillies and mares on Saturday, Carson Hollow led three rivals on a futile chase, winning by 2 ¼ lengths under John Velazquez. The 3-year-old Carson City filly ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.25. Gold Mover was second and Shiny Band third. "We're looking at the Breeders' Cup Sprint," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. "She won big today." Carson Hollow now has won five of her six lifetime starts. A second by a nose to You in the Test Stakes at Saratoga is her only loss.
In other weekend racing:
Early Wisdom, a 33-1 shot making his first added-money start, posted a stunning, 2 ¼-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Col. R.S. McLaughlin Stakes. The Whiskey Wisdom gelding raced near the leaders most of the way and shook off a challenge from Mark One before going on for the win. "We weren't expecting to be on the lead today or near it. But it worked out that way today," said winning rider Jake Barton. "You can't win unless you try," added winning trainer Barb Pirie.
Saturday, Heyahohowdy won the $125,000 La Prevoyante Stakes by 5 ¾ lengths over Spanish Decree. Heyahohowdy, with Shane Ellis up, got the lead after a half mile and got home easily. The final time was 1:40.59 on a turf course rated "soft."
Miss Lodi caught For Rubies in the final sixteenth of Saturday's $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 1 length. The furlongs took 1:11.20. "I've called this the best filly I've trained and she stepped up today," winning trainer Tom Amoss said from Kentucky. "Over the last couple races she's started to relax and I'm pleased with what she did today."
Tale of a Dream came wide into the stretch and outfinished favorite Global Finance to win Sunday's $60,000 Courtship Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Tale of the Cat ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.14. "It looked like she had a little trouble getting out," said winning trainer Bret H. Layne. "But once she did, she really closed well."
Calder Race Course
Gemma's Star got running room on the inside and took charge in the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Needles Stakes for 3-year-olds, drawing clear to score by 2 ¾ lengths over Susie's Poker. Bog Hunter was third. Gemma's Star, a Florida-bred son of End Sweep, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.60 on the main track after being switched from the turf. "I was lucky," said winning rider Manuel Aguilar. "I had no choice but to go inside. I had no room. Everybody tried to block me." Trainer David Brownlee said he is looking to the Calder Derby Oct. 12.
Two Item Limit has been the Illinois Horse of the Year for the past two years -- despite not having run in Illinois. She corrected that oversight Saturday, posting a 4-length victory in her first start in the Land of Lincoln -- the $40,000 Unique Type Handicap. With Rene Douglas up, the 4-year-old Twining filly ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.87. "We needed to win a race and she ran a big race," said winning trainer Stephen DiMauro. "We were pleased."
Triage got the early lead in Friday night's Iowa Stallion Futurity and then held on to beat Cmego by a nose. Invaderfromtheeast was third, only 1/2 length from the winner. Triage, a son of Dr. Danzig, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:11 3/5. "I didn't think we were going to hold them off," said jockey Mike Allen following the race. "They were just coming after me all the way down to the wire. He doesn't let anything get by him. He pins his ears and digs in."
Screen Pass was a late entrant in Saturday's $60,000 Friendship Stakes for
Texas-breds but wasn't a bit tardy once the gate opened. Racing near the leaders early, Screen Pass got running room on the outside in the stretch and went on to win by a neck over the favorite, Action Tonight. Father Martin was third. The 6 furlongs took 1:13.10. "He's a little bit on the ornery side," said jockey Ron Ardoin, explaining the course change in the stretch.
Sunday, Hannah's Royalrock jumped right to the lead and went on to win the $60,000 Friendship Stakes by 1 length over Parting. The daughter of Superoyale. The running time was 1:10.80.
Coahoma came through traffic to get the lead in the stretch and went on to win Saturday's $55,000 My Friend Russ Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 length over Lord Abounding. Seeking Greatness, the favorite, was third. Coahoma, a Florida-bred by Lucky North, ran the about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.17.
Both divisions of Saturday's Pleasant Temper Stakes resulted in upsets. Rosa's Delaware scored the first surprise, outracing favored Verruma to the wire in the first division. Naturally Wild was third. Rosa's Delaware, under Brian Beck, negotiated the 1 mile on the European-style turf course in 1:36.92. In the second division, Ornate did all the running in the stretch to whip favorite Presumed Innocent by 3 ½ lengths with Pure Glitter third. Ornate, a 5-year-old son of Gilded Time, finished the trip in 1:36.72.
The Downs at Albuquerque
Pacer battled head-to-head with Ex Kay E through most of Saturday's $30,000 Sandia Handicap, then prevailed by a neck at the line. Pacer, a 34-year-old Texas-bred by Pancho Press, ran the 5 ½ furlongs at the Albuquerque Fairgrounds track in 1:03.10.