With the Triple Crown races in history books – and no Triple Crown winner again – let's move along to the next question: How well can we expect the 3-year-olds to run against older horse this summer and, especially, in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic in October at Santa Anita's Oak Tree Meeting?
History shows that horses who have won or at least performed well in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont are capable of winning the Classic that same season. Last year, the picture wasn't so pretty.
The classic 3-year-old Classic was the sixth running at Gulfstream Park in 1989, when Sunday Silence and Easy Goer finished 1-2 after also dominating that year's Triple Crown series.
In 1990, Unbridled won the Derby and finished second in the Preakness before winning the Classic. In 1992, A.P. Indy missed the Kentucky Derby with a race-day injury and then skipped the Peakness before winning the Belmont and the Classic. The 1994 Classic winner, Concern, won the Preakness but didn't contest the Derby or Belmont.
You couldn't have found all the 3-year-old Classic winners by studying the Triple Crown charts. Tiznow won the first of two Classics in 2000 – a year in which he was a maiden until May 31. In 1999, Cat Thief was third in the Derby, seventh in the Preakness and 1-for-11 on the year when he upset the Classic at Gulfstream Park.
In last year's Classic at Arlington Park, Medaglia d'Oro went to the post as the favorite after finishing fourth in the Derby, eighth in the Preakness and second in the Belmont. He then won the Jim Dandy and the Travers at Saratoga. In the Classic, Medaglia d'Oro got the lead turning for home but finished second by 6 1/2 lengths to the longshot Volponi.
Four other horses from last year's Kentucky Derby also started in the 2002 Classic. Derby winner War Emblem struggled home eighth, followed by Harlan's Holiday in ninth, Came Home in 10th and Perfect Drift last of 12.
Other recent Derby winners who have bombed in the Classic include Fusaichi Pegasus (6th in 2000) and Go For Gin (8th in 1994). And, for a variety of reasons, no Derby winner in the five from 1995 to 1999 even made it into the Classic starting gate.
So how about this year? Will Funny Cide rebound from his defeat in the Belmont, resume his winning ways in the Haskell and the Travers, then make his presence felt in the Classic? Or will Empire Maker's classy breeding carry him to success in the Jim Dandy and a rematch with Funny Cide in the Travers, and on to Santa Anita? Or will a late-developing sophomore get the job done in October? Here are some hints from weekend racing:
--Perfect Drift was third in last year's Kentucky Derby but served notice in Saturday's $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs that he might be back for more as a 4-year-old. The Dynaformer gelding battled down the stretch with odds-on favorite Mineshaft before winning by a neck. Aldebaran was third in one of the most hotly contested handicaps of the year so far. But if Perfect Drift is headed for the Classic in October, he apparently will do it with at least one grassy prep. "The Arlington Million will be our next objective," said trainer Murray Johnson. "I've got horses up there already and I love Arlington." Johnson said Perfect Drift handles any surface in any condition. The Stephen Foster has been a key race in preps for the Classic, as Perfect Drift's rider, Pat Day, noted. "It has produced some heavy hitters in that race. Hopefully it will be the same," Day said. Winners of the Stephen Foster en route to victory in the Classic were Awesome Again in 1998 and Black Tie Affair in 1991.
--On the West Coast, Kudos broke a three-race losing streak with a late-running victory in Saturday's $400,000 Californian at Hollywood Park. Toting Alex Solis, the 6-year-old was well back through the early stages of the race, rallied strongly on the turn and got home 1/2 length to the good of Piensa Sonando. "Even though we were far back, I thought I had a chance to pick them up," said Solis. Winning trainer Richard Mandella said Kudos likely will run next in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13.
--At Belmont Park in New York, Iron Deputy led most of the way to a 2 1/2-length win in the $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap, beating last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Volponi. Saarland was third, followed by Evening Attire and Harlan's Holiday in a short field. Evening Attire was fourth in last year's Classic and Harlan's Holiday finished ninth in that race. Iron Deputy, a son of Silver Deputy, ran the 9 furlongs over a sloppy track (will it ever stop raining in New York?) in 1:47.84. The race was hand-timed, "due to a sever electrical thunderstorm," according to Equibase. "The downpour probably helped us," said winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "I think a mile and a quarter is within his range, as long as he rates kind." He said he may try that distance in the Suburban Handicap on July 5.
--At Delaware Park, Awesome Time won a stretch battle with Christine's Outlaw to take Saturday's $250,000 Leonard Richards Stakes for 3-year-olds by a nose. Awesome Time is a Nick Zito-trained son of 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again out of a Seattle Slew mare. He ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.26. Assistant trainer Jim Poole said Zito hasn't yet mapped out a summer campaign for the colt.
--Champali got the early lead in Saturday's $100,000 Northern Dancer Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs and went on to win by 2 lengths over Lone Star Sky. During was third. Champali, a son of Glitterman, missed the Preakness with a bout of colic. "We're looking at possibly running him next in the Iowa Derby," said trainer Greg Foley. "I want him to run where he's going to be a favorite."
In other weekend racing that may impact the Breeders' Cup Championships on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita:
$2 million Distaff
--You raced from just off the pace to score a 3 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $300,000 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old daughter of You and I went to the lead on the turn for home and finished the 9 furlongs in 1:49.12 under Jerry Bailey. Printemps was second and Nonsuch Bay was third. "Jerry said he was going to let her run out of there and if someone else wanted the lead, that was okay," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "I just let him ride it the way he sees it."
--Out west, Santa Catarina got the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks and drew off to win by 4 lengths over Buffythecenterfold. Princess V was another 6 lengths back in third. Santa Catarina, a daughter of Unbridled, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.62. "She's got some turf in there," said winning trainer Bob Baffert, referring to Santa Catarina's pedigree. "There's that turf invitational (the July 5 American Oaks), so we could put her on the turf and see how she likes it. For $750,000, (owner) Bob Lewis doesn't mind taking a chance."
--And in Florida, Splasha posted a big upset in Saturday's $100,000 Office Queen Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rolling from well off the pace to win by 1 1/4 length over Crimson and Roses. Running Debate, another longshot, was third and the odds-on favorite, Ivanavinalot, faded badly to finish sixth. Splasha, at nearly 30-1 odds, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.32. "We went bear hunting with a slingshot," said winning trainer Dave Vivian. "But she ran big."
$2 million Turf
--Storming Home did just that in Saturday's $350,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park. After running near the back of the six-horse field, the 5-year-old, British-bred son of Machiavellian took the wide route though the turn and got home first, 3/4 length ahead of Mister Acpen. Cagney was third. Storming Home, the odds-on favorite, ran 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 2:00.66 under Gary Stevens. "He's the real deal, this horse, something special," Stevens said. "And (trainer) Neil Drysdale said he wasn't at his best today." Drysdale said he and the owners "will have to make up our minds whether to go to the United Nations Handicap or where."
--Sunday at Hollywood, Continental Red drew clear in the stretch to win the $100,000 Quicken Tree Stakes for Cal-breds by 4 1/2 lengths. Shalini and Lily's Lad dead-heated for second and third. Continental Red is a 7-year-old Flying Continental gelding. He ran the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:26.66. "I still think he can run with the top horses at the peak of his form when he's ready," said winning rider Pat Valenzuela. "Hopefully, we'll get him back to where he's running with the bigger horses."
--At Woodbine in Canada, Perfect Soul scored a 2 1/2-length victory over Strut The Stage in Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap. Perfect Soul was eighth in last year's Turf. This year, he started his season with an allowance victory at Keeneland, then finished second to Dr. Brendler in the Citgo Dixie at Pimlico over soft turf. "This is a great horse," said winning rider Robert Landry. "Good horses know how to dig down and they know how to win. That's what he did today."
$1 million Sprint
--For Rubies stalked Raging Fever into the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap, then went on to take the lead and score a 3-length victory. Raging Fever held second and Oglala Sue was third in the race for fillies and mare. For Rubies, a daughter of Not For Love, ran 7 furlongs over a fast track in 1:24.21. Winning jockey Craig Perret said once he got by Raging Fever, "I didn't care who else was coming. They'd have had to run too quick to run her down."
$1 million Juvenile
--At Woodbine on Saturday, Gemini Dream led most of the way in the $125,000 Victoria Stakes and finished first by 2 1/4 lengths. But he then was disqualified to last for his role in a pileup at the three-eighths pole, elevating Third Day to the win position. Third Day is a Kentucky-bred son of Distorted Humor, who also sired Funny Cide. The favorite, Stormthebarricade, clipped heels in the traffic jam and fell.
$1 million Mile
--Rock Slide, a full brother to Mineshaft, did what his brother couldn't do as he won Sunday's $150,000 Sea o'Erin Breeders Cup Mile. Racing from a stalking position, Rock Slide just edged by Miesque's Approval in deep stretch to win by a nose. Package Store was third. Rock Slide, a 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy, was clocked in 1:35.85. "Rock Slide is known for a fight late in the race," said winning rider Robby Albarado. "When you come up to him, he's determined to win."
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
Jockey Mark Guidry sent Sand Springs out to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Regret for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs and no one came to challenge her. At the wire, Sand Springs was first, 3 lengths ahead of Personal Legend, the pari-mutuel favorite. Achnasheen was third. "I think she's one of the best 3-year-old fillies around," said winning trainer Tony Reinstedler. Both Sand Springs and Personal Legend are headed for the American Oaks at Hollywood Park.
In other weekend racing:
Happy Trails came from last to win Saturday's $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths over Traffic Chief. Chilly Rooster was third. Happy Trails, a Kentucky-bred son of Peaks and Valleys, ran the 9 furlongs on a track rated "good" in 1:50.13. "He doesn't have brilliant speed but he will grind you down," said winning trainer Steve Klesaris.
Sunday's $100,000 Sands Point Stakes for 3-year-old fillies came off the turf and lost most of its starting field. Savedbythelight was the best of the five who stuck around to contest the event on a main track rated fast. The daughter of Saint Ballado tracked Virgin Voyage, went to the lead at the top of the lane and won off by 5 3/4 lengths. Virgin Voyage held second and Little Bonnet was third. Trainer Richard Violette Jr. said he was disappointed the race came off the turf because he wants to get Savedbythelight into the American Oaks at Hollywood Park.
Amber Hills tracked pace-setting favorite Fudge Fatale into the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Bay Meadows Oaks, then got by and won by 1/2 length. Gods Ear was third. Amber Hills, a daughter of Bold Badgett, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:43.50. Trainer Ed Moger Jr. said he may run Amber Hills in the Fleet Treat Stakes for Cal-breds at Del Mar. "But we'll keep our options open and see where she fits best," he added.
Sunday, Handyman Bill went by the early speed as the field hit the stretch run in the $60,000 Foster City Handicap, then went on to win by 3/4 length over Ninebanks. Night Life, the favorite, was third under the wire. Handyman Bill, a 4-year-old son of Skywalker, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.74.
Sharky's Review bested favorite Fly Borboleta in deep stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 Wild Rose Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length. Barney's Mistress was just a nose farther back in third. Sharkey's Review is a 5-year-old, Iowa-bred mare by Sharkey. She got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.66.
Runspastum upset Saturday's $100,000 Oceanport Handicap, rallying from last of six to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Balto Star. Saint Verre was third and the favorite, Burning Roma, was fifth. Nine prospective starters scratched when the race came off the turf.
Slew's Final Answer saved ground at the back of the pack early in Saturday's $60,000 West Long Branch Stakes for fillies and mares, moved out into the stretch run and drew clear to win by 5 3/4 lengths over Belle Artiste. Balmy was third as the 6 furlongs went in 1:09.96. Slew's Final Answer is a 4-year-old daughter of the late Seattle Slew.
Sunday, Sky Soldier stalked the pace in the $50,000 Restoration Stakes, then moved to the front on the turn and got home first, 1 length ahead of Deadline. Poppy's Image was a neck farther back in third. Sky Soldier, a son of Unaccounted For, ran the 1 mile on the fast main track in 1:38.45 after the event came off the turf.
Turban wore down the early leaders and held off the late closers to win Sunday's $75,000 Budweiser Emerald Handicap by 1 1/4 length. Alfurune was second. Moonlight Meeting and I'madrifter dead-heated for third and fourth, another neck farther in arrears. Turban is a 4-year-old Lord Avie gelding. He ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34 3/5.
Lone Star Park
Cauy scored a minor upset in Saturday's $50,000 Miller Lite Stakes, a 5-furlong turf sprint for distaffers, catching front-running Southern Tour at the wire. My Meow was third and the favorite, Full Spectrum, was fourth under the wire. Cauy, a 5-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon, finished in 59.39 seconds.
Stylish, invading from Churchill Downs, took the widest route to victory in Sunday's $100,000 Lady Canterbury Breeders's Cup. The Thoroughbred Corporation standard-bearer, with Brice Blanc up, ran from the back of the pack and finished in 1:34.90. "I thought I might be a little closer," said Blanc. "Today she broke a little slow but it worked out."
Dontbotherknocking was the best of the closers in Saturday's $40,000 Brooks Fields Handicap, dueling Promise of War into submission in the final furlong. Our Best Man then came along to snatch place money from Promise of War. Dontbotherknocking, a 5-year-old, ran 7 1/2 furongs under Derek Bell in 1:29.54.