Trainer Bobby Frankel is having such a wonderful year that, no matter what division of Thoroughbred racing takes center stage, he seems to be in the spotlight. The Filly and Mare Division, leading up to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff, is but the latest example.
Frankel saddled two top winners during the past weekend - one in 3-year-old competition at Belmont Park and the other among older distaffers down the coast at Delaware Park.
--Wild Spirit, with Jerry Bailey up, ran off with Sunday's $750,000 Delaware Handicap, beating Take Charge Lady by 6 lengths. Shiny Sheet was third. Wild Spirit, a Chilean-bred daughter of Hussonet, now has won six of 10 starts United States as she backed up a victory in the Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 17. She ran the 1 1/4 mile in 2:02.95.
--The other Frankel/Bailey charge, Spoken Fur, continued to look like the best 3-year-old filly around by dominating Saturday's $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park. After loafing through the early part of the 1 1/2-mile marathon, the Notebook filly went for the lead on the turn when asked by Bailey, opened up an 8-length lead in the stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Fircroft. Savedbythelight was third. The time was 2:31.02. "You don't see too many horses accelerate like she did in a mile-and-a-half race," Bailey said. "She put the race away at the quarter pole. She's very good." Frankel said if Spoken Fur continues to run as she did in the Mother Goose and the CCAA, "She should be very tough to beat" in the $750,000 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 16.
--Island Fashion was easily best in Saturday's $500,000 Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 6 1/2 lengths over even-money favorite Awesome Humor. Island Fashion, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Petionville, ran 1 1/16 mile with Iggy Puglisi up in 1:44.95. Ladyecho was third. Puglisi said the effort might not have been Island Fashion's best. "I even broke a little slow but she made the lead and put a horse away on the backside," he said. "Once she relaxed, it was just a matter of when I would call her." Several contestants said they were bothered by an unusual start that found one rider out of the saddle when the gate opened.
--Stormy Frolic stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Nancy's Glitter Handicap at Calder Race Course, took the lead on the turn and scooted off to win by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Redoubled Miss. Urbana Light (the favorite beer at the University of Illinois?) was third. Stormy Frolic, a 4-year-old daughter of Summer Squall, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.65. Winning trainer Milt Wolfson said his filly's defeat in her last effort at Pimlico can be attributed to losing two shoes during the race - in which Mandy's Gold and Summer Colony finished 1-2. "I still think she belongs with those kind," he said.
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 25 at Santa Anita:
$2 million John Deere Turf
--Evolving Tactics, making his first United States start for Irish trainer Dermot Weld, took the lead in the stretch of Sunday's $250,000 American Derby at Arlington Park and held off Californian to win by a neck. Evolving Tactics, with Irish rider Patrick Smullen in the irons, ran the 1 3/16 mile over "good" turf in 1:59.04. "We were a little bit worried beforehand that there was going to be no pace," Smullen said. "I delivered my challenge as soon as we straightened up in the stretch and he went away and won quite well." Weld said he will ship the son of Machiavellian back to Ireland, only to return for the Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million day, Aug. 16.
--Normally Arlington Park's Washington Park Handicap would be a prep for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic. But after Perfect Drift shipped in to win Saturday's $400,000 renewal, it may have become a prep for the top grass races during the late summer and fall. Perfect Drift, a 4-year-old son of Dynaformer, got to the front as the field turned for home and, with Pat Day in the irons, he drew off to win by 5 lengths over Aeneas. Flatter was third. In his last outing, Perfect Drift beat Mineshaft, arguably the nation's top handicap horse, in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. However, trainer Murray Johnson said the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million is next on the gelding's agenda. He noted Dynaformer "is a versatile sire and affords us a chance to use different races to get him where we want," he said. So the Classic may still be the first option.
--Puerto Banus rallied into the stretch run three-wide in Sunday's $150,000 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park and gamely caught Cagney in the late going to win by 1/2 length. Continental Red, the favorite in the field of eight, was third. Puerto Banas, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Supremo, ran 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:26.95 under Victor Espinoza. The colt is trained by Kristin Mulhall.
--Strut The Stage, making his second start of the year, made a late move in the stretch to win Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Chinese Cultural Center Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Perfect Soul. The victory avenged a loss to Perfect Soul in the King Edward Breeders' Cup last month. With Todd Kabel up, Strut The Stage finished in a quick 2:13.85 on a firm course. "He's just a tremendous little horse," Kabel said of the 5-year-old. "He's small but he has a heavy engine in there. He's all racehorse." Strut The Stage now has won eight of 17 starts.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
--Foufa's Warrior rallied from far back to win Sunday's $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park by 1 1/4 length over Remind. The favorite, Lismore Knight, was third in the seven-horse field. Foufa's Warrior, a Maryland-bred son of Jade Hunter, got the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.44 - a course record -- under Ramon Dominguez.
--Soaring Free, despite seeming "a little flat" to rider Todd Kabel, had just enough to won Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Ontario Jockey Club Stakes at Woodbine, earning a ticket to the $1 million Atto Mile on Sept. 14. "In the post parade, he was awfully quiet," said Kabel. "Even in the race, he was real quiet with me. He wasn't aggressive like he normally is. He just seemed a little flat with me today." I was the fourth consecutive win for the son of Smart Strike.
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
--Alternate upset Saturday's $150,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap at Delaware Park. The 4-year-old daughter of Seattle Slew raced just behind the early leader, took charge in the stretch and held off Spice Island by 1 1/4 length under the wire. Lady of the Future was third and the Favorite, San Dare, struggled home sixth. Alternate ran 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:15.04 under Oliver Castillo.
$1 million Sprint
--Wake At Noon, Canada's 2002 Horse of the Year despite a 12th-place finish in last year's Sprint, led all the way to a 1 3/4-length victory in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian), 1 1/16-mile Izvestia Stakes. "He showed what he was made of. He's all heart," said trainer Abraham Katryan. "In my heart, I knew he could handle the distance." Emile Ramsammy rode Wake At Noon in 1:44.08. Anglian Prince was second and Forever Grand was third.
--In Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Bold Venture Stakes at Woodbine, Mulligan The Great set a hot pace, then held on to win by 1 length over Krz Ruckus. The 6 1/2 furlongs took 1:16.77 after a half mile in 43.54 seconds. "They were sizzling early but they came back a little bit," said winning trainer Cliff Hopmans Jr.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
--Perfect Moon rolled from last in a field of five to win Saturday's $100,000 Hollywoold Juvenile Championship by 2 1/2 lengths over Blairs Roarin Star. The favorite, Ruler's Court, raced evenly to finish third. Perfect Moon, a Maryland-bred gelding by Malibu Moon, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.39 under Patrick Valenzuela.
"I believe his father was the best horse in the country when he was a 2-year-old," said winning trainer Mel Stute. "It was the same year as Fusaichi Pegasus."
--Deputy Storm had little trouble with five rivals in Sunday's $50,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park, winning by 4 lengths over Kipper's Night. Hasslefree was third after a slow start. Deputy Storm, a Kentucky-bred son of Forestry, is trained by Todd Pletcher. He ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.73 for Joe Bravo.
In other weekend racing:
Wando took the lead as the field exited the clubhouse turn in Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Prince of Wales Stakes, took complete charge and won by 4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Arco's Gold was second and Shoal Water third. Wando, a son of Langfuhr, finished the 1 1/16 mile on a muddy track in 1:55.84.
The Claiming Crown returned to its home Saturday and jockey Julie Krone rode the day's two biggest winners. Krone was aboard Daunting, who shipped in from California to win the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel, and Image, who took the $125,000 Emerald on the turf.
Pioneer Boy won the $100,000 Rapid Transit at 6 1/2 furlongs, Mum's Gold took the $75,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares, Landler staged a mild upset in winning the $40,000 Express at 6 furlongs, and Ghoastly Prize won the $50,000 Iron Horse.
Well Fancied romped to a 4 1/2-length victory in Sunday's $100,000 Evan Shipman Handicap for state-breds, leading by 6 lengths in the stretch before coasting home. Compelling World was second and Sherpa Guide was third. Well Fancied, the favorite, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:40.94 under Edgar Prado.
Private Lap broke loose from a two-horse pace duel on the stretch turn in Saturday's $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial Handicap, then edged clear to win by 1 length over Bag of Mischief. Runspastum ran past three rivals to finish third. Private Lap, a 4-year-old Private Terms colt, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.20.
Shalini came from near the back of the field to win Saturday's $75,000 Valkyr Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares. The 4-year-old daughter of Urgent Request, with Patrick Valenzuela up, swung three-wide into the stretch to gain the advantage and beat Sunset Serenade by 2 lengths. Calzada Kid was third. The 1 mile on firm turf went in 1:35.46.
Stylish just caught Something Ventured in the final strides to win Saturday's $100,000 Eatontown Handicap by a neck. Sweet Deimos was third. Stylish, a 5-year-old Thunder Gulch mare, ran the 1 1/16 mile on "soft" turf in 1:41.69.
Only the Best led most of the way to win Sunday's $50,000 Anderson Fowler Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3 1/2 lengths over Second in Command. My Boy Kyle was third. Only the Best, a Cal-bred son of Smokester, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.79 seconds.
G P Fleet closed quickly in the stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Regaey Island Stakes for 3-year-old by 2 1/4 lengths. Banned in Boston was second as the favorite. Permiso was third. G P Fleet, a Florida-bred son of Northern Afleeet, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:39.48 with Jason Lumpkins up.
Silver Screen scored a front-running, 3/4-length victory over Tamarack Bay in Sunday's $50,000 Boeing Handicap for fillies and mares. The 5-year-old daughter of Silver Ghost finished the 1 1/16 mile in1:42 2/5. Secondary School was the tertiary finisher.
Saturday, Sundance Circle won the $35,000 Emerald Express Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings, leading from gate to wire. The son of Katowice shook off six rivals entering the stretch and won by 5 1/2 lengths over Harvard Avenue. The 6 furlongs took 1:09.
Lac Laronge won the pace duel in Sunday's $50,000 Arcadia Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, then ran off on his own to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Zarb's Music. Guiltyascaanbe was third. Lac Laronge, a gray gelding by Nelson, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.62.
Saturday, Blue Guru led all the way to a 1 1/2-length victory over McKinney in the $50,000 Delicada Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies. Coastalota was third. Blue Guru is a gray daughter of El Prado. She ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.52.
Wage a Penny led from gate to wire in winning Sunday's $50,000 Tippett Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 7 lengths over Winning Wonder. J Star was third. Wage a Penny, a Florida-bred daughter of Valid Wager, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the firm turf in 1:04.82.
In Saturday's $50,000 Chenery Stakes for 2-year-olds (wouldn't Wage a Penny have been a hunch bet in this race?), Urban Warrior led all the way to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Game Within a Game. Castle Concert was third. Urban Warrior is a Kentucky-bred son of Cape Town. He ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on the green course in 1:05.65.