It's not that winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes don't ever come back to run well later in their careers. But that kind of success seems to be the exception, rather than the rule.
There are lots of reasons Triple Crown winners slump later in their 3-year-old year. First, they are pressured through the last part of the 2-year-old season and the spring of their 3-year-old season to an early peak. Second, the successful 3-year-olds attain such potential value for breeding that risking them in racetrack exertion can be fiscal insanity.
Others just appear knocked out by their grueling regimen. That would seem to be the case with this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide, and his Belmont conquerer, Empire Maker. Much as their connections wanted them to, neither horse could answer the bell for Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
Bucking the trend was the winner of Saturday's "Mid-Summer Derby," Ten Most Wanted. The Deputy Commander colt was ninth behind Funny Cide in the Kentucky Derby and second to Empire Maker in the Belmont. With those two absent from the Travers, Ten Most Wanted rolled to a 4 1/2-length victory after a typically patient ride by Pat Day.
Peace Rules and Strong Hope set a hot pace, going a half mile in 46.36 seconds and 6 furlongs in 1:09.98. When the running started in the stretch, Ten Most Wanted breezed by them both. Peace Rules held on for second and Strong Hope for third, but they were no threat.
Day said he expected the race to run the way it did. "I thought they'd run along pretty quick, so I was just going to let my horse coast along there and, really, I hadn't anticipated going after them until we turned for home," he said.
Although the win was only the third of his career, J. Paul Reddam, co-owner of Ten Most Wanted, said the outcome indicates "we've got one of the top horses in the 3-year-old picture. I'm anxious for Funny Cide to get better and for Empire Maker to get better. Hopefully, they will all hook up together in the Breeders' Cup Classic."
Funny Cide still had some problems with mucus in his throat on Sunday morning and trainer Barclay Tagg said he doesn't care if the gelding runs at Saratoga. "All I'm going to do is take care of him and put him on antibiotics for the next few days," Tagg said. After winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Funny Cide finished third in the Belmont and third in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth.
Empire Maker, who finished second in the Jim Dandy after winning the Belmont, coughed during the days before the Travers but trainer Bobby Frankel said he was just "erring on the side of caution" by scratching the colt. "In case he has a little bug left in him, I don't want to mess him up for the rest of the year," Frankel said. "Like I say, 'When in doubt, you take them out.'"
--Whichever 3-year-olds make it to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, they will have to face some powerhouse older horses. But there is a bit of a question whether that contingent will include the newest star of the handicap division, Candy Ride. The 4-year-old Argentine-bred colt impressively won Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, easily dispatching top-rated Medaglia d'Oro at the top of the stretch and drawing clear. He finished in track-record time of 1:59.11. But, according to the Breeders' Cup Web site, neither Candy Ride nor his sire, Ride the Rails, is nominated to the Breeders' Cup program. To get him to the Classic, owners Sid and Jenny Craig therefore apparently would have to pay a supplementary nomination fee of $800,000. Candy Ride is undefeated in six starts, three in Argentina and three after being transferred to Ron McAnally's barn in California. Julie Krone rode the bay colt for the first time in the Pacific Classic, subbing for the injured Gary Stevens. "How good a horse is he?" Krone asked. "Wow! That's ho good a horse he is. Amazing. He is a rocketship."
--In Saturday's $200,000 Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park, Tenpins held on to win by 1 length over Aeneas. Jersey Giant, who battled for the lead with Tenpins through most of the race, held on for third. Tenpins, a 5-year-old who won the Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap in his last start, ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:50 1/5 under Robby Albarado. "I don't run him a lot because he puts a lot into his races," said winning trainer Don Winfree. "We'll go to Chicago next (for the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 28) and then we'll take a look at the Breeders' Cup Classic."
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita:
$2 million Nextel Distaff
In Saturday's $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga, Passing Shot battled through deep stretch with the heavy favorite, Wild Spirit, before winning by the bob of a head at the wire. Miss Linda, who led early in the race, finished third. Passing Shot, a 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy, ran the 1 1/4 mile in 2:03.33 under Jose Santos. "It was amazing, really amazing," said winning trainer H. Allen Jerkens. "Earlier in her life, she had little ankle problems and we couldn't train her too much. Sometimes horses develop when they get older and you get lucky when it happens to you." He said if Passing Shot is "doing good and pulls up fine, we'll try the Ruffian."
$1 million Sprint
Valid Video saved ground into the turn in Saturday's $200,000 King's Bishop Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, swung to the outside in midstretch and was just up at the wire to beat pace-setting longshot Great Notion by a neck. Ghostzapper was third, another neck back. Valid Video, a Florida-bred son of Valid Wager, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.15 under Joe Bravo. "Once he got out I knew he would go on about his business," said winning trainer Dennis Manning. Manning said owner Mack Fehsenfeld "would want to take him to the Breeders' Cup. He fires very well fresh. Maybe he deserves a chance."
$1 million NetJets Mile (turf)
Trademark sat behind the first flight of horses into the stretch turn in Saturday's $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, angled out as the field was set down for the stretch run and worked clear to win by 2 lengths over Quest Star. Tap the Admiral was third. Trademark, a 7-year-old Goldmark gelding, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:39.29. "You have to have the trip over the turf course," said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "We'll probably give him a break and point for the Shadwell Mile in October."
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
--Stylish needed most of the length of the stretch to get the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap at Saratoga. But the 5-year-old Thunder Gulch mare got there at the right time, crossing the wire first, 1/2 length ahead of Snow Dance. Cozzy Corner was third and the favorite, Sea of Showers, struggled home last of nine. Stylish ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.03 for jockey John Velazquez and trainer Bill Mott. Mott said the mare is recovering from minor throat surgery. "After a couple of races, she's gotten back in gear," he said. "I don't know where we will go next. She was stepping up today."
--Dessert, with Corey Nakatani up, led from gate to wire in winning Sunday's $300,000 Del Mar Oaks. Setting a comfortable pace, the Storm Cat filly had just enough left to hold off Solar Echo and win by a neck. Personal Legend was third, another 1 length back. Dessert ran the 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:47.04.
In other weekend racing:
Harmony Lodge got the lead in Sunday's $250,000 Ballerina Handicap and refused to give it up, holding off two-time defending champion Shine Again by a nose under the line. Gold Mover was third. Harmony Lodge, a 5-year-old Hennessy mare, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track under Richard Migliore in 1:22.23. "The outside post helped and Richie rode a beautiful race," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "The key to the race was the first quarter for her. She's obviously very fast. Seven-eighths is kind of like the limit for her so when we got the 22 3/5 (seconds) quarter, that was very key."
Out of My Way stayed close to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Arlington Sprint, then went to the lead as the field hit the stretch and drew clear to win by 3 lengths over Bright Valour. Deer Lake was third. Out of My Way ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.82. "I couldn't let the front runners get away from me," said winning rider Curt Bourque. "I just sat on him early and, turning for home, I just moved my hands on him a couple of times and he went on about his business." Winning trainer Gene Cilio said Out of My Way may resurface at Keeneland or Churchill Downs.
Calder Race Course
Sara's Success got the lead with a furlong to run in Saturday's $100,000 Aspidistra Handicap and edged clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Redoubled Miss. Chit Chatter was third and the favorite, Stormy Frolic, finished fourth. Sara's Success, a 5-year-old daughter of Concorde's Tune, ran 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:40.02. The race came off the turf. "I got her to relax nicely on a long hold," said winning rider Eddie Castro. "Little by little, I moved up and by the three-eighths pole I was in position."
Sky Jack was the heavy favorite in Sunday's $250,000 Longacres Mile Handicap and ran like it. After dueling with Handy N Bold, the 7-year-old, California-bred gelding responded to Russell Baze's request for run. At the finish, he was 6 1/4 lengths ahead, with Poker Brad second and Lord Nelson third. The race went in 1:33.
Also Sunday, Infernal McGoon rallied from well back to upset the $75,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff Handicap. The Wekiva Springs filly swung wide into the stretch and scored by 2 lengths over Tamarack Bay. Strikes No Spares was third. Infernal McGoon ran the 1 mile in 1:34 2/5.
Youcan'ttakeme led from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Oaks, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Calldara. Brave Miss was third. Youcan'ttakeme, a Washington-bred daughter of He's Tops, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:48 2/5, completing a sweep of Emerald's Oaks series. She has won all four of her 2003 starts. "She does all her talking on the race track," said winning rider Gary Baze. "Everyone tries to chase her but she runs them into the ground."
Secret Liaison posted a gate-to-wire score in Saturday's $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap for fillies and mares. Breaking from the outside post, the 5-year-old Housebuster mare won off by 4 lengths over Lacie Girl, with Spring Meadow third. The favorite, Cee's Elegance, finished fourth. Secret Liaison ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15 2/5. "The plan wasn't to go for the lead," said winning rider Corey Nakatani. "But when she left there running so easy and made the lead under a pretty good hold, I just went on with it."
Fencelineneighbor sat just behind the early leader in Saturday's $75,000 Barona Cup Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, then took charge on the second turn and won by 1 1/4 length. Valentine Dancer was second under the line with Woodlass third. Fencelineneighbor is a Florida-bred daughter of Wild Rush, trained by Michael Machowsky. Jose Valdiva Jr. rode the filly 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.51.
Forever Grand, moving from the back of the pack, was just up in time to win Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Shepperton Stakes by a neck. Krz Ruckus was a neck further back in third. Forever Grand, a 4-year-old War Deputy gelding, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.10. Forever Grand, who won for the second time this year, was third in last year's Queen's Plate.
Sonic West moved to the lead on the turn for home in Saturday's $75,000 Governor's Handicap and drew clear, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Trion Georgia. Sterling Gold was third and the favorite, Woodmoon, finished fourth. Sonic West, a 4-year-old West by West gelding, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.31.
Holy Bubbette gave the brush to a half-dozen rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Dixie Miss Stakes. After stalking the early leaders, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Holy Bull won off by 8 lengths over Heart of the Cat. Eternal Cup was third. Holy Bubbette finished the 6-furlong test for 3-year-old fillies in 1:09.86.
The Tony Dutrow-trained entry of Elegant Designer and Randaroo finished 1-2 in Saturday's $50,000 Miss Woodford Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Elegant Designer, with Mario Pino up, won by 1 1/4 length, running 6 furlongs in 1:10 4/5.
In Saturday's $50,000 Decathlon Stakes, Joe's Son Joey circled rivals to win by a neck over Ghostly Numbers. Joe's Son Joey, with Eibar Coa in the irons, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55 2/5 seconds. The 5-year-old son of Fast Play won the Calder Turf Sprint Handicap in his previous start.
Sunday, Ballonenostrikes did all his running in the stretch to win the $50,000 Choice Stakes for 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths over Dream Deliverer. Prince Benjamin was third. Ballonenostrikes, a Florida-bred by Lost Soldier, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.87.
Seven Brides tracked the pace in Saturday's $40,000 Iowa State Fair Stakes, then moved to the front in the final 100 yards, winning by 1 length over Passionate Bird. Burning Memories was third in the 6-furlong event for fillies and mares. Seven Brides, a 4-year-old, Illinois-bred daughter of Marked Tree, was clocked in 1:10.15. Although she was sent to the post as the favorite, breeder and owner Ben Barnow said he wasn't overconfident. "I had a 3-5 once," he said. "But the jockey fell off coming out of the gate."