"Pace makes the race." There are "horses for courses." And some say strategy is the key to a winning effort at the race track. But, in the end, it's about speed. The horse that gets from the gate to the wire fastest, wins.
So when Calder Race Course pops the clutch on its annual "Summit of Speed," you can count on some serious velocity from top sprinters. This year's edition was no exception.
The marquee races were $500,000 events at 6 furlongs -- the Smile Sprint Handicap and the $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap, restricted to fillies and mares. Either could have a bearing on the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.
In the Smile, jockey Jerry Bailey took Champali right to the lead from the No. 1 post position and beat back challenges from first Built Up and then the favorite, Clock Stopper, before winning by a nose. Clock Stopper was second, just a neck in front of Built Up. Champali, winner of the Aristides Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in his last start, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.14.
"Right now, I'm looking to run him one more time and then go to Texas for the Breeders' Cup," said winning trainer Greg Foley. "I haven't decided where or when he'll run before that. We'll just try to keep him happy in the meantime."
The Princess Rooney went to Ema Bovary, who tracked the leaders, got to the front in the final sixteenth and drew clear to beat favorite Bear Fan by 2 lengths. Lady Tak was 3 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Ema Bovary has now won 13 of 19 starts. She ran 6 furlongs for Roberto Gonzalez in 1:10.81. But trainer Larry Ross said the Chilean-bred won't be looking at the Breeders' Cup because of the 20 percent supplementary fee that would be due. "You could say this was her Breeders' Cup -- 'Ema does Miami,'" Ross said. "She'll have some kind of program in the fall."
In the $300,000 Carry Back Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds, Weigelia surged to the lead at the top of the stretch and won a duel to the wire with Classy Migration. The margin was 1/2 length, with Bweana Charlie well back in third and the favorite, Ice Wynnd Fire, finishing fifth. Weigelia, a son of Safely's Mark, was clocked in 1:10.50. "I don't know where he'll run next," said winning trainer Manny Azpurua. "But he's improving and he's always fighting and very competitive."
Dazzle Me lived up to her name big-time in the $300,000 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Jumping quickly to the lead with urging from jockey Shane Sellers, the Tactical Cat filly opened up in the stretch to win by 6 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Reforest. Boston Express finished third. Dazzle Me now has won all four of her starts on the main track, losing only when placed on yielding turf at Churchill Downs in May. She was timed in 1:11.40. "The turf race was my mistake," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. You take that race away and there isn't anything not to like about her." Asmussen said the filly will start next in the Test Stakes at Saratoga on July 31.
Whenthedoveflies dueled with Swift Replica through most of the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap at 5 furlongs on the turf before prevailing by a head. Bishop Court Hill was third with a belated rally. Whenthedoveflies, a 4-year-old filly by Dove Hunt, was clocked in 55.40 seconds with Pat Day in the irons. It was the filly's first try against males. "There aren't a lot of opportunities for turf sprinters," said winning trainer Ralph Ziadie.
And speed was distilled to its very essence in the $50,000 Rocket Man Stakes at just 2 furlongs. Pembroke Hall broke on top from the rail and won by a head over Love My Mountain, with Caller One third. The time -- don't blink -- was 21.65 seconds. "He just runs in these races because he's a bad bleeder and this is as far as he can go," said winning trainer Donald MacRae.
In other weekend events that might impact the Breeders' Cup Sprint:
-- At Hollywood Park on Saturday, Dream of Summer upset the $150,000 A Gleam Invitational Handicap for fillies and mares at 7 furlongs, leading most of the way to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Tucked Away. Elusive Diva was third and the favorite, Elloluv, struggled home sixth. Dream of Summer, a 5-year-old daughter of Siberian Summer, finished in 1:21.16 under Mike Smith.
In other weekend races that may impact the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park in Texas:
$4 million Classic, powered by Dodge
-- Total Impact had lost two straight races to Even the Score going into Saturday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. But Total Impact, a Chilean-bred 6-year-old, evened the score with Even the Score in the Gold Cup, rallying in the lane to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Olmodavor finished second while Even the Score could do no better than third. Total Impact ran the 1 1/4 mile in 2:00.72 with Mike Smith riding. Winning trainer Laura de Seroux said, "He does relish the mile and a quarter. I always thought that was his best distance." Her assistant, Jeff Ford, said the plan is to run Total Impact in the San Diego and then in the Pacific Classic.
-- On the Gold Cup undercard, Rock Hard Ten rebounded from his Triple Crown exertions to win the $400,000 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes by a widening 3 3/4 lengths. Suave was second and Boomzeeboom was third after leading a good part of the way. Rock Hard Ten, with Corey Nakatani up, ran 9 furlongs in 1:47.47. He is a Kentucky-bred son of Kris S. from the Mr. Prospector mare Tersa. "I was a little concerned about coming out of the Belmont and coming back so quick," said winning trainer Jason Orman. "But he gave us every sign that he bounced out of that good, and he proved it today." Orman said Rock Hard Ten is being considered for the Travers at Saratoga.
-- Medallist posted a mild upset over the Nick Zito-trained entry of The Cliff's Edge and Sir Shackleton in Sunday's $154,000 Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park. After opening up an 8-length lead on the backstretch, Medallist had enough left to coast home a winner by 3 3/4 lengths over The Cliff's Edge. Sir Shackleton was 1/2 length farther back in third. Medallist, a son of Touch Gold, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:40.02 with Jorge Chavez up.
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
The Jersey shore worked wonders for Ocean Drive Saturday. The 4-year-old Belong To Me filly stalked the early pace set by Honorable Cat early in the $100,000 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth Park, caught her with a furlong to go and worked clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Fast Cookie was third. Ocean Drive, with Eibar Coa at the controls, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the firm turf in 1:41.79.
$2 million John Deere Turf
Kitten's Joy rallied smartly from off the pace to win Saturday's $500,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. Coming four-wide into the lane, the El Prado colt drifted out slightly late in the race but had enough left to score by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Artie Schiller. Prince Arch was home third. The 1 1/4 mile on firm turf took 2:01.22. Edgar Prado provided the winning ride for trainer Dale Romans. Kitten's Joy now has six wins and two seconds from his last eight starts since trainer Dale Romans put him on the turf.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
Christine's Outlaw jumped out to a narrow lead in Saturday's $100,000 Poker Handicap for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park and made the advantage stand up. At the wire, the Wild Again colt was 1/4 length ahead of the late-running favorite, Millennium Dragon. Silver Tree was third. Christine's Outlaw ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32 2/5. Winning trainer George Weaver said he is "not committed, either way," to the turf or the dirt. But he said he is thinking of preparing Christine's Outlaw for the Fourstar Dave on the Saratoga turf on Aug. 28. "If he's training well, that's where we will head," Weaver said. The colt was making only his third start on the turf, where he now has two wins and a second.
$1 million Filly and Mare Turf
-- At Colonial Downs, Film Maker came outside for running room with three sixteenths to go in Saturday's $200,000 All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes, then drew away easily to win by 3 lengths over Noisette. Lady Linda was third. Film Maker, a 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer from the Mr. Prospector mare Miss Du Bois, ran 9 furlongs on the outer turf course in 1:50.08.
-- Also at Colonial on Virginia Derby day, Art Fan led almost all the way in the $200,000 Virginia Oaks, upsetting the favorite, Galloping Gal, by 1 3/4 lengths. Vous was third. Art Fan, a daughter of Lear Fan, ran 9 furlongs on the turf in 1:50.41 with Ryan Fogelsonger up.
$2 million Distaff
Star Parade led the parade in Sunday's $250,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park. Starting from the rail, the 5-year-old Argentine-bred was headed by Quero Quero on the second turn but came again to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Quero Quero held second and Pesci was third in the five-horse field. Star Parade, by Parade Marshal, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.83 with Victor Espinoza up.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Wouldn't Crawfish King be a good name for a Kentucky Derby winner? Well, a colt by that name won by 7 1/2 lengths in Saturday's $50,000 Pioneer Stakes at Louisiana Downs, running 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.01. Secret Tunnel was second and Reno Bob was third. Crawfish King is a Louisiana-bred son of Just a Cat.
-- Expect Will got the job done as the favorite in Sunday's $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star Park. After a troubled start, the Valid Expectations colt pressed the lead, got to the front with three sixteenths to go and held on gamely to win by 1/2 length over Leaving On My Mind. Expect Wings was third. Expect Will ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.28.
-- Smoke Smoke Smoke won Sunday's $40,000 Canterbury Park Juvenile, tracking the pace and then getting through on the rail in the late going. Smoke Smoke Smoke finished the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05 2/5.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Berdelia rallied three-wide at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes filly division at Lone Star Park and went on to win by 3/4 length over Rockin Regent. Timber Jones finished third. Berdelia, a daughter of Wild Zone, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.70.
-- Berbatim beat Tuff Justice by a nose in Sunday's $40,000 Canterbury Park Lassie Stakes. The duo fought down the stretch, with the issue not settled until they hit the wire. Neeranjanie was well back in third.
In other weekend racing:
Alumni Hall made up a lot of ground in the late going to win Saturday's $75,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths over Wiggins. Stratostar was third. Alumni Hall, with Robby Albarado riding for trainer Neil Howard, won for the fourth time in just five outings. The 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy raced for the first time just three months ago. "We had a lot of little problems with him at the beginning of his career," Howard said. "It's nice to see him coming around." Alumni Hall ran the 1 mile in 1:49.46.
Velvet Snow, the longest chance in a field of five Ontario-bred, 3-year-old fillies, rallied from last to win Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Damsel Stakes by 1/2 length over Financingavailable. Moment of Peace was third while the odds-on favorite, Nashinda, faded through the stretch to finish last. Velvet Snow, a daughter of Subordination, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:16.40. "We were looking for third money," said winning trainer Robert Tiller. "We aren't trying to be heroes here. And we got the big prize."
Sunday, I'm the Tiger got through on the rail at the top of the stretch and went on to win the $125,000 (Canadian) Bold Venture Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths over Twisted Wit. I Thee Wed was third while the favorite, Chris's Bad Boy, finished eighth. I'm the Tiger, a 4-year-old son of Siphon, got 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.69.
Cuyahoga broke last of 10 in Saturday's $75,000 Denise Rhudy Memorial, then passed all nine rivals en route to a 1-length victory. Gijima was second and Dancing Colors third. Cuyahoga is 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Theatrical.
Miss Fortunate came from off the pace to catch favorite Mayo On the Side in the late going of Saturday's $75,000 HBPA Handicap, winning by 1/2 length. There Runs Hattie was home third after contesting the lead. Miss Fortunate, a 4-year-old daughter of Deputy Minister, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.24 with Brian Peck aboard.
Here's one you won't see often -- dead heats for both first and third in the same stakes race. Shades of Sunny and Quest of Fate hit the wire together for the win in Sunday's $60,000 John McSorley Stakes at 5 furlongs on the turf. Just a neck back of the embattled winners, Tricky Storm and Scattering Breezes tied for third. Meanwhile, the favorite, Strength and Honor, never fired and finished last of nine. Shades of Sunny is a 6-year-old Not For Love gelding. Quest of Fate is a 6-year-old entire son of Norquestor. The race was timed in 55.69 seconds.
War Trace ran last through the first 6 furlongs of Saturday's $60,000 Choice Stakes for 3-year-olds, then swung five-wide into the stretch and roared to the front. At the wire, the Storm Cat colt was first, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Mosman Bay. The favorite, Grand Heritage, rallied to finish third. War Trace ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.27.
Lt. Sampson caught up with the leader on the turn for home in Saturday's $40,000 Victor S. Myers Stakes for Minnesota-bred 3-year-olds, then held on to beat the favorite, Vazandar. Sir Tricky was along for third. Lt. Sampson, with Derek Bell on board, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09 3/5.
In the companion $40,000 Frances Genter Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Shakopee broke her maiden with a gate-to-wire victory under Martin Escobar. After leading by as much as 5 lengths, the filly held on to beat the favorite, Bleu's Apparition, with Lilstarshines third. The 6 furlongs went in 1:10 3/5.