Sad as it is to see Smarty Jones retired, his departure does level the competition for the remaining 3-year-olds who chased him to the wire in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Among the first to take advantage was Lion Heart, who finished second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness. In Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, the chestnut son of Tale of the Cat led from gate to wire, winning by 1 length over longshot My Snookie's Boy. Pies Prospect was third and the favorite, Rock Hard Ten, faded to finish a disappointing sixth.
Lion Heart, with Joe Bravo riding, ran 9 furlongs in 1:48.95, backing up his victory last time out in the Long Branch Breeders' Cup. He now has five wins from nine starts and the Preakness was his only off-the-board finish.
"This horse is more mature now than he was in the spring," said winning trainer Patrick Biancone, noting that while he led, Lion Heart set a sensible pace. "He can carry his speed ... He is a sensible horse now and he is extremely fit. He is unbelievable."
The victory also sets Lion Heart up as one of the primary 3-year-old contenders for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge, on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park. But, there will be others and some were in action during the weekend. Among them:
-- At Saratoga Sunday, it was Purge, the last-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, winning the $500,000 Jim Dandy. After opening up a huge lead in the stretch, Purge and jockey John Velazquez held on to win by 4 1/2 lengths over The Cliff's Edge, who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Niigon, the Queen's Plate winner from Canada, was placed third in the Jim Dandy after being brushed in the stretch by Eddington, who was set down to fourth. "The Belmont was back too soon and he got shook up in the paddock that day," said Purge's trainer, Todd Pletcher. Pletcher brought the Pulpit colt up to Saratoga and let him settle in, training up to the Jim Dandy.
-- In Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine, A Bit O'Gold tracked down pace-setting longshot Burst of Fire at the top of the lane, went by and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Burst of Fire held second and Silver Ticket finished third as the favorite. A Bit O'Gold, a chestnut son of Gold Fever, ran the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:27.15. The Breeders' Stakes, third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, marked A Bit O'Gold's turf debut. He finished second to Niigon in the Queen's Plate, then won the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales. "He's always given his best down the lane," said Catherine Day Philips, who became the first woman to train a Breeders' Stakes winner in its 114th running. "He's just a fabulous horse and we're all just really lucky to be part of him."
-- Sir Shackleton, a lesser-light in trainer Nick Zito's barn, ran sixth in the Preakness in his only Triple Crown appearance. But Saturday in the $600,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Race Track, the Miswaki colt came down the rail through the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Pollards' Vision. Britts' Jules was third. Sir Shackleton ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.16.
-- Some of the nation's top older horses convened for Saturday's $750,000 Whitney at Saratoga, only to be upset by Roses in May at odds of 7-1. With Edgar Prado up, Roses in May sat right behind pace-setting longshot Yessirgeneralsir, inherited the lead when that one tired and held stubbornly to beat Perfect Drift by a neck. Bowman's Band was third. The favorite, Peace Rules, tired to finish sixth. "I knew Perfect Drift would come running," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "And when we got head-to-head, it was just a matter of who would out-game the other one." Prado said it was no contest. "He's a fighter. We could have gone another eighth of a mile and that other horse wouldn't have gone by," Prado said. Roses in May, a 4-year-old son of Devil His Due, now has won four straight, including the Cornhusker Breeders' Cup at Prairie Meadows in his last previous start.
In other weekend racing with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park:
$2 million Nextel Distaff
-- Angela's Love dominated five rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park in Kentucky, drawing off in the stretch run to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Miss Fortunate. The favorite, Bare Necessities, couldn't find a stretch run and finished 1/2 length farther back in third. Angela's Love, a 4-year-old, Maryland-bred daughter of Not for Love, ran 9 furlongs in 1:49.54 with Mark Guidry in the irons. Prior to the Gardenia, Angela's Love had been off the board in her last two starts since winning the Fairway Fun at Turfway Park on March 27.
-- Miss Loren upset Sunday's $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar, pulling away in the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths over House of Fortune. Royally Chosen was third and the favorite, Star Parade, settled for fourth. Miss Loren, a 6-year-old Argentine-bred, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.93 after being sent off at odds of 34-1. "Might this be considered a fluke?" asked winning trainer Luis Seglin. "No. She has all what you need from a horse. She's very quiet and very professional. If you want her to come from behind, she will. She'll do what you want her to do." Both Seglin and jockey Jon Court picked up their first Del Mar stakes win.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Herculated got through some traffic on the turn for home in Saturday's $150,000 Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile Handicap at Arlington Park and just got up to win by 1/2 length over False Promises. Major Rhythm was third. The favorite, Warleigh, led but faded badly in the late going to finish ninth of 10. Herculated, with Carlos Marquez Jr. up, finished in 1:36.48 on firm turf.
-- Forest Grove won Sunday's $100,000 Ocean Place Resort Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park by 1 1/4 length over Wasabi Cat, with the favorite, Grand Heritage, checking in third in a close finish. Forest Grove, a son of Forestry, finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.78 with Corey Nakatani aboard. Todd Pletcher trains Forest Grove for Aaron and Marie Jones.
-- Sunday's $100,000 Oceanport Handicap at Monmouth ended with 7 horses strung out across the track. Gulch Approval, on the inside, won by a nose, with the favorite, Kathir, second and Stormy Roman a nose farther back in third on the outside. Gulch Approval, a 4-year-old son of Gulch, stalked the early pace and battled for the lead most of the final furlong with Pat Day providing the encouragement. He finished 1 1/16 mile on firm footing in 1:42.31.
$1 million Sprint
-- My Trusty Cat upset Friday's $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap for fillies and mares at Saratoga, rallying from last to win by a nose over Ebony Breeze. Smok'n Frolic was third and the favorite, Savorthetime, tired to finish seventh. My Trusty Cat, a 4-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat, ran the 6 furlongs for jockey Pat Day in1:10.37.
-- Bwana Charlie had to weave through the field after starting last in Saturday's $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga but got the job done and was 3/4 lengths in front at the wire. Pomeroy, the favorite, was second in the Grade II event, restricted to 3-year-olds, and Weigelia was third. With Shane Sellers up, Bwana Charlie ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.40. He is a son of Indian Charlie, the horse.
-- Canadian Frontier rallied in deep stretch to win Sunday's $100,000 Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth Park by 1 length over favored Wildcat Heir. Here's Zealous was third. Canadian Frontier, a 5-year-old son of Gone West, had Eibar Coa in the irons as he ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.14.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
Inspiring won a four-filly race to the front in Saturday's $150,000 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar, then worked clear in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Souvenir Gift. Hello Lucky was third. Inspiring, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Golden Missile from the Strike Gold mare Arches of Gold, ran 6 1/2 furlongs with David Flores up in 1:18.29. She is trained by Bob Baffert for Bob and Beverly Lewis. "My filly's a little lazy but she has a good mind," Baffert said, indicating she will run next in the Del Mar Debutante.
In other weekend racing:
One for Rose rose to the occasion in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Seagram Cup Stakes. With Emile Ramsammy up, the 5-year-old Tejano Run mare forced the early pace, then took complete charge in the stretch, winning by 5 lengths over Mark One. Hydrogen was third. One for Rose ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.34.
Chrusciki got a clear lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Lady's Secret Stakes for fillies and mares, then held on to beat the favorite, Misty Sixes, by a neck. Saintly Action was third. Chrusciki, a 4-year-old Polish Numbers filly, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.03.
Where We Left Off came from near the back of the pack to win Sunday's $100,000 Matchmaker Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length over Mrs. M, with Spin Control third. Where We Left Off, a 4-year-old, British-bred daughter of Dr Devious, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.80.
Travelator, with Aaron Gryder in the irons, rated just off the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Regret Stakes, took the lead with a furlong to go and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Cupid Season. Hidden Ransom was third. Travelator, a 4-year-old A.P. Jet mare, covered 6 furlongs in 1:10.01.
Wiggins, the favorite, ran to his notices in Saturday's $100,000 West Virginia Governor's Handicap, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 4 lengths over Ask the Lord. Cherokee's Boy was third. Wiggins, a 4-year-old Cartwright gelding, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.37.
Shandy sat off a speed duel in the early going in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Meadows Sprint, wore down Honor Me in deep stretch and then held off a late-running Chindi for the victory. Shandy, a 4-year-old son of Elusive Quality, covered the 6 furlongs with Carlos Silva up, in 1:09.70. Silva said he though he was clear of Honor Me and was surprised by his staying power. Then, he was afraid Chindi would go by. "When I switched the stick form the left to the right, he started making a second run," Silva said of Shandy.
Baldomera fanned five wide into the stretch and came on to win Saturday's $50,000 Polly's Jet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a nose over Gilded Gold. Spirited Game was third with a late run. Baldomera, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Donerail Court, got 6 furlongs in 1:10.64.
Dontbotherknocking upset Al's Dearly Bred - previously undefeated on the Canterbury Park turf, by a neck in Saturday's $50,000 John Bullit Stakes. The duo fought through the stretch before Dontbotherknocking got the nod at the wire, finishing in 1:43 2/5. Missme was third.
Calder Race Course
Format got the lead in the final sixteenth in Sunday's $40,000 Snurb Stakes and won off by 1 1/4 lengths. Family Favorite was second and Clandestine third. Format, with Cecilio Penalba up, ran 7 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:25. She is trained by Julian Canet.