With the long holiday weekend loaded with stakes races for 2-year-olds, this is a good time to look for contenders for the juvenile races at the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
That's a good thing because the 2-year-olds are untested, unpredictable and spirited. It's also a good thing because the $1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile and the $1 million Juvenile Fillies often turn up excellent wagering opportunities.
The $1 trifecta in last year's Juvenile, for example, returned $2,245.40. The $1 tri on the Juvenile Fillies paid $343.10 even with heavy favorite Halfbridled winning the race. The 2000 Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs featured an $18,355.80 return for a $2 trifecta wager. The $2 tri on the 2001 Juvenile at Belmont Park paid $3,665.
So it's good to look at every juvenile stakes race, trying to spot a colt or filly who might hit the board at long odds in seven or eight weeks. Here are some of this weekend's results:
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Ready Ruler rolled from the middle of the pack to upset Saturday's $100,000 Ketel One El Jovan Stakes at Retama Park in Texas. The Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready came three-wide into the turn and responded when asked to win by 1 length. He finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.74. Malanato was second, Reno Bob third and the favorite, Major League, tossed in a minor-league effort, finishing last of 12.
-- Highland Warrior won a long stretch duel with Chasing the Fox to win Sunday's $75,000 (Canadian) Juvenile Stakes at Fort Erie. Wolly Bully was third. Highland Warrior, a son of Highland Ruckus, survived some bumping near the finish and ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.53.
-- Dubleo opened a big lead in Sunday's $55,000 Continental Mile at Monmouth Park, then held on to beat United by a neck. Dubleo, a Kentucky-bred son of Southern Halo, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.63.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Swither scored her first career victory in a good spot -- Saturday's $200,000 Delaware Park NATC Sorority. She also won impressively, scoring by 10 lengths over the 1-2 favorite, Elke. Undeniable Queen was third. Aaron Gryder rode Swither, a daughter of Anees, over 6 furlongs in 1:11.80. Trainer Tom Albertrani said he has no immediate plans for the New York-bred filly. "We could wait for something later on at Belmont in the fall," he said.
-- Queen's Plaza was the longest shot in the four-filly field in Saturday's $100,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park. But she got the lead when Paragon Queen broke down early in the race and Queen's Plaza won off by 3 1/4 lengths despite drifting out in the stretch. Dance Away and Bold Outlook were second and third. Queen's Plaza, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Forestry from the Seattle Slew mare Kew Garden, broke her maiden last time out at Belmont. She completed Saturday's 6 furlongs in 1:11.73. "She's a small filly. She doesn't carry much flesh. So we'll give her some time before her next start," said winning trainer Tom Bush. Paragon Queen was euthanized.
-- Im a Dixie Girl shipped in to River Downs in Ohio for Saturday's $100,000 Pepsi Bassinet Stakes after winning the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park. She didn't disappoint, holding on to beat stablemate Runway Model with Gallant Secret third. Im a Dixie Girl, a daughter of Dixie Union, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10 3/5, the fastest 6-furlong time of the meeting. The top two are trained by Bernie Flint. "When I asked my filly for her move, she picked it up beautifully," said winning rider Jeff Johnson. "But we really had to run hard at the end to hold off Bernie's other horse." Flint said he is looking toward the Arlington-Washington Lassie and then the Juvenile Fillies.
-- Malika's Gold pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 M2 Technology La Senorita Stakes at Retama Park in Texas, then took over with a furlong to go and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Ready to Live. Malika's Gold, a Florida-bred daughter of Gold Case, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.76. The even-money favorite, Spin Jazz Baby, was never a factor and finished sixth.
-- Wisdomisgold went to the post as the odds-on favorite in Saturday's $75,000 (Canadian) Juvenile Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Fort Erie and didn't disappoint. The bay daughter of Whiskey Wisdom dueled for the lead through the turn, then turned on the gas to win by 2 lengths over Lady Actor. Cold Hard Dash finished third. Wisdomisgold got the 6 furlongs in 1:12.21.
-- At Prairie Meadows in Iowa, locally based My Three Sisters dispatched the shippers to win Saturday's $40,000 Prairie Meadows Debutante by 1/2 length over Galactic Cat. The Defrere filly ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.48. "We knew she was a filly that wanted to run farther all along," said winning trainer Kelly Von Hemel. "We haven't had that opportunity." Tim Doocy rode My Three Sisters.
In other racing with potential implications for the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Lone Star Park in Texas:
$4 million Classic
Supah Blitz got the lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $250,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap, then just held on to beat Domestic Dispute by a nose. During was well back in third. Supah Blitz, a 4-year-old son of Mecke, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.14 for jockey Victor Espinoza. Leandro Mora, assistant to winning trainer Doug O'Neill, said of the Breeders' Cup Classic, "When this horse first came to us at Del Mar, Doug said that was the goal. ... This is a very special race. We'll go forward from here."
$2 million Nextel Distaff
Adoration, the upset winner of the 2003 Distaff at Santa Anita, went quickly to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Arlington Matron Handicap, turned back a challenge from Tamweel as they turned for home and drew clear to win by 2 lengths. Tamweel held second and Indy Groove was third. Trainer David Hofmans said the Matron was a tune-up for a title defense in the Matron. "The way she won was very important," he said. "She was on the lead and relaxed with a horse putting pressure on her the whole way and then being able to finish the way she did off the layoff was pretty good." The 5-year-old Honor Grades mare now has won three of five starts this year.
$1 million Sprint
Midas Eyes can start eyeing the gold in the Breeders' Cup pot after a handy victory in Saturday's $250,000 Forego Handicap at Saratoga. The 4-year-old Touch of Gold colt, with Edgar Prado wielding the reins, tracked the early pace, swung four-wide to challenge on the turn and worked clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Clock Stopper. Gygistar was third and the favorite, Strong Hope, faded to finish fourth after leading briefly turning for home. Midas Eyes, trained by Bobby Frankel, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.22. Midas Eyes ran back just 10 days after winning an allowance race at the Spa. Before that, he hadn't won since April of 2003, when he copped the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. He finished eighth in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint. "It's a Grade I and you have to take a chance at those," Frankel said of the early return. "I have a lot of nice, fast horses and I have to keep them separated. I'll find a spot for him."
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
-- Etoile Montante, on instructions from trainer Bobby Frankel, sat second through much of Saturday's $200,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar. But when jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. gave her the go-ahead, the 4-year-old Miswaki filly took off, clearing the early leader to win by 3/4 length. Katdogawn was second and Tangle third. Etoile Montante ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.59.Valdivia said he switched hands in the stretch run, encouraging his mount. "But the way she was accelerating in the lane, I knew it would have to be a monster to come get me," he said.
-- A German-bred filly and a British-bred filly won the $100,000 divisions of Sunday's Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga. In the featured 10th race, 4-year-old British-bred Arvada led most of the way to a 1/2-length victory over Spice Island, with Film Maker third. Arvada, a daughter of Hernando, ran the 11 furlongs on firm turf in 2:14.12 under John Velazquez. Humaita, a German-bred, 4-year-old daughter of Surumu, came from off the pace to win the first division by 1/2 length over Where We Left Off. Her time was 2:15.25, with Cornelio Velasquez aboard. Bobby Frankel trains Arvada. "The first time we ran her, we tried to rate her," Frankel said. "After that, we decided to just let her go."
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Emerald Earrings won a three-way stretch battle to capture Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Colleen Stakes by 1 length over Faswiga. Jinny's Gold was third. Emerald Earrings, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Helmsman, finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.50. She now has won four of seven starts, including two straight. "She does everything right. She's beautifully built," said winning trainer Bruce Alexander, who said he has turned down offers for the filly. "I was quite foolish, financially, to turn it down. But she's a thrill," he added.
-- In another 1-mile turf test for distaffers, Tucked Away rallied in deep stretch to win Sunday's $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar. Test the Waters was just a head back in second with Ran for the Dough another nose back in third and Shalini just a head farther behind in fourth. Tucked Away, a 4-year-old Cal-bred by Unusual Heat, finished in 1:34.92.
In other weekend racing:
Delicatessa took charge in the stretch run to win Sunday's $50,000 Claire Marine Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Tamarack Bay. Lifting the Veil was third. Delicatessa, a 5-year-old mare by Dare and Go, ran 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:35.36. Delicatessa, trained by Charlie Livesay, won for the first time since capturing the Estrapade Handicap at Arlington in August of 2003.
May Gator rallied from mid-pack to win Saturday's $75,000 Dade Turf Classic by 1 1/4 lengths over Wildwood Royal. Playa Maya was third in the 1 1/16-mile event, run over firm turf in 1:39.98. May Gator is a 5-year-old daughter of Green Alligator, who finished fourth in the 1991 Kentucky Derby as part of the mutuel field. May Gator, trained by Steve Flint, now has won three of nine starts this year.
Stormy Roman stormed from well off the pace to win Sunday's $60,000 Bob Harding Stakes by 3/4 length over Green Line. Burning Roma was third. Stormy Roman, a 5-year-old son of Future Storm, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.98.
Outright Buck stayed close to the early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Lyrique Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, made her bid at the top of the stretch and got home 1 length ahead of Merry Me in Spring. Topango was third, Outright Buck, a Florida-bred daughter of Kissin Kris, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:43.20.
Sunday, Northern Scene rallied to win the $50,000 Sport City Handicap for 3-year-olds by a neck over Rockchalk Jayhawk. Gentlemen J J was third and the favorite, Crowned King, finished fifth. Northern Scene is a Texas-bred gelding by Northern Baby. He ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.01.
News and Notes
The National Turf Writers Association will present its annual awards to Patricia Cooksey, Noble Threewitt and Steve Haskin at a dinner during Breeders' Cup week. Cooksey, recently retired with 2,137 wins, making her the second-leading female jockey, will receive the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of racing. Threewitt, 93, still an active trainer in California, will get the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing. Haskin, senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse, will receive the Walter Haight Award for lifetime excellence in turf writing.