While Barbaro is a cinch for any awards involving courage and stamina this year, it's starting to look very much like Bernardini is going to be remembered as the year's best 3-year-old.
It's true the A.P. Indy colt remained in the barn while Barbero cruised to his impressive victory in the Kentucky Derby. But that only set up a showdown in the Preakness, where the "killer B's" were expected to battle for dominance.
Barbero, of course, was injured in the Preakness while Bernardini won easily. And then, Bernardini again went to the sidelines, bypassing the rigors of the Belmont and awaiting Saturday's $500,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga.
And the Jim Dandy was no contest. Jockey Javier Castellano sent Bernardini to the lead from the No. 3 post, he galloped along under a hold until the top of the stretch and then just continued on while the others didn't. Without any particular urging, Bernardini ran off to win by 9 lengths over Minister's Bid, a well-bred third-time starter. Hemingway's Key finished third. The 9 furlongs took 1:50.50 on a sloppy, sealed track.
Bernardini has won four straight since finishing fourth in his debut on Jan. 7. The victories include the Withers at Aqueduct and the Preakness.
"He showed today what a really good horse he is," said winning trainer Tom Albertrani. "I think we are going to see better things from this horse later on. I don't think we are going to be fearing anyone in the Travers. If he stays on this level, he is going to be a very tough horse all year."
In other races with potential implications for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs:
-- Suave got the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $300,000 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park, drew clear and won easily, by 5 lengths, over the even-money favorite, Perfect Drift. Second of June was third on the 29th of July. Suave, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy, ran the 1 3/16 mile on a fast track in 1:53.53. Calvin Borel had the mount for trainer Paul McGee. Borel said he was waiting on Perfect Drift and Second of June to come along and provide some competition in the stretch. "When I asked him at the quarter pole, he went on about his business," Borel said of Suave. "He didn't pull up or anything. He was just waiting for someone to come to him." Perfect Drift won this race in 2003 and 2005.
-- Gouldings Green posted a pace-stalking victory in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Chinese Cultural Centre Seagram's Cup at Woodbine, scoring by 2 1/4 lengths over Ever So Free. Barbeau Ruckus finished third. Gouldings Green, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred horse by Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.76 with Corey Lanerie up for trainer Tony Reinstedler. Gouldings Green also has won the Hanshin Handicap at Arlington Park on a disqualification and the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs. "He's an honest horse every time you take him over there," said Reinstedler. "He's run over everything I've pointed him toward."
In other weekend races pointing toward the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships:
$3 million John Deere Turf
-- Hurricane Run was in no hurry to get running in Saturday's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. But once jockey Christophe Soumillon got him going, the Montjeu colt accelerated sharply along the rail, rallied essentially the length of the stretch and was along in time to beat Dubai World Cup champion Electrocutionist by 1/2 length. Japanese entrant Heart's Cry finished third. Co-owner Michael Tabor said he thinks his colt has so much ability that he leaves himself a lot to do in the latter stages of his races. But, he added, such horses "have an extra gear that gets them out of trouble." In his only two previous starts this year, Hurricane Run won the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh on May 28 and finished second to Pride in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last month. Last year, he won European Horse of the Year honors on the basis of five wins from six starts, the victories including the Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
$2 million Emirates Airline Distaff
-- Spun Sugar battled down the stretch with Balletto in Sunday's $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap at Saratoga before putting a nose in front on the wire. Pool Land was far back in third. Spun Sugar, a 4-year-old Awesome Again filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.93 for jockey Mike Luzzi. Todd Pletcher, who has been dominating graded stakes events at the Spa, trains the filly for Stronach Stables. "This filly is so game," Pletcher said, referring to the close decision. "She kind of did the same thing at Oaklawn when she ran against Happy Ticket. When she gets in that kind of situation, she fights."
$2 million TVG Sprint
-- Pure as Gold got the lead turning into the stretch in Sunday's $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar and held on gamely to beat odds-on favorite Bordonaro by 1/2 length. Battle Won was just a head farther back in third as the 6 furlongs went in 1:08.79. Jockey Jon Court rode Pure as Gold, a 4-year-old, Washington-bred gelding by Stolen Gold. Bordonaro's jockey, Alex Solis, claimed foul, saying Court inadvertently had struck Bordonaro with his whip during the stretch run. The stewards could find no convincing evidence in the taped replay and denied the claim. "I'm not sure, even now," Court said after the race was made official. "I got a call. I think it was the right call."
-- He's Got Grit rated nicely on the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Rumson Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park, extended the advantage when asked by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan and won easily by 5 lengths over Town Council. Podgy was third. He's Got Grit, a Florida-bred gelding by Songandaprayer, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.34.
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
-- Angara found running room between rivals at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $500,000 Diana Handicap at Saratoga and wore down Sweet Talker to win by a head. Argentina was third, just another nose back. Angara, a 5-year-old, British-bred mare by Alzao ran the 9 furlongs of yielding turf in 1:49.20 under Fernando Jara. The favorite, Lady of Venice, endured a wide trip and finished fifth of six. "Angara was supposed to go to the Beverly D. (Aug. 12 at Arlington) until it rained yesterday," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "My original plan was to run Wend and My Typhoon in the Diana. Maybe we'll switch it around. Maybe Wend will go to the Beverly D. Right now, I suppose there wouldn't be a race that would suit Angara for the next 30 days." Angara has six wins from 19 starts. The Diana victory broke a six-race losing streak.
-- Magnificent Song rallied from last in a field of eight to win Saturday's $100,000 Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga, scoring by 3/4 lengths over pace-setter Somethinaboutbetty. Quite a Bride was third. Magnificent Song, a Kentucky-bred filly by Unbridled's Song, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the yielding inner turf course in 1:45.88 with Garrett Gomez at the controls. "We just let Magnificent Song settle," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "We didn't think she would be that far back. But she came with that big run late." He said he probably will keep the filly at Saratoga for the Lake Placid on Aug. 18 but may reconsider.
-- Like a Gem challenged the leaders with a furlong to go in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Wonder Where Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine, got to the front in deep stretch and won by 1/2 length at 48-1 odds. Strike Softly was second and Sprightly was third. The favorite, Kimchi, was in the mix until the eighth pole, then hung a bit and finished fourth. Like a Gem, an Ontario-bred miss by Tactical Cat, ran the 1 1/4 mile on yielding turf in 2:05.61. Like a Gem had finished well behind Kimchi in the Labatt Woodbine Oaks and trainer Daniel Vella blamed a lingering virus. "It's a great credit to her that she was able to do this today," he said. "She was sick before the Oaks and we thought she was over it. But she wasn't. She's just a great filly."
$2 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Attima pulled to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar, survived a pressured pace down the backstretch and then worked clear in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Sol Mi Fa. Soothsay finished third. Attima, a British-bred daughter of Zafonic, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.65 with Victor Espinoza riding for trainer Julio Canani. She was coming off an eighth-place finish in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park and now seems pointed for the Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 19. "She wanted to go and that was okay," said Espinoza. I was thinking about taking back some and laying off of it. ... But she wanted to go so it really didn't matter a whole lot what I wanted to do. She was going easy. I knew going into the first turn I didn't have to worry about the pace."
-- Mandesha surged to the front with a quarter mile to run in Sunday's Prix d'Astarte at Deauville in France, then held on to win by 1/2 length over Impressionnante. Tie Black was third. Mandesha, a 3-year-old daughter of Desert Style, has won three of five lifetime starts.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Scat Daddy bumped at the start of Friday's $150,000 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga but recovered and settled in behind the leaders. At the top of the stretch, jockey John Velazquez swung the colt wide for room and he was just up to catch pace-setting Teuflesberg in the final yards, winning by a neck. War Wolf was third. Scat Daddy is a Kentucky-bred son of Johannesburg, winner of the 2001 Juvenile at Belmont Park in his only North American start. Scat Daddy ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.18 on a fast track.
-- Bella Shambrock broke on top in Saturday's $60,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park and never looked back, drawing off to win by 8 lengths over Actin Good. Fandabidoo finished third. Bella Shambrock, the odds-on favorite, ran 5 1/5 furlongs in 1:04.44 for jockey Christopher DeCarlo. The Kentucky-bred Grand Slam colt is trained by Todd Pletcher.
-- Native Ruler led most of the way around in Sunday's $60,000 Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs in Virginia and held on at the wire to beat Timely Encounter by a neck. Dillon Said was only a nose farther back in third. Native Ruler, a Kentucky-bred son of Elusive Quality, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs under Dane Kobiskie in 1:03.30 on a turf course rated firm.
$2 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Cotton Blossom came four-wide to challenge the leaders in Thursday's $100,000 Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga, then worked clear and held on to beat Desire to Excel by 1 3/4 lengths. Chief Officer was third. Desire to Excel, the favorite, stumbled badly at the start, compromising her chances. Cotton Blossom, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Broken Vow, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.63 under John Velazquez.
-- Dreaming of Anna led from gate to wire in Saturday's $60,000 Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs in Virginia, winning by 7 1/4 lengths over Flying Kiwi. Quick Kiss was third. Dreaming of Anna, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Rahy, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.63. She is trained by Wayne Catalano for owner-breeder Frank Calabrese.
-- Bovell Road got a wide trip in Sunday's $60,000 Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park but still caught pace-setting, odds-on favorite She's Roughin It in deep stretch to pull out a 3/4-length win. Five Star Magic was third. Bovell Road, trained by the omnipresent Todd Pletcher, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.00 with Chris DeCarlo up. The filly is an Ontario-bred daughter of Graeme Hall, owned by the Melnyk Racing Stables.
In other weekend racing:
Flamethrowintexan was right out to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap and extended the lead to win by 4 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Don'twritemeoff was second and Bull Ranch third. Flamethrowintexan, a Florida-bred son of French-bred stallion Way West, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48 for jockey Ricky Frazier. Jim Penny trains the 5-year-old gelding for Grasshopper Stable.
Wayzata Bay saved ground early in Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap, angled out for room and was along in time to win by 1/2 length over King Freddie. No Tolerance finished third. Wayzata Bay is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Roar. He ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.74 with Carlos Montalvo in the irons.
War Bridle was out to the early lead in Saturday's $75,000 Folklore Handicap, then survived a long stretch battle with Random Gold to win by a nose. Nuttyboom finished third. War Bridle, a 4-year-old, Texas-bred colt by Commanchero (also a great John Wayne movie), ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.14 under Jose Verenzuela.
Junior College got the "A" grade in Saturday's $50,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes, recovering from a stumble at the start to win by 3 1/4 easy lengths. Monkey Hill was second and Just See James was third. Junior College, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Ide, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.56 with Jesus Castenon up.
Trickyville got from a pace-stalking trip to a challenging position on the outside on the stretch turn in Saturday's $60,000 Minnesota Derby for state-breds, then went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Mack's Monarch with Rock' N Fire third. Trickyville, a son of Evansville Slew, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.17 with Terry Thompson in the irons.
Chasin Mason battled for the lead down the backstretch in Saturday's $60,000 Minnesota Oaks for state-breds, took charge in the stretch to open a clear lead and held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Hills of Ireland. Sahm Sweetheart was third. Chasin Mason, a daughter of Barkerville, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:44.24 under Paul Nolan.