Rags to Riches' victory in the Belmont Stakes made it three winners in three races for the 2007 Triple Crown -- and produced plenty of possibilities for the rest of the year, right up to the Breeders' Cup World Championships this fall at Monmouth Park.
By besting Preakness winner Curlin in a desperate stretch duel, Rags to Riches became the first filly to win the Belmont since 1905 and the first Triple Crown winner for both trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez.
And, with Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense sitting out the Belmont, there now are three "jewel" owners eyeing the likes of Saratoga's Travers, the fillies-only Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont on July 21 and the Breeders' Cup preps during Belmont's fall meeting.
Will Rags to Riches continue to mix it up with her male opponents during the summer and fall? Pletcher wasn't sure as he watched his star filly return to her routine Sunday morning.
"I would say the most likely scenario at this point is the Coaching Club," he said. "But there's no urgency to make a decision."
But the intense young trainer clearly was aware of the impact on the public and the media of the gender-based rivalry that landed the Belmont on the front pages of many Sunday sports sections.
"It was a great day," he acknowledged, "and, I think, a popular victory. It was great for the sport and great for the Belmont and it made for good TV."
In other weekend racing:
It was not a good day for favorites on the Belmont undercard. None of the six mutual picks, several of them odds-on, was able to find the winner's circle.
English Channel came close in the $400,000 Manhattan Handicap, losing a stretch battle to 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now by just a head. Shakis finished third, another nose back. Better Talk Now, an 8-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Talkin Man, rallied along the rail as the field turned for home and made up all the ground in a steady drive under Ramon Dominguez. He finished the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 2:02.39. "It's hard to believe this horse is getting better," said winning trainer H. Graham Motion. "He's more settled and relaxed. He's an unbelievable horse. Ramon rode him beautifully today. He has so much confidence in him." Better Talk Now has won 14 of 39 career starts and banked more than $3.8 million.
My Typhoon lead all the way to beat odds-on favorite Wait a While by 3 3/4 lengths in the $300,000 Just a Game Stakes for fillies and mares. With Eddie Castro in the irons, My Typhoon set steady fractions and was never seriously challenged. The 5-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of Giant's Causeway finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.92. "I think she's kind of gotten better each year and that's why she's still in training," said Bill Mott, who trained the filly for Live Oak Plantation. "I kind of put my head on the chopping block and voted for her to stay in training. ... I give Mrs. Weber (owner Charlotte Weber) a lot of credit for keeping her in training because she will be a very valuable broodmare."
With Rags to Riches running in the big race, Cotton Blossom broke through to win Saturday's $250,000 Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 length over the odds-on favorite, Dream Rush. Christmas Kid finished third. Cotton Blossom, a Kentucky-bred filly by Broken Vow, bobbled at the start. But when jockey John Velazquez got her going, she stayed close to the pace, came four-wide around the turn and got by the pace-setting favorite along the outside. She finished the 1 mile in 1:34.70. "She was a little wide throughout," said wining trainer Todd Pletcher. "But outside that, she had a clear run. She had a nightmarish trip in the Kentucky Oaks (finishing ninth, 20 lengths behind Rags to Riches). She wasn't going to win but she was going to hit the board. She was a deserving Grade I winner today." Last year, Cotton Blossom was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. This year she won the Florida Oaks.
Will He Shine posted a 10-1 upset win in Saturday's $200,000 True North Handicap, opening up a huge lead at the top of the stretch and hanging on nicely to beat Suave Jazz by 1 3/4 lengths. Dashboard Drummer was third and the odds-on favorite, Bordonaro, forced wide on the turn, faded in the stretch to finish seventh of eight starters. Will He Shine, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Silver Deputy, ran 6 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:08.60. Edgar Prado rode for trainer Dale Romans. Will He Shine didn't in his last start -- a failed turf experiment -- but Romans said the effort wasn't a waste. "I thought the turf race was a good angle. If he liked the turf, he could win a stakes on it," Romans said. "If he didn't like it, it was a good work."
Teuflesberg broke through with a big upset win in Saturday's $250,000 Woody Stephens Breeder's Cup for 3-year-olds. Coming from last and steadied in traffic on the turn, the Johannesburg colt split rivals in the stretch run and got home first, 2 lengths ahead of Most Distinguished. Stormello, another TC refugee, led early and finished third. The favorite, Deadly Dealer, faded badly to finish seventh. Teuflesberg ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.49 under Robby Albarado. "We knew what kind of horse he was going into the race," said winning trainer Jamie Sanders. "He has so much class and he keeps doing it over and over. We were confident. ... He can run longer and he has proven that. So, we do have our options. We can go in the King's Bishop or maybe even the Travers."
Papi Chullo missed the break in Saturday's $100,000 Birdstone Stakes -- making his fans wonder what he would have done with a clean start. As it was, the 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Comeonmom rallied quickly to challenge for the lead, took over on the turn and drew off, winning by 5 lengths over the favorite, Hesanoldsalt. A.P. Arrow finished third. Papi Chullo ran the 1 1/8 mile on a fast track in 1:47.33 with Eibar Coa riding for trainer Gary Contessa.
On Friday, Marcavelly came from last of five to win the $100,00 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths over Distorted Reality, with Codeword third. Marcavellly, a Kentucky-bred colt by Johannesburg, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.45 under Edgar Prado.
Sunday, Factual Contender led from the first jump of the $100,000 Mount Vernon Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Half Heaven. Latitude Forty finished third. Factual Contender, a 6-year-old daughter of the immortal Thunder Puddles, got the 9 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:48.66 under Eibar Coa.
Lava Man isn't quite invincible in California, after all. The indefatigable former claimer, making his first start since finishing 16th in the Dubai Duty Free, gave it a valiant try as the favorite in Saturdays's $300,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial but came up 1 1/2 lengths short of After Market, who rallied nicely through the stretch to post the win. The outcome snapped a nine-race, in-California winning streak for Lava Man. Obrigado, off a step slower than the rest, advanced steadily and finished third. After Market, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Storm Cat from the Rahy mare Tranquility Lake, came into Saturday's race off a win in the Inglewood Handicap. With Alex Solis aboard, he sat behind the pace, came three-wide into the stretch and got enough of a jump to easily hold off the favorite. Final time for the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf was a quick 1:58.77. "To beat a horse like Lava Man, you really have to put on your running shoes and he sure did," Solis said. Lava Man's trainer, Doug O'Neill, said he was pleased with his old campaigner's effort and looking forward to the Hollywood Gold Cup. "When he runs a race like today, you realize he's back," O'Neill said. "We feel very good about that."
Valbenny saved ground early in Saturday's $175,000 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, swung wide into the stretch and stormed to the lead. Extending the advantage down the lane, the Irish-bred daughter of Val Royal won by 1 3/4 lengths over Super Freaky. Mystic Soul finished third. Valbenny, with Alex Solis up for trainer Patrick Gallagher, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.17. Valbenny, now undefeated in three starts at Hollywood since making her North American debut last fall, "is getting stronger all the time," said Solis. "I told Paddy in the paddock she looked like a million dollars." Super Feaky trainer Doug O'Neill said Valbenny is "just a freak. When she zigs, we need to zag."
El Roblar rallied three-wide into the lane and went on to win Saturday's $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap by 2 lengths over Siren Lure, with Publication third. El Roblar, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of War Chant, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:28.51. Victor Espinoza was aboard for trainer Richard Mandella.
Somethinaboutlaura stalked the pace set by Dancin Edie in Saturday's $75,000 Redondo Beach Stakes for Cal-bred distaffers, engaged the leader at the top of the stretch and won the duel to the wire by a head. Arm Candy ran third all the way from gate to wire. Somethinaboutlaura, a 5-year-old Dance Floor mare, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.66 with Victor Espinoza up.
In Sunday's $150,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks, Tough Tiz's Sis took the first run at the early leader, built up a good advantage and drew off from the favorite, Silver Swallow, to win by 3 1/2 lengths. High Cholestrol was third. Tough Tiz's Sis, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tiznow, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:43.30 with Aaron Gryder up for trainer Bob Baffert. The filly finished seventh in the Kentucky Oaks in a troubled trip. "After the Kentucky Oaks, I brought her back here and gave her a good, stiff workout over the track," Baffert said. "We liked this filly a lot. It doesn't seem that distance is a problem and I liked the way she was in a good spot today." He said he will look around the country for a suitable race for Tough Tiz's Sis.
Sealy Hill surged to the lead at the top of the stretch in the Oaks and drew off easily to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Saskawea. Street Sounds finished third as the favorite. Sealy Hill, an Ontario-bred daughter of Point Given, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.68. Patrick Husbands had the mount for trainer Mark Casse.
Approval Rating took total charge in the stretch run of Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victoria Park Stakes for 3-year-olds, running off to win by 5 lengths over Skip Code with Angel of the House third. Approval Rating, a Florida-bred colt by Lemon Drop Kid, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.89.
And in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Alywow Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Silky Smooth rallied from 10th and just got a head in front at the wire to beat Quiet Action. Whisper to Me finished third and the favorite, Native Legend, faded to finish ninth. Silky Smooth, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Mr. Greeley, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:15.62.
Executive Choice, with Emile Ramsammy aboard, led most of the way in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Steady Growth Stakes for Ontario-breds, then accelerated through the stretch to post a 7 1/2-length upset victory. Bold Finish didn't have one and came home second and the favorite, Soul Rebel, was third. Executive Choice, a 6-year-old gelding by Birdonthewire, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:43.68.
Baracola was quickly in front in Saturday's $100,000 Brandywine Stakes, opened a clear lead and went on to a 2 1/2-length upset victory over Better Than Bonds. Trapped Again faded to finish third after pressing the leader in the early furlongs. Baracola, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Old Trieste, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:41.56. Kendrick Carmouche was in the irons for trainer Mark Hennig. "I just let him run off and he never stopped," Carmouche said. "I have never been on a horse to be that quick and keep going."
Silmaril came from last in a field of five fillies and mares to win Saturday's $75,000 Skipat Stakes by a head over My Sister Sue. Homesteader was 1/2 lengths back in third. Silmaril, a 6-year-old, Maryland-bred mare by Diamond, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.89 with Ryan Fogelsonger aboard. "She knows she's a rock star,' Fogelsonger said of Silmaril. "She is not my favorite because she wins. She just has the coolest personality and the biggest heart."
Golden Gate Fields
Mabadi saved ground throughout Saturday's $75,000 Yerba Buena Stakes for fillies and mares, got past the leader on the inside with a quarter mile to run and drew clear, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Veyana came from last of six to take second and Christmas Stocking finished third. Mabadi, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Sahm, ran the 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:17.87 under Joel Rosario.
In Sunday's $50,000 Lost in the Fog Stakes for 2-year-olds, Imaginary Sailor started a step slow, advanced to the lead inside the early pace-setters and ran off to win by 5 lengths. Deputy Bertrando was second, with Younique Cat third. Imaginary Sailor, a Kentucky-bred colt by Mizzen Mast, finished the 5 furlongs in 57.7 under Chad Schvaneveldt. He is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.
Bernie Blue, the favorite, led all the way around in Saturday's $75,000 Slipton Fell Handicap, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over M B Sea. Mr. Pursuit chased the leader early, then held on to pick up third-place money. Bernie Blue, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Bernstein, composed a 1 mile and 70 yard trip in 1:42.52. Deshawn Parker rode.
Audacious Chloe came from off the pace to win Saturday's $60,000 Little Silver Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 3/4 lengths. Cabbage Key rallied from near the back of the field to take second and Wine Diva finished third. Audacious Chloe, a Kentucky-bred filly by More Than Ready, got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.27 under jockey Chris DeCarlo.
In Saturday's $65,000 Longfellow Stakes, Wildeyed Dreamer came from last of five to win by a nose over the early leader, Wild Jam. Kazoo was third and the favorite, Slam Bammy, was pulled up and vanned off. Wildeyed Dreamer, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by West Acre, ran 6 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:09.30 under Charles Lopez.
Sunday, Cherokee Country rallied from far back to win the $60,000 Rumson Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths over West Coast Flier. Southwestern Heat was third. Cherokee Country, a Kentucky-bred colt by Yonaguska, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.33 under Jose Lezcano.
Also Sunday, Sweet Fervor rallied five-wide into the stretch in the $65,000 West Long Beach Stakes for fillies and mares and advanced outside her rivals, just getting up in time to win by a head over Solarana. Suzzane was another head back in third. Sweet Fervor, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Seeking the Gold, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.47 with Joe Bravo up.
Lone Star Park
Namesake and Kinetic Motion battled head-to-head through the first half of Saturday's $95,000 TTA Sales Futurity colts and geldings division. Then Namesake, with Jamie Theriot up, edged clear and took over, winning off by 3 3/4 lengths. Kinetic Motion held second, with Stormy Date third. The winner is a bay son of Valid Expectations. He ran the 5 furlongs in 57.93 seconds.
Malleys Cat rallied three-wide around the turn in the filly division of the TTA Sales Futurity and was up just in time to beat pace-setting Valid Lilly by 1/2 length. Shedoesrock finished third at a big price. Malleys Cat, chestnut filly by Van Nistelrooy, finished in 58.35 with Ramsey Zimmerman aboard.
Girls Pearls strung together a pace-stalking trip and a good stretch kick to win Saturday's $50,000 Panthers Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 1/4 lengths over Irish Party, with Comarillo third. Girls Pearls, a Kentucky-bred filly by Talk is Money, ran the 1 mile on a fast track. Glenn Corbett rode for trainer Kenny McPeek.
Greeley's Conquest stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Mile for 3-year-olds, fought to the lead on the turn and worked clear in the stretch, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over a stubborn Who Let the Cat In. Sumac poisoned some trifectas with a 27-1 show effort. Greeley's Conquest, a Kentucky-bred son of Mr. Greeley, finished in 1:38.03 with Larry Sterling Jr. up.
Calder Race Course
Famous Frolic stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 New York New York optional claiming stakes, rallied to engage pace-setting Mean Kisser with a furlong left and was just up to win by a nose over that rival. Kristali, closing three-wide, was only another neck back in third. Famous Frolic, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Charismatic, ran the 1 1/2 mile in 2:36.25 with Eduardo Nunez up.
In Sunday's $50,000 Ema Bovary Stakes for fillies and mares, Stolen Prayer stalked the pace early, then took charge and drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Running Lass. Send Me and Angel finished third. Stolen Prayer, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Songandaprayer, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.82 with Manoel Cruz aboard.
Lil Red, moving up in class, posted a respectable third in a $12,500 claimer Wednesday. After strolling out of the gate and trailing all eight rivals early, jockey Vernon Bush got Lil Red rolling on the turn for home and moved into a challenging position, then held well for the show money. The race originally was carded for the turf but moved onto a wet main track that officially was rated "fast." Lil Red's connections may yet try him on the lawn at some point in the future.
On Saturday, Cincinnati Bengals' wide receiver Chad Johnson defeated the horse Restore the Roar by 12 lengths. Johnson ran 1/16 of a mile; Restore the Roar, a full furlong with Patricia Cooksey coming out of retirement to take the mount. "I rode him hard every jump of the way," Cooksey said. "I think he's more of a route horse." Johnson organized the event for a charity called Feed the Children and said he's ready now to challenge some human sports stars to advance the cause.