Brass Hat has struggled since he finished second in the Dubai World Cup a year and a half ago. But the 6-year-old gelding rediscovered his old form in Saturday's $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap, upsetting odds-on favorite Fairbanks with a determined stretch run.
The race was one of a handful of major prep races for next month's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge, at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. In another, Going Ballistic also posted an upset of odds-on favorite Grasshopper in Saturday's $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.
In his last two races at Saratoga, Brass Hat had the misfortune to run into the nation's top handicap horse, Lawyer Ron. Saturday, the competition wasn't quite as tough -- and Brass Hat ran a bit better. After racing close to the early pace, jockey Willie Martinez swung Brass Hat three-wide into the stretch and he willingly ran by Fairbanks. Dr. Pleasure was third.
The 9 furlongs on a fast Suffolk Downs track took 1:49.72.
Assistant trainer Buff Bradley said the victory was "pretty emotional. He needed to get his confidence back. You could tell right away how much more comfortable he was.
Since the Mass Cap is not a graded stakes, the $300,000 winner's share won't count in the formula to get into the Breeders' Cup Classic so Brass Hat likely won't make it into an oversubscribed field. If he can maintain his newfound vigor, Bradley said, "We'd like to try next year, though."
The nation's top 3-year-old, Street Sense, is scheduled for his final Classic prep this coming weekend at Turfway Park in the Kentucky Cup Classic. But some other good sophomores were on display in the Super Derby, including Grasshopper, who finished only a half-length behind Street Sense in last month's Travers.
Saturday, however, Grasshopper was second again as Going Ballistic came down the center of the stretch like a missile to catch the odds-on favorite and win by 1 length. Past the Point finished third.
Going Ballistic, a Florida-bred colt by Lite the Fuse out of the Holy Bull mare Holy Lightning, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.32. Winning trainer Donnie Von Hemel said Going Ballistic likely will head not to New Jersey but to Oklahoma -- for the Oct. 21 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.
Robby Albarado, who rode Grasshopper for trainer Neil Howard, said his mount "had every opportunity. He just got outrun."
Yet another 3-year-old, Any Given Saturday, tested older horses in Saturday's $150,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park and came up roses. After letting Tasteyville loose on the lead, jockey Garrett Gomez sent Any Given Saturday to the front turning for home and he won virtually as he pleased. The final margin was 2 1/2 lengths over Tasteyville, with Helsinki third.
Any Given Saturday, a Kentucky-bred son of Distorted Humor, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:48.31. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he won the Dwyer at Belmont and the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth earlier in the year.
"He did have to overcome some things (in the Brooklyn) and he did have to make up some ground," Gomez said. "He's proved he likes it (at Monmouth) and hopefully he'll run the same kind of race" in the Classic as he did in the Haskell.
In other weekend racing with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 26-27 at Monmouth Park:
$2 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Go Between broke poorly in Saturday's $200,000 Unbridled Breeders' Cup Handicap at Louisiana Downs, started to make up ground on the pack traveling down the backstretch and then took charge in the stretch, winning off by 4 3/4 lengths. Erroneous I D was second and Corey County finished third. Go Between, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Point Given, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.64 under Robby Albarado.
-- Fair Weather Stan upset Saturday's $100,000 Needles Stakes for 3-year-olds at Calder Race Course, rallying from mid-pack to score by a nose over fellow longshot Fearless Eagle. Triple Crown refugee Imawildandcrazyguy rallied late to finish third and the favorite, Soldier's Dancer, got home fourth. Fair Weather Stan, a Florida-bred gelding by Tiger Ridge, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.03 on "good" turf. Jose Rivera Jr. rode. "This was a step up today," said winning trainer Dave Braddy, "and the logical thing now is to go on and try the Calder Derby" on Oct. 13.
$2 million Emirates Airline Distaff
Octave, who has been mixing it up in the best of company all year, was clearly the class of Saturday's $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Philadelphia Park -- on paper. But they run the race on the track, and there, Octave couldn't begin to catch front-running Bear Now, finishing second to that rival by 2 yards and not gaining. Talkin About Love was another 1 length back in third. Bear Now, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tiznow, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.21 with Jerry Baird up for trainer Reade Baker. Bear Now, who won three stakes races earlier in the year at Woodbine, now has six wins from 12 career starts.
$2 million TVG Sprint
Afrashad and Council Member, Godolphin Racing entrymates and the 1-5 favorite, finished an easy 1-2 in Saturday's $100,000 James B. Moseley Sprint at Suffolk Downs. Afrashad, leading most of the way under Richard Migliore, won by 4 lengths. His stablemate stumbled out of the gate and was well and truly last of six before the running started. Roman Candles was third and Gold and Roses completed the trifecta. Afrashad, a 5-year-old, Texas-bred son of Smoke Glacken, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.05. Saeed bin Suroor trains the top two.
$1 million Filly & Mare Sprint (new race)
Jazzy came three-wide down the stretch to win Saturday's $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park by 3/4 length over Cuaba. Pussycat Doll got to the front at the top of the lane but faded to finish third. Jazzy, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred mare by Mutakddim, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.71 under Garrett Gomez. Mark Hennig trains the filly for Team Valor. "She's a neat little horse," Hennig said. "Garrett thought the speed would be to the outside but it turned out to be to his inside. She got a good trip because of it."
$3 million John Deere Turf
-- Cloudy's Knight stalked the pace in Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine, moved to the lead entering the stretch and went on to win by 1 length. Sterwins finished second and Windward Islands was third. Cloudy's Knight, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Lord Avie, ran the 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:14.10 under Ramsey Zimmerman. "He relaxed right where I needed him to be, putting pressure on the horses on the inside," said Zimmerman. "When I turned for home, I just smooched to him and hollered at him and he kicked on from there." Trainer Frank Kirby said he is targeting the $2 million Pattison Canadian International but added, "We'll let him direct us."
-- General Jumbo rallied from last to win Saturday's $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf over the undulating grass of Kentucky Downs. Rallying four-wide down the long stretch, General Jumbo prevailed by 1/2 length over Fri Guy, with Golden Strategy 3 lengths farther back in third. The lukewarm favorite in a field of eight, General Jumbo ran the 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.98 with Jeremy Rose up for trainer H. Graham Motion. The 5-year-old winner is a British-bred son of Dansili.
$2 million Filly & Mare Turf
-- Tensas Yucatan made quick work of eight rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Marie P. DeBartolo Oaks at Louisiana Downs, leading most of the way and winning by 3 lengths over Ahead of Her Time. Blue Angel was third. Tensas Yucatan, a Louisiana-bred daughter of Ide, out of the Dehere mare Xylophone, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.78 under Donnie Meche. Morris Nicks is the winning trainer.
-- Quiet Royal, the even-money favorite, rallied from far back to win Saturday's $100,000 Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs by 3/4 length over pace-setting Rich Fantasy. Carmela Carson finished third. Quiet Royal, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Royal Academy, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.42 with Christopher DeCarlo in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher.
-- Snow Cone saved ground until the turn for home in Saturday's $100,000 Judy's Red Shoes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Calder Race Course, then swung out for room and surged to the front, winning by 1 length over 55-1 longshot Arch Nemesis. Sweet Exchange finished third after leading in the stretch. Snow Cone, a Florida-bred filly by Cryptoclearance, got the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:42.13 under Elvis Trujillo. Trujillo said he followed instructions from trainer Marty Wolfson and, "The race went off exactly as he called it."
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Wise Answer didn't have to answer a single challenge in Saturday's $250,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes at Calder Race Course. After drawing clear of a pace duel on the backstretch, the Florida-bred Wised Up colt ran off to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Sr. Henry. Hypocrite finished third. Wise Answer ran the 1 mile and 70 yards 1:45.04 under Raymundo Fuentes. David Brownlee, who trains the colt, said Wise Answer is not Breeders' Cup nominated and will return to the Florida Stallion Series in the In Reality Division, "then get a well-deserved break." He earlier won the Affirmed Division.
-- Big Truck, highly touted and bet down to 1-5 odds, rolled to a stretch-running, 2-lengths victory in Sunday's $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes for New York-breds at Belmont Park. Spanky Fischbein was second and Dazzling Derek finished third. Big Truck, a son of Hook and Ladder and from the barn of Barclay Tagg, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.64 under Ramon Dominguez.
$2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies
-- Silk Ridge led from gate to wire in Saturday's $150,000 Brave Raj Stakes at Calder Race Course, finishing 5 1/4 lengths ahead of Asi Asi. Calico Bay was third. Silk Ridge, a Florida-bred daughter of Eltish, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in stakes-record time of 1:44.60 under Manuel Aguilar. "We'll just keep her happy until the stallion stakes and see," said winning trainer Gordon Potter. "I wouldn't think she'd be able to come back two weeks later (for the Breeders' Cup). But I wouldn't rule anything out after the way she came back from her last race."
-- Bsharpsonata played the right tune Saturday's $55,000 Irish Sonnet Stakes at Delaware Park, soloing down the stretch and winning by 7 melodic lengths over Erin's Golden Star. The odds-on favorite in the field of four, Unbridled Rhapsody, hit a sour note, finishing third. Halcyon missed the break and was 19 lengths farther back, fourth and last. Bsharpsonata, a Florida-bred filly by Pulpit, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.16 under Eric Camacho.
-- Expect the End led throughout in Sunday's $100,000 Joseph A. Gimma Stakes for New York-breds at Belmont Park but was pressured all the way by Meriwether Jesssica. At the end, Expect the End held on by a nose. Beam of Love finished third. Expect the End, a daughter of Precise End, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.31. Rafael Bejarano rode for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.
$1 million Juvenile Turf (new race)
-- Zee Zee saved ground near the rear of the field through the early furlongs of Saturday's $200,000 Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs, advanced between rivals on the turn and into the top of the stretch, then drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Cato Major also made a late run to finish second and Sammy Van Ammy, the early leader, held on for third-place money. Zee Zee, a Florida-bred filly by Exchange Rate, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.22. Robby Albarado rode for trainer Bill Mott.
-- In the companion $200,000 Sunday Silence Stakes on Saturday at Bossier City, Cherokee Triangle also waited until the turn to make his move but then did so convincingly, accelerating to win by 10 3/4 lengths. Gangbuster was second and Moody Jones finished third. Cherokee Triangle, a Kentucky-bred colt by Cherokee Run, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.28. Robby Albarado was in the irons for trainer Mike Maker.
In other weekend racing:
Dance to My Tune stalked the pace in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) La Lorgnette Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, surged to a good lead early in the stretch run and held on at the end to win by a neck over Serenading. Lyrically finished third. Dance to My Tune, an Ontario-bred miss by Stravinsky, got the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.71, toting jockey Constant Montpellier. Corey David trains. "She just gave it everything she had," said Montpellier. "There was nothing left at the end."
Hold the Salt held the lead through virtually all of Saturday's $100,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Dash, winning by 2 lengths at the end of the testing stretch drive. Shark was second and Ecclesiastic was third with a late run as the favorite. Hold the Salt, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Salt Lake, finished 6 furlongs on the European-style course in 1:09.25 under Charles Woods Jr.
Alpine Garden pressed the pace early in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Breeders' Cup until late in the run down the backstretch, took charge and won off by 1 3/4 lengths. Pat of Gold was second and Napa finished third. Alpine Garden, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid out of the Danzig mare Clarinova, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:52.33 under Quincy Welch.
Sunday, Celtic Dreamin stalked the pace in the $200,000 British Columbia Breeders' Cup Derby, was sent to the lead on the turn and drew clear, winning by 5 1/2 lengths over Gandolf. Sir Gallovic was third. Celtic Dreamin, a California-bred gelding by Game Plan, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.5.
Frank the Barber rallied five-wide to take the lead entering the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Pomona Derby, then edged clear to win by 1 length over Big Bad Leroybrown. Mr. Nightlinger was third. Frank the Barber, ridden by Martin Pedroza and trained by Gary Stute, covered the "about" 9 furlongs in 1:53.07. The gelding is a New Jersey-bred by Malibu Moon.
In Sunday's $125,000 Ralph M. Hinds Invitational, Plug Me In battled for the lead, got it and then held well in the stretch to win by 1 length over Courtly Jazz. Raise the Bluff, an odds-on favorite, ran evenly to finish third. Plug Me In, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Hold for Gold, ran the "about" 9 furlongs in 1:51.31 with Alonzo Quinonez in the irons.
Now Victory got the jump on eight rivals in Saturday's $150,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap and never looked back, pulling off a major upset by beating Jack's Wild by 2 lengths. Macduff was third and the favorite, Ispingo, finished fifth. Now Victory, at odds of better than 31-1, ran the "about" 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:47.17 under Frank Alvarado. The 6-year-old, California-bred Sharp Victor gelding is trained by Dean Pederson.
Exciting Justice provided an exciting upset in Saturday's $75,000 Weekend Delight Stakes for fillies and mares, rallying to the lead on the turn with a wide move and drawing off to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Maria Ballerina. Over the Edge took third. Exciting Justice, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Glitterman, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.42 for jockey Terry Thompson.
Whirl took the lead in Sunday's $150,000 Premier Breeders' Cup Handicap, opened a comfortable lead while setting a brisk pace, then held on to win by a neck over Orphan Brigade. Tontine Too finished third. Whirl, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Unbridled's Song, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09 1/5 on a fast track.
Barancella came from last of six to win Sunday's $75,000 Fairway Flyer Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length over Jade Queen. Nunnery finished third. Barancella, a 6-year-old, French-bred mare by Acatenago, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:14.27. Javier Castellano rode for trainer Bobby Frankel.
Irish Glass led all the way to a 2 3/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $50,000 New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Derby. I B Six was second all the way and She's Long Gone was third. Irish Glass, a New Mexico-bred gelding by Carmen's Glory, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:49.05 under Ricardo Jaime.
Sunday, Rollicking Caller stalked the pace in the $75,000 New Mexico State Fair Handicap, challenged for the lead turning for home and won by 1 length after a determined stretch drive. Don't Strike Out finished second and A Gallant Discover made a late run to take third. Rollicking Caller, a 6-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding by Caller I.D., ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.73 under Ricardo Jaime.
Stay Close didn't in Saturday's $50,000 John D. Schapiro Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap but it didn't make a difference in the end. Closing determinedly from near the back of the eight-horse field, Stay Close won by a nose over pace-setting favorite Jungle Fighter. Bastille finished third. Stay Close, a 5-year-old, British-bred gelding by Belong to Me, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.41 under Oliver Castillo.