Commentator, a 7-year-old veteran with an affinity for Saratoga, romped home to a 4 3/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $750,000 Whitney Handicap, joining Kelso and Discovery as the only multiple winners of the venerable race.
"He's in that special league," said winning trainer Nick Zito, who earlier compared Commentator to ageless prizefighter George Foreman. "He's an amazing horse. I think the theme should be, 'If you get old, don't give up.'"
Commentator, with John Velazquez in the irons, broke from the rail in the 9-furlong event and was allowed to coast on an easy lead. The favorite, Solar Flare, put in a mild challenge on the turn but couldn't sustain the bid and Commentator was home free, finishing in 1:50.23 on a fast track amid rain showers.
Student Council rallied from far back to take second, 8 1/2 lengths ahead of Grasshopper.
Commentator is a gelded, New York-bred son of Distorted Humor. He now has won three of his last four starts and 12 of 19 overall. Last year, he beat Saint Liam by a neck in the Whitney but Zito set him on a course to run shorter and he ended the year with a fading, seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Saturday's win carries an automatic entry into the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, should Zito elect to go longer, rather than shorter, with Commentator for the balance of this year.
Sunday's $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga is a prep for the Travers later in the Spa meeting. And the Travers is a logical step for 3-year-olds pointing toward the Breeders' Cup Classic.
In Sunday's renewal, Belmont Stakes upset winner Da' Tara hooked up in a speed duel with Mint Lane. As they faded turning for home, Macho Again got the first run at the leaders, took the lead and then held off the bold late run of Pryo, who was trying to overcome a troubled start.
At the wire, it was Macho Again by 1/2 length. Tiz Now Tiz Then, making his first stakes try, finished third. Macho Again, a Florida-bred colt by Macho Uno, completed the 9 furlongs on a track rated "good" amid intermittent rain in 1:51.16 under Julien Leparoux.
"He's a good horse, but he needed to step up," said winning trainer Dallas Stewart. "The pace was beautiful. He's a stalker. The Travers would be great if he comes out of this good and everything is good."
The last three Jim Dandy winners -- Street Sense (2007), Bernardini (2006) and Flower Alley (2005) -- went on to win the Travers.
Other races that might impact the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita in October:
$3 million Emirates Airline Turf
Trainer Aidan O'Brien got a bit more excitement than he expected or wanted in Saturdays King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. As expected, his star runner, Duke of Marmalade, raced to the lead in the stretch after a comfortable trip in mid-pack. But in the final sixteenth, the apparent winner was headed by charging longshot Papal Bull and had to re-rally along the inside to salvage the victory by 1/2 length. Youmzain, who missed the start and had a troubled trip in the stretch, was far back in third. Duke of Marmalade, benefiting from a brisk pace by stablemate Red Rock Canyon, finished the 12 furlongs on "good to firm" turf in 2:27.91, just over 1/2 second short of the course record. Duke of Marmalade, a 4-year-old Danehill colt, now has four Group 1 victories this year, earlier taking top honors in the Prix Ganay, Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Prince of Wales's Stakes. With an eye on the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 5 at Longchamp, O'Brien may use the Juddmonte International or the Irish Champion Stakes at a stepping-stone.
$2 million Ladies Classic
Ginger Punch was caught in traffic leaving the stretch turn in Saturday's $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap at Saratoga, came out and split rivals to get room and surged clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Copper State. Indescribable finished third. Ginger Punch, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred mare by Awesome Again, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.43 with Rafael Bejarano up, taking the Go for Wand for the second straight year. "She is a champion," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "I was a little worried about finding a place to run. They all ganged up on her. They were looking for her. When she dropped back inside, the hole finally opened up." Ginger Punch now has won three straight and four of her last five. As part of the Breeders' Cup Championships' "Win and You're In" series, Saturday's win guaranteed her a spot in the Ladies' Classic, formerly the Distaff, Oct. 24 at Santa Anita.
$2 million Mile (turf)
Karelian stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Sea O Erin Handicap at Arlington Park, came to the lead at mid-stretch and held off the late run of Yate's Black Cat to win by 3/4 length. Demarcation was just another head back in third. The favorite, Lewis Michael, was another neck back in fourth. Karelian, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Bertrando gelding who had been away from the races for nearly a year, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.37. James Graham rode for trainer George Arnold II. "I was a little worried that he was being a little aggressive early," Graham said. "But it played to his advantage and he finished up strong. He wouldn't let the field go by him."
One Union won Friday's $85,000 Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar by a nose, with three more noses separating the second through fifth finishers. Awesome Gem was second in a comeback from a long layoff. Dark Islander finished third and Worldly completed a $6,848.20 superfecta. One Union, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Dixie Union, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.09 with Victor Espinioza up for trainer Richard Mandella. "He was pressured from both sides in the stretch and just kept fighting," Mandella said. "He showed a lot of heart … We'll point for the Del Mar Mile" Aug. 24.
Storm Mesa came out for running room in the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Tasha's Miracle. Misty Ocean led much of the way and held on for third. Storm Mesa, a Kentucky-bred Sky Mesa filly who won the Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows in her last previous start, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.54 with Eddie Martin Jr. up for trainer W. Brett Calhoun. Asked if Storm Mesa might stay in California for the Grade I Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 16), Calhoun said, "Yes, there's a good chance she'll stay. There's a plane leaving here on July 30, so we'll make a decision by then on whether we'll take her back or leave her here. Off this race, I don't know why we wouldn't run in the Oaks."
$2 million Emirates Airlines Filly & Mare Turf
Forever Together rallied from last to win Saturday's $500,000 Diana Stakes at Saratoga by 3/4 length, taking over smartly in the last going. Dynaforce led briefly in the stretch and settled for second while Rutherienne rallied for third. The favorite, Wait a While, faded to finish seventh. Forever Together, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Belong to Me filly, ran 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:46.52 while making just her third start on the lawn. Julien Leparoux rode for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. "I was last, but it was nothing spectacular," said Leparoux. "I mean, she was last, relaxed, and around the stretch I thought to make a move and come inside. When I got her out, she just took off." Sheppard said he will look for a bit longer race before the Filly & Mare Turf, to which Forever Together earned a guaranteed ticket with the Diana win. "The Flower Bowl Invitational (Sept. 27 at Belmont Park) might be such a race," he added.
My Princess Jess struggled through an adventurous trip in Friday's $150,000 Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga, found a narrow opening between rivals at midstretch and got through to win by 3/4 length over Alwajeeha. Zee Zee was third and the favorite, Mousse Au Chocolat, finished last after clipping heels at the top of the lane. My Princess Jess, a Florida-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic, got the 1 1/16 mile on "soft" turf in 1:44. Eibar Coa rode for trainer Barclay Tagg. Tagg said he will skip the Lake Placid Aug. 15 and instead point My Princess Jess to the Garden City Sept. 6, then the Queen Elazabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland Oct. 11. "She's run back-to-back gutsy races," he said. "We want to give her a break."
$2 million Sentient Flight Group Sprint
Street Boss, the favorite, rallied from last to win Sunday's $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar by 1 length over In Summation, who had traffic trouble at a key point in the race and had to check. Jungle Prince ran third. Street Boss, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Street Cry, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:08.67 with David Flores up for trainer Bruce Headley. Street Cross picked up his fifth straight win in the Crosby. Earlier, at Hollywood Park, he captured the Los Angeles and Triple Bend handicaps. The race is named for "Der Bingle," a founder of Del Mar who personally greeted fans when the track opened in 1937.
Abraaj sat off a quick pace in Saturday's $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, came well wide into the stretch and won off by 2 1/2 lengths over First Defence. Sammarco led through a half mile in 44.57 and held on for third. Abraaj, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Carson City, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.23 under Alan Garcia. Kiaran McLaughlin trains for Shadwell Stable. "I wasn't worried about the first quarter," McLaughlin said. "At the three-eighths pole, because Alan had to scrub on him a little bit to kick him in, I was worried. Once he started running, I thought the leader had to slow down. I felt good at the quarter-pole." McLaughlin also trains Lucky Island for Shadwell and said he might run both in the 7-furlong Forego at Saratoga on Aug. 30. Of Abraaj gaining an automatic spot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint with the Vanderbilt win, McLaughlin said, "It's great for a trainer and owner to know that they are in. They don't have to worry about points or graded earnings. When you're in, you can adjust your schedule accordingly."
$1 million Dirt Mile
Artie Hot rallied nicely through the stretch to upset Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Seagram Cup Stakes at Woodbine, winning by 1/2 length over the favorite, True Metropolitan. Palladio finished third. Artie Hot, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Black Minnaloushe, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.3.
$ 2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
Fellow Crasher allowed odds-on favorite Notonthesamepage to set a snappy pace in Saturday's $65,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park. At the top of the stretch, jockey Joe Bravo brought Fellow Crasher alongside the leader and he went by easily to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Notonthesamepage held second. The only other starter, Rapid Redux, finished another 12 1/4 lengths back. Half the original field scratched. Fellow Crasher is a Florida-bred son of Graeme Hall out of the Green Dancer mare Inch Marlowe.
Early Final passed his exam with flying colors in Sunday's $75,000 Middleground Stakes at Lone Star Park in Texas, pressing the pace early, dueling to the lead between horses on the turn and winning by 3 3/4 lengths. King Gulch was second and Supreme Secret finished third. Early Final, a Texas-bred Early Flyer gelding, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.12.
Babs Moosa chased down the favorite, Triumphant Flight, in the final yards to win Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds at Del Mar. The final margin was a nose, with Turbo Call well back in third. Babs Moosa, a Crowning Storm gelding, completed the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.7 under Garrett Gomez. Jerry Hollendorfer is the winning trainer.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Turf
Captain Bry took over the lead a furlong from the wire in Saturday's $60,000 Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs and got home first, 1 length ahead of Mr. Keeper. Kentucky Stormin finished third and the favorite, Sabino, faded from contention late, finishing fifth. Captain Bry, a Florida-bred gelding by Snuck In, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:04.77 with Craig Gibbs aboard for owner/trainer Bryan Baker.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies
Jardin took charge in the stretch and led a parade of longshots across the wire in Wednesday's $100,000 Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga. Cameron Crazies and Girlfrienontheside completed the $2,210 trifecta. Jardin, a Florida-bred daughter of Montbrook, finished the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:12.79 under Robby Albarado. She is trained by Steve Asmussen. The favorite was Ocean Colors, the second-last foal from the late Kentucky Derby-winning filly Winning Colors. Ocean Colors led early, trying to win her second straight race, but faded badly and finished last of nine. Asmussen also trains her.
Seacrettina got away first in a bumpy start in Saturday's $75,000 Silver Spur Stakes at Lone Star Park in Texas, extended the advantage throughout and won by 6 1/4 lengths over Time Well Spent. Ffavorite Bridesmaid finished third. Seacrettina, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Sea of Secrets out of the Dehere mare Sha Hearah, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.49.
Slides Choice dueled odds-on favorite Holy Harem into submission in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Tah Dah Stakes for Ohio-breds at River Downs near Cincinnati, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Pyrite Score finished third. Slides Choice, a daughter of Devil His Due out of the Binalong mare Slide Along, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:07 on a fast track.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies Turf
Glamorous Gal was quickly out front in Saturday's $60,000 Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs, set a pressured pace and then got loose in the stretch, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Saldanha. Mothers Eyes finished third. Glamorous Gal, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Soto out of the Quiet American mare Hitaway, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the firm outer turf course in 1:04.46. Tom Foley rode for trainer Simon Hobson.
In other weekend racing:
Northern Kraze stalked the pace in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Wonder Where Stakes for Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies, battled with pace-setting Roses 'n' Wine down the stretch and won by 3/4 length. Roses 'n' Wine held second, 10 1/2 lengths to the good of Money My Honey. Northern Kraze, a daughter of Aljabr our of the Dayjur mare Baraha, got the 1 1/4 miles on yielding turf in 2:06.78. Chantal Sutherland rode for trainer Mark Frostad.
Authenticat surged clear in the stretch run of Wednesday's $125,000 (Canadian) Passing Mood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Miss Juicey. The favorite, Anne's Purse, ran evenly to finish third. Authenticat is an Ontario-bred daughter of D'Wildcat. She ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.19 under Robert Landry.
Mr. Nightlinger led from gate to wire in winning Saturday's $50,000 Taylor's Special Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Off Duty. Mighty Rule was third. Mr. Nightlinger, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Indian Charlie, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.73 seconds under James Theriot.
Wayzata Bay came from last to first to take Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap by 3/4 length over Red Hot N Gold. Sumac was 1 length farther back in third. Wayzata Bay, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Roar, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.01 under Israel Ocampo.
Calder Race Course
Olympic took the lead on the backstretch in Saturday's $55,000 Mataji Stakes and wasn't challenged thereafter, winning by a comfortable 4 1/2 lengths. Ancient Culture, last early, rallied to finish second and the odds-on favorite, Imawildandcrazyguy, ran evenly to finish third. Olympic, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Danzig, ran the 1 1/4 miles on a "good" track in 2:07.62 with Javier Santiago up.
Shopton Lane led from gate to wire in Saturday's $70,000 Skip Away Stakes, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Judiths Wild Rush. Sinners N Saints took third. Shopton Lane, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Quiet American, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.29 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Chhaya Dance sat off the pace early in Sunday's $75,000 Mount Rainier Handicap, got to the leaders at the top of the lane and battled on to win by a head over Wasserman. Honour the West finished third. Chhaya Dance, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by A.P. Indy out of the Nureyev mare Shade Dance, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48 4/5 with Seth Martinez in the irons.
In Sunday's $50,000 Boeing Handicap for fillies and mares, Shampoo stalked the pace and then went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Eclatante, with Pretty Maid third. Shampoo, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Gulch, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43 4/5, also with Martinez up.
Fareena got to the lead with a furlong to run in Saturday's $75,000 Denise Rhudy Memorial for 3-year-old fillies and drove clear, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Sales Tax. Time Reveals All, the favorite, settled for third. Fareena, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Point Given, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:46.12 for jockey Luis Garcia.
Cubfanbudman did better than his namesake team Saturday, rallying smartly through the stretch to upset the $60,000 Minnesota Derby for state-breds by 1 1/4 lengths over Hunting Pride. Silver Wilbur finished third and the favorite, He's No Piker, finished fifth. Cubfanbudman, a Van Nistelrooy gelding, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:45.91 under Jose Betancourt.
A.J. Bakes battled for the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Minnesota Oaks for state-bred fillies, shook clear on the turn and won by 9 1/2 lengths. Pretty as a Smile was best of the rest and Marina Nolan finished third. A.J. Bakes, a daughter of Boundary, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:43.51 under Scott Stevens.
Wild Promises stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Luther Burbank Handicap for fillies and mares, rallied to the lead leaving the second turn and went on to win by 6 lengths over Lemon Kiss. Rivoltella finished third. Wild Promises, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Wild Event out of the Frosty the Snowman mare Frosty Promise, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.7 under David Lopez.
Test Boy came from last to win Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Don Fleming Handicap by 1/2 length over Teagues Fight with Inuit Fisher third. Test Boy, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Brahms, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.8 with Rico Walcott in the irons.
Sirmione skimmed the rail throughout Saturday's $50,000 HBPA Handicap for fillies and mares and caught pace-setting Ballado's Thunder in the final yards to win by a neck. Mama I'm Home, with traffic problems on the turn, settled for third, just another nose in arrears. Sirmione, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Cozzene, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.17 under John McKee.
Nice Inheritance was just up in time to nip pace-setting Cutie Sabrina at the wire in Saturday's $60,000 Matron Handicap, winning by a nose. Miss Peachtree finished third. Nice Inheritance, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Pure Prize filly, is owned and trained by Steve Asmussen. Randall Toups applied the winning ride.