"If he goes to the Breeders' Cup, it would be the Classic," owner Tracey Farmer said after his 7-year-old gelding ran away from six rivals in the $500,000 highlight of the Suffolk Downs season. "I would enjoy seeing Big Brown and Curlin take him on. We'll have to see what Nick says."
The issue is that Zito is not a fan of artificial surfaces of any kind. And Santa Anita, site of the Oct. 25 Classic, not only has one, but is working on its second synthetic track. The first experienced repeated problems last year and has been replaced for the fall meeting.
Overall, Commentator has won 13 of 20 lifetime starts. He finished seventh in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint after breaking through the gate before the start.
Zito agreed the Classic would be a good spot for Commentator this year since he has been prepping at longer distances. "We have a horse at the top of his game," he said. "You'd have to say that Curlin, Big Brown and Commentator are the top three."
While that sounded positive for fans who would love to see the matchup, Zito did not directly discuss a veto.
The Mass Cap was little more than a paid workout for Commentator, a New York-bred son of Distorted Humor. Coming off a nice victory over Student Council and Grasshopper in the Whitney at Saratoga, the chestnut gelding sat patiently just off the pace, then hit another gear as the field turned for home -- a gear his rivals didn't have in their toolbox. Quickly he was 7 lengths in front, then 14 at the wire.
"I eased him away and he moved very confidently," said winning rider John Velazquez.
Next question: Will Zito be that confident about a change in surface?
Other races with potential implications for the Classic:
-- In Saturday's $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, My Pal Charlie finally broke through for a win after a year of knocking on the door in graded stakes events for trainer Al Stall Jr. The Indian Charlie colt had been second to Pyro twice earlier this year, among other good efforts. Saturday, he rallied from just off the pace when asked by jockey Curt Borque and rolled home first by 4 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Macho Again. Forest Command finished third. My Pal Charlie ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.36.
-- Jonesboro battled to get the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Tiznow Stakes at Louisiana Downs, then edged clear in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Autobeacat. Smokeyjonessutton finished third. Jonesboro, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Sefapiano gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.22 with Robby Albarado up for trainer Randy Morse.
Other weekend races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita:
$2 million Ladies' Classic
Seattle Smooth continued her surge to the top of the Distaff division with a convincing win over Kentucky Oaks and Alabama champ Proud Spell in Saturday's $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes at Philadelphia Park. The Kentucky-bred Quiet American filly, with Jose Lezcano up for trainer Anthony Dutrow, sat off the pace, got into the mix halfway through the 1 1/16 mile and drew away in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Proud Spell also got going late but was bumped and forced wide on the stretch turn and didn't have nearly enough kick, barely catching 60-1 shot Color Me Up for second. Seattle Smooth finished in 1:42.58. In her last start, and her first for Dutrow, Seattle Smooth was a dominating winner in the Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware Park. Her late-season emergence adds even more intrigue to a Ladies' Classic that already promised plenty of competition and betting opportunity.
$2 million Filly & Mare Turf
Tortuga Flats raced just off the pace into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 River Cities Stakes at Louisiana Downs, then bid for the lead and went on to win by 1 length over Pleasantly Blessed. Brownie Points, the favorite, put in a mild rally to finish third. Tortuga Flats, a 5-year-old, Louisiana-bred mare by Wild Zone, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.77. Kirk LeBlanc had the mount for trainer Ralph Irwin.
$2 million Mile (turf)
Steve's Double found room between horses in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Unbridled Handicap at Louisiana Downs and was up in time to win by 1/2 length over Tricky Causeway. Ernesto rallied late to finish third. Steve's Double, a 4-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding by Stephen Got Even, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.82. Robby Albarado rode for trainer Ronny Werner.
$1 million Sentient Flight Group Filly & Mare Sprint
Indian Blessing easily bested an outclassed trio of foes in Saturday's $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park, winning off by 6 1/4 lengths. Elope was second, Porte Bonheur third and Zada Belle last. Sugar Swirl was scratched. Indian Blessing, last year's juvenile filly champ but now a sprinter for trainer Bob Baffert, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.24. Corey Nakatani had the mount. "She's just been doing incredible," said Baffert assistant Tonja Terranova. "She's been so relaxed. She's been so willing (to do) anything that the rider wants. We've been very happy with her. She's a champion and a dream to be around."
$2 million Sentient Flight Group Sprint
Not Bourbon, winner of this year's Queen's Plate, returned from minor throat surgery with an easy win in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Overskate Stakes at Woodbine by 4 1/2 lengths. Yummy With Butter was second, 1/2 length better than Grazettes Landing. Not Bourbon, a 3-year-old, Ontario-bred colt by Not Impossible, got the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.78. Jono Jones rode for trainer Roger Attfield. Not Bourbon had been away from the races since finishing sixth in the Prince of Wales stakes, the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown. The six-time winner entrapped his palate during the running of the 1 3/16 mile Prince of Wales. "It's a distressing thing for a horse to have his oxygen cut off," Attfield said. "I was very nervous going into this race, to be honest. I was concerned about that (throat surgery). I just wanted to see him run this race and see how he handled the whole situation. I'm just delighted with the horse today."
Delosvientos dictated a measured pace in Sunday's $100,000 Point Given Stakes at Monmouth Park and cruised home first, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Phil the Power. Sam P. finished third. Delosvientos, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Siphon, ran the 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:31.12 with Eddie Castro up. Delosvientos has both the breeding and graded stakes success to justify his heavy, odds-on favorite status in a route race. "We were getting pressed for a little bit," Castro said, "but it didn't take too much of a toll on my horse. He really dug in for me and held off Phil the Power all the way to the wire."
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
Trinity Magic, the even-money favorite, ran to his notices in Sunday's $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes for New York-bred juveniles, pressing the pace, then drawing clear at the end to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Tall Poppi. Uncle T Seven was third. Trinity Magic, a chestnut son of Performing Magic out of the Pine Bluff mare Miz Pickens, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.9 with Shaun Bridgmohan riding.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Turf
City Style rallied down the stretch to upset Saturday's $150,000 Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs. At the wire, the Stonerside Stable home-bred City Zip gelding was 2 lengths in front with Classy Gentleman second and Valid Message third. City Style, ridden by Tony McNeil, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.2. Cheryl Asmussen trains.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies
Sneakin Up rallied from the back of the field to win Sunday's $100,000 Joseph A. Gimma Stakes for New York-bred juvenile fillies at Belmont Park by 3/4 length over Ouchy Night. Seek On finished third and the favorite, Akilina, was fourth. Sneakin Up, a bay daughter of Hook and Ladder, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.27 with Carlos Marquez Jr. aboard.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies Turf
Abbott Hall, the favorite, drew off willingly in the stretch to win Saturday's $150,000 Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs by 6 lengths over Meaux Speed. Splash of Roses finished third. Abbott Hall, a Kentucky-bred daughter of El Corredor, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.32. Robby Albarado had the mount and Hal Wiggins trains the filly.
In other weekend racing:
Real Estate led from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 James B. Moseley Sprint Handicap, winning by 1 length over Cavallo Pazzo. Southern Rainbow finished third. Real Estate, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by High Yield, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.82. John Velazquez rode for trainer Bruce Levine.
Thunders Dove wrested the early lead in Saturday's $50,000 Drumtop Stakes for fillies and mares and dominated thereafter, winning by 3 lengths over Intentional Fever. Nijinsky Bullet was third. Thunders Dove, a 4-year-old Thunderello filly, got the 6 furlongs in 1:09.4 under John Velazquez.
Hold On Smokey sprinted to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Robert M. O'Malley Memorial Stakes, maintained a clear advantage and won by 3 lengths over Rockhurst. Hollywood Left was third. Hold On Smokey, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Concorde's Tune, got the "about" 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.25 seconds with Jose Lopez riding.
Bingham dueled for the lead through the early furlongs in Saturday's $100,000 Pomona Derby, then drew off in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Pistol Pete Afleet. Dakota Phone was third and the favorite, Trevor's Clever, finished fifth. Bingham, a Kentucky-bred Monarchos gelding, ran the "about" 9 furlongs in 1:51.89 under Alonso Quinonez.
In Sunday's $125,000 Ralph M. Hinds Invitational Handicap, Booyah battled head-to-head with Freesgood, exchanging the lead, before putting a head in front under the wire. Sensational Score rallied from last to finish third. Booyah, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Running Stag, ran the "about" 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.94 with Joe Talamo aboard.
Lemon Chiffon took charge in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap for fillies and mares, drawing off to win by a comfortable 5 1/2 lengths over Swiss Current. Dona Amelia was third. Lemon Chiffon, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.51 with David Flores in the irons.
Steelin' pressed the pace in Sunday's $65,000 Bangles and Beads Stakes for fillies and mares, then got clear at the end to win by 1 length over the dead-heat pair of Masterful Miss and Kalookan Dancer. Steelin', a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Orientate, got the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.07 with Martin Garcia in the irons.
Northern Soldier ran by the leaders in the stretch to win Sunday's $65,000 Governor's Cup by 1 3/4 lengths over My City by the Bay. Majestic Stream was third. Northern Soldier, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Yankee Victor, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.42.
Stormy Ballad, the longest shot on the tote board, rallied down the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Lake Michigan Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 length over the favorite, Amazing Results. Grand Sensation finished third. Stormy Ballad, a Florida-bred Stormy Atlantic gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:04.68 under Junior Alvarado.
Dynaman came from off the pace to win Saturday's $50,000 John Henry Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over General Charley. Tom Archdeacon finished third. Dynaman, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Dynaformer, ran the 1 1/16 miles on soft turf in 1:45.24 with Carlos Silva riding.
You Dancing Devil waltzed to the lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Nancy A. Vanier Illinois Owners Stakes for fillies and mares and drew off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Si Si Mon Ami was second and Arundel and Royal Leah dead-heated for third and fourth. You Dancing Devil, an Illinois-bred mare by Joyeux Danseur, ran the 1 1/16 miles on soft turf in 1:45.39 under James Graham. Nancy Vanier's entrant, Love Handles, was never a factor and finished eighth.
Informed Decision raced wide through all 7 furlongs of Saturday's $75,000 Missile Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and still got home first by 1 3/4 lengths. Tar Heel Mom was second and Spritely third. Informed Decision, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Monarchos, finished in 1:23.89 under Corey Nakatani.
Miss Challenge set herself plenty of challenge in Sunday's $75,000 Statuette Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, starting last of eight. But when jockey Edgar Prado swung the Kentucky-bred More Than Ready filly out for the stretch drive, she was more than ready, mowing down rivals and winning by a neck over Forest Trail. Zee Zee was third. Miss Challenge ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.75.
On the jump front, odds-on favorite Good Night Shirt stalked the pace in Sunday's $150,000 Lonesome Glory Hurdle Stakes, went to the front on the fourth turn and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Sermon of Love. Red Letter Day was third. With William Dowling riding, Good Night Shirt finished the 2 1/2 miles over the fences in 4:24.88. The 7-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding is by Concern out of the Two Punch mare Hot Story.
Krazy Koffee closed five-wide in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Derby and got up at the end to win by 1 length over Wink At the Girls. The favorite, Texas Wildcatter, finished third with a belated rally. Krazy Koffee, a British Columbia-bred gelding by Regal Intention, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.95 under David Wilson.
Blue Sky Holiday rallied by pace-setting Infinite Wealth on the final turn in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Oaks and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Infinite Wealth held second, 2 3/4 lengths better than Lecturing Lynn. Blue Sky Holiday, a Florida-bred daughter of Victory Gallop, ran the 9 furlongs on a wet-fast, sealed track in 1:52.32 with Chad Hoverson riding for trainer John Snow.
Against the Sky led from gate to wire in winning Saturday's $60,000 (Canadian) Delta Colleen Handicap for fillies and mares by 2 lengths over odds-on favorite Holy Nova. Lady Raj finished third. Against the Sky, a 6-year-old, British Columbia-bred mare by Regal Remark, ran the 1 1/8 miles on the wet-fast track in 1:51.41.
Vote Early had to swing six-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Weekend Delight Stakes and wore down the leaders, winning by a neck over Rated Feisty. Natalicat was third. Vote Early, a 5-year-old More Than Ready mare, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.18 under Otto Thorwarth. "This is only her second time on the synthetic track," said winning trainer Steve Margolis. "We've been shipping her around to different stakes -- Iowa, Monmouth -- trying to get some black-type wins, and we finally got the stakes win with her."
Brown Boy rallied six-wide into the stretch and went on to win Sunday's $60,000 George Maloof Futurity for New Mexico-breds by 3/4 length. Grant's Ghost had the lead but settled for second and High Ridge Runner was third. Brown Boy, a son of Deep Gold, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.76 with Anthony Cruz up.
Nosir battled for the lead to mid-stretch in Sunday's $60,000 New Mexico State Fair Handicap, then drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths over One Lucky Buck. Best Years was third. Nosir, a 4-year-old, California-bred gelding by Cee's Tizzy, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.
Winter Mist pressed the pace set by favorite Leading Moves in Sunday's $50,000 Dessie and Fern Sawyer Futurity for state-breds, then got by in time to win by 1/2 length. Miss Bama Breeze finished third, well back of the embattled leaders. Winter Mist, a Ghostly Moves filly, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12.18 under Brian Theriot.
Move Moves moved past pace-setter Skar in the final jumps to win Saturday's $60,000 New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Breeders' Derby by a neck. Mt. Franklin finished third. Move Moves, a Ghostly Moves gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.17 under Duane Sterling.
Presque Isle Downs
Andiamo prevailed after a long stretch drive in Saturday's $99,500 Lake Erie Stakes, winning by a neck over Hyracotherium. Frisco Star finished third, another head back. Andiamo, an 8-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding by Rubiano, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on the all-weather time in a track-record 1:40.05 with Ronald Allen Jr. aboard.
Shadowbdancing stalked the pace early in Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Meadows Derby, got a big lead early in the stretch run and held on to post a big upset, winning by 1/2 length over Let It Rock. Face the Cat was third and the favorite, Sebastian County, settled for fourth with no late run. Shadowbdancing, a Florida-bred colt by Montbrook, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.05 with Randall Meier up for trainer Terrel Gore. He went to the post at odds of 23-1.
Euphony took charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Meadows Oaks, drawing clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Wild Indian with Jolie the Cat third. Euphony, a Kentucky-bred filly by Forest Wildcat, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.88 with Quincy Hamilton in the irons for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.
Golden Gate Fields
Wild Promise stalked the pace set by In My Glory through most of Saturday's $75,000 Miss America Stakes, got even entering the stretch and won a long stretch duel by 1/2 length. Ainamaa finished third. Wild Promise, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Wild Event, got the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:51.07 with David Lopez in the irons. Greg Gilchrist trains.
Monsoon Rain took over on the final turn in Sunday's $75,000 Gold Stakes and drew off easily to win by 11 1/4 lengths. Tejano Trouble was second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Voohee's Ballad. Monsoon Rain, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Old Trieste, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.2 under Carlos Marquez.
Prayforthesoldiers rallied to the lead inside the 16th pole in Sunday's $50,000 Winnipeg Futurity and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Beauty for Ashes. Tease the Tiger finished third. Prayforthesoldiers, a Kentucky-bred Lost Soldier gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:43.6.
Libor Lady was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $55,000 Walking in Da Sun Stakes for fillies and mares and held well to win by 2 lengths over Anofficerandalady. Big Cat Walks Late finished third. Libor Lady, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Exchange Rate, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.63 seconds. Luis Garcia rode for trainer Michael Pino.
Calder Race Course
It's a Bird took flight immediately in Saturday's $55,000 Plagiarize Stakes and soared home first, 6 lengths ahead of Imawildandcrazyguy. Too Good was just good enough for the show. It's a Bird, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Birdonthewire, ran the 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:37.23 with Jermaine Bridgmohan in the irons.
Cenzontle dawdled near the back of the pack early in Saturday's $55,00 The Vid Stakes, then rallied three-wide to take the lead with a 16th left and won by 1/2 length over Mr. Silver. Lettie's Relic was third. Cenzontle, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Smart Strike gelding, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:28.48 with Ariel Smith up.
News and Notes
Earlie Fires, 61, retired Sunday after the fifth race at Arlington Park. After more than 43 years of riding, Fires hangs up his tack with 6,470 wins, ninth on the list of winningest riders, and more than $86 million in earnings. He has won riding championships at Hialeah, Gulfstream, Calder, Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Miles Park. He also is the all-time leading rider at Arlington Park with 2,886 wins. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2001. "I wanted to retire on my terms," Fires said. "I don't have any regrets." Arlington Chairman Richard L. Duchossois said the track will designate an "Earlie Fires Day" during the 2009 meeting.