Royal Delta made short work of five rivals in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, turning the tables on a couple of the nation's best 3-year-old fillies.
With Jose Lescano up, Royal Delta sat back of a moderate pace through the early furlongs of the Spa classic, following the favorites, Plum Pretty and It's Tricky. Entering the stretch, Royal Delta came out for room, got by the frontrunners and accelerated by them to win by a convincing 5 1/2 lengths despite ducking into the rail midway down the lane.
It's Tricky, bidding for a sweep of the New York "Triple Tiara" for 3-year-old fillies, held on for second but Pinch Pie was along to take show money from Plum Pretty. Queen's Plate winner Inglorious, who passed up a run at the Canadian Triple Crown to tackle American fillies in the Alabama, ran last of six all the way around the track.
Royal Delta, a royally bred Empire Maker filly out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, ran the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:03.13, avenging her third-place finish behind It's Tricky and Plum Pretty in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23. Before that, Royal Delta won the Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico, then took some time off nursing a bruised foot.
"Last time she was a little rank, she fought with the bit," Lezcano said. "But today, I let her break and run the first quarter, and after that I took a little hold and she got very relaxed. I asked her at the quarter pole and took her out, and she gave me a big kick. She really took off."
Winning trainer Bill Mott, who also saddled Royal Delta's dam for the late Prince Saud bin-Khaled, said the filly is a special one. "I think she's a filly that seems to do anything," Mott said. "She will run over any surface. She has won on the synthetics, won a Grade 1 on the dirt, and has worked well over the grass. Our options are always open. But there is nothing like a good old-fashioned dirt race like the Alabama."
In California Saturday, the 3-year-old fillies were running on the grass in the $250,000, Grade I Del Mar Oaks, with Summer Soiree coming out on top.
With Gabriel Saez in the irons, the East Coast shipper surged to a big lead early in the stretch run and just did hold on to win by a half length over Star Billing and another nose over Nereid. The Kentucky-bred War Front filly got the 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:46.46.
Summer Soiree won the Bourbonette Stakes in June by 10 3/4 lengths, was sold privately and then copped the Boiling Springs Stakes at Monmouth Park by 8 1/2 lengths. David Rock, assistant to winning trainer Graham Motion, said he had hoped Saez could wait a little longer to send the filly. "But she got pretty headstrong, I guess, so he had to go … . It's a shame that she didn't get to settle a little longer but she finished OK."
Other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4-5:
Where's Sterling burst onto the scene with a pace-stalking, 1-length victory in Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park. With Paco Lopez in the irons, the 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Northern Afleet colt waited behind a quick pace set by Ponzi Scheme, let Southern Ridge take first run at the lead and then came three-wide to claim the victory. Southern Ridge held second; Ponzi Scheme, third. The favorite, Pleasant Prince, had an off day, finishing sixth of eight. Where's Sterling ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.57. It was his third win from eight starts. "I was expecting the early pace to be a little faster," said winning trainer Nick Canani. "But Paco rode the horse perfectly. He always seemed like a horse that wants to go a mile and eighth, or maybe even longer."
Freedoms Traveller drew off smartly at the end to win Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) Canadian Derby at Northlands Park by 5 1/4 lengths over Emerald Downs shipper Northern Indy. Line Change, in from Woodbine, settled for third as the lukewarm favorite after leading early in the stretch run. Freedoms Traveller, an Alberta-bred Peacenfreedom gelding, ran the 11 furlongs on a fast track in 2:21.81 with Rafael Zenteno in the irons.
Kara's Orientation upset Sunday's $250,000, Grade II Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine, leading early by nearly 20 lengths and coasting home first, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Smart Bid. Hailstone finished third and the favorite, Grassy, settled for fourth. Musketier completed the order of finish. Kara's Orientation, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Orientate colt, ran the 1 1/4 miles on good turf in 2:04.87 with Emile Ramsammy in the irons. "I was very concerned early on," winning trainer Steven Chircop said. "I wanted him in front by about 3 or 4 lengths in a perfect world. To see him open up like that, you're kind of wondering, 'When's he going to stop?' But the horse has been doing amazing."
Filly & Mare Turf
Hungry Island closed quickly with a wide move in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Kathmanblu. Dynamic Holiday was third and the odds-on favorite, Winter Memories, settled for fourth, producing minor bridge-jumper show payoffs. Hungry Island, a Kentucky-bred More Than Ready filly, ran the 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:53.77 with Alex Solis in the irons. It was her fourth straight win but first in a graded stakes. "I think this is a good filly," winning trainer Shug McGaughey said. "She's done everything we wanted her to do this year … . And like Alex just said, 'Everything I wanted her to do in the race, she did.' And she still gave him the kick."
The Europeans milers are staging quite the battle for supremacy and, with luck, some of that will spill over to the Breeders' Cup in November. In the latest chapter of the thrilling saga, three-time defending Breeders' Cup Mile champion Goldikova was caught in the late going of Monday's Group 1 Prix Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques Le Marois at Deauville by Immortal Verse, a Pivotal filly whose star is quickly ascending. It was her second straight Group 1 victory following the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and earned her a Breeders' Cup berth via the "Win and You're In" program. Goldikova won the Jacques Le Marois in 2009 and last year was second to Makfi. This year's renewal came down to Goldikova on the outside and Immortal Verse surging up the rail in the final yards to score by a length. Sahpresa was just a nose behind Goldikova with a late run and Royal Bench finished fourth. The mile went in 1:38.30 over a soft course. Winning trainer Robert Collet said the back-to-back Group 1 wins prove Immortal Verse "is a super filly." Collet has not announced plans for the rest of the year but they could include a potential match with Frankel in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Oct. 15 at Ascot – or Goldikova at Churchill Downs. But for the untimely retirement of Canford Cliffs, either or both of those races could be "for the ages" events.
Raetodandty stuck his neck in front of pacesetting Streakin' Mohican to win Wednesday's $85,000 Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar by a neck. The favorite, Ventana, closed quickly between rivals to take third. Raetodandty, a 4-year-old, California-bred Freespool gelding, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.64 seconds. It was his fifth win from 12 career starts.
Six and three-quarters lengths is a big margin of victory in any race – moreso when the contest is only 5 1/2 furlongs to begin with. But that's what Bridgetown did in Wednesday's $75,000 Troy Stakes at Saratoga, taking charge when asked by jockey John Velazquez and quickly drawing clear in the final furlong. Pashito the Che was second with Awakino Cat third. Bridgetown, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Speightstown colt, finished in 1:03.13. Tristan Barry, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher, said Bridgetown came back from his last race at Ascot "well and was right back to himself the last three to four weeks. He's been doing very well, as he normally does, so we were expecting him to run a big race." He said Pletcher and owner Eugene Melnyk have yet to pick a next race.
Ravalo came to the lead entering the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Remington Park Sprint Cup and held a narrow advantage over the favorite, Captain Cherokee, all the way home, winning by half length. Chief of Affairs finished third. Ravalo, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred Mutakddim gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.28 with Jeffrey Sanchez in the irons. "I wanted him to lay up close," winning owner Lindy Redding said. "I told Sanchez to play it by ear and use his own judgment. I didn't like it for him to be that wide but he still did it."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Eve Giselle put away the early speed in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Endine Stakes at Delaware Park, then held off longshot Sassy City in the late going to win by a length. Ms Vanenzza finished third. Eve Giselle, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Five Star Day filly, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.84 with Javier Santiago riding for trainer Tim Ritchey. She now is three-for-three at Delaware Park after picking up her first stakes win on June 25 in the 6-furlong $125,000 Sweet & Sassy Stakes. She now has six wins from nine career starts.
Tanda rallied through the stretch to defeat just three rivals in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap at Del Mar, scoring by 1 1/4 lengths over She's Cheeky. Irish Gypsy and Mildly Offensive completed the order of finish. Tanda, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Sweetsouthernsaint filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:15.34 with Joe Talamo up. Coming into the race, Tanda had not won since May of 2010, when she picked up the Grade III Railbord at Hollywood Park. She followed that with a third-place finish in New York in the Acorn but then was off for 10 months and struggled after her return. Mike Mitchell, who recently took over training duties, said, "If you're planning on the Breeders Cup, this was a must-win. You had to win this race. You couldn't run second."
Awesome Gem started from the far outside in an 11-horse field in Sunday's $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs, went wide on both turns but still was able to get up late and win by 1 1/2 lengths over pacesetter Noosa Beach. Posse Power finished third. Awesome Gem, last seen at Hollywood Park, ran Sunday's mile in 1:34.80 on a fast track with David Flores up for trainer Craig Dollase.
Granted, the track was sloppy and the final time wasn't anything to write home about. Still, Union Rags drew clear of a four-way battle for the lead and destroyed the field in Monday's $150,000, Grade II Three Chimneys Saratoga Special, drawing off at the end to win by 7 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Stat, gave futile chase and Indian Evening finished 3 lengths farther back in third. Wesley Ward trainee Italo, who made his last start at Ascot in England, was never a factor and finished last of six. Union Rags, a Kentucky-bred Dixie Union colt out of the Gone West mare Tempo, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:18.33 with Javier Castellano handling the reins. The purse was boosted by a $200,000 Fasig Tipton sale bonus, resulting in a $290,000 winner's share which could come in handy should Union Rags make it as far as consideration for next year's Kentucky Derby. Castellano, who worked Union Rags for trainer Michael Matz last Tuesday, said, "I''ve never worked a horse like that and I've been very fortunate to ride horses like Ghostzapper and Bernardini." Matz, who also handled Barbaro, said Union Rags "proved he is a good horse and I'm really excited about him … . Obviously our main goal is for next year, but we'll just have to see how he is and look for something in about a month or five weeks."
Finale put paid to five outclassed rivals midway through Saturday's $65,000 Continental Mile at Monmouth Park, spurting away from the pack when asked by jockey Joe Bravo and winning off by 10 1/2 lengths. Channel Quest was second and first-time starter No Play finished third. Finale, a Kentucky-bred Scat Daddy colt out of the Lively One mare Twinkle, got the mile on a firm turf in 1:35.24. The colt is owned by the famed trio of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith and trained by Todd Pletcher. He now has two wins from four starts, both victories coming on the green course. "He's the kind of horse that makes you say, 'Wow,'" said winning jockey Joe Bravo. "He gives off such confidence, and he backs it up with the way he runs. He ran away so easily today. He was so impressive. He has a bright future."
Chips All In came from Southern California to Arapahoe Park for Sunday's $100,000 Gold Rush Futurity and the trip was worthwhile. After stalking the pace, jockey Aaron Gryder kicked the Kentucky-bred North Light colt into gear for the stretch run and he got up to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Rio Cuchara and King of Swat completed the trifecta. Chips All In ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.84.
Twice Over and Midday slugged it out in the final furlong of Wednesday's Group 1 Juddmonte International at York with Twice Over getting by late to win by 3/4 of a length. Await the Dawn finished third, well back. Twice Over, a 6-year-old son of Observatory, finished in 2:14.70 under Ian Mongan over a course listed as good to soft, picking up his second straight win after a few subpar efforts after returning from Dubai. Sir Henry Cecil, who trains the top two, said, "If the ground had been faster today, I think Midday could have given Twice Over more of a race." Cecil indicated Twice Over is likely for the Champion Stakes at Ascot on Oct. 15 and Midday "if the ground was right" might get a rematch with her stablemate.
Blue Bunting ran from near the back of the field to win Thursday's Group I Yorkshire Oaks by 3/4 of a length over Vita Nova. Wonder of Wonders was well back in third at Blue Bunting, a daughter of Dynaformer, ran the 1 1/2 miles on soft turf in 2:25.34. The early favorite, Snow Fairy, was withdrawn by trainer Ed Dunlop when the course came up soft. Blue Bunting, racing in Godolphin blue, won the English 2000 Guineas and the Irish Oaks earlier this year and was facing older rivals for the first time for trainer Mahmood al Zarooni.
Margot Did, a filly running against males in Friday's Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes for 2-year-olds and up at York, raced close to the pace and went on to win by 3/4 of a length over Hamish McGonagall. Prohibit finished third in a parade of long shots. Margot Did, a daughter of Exceed and Excell, was partnered by jockey Hayley Turner, who scored her second Group 1 win.
Galikova, a 3-year-old half-sister to Goldikova rallied sharply down the middle of the track in Monday's Group II Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville to whip Slow Pace by 2 lengths. Golden Lilac, who beat Golden Lilac in the Prix de Diane in her last start, finished third. With Olivier Peslier at the reins, Galikova was geared down at the end and finished 1 1/4 miles in 2:07.60 on soft ground. Trainer Freddy Head said Galikova likely will try the Sept. 11 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.
Announce rallied from off the pace to win Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville, beating Juddmonte Farms stablemate Timepeace by a short head. Lily of the Valley, the early leader, held on for third. Announce, a daughter of Selkirk, scored her first Group 1 win in the fixture and is likely to point now for the Prix de l'Opera on Oct. 2 at Longchamp. Trainer Ed Dunlop, who had withdrawn his star filly, Snow Fairy, at York Thursday because of course conditions, hoped to run her in the Romanet. However, French racing rules ban horses withdrawn that recently from another race and she was not allowed to run
Also Sunday at the seaside track, Dabirsim, a French-bred son of Hat Trick, won his fourth race without a loss in picking up the winner's share of the 6-furlong Prix Morny. With Frankie Dettori up, Dabirsim, bested Family One with Vladimir third.
Compliance Officer came to the lead three-wide around the stretch turn in Thursday's $100,000 West Point Stakes for New York-breds and drove clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Karakorum Legend. Pocket Cowboys finished third and the favorite, Icabad Crane, finished seventh without a serious challenge. Compliance Officer, a 5-year-old Officer gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Purple Hills, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the good inner turf in 1:44.40 with Alex Solis up.
Gitchee Goomie engaged Rogue Duel in a stretch battle in Friday's $100,000 Yaddo Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and gamely prevailed by nose under the wire. Frivolous Buck was third. Gitchee Goomie, a 4-year-old City Zip filly, went off as the favorite and covered the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.38 for jockey Alan Garcia.
Put a checkmark by the name Love and Pride. The well-bred filly led from the start in Friday's $75,000 Proud Spell Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew clear through the stretch to win by 6 3/5 lengths. Draw It was best of the rest with My Assets third. All For Thee, the odds-on favorite, was always well back and finished fifth. Love and Pride, a Kentucky-bred A.P. Indy filly out of the Storm Cat mare Ile de France, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.26 with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Halo Dolly ducked in at the start of Sunday's $100,000 Solana Beach Handicap for California-bred fillies and mares, trailed the early speed and then came along late to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Warren's Jitterbug finished second, a head in front of early leader Catie's Secret. Halo Dolly, a 3-year-old Popular filly, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:35.08 for jockey Joe Talamo.
Mizdirection set a pressured pace in Friday's $85,000 Sandy Blue Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, then edged clear late and went on to win by 3/4 of a length over Bauble Queen. Great Hot was third. Mizdirection, the even-money favorite, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:34.39 with Garrett Gomez in the irons. She is a Kentucky-bred Mizzen Mast filly.
Niigon's Touch kicked clear in the stretch run to post a minor upset in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Eternal Search Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, beating extreme longshot Lucky Be Me by 3 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Bear It's Time, finished third. Niigon's Touch, an Ontario-bred daughter of Niigon, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.86 under Tyler Pizarro.
Stars to Shine shone just fine in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Belle Mahone Stakes for fillies and mares, circling the early speed and drawing off to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Ariana D. Perfect Shirl finished third. Stars to Shine, with Patrick Husbands in the Irons, got the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.77. The winner is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tale of the Cat filly.
Skip a Smile did all his best running in the stretch drive of Saturday's $100,000 Governor's Cup, catching Red Lead in the final yards to win by 3/4 length. Worldly, the favorite, finished third in the three-way battle to the wire. Skip a Smile, a 4-year-old, Texas-bred Skip Away gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.52 with Luis Quinonez aboard.
Motion Approved rallied down the stretch to upset Friday's $50,000 Red Earth Stakes for Oklahoma-breds, getting home first by 2 lengths over Strategic Leader at odds of more than 37-1. Ti Township finished third and the favorite, She's All In, finished fourth. Motion Approved, a 10-year-old With Approval gelding, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:28.94 under Nena Matz.
Nasty Rumor stumbled at the start of Saturday's $75,000 Crystal Rail Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, quickly recovered and then dueled for the lead until she crossed the wire first by a half length over late-running Callmethesqueeze. The favorite, Battle of Love, settled for third. Nasty Rumor, a Maryland-bred Johannesburg filly out of the Dehere mare Cama, ran the 1 mile on a fast main track in 1:40.10 with Luis Saez up. The race originally was carded for 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass.
Manicero drew clear down the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Naked Greed Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning off by 5 lengths over the favorite, Decisive Moment. Imperial Czar finished third. Manicero, a Florida-bred Mass Media colt, ran the mile on the fast main track in 1:39.41 under Juan Leyva. This race also was moved from the turf.
Sartorialist rallied from last of nine to win Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Jack Diamond Futurity for Canadian-bred juveniles by a half length over Herecomeslucky. Deputy's Command finished third. Sartorialist, a British Columbia-bred Finality gelding, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:19.05 with Isaias Cardenas riding.
Sunnyside Gal drew clear in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Sadie Diamond Futurity for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies and won off by 3 1/4 lengths over long shot Satellite Debris. Sunnyside Gal, a British Columbia-bred Sungold filly, finished 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.15 under Mario Gutierrez.
Tup Take' Please made all the going in Saturday's $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial for West Virginia-breds, then held on to win by a neck over Black Belt. The odds-on favorite, Russell Road, chugged home third with too little, too late. Tup Take' Please, a 5-year-old son of R.S.V.P Please, ran the 7 furlongs in a fast track in 1:25.73 with Alcibiades Cortez up.
Saturday was Louisiana Cup day, with eight stakes restricted to horses bred in the Bayou State. The track was fast and the turf was firm.
Old Bushmill burst through from mid-pack in the late going to upset the $100,000 Turf Classic by a half length over Heavenville in 1:42.69. Skipping Town stayed close to the pace in the $100,000 Distaff, then eased by pacesetter Royal Madame late to win by a nose, finishing the 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:43.25.
Get in Da House ran to his notices in the $75,000 Louisiana Cup Derby, running on late to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Heavy On Themister and finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.09. Lovenotlost took over complete charge in the stretch run of the $75,000 Oaks, clearing seven rivals to win by 7 lengths in 1:45.66 with Cat's Production best of the rest.
My Star Runner stalked the pace in the $60,000 Sprint, then prevailed by 1/2 length over Chief Jay while running 6 furlongs in 1:10.17. Daphne Angela drew off late to win the $60,000 Filly and Mare Sprint by 5 1/2 lengths over Good Human Bean and stopping the timer at 1:10.45.
Top Cat Boogie set a pressured pace in the $50,000 Juvenile, then drew off to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Joe's No Saint, running 6 furlongs in 1:11.69. Kaki's Storm got clear in the final sixteenth to post a big upset in the $50,000 Juvenile Fillies, winning by 2 lengths over odds-on favorite Coteau Kitten in 1:12.54.
Dabnabit won a stretch battle with the favorite, Gunfighter, to win Sunday's $65,000 Colts Neck for New Jersey-breds by 1/2 length. Hop Skip and Away finished third. Dabnabit, a 6-year-old Indtidab horse, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.31 over a sealed track rated good. Victor Santiago rode.
Notoriously dueled her way to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 (Canadian) City of Edmonton Distaff, then took charge in the stretch run, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Summer Song. Miss Victoriana finished third. Notoriously, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Cherokee Run, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46 1/5 with Tony Maragh up.
Senor Rojo and Andiotis both rallied wide past the leaders into the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Speed to Spare Stakes but Senor Rojo then outfinished his rival to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Against the Tide got home third. Senor Rojo, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Out of Place gelding, ran 11 furlongs on the fast track in 2:22 4/5 with Richard Hamel in the irons.
Kalambaka Queen outfinished Stoopendous Diva in a battle of long shots in Saturday's $50,000 Sonoma Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by a length. Maegan's Princess was third and the favorite, Belle Evangeline, finished fifth. Kalambaka Queen, a Florida-bred Pico Central filly, was clocked in 1:48 flat for 1 1/16 miles on the fast track with Ruben Lara up.
Sneak a Cold Treat led all the way to an upset win in Saturday's $50,000 Honey Jay Stakes for Ohio-breds, winning by a length over Allsarott. Perfectly Played finished third. The favorite, 10-year-old Ohio superstar Catlaunch, faltered late and got home fifth. Sneak a Cold Treat, a 6-year-old Snuck In gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.38 with Yamil Rosario in the irons.
Hard Way Ten came from off the pace to win Sunday's $65,000 Emerald Distaff by 1 1/4 lengths over Sweet Nellie Brown. You Me and Emma B finished third. Hard Way Ten, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Rock Hard Ten filly, ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.09 under Gallyn Mitchell.
News and notes:
The "rescued" Kentucky Cup Classic will be renamed and redistanced when it returns to Turfway Park Sept. 24. Previously run at 9 furlongs, the event will be shortened to 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track and envisioned as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile or Dirt Mile. Reflecting the sponsorship of WinStar Farm, which restored the five-race event after a year's absence, the feature race will be the WinStar Kentucky Cup. The race retains Grade II status. Turfway President Robert Elliston noted the Classic served as a prep for 2009 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Furthest Land and said the new distance is a response to the repeated calls "for coordination among major race days to produce a prep schedule that makes sense to the wagering and racing public." Other races on the program retain their original distances - the Juvenile at 1 1/16 mile, the Juvenile Fillies at 1 mile, the Grade III Distaff at 1 1/16 miles and the Grade III Sprint at 6 furlongs.
Oaklawn Park is condensing it's Racing Festival of the South, creating a super card for Arkansas Derby Day on April 14. That date will see not only the $1 million, Grade I Arkansas Derby but also the $350,000, Grade II Oaklawn Handicap, the $250,000, Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap and the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes. The Hot Springs oval also is upping the purse of the Rebel -- final prep for the Arkansas Derby -- to $500,000.