It was, in fact, a strange week all around in racing, except for the fact the world's best horse won. Other than that: The Travers ended in a dead heat for the first time ever; course records were set in two big races; two of Florida's 2-year-old stakes races were won by 13 lengths or more; and Willy Beamin won two stakes events in four days' time.
Meanwhile, there was a whole lot of shaking going on in the various Breeders' Cup divisions in America and some fine performances -- besides Frankel's -- on the Knavesmire at York in the north of England.
We've got a lot of ground to cover, so pay close attention:
Yes, this deserves its own section. How often these days do you hear of a horse running two races in one week? Winning them both? Both stakes? One of them a Grade I event? At Saratoga? Well, that's what Willy Beamin did. But wait. There's more. The 3-year-old Suave gelding was claimed by trainer Dick Dutrow for $25,000 on March 23 at Aqueduct. He won that race and now has won five more in a row. He wired a field of New York-breds in Wednesday's $150,000 Albany Stakes at the Spa, winning by 6 1/4 lengths. That just amounted to a paid workout for Saturday's $500,000, Grade I King's Bishop. In that heat, jockey Alan Garcia rallied the wonder horse from eighth entering the stretch and ran down a field of graded stakes warriors, winning by a half length over Fort Loudon. Unbridled's Note completed an all-long-shot trifecta with the favorites, Currency Swap and Trinniberg, nowhere to be found at the end. Fort Loudon's trainer, Nick Zito, summed it up: "It's hard to figure out this business. The horse ran three days ago. What can you do? That's the way it goes. There's one thing about racing -- you can never figure it out." Winning owner James Riccio said the plan is to give Willy Beamin a few months off now. "But you never know. Rick might have something up his sleeve. What's today, Saturday? There's something Thursday, but they drew already." Dutrow reportedly skipped Travers day at the Spa to oversee his string at Aqueduct.
Some Breeders' Cup divisions and some action overseas:
It was supposed to be the 3-year-olds in the East and the older horses in the West. But Dullahan popped up and spoiled all that.
After Saturday's dead-heat finish between Alpha and Golden Ticket in the $1 million Travers at Saratoga, Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar looked like a showdown between 5-year-old Game On Dude and 7-year-old Richard's Kid. Instead, Dullahan, the third-place finisher in this year's Kentucky Derby, swung way wide into the stretch and ran by Game On Dude to win by a half length. Richard's Kid got going late and finished third. And the 1 1/4 miles went in track-record time of 1:59.54. Dullahan hadn't won since the last time he was on a synthetic surface in the Blue Grass at Keeneland and, in fact, now is 3-for-3 over the plastic tracks. Still, with the first- and second-place finishers from the Derby already retired, his victory over older and much more accomplished rivals moves him back into the top ranks of the 3-year-old class. Winning rider Joel Rosario said trainer Dale Romans "didn't give me any special instructions, just said the obvious: He's a closer. Save ground if you can, then make a late run. It worked out perfect. He's a one-paced horse. He just goes and goes." Game On Dude's trainer, Bob Baffert, added his horse "ran a good race. The other horse just got us. Dullahan is a nice horse and he thrives on synthetics." The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run on real dirt at Santa Anita Nov. 3.
Saturday's Travers was billed as wide-open but who could predict it would end in the first tie since 1874? The favorite, Alpha, tracked the early pace but was pushed a little wide bidding for the lead on the stretch turn. Meanwhile, long shot Golden Ticket, last seen finishing second in an optional claimer, cut the corner and surged to the front. Alpha gave chase and finally reached even terms as they hit the wire. Fast Falcon was flying at the end, rallying from last of 11 to miss by just a neck and is one to watch for trainer Nick Zito, who had a hard-luck day. Alpha, with Ramon Dominguez up, and Golden Ticket, under David Cohen, finished the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:02.74. Both trainers were happy. "At the sixteenth pole," said Alpha's conditioner, Kiaran McLaughlin, "I thought we were second-best. I didn't think we were going to get there. Then, at the last lunge or two, I thought we got there. The photo indicated a tie, and I said, 'We'll take it.'" Ken McPeek, who drills Golden Ticket, added, "I thought we were beat at first, then I thought we won. I couldn't tell. I'm thrilled we finished in a dead heat." McLaughlin said he will talk to Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford, about plans for Alpha. "Whether it's Pennsylvania Derby, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Breeders' Cup, World Cup, I don't know. We'll talk about all of them," he said. McPeek didn't discuss plans. In the only previous Travers dead-heat for win, Attila and Acrobat finished in a tie but it didn't end there. Attila won a run-off to be awarded the official victory. This year, the canoe gets two sets of colors.
Sunday's $600,000, Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga was a classic example of why they run the races. The obvious favorites, Royal Delta and It's Tricky, sat back off the early pace and then let 10-1 long shot Love and Pride get first run to the lead into the stretch. That proved a mistake as Love and Pride kept going. At the wire, Royal Delta came up a half length short, settling for second as the odds-on favorite. It's Tricky was 1 length farther back in third. Love and Pride is no slouch, though. She is a 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy out of the Storm Cat mare Ile de France. She got the 9 furlongs in 1:49.22 with John Velazquez up. She won the Grade III Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park in June, then finished fourth in the Grade II Delaware Handicap last month, a race won by Royal Delta. In that race, she set a blistering pace and set things up for Royal Delta. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said Love and Pride has run some of her best races stalking the pace and Sunday, "We were in a good stalking position and happy she was in a nice, comfortable rhythm." Royal Delta's trainer, Bill Mott, said jockey Mike Smith "maybe should have gone a little earlier. I don't have much to say about it." Smith agreed he mistimed his move. The win was worth a spot in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic through the "Win and You're In" program. Royal Delta qualified by winning the Del Cap.
The Ebor meeting at York got started with the world's top-rated horse, Frankel, stretching out beyond a mile for the first time and facing some tough new competition in the Group 1 Juddmonte International. Well, competition in a loose sense as Frankel ran away from the bunch in the final 2 furlongs and won by 7 easy lengths with little encouragement. Farhh, the Godolphin colt, finished second and St Nicholas Abbey, the Breeders' Cup Turf winner, was only good enough for third. The question now for trainer Sir Henry Cecil is whether to tempt fate by sending Frankel to Paris for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe next month before winding up his career in the Champion Stakes. He will go favorite in either or both.
Thursday featured the Darley Yorkshire Oaks, with last year's runner-up in Arc, Shareta, holding on to defeat Nassau Stakes winner The Fugue by a neck. Was finished third. Shareta has been competitive in top company around the world but Thursday's victory was her first in more than a year. The Aga Khan homebred daughter of Sinndar, trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre, got the 1 1/2 miles on good to firm going in 2:33.87. The trainer said another try at the Arc may be in the cards if the Longchamp ground is solid.
In Friday's Group 1 Nunthorpe, top Australian sprinter Ortensia finally broke through at the top level in England, rallying from the clouds to nip Spirit Quartz in the shadow of the wire. The win backed up a victory in the Group 2 King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Before that, Ortensia struggled on rain-affected ground at Ascot and Newmarket. The Knavesmire wasn't much better for the Nunthorpe but Ortensia was able to overcome it.
Godolphin added to Alpha's victory in the Travers with Masterstroke taking Sunday's Group 2 Prix de Deauville at the French seaside track. Masterstroke rallied by Gatewood in the final yards to win by a neck. Ok Corral finished third. Masterstroke, a 3-year-old Monsun colt, trained by Andre Fabre, ran the 1 1/2 miles over good ground in 2:39.10. It was his second straight win and fourth from six starts. He has never finished worse than second.
And, speaking of the Arc, Japan's top hope, Orfevre, is preparing to ship to Paris for that event. The 2011 Japanese Horse of the Year is expected to have one prep at Longchamp. The Arc could be a pretty good race with Nathaniel, Camelot, St Nicholas Abbey, Sea Moon, Snow Fairy and last year's winner, Danedream, among those still under consideration.
Casino Host and Dhaamer both rallied from off the pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Del Mar Handicap and battled through the lane before Casino Host prevailed by a neck. Fire With Fire, a long shot, led briefly at the top of the stretch and held on for a trifecta-busting third. Interaction finished fifth. Casino Host, a 4-year-old Dynaformer colt, ran the 11 furlongs on firm turf in 2:14.77 with Joe Talamo in the irons. "It got a little close there at the end, but he was game and battled when they came to him," winning trainer Ron Ellis said. "It's nice to know he can go that far going on to the Breeders' Cup." The Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 3 is 1 1/2 miles. "We'll probably have one more race in between," he added, citing the John Henry at Santa Anita as a possibility. Casino Host was making his second start on the West Coast this year following a third-place finish in the Grade I Eddie Read.
Filly & Mare Turf
Zagora came from off the pace in Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga and took care of business in the stretch, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over late-running Hungry Island. The pacesetter, Summer Soiree, coming off a nine-month layoff, faded from the pace and finished third. Zagora, a 5-year-old, French-bred mare by Green Tune, got the 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf in course-record time of 1:39.07 with only hand urging by jockey Ramon Dominguez. "I had an absolutely beautiful trip," Dominguez said. "The filly with speed went at it and I was able to sit back. When it was time, I went around, and she finished up very nicely for me." Chad Brown trains Zagora, who now has three wins from her last six races, all graded stakes.
Colonial Flag tracked the pace into the stretch turn in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Ontario Colleen Stakes at Woodbine, came wide around the leaders and got home first by a length. Evil Kitten led briefly and held second and Runfor Ro finished third. Colonial Flag, a Pleasant Tap filly, got the mile on firm turf in 1:35.15 for jockey Joe Rocco Jr. Rocco was riding the filly for the first time and it was the first time either horse or rider had competed at the Toronto-area oval. Colonial Flag finished third in the Grade III Regret at Churchill Downs earlier this year.
Obviously was the obvious choice in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Del Mar Mile. At least, that's how the punters felt, making the 4-year-old, Irish-bred gelding the almost even-money favorite. But Obviously made his backers sweat a little, opening up a big lead in the stretch before hanging on to win by a nose over the onrushing Mr. Commons. Jeranimo was well back in third. Obviously, with Joe Talamo up, finished in course-record time of 1:32.10. Winning trainer Mike Mitchells said he gave "no instructions to Joe. He knows the horse. He felt he needed to open up like he did. And so be it. He's a good horseman. From the eighth pole home, I saw that other horse coming at me and said 'ugh.' But it was a good horse race." He said he has been looking at running Obviously down the Santa Anita hillside turf course. Now, after winning at a mile, "what do we do with him? We won't do anything, though, until October."
Big Band Sound got through between the leaders in the late going of Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Play the King Stakes, then went on to a 2 1/2-length victory over Riding the River. Delegation finished third. Big Band Sound, a 5-year-old son of Bernstein, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.62 with Tyler Pizarro in the irons. It was only his second win from seven starts but it had trainer Dan Vella thinking about the $1 million (Canadian) Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Sept. 16. "It's a great race," Vella said. "I'll have to talk to the owners but certainly it's in our sights. He gets the trip. He showed that. And now he's got his race in him, he should be ready for a prime effort." The Mile also is a "Win and You're In for the Breeders' Cup Mile.
While everyone was watching Willy Beamin doing the unlikely, a couple other races could have an impact on the speediest of Breeders' Cup events.
Capital Account dueled with Coil down the stretch in Sunday's $250,000, Grade II Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar before prevailing by a half length, giving trainer Bob Baffert a 1-2 finish in the 7-furlong event. Camp Victory finished third. Capital Account, a 5-year-old son of Closing Argument, finished in 1:21.56 with David Flores riding. He had been third in the Bing Crosby Stakes a month ago, behind Eclipse Award champion sprinter Amazombie. Baffert noted there "wasn't a lot of pace. They were sort of walking around there and then turned it into a sprint for home. Advantage to Capital Account. He's a really fast horse and he's run some really big races." Baffert said Capital Account now will be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
In Saturday's $100,000 Clever Electrician Stakes at Saratoga, Fiddlers Afleet stalked the pace set by Johannesburg Smile, then outfinished Sailmate to win by a half length over that rival. Johannesburg Smile held third. Fiddlers Afleet, a 6-year-old son of Northern Afleet, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.32 under Alan Garcia.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Turbulent Descent rallied around the leaders into the stretch in Friday's $500,000, Grade I Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga and drive clear, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Derwin's Star. All Due Respect finished third. It's Tricky was scratched in favor of Sunday's 1 1/8-miles Personal Ensign. Turbulent Descent, a 4-year-old Congrats filly, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.13 under John Velazquez and earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup through the "Win and You're In" program. A Grade I winner at ages 2, 3 and 4, she was purchased privately this summer by Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Turbulent Descent "ran well. Sometimes the hardest races to win are the ones you're expected to. We were just hoping to stay out of trouble." Asked about her next race, he said, "Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, probably. It's possible she may run back at Belmont in between, but we'll see how she bounces out of this."
Contested didn't get the best start in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. But she finished best of all, rallying outside the leaders down the stretch to win by 2 lengths. Gypsy Robin was close all the way and finished second while Beautiful But Blue finished third. Contested, the even-money favorite, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.47. She now has won five of her last six starts, four of them graded stakes. "My horse broke a little slow," winning rider Rafael Bejarano said. "I just tried to figure it out and get my horse in good position. When we came to the stretch, the race was done. I had plenty of horse and she showed me a big kick." Contested, trained by Bob Baffert and owned by his wife Jill, is a daughter of Ghostzapper.
Sr. Quisqueyano came from just off the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Seacliff Stakes at Calder Race Course, hit the stretch in his best stride and won off by 13 3/4 lengths. C D Gold and Uptown Anthem completed the trifecta. Sr. Quisqueyano, a Florida-bred Exclusive Quality colt, finished the mile on a sloppy track in 1:41.44 with Jozbin Santana riding. He remains undefeated in three starts. The Seacliff was his first foray into stakes ranks. Santana said he took back for a time to teach Sr. Quisqueyano something for the future. "Coming to the backside, I saw the horses in front starting to get a little tired, so I let my horse creep up a little bit and get close to the horse on the lead. After that, he just galloped out," the rider said.
D'nied Permission stalked the pace in Saturday's $125,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder, went on when the favorite, Two T's At Two B, faded off the lead, and held off fast-closing Joshua's Compromise to win by a neck. Two T's At Two B held on for third. D'nied Permission, a D'wildcat gelding, covered 7 furlongs in the slop in 1:26.03. "I saw that the favorite was still going well," said winning rider Luis Saez. "But when he came to mid-stretch, I could tell that he was starting to tire ... . With a sixteenth to go, I knew I was going to win." D'nied Permission now has two wins and two second from four starts.
Itsmyluckyday dashed away in the stretch to win Saturday's $75,000, off-the-turf Fasig-Tipton Turf Dash at Calder Race Course. At the wire, the Lawyer Ron colt was 4 lengths out front of Too Fast to Pass with Boyfriend's Back rallying from far back to finish third. Itsmyluckyday, with Manoel Cruz up, splashed the 5 furlongs through the slop in 59.24 seconds.
Rose to Gold rose to the occasion in a big way in her first career start, winning Saturday's $75,000 Lindsay Frolic Stakes at Calder by 13 lengths. Bama Rose led early and held second with Brown Eyed Sue third and the odds-on favorite, Caraquista, fourth. Rose to Gold, a Kentucky-bred Friends Lake filly out of the Tabasco Cat mare Saucy, ran the mile on a sloppy track in 1:41.67 with Jesus Rios in the irons.
Putyourdreamsaway put away the field in the stretch run of Saturday's $125,000 Susan's Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes, drawing off to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Candy Coded Kisses, winner of the first leg of the FSS, was the best of the rest and Capriccio Blue finished third. Putyourdreamsaway, a Put It Back filly, toured the 7 furlongs in 1:26.52 with Juan Leyva up. "After I got her in a good spot, I just had to wait and be patient with her," Leyva said. "And when it was time to run, she responded."
Saturday's $75,000 Catcharisingstar Stakes was moved off the soggy Calder sod and onto the sloppy main track and Martha's Moon was the pace-stalking winner. The Kentucky-bred Malibu Moon filly got by the early leader at the top of the lane and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Dreamlicious. So Blessed finished third. Martha's Moon, under Fernando Jara, ran the 5 sloppy furlongs in 59.88 seconds.
Danalake led from the start in Tuesday's $50,000 Our Mims Stakes at Delaware Park and kicked clear at the end, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Touring Hong Kong. Love Me Good finished third. Danalake, a Friends Lake filly from the Giant's Causeway mare Danaway, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:39.04 with Jose Caraballo up.
Willy Beamin started his remarkable week by scoring his fifth straight win -- all over fellow New York-breds -- in Wednesday's $100,000 Albany Stakes for 3-year-olds. With Alan Garcia punching cruise control, the Suave gelding led from the start and won by 6 1/2 lengths, virtually eased at the end. Zivo was second, Fox Rules third. Willy Beamin ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.34 after dawdling through the first 3/4-mile in 1:14.05. Good choice on the part of trainer Richard Dutrow, who claimed the gelding for $25,000 at the start of his win streak.
Let's Go Cheyenne got going right away in Friday's $114,000 CTT and Thoroughbred Owners of California Stakes for fillies and mares. The Kentucky-bred Tiznow filly was leading by 6 lengths at the first call, 12 lengths after a half mile and then got home first by 5 3/4 lengths. Left a Message, the favorite, rallied from last of seven to be second. Thisismystage finished third. Let's Go Cheyenne, with Joe Talamo up, finished the 11 furlongs on firm turf in 2:13.50.
Toccetive rallied from far back to post a mild upset victory in Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade III Canadian Derby. At the line, the Kentucky-bred Toccet gelding was a half length better than Doug's Buddy. The odds-on favorite, Devil in Disguise, finished third. Toccetive, with Jorge Carreno in the irons, ran the 1 3/8 miles on a fast track in 2:22 4/5.
Heidi Maria shook clear of a pace duel midway through Saturday's $75,000 (Canadian) City of Edmonton Distaff and won off by 7 1/4 lengths over Miss Victoriana. Fleet Mama took third. Heidi Maria, a 4-year-old Rockport Harbor filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46 2/4 with Richard Hamel aboard.
Mom's Law set a pressured pace, then went on to win Saturday's $75,000 New York Oaks for state-breds by 3/4 of a length over Color Blind. Mischief Maker finished third. Mom's Law, a daughter of Andromeda's Hero, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.68 with Jeremias Flores aboard.
Closing Range led from the start in Sunday's $60,000 Twin Light Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and just survived the late charge of Zucchini Flower to win by a nose. Dancing Solo was a half length farther back in third. Closing Range, an After Market filly, got the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.84 with Christopher De Carlo up.
Clare Skies Ahead got the better of Martita Sangrita in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Omnibus Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 3/4 of a length. Bianco Tartufo finished third. Clare Skies Ahead, a 5-year-old Sky Classic mare, finished the 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:14.11 with Horacio Karamanos aboard.
Rita Haywood cleared the field at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Sylvia Bishop Memorial for West Virginia-bred 3-year-old fillies, then ran on to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Ok Listen Up was next and Navy Chapel finished third. Rita Haywood, a Prized filly, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.38 with Mathew McGowan in the irons.
Southoftheborder cut loose with a quarter mile to run in Saturday's $50,000 First Episode Stakes for Massachusetts-breds and won by 7 1/2 lengths over Never Know. The odds-on favorite, Tallys Sundance, settled for third, another 7 3/4 lengths in arrears. Southoftheborder, a 9-year-old Senior Conquistator mare, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:45.30 under Jorge Vargas.
Dreamin Big rallied to challenge pacesetting Slim Shady's Lady in the stretch run of Saturday's $85,000 Merrillville Stakes for Indiana-bred fillies and mares, then won the tight stretch battle by 3/4 of a length over that rival. Linda's Lace finished third. Dreamin Big, a 4-year-old Pure Prize filly, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.87 with Francisco Torres up.
Scatterfield drew off in the stretch run in Saturday's $85,000 Brickyard Stakes for state-breds, winning by 3 lengths over Pass the Crown with Unreachable Star third. Scatterfield, a 4-year-old Five Star Day gelding, got home in 1:10.65 with Terry Thompson in the irons.