A promising 2-year-old emerged from the Saratoga mud on Labor Day to give trainer D. Wayne Lukas a nice 78th birthday celebration.
In other Monday action, turf runners were featured in a rich, if soggy, card at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania and the Del Mar meeting worked its way toward a conclusion in California.
Onward to autumn.
Strong Mandate posted a mild but emphatic upset in the $300,000, Grade I Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, drawing clear late to win by 9 3/4 lengths. Casiguapo beat the others at nearly 30-1 odds and Lunar Warfare completed a trifecta that did little to settle leadership in the division but did pay $3,341 for a $2 investment. Strong Mandate, a Tiznow colt trained by D. Wayne Lukas, ran 7 furlongs of muddy, sealed main track in 1:23.55 with Jose Ortiz aboard. He finished fifth in his first career start early in the Saratoga meeting, then won a maiden event last month by 4 1/2 lengths over the same course. "I thought he'd run huge, I really did," said Lukas, celebrating his 78th birthday with his seventh win in the Hopeful. "I was a little concerned about the surface. You always are. He had a really good prep race and he hadn't done anything (wrong)since then." Lukas said he would like to find a two-turn race as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. "We're in a position now where we can deal from a position of strength," he said. "Hell, we could go straight to the Breeders' Cup and not be too far off. We did it with Capote and some others."
Fox Rox ran away from the hounds in the $120,000 Aspirant Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes, winning by 18 1/4 lengths. Runner-up Patriot Star had another 7 lengths on third-place finisher Television Too. Fox Rox, an Officer colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.01 under a Pedro Rodriguez hand ride.
With no monsters running among the juveniles in the east, eyes will turn Wednesday to Del Mar's closing-day feature, the $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Futurity at 7 furlongs. The race drew a full field of 11, most of them lightly raced and looking for a breakout performance to move into contention for not only this fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita but for the 3-year-old classics next spring.
Southwest Lady got first run to the lead in the stretch in the $50,000 Irish Sonnet Stakes at Delaware Park and held off the favorite, Con Gee, by 1/2 length. Stormin Wendy was just a nose farther back in third. Southwest Lady, an Ontario-bred daughter of Sightseeing, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:43.03 with Daniel Centeno in the irons.
Alwaysinstilettos looked like she could win with any kind of footgear as she cruised to a 4-lengths victory in the $120,000 Lady Finger Stakes for state-breds at (where else?) Finger Lakes. After tracking the early pace, jockey Pedro Rodriguez sent the Bandini filly to the front and she wasn't threatened thereafter. Noon Time Shower finished second and the odds-on favorite, Irish Sweepstakes, settled for third. Alwaysinstilettos got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.33.
On the Del Mar turf, Clenor came from last of eight to win the $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Nesso. Pleasant Miss finished third. Clenor, an Irish-bred daughter of Oratorio, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.64 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons, extending her U.S. record to 2-for-2. She was winless in three tries on the Emerald Isle. "Oh what a filly, so exciting to see her run the way she does," said winning trainer Doug O'Neill. "As long as she stays healthy, she's Breeders' Cup bound."
Stormofthecentury posted the upset of the day in the $350,000, Grade III Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing, rallying between foes late to score by 3/4 length at nearly 29-1 odds. Pacesetter Tightend Touchdown held on for second, just a head in front of the favorite, Ben's Cat. Stormofthecentury, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Dark Kestral gelding, relishing the yielding turf, finished 5 furlongs in 57.44 seconds under Stewart Elliott. Stormofthecentury now has won three straight, but against significantly lesser competition.
Silverette stalked the pace three-wide through the early furlongs in the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap for fillies and mares at Parx Racing, moved by the frontrunners in the stretch and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Subtle was second and Sensible Lady finished third. Silverette, a 4-year-old Street Sense filly finished 5 furlongs on yielding turf in 57.73 seconds with Robby Albarado at the controls. Trained by Dale Romans, she has finished worse than second only once in her 11-race career, with six in the win column.
Filly & Mare Turf
The $150,000 Glens Falls Handicap came off the Saratoga turf and Lady Cohiba proved best of the seven who persevered after the surface switch. With Junior Alvarado in the irons, the 4-year-old Broken Vow filly led from the start, turned back a challenge on the turn and eventually held on to win by 1/2 length over White Rose. Scampering was third. Lady Cohiba finished the 9 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:50.86. She has been a consistent performer in the northeast, finishing in the money in eight of her 11 starts. Asked about plans, winning trainer Christophe Clement said, "I'm going to enjoy it. (Owner Charlotte) Weber is here, let's enjoy the win. They're tough to come by in Saratoga. We'll worry about the future tomorrow."
Egg Drop surged to the lead in the stretch run in the $150,000, Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar and held on gamely to win by a head over Appealing. My Gi Gi finished third, a neck in front of the favorite, Halo Dolly. Egg Drop, a 4-year-old Alphabet Soup filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:40.50 with Martin Garcia up. She then had to survive an inquiry into the stretch run before entering the winner's circle. "If they would have taken us down, it would have broken my heart," said winning trainer Mike Mitchell. "From the time I've had her I've been trying to win a stakes with her. And when we saw what she did on the grass (in her last two starts) we said, 'Okay, no dirt, no synthetics. Just grass from here on out.'"
Derby Kitten came from last to grab the lead in the stretch run of the $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Handicap at Ellis Park and won by 3/4 length over Dreaming Blue. Street Serenade finished third. Derby Kitten, a 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:45.07 with Jesus Castanon up for trainer Mike Maker. He was winning for the fifth time in 30 starts. He ran for a $50,000 tag at Churchill Downs on May 1.
Edge of Reality dueled with Speak Logistics through the lane in the $350,000, Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds and was just a neck in front of that one at the wire. Uncaptured was 4 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Edge of Reality, a Pennsylvania-bred Lawyer Ron colt, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in the mud in 1:42.20 for jockey Stewart Elliott. He picked up his fourth win from seven starts and finished third in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga in his last previous start just over a week ago.
Eldaafer battled down the stretch with Indian Jones in the $200,000, Grade III Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing before finally prevailing by a nose over that rival. Pool Play, last year's Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup winner, came from well back to finish third without ever threatening the top two. Eldaafer is an 8-year-old A.P. Indy gelding out of the Tabasco Cat mare Habibti. He finished 1 1/2 miles on a muddy, sealed track in 2:33.73 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons. Eldaafer was third in the 2012 Hawthorne Gold Cup, then finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Marathon. Monday's win was his first in nearly a year.
In other action on Labor Day Monday:
In a battle of pop culture names, Jedi Mind Trick caught Gangnam Guy in the final strides to win the $150,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds by a neck. Ashleyluvssugar finished third. Jedi Mind Trick, a gelded son of Don'tsellmeshort, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.76 with Victor Espinoza riding.
Heiko was in front early in the $100,000 Vid Stakes on the Gulfstream grass, got clear midway down the stretch and was all out to win by 3/4 length over Backseat Memories. Ashtar finished third. Heiko, a 4-year-old Mr. Greeley colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.38 with Jilver Chamafi in the irons.
Senor Rojo surged to the lead in the stretch run of the $100,000 (Canadian) Speed to Spare Stakes and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Toccetive. Liberty Cap led briefly but faded to finish third. Senor Rojo, a 7-year-old Out of Place gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on a fast track in 2:22 1/5 with Rico Walcott up.
Ribo Bobo seized the lead in the $75,000 Icecapade Stakes and easily held off the favorite, Immortal Eyes, to win by 5 lengths. He Can Run and Royal Currier completed the order of finish. Ribo Bobo, a 5-year-old Louis Quatorze gelding, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.13 under Gabriel Saez.
Golden Gate Fields
Positive Response stalked the pace in the $50,000 Rolling Green Stakes, provided a positive response when asked by jockey Russell Baze and got home first by 1 length over Tribal Tribute. The favorite, Hudson Landing, landed third. Positive Response, a 5-year-old Pomeroy gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:45.06.
Hello said goodbye to the field early in the stretch run of the $50,000 (Canadian) Matron Stakes for fillies and mares, jetting off to a 6 3/4 lengths win. City Splash was best of the rest with A.P. Diva third. Hello, a 5-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Smoke Glacken, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:56 4/5 with Paul Nolan up.
Taylor's Deal nabbed pacesetting Golden Triumph in deep stretch to win the $50,000 (Canadian) Express Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths. El Caprone finished third. Taylor's Deal, a 4-year-old Second In Command gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.54 with Aaron Gryder in the irons.
Cry Cry Cry was up just in time to win the $50,000 (Canadian) Ladies Express by a head over the early leader, Hidden Harbor. The favorite, I Think So, settled for third. Cry Cry Cry, a 7-year-old Jump Start mare, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.18 with Richard Hamel riding.
Treacherous had the early lead in the $50,000 Ruidoso Downs Thoroughbred Championship, gave it up to Worthington but then came again to beat that one by 2 1/4 lengths. No It Ain't was third. Treacherous, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.49 with Brian Theriot up.