Memorial Day unofficially ushers in summer in the United States and a fireworks display of top racing helped evoke the spirit of that season on Monday.
By Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, many of racing's divisions will be lined up for their end-of-year showdowns. For now, that maneuvering is just heating up and here's how Monday's events played out.
Filly & Mare Turf
Miss Serendipity put a nose in front of Emollient at the wire to win Monday's $300,000, Grade I Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares. The favorite, Parranda, came from well back in the field to finish third. Miss Serendipity, a 6-year-old Not For Sale mare, bred and raced earlier in Argentina, ran 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:46.22 with Brice Blanc up. It was her first victory in five U.S. starts. Winning trainer Ron McAnally, who has plenty of experience with Argentine imports, explained: "They keep improving, the South Americans. Sometimes they get on it right away. But even Bayakoa, her first race or two, she got beat, then she won a little stake at Del Mar by 10 lengths. Other ones, they come around right away. This mare took a little while, but she finally came around."
Tannery battled Lonesome Town into submission in Mondays' $75,000 Miss Liberty Stakes for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park, then just held on to win by a head over Overheard. Lonesome Town was just a head farther back at the wire. Tannery, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Dylan Thomas mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.97. "She was very, very impressive," said winning jockey Julian Pimentel. "We were just galloping through the early parts of the race so I just let her go along. When I asked her, she really quickened. She gave a real nice performance today." Tannery last year finished second in the Grade I Flower Bowl at Belmont Park, then won the Grade I E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.
Jack Milton started last of six in Monday's $300,000, Grade III Poker Stakes at Belmont Park, circled five-wide turning for home and kicked away to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Big Screen was second and the odds-on favorite, Za Approval, was another 2 lengths in arrears in third. Jack Milton, a 4-year-old War Front colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:33.09. "My horse had a perfect trip," said winning rider Javier Castellano. "There was a lot of speed in the race, so he was able to settle and make a run." Trainer Todd Pletcher said the mile "suits him well and we'll look at stepping him up a notch, maybe in a Grade I down the road." The winner's share of the purse boosted Pletcher into the No. 1 spot on the all-time trainers' earnings list, surpassing his old boss, D. Wayne Lukas. Pletcher now has saddled the winners of $268,512,294, according to the New York Racing Association. "I think it's a product of inflation, to be honest," Pletcher said modestly.
Grand Contender made all the going in Monday's $200,000, Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas and kicked away at the end to score by 4 lengths over Donoharm. F J Uncle Vic finished third. Grand Contender, a 6-year-old Strong Contender gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a muddy, sealed track in 1:43.83 with Richard Eramia in the irons. He's trained by Tom Amoss for owner Maggi Moss. He became only the third horse in 18 years to win both the Grade III Texas Mile and the Lone Star. "My horse went so easy. He was just galloping around," Eramia said. "Around the last three-sixteenths, he opened up."
Summer Hit got home first in Monday's $100,000, Grade III All American Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, but just barely. The 5-year-old Bertrando gelding was right on the lead and held to win by a head over 24-1 long shot Longview Drive. Hudson Landing landed in third. Summer Hit, with Russell Baze aboard, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.01. He also won this race last year, scoring by a relatively comfortable 3/4 length over Hudson Landing. He now has seven wins and a second from eight starts on the Golden Gate Tapeta surface.
After a couple scratches, including Wild Dude at the gate with an issue in his left front, only three faced the starter in Monday's $100,000, Grade III Los Angeles Handicap at Santa Anita. Of those, Cyclometer proved easily best, drawing away to win by 2 1/2 lengths over early leader Wine Police. Color of Courage was never close but earned $12,000 for finishing third. Cyclometer, a 6-year-old son of Cyclotron, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.02 for jockey Edwin Maldonado. After the scratches, Maldonado said, "it turned into a match race between me and (Wine Police). So I just figured I would let him run the way he wanted."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Southern Honey waited behind the pace in Monday's $100,000, Grade III Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs, came three-wide to take the lead in the lane and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Socialbug was second after leading and Warm Breeze was third. The favorite, Apropos, got off to a rough start and never challenged, finishing fifth. Southern Honey, a 3-year-old Colonel John filly running against older foes, ran 6 six furlongs in 1:08.67 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. "When we drew the nine-hole I was thrilled because I knew how much speed was in here and it gave us a chance to ease her off the speed if she would do it and she had a perfect trip," said winning trainer Rusty Arnold. "It was just what we were looking for." He said the goal is to get Southern Honey to the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga, maybe through the Grade III Victory Ride at Belmont on June 29.
Red Velvet jumped out to a big early lead in Monday's $100,000 Jersey Girl Stakes at Belmont Park and just kept going. At the wire, the City Zip filly was out front, with 5 3/4 lengths in front of runner-up Size. Elena Strikes completed the trifecta and the favorite, Our Amazing Rose, faded to get homefifth. Red Velvet, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.21.
Gala Award stalked the pace in Monday's $200,000 Penine Ridge Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, then hooked up in a stretch duel with Flamboyant before beating that one by a head. Can'thelpbelieving was third and the odds-on favorite, Mr Speaker, faded from the lead to finish last of five. Gala Award, a Bernardini colt owned by the good folks at Coolmore and trained by Todd Pletcher, covered 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:49.73 with John Velazquez in the irons. Trainer Todd Pletcher said a switch to grass made a difference for Gala Award. "It wasn't something we were thinking," he said. "But as soon as we tried him on the grass we could see he was, at that time, better on the turf. He has improved in his dirt training, but we're not looking to change right now." He said he hopes the Belmont Derby will be the next start for Gala Award.
Right to Vote stalked the pace in Monday's $75,000 Jim Rasmussen Memorial Stakes, took over when prompted by jockey Israel Ocampo and edged clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths. The pacesetter, Evan's Calling, settled for second, a neck in front of the favorite, Leadem In Ken. Right to Vote, a 5-year-old Political Force gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.75.
Hung the Moon rallied outside the favorite, Hitechnoweenie, in the stretch run of Monday's $50,000 Wild Rose Stakes for fillies and mares and got there first. Hitechnoweenie settled for second, 2 lengths ahead of Glorys Last Chance. Hung the Moon, a 4-year-old Malibu Moon filly, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.58 for jockey David Mello.
Tell All You Know, the even-money favorite, was up in the final sixteenth to win Monday's $75,000 Honor the Hero Stakes by 3/4 length over Casteltown. El Seventyseven finished third. Tell All You Know, a 5-year-old son of Van Nistelrooy, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.58 seconds with Dylan Davis at the controls.
I'm Stoked was all of that in Monday's $50,000 George W. Barker Stakes for New York-breds, leading from the early jumps and winning off by 4 3/4 lengths. Bug Juice was the best of the rest with Sundae on Sunday third. I'm Stoked, a 4-year-old Hook and Ladder colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.07 with Wilfreda Rohena in the irons.