A trio of relative longshots earned guaranteed starting berths in October’s Breeders’s Cup World Championship races with victories in Saturday’s International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park.
In the day’s marquee event, Canadian invader Jambalaya burst from between horses at mid-stretch and went on to win the 25th running of the Arlington Million by 3/4 length over last year’s winner and this year's favorite, The Tin Man.
Jambalaya, purchased for $2,500 as a yearling, earned $594,000 and an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge.
Another automatic entry to the Classic went to French-bred Shamdinan, who rallied from off the pace to win the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds.
And Royal Highness, a German-bred mare, earned a spot in October’s $2 million Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Distaff with a dramatic, stretch-running victory in Saturday’s $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes.
Jambalaya, based at Woodbine near Toronto, is a 5-year-old, Canadian-bred son of Langfuhr, owned by trainer Catherine Day Phillips. With Robby Albarado in the irons, Jambalaya sat close behind a glacially slow early pace before spurting through to take the lead at mid-stretch.
The Tin Man led briefly at the top of the lane but couldn’t hold the advantage and settled for second, a nose better than Doctor Dino. Pace-setting Sunriver dead-heated with Stream Cat for third and fourth. The 1 1/4 miles over turf rate “good” took 2:04.76.
"I wanted to stay behind The Tin Man," said Albarado. "He led us to the eighth pole and after that, we were good enough to get the win. He’s a great ride and I’m proud of him."
The one-time Arlington jockey champion said it has "always been my goal to win the Arlington Million and now it’s one that I’ve accomplished."
Phillips, who picked Jambalaya at the Keeneland yearling sales, said she wasn't to concerned about the slow pace in the Million because her horse "was right there behind the pace. He ran when it was time to."
She said Jambalaya may make his final Breeders' Cup prep in the Man O' War at Belmont Park.
In the Secretariat Stakes, Shamdinan, with Julien Leparoux aboard, raced second-to-last into the backstretch, saving ground, then advanced as the field approached the turn. At the top of the stretch, Leparoux swung the chestnut son of Dr. Fong out for running room and was just up to nip Virginia Derby winner Red Giant by 1/2 length. Going Ballistic finished third. The favorite, Admiralofthefleet, had a little traffic trouble on the turn and finished fourth.
Shamdinan, trained by Doug O’Neill, ran the 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.02.
"The jockey who rode him in France told me, 'Don't let him drop the bit,'" said Leparoux. "He was very relaxed for me today and took the bit and I thought he won pretty easy."
Garrett Gomez, who rode Red Giant, said his mount "ran a great race. He was just second-best today."
In the Beverly D., Royal Highness saved ground near the back of the seven-horse field, got to the outside turning for home and caught Irridescence in the final jumps to win by a head. Lady of Venice finished third and the favorite, Citronnade, was fourth.
"Turning for home, I knew I had a big chance," Douglas said. "When I got to the other horse, she would not give up. But I had to finish really, really hard."
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 26-27 at Monmouth Park in New Jersey:
$3 million John Deere Turf
English Channel, the odds-on favorite in Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga, charged into contention at the head of the stretch but it was 15-1 longshot Grand Courturier who got through on the inside, found the extra gear in the stretch run and went on to win by 3 lengths. English Channel held on for second and Trippi’s Storm finished third. Better Talk Now was scratched.
Grand Couturier, a 4-year-old, British-bred colt by Grand Lodge, ran the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:26.59. Calvin Borel rode for trainer Robert Ribaudo.
"He’s a typical European horse," said Ribaudo. "He’s had some issues -- nothing serious but we had to deal with them and he didn’t adjust to our ways right away."
Seth Benzel, assistant to English Channel’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, said Borel’s ground-saving ride made the difference. "The winner got a jump on us down inside," Benzel said.
$2 million Mile (turf)
Medici Code swung three-wide into the lane in Saturday’s $150,000 La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds at Del Mar and ran on to a 1 1/4-lengths victory over the favorite, Worldly. Latin Rhythms finished third. Medici Code, a British-bred gelding by Medicean, ran the 1 1/16 miles under Martin Pedroza in 1:42.57. Medici Code was making his third U.S. start for trainer Darrell Vienna. He ran sixth in the Santa Anita Derby on the main track, then finished second, beaten by a head, in a division of the Oceanside Stakes on opening day. Worldly lost for the first time in four U.S. starts. "The Del Mar Derby is probably is next start," Vienna said. "But it doesn’t have to be that because he trains so well on Polytrack. Not going in the Derby is probably against conventional wisdom but we’ll see."
$2 million Emirates Airline Distaff
Talkin About Love held off longshot Scooter Girl by 3/4 length to win Sunday’s $200,00 Monmouth Park Breeders' Cup Oaks. Lady Marlboro was another 4 3/4 lengths back in third and the favorite, Exchanging Fire, faded to finish fourth after showing the way early. Talkin About Love, a daughter of Not For Love, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 3/5. "She didn’t mind getting behind horses at all," said winning rider Stewart Elliott. "When I was ready to go, she just took off."
$2 million TVG Sprint
Dead Red , a 70-1 outsider, rallied alongside pace-setting favorite Mach Ride in the stretch run of Saturday’s $250,000 Turf Sprint Championship and got by, winning by 3/4 length. Lord Robyn finished third. Dead Red, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Out of Place, finished the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.76 seconds with Raymundo Fuentes aboard for trainer George Mikhalides. Mikhalides said he claimed Dead Red last year -- for $16,000 -- "partly because I thought he had some turf pedigree." He earned $148,800 for Saturday’s win. "We’ll see how he comes back and see what opportunities come up for him," the trainer said.
$1 million Filly & Mare Sprint (new race)
Flying Circle rallied smartly on the outside during the stretch run in Saturday's $250,000 Distaff Turf Sprint Championship at Calder Race Course and won by 3/4 length over the pace-setter, Unbridled Sidney. Smitty’s Sunshine, the favorite, finished third. Flying Circle is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Pembroke. She ran 5 furlongs on the firm turf in 56.23 seconds under Manuel Aguilar. David Fawkes is the winning trainer. "We’ll keep her sprinting on turf," said Fawkes. "Probably wait for a stakes at Keeneland going 5 1/2 furlongs. I don’t think there’s much of anything before then for her."
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Salute the Sarge remained undefeated, winning his third start in Saturday’s $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar. With Michael Baze in the irons, Salute the Sarge got home 1 length ahead of Georgie Boy with Sky Cape well back in third. Salute the Sarge, a son of Forest Wildcat, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on the Polytrack surface in 1:19.43 and likely is headed to the Sept. 5 Del Mar Futurity. He came into Sunday's race off a victory in the Hollywood Juvenile.
-- Big City Man rallied from well back in the field to win Saturday's $100,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder Race Course. Wise Answer was second, 2 1/4 lengths back, with Smooth Air third. Big City Man, a Northern Afleet colt, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12.46. Elvis Trujillo rode the odds-on favorite for trainer Jose Pinchin.
-- Bravo Cyclone got the first run on the leader in Saturday's $60,000 Iowa Stallion Futurity at Prairie Meadows and, after gaining the advantage, held on to win by 2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Abidon. Judy Faye finished third. Bravo Cyclone, a gelded son of Bravo Bull, went to the post at odds of 13-1 and finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.99 under Alex Birzer. "The seven-eighths (of the Sept. 1 Affirmed Division) should be no problem," said winning trainer Jose Pinchin. "It will probably be the same horses he beat today."
$2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies
Silk Ridge took command in the stretch run of Saturday’s $100,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder Race Course and drew off to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Calico Bay. Bond Princess finished third as the odds-on favorite. Silk Ridge, a daughter of Eltish, was ridden by Maguel Aguilar for trainer Gordon Potter. She got the 6 furlongs in 1:13.64. Potter said Silk Ridge will move along to the $150,000 Susan’s Girl Division on Sept. 1.
In other weekend racing:
Spotsgone jumped right to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Sea O’ Erin Mile Handicap, set a measured pace and then just lasted to beat the favorite, Galantas, by a head. Load a Chronic finished third with a late move from the back. Spotsgone, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Bright Launch, finished in 1:38.10 over turf rated "yielding," but later upgraded to "good" for the day’s big events. Earlie Fires rode the winner for trainer Bill Fires.
Bear Now led most of the way to a 6 1/4-lengths win over Speak Wisely in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Duchess Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Lyrically finished third. Bear Now, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tiznow, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.15 with Jerry Baird in the irons. Bear Now came into the race off a fourth-place finish in the Delaware Oaks last month. Before that race, she won the Selene and the Hill 'N' Dale handily. "I didn't want her to get into a speed duel," said winning trainer Reade Baker. "When the 23 (seconds opening quarter) went up, it was over."
Alpine Garden stalked the pace in Saturday’s $100,000 (Canadian) Sonoma Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, gained the lead at the quarter pole and ran off to win by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Tanika. Beau Spirit finished third. Alpine Garden, a Kentucky-bred filly by Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44 4/5 for jockey Quincy Welch.
Only three went to the post after Saturday's $60,000 My Frenchman Stakes was moved off the grass and the longest shot in the short field emerged the winner. Safe Play, after prompting the pace, took over on the turn and won a duel to the wire by a neck over John's Pic. It was 1 1/2 lengths farther back to the trailer, River City Rebel. Safe Play, a 5-year-old Belong to Me gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:03.04 under Charles Lopez.
Istan stayed close to the front in Saturday's $50,000 Governor's Handicap, surged to the lead at the top of the stretch and drew clear, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Spellbinder. Red Raymond was home third. Istan is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Gone West, trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Miguel Mena. He got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.68.
Wildcat Bettie B came from last in a field of six to win Saturday’s $55,000 Xtra Heat Stakes for fillies and mares by a neck over the favorite, Coli Bear. Cajun Mistress was third. Wildcat Bettie B, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Meadowlake, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.36 with Mario Pino at the controls.