Ten times in the past 30 years, a horse has faced the Belmont Stakes as the final hurdle to a Triple Crown championship. Each time, the wheel of fortune came up: Heartbreak.
This year seems different after Big Brown's decisive -- almost dismissive -- victory in Saturday's $1 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
In a near-repeat of his Kentucky Derby triumph two weeks earlier, the Kentucky-bred colt stayed just behind the leaders, outside and out of trouble, until jockey Kent Desormeaux asked him to get going. At that point, the other 11 3-year-olds were running for second place. At the wire, it was Big Brown by an official 5 1/4 lengths and he wasn't even being asked to run hard.
Macho Again was best of the rest, finishing 1/2 length ahead of Icabad Crane, who had some traffic problems on the turn. Big Brown, a bay son of Boundary, stopped the timer at 1:54.8.
"Going down the backside when Kent got him out and he was laying third on the outside, I knew it was over," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow. "It doesn't look like he got on his belly today, so we should have enough horse to get the job done" in the Belmont.
Should he "get the job done," Big Brown would be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 and the first to turn that hat trick while remaining undefeated since Seattle Slew in 1977.
Coincidentally, it was announced before the Preakness that Big Brown will stand at stud after his racing career at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky. -- the manicured breeding operation where Seattle Slew enjoyed much of his stellar post-racing career.
But before he can pretend to "Slew's" rarified status, Big Brown must deliver where the likes of Spectacular Bid, Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet and five others failed – the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.
In other weekend racing:
Jay Peg, victorious last time out in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, made it two in a row by taking Sunday's $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup convincingly. After taking back in the early going under jockey Anton Marcus, Jay Peg overhauled pace-setter Chevron with about 800 meters to go and ran on well to the win. Recast was second, Balius third. "It was fantastic," said wining trainer Herman Brown. He got a good break at the right time and fought off his rivals well." Jay Peg, purchased as a yearling for about $20,000 in South Africa, now has total earnings of more than $6 million.
Australian sprinter Takeover Target stalked the early pace in Sunday's $1 million KrisFlyer International Sprint at Singapore, took the lead on the turn and then repulsed challenges from Magnus, Capablanca and Sanziro before crossing the wire first. The victory for the 8-year-old Takeover Target adds to a resume that also includes victories in the Group 2 King's Stand in the United Kingdom and the Group 1 Sprinter's Stakes in Japan. Owner/trainer Joe Janiak, a former cab driver who bought his prize steed for $1,250, now is pointing again toward England and Royal Ascot. "He's probably got about 10 percent improvement in him," Janiak said. "Imagine if he was fit. What time would he have run then?"
Creachadoir, rebounding from a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Dubai Duty Free, won Saturday's Group 1 Juddmonte Lockingte Stakes at Newbury in England by 3/4 length over Phoenix Tower. Tariq was third, another neck back. Creachadoir, representing Godolphin, now is likely to be pointed to the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, said winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Sweet Vendetta sat in mid-pack through much of Friday's $150,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, advanced four-wide entering the stretch and went on to post a mild upset, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Shes All Eltish. Seattle Smooth was third and the favorite, Bsharpsonata, faded steadily to finish last of eight. Sweet Vendetta, a New York-bred daughter of Stephen Got Even out of the Desert Wine mare Sand Pirate, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.6 on a muddy, sealed track. Channing Hill rode for trainer Gary Contessa. "She's almost 17 hands and has that big loping stride," Contessa said. "I thought this was a good fit here. When the heavens opened up last night that added more icing to the cake. We know she loves the mud, as well. This is what we'd envisioned. This race, and maybe on to the Alabama."
Student Council rallied from far back in Friday's $250,000 Maryland Lottery Pimlico Special, caught pace-setter Gotcha Gold in the final yards and won by a neck. Sir Whimsey finished third, 5 3/4 lengths farther back. Student Council, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Kingmambo, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:54.87. Shaun Bridgmohan had the ride for trainer Steve Asmussen. Said Bridgmohan: "Midway down the backside he grabbed a hold of me and wanted to go. At that point, I had nowhere for him to go. I had to sit there and wait and bide my time and wait a little bit longer. I've been watching races all day. I didn't want to take him out of his game."
Palanka City, the odds-on favorite, easily passed pace-setting Casanova Killer at the top of the stretch in Friday's $100,000 Adena Stallions' Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Casanova Killer held second by 4 3/4 lengths over Beau's Valentine. Palanka City, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Carson City, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.9 under Chris Emigh.
On the Preakness undercard:
Pays to Dream paid some longshot dreamers in the $250,000 Dixie Stakes, rallying from last to blow by the leaders entering the stretch and winning by 7 1/2 lengths at odds of nearly 20-1. Stay Close was best of the rest and Ra Der Dean finished third. The favorite, Shakis, got home fifth. Pays to Dream, a 4-year-old, New York-bred gelding by High Yield, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:54.74. Javier Castellano rode for trainer David "Slam" Donk. "It was a soft course. I wasn't sure if he'd handle it or not," Donk said. "Horses with that style usually don't do that well when the turf is soft, but I was impressed. That was wonderful."
Buy the Barrel rallied from a pace-stalking trip to win the $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths over Lexi Star. The favorite, Bear Now, finished third. Buy the Barrel, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of E Dubai, finished 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:42.43 with Gabriel Saez in the irons.
Lantana Mob was up just in time to win the $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes for 3-year-olds by a neck over Silver Edition. Force Freeze finished third. Lantana Mob, a Kentucky-bred colt by Posse, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.1. Robby Albarado rode for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Roman Emperor stalked the pace set by Da' Tara in the $100,000 Barbaro Stakes for 3-year-olds, challenged on the turn and won a duel to the wire by 1/2 length. Spurrier came from last of five to finish third. Roman Emperor, a Kentucky-bred colt by Empire Maker, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.1 for jockey Jeremy Rose.
Starforaday swung to the outside turning for home in the $100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap and won a three-way dash to the wire by a neck over Suave Jazz. Another neck back found pace-setting Cognac Kisses settling for third. Starforaday, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Five Star Day, got the 6 furlongs in 1:09.56 with Edgar Prado up.
Roshani got the lead entering the stretch in the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares and held on to score by 1/2 length over Lady Digby. Valbenny finished third. Roshani, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Fantastic Light, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:49.08 with John Velazquez in the irons.
Heros Reward was just up in time to win the $75,000 Old Mutual Turf Sprint by a neck over True to Tradition. Blue Sailor was third. Heros Reward, a 6-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding by Partner's Hero, ran the 5 fulongs on "good" turf in 59.19 seconds toting Javier Castellano.
Veranda Bold led from gate to wire in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Selene Stakes for 3-year-old fillies -- but just. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Rahy just survived the late rush of the even-money favorite, Grace and Power, to win by a head. Initforreal finished third. Veranda Bold, with Emile Ramsammy up, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.20. The filly also won the Star Shoot Stakes last month and now has four wins from six starts. Trainer Dan Vella said he was confident in the filly's first two-turn effort. "We knew the pedigree," he said. "We figured we had a good shot." He said Veranda Bold may try the grass in the near future.
Matt's Broken Vow broke a few chalk-player hearts in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds. Rallying three-wide approaching the stretch, the Kentucky-bred Broken Vow colt outfinished the odds-on favorite, Bonanza, to win by 1/2 length. Discreet Commander was 4 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Matt's Broken Vow finished the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.28. Emile Ramsammy rode for trainer Josie Carroll. The only two Queen's Plate-eligible horses in the field, Giquere and Kesagami, finished fourth and sixth, respectively. It was Matt's Broken Vow's first try around two turns but Ramsammy said that wasn't a concern. "We always thought after his first race that long would be his thing," the rider said. The colt now has two wins from six starts. The Queen's Plate is June 22. The Plate Trial is June 1.
Cowgirls Don't Cry led through most of Saturday's $150,000 Shuvee Handicap for fillies and mares, then had enough left at the end to win by 2 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Rite Moment. Wow Me Free rallied from last to finish third. Cowgirls Don't Cry, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Pure Prize, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.31 for jockey Mike Luzzi. "We really had no plan for Cowgirls Don't Cry," said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "This was the plan. Now, I guess we'll probably run her back on June 14" in the $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap for at Belmont. For Luzzi, it was his 2,999th victory. He got the 3,000th in the next race.
In Sunday's $100,000 Mount Vernon Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares, Them There Eyes rallied from next-last to win by 3 lengths over the favorite, Factual Contender. Rewrite finished third. Them There Eyes, a 4-year-old, gray Holy Bull filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:44.06 with Jose Espinoza in the irons.
Two Step Salsa led every step of the way in winning Sunday's $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial for 3-year-olds by 3 lengths. Afleet Ruler rallied to take second and Dixie Chatter finished third. Two Step Salsa is a Kentucky-bred colt by Petionville. He ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:20.66 under Martin Pedroza. "Once I got to the front, he was just galloping, just cruising," Pedroza said. "When I saw that horse come to me I just chirped to him and he was gone."
Polonius got the jump on his four rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes for 3-year-olds and led all the way to a 1/2-length victory. Indian Sun shone second and Ez Dreamer finished third. Polonius, a Florida-bred colt by Broken Vow, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.95 with Jon Court up for trainer Michael Pender. A foul claim charging stretch interference wasn't allowed. "Our horse has never had to work that hard to get it," said Pender. "But I do believe if they had gone around again, they still wouldn't have got him."
Ashley's Kitty rallied past pace-setter Overly Tempting in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $75,000 Desert Stormer Handicap for fillies and mares by 1/2 length. Fleetheart finished third. Ashley's Kitty, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Tale of the Cat, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.01 with Joe Talamo up.
Eaton's Gift went to the lead halfway through Saturday's $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds, dueled with Devereux until the final sixteenth, then drew clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Devereux finished second and the favorite, Ling Ling Qi finished third. Eaton's Gift, a Kentucky-bred colt by Johannesburg, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.48. Elvis Trujillo rode for trainer Dale Romans.
Golden Gate Fields
Misty Ocean led throughout Sunday's $75,000 Golden Poppy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, checking in first, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Bitterbutsweet. Shes a Lucky Wager was if you bet to show. Misty Ocean, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.73 with Frank Alvarado riding.
Private Dreams was the early leader in Sunday's $50,000 Hastings Park Handicap for fillies and mares and extended the advantage to win by 5 3/4 lengths over Beaulena. Reba is Tops was third. Private Dreams, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Johannesburg, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.6 with Leslie Mawing in the irons.
Red Hot N Gold led all the way to an authoritative, 6 3/4-lengths triumph in Saturday's $65,000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-bred colts and geldings. The odds-on favorite, Wild L, chased but couldn't threaten, finishing second, and Dazzling Man was third. Red Hot N Gold, a 4-year-old Gold Case gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.08 under Ken Shino. Kelly Von Hemel trains.
Beyond the Reach also posted an upset in Saturday's $65,000 Mamie Eisenhower Stakes for fillies and mares, outdueling odds-on choice Camela Carson through the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Baby Storm finished third. Beyond the Reach, a 4-year-old Sahm filly, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.78 with Carlos Montalvo up for trainer Jeff Barkley.
D'wild Ride bobbled at the start, moved up on the turn and took charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $765,000 Just Smashing Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and won by 1/2 length over Sumptuous. The odds-on choice, Mikeslittlegirl, settled for third. D'wild Ride, an Ontario-bred D'wildcat filly, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.22 with Joe Bravo in the irons.
Lemon Drop Mom kicked clear in the stretch run to win Saturday's $55,000 Winter Melody Stakes for fillies and mares by 9 lengths over Lil's Lassie with All Night Labor third. Lemon Drop Mom, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:44.33 with Jose Caraballo riding.
Forever Together came five-wide into the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Reluctant Guest Stakes for fillies and mares, ran past pace-setting Lemonlime and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Lemonlime held second and Lady Lionel rallied to take third, just another nose back. Forever Together, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Belong to Me filly, ran the 1 mile on yielding turf in 1:39.05. Earlie Fires rode for trainer Jonathan Shepard.
Calder Race Course
Blue Pepsi Lodge led from the early going in Saturday's $36,000 Champali Stakes, opened up a big advantage and coasted home first, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Yesbyjimminy. Irish Dreamer finished third. Blue Pepsi Lodge, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred son of Pioneering, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:04.92 with Wesley Henry Sr. riding.
Mambo Meister stalked the pace in Sunday's $36,000 Ride the Rails Stakes for 3-year-olds, took over at the top of the lane and went on to win by 3 lengths over Sinners Repent. The early leader, Unbridled Heat, held on for third. Mambo Meister, a Kentucky-bred gelding by King Cougat, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.44 with Manoel Cruz up.
Mysterious Julie came three-wide into the stretch after a pace-pressing trip in Sunday's $36,000 Lulu's Ransom Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew clear, winning by 3 lengths over Ashley River. Victory by Blue was third. Mysterious Julie, a Florida-bred daughter of Wild Event, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.84 under Eduardo Nunez.