July 22 (UPI) -- Hotter than a blister bug in a pepper patch. Hotter than the hinges on the gates of hell.
Add your own folksy saying but the point is, extreme heat prompted cancellations and delays Saturday at tracks throughout the eastern half of North America.
Racing was scrubbed at Saratoga, Ellis Park, Delaware Park, Parx Racing, Penn National, Belterra Park and Finger Lakes. That followed similar action Friday at several tracks.
Despite all the sweltering, though, most of the weekend's big stakes eventually were run. Monmouth eliminated all non-stakes on Saturday and moved the rest of the card to evening hours, including the Grade I Haskell, won by Maximum Security. Saratoga's Saturday stakes were moved to Sunday with Guarana winning the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks.
And trainer Chad Brown remained as hot as the weather, saddling another trifecta on Friday and winning graded stakes at Woodbine on Saturday and Saratoga on Sunday.
On the international front, there was no catching Star Catcher in Saturday's Kerrygold Irish Oaks at the Curragh, surely the first Group 1 race sponsored by butter.
Worth a mention: The Friday features at both Del Mar and Saratoga were won by progeny of Animal Kingdom. We've been waiting for these to start asserting themselves, figuring it might take a bit of patience.
See "News and Notes" section for some positive and/or promising news for the industry: Breeders' Cup and FanDuel announced a sponsorship agreement that involves transmogrifying FanDuel fans into racing fans; Ellis Park's new ownership announced expansion and improvement plans for their Kentucky facility; and Hawthorne Race Course and Fairmount Park waxed ecstatic about their future under Illinois' new gaming expansion law. Good news is always welcome here!
Now, let's get on with the weekend program:
Maximum Security returned to the winners' circle with a game, 1 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $1 million, Grade I TVG.com Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. But in his second start since being disqualified from victory in the Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security's connections again had to sweat out a stewards' inquiry before the result was franked.
Maximum Security dueled from the start with pacesetting long shot Bethlehem Road and King for a Day, the colt who defeated him in the Pegasus Stakes on June 16. As the field neared the stretch, replay showed Maximum Security shifting across the path of King for a Day, forcing jockey John Velazquez to take up sharply. West Coast invader Mucho Gusto, meanwhile, lodged a late bid on the outside but could never get to the lead. Maximum Security, a New Year's Day colt, finished 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.56. Spun to Run was a distant third and King for a Day, the second-favorite in the field of six, finished fifth after the incident on the turn.
Although the interference clearly impeded King for a Day, owner Gary West said he was not concerned. "In my mind, my horse did nothing wrong," he said. "I saw other horses going backwards at that time so I had no concerns whatsoever that he would be taken down."
Trainer Bob Baffert, seeking his ninth Haskell win with Mucho Gusto, added, "I'm glad they didn't disqualify him. That would have been awful."
The Haskell was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic but also a bit of a preview for next month's Grade I Travers at Saratoga, which is expected to reunite many of the top 3-year-olds who contested the Kentucky Derby qualifiers early in the year. That list also includes the West-owned Game Winner, last year's 2-year-old champ.
"Right now, the Travers is the plan for this horse and Game Winner," West said. "We're going to take all the steps and see how it goes." But he said the final call will be up to trainer Jason Service. "Jason is the boss and he'll do whatever is right for the horse."
Earlier on the Monmouth program, War Story and Bal Harbour dueled to the line in the $200,000 Grade III Monmouth Cup with War Story prevailing by a head. The odds-on favorite, Coal Front, led early but tired to finish third, 12 lengths farther back. War Story, a 7-year-old Northern Afleet gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:46.65 with Luis Saez in the irons. War Story finished fourth in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar but had not won since March of 2018.
"The name says what he is," said winning trainer Jorge Navarro. "What a warrior. He's the only one from American Pharoah's class of 2015 that's still going. It's amazing to have a horse like this still going around. You don't see that anymore." American Pharoah won the 2015 Haskell two months after landing the Triple Crown.
Out west, Catalina Cruiser dueled with Draft Pick into the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap, finally put that one away in deep stretch and won by 1 length as the odds-on favorite. Mongolian Groom was along to snatch second from Draft Pick and Core Beliefs completed the order of finish. Catalina Cruiser, a 5-year-old son of Union Rags, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.20 with Joel Rosario riding.
Catalina Cruiser improved his record to 6-for-7 with the only loss coming in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last fall at Churchill Downs, where he finished sixth.
"When you're 1-to-9 (odds) there's a lot of conversation about style points and things like that," said winning trainer John Sadler. "But he was comfortable all the way. The fractions were slow, but this is not a fast track. We'll check the speed figures and things and we'll see how he comes out of it and decide whether to run in the Pacific Classic or not. We've got options."
At 1-9 and with no show betting, there was a pile of "bridge jumper" money resulting in a $26,649 minus place pool, meaning the track had to shell out that much of its own money to cover the minimum amount due to holders of winning tickets.
All Midnight Bisou needed in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth Park was a little running room. When jockey Mike Smith found that on the inside, she went about her business, running on to win by 1 length over pacesetter Coach Rocks. Cosmic Burst was a further 5 1/4 lengths back in third. Midnight Bisou, a 4-year-old Midnight Lute filly, was sent to the post as the heaviest of odds-on favorites and completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.55.
Midnight Bisou has run off five straight wins since finishing third in last autumn's Breeders' Cup Distaff and another try at that race appears well within her grasp.
"She's just a true blessing and I just so much appreciate the team and how they feel about her, how Mike Smith handles her and the confidence that everybody is showing in her is very special," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "Her race today was beautiful. The hard part was us showing patience. We were very anxious. She's a very special filly and you want everything to go well."
Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks was delayed a day as Saratoga Springs baked in the heat wave. That proved no problem for budding star Guarana. The Ghostzapper filly led all the way as jockey Jose Ortiz taught her a few lessons through the stretch, finally winning by 1 length over late-running Point of Honor after briefly shifting out. Off Topic was another 1 3/4 lengths off the leader in third.
He stewards disallowed a claim of foul lodged by Point of Honor's owner.
Guarana, trained by the virtually unstoppable Chad Brown for owner-breeder Three Chimneys Farm, remains undefeated in three starts -- a maiden race and two Grade I events.
"It was a good horse race," Brown said. "I think she got a little lonely out there towards the wire but, like Jose indicated to me, she was starting to get a little tired. She did overreact to the stick a little bit. It caused her to briefly come out, but she was well clear."
Brown said he will consult the Three Chimneys leadership to determine Guarana's path forward.
Later on the same Saratoga card, Golden Award fought for the lead in the $200,000 Grade III Shuvee Handicap for older females, then got clear in the stretch, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. Wow Cat, the favorite, finished second in a rare setback for the Brown barn and She's a Julie was third after pressing the early pace. Golden Award, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.64 with Tyler Gaffalione up for trainer Bill Mott. Golden Award entered off a second-place finish in the Grade III Alaire DuPont Distaff at Pimlico. Wow Cat, also second in this race last year, was making her first start since reporting second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November.
Gaffalione, who had three winners on the card, said, "Mr. Mott and I spoke in the paddock because last time she did the same thing -- she ranged up there really easily and she just kind of hung. Today, he said, 'Don't wait on her and if you have the opportunity, go ahead and ask her and make them come get you,' and he was right."
After a bunch of scratches, Regal Glory faced only two rivals in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and she trailed both in the early going. But with Luis Saez calling the shots, the daughter of Animal Kingdom came running and got by pacesetting favorite Blowout for a 1/2-length victory. Dogtag was an honorable third. Regal Glory ran finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.23.
All three runners are trained by the aforementioned Chad Brown.
"It's never happened before and it'll probably never happen again, so it was definitely unusual, but we're happy," Brown said. "All three fillies seemed to run well, and Regal Glory just had a little more today.
"This time around, what I did was I told all the jockeys, 'Look, just try to ride your own race and do the best you can to win. Outside of that, if you want to talk to your individual clients or representatives that are here today, please do so and draw up a plan.' I didn't give any instructions other than that. I thought that was the fairest way to do it, only because it was my horses in the race. As it turns out, I thought all three fillies ran pretty well."
At Del Mar on Saturday, Mucho Unusual started last of 10 in the $200,000 Grade II San Clemente for 3-year-old fillies, swung five-wide into the stretch and was up in time to win by a neck over Apache Princess. Over Emphasize also found late speed to finish third. Mucho Unusual, a Mucho Macho Man filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.66 with Joel Rosario in the irons.
"We're really pleased with her effort," said Mucho Unusual's trainer, Tim Yakteen. "Things have been going according to plan and this is one industry where that doesn't often happen. The prep race at Santa Anita set her up well for this and this should set her up well for the (Del Mar) Oaks."
Seek and Destroy pretty much did just that in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Colleen Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine. After a tardy start, the Verrazano filly steadily gained ground on the leaders, swept to the front with a furlong and a half left and won by 3 lengths. Speedy Soul and Sister Peacock were second and third. With Luis Contreras up, Seek and Destroy ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.65. It was her fourth win from her last five outings as trainer Chad Brown racked up yet another turf triumph.
The Ontario Colleen was the first stakes contested over the new Woodbine inner turf course, opened June 28. "It's been very good, to tell you the truth," Contreras said of the new sod. "The only thing -- I haven't been lucky to win a race. But I finally broke the ice ... I had so much horse all the way and she destroyed the field at the end."
Sunday at Del Mar, Bombard took an early lead and never looked back, winning the $116,000 Wickerr Stakes by 1/2 length over the favorite, Higher Power. Le Ken put in a mild bid in the lane to get show money. Bombard, a 6-year-old War Front gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.44 with Flavien Pratt up.
Filly & Mare Turf
I'm So Fancy led from the start in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III WinStar Matchmaker at Monmouth Park and held on gamely to win by a neck over the late-running favorite, Competitionofideas. Touriga, the only other starter after four scratches, finished third in her first start up from South America. I'm So Fancy, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred mare by Rajj, finished 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:51.11 with Trevor McCarthy riding. Previously raced in Ireland, she was the winner of last year's Grade III Snow Fairy Stakes at the Curragh.
Bowie's Hero rallied from next-last to win Sunday's $250,000 Grade II Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, scoring by 2 1/4 lengths over Marckie's Water, who rallied from last. The early leader, Ritzy A.P., held on for show money. The favorite, Catapult, chased the early pace and faded to finish fifth. Bowie's Hero, a 5-year-old son of Artie Schiller, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm going in 1:46.63 with Flavien Prat up for trainer Phil D'Amato. He has steadily improved through three starts this season, finishing third in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile in his previous start.
"I think he's just rounding back into his form cycle right now, third race off a layoff, and Flavien gave him a picture perfect ride," D'Amato said. "I think I raced him one time too many last year, gave him a long break and he was back on point today. Up next is the Del Mar Mile and hopefully that will get us into the Breeders' Cup Mile."
Just Howard and Divisidero put away pacesetter Bird's Eye View in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth Park, then battled to the wire with Just Howard just edging Divisidero by a head. A tiring Bird's Eye View nonetheless held third, 1 1/2 lengths farther back. Just Howard, a 5-year-old son of English Channel, got 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.62 with Trevor McCarthy up. He scored just his second win since running off four in a row back in 2017.
"He's a cool horse and he deserved a win," trainer Graham Motion said of Just Howard. "He's been sitting on a win for a long time. It was a nerve-wracking day but we got through it."
It was all about the fillies and mares in this division during the weekend.
Summer Sunday dueled to the lead midway through Sunday's $210,000 (Canadian) Grade II Royal North Stakes at Woodbine, then kicked clear and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Magic Spell was second, 1 length to the good of the favorite, Oleksandra, who was pinched back at the start. Summer Sunday, a 4-year-old Silent Name filly, ran 6 furlongs on firm going in 1:08.26 with Rafael Hernandez up. She remains undefeated at Woodbine with seven wins over the course. The previous six came on the all-weather course. "She's just a nice horse. Good horses run anywhere," Hernandez said. "She found the turf was not bad for her."
Mominou, at odds of nearly 30-1, led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $200,000 Caress Stakes for fillies and mares at Saratoga. The 4-year-old Congrats filly, with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons, blazed through 5 1/2 furlongs of firm turf in 1:01.54 with Fire Key in her wake. The favorite, Morticia, dead-heated with Broadway Run for third and fourth and the Chad Brown entrant, Significant Form, was fifth and never a factor. Mominou scored her fourth career win from 12 starts.
"The only shot we were going to have was just to go for it," said Mominou's trainer, Jimmy Toner. "When they turn into the lane, you always say, 'Here they come.' But she had another gear and kicked in again. I was really proud of her."
Painting Corners stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Daisycutter Handicap for fillies and mares at Del Mar, took the lead in the stretch and held off S Y Sky in the final yards, winning by 3/4 length. Just Grazed Me was another 1/2 length back in third. Painting Corners, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred mare by Pleasant Strike, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.21 seconds with Flavien Prat up.
Justaholic collared pacesetting Fig Jelly in the stretch run of Saturday's $78,000 Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth Park and inched away to win by 1 length. Mai Ty One On finished third. Justaholic, a 4-year-old colt by Justin Philip, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.37 with Jose Ferrer riding.
Around the ovals:
Ahimsa set a pressured pace in Friday's $110,000 Osunitas Stakes, a conditioned affair for fillies and mares, then edged away in deep stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Achira was along for second, 1/2 length to the good of Paved. Ahimsa, a 4-year-old daughter of Animal Kingdom, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.47 with Brice Blanc up.
Armistice Day relaxed just behind the pacesetter in Saturday's $120,000 (Canadian) Toronto Cup for 3-year-olds, moved to challenge a furlong and a half from home and won by 1 length. Mo Speed rallied from last of six to finish second, a head in front of Inclusive. Armistice Day, a Declaration of War gelding, ran 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:46.96 with Luis Contreras in the irons.
Embarrassing took station behind the leading trio on Saturday's $75,000 Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap for Illinois-bred fillies and mares, came running to the lead from odds-on favorite Kool Kate a furlong from home and prevailed by 3 lengths over that rival. Applique was third. Embarrassing, a Fort Prado filly owned, bred and trained by the formidable Team Block, ran 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:46.38 with Jose Lopez riding. The race is named for the late Arlington Heights Daily Herald sportswriter, a popular regular in the Arlington press box.
Memory Bank pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap for state-breds, took the lead with a furlong and half to go and cruised home first by 3 lengths. Hannity was best of the rest, 2 lengths in front of the early leader, Christian C. Memory Bank, a 5-year-old Misremembered gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.57 with Mitchell Murrill in the irons. This race came off the turf.
Kauai, the odds-on favorite, got going just in time to rally for a 1/2-length victory in Saturday's $90,000 Iowa Stallion Stakes for eligible 3-year-olds. Goloso also made up ground late to finish second, a neck in front of pacesetting long shot Titan's Revenge. Kauai, a Girolamo gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:43.52 for jockey Luis Fuentes.
Our Musical Moment gave up the lead to Zofia in Friday's $80,000 Iowa Stallion Filly Stakes for eligible 3-year-olds, pressured that one into the stretch and got by, winning off by 1 3/4 lengths. Zofia finished second, 4 1/4 lengths better than the favorite, Apple Dapple. Our Musical Moment, a Bellamy Road filly, got 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:44.06 under David Cabrera.
Seven Trumpets shadowed pacesetter Done Deal through the early stages of Sunday's $76,000 Good Lord Stakes, worked to the lead and outfinished Guest Suite, winning by 3/4 length. Done Deal was third. Seven Trumpets, a 4-year-old colt by Morning Line, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.59 with Channing Hill in command. Seven Trumpets had not raced since he struggled home last of 14 in Santa Anita's Grade I Malibu Stakes Dec. 26, a race that followed an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Valley of Mo'ara wasted little time taking the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Miss Ohio Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies, then kept rolling until she crossed the line first by 4 lengths. Calusa Queen chased the winner but was nipped on the line for place money by Edge of Night. Valley of Mo'ara, a daughter of Overanalyze, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:06.46 for jockey Scott Spieth.
Vangilder lacked early speed in Saturday's $70,000 Charles Taylor Derby, came seven-wide into the stretch and was up for a 3/4-length victory. Walker Stalker was second, a neck in front of Irish Polo. Vangilder, a Florida-bred Paynter colt trained by Steve Asmussen, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.38 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.
Show Me the Mints led all the way to a 4-lengths victory in Sunday's $50,000 King County Express Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings. Haveyoulostyourmind was second, 3/4 length in front of Brett. Show Me the Mints, a Coast Guard gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.42 with Kevin Orozco riding
For You Only took back early in Sunday's $50,000 Angie C. Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, steadily closed on the leaders and was there in time to win by 1 3/4 lengths from Windy Point. Devilish Diva was third. For You Only, an Abraaj filly, was clocked in 1:05.18 under Jennifer Whitaker.
No Talking Back rallied to the lead late in Sunday's $50,000 Boeing Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 3/4 length from Paddy's Secret. Blazinbeauty came from last of nine to finish third. No Talking Back, a Flatter Mare, toured 1 1/16 miles on the fast track in 1:43.32 with Scott Stevens up.
More Power to Him dawdled at the back of the field through the first half of Sunday's $50,000 Mt. Rainier Stakes, came five-wide around the second turn and outfinished El Huerfano, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Oh Marvelous Me was third. More Power to Him, a 5-year-old son of Slew's Tiznow, reported in 1:42.62 with Orozco up.
Shasta Star launched a late bid in the stretch run of Saturday's $65,000 Governor's Cup Handicap for fillies and mares, got by pacesetting favorite Alliford Bay and ran on to win by a head over that rival. Vronilla Parfait was third, another 1 1/4 lengths in arrears. Shasta Star, a 4-year-old Ready's Image filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.10 with Ricardo Gonzalez riding.
Daz Lin Dawn got out to an unchallenged lead in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) R. K. Red Smith Handicap for fillies and mares and rolled on home first by 1 length with Smart Fix and Blues Roar second and third. Daz Lin Dawn, a 5-year-old mare by Popular, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.23 with Dane Nelson up.
Sir Bronx settled patiently through the early furlongs of Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Don Getty Handicap, rallied three-wide and went on to win by 1 length, holding safe a late run by Shimshine. Red River Bear was close up in third. Sir Bronx, a 6-year-old Bellamy Road gelding, finished 9 furlongs in 1:51.17 with Rigo Sarmiento in the irons.
News and Notes
Breeders' Cup has announced a deal with FanDuel Group, the parent company of TVG, that includes making FanDuel and TVG the official wagering Breeders' Cup wagering partners. TVG also becomes name-in-title sponsor of the $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile and the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Cross-promotion and fan development also figure front-and-center in the agreement. Duration of the arrangement was not specified in the announcement other than "multi-year".
"We are looking forward to not only enhancing our ability to cover the Breeders' Cup races themselves but to devote more coverage and promotion to the lead-up through the Breeders' Cup Challenge Win and You're In Series,' said Kip Levin, CEO of TVG and COO of FanDuel. "This is a great opportunity to bring horse racing and the Breeders' Cup front and center to our sports betting and daily fantasy customers and to introduce horse racing's championship event to the next generation of racing fans."
The new ownership of Ellis Park has announced a two-phase -- and possibly three-phase if all goes well -- development plan for the Kentucky facility. First step included purchase of the facility and a multimillion-dollar infrastructure refurbishment. The next phase, expansion of the turf course, installation of lights and grandstand expansion to include more gaming machines, is to be in place for the 2020 race meeting. Phase three, depending on economics and other variables, would expand Ellis's footprint as an entertainment destination for the region.
At Thursday's meeting of the Illinois Racing Board, representatives of both Hawthorne Race Course and Fairmount Park said their outlook has gone from dire to bright with the passage of legislation authorizing both casino gaming at the tracks and sports betting. "Hawthorne couldn't be happier about the position we're in," said President Tim Carey. "Illinois horse racing has a chance to be competitive again with the best of the industry." Both Hawthorne and Fairmount are moving quickly, pending approval of the Illinois Gaming Board, to implement both casino gaming and sports wagering. The third Illinois track, Arlington Park, has yet to announce its intentions.
On the down side, Marylou Whitney, known as "Queen of Saratoga," died this week at age 93. Her contributions to the sport include top-shelf credits as owner and breeder but she will be remembered chiefly for reviving Saratoga's iconic summertime meeting at a time it's continued existence was in doubt. Her human touch extended throughout the industry as she worked tirelessly to improve conditions on the back stretch and was epitomized in Ken and Sara Ramsey naming a Birdstone filly Thank You Marylou for personal kindnesses rendered. Birdstone, the 2004 Belmont Stakes winner, was bred and owned by Marylou Whitney.