Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Saratoga's Travers Stakes, the "Midsummer Derby," was missing many of the prominent 3-year-olds from early in the year but Code of Honor's victory was impressive enough that the race might turn out to be a key one by the end of the horse racing season.
And the $1.25 million, Grade I Runhappy Travers was only one of seven stakes on the Saturday card at the Spa, six of them Grade I events and three of them Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events.
Midnight Bisou, Mitole, Mind Control, Come Dancing, Annals of Time and Significant Form joined Code of Honor in the Saratoga winner's circle while, at Del Mar, Catalina Cruiser's "Win and You're In" score gives him the chance to avenge his only career loss come November at Santa Anita.
Jumping right into the action:
The common wisdom was that Saturday's $1.25 million Grade I Runhappy Travers Stakes didn't have the top 3-year-olds, what with missing both disqualified Kentucky Derby winner and reigning 2-year-old champ Game Winner. When the dust settled -- well, maybe it wasn't such a bad lot after all.
Maybe, in fact, Code of Honor came into his own in Saratoga's "Midsummer Derby." The Noble Mission colt sure looked the part, swinging eight-wide into the stretch and running by the leaders with ease, en route to a 3-lengths victory. With John Velazquez riding for Shug McGaughey and owner William Farrish, Code of Honor got the 1 1/4 miles in an honorable 2:01.05. The favorite, Tacitus, settled for second and West Coast invader Mucho Gusto was third.
Code of Honor wasn't exactly a bum in the crazy, mixed-up first half of the year, either. He did win the Grade II Fountain of Youth, finished third in the Kentucky Derby, elevated to second, and won the Grade III Dwyer. Combined with the Travers romp, that looks like a good enough record to put him right up there with the best of this year's 3-year-olds.
McGaughey seemed to agree in the post-race news conference and indicated he might be doing a little promotion for the colt.
"Well, I mean, we still -- everybody's still got a little bit of work to do. I mean, I don't see how really anybody can be above him," McGaughey said after reviewing the up-and-down nature of the 3-year-old season. "And I would have to think when I get to talking about him here next week and stuff, he's going to be one of them they're going to be talking about."
McGaughey said he will consult with Farish to plot a strategy for the remainder of the year but did not rule out the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 21 at Parx Racing. His eye, however, must be farther down the calendar and the Breeders' Cup Classic, which may have to decide 3-year-old honors, if not Horse of the Year.
Midnight Bisou tracked down a free-running Elate in the final yards to win Saturday's $700,000 Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga by a nose. She's a Julie was third but 8 3/4 lengths behind the dominant duo. Midnight Bisou, defending a five-race winning streak, was clocked in 1:47.92 for 9 furlongs on a fast track.
Midnight Bisou has not been beaten since finishing third in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs. Saturday's victory earned her a "Win and You're In" ticket to try that race again in November at Santa Anita.
"The mare ran a tremendous race," said winning rider Mike Smith. "It was a fight to get by Elate, who is a champion in her own right. With the extra four pounds there it took me a bit to get going, but once I got her going I was really happy that she handled the mile-and-an-eighth."
Trainer Steve Asmussen added, "Two great mares hooked up at Saratoga in a Grade 1. A beautiful day, a beautiful setting, and two great mares."
Mitole dueled with Promises Fulfilled through the early furlongs of Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Forego at Saratoga, then drew clear approaching the stretch and ran on to win by 3 lengths in stakes-record time of 1:20.80. Firenze Fire was second and Killybegs Captain third as Promises Fulfilled dropped back to finish last. Ricardo Santana Jr. rode Mitole for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old Eskenderea colt posted his ninth win from 13 starts while bouncing back from a third in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap in his previous start.
"Ricardo knows the horse, lets him be himself, and the best version of Mitole usually takes care of itself," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen.
"I think that this was very significant coming off the loss in the Vanderbilt. We'll speak with the Heiligbrodts (owners) and see how he comes out of the race and see how he trains. Obviously, we'll try to align ourselves for the Breeders' Cup."
When the 3-year-olds lined up for Saturday's $500,000 Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at the Spa, 7 furlongs proved just about two jumps too much for overnight sensation Shancelot. The Shanghai Bobby colt, undefeated in three previous starts and heavily favored, led from the early jumps, had a clear lead at mid-stretch and then dramatically began to shorten stride. Mind Control was the primary beneficiary, putting a nose on the line in front of Hog Creek Hustle with Shancelot relegated to third by a head bob.
Mind Control, a Stay Thirsty colt who won the Grade I Hopeful last year in his only previous start at the Spa, reported in 1:09.01 with John Velazquez up. He won the Grade III Bay Shore at Aqueduct in April, then finished eighth after a brutal trip in the Grade I Woody Stephens at Belmont. He was third, beaten less than a length in the Concern Stakes at Laurel Park in his previous start.
"This was the race we were pointing for since the Woody, all summer," said Mind Control's trainer, Greg Sacco. "We wanted him in peak performance. He's a gutsy horse. I can't say enough about him and about my staff and the way they prepared him."
Shancelot's trainer, Jorge Navarro, said, "He just got beat. That's horse racing ... As long as he comes back good, we'll be fine."
Out west, Catalina Cruiser was all out to capture Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Pat O'Brien at Del Mar, landing a "Win and You're In" spot for the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile into the bargain. After running well back under Flavien Prat, Catalina Cruiser had to battle through the stretch before getting the better of Giant Expectations, winning by a head. American Anthem was 4 3/4 lengths farther back in third as Catalina Cruiser reported in 1:22.00.
Catalina Cruiser, a 5-year-old son of Union Rags, improved his record to seven wins from eight starts. The only defeat was a fading sixth-place showing in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs.
"That's a fast race, I could tell, on this track," said winning trainer John Sadler. "He was wide all the way, was involved in the running all the way, so I was really pleased. He's a big horse and he's got a big heart. I really thought that he would fight."
On Sunday at Del Mar, Improbable looked probable enough that he went to the post as the odds-on favorite in the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes for 3-year-olds. And he justified the faith, pressing the pace, then dominating the final furlong to win by 2 3/4 lengths. King Jack, Lieutenant Dan and Street Class completed the order of finish. Improbable, a City Zip colt trained by Bob Baffert, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.53 in partnership with Drayden Van Dyke.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Come Dancing broke last, then came running in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Ballerina, winning by 3 1/2 lengths and punching her "Win and You're In" ticket to the big dance, the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. With Javier Castellano up, the 5-year-old Malibu Moon mare waited behind the dueling leaders, circled them into the stretch and was clearly the best. Dawn the Destroyer was second and Special Relatively was third. Come Dancing waltzed home in 1:21.48 over a fast track, picking up her first Grade I victory.
In her previous start, on June 8, Come Dancing finished second behind Midnight Bisou in the Grade I Ogden Phipps. Earlier in the year, she won the Grade III Distaff at Aqueduct and the Grade II Ruffian at Belmont.
Asked his thoughts as he watched Come Dancing romp through the final furlong, trainer Carlos Martin said, "I was thinking we won a Grade 1 at Saratoga and we kept the Martin family and the Blue Devil (Racing Stable) family in a good frame of mind going into the Breeders' Cup. I think she's shown that, when given time between races, that she fires her best shot."
Alnilah was away well behind the rest of the field in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian)
Grade III Seaway Stakes for fillies and mares on the Woodbine all-weather, found room entering the stretch run and drew off at the end for a rather dramatic, 4 1/2-lengths victory. The odds-on favorite, Summer Sunday, led most of the way but had no answer for Alnilah's rally and finished second, 2 1/4 lengths to the good of Katie Baby. Alnilah, a 5-year-old Smart Strike mare, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.39 with Patrick Husbands up. It was her fourth career win.
"Throughout the whole race, she was relaxed behind there and I had so much horse," said Husbands, whose feet were not yet settled in the irons when the gate opened. "I just told myself, I'm not going around -- any little hole I can take -- and that's what I did."
Not only does trainer Chad Brown keep winning these important races, he also keeps winning them with up-and-coming types, promising more to come, and for a while. So it was in Saturday's $850,000 Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Brown had three of the nine starters and it was Annals of Time, rallying from well back of a stablemate's pace, who arrived first. Sadler's Joy was second, followed by the two "Channels" -- Channel Cat and Channel Maker. Annals of Time, a 6-year-old son of Temple City, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:27.50 with Javier Castellano up.
Annals of time won the Grade I Hollywood Derby back in 2017 but then missed the entire 2018 season -- almost 21 months in all -- before returning June 7 at Belmont Park. He won his second start earlier in the Saratoga proceedings.
"Now as a 6-year-old, (he's) in fine shape," Brown said. "We finally have had an uninterrupted training schedule and campaign with him. He's back to his old form when he won the Hollywood Derby when he was a 3-year-old. He's probably better now, so I'm just so grateful to have him back healthy."
Annals of Time earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Front Run the Fed rallied from last to first in Sunday's $100,000 Better Talk Now Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, winning by 1/2 length over Bourbon War. The early pacesetter, Bulletin, tired and finished third. Front Run the Fed, another of those Chad Brown upstarts, ran 1 mile on the firm inner turf in 1:34.29. The 3-year-old Fed Biz colt took four tries to find the winner's circle, then reeled off three wins in a row including the Better Talk Now.
"After his last win, we were pointing for the (Grade 2) Hall of Fame, but he had some foot issues which caused us to miss that race," Brown said. "But he's ready now." He said the $400,000 Grade II Hill Prince on Oct. 5 at Belmont Park "makes sense, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to commit him to running a mile and an eighth yet."
Filly & Mare Turf
Significant Form, one of three in the race for Brown, won a cavalry charge to the wire in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa, edging Indian Blessing by a neck in the final jumps. Starship Jubilee was another neck back in third, followed a nose behind by Fifty Five and another neck by pacesetter Conquest Hardcandy. Significant Form, with John Velazquez up, was always close in the 1 1/16-miles test, run over firm going, and finished in 1:41.39. She bounced back from a fifth-place finish in the Caress Stakes earlier in the Spa meeting, going 5 1/2 furlongs.
"I screwed up, running her too short, 5 1/2 furlongs," Brown said. "It was poor judgment. I don't know if she got anything out of it but it didn't screw her up."
At Monmouth Park, Homeland Security found a little more in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Unbridled Essence Stakes for fillies and mares and prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths. Lemon Zip, Icy Calm and Nonsensical completed the order of finish after two scratches. Homeland Security, a 5-year-old Smart Strike mare with Nik Juarez up, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:34.19 or so -- the race was hand-timed.
Silent Poet surged to a daylight lead at mid-stretch in Saturday's $210,000 (Canadian) Grade II Play the King Stakes at Woodbine and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Despite being ridden out by Gary Boulanger, the 4-year-old Silent Name gelding finished the 7 furlongs on firm turf in course-record time of 1:19.22. He has not missed a top-three finish since checking in 12th in last year's Queen's Plate. The Play the King was his first graded stakes engagement.
"To me, there's lots of room for improvement," said Silent Poet's trainer, Nicholas Gonzalez, who was impressed by the gelding's last race as a 3-year-old when he ran second to Kingsport in the Sir Barton Stakes going long. "They do such a great job over there in the Stronach barns. He was in Ocala over the winter, got gelded and came back a happy gelding."
City Man drafted behind the early pace in Friday's $200,000 Funny Cide Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds at Saratoga, took the lead at the top of the lane and drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths despite wandering in and out through the final furlong. Cleon Jones and Listentoyourheart were second and third. City Man, a Mucho Macho Man colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.93 with Joel Rosario riding. It was his second win, both during the current meeting at the Spa. "I was expecting him to be further off the pace," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "Exact opposite, but he ran a very good race."
X Clown rallied five-wide from the back of the pack to win Saturday's $50,000 Evangeline Downs Prince by 3/4 length over pacesetting Elusive d'Oro. Free Indeed was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. X Clown, a Louisiana-bred Jimmy Creed gelding, finished 6 furlongs on a good, sealed track in 1:11.73 with Tyler Woodley in the irons.
Fierce Lady stalked the pace in Friday's $200,000 Seeking the Ante Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga, took over when called upon by jockey Javier Castellano and won by a neck over a persistent Time Limit. My Italian Rabbi was third. Fierce Lady, a daughter of Competitive Edge, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.73. Trained by Dermot Magner, Fierce Lady won at first asking at Belmont, then finished second in the Stillwater Stakes at Saratoga before Friday's win. "We'll take her back to Belmont and give her a few weeks off and look at the New York-bred races down there," Magner said.
Kasserine Pass took the lead turning for home in Friday's $50,000 Evangeline Downs Princess Stakes and got away to a 1 1/2-lengths victory. Where's Mom was second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Schiff's Corner while the favorite, Joe G's Payback, paid back nothing to her backers after beating only one foe. Kasserine Pass, a Trappe Shot filly trained by Bret Calhoun, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.07 under Roberto Morales.
Today's history lesson: Kasserine Pass in west-central Tunisia was the site of an Allied setback at the hands of Gen. Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps early in the North African campaign of World War II.
At Belterra Park on Sunday, Moonlit Mission got by the favorite, Valley of Mo'ara, in the final furlong to take the $75,000 Tah Dah Stakes for Ohio-bred fillies by 1 1/4 lengths. It was another 6 1/4 lengths to Calusa Queen in third. Moonlit Mission, a Shackleford filly out of the Maria's Mon mare Moonlit River, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.75 with Ricardo Mejias up.
Around the ovals:
Friday's New York Breeders' Showcase Day for state-breds found the Spa's main track fast and the turf listed as good.
Newly Minted pressed the pace in the $200,000 Fleet Indian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, shot to the lead in the lane and kicked away, winning by 9 lengths. Kid Is Frosty was second, followed 5 3/4 lengths later by Elegant Zip. Newly Minted, a daughter of Central Banker, ran 9 furlongs on the main track in 1:50.63 with Jose Lezcano riding.
Belle of the Spa, at odds of 31-1, became the belle of the long shot players as she led the way in the $150,000 Yaddo Stakes for fillies and mares and held off the favorite, Munchkin Money, winning by a neck. Kreesie was third. Belle of the Spa, a 5-year-old Pure Prize mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:43.75 for jockey Dylan Davis.
Offering Plan, Dot Matrix and Therapist all found their best stride in the final furlong of the $150,000 West Point Stakes on the grass with Offering Plan the winner by a head bob over Dot Matrix. Therapist was 1 length farther back and 1/2 length to the good of pacesetting longshot Everyonelovesjames. Offering Plan, a 7-year-old entire son of Spring at Last, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.18 with Javier Castellano up. Trainer Chad Brown said it's the veteran's last year racing. "He's done a lot for us. We want to make sure he has a proper retirement," the trainer said.
Funny Guy took the lead in the lane in the $250,000 Albany Stakes for 3-year-olds and just did hold off the last-to-first bid of Bankit, winning by a head over that rival. Doups Point also ran well late to finish third. Funny Guy, a Big Brown colt, ran 9 furlongs on the main track in 1:49.35. Rajiv Maragh rode.
Lady Suebee took the early lead in Friday's restricted $113,000 Tranquility Lake Stakes for fillies and mares and kept widening the advantage until she won by 5 1/2 lengths. Kaydetre was best of the rest, 3 3/4 lengths to the good of Zusha. Lady Suebee, a 4-year-old First Defence filly, covered the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.42 with Victor Espinoza in the irons.
Golden Brown tracked the early leader in Sunday's $100,000 Charles Hesse III Stakes for New Jersey-breds, took the lead in the stretch run and won by 2 lengths over that foe. The odds-on favorite, Sunny Ridge, was third, 5 1/2 lengths farther back. Golden Brown, a 4-year-old Offlee Wild gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.89 with Paco Lopez riding.
Blank Paige rallied three-wide to take the lead in the lane in Sunday's $100,000 Eleven North Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and quickly drew off to win by 4 lengths from the odds-on favorite, Liz's Cable Girl. The early leader, Billy's Jump Start, tired to finish third, another 2 1/2 lengths back. Blank Paige, a 5-year-old Jump Start mare, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.90 with Joe Bravo up.
Pnutbutter Special put the nail in the coffin for Sunday's chalk players, kicking away in the final furlong to win the $79,500 New Jersey Breeders' Handicap for state-breds by 5 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Dial Operator. Visionary Ruler was third, another 3/4 length back. Pnutbutter Special, a 3-year-old Jump Start gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.17 for jockey Jann Hernandez.
Art G Is Back rallied resolutely down the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Benny the Bull Stakes for Florida-breds by a neck over pacesetting Royal Squeeze. The favorite, Ice Tea, was third, another 2 lengths up the track. Art G Is Back, a 3-year-old colt by Exchange Rate, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.53 with Victor Lebron up.
Clubman started last in Saturday's $75,000 Maryland Coalition Stakes, then had things all his own way in the stretch run, winning off by 9 1/2 lengths. North Atlantic was best of the rest, 1/2 length to the good of Sonny Inspired. Clubman, a 5-year-old Not For Love gelding, ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.50 with Julian Pimentel up.
Parisian Diva made all the going in Saturday's $50,000 Sylvia Bishop Memorial for West Virginia-bred 3-year-old fillies and kicked away in the stretch to win by 4 lengths. C R Case's Legacy was second-best, 1/2 length ahead of Amelia Bedelia. Parisian Diva, a daughter of Freedom Child, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.56 with Jose Montano riding.
Cali Dream, always close to the front, got the lead in the lane in Saturday's $75,000 Pay the Man Stakes for Ohio-bred fillies and mares and ran on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Grizabella was second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, Takechargedelilah. Cali Dream, a 5-year-old mare by Cowboy Cal, negotiated 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:54.86 with Luis Quinones riding.
Mobil Solution bobbled at the start of Saturday's $75,000 Governor's Buckeye Cup for state-breds, recovered quickly and won a three-way sprint to the wire by a neck over Verissimo. Over Icce missed second by a nose. Mobil Solution, a 4-year-old Mobil gelding, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:06.86 under Luis Rivera.
Let It Roll hooked up with Orogrande down the stretch in Saturday's $80,000 Carlos Salazar Stakes for New Mexico-bred distaffers and stuck her neck in front at the wire. The favorite, Flight Song, finished third, another 3/4 length in arrears. Let It Roll, a 3-year-old filly by Roll Hennessey Roll, rolled 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.10 with Jansen Melancon in the irons.
Butterscotch Blend drew off in the final furlong of Friday's $50,000 (Canadian) CTHS Sales Stakes for eligible and nominated 3- and 4-year-old fillies, winning by 2 1/2 lengths from the favorite, Northern Graystar. It was another 6 1/2 lengths to Flight Data in third. Butterscotch Blend, a 3-year-old daughter of Mission Impazible, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.75 with Jose Asencio in the irons.
In the companion for similarly qualified 3- and 4-year-old colts and geldings, Slew's Da Boss got by pacesetting European in the stretch drive and won by 3 1/4 lengths over that one. Betathanaboyfriend was third and the solid, odds-on favorite, Weekend Wizard, beat only one rival. Slew's Da Boss, a 4-year-old Cause to Believe gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.57 with Antonio Reyes in the kip.
Beach Flower led, lost the lead and finally came again to win Saturday's $55,000 Minnesota H.B.P.A. Distaff by a head over Dontmesswithjoanne. Tiz Little Bull was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Dean Butler was at the controls on Beach Flower, a 6-year-old Flower Alley mare who ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.68.
Giant Payday rallied by pacesetting Majestic Pride in the late going to take Saturday's $55,000 Brooks Fields Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths. Majestic Pride held second, 3/4 length in front of Nobrag Justfact. Giant Payday, a 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, ran 1 mile on the grass in 1:34.85 under Leandro Goncalves.
Satellite Storm sprinted to the lead in Saturday's $55,000 Mystic Lake Turf Sprint and wasn't caught. At the wire, the 5-year-old Coast Guard gelding was 2 3/4 lengths out front with Win Lion Win second, 1/2 length to the good of Luvin Bullies. Satellite Storm ran 5 furlongs in 55.43 seconds with Goncalves winning back-to-back stakes.
Catchacougar was along late in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Princess Margaret Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, getting by long shot pacesetter Edge of Okotoks to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Music At Work was third. Catchacougar, an Oklahoma-bred Pround Citizen filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.62 with Rigo Sarmiento riding.
Bare Back Jack just edged pacesetting Shanghai Mike by a head in Sunday's $50,000 Birdcatcher Stakes for 2-year-olds, then sweated out a claim of foul by the rival's jockey before the "official" sign flashed on. Rail Hugger hugged the rail most of the way, ran into traffic and finished third. Bare Back Jack, a Bakken gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.90, also toting Sarmiento.