Channel Maker leads all the way en route to victory in Saturday's Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Photo by Dom Napolitano, courtesy of New York Racing Association
Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Channel Maker, a veteran at the top levels of turf racing, and C Z Rocket, a $40,000 claimer just four months ago, earned "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup spots in weekend horse racing.
While much of the attention was focused on final preparations for the Kentucky Derby, the pandemic-related compaction of this year's schedule means others are well into preparations for the year-end championships two months later at Keeneland.
On the international front, it was a relatively quiet week with South Africa providing a Group 1 exception.
We'll be providing daily Derby updates, starting with Tuesday's post-position draw. In the meantime, there's this:
Channel Maker, not a frequent competitor on deep turf, loved Saturday's soft going at Saratoga and led the entire 1 1/2 miles of the $500,000 Grade I Sword Dancer, winning off by 5 3/4 lengths.
The favorite, Cross Border, rallied for second, 3 1/2 lengths to the good of Aquaphobia in third. Channel Maker, a 6-year-old English Channel gelding, finished in 2:34.86, understandably 10.66 seconds shy of the course record set in 1997 by the immortal Awad.
The victory was a welcome one for trainer Bill Mott and the ownership group. Despite some nice efforts, Channel Maker had not had his picture taken since he won the Grade I Man o' War at Belmont Park in May 2019.
"He was strong throughout the stretch," Mott said of Channel Maker. "He ran a powerful race. He loves the going. He likes it here. He's tough when he turns for home on the lead."
The Sword Dancer was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, but Mott was less enthusiastic.
"That water gets very deep," he said. "We've tried it a couple times and it hasn't worked out with him [coming in seventh, 11th and 12th in three appearances]. You get a whole different group of horses. But who knows?
"There was a year at Keeneland where it was a bottomless ground and if that situation came up, maybe he would benefit from it."
Filly & Mare Turf
Selflessly zigged and zagged between rivals down the stretch in Friday's $100,000 Grade III Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, found another gear in the final sixteenth and just nipped the odds-on favorite, Sweet Melania, by a nose on the wire.
Witez was coming late, too, but could only manage third. Selflessly, a More Than Ready filly, got the 1 mile over firm turf in 1:36.06 with David Cohen aboard for Chad Brown.
"He rode such a great race and deserves a lot of credit," Brown said of Cohen. "He followed the favorite all the way. He used her early to get position, which was key, and it was a real patient, well-timed ride and the filly really responded."
Noting Selflessly went to the post at odds of better than 14-1, the trainer added, "Some loyal Chad Brown fans made money today, for sure." $30.60 for a $2 win bet, in fact.
Saturday at Woodbine, Chart took back early to stalk the pace in the $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Colleen for 3-year-old fillies, moved to the lead on the turn and survived a tight stretch battle to win by a head.
Avie's Samurai just missed as the favorite but held second by a head over Diamond Sparkles. Chart, a daughter of Lea out of the War Front mare Gauge, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.24 with Justin Stein aboard.
"I got to sit and wait for a while," Stein said. "I was pretty comfy sitting up to the quarter pole and when I asked her to run, she really kicked. I just could feel the try that she had inside. She was digging in and giving me everything that she had."
At Monmouth Park on Saturday, Valiance rallied three-wide to gain the lead nearing the furlong marker in the $150,000 Eatontown Stakes, then eased away to win by 1 1/4 lengths, ridden out by Nik Juarez.
Gotham Gala was second, and it was another 15 1/4 lengths back to the early leader, Valedictorian, in third. Valiance, a 4-year-old Tapit filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:44.25.
The Eatontown was carded for the turf and the surface switch occasioned five scratches.
Bye Bye Melvin staked pacesetting favorite Don Juan Kitten into deep stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Saranac Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, eased by in the final yards and won by a head.
Bodecream, also close behind the leader throughout, finished third. Bye Bye Melvin, an Uncle Mo colt trained by Graham Motion, finished in 1:39.92.
The race was moved from the inner turf course to the Mellon course and run under going labeled soft. Bye Bye Melvin scored his third career win but first in a stakes.
"He's a late developer," Motion said. "He's been a little bit of a project in that way, but I'm not surprised with the way he ran. He slugs it out and he obviously handled the soft turf better than most."
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Win Win Win rallied from last of 11 in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Forego Stakes Presented by America's Best Racing at Saratoga and was along just in time to win by 1/2 length.
Complexity and True Timber, who battled for the lead through much of the 7 furlongs, finished second and third. Win Win Win, a 4-year-old Hat Trick colt, reported in 1:21.71 over a sloppy track with Javier Castellano riding.
Better known names Funny Guy, Whitmore and Firenze Fire finished fourth, seventh and last, respectively, in the Forego.
Win Win Win scored his fifth career win, first in a graded stakes. He was 11th, promoted to 10th, in the Kentucky Derby, then finished seventh in the Preakness. He was coming off a second, behind Complexity, in an optional claimer at Belmont Park on July 2.
"I thought he was absolutely out of the race and might not have a chance to even finish," Trainer Michael Trombetta said of Win Win Win. "But then turning for home, he came back on the screen. It's just unbelievable. He's truly a good horse and deserves this."
Trombetta said he plans to keep the colt at 7 furlongs. "It's a distance he likes, but he doesn't have the best gate speed. The way this track has been playing, it's very hard to close. Well, what he did, I haven't seen the whole meet."
Out west at Del Mar, C Z Rocket stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade II Pat O'Brien Stakes, rallied outside rivals down the lane and won by 1/2 length.
Flagstaff held a brief lead and finished second, 3/4 length in front of the initial leader, Law Abidin Citizen. C Z Rocket, a 6-year-old City Zip gelding, finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.25 with Flavien Prat up for trainer Peter Miller.
C Z Rocket, claimed for $40,000 in April at Oaklawn Park, has won four straight races since that wise purchase and qualified by way of the O'Brien victory for a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee is fond of saying, "It's an easy game."
"You could see he had run some really fast races," Miller said about the claim. "I like old class horses that have shown talent. If you can get them going in the right direction they can run back to past form."
Back in Upstate New York, Yaupon remained undefeated after three starts by taking Saturday's $150,000 Amsterdam for 3-year-olds at Saratoga by 2 lengths over Basin. Premier Star was third. Yaupon, an Uncle Mo colt, worked quickly to the lead and wasn't challenged thereafter, finishing 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:08.52 with Joel Rosario in the irons. The Steve Asmussen trainee won at first asking at Churchill Downs in June, then easily dispatched conditioned allowance rivals last month at the Spa, earning a 101 Beyer Speed figure.
"He's extremely fast. He's got an elite amount of speed," Asmussen said of Yaupon. "I think we can sit down and map out a serious future for him from here."
That might include a showdown with stablemate Volatile in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland. "He's that level," Asmussen said. "We're very fortunate that they're both doing so well."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Fly On Angel showed the way in Friday night's $200,000 Grade III Charles Town Oaks and held on gamely through the final yards to win by 1/2 length.
Wicked Whisper, Princess Cadey and Ankle Monitor were all breathing down the neck of the winner but settled for second, third and fourth. The favorite, Tonalist's Shape, never got involved and reported fifth, 5 lengths aft of the winner.
Fly On Angel, a Palace Malice filly, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.15, decelerating in the final sixteenth after setting a brisk pace. It was her fourth win and came after a victory in an allowance tilt at Parx Racing.
Sleepy Eyes Todd took a quick lead in Friday night's $600,000 Grade II Charles Town Classic, shook off a trio of rivals midway down the backstretch for the second time and drew off after the third turn to win by 7 1/2 lengths.
Plus Que Parfait was second, 3 lengths better than Runnin'toluvya. Sleepy Eyes Todd, a Paddy O'Prado colt, got the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.82 with Carlos Delgado up for trainer Miguel Silva. The favorite, Mr. Money, finished last of 10.
Sleepy Eyes Todd was second in last year's Grade III Oklahoma Derby and came east after finishing second in the Lone Star Mile in Texas. In the race before that, he won the Bosselman Pump and Pantry/Gus Fonner Stakes at Fonner Park. He now has won half his 12 career starts.
Letruska led gate to wire in Sunday's $125,000 Grade III Shuvee for fillies and mares at Saratoga, winning by 1 length, largely geared down by jockey Joel Rosario.
Royal Flag and Our Super Freak filled out the trifecta with the favorite, Nonna Madeline, beating only one rival. Letruska, a 4-year-old Super Saver filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.94 with Joel Rosario riding.
Letruska, a Kentucky-bred, was undefeated in six starts at Hipodromo de las Americas in Mexico City, including two Grade I events, and won the Copa Invitational del Caribe last December at Gulfstream Park in her U.S. debut.
She then was 13th in the Tropical Park Oaks and was last seen finishing fifth in the Grade I Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga July 8.
Trainer Fausto Gutierrez said Letruska is "a very special horse because she has a lot of speed ... This is a filly that needs speed and distance." He said he has big plans for her, starting with the Grade I Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 7 before moving along to the Breeders' Cup. "I think two turns is perfect for her."
Breeze On By did just that heading for home in Saturday's $200,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and then came home under a stout drive to win by 7 1/2 lengths.
Big Daddy Dave beat the others with Seazan 2 1/2 lengths in his wake in third. Breeze On By, a Cajun Breeze gelding out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Miss Primetime, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.75 with Emisael Jaramillo riding.
Breeze On By remains undefeated after three starts, including the Dr. Fager Division of the FSS in his previous outing.
Ralph Nicks trained the first three finishers in this year's Affirmed and also won the race the past three years with Soutache, Garter and Tie and Liam's Lucky Charm. This year's series concludes with the $400,000 In Reality Division at 1 1/16 miles Sept. 26.
"I just feel blessed to be in Florida for seven years and win this many Sire Series," Nicks said. "I learned early on that you need to be a part of this and was lucky to have owners send me some talented horses and it's worked."
Way up north by Toronto, Dragon's Brew allowed the speedy ones to show the way in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Simcoe Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-old colts and geldings, came around them entering the stretch and ran on to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
All Canadian and Took a Wrong Turn also came from off the pace to finish second and third. Dragon's Brew, a Milwaukee Brew gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:17.90 with Daisuke Fukumoto in the irons.
Hot Blooded got past the leader, Boca Boy, while hitting the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Proud Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and then drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over that rival.
Castle King was third, 2 3/4 length farther back and a nose in front of the favorite, Fulmini. Hot Blooded, a Declaration of War colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:36.68 with Emisael Jaramillo up.
Hot Blooded scored his second win after finishing fourth in his career debut. The early win came in a 1-mile, off-the-turf event. All three races were at Gulfstream.
Princess Secret dueled to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Susan's Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park, disposed of the early challenge and then fought off Oh Deborah to win by 3/4 length.
Go Jo Jo Go was 4 lengths farther back in third. Princess Secret, a Khozan filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.02. Miguel Vasquez rode for trainer Daniel Pita.
Princess Secret, a $30,000 yearling purchase, now has two wins and two seconds from four starts. She was second in the Desert Vixen Division of the FSS, won by Go Jo Jo Go.
Pita said he now is looking forward to the $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the FSS on Sept. 26 at 1 1/16 miles.
"I think breeding is going to be the biggest factor in the next leg of the series. I think she showed it today," Pita said. "Hopefully, she'll come out of the race in good order and we'll see you in four weeks."
At Woodbine, first-time starter El Bayern wasted no time making a first impression, rallying from last of 10 to win Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Muskoga Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-old fillies by 1 length at 23-1 odds.
For My Elbi was second with Ms Wicked checking in third. El Bayern, a Bayern filly out of the Schossberg mare El Tara, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:18.91 with Sheena Ryan in the irons.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Spanish Loveaffair, the odds-on favorite, moved to the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Sharp Susan Stakes at Gulfstream Park and worked clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Director's Cut made a belated move to finish second with Mashugana another 4 3/4 lengths back in third. Spanish Loveaffair, a daughter of Karakontie, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.03 with Victor Lebron up. She won her only previous start, also 1 mile on the Gulfstream greensward, by 11 lengths.
"We're very excited for her future and, hopefully, she can continue to keep progressing," said Nick Tomlinson, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse. "Victor gave her a great ride."
Around the ovals:
Governor Goteven dueled between rivals to get the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies at Del Mar, and then tool command in the final furlong to win by 4 1/2 lengths.
The favorite, I'm So Anna, was second, 1/2 length in front of Big Andy. Governor Goteven, a Govenor (sic) Charlie filly, toured 6 furlongs of fast track in 1:12.21 for jockey Tiago Pereira.
Proud Emma engaged pacesetting Message at the furlong marker in Friday's $75,000 Tranquility Lake Stakes for fillies and mares those two battled to the wire, dead-heating for the win.
It was another 3 1/4 lengths to the favorite, Hang a Star, in third. Proud Emma, an Include filly, and Message, a daughter of Warrior's Reward, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.27.
Mike Smith got the leg up for trainer Peter Miller on Proud Emma while Flavien Prat rode Message for Bob Baffert. "My filly's head was coming back up and his was going down. It worked out okay," Smith said. Prat added, "First time I've ever been in a dead heat in a stakes race."
After a bumby start, Captain Bombastic was quickly out front in Friday's $100,000 Times Square Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds and wasn't troubled further.
Drawing away through the final furlong, the Forty Tales colt won by 5 1/4 lengths, finishing 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.36. Luis Saez rode for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.
Lots of action on the Classic undercard Friday evening:
Queen Nekia chased down frontrunner Lady T N T in stretch drive to win the $150,000 Dance to Bristol Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length over that rival.
Getouttamyway was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. Queen Nekia, a 5-year-old Harlington mare trained by Joseph Saffie Jr., ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.52 with Christian Hiraldo up.
Relentless Dancer closed smartly to win the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial by 1/2 length with fellow late-runner Pitching Ari second.
The pacesetter, Lebda, tired to get home third, 2 lengths farther back. Relentless Dancer, a Midshipman colt trained by Mike Maker, reported in 1:25.42 for jockey Sunday Diaz Jr.
Bourbon Calling was just up in the final strides to win the $100,000 Russell Road Stakes Presented by Triple Crown Nutrition by a head from pacesetting Winds of Change.
The favorite, Arthur's Hope, disputed the pace and finished third. Bourbon Calling, a 4-year-old Dialed In gelding, was clocked in 1:24.68.
Stowe Angel led from the start in the Robert G. Leavitt Stakes for West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds and rolled home first by 2 1/2 lengths over Chief Randall. Stowe Angel, a Warrior's Reward filly, got 7 furlongs in 1:25.87 with Amaldo Bocachica in the irons.
Star of Night closed out the proceedings with a 5 1/4-lengths victory over the early leader, Boundtobebad, in the $50,000 Sylvia Bishop Memorial for state-bred 3-year-old fillies. Star of Night, a daughter of Creative Cause, stopped the clock at 1:26.11 with Bocachica at the controls.
Marjorie's Dream shot quickly to the front in Sunday's $138,225 (Canadian) Algoma Stakes for 3-year-old fillies foaled in Canada, led comfortably until the final yards and won by a nose over Silent Causeway.
Bambarra Bay was third. Marjorie's Dream, a daughter of Old Forester, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.26 for jockey Patrick Husbands.
In the companion Elgin Stakes for 3-year-old, Canadian-foaled colts and geldings, Told It All rallied wide from a pace-stalking trip and cleared in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
Benlion was second, 3/4 length in front of Forester's Fortune. Told It All, a Big Screen gelding, got home in 1:23.24 with Luis Contreras up.
Black Ops had to circle seven-wide into the stretch to get the job done in Sunday's $55,000 Budweiser Special Handicap but get the job done, he did.
At the finish, the 7-year-old Hard Spun gelding, out of the A.P. Indy mare Rendition, was 1 1/4 length in front of runner-up Pendleton. Collusionist was third. Black Ops ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.67 with Frank Reyes riding.
Top Draw saved ground in mid-pack into the stretch in Saturday's $70,000 Charles Taylor Stakes for 3-year-olds, found room on the inside and went through to score a 2 3/4-length victory.
The pacesetter, Competitive Idea, was second, a neck in front of the favorite, Shanghai Keely. Top Draw, with Miguel Perez in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.22.
Prenmidi pressed the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Charles Hesse III Handicap for New Jersey-breds, took over when prompted by jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. and went on to win by a head over the odds-on favorite, Golden Brown.
It was 14 more lengths to Love Is Your Name in third. Prenmidi, a 5-year-old Dance with Ravens gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.72.
Liz's Cable Girl dueled with Blank Page in Sunday's $100,000 Eleven North Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares, then edged away from that rival to win by 1 length.
Chubofftheoldblock finished third, another 1 3/4 lengths in arrears. Liz's Cable Girl, a 6-year-old mare by Cable Boy, ran 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:11.63 with Antonio Gallardo riding.
Royal Um, the odds-on favorite, came around rivals to win Sunday's $100,000 New Jersey Breeders' Handicap for state-breds by 3 3/4 lengths. Chubilicious was second, Regally Irish third. Royal Um, a 4-year-old Kantharos colt, got 6 furlongs in 1:10.56 with Jersey Joe Bravo riding.
Mirabeaux toyed with the opposition briefly in Saturday's $60,000 D.S. Shine Young Futurity for Louisiana-bred 2-year-old fillies, and then quickly put matters to rest with a burst of speed that found her 10 1/4 lengths out front at the finish.
Squox was next-best, a neck in front of Mamas Gone Crazy. Mirabeaux, a Bind filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.90 with Diego Saenz up.
In the open division of the Futurity, Chu Chu's Legacy dueled his way to the lead, then drew off to win by 4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Schnell, with G'wildcat third. Schnell, or "fast" in German, also is by Bind. With Timothy Thornton up, he reported in 1:05.42.
Minecraft Maniac came running late to win Saturday's $50,000 Cyclones Handicap for Iowa-breds by 4 3/4 lengths. Net Gain was gaining at the end but could only gain second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Shweet Persuasion.
Minecraft Maniac, a 5-year-old Midshipman gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.18 with Ken Tohill up.
Flat Out Speed battled to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Hawkeyes Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares, then just did hold on for the win, a neck in front of Hello Darling and another head to the good of Snappy Gal.
Flat Out Speed, a 3-year-old Flat Out filly taking on her elders, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.54 for jockey Alex Canchari.
Around the world, around the clock:
Golden Ducat was just up on the line to defeat stablemate Rainbow Bridge by a nose in Saturday's Group 1 World Sports Betting Champions Cup at Greyville in Durban.
Cirillo, in the middle of those two, was third by a further head and Do It Again settled for fourth, another 1/2 length in arrears. Golden Ducat, a 4-year-old Philanthropist gelding, got the 9 furlongs in 1:48.09 under Donovan Dillon.
Golden Ducat was fourth in his last race, the Group 1 Vodacom Durban July, with Do It Again third and Rainbow Bridge sixth. Saturday's top two finishers are trained by Eric Sands.