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Irish invaders sweep Belmont Derby and Oaks

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Irish invaders sweep Belmont Derby and Oaks
Santa Barbara wins Saturday's Belmont Oaks, giving Coolmore and trainer Aidan O'Brien the rich Grade I Oaks-Derby double. Photo by Susie Raisher, courtesy of New York Racing Association

July 12 (UPI) -- They came, they saw, they conquered. In fact, Irish invaders Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara embarrassed their American rivals in Saturday's Grade I Belmont Derby and Oaks at Belmont Park.

The weekend fireworks brought down the curtain on Belmont's spring-summer meeting and sent New York racing on its way north to Saratoga, which opens Thursday. Del Mar fires up a day later. Both are set to welcome full attendance for the first time since the pandemic took hold.

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In England, Snow Lantern won a thrilling renewal of the Falmouth Stakes and Starman took the July Cup at Newmarket. Across the Channel at Deauville, Law of Indices captured Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Prat.

RIP Galileo. Coolmore announced Saturday the pre-eminent stallion died at age 23 after suffering recurring foot problems. He won't be replaced. But he certainly will live on through his host of immensely talented offspring, including Frankel and ... well, the list is far too long.

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We soldier on as another of Galileo's offspring joined the Group 1/Grade I club just shortly after his death.

Turf

Bolshoi Ballet arrived for Saturday's Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational with a record of three wins from six starts for his Coolmore owners and trainer Aidan O'Brien.

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But two of the Galileo colt's three losses came in his only previous top-level races, the Criterium de Saint-Cloud last autumn and the Cazoo Derby at Epsom in June. So he clearly had something to prove and found it against American rivals.

Racing well back in the pack early, jockey Ryan Moore switched Bolshoi Ballet out toward the center of the Belmont turf turning for home.

Once roused to full flight, the colt wore down the late front-runners, Cellist and Du Jour, and led through most of the final furlong. French-bred Tokyo Gold, owned by Japanese racing kingpin Teruya Yoshida, came with a late rush to finish second with 16-1 shot Cellist hanging on for third.

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"The ground was probably a little bit slow for him, because he likes quick ground," O'Brien assistant T.J. Comerford said.

"But he did well at the finish because he had a good gallop and that helped him. Ideally, he probably wants tougher ground. In fairness to him, his class pulled it out at the end of the day and you have to be happy with it."

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Moore said he sees bigger things for Bolshoi Ballet, calling him "the most beautiful horse you'll see."

"With a furlong to run, you could see he was just waiting, having a look and his ears were going." Moore said. "He's still getting used to knowing what he has to do. We think there's more to come. Potentially, I suppose he could be a Breeders' Cup Turf horse."

Filly & Mare Turf

While Moore had a smooth passage on Bolshoi Ballet, he had nothing but traffic as he skillfully guided Santa Barbara home first in Saturday's $700,000 Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational.

Like Bolshoi Ballet, the Camelot filly had something to prove after finishing fifth in the Cazoo Oaks, although she did rebound to finish second in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes in her last start.

Turning into the Belmont stretch, Moore found horses strung out across his path. Nearing the furlong grounds, he abruptly swung Santa Barbara out in front of a seam between rivals and gave her the "go" signal.

She quickly responded and was up to win by 1/2 length. Long-time leader Con Lima could not hold off the late onslaught and settled for second, a nose in front of Higher Truth.

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The American contingent can take some satisfaction in the fact the other foreign runners, Nazuna and Cirona, finished sixth and seventh, defeating only one rival.

Moore said he felt a twinge of concern in the traffic jam but counted on Santa Barbara's talent to get the job done. "Look, she's a level above them, really," he said. "She won very comfortably."

M.V Magnier, representing the Coolmore partners, said the purse money offered by NYRA for the 3-year-old Derby and Oaks series, which continue at Saratoga and conclude back at Belmont, might lure more of the tough Irish contenders.

"They've made a very good thing with this turf series and the Derby and the Oaks," Magnier said. "It's worth a lot of money and the prize money fantastic. To be honest, they've been so accommodating and look after us so well."

Saturday at Delaware Park, Dalaika pressed the early long shot pace in the $150,000 Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial, put away that rival heading for home and then turned back another bid by the favorite, Luck Money, winning by 1 length. Temple City Terror was third.

Dalaika, a 5-year-old, German-bred mare by Pastorius, finished 1 3/8 miles on soft turf in 2:16.35 with Miguel Mena riding for trainer Al Stall Jr.

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On Sunday at Belmont Park, Call Me Love emerged from behind a three-way pace battle to win the $150,000 River Memories Stakes by a neck. Virginia Joy was second, another head in front of Mutamakina.

Call Me Love, a 5-year-old, British-bred mare by Sea the Stars, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:27.59. Junior Alvarado had the mount for trainer Christophe Clement. Call Me Love never quite got going in the United States after immigrating from Italy following her 2019 campaign. She now has put together back-to-back wins, both at Belmont.

Distaff

Miss Marissa jumped right out to the lead in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Delaware Handicap and wasn't caught, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Gibberish and Queen Nekia were second and third at long prices while the favorite, Bonny South, finished fifth.

Miss Marissa, a 4-year-old filly by He's Had Enough, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:04.50 with Daniel Ceneno up. Miss Marissa, upset winner of last year's Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, was coming off second-place finishes in her last two starts.

"We figured she had won a couple of races at mile and an eighth and not many had done that," said Miss Marissa's trainer, James Ryerson. "Who has a better chance of winning a mile and quarter race than a horse that has won a couple going a mile and an eighth?"

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Ryerson said he will target the $600,000 Grade I Personal Ensign Aug. 28 at Saratoga, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff. "We have stalls there and she has run well there. It will be a monster race but, now that we have won this race, we need to try it against the bigger fish on our home track."

Classic / Dirt Mile

Noble Drama came running from last of seven to win the featured handicap event Sunday at Gulfstream Park while Jesus' Team, in his first start since finishing sixth in the Dubai World Cup, was never involved and finished fifth.

Noble Drama, a 6-year-old Gone Astray gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.09 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons. Noble Drama has been a consistent moneymaker, largely against fellow Florida-breds, but will not be mistaken for a graded stakes contender.

Jesus' Team, by contrast, has knocked heads with some of the best of his generation.

Queen's Plate / Woodbine Oaks

The chase is on in earnest for Canada's premier 3-year-old events -- the Woodbine Oaks is Aug. 1 and the Queen's Plate is Aug. 22 -- with three races for 3-year-olds on the weekend program at Woodbine.

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On Sunday, jockey Luis Contreras got Tio Magico straightened out quickly after a sideways start in the $125,0000 (Canadian) Queenston Stakes for Canada-breds, set the pace and was going strong at the end to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Artie's Storm was second, another 2 1/4 lengths in front of the favorite, Red River Rebel.

Tio Magico, an Ontario-bred Uncle Mo colt, got home in 1:22.54. Gretzky the Great and Candy Overload were late scratches. Trainer Gail Cox said Tio Magico, one of the main winterbook favorites for the Plate, seems to like the 7-furongs distance but didn't rule out a try at the 1 1/4 miles of the big race.

Lorena led from the start in Saturday's $125,000 Fury Stakes for Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies and ran on to win by 3/4 length over Astrological, maintaining her undefeated record after three starts. Curlin's Catch was third.

Lorena, a Souper Speedy filly, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.94 with Gary Boulanger up. Trainer and part-owner Stuart Simon said the filly's perfect record has him thinking bigger things -- like the Woodbine Oaks.

"I hate to put too much on a young horse's plate, so we'll take it under careful consideration," Simon said. "She's an awfully good filly."

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Our Flash Drive pressed the pace in Saturday's $180,000 (Canadian) Selene Stakes for 3--year-old fillies on the Woodbine all-weather course, took complete control in the stretch run and won by 2 1/4 lengths, ridden out by Patrick Husbands. Munnyfor Ro was second, 2 1/4 lengths better than Sweet Souper Sweet.

Our Flash Drive, a Ghostzapper filly out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamotor, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.69. She was winless in two starts last summer at Saratoga but now has won both starts this year at Woodbine. As a Florida-bred, she will have targets other than the Plate or Oaks.

Easy Time in fact had a pretty easy time of it in Sunday's $180,000 (Canadian) Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Woodbine all-weather course, taking the lead in the stretch and going on with it to win by 2 lengths. Keep Grinding came from well back to finish second and Haddassah was third.

Easy Time, a Not This Time colt trained by Mark Casse, finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.62 with Rafael Hernandez up while coming off a layoff of nearly five months. He was bred in Kentucky.

Turf Sprint

Saturday's $75,000 Blue Sparkler Stakes for 3-year-old fillies was rained off the Monmouth Park turf onto a fast main track. Cilla had no problem with that, overcoming a bump at the start and running best through the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Dr B and Decade were second and third.

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Cilla, a California Chrome filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.07 with Roberto Alvarado Jr. in the irons.

Sunday's $75,000 My Frenchman Stakes for 3-year-olds stayed on the yielding Monmouth turf with Chasing Artie chasing down the leader, Momos, in the closing strides for the win. Arzak was third.

Chasing Artie, a We Miss Artie gelding, slogged the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.87 with Albin Jimenez aboard.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Chub Wagon ran her record to eight wins from eight starts with a 5 1/4-lengths score in Saturday's $100,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes at Delaware Park. The 4-year-old Hey Chub filly led all the way and was never threatened. Anna's Bandit and Gloria Dia were second and third.

Chub Wagon, with Jomar Torres in the irons, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.17. The previous wins came at Parx Racing, Aqueduct and Pimlico

Souper Sensational kicked home strongly from the back of the pack to win Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park by 3 1/4 lengths. Ova Charged was second, 2 lengths in front of Inject, while the favorite, Australasia, never fired and was eased under the wire.

Souper Sensational, a Curlin filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:15.79 with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Mark Casse. She won both 2020 starts sprinting on the Woodbine all-weather, then contested the Fair Grounds series for 3-year-old fillies, culminating in a third-place finish in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks. The Victory Ride was the shortest race of her career.

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Sprint

Papetu rallied to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Carry Back Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park and edged clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Real Talk was second, 3/4 length in front of Moonlite Strike.

Papetu, a Dialed In colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.51 with Leonel Reyes on board. Trained by Antonio Sano, the colt was shortening up with a four-months layoff after finishing third in the Grade II Fountain of Youth and seventh in the Grade I Florida Derby.

Around the world, around the clock:

England

Friday's Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket always promised to be a good one with a big field and quality fillies and mares right through the lineup.

The outcome didn't disappoint, either, as Snow Lantern forced her way to daylight outside the furlong marker, gathered up for a strong finish and won by 1/2 length from Mother Earth.

The favorite, Alcohol Free, after leading most of the way, was just a neck farther back in third as 3-year-olds swept the top three placings.

The finish of the Falmouth was a kaleidoscope shake of the Group 1 Coronation Stakes three weeks earlier at Royal Ascot when Alcohol Free came off winner with Snow Lantern second and Mother Earth third.

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Snow Lantern, a striking gray, 3-year-old daughter of Frankel, now has two wins, two seconds and a third from five career starts. Her dam, Sky Lantern, by Red Clubs, finished second in the 2013 Falmouth, beaten a neck by Elusive Kate.

"Normally in the Falmouth there are two or three nice fillies but all the good fillies were there today and she showed how good she is and what she is capable of. She will get a mile and a quarter, I think," trainer Richard Hannon said.

He said the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood likely is next for Snow Lantern and added, "I'm very hopeful she will stay in training next year."

In Friday's Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Sandrine doubled down on her victory in the Group 3 Albany Stakes.

Racing in the clear out toward the middle of the course, the Bobby's Kitten filly mounted a relentless charge inside the 2-furlongs marker and won by 1 3/4 lengths over late-running Desert Dreamer. Hello You was third. Sandrine remains undefeated after three starts.

"It's good to prove Ascot wasn't a fluke and there were a few nerves going into this because she looked so good there," said Sandrine's trainer, Andrew Balding. "It's just nice to see that confirmed on different going today."

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In Saturday's Group 1 Darley July Cup, a 6-furlongs sprint with a huge field, Starman emerged from a line across the track with a furlong to run and got home first by 1 1/4 length over the favorite, Dragon Symbol. Oxted was just a short head back in third as nearly half the field looked to have a chance in the late going.

Starman, a 4-year-old Dutch Art colt trained by Ed Walker and ridden by Tom Marquand, finished in 1:10.11 over good to firm turf.

Starman now is 2-for-2 this year, following an earlier win in the Group 2 Clipper Logistics Duke of York Stakes. For Dragon Symbol and trainer Archie Watson, it was another bitter pill following his demotion from victory in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in favor of Campanelle.

"Tom was great on him," Racing Post quoted Walker as saying. "He was cool and as soon as he hit the flat and got to the bottom of the hill at the one and a-half [furlong] pole he just found and found.

"I watched down at the one pole and as they came past me I thought, 'He has still got quite a bit of ground to make up here.' But he did it."

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France

Quick now, who was fifth behind Dragon Symbol and Campanelle in that dramatic Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot? Why, that would be Law of Indices, who on Sunday made all en route to victory in the Group 1 Haras d'Etreham Prix Jean Prat for 3-year-olds at Deauville, hanging on through the closing strides to beat Thunder Moon by a head. The favorite, Midtown, finished third.

Law of Indices, an Irish-bred colt by the German-bred sire Power, scored his only previous win outside the maiden ranks in the Group 2 GAIN Railway Stakes 51 weeks ago. Sunday's triumph, with Olivier Peslier up for trainer Ken Condon, was his third overall from 10 starts.

Condon said he and the owners' group hoped for a top-four finish but now has bigger options.

"I think seven [furlongs] is his trip, and the Prix de la Foret at the end of the year would be a nice target for him, while a horse with his kind of profile and his blend of pace often runs well in a Breeders' Cup Mile," Racing Post quoted the trainer as saying. "But I think in Europe, seven is perfect for him."

Meanwhile, back in the States ...

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Belterra Park

Christmas, the best of a three-horse entry, scored a 2-lengths victory in Friday's $75,000 Jim Morgan Memorial Tah Dah Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-old fillies while her entrymates finished next-last and last of eight.

Christmas, a Constitution filly trained by Timothy Hamm, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.45 with Santiago Gonzalez riding.

Delaware Park

Phat Man rallied from last of seven to take Saturday's $50,000 Battery Park Stakes by 2 lengths over Magic Michael. Deal Driven was third.

Phat Man, a 7-year-old Munnings gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.84 with Florent Geroux picking up the mount.

Lone Star Park

Shes Our Fastest won the pace duel with Ima Discreet Lady in Saturday's $75,000 Valor Farm Stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares, then edged away to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that one. Natalies Joy and Samborita completed the order of finish.

Shes Our Fastest, a 6-year-old Oratory mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.96 for jockey Sewart Elliott.

Miss Perfecta was along late to defeate pacesetting Boerne by 1/2 length in Saturday's $75,000 Fiesta Mile for state-bred fillies and mares. Miss Perfecta, a 5-year-old daughter of Run Away and Hide, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.20 with Elliott riding.

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Kenai Bob dueled with Mr Money Bags through most of Saturday's $75,000 Assault Stakes for Texas-breds, finally pulling away to win by 3/4 length. The favorite, Sunlit Song, was third, 3/4 length farther back.

Kenai Bob, a 5-year-old Shackleford gelding, finished 1 mile on the grass in 1:36.12 under Luis Quinonez.

Tengo Mis Papeles had 'em all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Texas Thoroughbred Futurity, a sale-restricted event for Texas-bred 2-year-old colts and geldings. The My Golden Song colt, with Reylu Gutierrez in the irons, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.02.

In the filly division, Streak of Silver set a pressured pace, then took over in the final furlong to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Expect the Boss. Streak of Silver, a Graydar filly, finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.91 with Iram Diego aboard.

Pleasanton

How could a $1 exacta ticket on Thirsty Always and Drinking Again return $68.90? That was the payout when those finished 1-2 in Saturday's $75,000 Everett Nevin Stakes for 2-year-olds. Both are by Stay Thirsty.

Thirsty Always raced closer to the early pace under Cesar Ortega, seized command in the lane and won by 4 3/4 lengths over Drinking Again, who got going a little later in the 5 1/2 furlongs. Hijo Galante rallied from last of nine to take third from the favorite, Mr. T's Thirsty, yet another by Stay Thirsty.

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Emerald Downs

Papa's Golden Boy led from gate to wire in Sunday's $50,000 Governor's Stakes, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Unmatchable. Windribbon was third. Papa's Golden Boy, a 5-year-old Harbor the Gold gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.50 with Julien Couton riding.

Daffodil Sweet raced right behind the early leader in Sunday's $50,000 Washington State Legislators Stakes for fillies and mares, took the point when called on by jockey Juan Gutierrez and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Dontkissandtell was second, a neck in front of Squan's Kingdom.

Daffodil Sweet, a 4-year-old daughter of Ministers Wild Cat, reported in 1:15.19.

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