National Treasure, who won the Preakness Stakes it Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday, might skip the Belmont. Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI | License Photo
May 23 (UPI) -- No Triple Crown winner will emerge again this year after National Treasure's victory in Saturday's Preakness Stakes and, as things shape up, it may be midsummer before the 3-year-olds sort themselves out.
With the top contenders for year-end honors taking different paths from Baltimore and some, including Kentucky Derby winner Mage skipping the Belmont Stakes, the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes at Saratoga now looms as the key race in the division.
Meanwhile, some big weekend races were run in the other divisions, too. Among them, Rattle N Roll emerged as a potential force in the Classic division, former claimer Taxed stepped up to win the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico and trainer Phil D'Amato had a bang-up weekend, winning three turf sprints.
On the world scene, Liberty Island posted a stunning victory in the Japanese Oaks and Modern Games, a two-time Breeders' Cup winner, took another step toward a third while scoring his first English Group 1 win.
The Triple Crown
Not only will there be no Triple Crown champion this year after National Treasure's victory in Saturday's Preakness Stakes, but it now appears the series is unlikely even to produce a front-runner among the nation's 3-year-olds.
That might have to wait until August and the "Midsummer Derby," the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
Triple Crown chances went a glimmering as Kentucky Derby winner Mage, arguably victimized by a slow pace, could only finish third behind National Treasure and Blazing Sevens.
In the aftermath of that defeat, Mage's connections said they're skipping the third leg of the series, the June 10 Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday he will take a few days to decide whether National Treasure will tackle the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, adding he is still affected by the fatal injury incurred by another of his runners, Havnameltdown, early on the Preakness program.
"To me, the memory of this race would be that I lost Havnameltdown," he said. "It was nice to win the race, but to me it was a pretty sad day."
If National Treasure does go in the Belmont, it looks like he'll have to take on the colt many feel has been best of his generation all along -- Forte.
Last year's 2-year-old champ won the Florida Derby but was a late scratch before the Kentucky Derby with a sore foot, then missed the Preakness, too.
"I feel bad for the connections and for the horse not getting the opportunity to run in the Derby," Forte's trainer, Todd Pletcher, said Sunday at Belmont Park. "But the timing was bad and we just have to turn the page and move on.
"I'm just thankful the horse is doing great and we're looking forward to running in the Belmont."
Preakness runner-up Blazing Sevens' connections said they are assessing options. Trainer Steve Asmussen said Red Route One might enjoy the Belmont distance and a faster pace than he got finishing fourth in the Preakness.
Unless National Treasure can win the Belmont, three different winners from the Triple Crown races will leave the issue up in the air until summer, with even more candidates set to reassemble in Saratoga Springs.
In that bunch are Mage and Kentucky Derby runner-up Two Phil's, who skipped the Preakness and also will swerve the Belmont. Trainer Larry Rivelli said Two Phil's will race next at either Churchill Downs or Monmouth Park with the Travers as his main goal.
Mage's part-owner, Ramiro Restrepo, said the colt also is Travers-bound.
"We will give him a little vacation and he will power up and we will figure out the best way to get to the Travers," Restrepo said. "He has not missed a day and has been on the engine since January."
However the Belmont shapes up, New York racing officials will be doing their utmost to ensure safety surrounding their key race. Authorities in Kentucky are still awaiting answers to what factors played into seven horse fatalities leading up to the Derby.
And Havnameltdown's death kept the issue firmly on the radar scope of the industry -- and its critics.
Elsewhere during the racing weekend:
Rattle N Roll hooked up in a stretch battle with pacesetting Speed Bias in Friday's $250,000 Grade III Pimlico Special Stakes, wore that one down through the final strides and was rewarded with victory by virtue of a timely bob of his head. It was 4 1/4 lengths back to Clapton in third.
Rattle N Roll, a 4-year-old Connect colt, ran 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:54.72 with Flavien Prat up. He backed up a victory in the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in his previous race and is rounding into a force in the division.
Winning trainer Kenny McPeek acknowledged Rattle N Roll has been ducking the absolute top-rivals but argued he's getting better.
"We've been a little conservative," McPeek said. "We tried him against the higher level 3-year-olds last year and he struggled. He ran a couple of fourths. But when we went around and placed him in generous spots he gets it done."
On the Preakness undercard, Arabian Lion dominated four rivals in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes for 3-year-olds. The son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify got to an early lead, turned back a challenge from Tapit's Conquest and went on with it to win by 4 lengths.
Tapit's Conquest settled for second, 6 1/2 lengths in front of Denington. Arabian Lion, with John Velazquez up for trainer Baffert, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.13. He was last seen finishing second in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland.
Friday's $300,000 Grade II Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico came down to a battle of the greys as Taxed worked her way past pacesetting Hoosier Philly and ran on to win by 3 3/4 lengths over that foe.
The odds-on favorite, previously undefeated Faiza, got a wide trip, put in a bid at the top of the stretch and flattened out to finish third, another 2 3/4 lengths in arrears.
Taxed, a daughter of Collected, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.45 with Rafael Bejarano riding for trainer Randy Morse.
Taxed, claimed for $50,000 last November at Churchill Downs, came to Pimlico off a second-place finish behind Wet Paint in the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. The race in which she was claimed was her only previous victory.
"She's a real nice-looking filly and I'd seen her train," Morse said of the decision to drop the claim. "Just one of those deals where we got lucky. Got her in a shake." That means there was more than one claim filed and he won in the ensuing lottery.
Interstatedaydream got the jump on five rivals in Friday's $100,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico and held a pressured lead to the wire, winning by 1/2 length from Misty Veil. Le Da Vida was another 1/2 length back in third.
Interstatedaydream, a 4-year-old Classic Empire filly trained by Brad Cox, got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.32 under Florent Geroux and made it 2-for-2 at Pimlico after winning last year's Grade II Black Eyed Susan.
Filly & Mare Turf
Aspray remains undefeated after winning Friday's $100,000 Hilltop Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico by 1/2 length over Breath Away.
With Flavien Prat in the irons, the Quality Road filly rallied six-wide and closed strongly to be best of the late-runners. The Chad Brown trainee finished 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.10. She won her first two starts at Tampa Bay Downs in January and March.
Ryvit dueled with odds-on favorite Havnameltdown through the first few furlongs of Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico and inherited a daylight lead when that rival broke down at the three-eighths pole, unseating his rider.
Ryvit, a Competitive Edge colt trained by Steve Asmussen, went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths from Prince of Jericho, finishing 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.33. As noted previously, Havnameltdown was euthanized on the track with a catastrophic injury.
Straight No Chaser went straight to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes at Pimlico and his rivals chased to no avail. The 4-year-old Speightster colt, with John Velazquez along for the ride, drew off through the lane to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Prevalence was second, a nose in front of Nakatomi.
Straight No Chaser had been having trouble holding a lead until his last race at Oaklawn Park, which he won by 7 1/4 lengths. He finished the Pimlico heat in 1:08.27.
Twin City found one last burst of energy in Sunday's $120,000 (Canadian) King Corrie Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Woodbine all-weather and that was just enough to secure victory by a nose over Wico. It was another 2 lengths to Keen Flatter in third.
Twin City, a Klimt gelding, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.02 for jockey Gary Boulanger.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Cheetara hadn't won in her past six starts as she lined up for Saturday's $100,000 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico but her last two races indicated the Chilean-bred daughter of Daddy Long Legs was getting good.
Her performance proved that as she rallied stoutly through the stretch and won by a neck at 17-1 odds. Olivia Darling and I'm the Boss of Me completed a nice trifecta.
Cheetara ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.95 with Vincent Cheminaud in the irons for trainer Ignacio Correas IV.
Maple Leaf Mel went right to the front in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, opened up a big lead and glided home first by 1 1/2 lengths over Topsy. The odds-on favorite, Key of Life, finished sixth.
Maple Leaf Mel ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.56 with Joel Rosario up and remains undefeated after four starts. The earlier wins all came against fellow New York-breds.
Ryder Ryder Ryder was a lukewarm favorite in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Ruling Angel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine but ran much better than that, drawing off through the lane to win by 7 lengths. Last Call was second at the last call and Attabe was third, another 1/2 length in arrears.
Ryder Ryder Ryder, a Kentucky-bred Quality Road filly, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.79 with Patrick Husbands up.
Foreign Relations stalked the pace in Saturday's $225,000 Grade III Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs, launched a bid heading for the quarter pole and got home first by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Limited Liability. English Conquerer ran evenly to finish third.
Foreign Relations, a 5-year-old Karakontie gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:32.47 with Declan Cannon riding.
Never Explain outfinished the favorite, Hurricane Dream, in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico, winning by 1/2 length over that rival. Emmanuel was third.
Never Explain, a 5-year-old entire son of Street Sense, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in course-record time of 1:46.14 with Flavien Prat up trainer Shug McGaughey. He came north with two straight wins at Tampa Bay Downs to his credit.
Filly & Mare Turf
Whitebeam, making her second U.S. start for trainer Chad Brown, surged to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico and won off by 2 1/2 lengths.
Sopran Basilea, in her American debut for Graham Motion, rallied from last of seven to finish second, a neck in front of Bipartisanship.
Whitebeam, a 4-year-old Juddmonte homebred filly by Caravaggio, toured 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:41.67 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. She was 3-for-6 last year in England and France and finished second in the Plenty of Grace Stake at Aqueduct in her first domestic start.
Sopran Basilea, a 5-year-old Night of Thunder mare, said goodbye to Italy with a second-place finish in the Group 2 Premio Lydia Tesio on Oct. 30.
Nagirroc stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico, moved quickly to the lead near the quarter pole and kicked away to a 3 1/4-length victory. Funtastic Again was second, a neck better than Circling the Drain.
Nagirroc, with Prat up for trainer Graham Motion, ran 1 mile on firm turf in course-record time of 1:33.11.
Eye Witness got first run to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Paradise Creek Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park and held on to beat the favorite, Inflation Nation, by a head.
It was another 5 1/2 lengths to Vacation Dance in third. Eye Witness, by City of Light, ran 7 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:25.32 with Jose Ortiz up for trainer Wesley Ward.
Train to Artemus saved ground around the turn in Friday's $100,000 The Very One Stakes for fillies and mares at Pimlico, was set down for the drive by jockey Paco Lopez and worked by pacesetting Spicy Marg to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Spun Glass was third and the favorite, Her World, faded to get home seventh.
Train to Artemus, a 5-year-old Tapizar mare, got 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.81 seconds, collecting her eighth win from 15 starts.
Beer Can Man waited behind an early speed duel in Saturday's $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, challenged at the sixteenth pole and won by a neck over Nothing Better. It was another 3 1/2 lengths to the favorite, Coppola, in third.
Beer Can Man, a 5-year-old gelding by Can the Man out of the Dynaformer mare Cheesecake, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.56 seconds with Prat in the irons for trainer Phil D'Amato.
Elm Drive pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Mizdirection Stakes for fillies and mares down the Santa Anita hillside course, grabbed the advantage after crossing over the dirt course and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Honey Pants. The favorite, Big Summer, was third.
Elm Drive, a 4-year-old Mohaymen filly, finished the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.23 with Ramon Vazquez up for trainer D'Amato, who scored a transcontinental double.
On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Wide West got the lead on the turn in the $75,000 Roar Stakes for 3-year-olds, drifted a bit but held on to win by a head from Harry Time. The favorite, Dr Oseran, was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.
Wide West, an Irish-bred Frankel filly, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.82 seconds for jockey Edwin Gonzalez and trainer Tom Proctor.
Conclude led from the start in Sunday's $100,000 Desert Code Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Santa Anita hill and survived the late bid of the favorite, First Peace, to win by a nose. Ransomware was third.
Conclude, a Collected colt, finished in 1:11.25 with Juan Hernandez riding. D'Amato scored yet another stakes win.
Around the world, around the clock
The Grade 1 Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks has produced some of the country's top female runners, including recently Almond Eye, Loves Only You and Daring Tact. Now, Liberty Island bids to join that elite company after winning Sunday's renewal by a stunning 6 lengths while stretching out to 2,400 meters for the first time in her career.
The Duramente filly also set herself up to sweep the filly Triple Crown if she can take the Grade 1 Shuka Sho in the autumn. She scored in the first leg, the Grade 1 Oka Sho or Japanese 1,000 Guineas, last month with an electrifying stretch run from last-to-first.
Sunday's race was more to form. After starting well, jockey Yuga Kawada kept Liberty Island well positioned mid-field and her trademark turn of foot this time produced a dominant win rather than a desperate dash to the line.
Harper, second-favorite after Liberty Island, finished second in the Oaks, just a head in front of 103-1 long shot Dura.
Kawada said his job started well before the race, keeping the filly calm during the long parade ring preliminaries that lead up to major Japanese races. And he admitted the stretch run was a statement.
"I knew we were already in a position to finish clear of the other horses once taking the lead," he said. "But I wanted her to finish off the race strongly to the wire so I kept driving her to the wire which led to a big margin."
Modern Games emerged from a line abreast charge in the final furlong of Saturday's Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, got by a cheeky Chindit and won by 1 1/4 lengths from that rival. Berkshire Shadow was third.
Along the way, Modern Games and jockey William Buick had to dodge Chindit's efforts to bite one or both of them at mid-stretch.
Modern Games, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred colt by Dubawi, improved a position from his runner-up finish in the Grade I Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 14.
He also made a big stride toward a third appearance in the Breeders' Cup World Championships, where he won the 2021 Juvenile Turf and the 2022 Mile.
"He's probably one of the best Dubawis we've had," Racing Post quoted winning trainer Charlie Appleby as saying.
"He's been a fantastic sire and we've been fortunate to train a lot of good horses by him, but this horse will probably go down as one of the most consistent we've ever trained, and consistent at the top level."
It was his fifth top-level win, also including the Prix du Jockey Club in France and the Woodbine Mile but his first in England. The Breeders' Cup Mile victory at Del Mar will be remembered because Modern Games was scratched at the gate, then "un-scratched" and allowed to run only for purse money.
That decision meant his backers received refunds rather than the payouts he would have delivered as the pari-mutuel winner.
Meanwhile, back in the States
Hawthorne Race Course
Oeuvre, the odds-on favorite, overcame a stumble at the start and ran on to dominate a half dozen rivals in Sunday's $75,000 Third Chance Stakes for Illinois-bred fillies and mares, winning by 4 3/4 lengths. Ronan was second.
Oeuvre, a 4-year-old Shackleford filly, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.62 with Orlando Mojica up.
Mia's Crusade worked to the lead in Saturday's $85,000 Spruce Fir Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares, opened a big margin and coasted in first by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Beach Daze. Mia's Crusade, a 4-year-old filly by Greenpointcrusader, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:11.14 with Jomar Torres up.
Speaking gained a short lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $90,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for state-breds and battled from there to the finish to win by 1/2 length over No Cents.
Speaking, a Mr Speaker gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.41 for jockey Jairo Rendon.
When The Pizza Man was a star on the Chicago racing scene, there was an unwritten press box rule against writing "The Pizza Man delivered ..." following his wins.
Nonetheless, it's hard not to report that Dean Delivers delivered big time as the favorite in Saturday's $90,000 Big Drama Stakes for Florida-breds, opening up at the top of the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Starship Renegade.
Dean Delivers, a 4-year-old Cajun Breeze gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.11 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons.
Uncashed, the overwhelming favorite, romped home first by 8 1/2 lengths in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds. Ocean of Storms was best of the rest in a well-separated finish.
Uncashed, a Florida-bred Uncaptured gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.13 for jockey Orlando Mojica.
Bye Bye Bobby drew off in the stretch run to win Sunday's $75,000 San Juan County Commissioners Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths over Sheriff Brown. Open Road was third.
Bye Bye Bobby, a 4-year-old Quality Road colt, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.06 with Tracy Hebert riding for trainer Todd Fincher.