1 of 3 | Geaux Rocket Ride wins Grade I Haskell at Monmouth to join top ranks of US 3-year-olds. Photo courtesy of Monmouth Park
July 24 (UPI) -- It seems like no one wants to step to the front of this year's 3-year-old pack, as two new names -- Geaux Rocket Ride and Scotland -- won the weekend's two big races while defeating rivals who'd been through the Triple Crown wars.
Geaux Rocket Ride's impressive win in the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park was the highlight of a big Saturday there as Saratoga, Woodbine, Colonial Downs, Ellis Park and others all added to the merriment. Del Mar kicked off its summer season with full fields and ocean breezes.
Along the way, Nest, Proxy and Wicked Halo all racked up victories.
On the world scene, Savethelastdance saved her best for the last few yards of the Irish Oaks, posting an improbable victory with more than a little help from jockey Ryan Moore.
To quote Jerry Reed (or Smokey the Bandit): We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there, so ...
Geaux Rocket Ride rocketed right into the top ranks of the division with a convincing victory in Saturday's $1 million Grade I TVG.com Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park.
The Candy Ride colt, trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by "big money" Mike Smith, got a handy, pace-stalking trip, shot to the lead on the turn for home and easily turned back a challenge from Kentucky Derby winner Mage at the top of the lane.
He went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths, with Mage second and highly regarded Arabian Knight third.
Mandella said things went according to plan for Geaux Rocket Ride, who notched his third win from four starts but first in a graded stakes. Asked if the late challenge from Mage worried him, Mandella added, "No. I was confident all the way."
In addition to handing Mage his second straight defeat, Geaux Rocket Ride beat the third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes and winner of the Grade I Blue Grass, Tapit Trice.
With the revolving door continuing to spin out different winners, it looks more and more like supremacy in the division will be decided in next month's Grade I Travers at Saratoga, the "Midsummer Derby."
Both Mage's trainer, Gustavo Delgado Jr., and Jimmy Barnes, assistant trainer for Arabian Knight, said layoffs may have compromised their colts' chances, and thy looked forward to future contests, perhaps including the Travers.
"This sets him up going forward. It's a long year," Delgado said. "There are many races more."
Barnes chimed in: "We're just starting the second half of the schedule and there are a lot of races left to run."
In the longer run, the Haskell also was a "Win and You're In" for the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita, and Smith said Geaux Rocket Ride's performance Saturday showed he could handle that assignment against older horses.
"A mile and a quarter shouldn't be a problem for him. This was a mile and an eighth and he wasn't stopping," Smith said.
On Friday at Saratoga, yet another 3-year-old tossed his hat into the ring as Scotland, a Good Magic colt, led from gate to wire in the $135,000 Curlin Stakes.
Scotland was under pressure most of the way from Il Miracolo but finally shook loose from that rival at mid stretch and strode out to win by 3 1/4 lengths, looking like he'd be happy to another furlong if asked. Il
Miracolo held second and Blazing Sevens, last seen finishing second in the Preakness Stakes, flattened out through the lane to finish third. Scotland ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.12 with Junior Alvarado riding for trainer Bill Mott.
Scotland now is 3-for-4, with starts at four tracks, but the Curlin was his first run around two turns. Mott was asked if the success of that experiment makes him a candidate for the Travers.
"He is for me," Mott said with a laugh. "Obviously, the Travers is a different race and different competition. I'm sure we'll have that debate with the racing managers and the owners, but I'm sure the Travers would be up on the list."
O Sunday at Woodbine, Paramount Prince led home a quartet of long shots in the $150,000 (Canadian) Plate Trial. The race always looked pretty wide open and the result bore that out as the 20-cent superfecta payout was $6,036.03 (Canadian).
Paramount Prince, a Society's Chairman gelding, led all the way, unchallenged, and won by 5 lengths, doing little to clarify the picture for the upcoming King's Plate.
The 3-year-old fillies
Wet Paint, fourth in the Kentucky Oaks, rallied from last of five to win Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga by a neck over Sacred Wish.
The favorite, Gambling Girl, second in the Kentucky Oaks, finished third in the Spa version.
Wet Paint, a Godolphin homebred Blame filly trained by Brad Cox, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.68 with Flavien Prat in the irons. Brad Cox was the winning trainer.
Wet Paint strung together three wins at Oaklawn Park during the winter and spring, culminating in victory in the Grade III Fantasy before the Oaks loss.
"I'm glad she stepped up and finally got that Grade I, " Cox said. "That was big for her." He said the $600,000 Grade I Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 19 is "the next logical spot moving forward."
Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks for Canadian-foaled fillies went to Elysian Field, a daughter of Hard Spun.
With Sahin Civaci up for trainer Mark Casse, Elysian Field came six-wide from well back in the big field to mount her challenge, led in the lane and kicked away to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Wickenheiser.
Fortyfiveseventy was third at 50-1 odds and the favorite, Ticker Tape Home, saw a late bid falter for a fifth-place finish.
Elysian Field ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather course in 1:49.83. She was an also-ran in her first three starts, including two at Gulfstream Park, then won when introduced to Woodbine and finished second in the Fury Stakes in her most recent.
Therapist, claimed for $50,000 at Gulfstream Park during the winter, scored his third and biggest win for his new owner in Saturday's $600,000 Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Rallying four-wide from well back in the field, the 8-year-old Freud gelding ran by the favorite, Catnip, in the final sixteenth, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Nine-year-old Red Knight was third.
Therapist, with Javier Castellano up for trainer Mike Maker, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:14.50. He also won the Grade II Pan American at Gulfstream for his new owner, Michael Dubb, who won the United Nations for the third straight year.
Dubb said he had tried to claim Therapist in December for a bargain price of $25,000, but lost a shake to another claimant. He said he had no problem going double that tag a race later despite the horse's advanced age. "I knew he was worth that and quite a bit more," Dubb said.
Indeed, Therapist earned $120,280 for winning the Pan American, another $360,000 for Saturday's win and $42,000 miscellaneous in between for a more than 10 times ROI. As former Daily Racing Form columnist Marty McGee is fond of saying, "It's an easy game."
Phil D'Amato saddled the exacta in the first stakes event of the Del Mar season, sending out Conclude and Classical Cat to finish 1-2 in Friday's $100,000 Caesars Sportsbook Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds.
Conclude, a Collected colt, stalked the early pace, got first run to the lead and easily held off his stablemate, the favorite in a field of 13, by 1 1/4 lengths. With Hector Berrios up, Conclude concluded the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.09.
Filly & Mare Turf
Surge Capacity surged to the lead at mid-stretch in Friday's $175,000 Grade III Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga and held off stablemate Tax Implications to win by 3/4 length. Secret Money was third.
Chad Brown trains the first two past the judge, as well as the fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the eight-horse field. He now has won the Lake George for five straight years and seven overall.
Surge Capacity, a Klaravich Stables homebred filly by former international turf star Flintshire, ran 1 mile on the yielding inner turf course in 1:38.00 with Joel Rosario in the irons.
Brown said he wasn't sure what he'd do if the race had come off the turf but added, "This was the one I was going to run if it came off. I know, Flintshire on the dirt. But she has never trained bad on the dirt.
"I'm not saying I'll put her there off this, but I'm going to see how she trains over it. She might be a pretty versatile horse."
Brown only sent one to Saturday's $300,000 Grade III WinStar Matchmaker at Monmouth Park, but that's all he needed as Consumer Spending angled out for the drive and ran by much of her competition to win by 1/2 length as the even-money favorite.
Surprisingly led briefly in the stretch and finished second, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Gam's Mission in third.
Consumer Spending, a 4-year-old More Than Ready filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm going in 1:48.00 with Joel Rosario in the irons. It was her sixth win from 11 starts.
Anisette rallied five-wide from near the back of a 14-horse field to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Clemente Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar by 2 1/2 lengths over Ocean Club. And Tell Me Nolies was third.
Anisette, a British-bred filly by Awtaad, scampered 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.84 with Umberto Rispoli in the kip for trainer Leonard Powell. She is one to watch after winning her 2022 finale in England, then taking both starts this year in California.
Watch carefully, though, as a 2-year-old filly also named Anisette also is competing in the Golden State.
Mohawk Trail came from well back in the field of nine to win Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Colleen for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine by 1 1/2 length from the pacesetting favorite, Queen Picasso.
Mohawk Trail, a Florida-bred by Pioneerof the Nile, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:34.66 with Adam Beschizza in the irons for trainer Kelsey Danner.
Du Jour had to work through traffic in Sunday's $100,000 Wickerr Stakes at Del Marm but once free, shot to the lead and won by 1/2 length over Flavius.
Du Jour, a 5-year-old Temple City gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.13 with Juan Hernandez up. Bob Baffert trains Du Jour for his wife, Jill, and Debbie Lanni.
Roses for Debra scored her sixth win from her last seven starts, taking Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Caress Stakes at Saratoga by 2 1/4 lengths over Wakanaka. Bubble Rock was third, followed by Poppy Flower and Our Flash Drive.
Roses for Debra, a 4-year-old Liam's Map filly making her first stakes start, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:02.39. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode for trainer Christophe Clement.
Front Run the Fed rallied from last of six to capture Saturday's $150,000 Van Clief Stakes at Colonial Downs by a neck from Yes and Yes. Carotari was third and the favorite, Yes I Am Free, finished fourth after leading much of the way.
Front Run the Fed, a 7-year-old son of Fed Biz, was clocked in 1:02.22 for 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going with David Cabrera riding for trainer Caio Caramori.
The veteran campaigner, originally trained by Brown for Klaravich Stables, has raced at the highest levels including two shots at the Breeders' Cup but Saturday's win was just his third stakes victory, also including the 2022 Van Clief.
Sassy Beast jumped right to the front in Saturday's $150,000 Andy Guest Stakes at Colonial Downs and held sway, winning by 3/4 lengths over a gaining Can't Buy Love. The favorite, Train to Artemus, had every chance, but lacked the needed late punch, settling for third.
Sassy Beast, a 5-year-old mare by The Big Beast, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.65 with David Cardoso in the irons. She has hit the board in 17 of 19 career starts while running primarily in Florida and Louisiana for owner-trainer Angel Rodriguez.
Dream Shake outfinished fellow long shot War Bomber by 1 length in Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Connaught Stakes at Woodbine, with Lucky Score just a head farther back in third and the favorite, Churchtown, a nose back of that one in fourth.
The Equibase chart called it an "eventful stretch run" and it was all of that. But the stewards took no action after an objection and inquiry.
Dream Shake, a 5-year-old Twirling Candy gelding, stopped the clock at 1:20.33 over firm turf. He was on the Triple Crown trail briefly in 2021, finishing third in the Santa Anita Derbya.
Wicked Halo stalked the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Twin Bridges Stakes at Ellis Park, shot by the leading rivals and ran on to win by 1 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite.
The 4-year-old filly, another of the Winchell-owned and bred, Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner offspring, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.36 with Cristian Torres aboard.
From 15 starts, she now has eight wins, two seconds and four thirds. She finished third in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Alogon rallied to the lead in the stretch drive in Saturday's $100,000 Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth Park and held off Witty by 1/2 length under the wire.
Alogon, a 4-year-old California Chrome gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.73 for jockey Abner Adorno. Edward Allard trains Alogon, who picked up his first stakes win and fourth overall from nine starts.
Nest got first run to the lead as the long shots faded in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Shuvee Stakes at Saratoga, opened up a daylight advantage in the lane and had no trouble holding off Clairiere to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
The other two were well rewarded while finishing well up the track.
Nest, a 4-year-old daughter of Curlin, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.72 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Second in last year's Kentucky Oaks and Belmont Stakes, Nest is a multiple Grade I winner with more than $2 million in earnings. She was having her first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Keeneland in November, answering the question whether she had progressed from age 3 to 4.
Clairiere, third in last year's Distaff, was coming off victories in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park and the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park.
Winning co-owner Mike Repole said Nest originally was slated to contest the Phipps, too, but Pletcher thought she needed more time.
He added, "More than worth the wait. At the end of the day, you want a horse like this best for the last four races of the year, not the first four."
Pletcher said the $500,000 Grade I Personal Ensign at the Spa Aug. 25 is a possibility for Nest but the decision will be "what we do for a prep for the Breeders' Cup" with New York and Keeneland as possibilities.
Shotgun Hottie was knocked sideways at the start of Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth Park, raced wide around both turns and still managed to get home first by 1/2 length from Le Da Vida.
The odds-on favorite, Search Results, was another 3/4 length back in third as Shotgun Hottie finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.43.
Paco Lopez rode the 4-year-old Gun Runner filly for trainer Cherie DeVaux. It was her third win from five starts since moving to DeVaux' barn this year.
Il Malocchio was just up at the finish of Sunday's $180,000 (Canadian) Trillium Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course, defeating pacesetting Angelou by a head and favorite Super Hoity Toity by another neck.
The stewards then set down Angelou to third for interfering with Super Hoity Toity in deep stretch.
Il Malocchio, a 5-year-old Souper Speedy mare, finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.14 with Sahin Civaci riding.
Proxy was bumped out of the gate in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Monmouth Cup, but went right to the front, anyway, and stayed there, kicking away from stubborn competition in the late going to win by 2 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite.
Whelen Springs and Calibrate filled out the trifecta.
Proxy, a 5-year-old by Tapit, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.99 with Joel Rosario up for trainer Michael Stidham.
The Godolphin homebred earlier this year was second in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and won the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap but threw in a clunker in the Grade I Stephen Foster at Ellis Park in his most recent, finishing eighth.
Order and Law took command in the stretch run of Sunday's $125,000 Cougar II Stakes at Del Mar, drawing away to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Azul Coast. Bye Bye Bobby was third.
Order and Law, a 7-year-old Violence ridgling, ran 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:32.35 with Kent Desormeaux up for trainer Robert Hess Jr. It was his first stakes win since the 2018 Laurel Futurity.
Here Mi Song sprinted to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $125,000 Jeff Hall Memorial Stakes at Ellis Park, and then held on through the final yards to win by a neck over O Besos.
Here Mi Song, a 5-year-old Cross Traffic gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.06.
Alex Achard had the mount for trainer William Stinson Jr. Here Mi Song won the Grade III Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland in April and was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade I Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Loyalty chased down pacesetting Clitheroe in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Hendrie Stakes at Woodbine, got by easily and won by 2 1/2 lengths.
Talk to Ya Later was third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Clitheroe, with Miss Speedy fourth.
Loyalty, a 4-year-old Hard Spun filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:15.61 with Kazushi Kimura riding for trainer Josie Carroll.
At Gulfstream Park, Charlie's Wish surged to the lead with a four-wide move in Saturday's $75,000 Azalea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew off smartly to a 4 3/4-length win. Flakes and the favorite, Trust Me, completed the trifecta.
Charlie's Wish, a daughter of First Dude, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.01 under Leonel Reyes. She has hit the board in eight of nine career starts.
Around the world, around the clock
With a furlong to run in Saturday's Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh, Savethelastdance looked a hopeless cause. She was not gaining on the two leaders and her main rival, Bluestocking, was blowing by on her outside.
The odds on the in-race "exchange" betting dropped to the max - 999-1. But then Ryan Moore got the Galileo filly regrouped and, with a remarkable effort, she made up all the ground, returned the favor to Bluestocking and won by 1/2 length.
Library, another from the Coolmore-Aidan O'Brien combine, held on from her pacesetting role to finish third.
The remarkable effort erased the memory of Savethelastdance's runner-up showing on firmer ground in the Group 1 Epsom Oaks although it didn't approach her 22-length victory in the Cheshire Oaks a race before that. At any rate, the jockey, filly and sire more than pleased O'Brien.
"All the Galileo came out when Ryan really wanted her," O'Brien said. "She got down for him."
And O'Brien did a bit of campaigning of his own with "the lads," the Coolmore partners, as the target: "She's another unbelievable broodmare prospect. It's very possible she will stay in training -- the lads have been doing that if everything is well over the last few years. If they decided that we'd be delighted."
Moore and O'Brien scored again a race later as Emily Dickinson emerged from the pack in the final furlongs of the 1 3/4-mile Group 2 Curragh Cup and strode out to a comfortable, 3-lengths victory. Roscarbery was best of the rest.
Emily Dickinson, a 4-year-old Dubawi filly who always seems to promise more, was winning for just the fourth time in 15 starts.
The same team might have suspected it would be a good day when Coolmore horses, all in the orange-and-blue Michael Tabor silks and led by the Moore-partnered Henry Longfellow, finished 1-2-3 in the opener, a 7-furlong maiden affair for 2-year-olds.