1 of 2 | Bright Future wins the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, on to Breeders' Cup Classic. Photo by Joe Labozzetta, courtesy of New York Racing Association
Sept. 5 (UPI) -- With the Breeders' Cup Classic just two months away, it's becoming clear that not only do the 3-year-olds hold the upper hand over their older rivals, but it's the late-bloomers who avoided most of the Triple Crown rigors who look strongest.
The Labor Day weekend featured two $1 million Grade I races that provided "Win and You're In" access to the $6 million Classic on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga proved a bright spot for Bright Future, a 4-year-old Curlin colt. The Pacific Classic at Del Mar just hours later was a tour de force for the 3-year-olds. It was a big step up for all of them and they'll have to prove they can do it again.
At Saratoga, Bright Future found just the right spot in Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup. After racing just behind the early leader, he took the lead entering the stretch and gamely held off Proxy for a narrow victory.
The 4-year-old Curlin colt entered with three wins from six starts, but was eased home eighth in his only previous stakes experience, the Grade II Brooklyn Stakes at Belmont Park June 10. He rebounded from that to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance at the Spa July 21, showing a sudden and dramatic improvement.
"Coming into it, we were optimistic he was ready to make a move forward," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Bright Future. "To go to the next one, he's going to need to make another move forward. It appears to be pretty wide open, the older horse division."
Pletcher said Monday that Bright Future is likely to train up to the Classic. Proxy's trainer, Mike Stidham, said his colt also is likely to move on to the showdown race at Santa Anita
At Del Mar, it was all about the younger set. Lightly raced Arabian Knight led all the way and held on to win by a neck over Geaux Rocket Ride.
The latter won the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park and came into the race with three victories from four trips. Arabian Knight won his first two starts, including the Grade III Southwest at Oaklawn Park, by wide margins, but then took a sixth-month break before finishing third in the Haskell.
Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Flavien Prat said Arabian Knight should improve from the effort.
He's not likely to threaten the division leaders, but Big Data turned in a nice, rallying performance to win Saturday's $200,000 Super Derby by 3/4 length over No White Flags.
The favorite, Promise Me a Ride, was forced wide and beat only one rival. Big Data, a Cloud Computing colt trained in Florida, was making his stakes debut.
Looking beyond the weekend results, last weekend's Travers Stakes winner Arcangelo remains atop the 3-year-old division and is the favorite for the Classic. Lurking in the wings in Japan is this year's Dubai World winner, Ushba Tessoro.
Gold Phoenix earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf with a late-running score in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap.
The 5-year-old, Irish-bred gelding raced next-last in the field of 11, found a seam between rivals turning for home and kicked away to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
The versatile veteran, who has won at distances from 1 mile to Saturday's 1 3/8 miles, posted his second consecutive victory. He also won this race last year, en route to a 10th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup.
On Friday at Saratoga, prohibitive favorite Carl Spackler was the easy winner in the $175,000 Grade III Saranac Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga.
The Irish-bred colt by Lope de Vega pressed the pace set by Talking Candy, ran by that one and won by 3 1/2 lengths, getting 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:42.23.
Earlier in the meeting he won the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes.
Conclude went to an early lead in Sunday's $300,000 Grade II Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby, opened a clear advantage and held off Maltese Falcon in the final strides to win by a head.
Almendares was third, giving trainer Phil D'Amato his second first- and third-place finish of the weekend after Saturday's Del Mar Handicap.
Conclude, a Collected colt, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.61 with Hector Berrios up, collecting his third straight victory.
At Kentucky Downs, Anglophile got an inside trip in Sunday's $1 million Grade III National Thoroughbred League Dueling Grounds Derby and got home first by 1/2 length.
The favorite, Far Bridge, raced wider out on the track and settled for second, 1 length better than Battle of Normandy.
Anglophile, an English Channel colt, ran 1 5/16 miles on firm turf in 2:08.93.
Filly & Mare Turf
Parnac was allowed to set a slow and uncontested pace in Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Flower Bowl Stakes at Saratoga, and when the running started, odds-on favorite McKulick couldn't catch her.
Parnac, a 4-year-old, French-bred filly, won by 1 1/4 lengths, trailed by McKulick, Amazing Grace and Tamarama. Dylan Davis rode the winner over 1 3/8 miles of firm turf in 2:18.60 for her first U.S. stakes victory.
The Flower Bowl was a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but trainer Christophe Clement said he hasn't decided the route Parnac will take to get there.
Freydis the Red survived a wide trip around the Kentucky Downs layout to win Sunday's $1 million Dueling Grounds Oaks by 2 3/4 lengths over Sabalenka. Flashy Gem was third and the favorite, Safeen, faded to finish eighth.
Freydis the Red, a French-bred filly by Saxon Warrior, was not eligible for the winner's share of the $400,000 Kentucky Thoroughbred Development fund supplement but her owners will settle for their $345,960 share of the base purse for 2 minutes, 6.13 seconds of work -- a course record for 1 5/16 miles.
Trainer Chad Brown shipped Beaute Cachee down to the Jersey Shore from Saratoga for Saturday's $100,000 Violet Stakes at Monmouth Park and was rewarded as the 4-year-old, French-bred filly romped home first by 3 1/4 lengths as the even-money favorite. It was her second win in three tries for Brown after arriving from France.
Ancient Rome came all the way from England to win Saturday's $2 million Mint Millons Stakes at Kentucky Downs. The 4-year-old War Front colt was a star at age 2, but had been struggling in group races in France for trainer Andre Fabre.
Sent across the Channel to Charlie Hills, he won the Chesterfield Handicap at Goodwood on Aug. 1 in his first start in new surroundings. In the Mint Millions, he tracked down pacesetting Stitched in the late going to win by 1/2 length.
As a Kentucky-bred, he ran for full value, earning $1,176,600 for owner Fitri Hay.
Talk of the Nation pressed the pace in Saturday's $1 million Gun Runner Stakes for 3-year-olds at Kentucky Downs, and then got by pacesetter Wadsworth in the final yards to win by 1/2 length.
The Quality Road colt, trained by Shug McGaughey, had been second in each of his last two starts at Monmouth Park and Belmont Park.
Du Jour skimmed the rail in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Del Mar Mile, came out for room at the top of the lane and rallied between rivals to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
Exaulted, who saw a four-race win streak bite the dust, took second in a five-way photo.
Du Jour, a 5-year-old Temple City gelding, finished in 1:33.82 with Prat riding for trainer Baffert. The winner, a rare Baffert turf runner, is owned by his wife, Jill, and her friend, Debbie Lanni.
Saratoga Flash led all the way to a 2 3/4-length victory in Sunday's $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap at Kentucky Downs. Siege of Boston and Eons both came from off the pace to fill out the exacta.
Saratoga Flash, a 5-year-old Leoban gelding, was last seen finishing seventh July 20 in an allowance event at Saratoga. His only victory in four starts at the Spa came in a claiming event a year ago in which he was haltered for $35,000.
Love to Shop outfinished the favorite, Conman, in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Toronto Cup at Woodbine, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over that foe.
Love to Shop, with Emma-Jayne Wilson aboard, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.14, improving on a third-place finish in the Grade III Ontario Colleen in her previous start.
Trained by Kevin Attard for the ambitious partnership of Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, she is by Violence out of the Uncle Mo mare Tiffany Case.
Tiffany Case was a Bond girl in the novel and film "Diamonds are Forever", set in part at the Saratoga races. Along with Gala Brand's win in Thursday's With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga, we see a trend.
Pioneering Spirit rallied to the lead in the stretch in Monday's $150,000 Bernard Baruch Stakes at Saratoga and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths from Bring Me a Check.
Pioneering Spirit, a 4-year-old American Pharoah gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.69 with Jose Lezcano in the kip for trainer Linda Rice.
St Anthony saved ground into the stretch in Monday's $100,000 Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park, split rivals and ran on to win by 2 1/4 lengths from Wicked Finn. St Anthony, a 4-year-old Noble Mission gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.58 with Paco Lopez up.
Secret Money split rivals at mid-stretch in Saturday's $1 million Big Ass Fans Music City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Kentucky Downs and prevailed by 1 length over Danse Macabre. Bling was third.
Secret Money, a Good Samaritan filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:15.14, notching her third win in her sixth start. Brendan Walsh trains the winner.
Thin White Duke came flying down the Saratoga stretch outside rivals to win Saturday's $150,000 Harvey Pack Stakes by a neck over the favorite, Big Invasion. Our Shot was another head back in third.
Thin White Duke, a 5-year-old, New York-bred gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:02.18 with Jose Lezcano up for trainer David "Slam" Donk, who noted the winner is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup.
Motorious swung six-wide around rivals entering the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar and ran on smartly to win by 1 3/4 lengths, earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Long shot Cherubic Factor got second by a nose.
Motorious, a 5-year-old, British-bred gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.07 seconds for jockey Geovanni Franco. He hasn't missed a top-three finish in any of his seven U.S. starts for trainer Phil D'Amato.
Ceiling Crusher, facing open company for the first time, crushed seven rivals in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Quickly out front, the Mr. Big filly drew off in the lane to win by 6 lengths over Flying Connection.
With Edwin Maldonado up for trainer Doug O'Neill, Ceiling Crusher ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.41 She had won four of five previous starts, three of those by huge margins but all versus fellow Cal-breds.
Baffert had two starters in Sunday's $125,000 Shared Belief Stakes for 3-year-olds at Del Mar and saw them both win. Tahoe Sunrise, an American Pharoah colt, led all the way and Mr Fisk, a son of Arrogate, caught him on the line for a dead-heat. It was 8 lengths back to Smart Mo in third.
Baffert also trained both American Pharoah and Arrogate.
Stage Left dueled to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Rumson Stakes at Monmouth Park, started to pad the advantage at the furlong pole and coasted home first by 1 length over Spun and Won.
Stage Left, a 7-year-old Congrats gelding, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 57.81 with Paco Lopez up.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Alva Starr jumped right to the lead in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Prioress Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga and kicked away boldly in the stretch to win by 8 3/4 lengths, trailed by Jersey Pearl and the odds-on favorite, Dazzling Blue.
Alva Starr, by Lord Nelson, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.14 with Jose Lezcano up, improving to three wins and two seconds from five starts.
Nutella Fella was reluctant to load before Monday's $300,000 Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, missed the start and trailed all nine rivals early.
He made up for all that with a rapid acceleration through the stretch that saw him home first by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Timberlake. Pirate was third.
Nutella Fella, a Runhappy colt trained by Gary Contessa, outran odds of 54-1, finishing 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.41. He's now 2-for-2 with the earlier win at Delaware Park.
Brightwork remained undefeated after four starts by turning away Ways and Means, the odds-on favorite, in Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga.
Brightwork, an Outwork filly with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, got to the lead turning into the stretch. Ways and Means, a Practical Joke filly who won her only previous start by 12 3/4 lengths, came close to that rival at the top of the stretch, but couldn't gain on her until the final strides and finished second by 1/2 length.
Brightwork ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.17 and trainer John Ortiz said he'll work out the best path to the Breeders' Cup.
Crazy Hot had 'em all the way in Monday's $125,000 Generous Portion Stakes for California-bred fillies at Del Mar.
Holding an open-lengths lead throughout, the Goldencents filly won by 1 1/4 lengths over Pracingthruparis with the other rivals well up the track. She finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.93. She finished third in her only try in open company.