In what undoubtedly will go down as the upset of the year, if not the decade, Arrogate never ran a lick in Saturday's San Diego Handicap, finishing off the board for the first time in his career.
The news was lots better for other weekend favorites. Lady Eli eked out a win in the Grade I Diana at Saratoga and, a day later, so did Abel Tasman in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks.
Firenze Fire won the Sanford at Saratoga, making him an early candidate for the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, this:
It wasn't Arrogate's day Saturday. While the world's No. 1 rated horse loped listlessly toward the back of the five-horse field in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II TVG San Diego Handicap, Accelerate made all the going. And when jockey Victor Espinoza put the pedal to the metal in the stretch, Accelerator roared off to win by 8 1/2 lengths over Donworth. Cat Burglar was third. Arrogate beat only El Huerfano, who stumbled at the start, causing jockey Evin Roman to lose his irons and dooming his chances.
Accelerate, a 4-year-old Lookin at Lucky colt, finished the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:42.15. He's no bum, having finished in the money in 11 of his 12 starts -- many of them in graded stakes. But Arrogate came to Del Mar with consecutive wins in the Grade I Travers, the Grade I Breeders' Cup Classic, the Grade I Pegasus World Cup and, despite missing the break, the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. He took massive amounts of money in the place and show pools, producing outlandish payments there, including a Del Mar record $119.80 place payout on Donworth.
Espinoza said inheriting the lead when El Hurefano stumbled played right into his hands. "I was surprised by how far I won," Espinoza said. "I wasn't surprised that I did. I was here to win." Winning trainer John Sadler added, "You want to win. You don't want to concede anything. But I'm surprised we won because Arrogate is the best horse in the world. A couple of things went right for us and one of them was that Arrogate didn't fire his best. That's what has to happen for these big upsets."
Trainer Bob Baffert said of Arrogate, sent off at odds of 1-20, "I thought he'd run better than that but he just didn't want to go. I think he just laid an egg." Jockey Mike Smith confirmed he never felt he had much to work with at any point in the race. "I'm at a loss for words," he said. "We've got to go back and start over again."
A footnote: Arrogate has lost only twice and Accelerate finished ahead of him both times. In his first career start, at Los Alamitos, Arrogate was a troubled third behind Westbrook and Accelerate.
Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman had an eventful trip in Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks before scoring a narrow win over Elate -- and surviving an objection.
Abel Tasman, a Quality Road filly owned by the China Horse Club and Clearsky Farms, broke a step slowly and was next-last going into the clubhouse turn. As the field straightened out into the backstretch, jockey Mike Smith stepped down hard on the gas and Abel Tasman quickly shot to the lead. She clung to the advantage into the stretch as Elate made a move to her inside. In the final sixteenth, Abel Tasman drifted in and hung on to win by a head. Salty, who reared at the start, came wide into the stretch and finished third. Jose Ortiz, aboard Elate, claimed foul but the stewards let the result stand.
Abel Tasman ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.74, scoring her third straight Grade I win and the fourth of her career.
Smith, riding a day after and across the continent from piloting Arrogate, said he shot to the lead because the pace was slow and because his filly could. "She's capable of that," he said, "and once she gets in that big, beautiful stride, that's where you want her. It was there. I took it. If I had got beat, it would have been horrible." Of the stretch run, he said, "It's just good, old fashioned race riding ... I made it tight, but there's no rules that say you can't make it tight. They make it tight on me all the time and I'm too old for that." Smith will turn 52 next month.
Ami's Mesa tracked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Matron over the Woodbine all-weather surface, made up some ground around the turn and closed through the stretch to win by 1 length over Ice Festival. Midnight Crossing and Meadow Rose dead-heated for third and fourth. Ami's Mesa, a 4-year-old Sky Mesa filly, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.44 with Luis Contreras up. She's now 2-for-2 since returning from her winter vacation in Florida. "It's her first time around two turns but he got her to shut off and relax," winning trainer Josie Carroll said of Contreras' ride. "When he picked her up and shook the lines, she really responded. She's had a few little issues here and there, but she certainly seems to have rebounded now."
Filly & Mare Turf
Lady Eli and her stablemate, Antonoe, broke through the gate before the start of Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Diana at Saratoga. Both were corralled quickly and reloaded and both figured in the outcome. After chasing Quidura into the stretch, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. got Lady Eli into gear on the outside while Javier Castellano found a spot along the rail. The three battled to the wire, with Lady Eli a head in front of Quidura and Antonoe fading just a bit in the final strides to finish third, another 1 length back.
Lady Eli, a 5-year-old Divine Park mare whose career was interrupted by a near-fatal bout of laminitis and 13 months out of action, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.17. She drifted in in the final sixteenth causing the stewards to take a look but there was no action.
"Today was one of her greatest races to date. Maybe her best," said Chad Brown, who trains both Lady Eli and Antonoe. "Giving eight pounds to the horse she ran down late in the stretch after breaking through the gate, going a little wide, she just overcame everything. Today she proved she's one of the all-time greats." Lady Eli's career record now is nine wins and three seconds from 12 starts. The defeats came by 3/4 length, a nose and a head.
Proctor's Ledge rallied to take the lead a furlong from home in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Lake George for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga and edged clear, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Party Boat. Fifty Five was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Proctor's Ledge, a Ghostzapper filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.47 with Javier Castellano in the irons. She started the year with a pair of wins, then finished third, fourth and second after entering the graded stakes ranks. "Everything hadn't quite fallen into place the last few times, but she did it today, so I'll credit everybody," said winning trainer Brendan Walsh. "We finally got it right ... I think she's going to have a hell of a second half of the year, and I think she's going to be a better filly next year." Turf
Hunt skimmed the rail in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, waited for a gap between rivals entering the stretch and went on with it when he saw daylight, winning by 1 length over the favorite, Ashleyluvssugar. Mr. Roary was another 1/2 length back in third. Hunt, a 5-year-old Irish-bred gelding by Dark Angel, ran 9 furlongs over firm turf in 1:47.62 with Flavien Prat in the irons. "I thought he'd run well here," Prat said. "I moved up inside and thought they'd leave a hole for me. But it wasn't happening there for a bit. I had to wait, but when we saw it, he was there. He finished strong." Trainer Phil D'Amato said Hunt might turn back a furlong for the Del Mar Mile or go on to the Del Mar Handicap.
Final Copy outfinished Conquest Lemonraid in Sunday's $120,000 (Canadian) Toronto Cup for 3-year-olds at Woodbine, winning by 3/4 length. King and his Court finished third. Final Copy, a Malibu Moon gelding, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.24 with Rafael Hernandez aboard. It was his first stakes try and third straight win overall following an unsatisfying winter at Tampa Bay Downs where he was 0-for-3. "Everything worked good today," said Hernandez. "He had a good break, he relaxed and we got a clear trip. He's doing what he's been doing the last three times -- just let him run in the stretch."
The seventh on Saratoga's opening day card wasn't a stakes race but it might as well have been with three graded stakes winners in the field and a couple others who were close to that level. Still, it was two confirmed residents of this optional claimer level, Muqtaser and Infinite Wisdom, who hooked up while passing the wire for the first time and battled the circumference of the Spa's grass oval before Muqtaser prevailed by a head. Mesi, a Grade III winner earlier in his career, shot through an opening on the rail to take third, another head back. Muqtaser, a 5-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:15.73 under Joe Bravo.
Madam Dancealot rallied from last of eight to upset Sunday's $200,000 Grade II San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Lull and another 1/2 length over the favorite, previously undefeated Sircat Sally. Madam Dancealot, an Irish-bred filly by Sir Prancealot, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.73. She was dispatched at odds of better than 21-1, second-longest price in the field. "The way she was finishing the last two races on the grass down the hill at Santa Anita, I thought she could get a mile," said winning trainer Richard Baltas. "She's settled now, she's relaxed and when she was last down the backside, I was like 'Wow.' I know she can run and when a good horse gets settled like that they're going to run at the end, and she did."
Blackjackcat got first run to the lead in the stetch in Sunday's $75,000 Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar and fended off the favorite, Vyjack, by 1/2 length at the wire. Calculator was third. Blackjackcat, a 4-year-old Tale of the Cat gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.20 with Gary Stevens in the irons.
Firenze Fire surged to the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Sanford Stakes at Saratoga and held on gamely to win by 1 length from the favorite, Free Drop Billy. Psychoanalyze was third in a wide-open field including horses that last raced at five different tracks. Firenze Fire, a Poseidon's Warrior colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.50 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. He won at first asking at Monmouth Park on June 18. Might his future extend to next year's Triple Crown chase? "I think he'll run long," said trainer Jason Servis. "I asked Irad and he thinks he'll run long. He's kind of laid back. I think he'll get seven-eighths (for the $350,000 Grade I Hopeful on Sept. 4). I think he'll get a mile, mile and a quarter, really. He's that kind of horse."
Dream It Is waited behind a blistering early pace in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga, took over turning for home and jetted off to win by 9 lengths. Best Performance and Stainless both came from well back to finish second and third. Snowfire, the favorite, raced close to the winner for the first few furlongs, dropped back approaching the turn and ran evenly thereafter to finish fourth. Dream It Is, a Shackleford filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.85 under Luis Contreras and remains undefeated after three starts. Her first two were on the Woodbine all-weather. "What can I say?" said winning trainer Barb Minshall, who went on to say: "To win a race and to win it like that. We came with a horse that we thought was a good filly and had a shot but I can't say expected her to run as good as she did. It's ultimately the owner's decision of where we'll go next." But she mentioned the $350,000 Grade I Spinaway on Sept. 2 as "definitely a maybe."
Glamanation hit the gate at the start of Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Shady Well Stakes at Woodbine, raced near the back of the six-filly field and rallied five-wide to win by 1 length over Mega Monster. Mo Big Cat also found her best stride late to finish third. Glamanation, a Point of Entry filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:05.94 with David Moran in the irons, scoring her first career win.
Bengali Boys distanced 22 rivals in the final furlong of Saturday's Weatherbys Super Sprint Stakes for 2-year-olds at Newbury, kicking off to a 6-lengths score. Declarationoflove was second, edging the favorite, Maggies Angel, in the final strides. Bengali Boys, a Clodovil colt trained by Richard Fahey, now has two wins and two seconds from four career starts. "This is a race that we target every year and we have been lucky enough to win it three times now in the last five years," Fahey said. "When we go to the sales, we buy horses for the Weatherbys Super Sprint - you need cheap horses for this race and Bengali Boys only cost 11,000 Euros." The race, run on soft ground that appeared to favor the winner, is restricted to products of certain sales and certain price ranges. Weights are determined in part by sale price. Nonetheless, in the recent past the Super Sprint has attracted the attention of Hong Kong buyers, notably sending Peniaphobia to Group 1 glory in Hong Kong after winning the 2013 renewal of the Super Sprint, also for Fahey.
Around the ovals:
No Dozing dueled with Honor the Fleet to mid-stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Concern Stakes for 3-year-olds, then drew off to win by 4 lengths over that foe. Proforma and Alex Again completed the order of finish. No Dozing, a Union Rags colt, negotiated 7 furlongs over a muddy, sealed track in 1:22.85 with Daniel Centeno in the irons. In his previous outing, No Dozing finished second behind Wild Shot in the Grade III Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs.
Snowday pressed the pace in Saturday's $60,000 My Frenchman Stakes, got the advantage on the turn and finished well, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Simon Bar Sinister. Black Jet contested the early lead and held on for third at a big price. Snowday, a 7-year-old French-bred gelding by Falco, ran about 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.27 with Jose Ferrer aboard.
Twisted Tom put in his bid on the turn in Saturday's $150,000 New York Derby, battled down the lane with Broken Engagement and prevailed by 1/2 length. Pat on the Back was third, another 2 1/4 lengths in arrears. Twisted Tom, a Creative Cause gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.52 with Feargal Lynch in the irons.
Bonita Bianca rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $150,000 New York Oaks by a neck over Playinwiththeboys. The odds-on favorite, Tiznow's Smile, was another 6 3/4 lengths up the track in third. Bonita Bianca, a Curlin filly, reported in 1:46.72 with Dylan Davis riding.
Lone Star Park
Texas Chrome, the odds-on favorite, rated off the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Assault Stakes for Texas-breds, collared pacesetter Supermason near the sixteenth pole and won by 1 1/4 over that rival. F J Uncle Vic was third, 9 1/4 lengths farther back. Texas Chrome, a 4-year-old Grasshopper colt, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.59 with Richard Eramia riding.
Prada's Bling pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Valor Farm Stakes for Texas-bred distaffers, took over in the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Zappit E. Kat's Infatuation was another 3/4 length back in third. Prada's Bling, a 5-year-old mare by Too Much Bling, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.96 with Iram Diego up.
Janae survived a rough start in the $100,000 filly division of the restricted Texas Thoroughbred Futurity, led all the way and held on at the end of 5 furlongs, winning by a neck over Ms Classic West and another head from Patrona Margarita. Janae, a Closing Argument filly, was clocked in 59.08 seconds with Kerwin Clark in the irons.
In the colts and geldings division of the Futurity, Galactica pressed the pace, moved to the lead with more than a furlong left and held on to win by 3/4 length over Aceguitar. It was another 6 lengths back to Toledo Pache. Brian Hernandez Jr. piloted Galactia, an Uncle Abie gelding, who covered 5 furlongs in 58.12.
Little Dancer stalked the pace in Sunday's $75,000 Washington Oaks, got by the leader, Daddyalwayssays in the late going and won by 1/2 length over that rival. Reginella was third. Little Dancer, a Successful Appeal filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.05 with Rocco Bowen up.
Kentucky invader Anythingyoucando blew by the pacesetter in the lane in Saturday's $55,000 Albuquerque Distaff and drew off to a 3 1/4-lengths victory. Caviar Kitty was up for second, a neck better than tiring early leader Bella Anatola. Anythingyoucando, a 5-year-old Curlin mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.65 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Threeohtwocassie was along in the final stages to upset Saturday's $100,000 Crowd Pleaser Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds. Iggy Loco was second, 3/4 length back and the favorite, Fast and Accurate, settled for show money. Threeohtwocassie, an E Dubai gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.14 with Edwin Gonzalez in the irons.
Firsthand Report pushed the favorite, Fat Kat, through the early furlongs of Saturday's $100,000 Power By Far Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, then left that one behind, winning off by 3 lengths. Zensational Merry was up for third, 2 lengths in arrears of Fat Kat. Firsthand Report, a 4-year-old Blame filly, got 5 furlongs on firm turf in 58.03 seconds under John Bisono.
Alliford Bay got by the early leader, Fast and Foxy, in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 California Governor's Cup for fillies and mares, winning by 3/4 length over that one. Princess Ashlyn was third. Alliford Bay, a 3-year-old City Zip filly, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.53 with Irving Orozco in the irons.
Tango Run found running room on the inside entering the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Miss Ohio Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Count de Loot. Summit Point showed the way early and salvaged show money. Tango Run, a daughter of Run Away and Hide, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:06.88 with Rex Stokes III in the irons.
Nikki My Darling led all the way in Sunday's $75,000 Norm Barron Queen City Stakes for 3-year-old Ohio-bred fillies and dominated the final furlong, winning by 6 1/2 lengths. My Ticket Home was best of the rest, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Cali Dream. Nikki My Darling, a daughter of Creative Cause, ran 9 furlongs on a muddy, sealed track in 1:49.41 with Luis Colon up.