Midsummer racing kicked off with a bang this weekend with star-turn performances on both coasts and a few stops in between.
Monomoy Girl sparkled on the main track at Saratoga in a huge weekend for 3-year-old fillies on both surfaces while among the slightly older set, Sistercharlie lit up the turf track at the Spa.
Out west, Catalina Cruiser jumped into the Classic division picture with a rousing win at Del Mar and Mark Casse had graded stakes-winning fillies on the grass in two countries.
Catherinethegreat and Sombeyay were the first notable 2-year-old winners at Saratoga.
On the international front, you say Aidan O'Brien did not train the winner of the Irish Oaks? No he didn't -- barely.
If there was any question left before Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks about who leads this division, there was none after the race. Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl went straight to the front and never looked back. Old rival Midnight Bisou, the Santa Anita Oaks winner, gave chase but could make up no ground late and finished second, 3 lengths in arrears. Chocolate Martini, Eskimo Kisses and Gio Game completed the order of finish as Monomoy Girl, under Florent Geroux, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.46.
The Tapizar filly now is 5-for-5 this season with the last four wins all in Grade I events. Her only career loss was a second-place finish in the Grade II Golden Rod last fall at Churchill Downs when she was caught in the final strides by Road to Victory.
Despite his filly's dominance, trainer Brad Cox declined to claim the division Eclipse Award outright. "I don't know," he said in response to the question. "I would like to think so, but ultimately I think we have a few more races before we can say she's the champion." He said the $600,000 Grade I Alabama at the Spa on Aug. 18 "is certainly a possibility. It's probably two more races this year, one more and then the Breeders' Cup. We'll let her determine where we are with her in terms of races."
Filly & Mare Turf
Sistercharlie came with a rush on the outside in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Diana at Saratoga, arriving just in time to edge long shot Ultra Brat by a nose. A Raving Beauty was third after being checked along the rail in the drive. Sistercharlie, a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly by Myboycharlie, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.26 with John Velazquez getting the job done for trainer Chad Brown, who also handles German-bred A Raving Beauty.
"She broke better than her last start," Brown said of Sistercharlie. "She ran a cleaner race at a shorter distance and got up in time. It's frustrating that she'll put herself in that position early, but that's her. Even before she arrived to my barn, that was her running style, coming from behind. She has a lot of heart and a lot of class." He said the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington on Million Day, Aug. 11, could be her next assignment.
Daddy is a Legend took a step toward making a name on her own after a stretch-running win in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. The Scat Daddy filly raced in mid-pack until midway around the turn for home, cut sharply in front of the fading pacesetter and was in front from the furlong pole to the wire. Altea was second after leading briefly and Goodthingstaketime settled for third. Daddy is a Legend ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.42 as the favorite with Manny Franco in the irons.
Daddy is a Legend won the Grade III Jimmy Durante at Del Mar last fall but had finished third and fourth in graded stakes at Churchill Downs and Belmont in her first two starts as a 3-year-old. "It's just a really, really deep division and she's one of the better ones in it," said trainer George Weaver. "We're hoping she can move forward and continue to do well the rest of the year. We'll look at what's left in the meet for her."
Out west at Del Mar, War Heroine broke sharply in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Clemente for 3-year-old fillies, angled in from her outside post and led the rest of the way, winning by neck over late-running Ollie's Candy. Ms Bad Behavior, the lukewarm favorite in a field of 13, tracked the early pace and lost place money by a neck. War Heroine, a daughter of the Australian-bred Lonhro, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.90 with Tyler Baze riding for trainer Peter Miller and now has four wins from six starts.
"I didn't think we'd be on the lead and I told Tyler she doesn't need to be, but if they give it to you take it," Miller said. "He rode a super race, got reasonable fractions and she really kicked home strong. I see no reason not to try her in the Del Mar Oaks. I think that's the move and that's what we'll do."
At Woodbine, near Toronto, Got Stormy broke sharply, took back and got serious late in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Colleen for 3-year-old fillies, taking command and winning by 2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. A.A. Azula's Arch was second, 3/4 length in front of Ladies Night. Got Stormy, a daughter of Get Stormy, toured 1 mile of firm turf in 1:34.59 with Patrick Husbands riding for trainer Mark Casse, who had the graded stakes double at Woodbine and across the border in the Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga.
Got Stormy entered the Colleen off wins in the Penn Oaks and the Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont Park and seems on a serious upswing for owner Gary Barber. "She's fabulous. It's nice to see her get a graded win today, that really moves her up," said assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan. "Mr. Barber has been a great client for us. He loves horse racing."
It's worth paying attention to the races at Indiana Grand these days. The purses and good and it's an easy ship to "Circle City". Thus, Thursday night's $100,000 TaWee Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile on the grass drew horses last seen at tracks Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park and Gulfstream Park as well as several locals. The winner was Sirenusa, a Joe Sharp trainee who took back and made a late run to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Deadline Monte Christa was third. Sirenusa, a daughter of Tiznow, finished in 1:36.99 under Adam Beschizza. She's based in Louisville but was last seen finishing second in the Lady Canterbury -- her only defeat in five career starts. So pay attention. The quiz is conducted at the "Bet" window. (For youngsters, there once were separate windows for betting and collecting. Honest.)
Catapult rallied three-wide through the stretch in Sunday's $250,000 Grade II Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, getting a neck in front of Sharp Samurai at the wire. Prime Attraction was third, another head back. Catapult, let go at odds of 21-1, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.07 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons for trainer John Sadler.
Catapult, a 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy, scored his first graded stakes victory. Sadler took over training duties from Chad Brown when the horse switched coasts. "This is a nice horse," Sadler told the Blood-Horse. "He comes from the East Coast, where he had good form last year. The owners gave him a little time off at the end of last year and decided to try him here in California."
Tiz a Slam took the lead in Sunday's $210,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nijinsky Stakes, slowed things down to a comfortable pace and kept just enough in the tank to hold off Mekhtaal by 1/2 length at the finish. Johnny Bear was third and the favorite, Vettori Kin, struggled home last of eight. Tiz a Slam, a 4-year-old Tiznow colt, ran 1 1/2 half miles on the firm turf in 2:29.06 with Steven Bahen riding. It was his second straight win after a 10-month drought.
"He's a big horse. He's taken a long time to mature," said Tiz a Slam's trainer, Roger Attfield. "He's still maturing, he's learning. The last two races, he trained up to both of these races better than he's trained up to any race in his career so far, so it doesn't surprise me. We looked after him as well as we could as a 2-year-old and he's just getting bigger and stronger and maybe he just keeps getting better also."
Post position isn't everything department: Double Touch, Bombard and Perfectly Majestic started from gates No. 13, 14 and 12, respectively, in Sunday's restricted $100,000 Wickerr Stakes and finished first, second and third. All three came from off the pace with Double Touch edging Bombard by a head under the wire. The favorite, Conquest Tsunami, sped to the lead -- from gate No. 11 -- but faded in the lane and finished last. Double Touch, a 4-year-old British-bred gelding by Dutch Art, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.61 with Gary Stevens up.
With Accelerate among four late scratches, Catalina Cruiser shoved off first in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar and cruised into home port first by 6 3/4 lengths with jockey Drayden Van Dyke keeping full steam ahead. Dr. Dorr was best of the rest with stablemate Dabster 1 3/4 lengths further back. Two Thirty Five and Harlan Punch completed the order of finish. Catalina Cruiser, a 4-year-old son of Union Rags from the Mineshaft mare Sea Gull, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.95 in the local preliminary to the $1 million Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 18.
Catalina Cruiser obviously benefitted from the scratches, particularly of Accelerate, who started Arrogate's sad slide with a victory in last year's San Diego. But the lightly raced chestnut obviously is talented in his own right. Unraced until October of his 3-year-old season, he now is 3-for-3 and, as Cubs fans, we'll note that in his first win, he came from off the pace to defeat something called Puig.
"The nickname of this horse around the barn is 'The best horse nobody's heard of,'" said John Sadler, who trains both Catalina Cruiser and Accelerate for the same owners. "Today we changed it to 'the next big thing.' We've loved this horse from day one. He's showed a lot of potential but we've had to be patient with him. Today he showed us what we thought he could do. We're not going to run two in the Pacific Classic. We're going to run one horse -- to be determined. We're going to see how these horses (Accelerate and Catalina Cruiser) train over the track and pull up."
Catherinethegreat had the early lead in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Schuylerville Stakes at Saratota, extended the margin around the turn and into the stretch and sprinted away to win by 4 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Nonna Madeline, tracked the winner but couldn't stay with her in the final furlong, finishing second, 3/length in front of Congrats Gal. Catherinethegreat, an Uncaptured filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.98 with Jose Ortiz up.
Winning trainer Mark Casse also trains Eyeinthesky, who finished sixth, and Tapping Pearl, who beat only one rival. His first-year trainer son and former assistant, Norm Casse, saddled Fightress, who got home seventh. "The only thing that would've been better is if my dad had been here," the elder Casse said. "I was thinking and I said, 'To think, I've been watching the Schuylerville since I was a little boy and to think there were four Casse horses in there. It doesn't get much better than that."
Catherinethegreat now is 2-for-3 and Casse, who bought both Uncaptured and Catherinethegreat for John Oxley, said when he saw the filly, he told Oxley, "I found the next Uncaptured." Uncaptured was a multiple graded stakes winner in both the United States and Canada, earning more the $1 million -- five times the purchase price.
At Prairie Meadows, Taylor's Spirit dueled for the lead in Friday's $65,000 Prairie Gold Lassie, assumed command and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Agi's Cait was second, 3/4 length to the good of Beach Getaway. Taylor's Spirit, an Algorithms filly out of the Dehere mare Spirit Rising, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.28 with Kevin Roman up.
Sombeyay collared pacesetting Strike Silver in the final strides in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, winning by a neck. Whiskey Echo was third. Sombeyay, an Into Mischief colt out of the Limehouse mare Teroda, ran 6 furlongs on the fast track in 1:10.35 with Javier Castellano up. He's 2-for-3 with the only loss a second-place finish in the Tremont at Belmont Park. Todd Pletcher trains the colt for Starlight Racing, which paid $230,000 for him at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
"I think in these early 2-year-old races experience is huge," Pletcher said. "Having two starts compared to others with only one I think that helped today." He said he's looking at the $350,000 Grade I Hopeful on Sept. 3 but might slot an intervening race if Sombeyay "is kicking the barn down."
Hello there! The Gray Dehere broke a bit awkwardly in Friday' $65,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile at Prairie Meadows but jumped willingly into contention, then spurted away to lead by 7 lengths at the top of the lane en route to a 14 1/2-lengths victory. Cat Addiction and Mr. Chocolate Chip filled out the trifecta while the favorite, Brother Ritchie, faded to finish last. The Gray Dehere, a Graydar Colt out of the Henny Hughes mare Lil Red Cozette, finished 6 furlongs in 1:11.36 with Lane Luzzi riding. He now is 2-for-3. Graydar's dam, Sweetest Smile, was sired by Dehere.
Visiting the Emerald Isle:
There's no English-Irish Oaks double this year as Sea of Class ran down Investec Oaks winner Forever Together in the final yards to win Saturday's Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks by a neck. Godolphin-owned long shot Mary Tudor, the first to challenge Forever Together in the stretch run, held on for third but was 1 1/2 lengths farther back. Bye Bye Baby was fourth and the favorite, Magic Wand, sagged to fifth, beaten nearly 10 lengths as Ryan Moore's choice among the three Aidan O'Brien starters.
Sea of Class, a Sea the Stars filly trained by William Haggis and ridden by James Doyle, scored her third straight win and now is 3-for-4. She is out of the Hernando mare Holy Moon.
"I wasn't keen on going to Epsom with her and when I got around to changing my mind, it rained," Haggas told Racing Post. "So somebody was looking out for us. She stays well and has a good turn of foot. There is a good chance she will stay in training next season and plans are fluid. We'll look at maybe the Yorkshire Oaks or the Prix Vermeille."
Back in the colonies:
Miss Deplorable stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Blue Sparkler Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, bid for the lead on the turn and ran on gamely to win by 1 length. The favorite, Auldwood Lane, was coming quickly but couldn't quite make up enough ground. Not In Jeopardy was third. Miss Deplorable, a daughter of Big Drama, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.74 under Carlos Hernandez -- a course record according to Equibase.
Majestic Affair bid three-wide down the stretch in Sunday's $50,000 Good Lord Stakes and easily outfinished Shut the Box for the win. It was 5 1/2 lengths further back to Control Stake in third. Majestic Affair, a 6-year-old Majesticperfection gelding trained by Brad Cox, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.41 with Shaun Bridgmohan up.
Sea Foam set a pressured pace through the early furlongs in Saturday's $100,000 New York Derby for state-breds, then eased clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths. His early tormentor, Spectacular Kid, had enough left to hold second by 2 lengths over the favorite, Analyze the Odds. Sea Foam, a Medaglia d'Oro colt out of the Unbridled's Song mare Strike It Rich, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast strip in 1:46.19 with Jamie Rodriguez riding.
Split Time had some traffic issues early in the lane in Saturday's $75,000 New York Oaks but, once given a clear path by jockey Junior Alvarado, rallied sharply to win by 2 lengths over Crashing Connie. The favorite and early leader, English Soul, was third, a nose behind that one. Split Time, a Take Charge Indy filly, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.00.
Alliford Bay led early and finished well in Saturday's $65,000 California Governor's Cup for fillies and mares, winning by 3 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Eccentric Spinster was second and Deb's Wildcard third. Alliford Bay, a 4-year-old City Zip filly, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.18 with Juan Hernandez in the irons for trainer Blaine Wright.
Baby Nina dusted six other 2-year-old fillies in the final furlongs of Saturday's $75,000 Miss Ohio Stakes for state breds, winning off by 9 lengths. She was followed by the early leader, Candy Lane and the odds-on favorite, Drillit. Baby Nina, a Flatter filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.28 with Scott Spieth in the irons.
Sweet Bye and Bye said a stretch-running bye bye to her rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Crowd Pleaser Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, winning by 3 lengths over Smooth B. The judges waited another 4 1/4 lengths to find Wait For It in third. Sweet Bye and Bye, a Sky Mesa filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.76 with Carol Cedeno in the irons.
Fielder was just up in the last jumps to win the $100,000 Marshall Jenney Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds and up by a nose over pacesetter Spartianos. Hollywood Talent was another 1 length back in third. Fielder, a 4-year-old Sidney's Candy gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.51 seconds with Mychel Sanchez riding.
Deland was along late to capture Sunday's $75,000 Coast Is Clear Stakes by 2 lengths over Zipping with Hy Riverside another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Deland, a 6-year-old son of Gotcha Gold, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.86 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons.
Princess of the Nyl broke last of six in Sunday's $50,000 Washington Oaks, made up all the ground and kicked away in the stretch run to win by 8 lengths. Diamonds R, also a late runner, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of the favorite, Bella Mia. Princess of the Nyl, a Pioneerof the Nile filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.24 with Kevin Orozco up.
Trooper John stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Don Getty Handicap, responded when called upon by jockey Rigo Sarmiento and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Killin Me Smalls. Royal Warrior and Double Bear completed the order of finish. Trooper John, a 4-year-old Colonel John gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:44.60.
True Cinder led throughout Sunday's $75,000 Buckeye Native Stakes for state-breds and ran on to win by 7 lengths over Mobil Solution. Leona's Reward was another 3 lengths up the track in third. True Cinder, a 4-year-old filly by Alcindor, ran 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy main track with Geraldo Corrales up. The race came off the turf.
Magna Rose shadowed pacesetting Distinctive Flower through the early furlongs in Sunday's $75,000 Norm Barron Queen City Oaks for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, went by that one and scooted off to win by 6 3/4 lengths. Distinctive Flower easily held second over Marathon. Magna Rose, a Magna Graduate filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on the sloppy track in 1:52.22 with John McKee in the irons.