Talk about a loaded race. The field for Saturday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint is undoubtedly one of the deepest in the 7-furlong race’s relatively short history, with defending champ Finest City and hugely respected and equally hyped Unique Bella in the mix.
Throw in Grade 1 winners Carina Mia, Paulasssilverlining, By The Moon and Constellation and Grade 2 winners Curlin’s Approval, Finley’sluckycharm, Highway Star, Skye Diamonds and Ami’s Mesa and it’s not a stretch to say it’s more than loaded.
Eight of the 14 fillies and mares entered in the Grade 1 event competed at Saratoga Race Course last summer, four of which came away with stakes victories. By The Moon leads that quartet thanks to her victory in the Grade 1 Ballerina, which came at the expense of fellow Filly and Mare Sprint contenders Highway Star, Carina Mia, Paulassilverlining and Curlin’s Approval. Paulassilverlining, one of two in the race for trainer Chad Brown along with Carina Mia, defeated Finley’sluckycharm in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss.
The Saratoga Special covered those races and more in 2017. By The Moon’s win appeared in the loaded Aug. 27 Travers Day recap edition, which also featured coverage of Breeders’ Cup Turf contender Sadler’s Joy in the Sword Dancer, Breeders’ Cup Sprint favorite Drefong in the Forego and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf favorite Lady Eli in the Ballston Spa.
Take a look back at those races, along with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Firenze Fire’s score in the Sanford from the pages of The Saratoga Special. And while you’re at it, check out any of our 34 issues from 2017.
By The Moon turns tables for first Grade 1 win in Ballerina
By Shayna Tiller
As the seven-horse field for Saturday’s $500,000 Ballerina Stakes departed the paddock, Michelle Nevin stood quietly along the horse path watching intently as two horses walked past. First, Paulassilverlining wearing the No. 2 blue saddlecloth, followed by By The Moon wearing a No. 4 yellow saddlecloth.
Nevin left the paddock alone, the typically short stroll to the clubhouse seeming miles long as the countdown to post time ticked down. While Travers Day madness ensued nearby, the clubhouse filling with people bouncing around for the biggest race day of the meet, Nevin stood in the last row of the crowd watching the television in her own bubble.
The field broke for the Grade 1 Ballerina and By The Moon darted to the lead with Rajiv Maragh aboard for the fourth consecutive time. They crawled through splits of :24.05 and :47.81, leading by a half-length over Highway Star.
Nevin stayed quiet until the eighth-pole, as Highway Star narrowed the margin behind By The Moon.
“Come on, Rajiv! Come on, Rajiv,” Nevin said, clapping and stomping as her mare ran shoulder-to-shoulder with Highway Star.
By The Moon accepted the challenge, responded and pushed her head over the finish before Highway Star to win the 7-furlong stakes in 1:22.97.
“When she broke and Rajiv went right to the lead and got control of the race right away I thought it was such a brilliant move because he had control so that meant he got first run too,” said Nevin. “He just gave her an awesome ride.”
Maragh won back-to-back races in his first two rides on By The Moon in the Grade 3 Vagrancy and Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont Park this spring before a third in their previous start in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga July 26.
“She’s such a top-class filly; if you give her that advantage, it’s going to be tough to beat her,” said Maragh. “I just kept slowing it down as much as they’d let me and the rest worked out good.
“She’s such a powerful filly and she’s always given me 100 percent. She’s so consistent, she always shows up with her ‘A’ game and that gives me a lot of confidence as her rider to show up in a race. That was fun. I’m just so happy we held on.”
A previous stablemate of By The Moon, Paulassilverlining left Nevin’s barn after being privately purchased as a broodmare prospect for Arrogate by Juddmonte Farms. She closed her 4-year-old campaign with Nevin, highlighted by a third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and started with Chad Brown as a 5-year-old. Paulassilverlining won against her old stablemate in the Honorable Miss, before finishing fifth Saturday.
“I love Paula, I feel like these are two of my children,” said Nevin. “Paula has done great, I’m so proud of her. Throughout their career both fillies have both taken their turn, one beat one here and then the other one comes back so they’ve been fair to each other.”
Jay Em Ess Stable’s homebred daughter of Indian Charlie has seven wins, six seconds and two thirds and $1,552,940 in earnings from 19 career starts. She finished runner-up in last year’s Ballerina by a half-length to Haveyougoneaway, followed by a fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
Her 5-year-old campaign has been her most successful, placing in all five starts with a $612,500 bankroll so far. By The Moon is out of the graded stakes-placed Malibu Moon mare By The Light, who Jay Em Ess also raced.
“I used to gallop her mom. I’m like her Nana,” said Nevin. “She’s very similar to her mother, she’s very determined.
“From the get go she’s just been a really straightforward, hard-working, honest filly. Distance is key. Seven furlongs is her preferred trip, last race was a great stepping-stone to get here.”
The Ballerina is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Division” and By The Moon earned an automatic spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar Nov. 4.
“Tomorrow’s another day,” said Nevin. “We’ve got to regroup and figure out how to go forward again. That was so exciting, I can hardly breathe.”
Carina Mia victorious for new trainer, jockey
By Tom Law
When the decision makers at Three Chimneys Farm decided to hit the reset button with Carina Mia they went to the most recent Eclipse Award-winning trainer, away from a three-time winner of that honor and a member of the Hall of Fame.
When Chad Brown, who took over the training of the Grade 1 winner from Bill Mott in June, decided to make changes of his own with the filly’s afternoon rider he went to the winner of the last four Eclipse Awards for outstanding jockey and one of the newest members of the Hall of Fame.
Javier Castellano was the recipient of those Eclipse Awards and of the mount on Carina Mia, winner of the Grade 1 Acorn last year riding a six-race losing streak exclusively in Grade 1 stakes heading into Wednesday’s $100,000 Shine Again Stakes at Saratoga. The daughter of Malibu Moon, favored in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and on the board in three of those Grade 1 losses under Julien Leparoux, ended that skid for her new trainer-jockey team and won the Shine Again by a neck over stablemate Going For Broke.
“When they sent the horse over to me, looking for a change of pace, the way I look at it they’re wiping the slate clean and want a different view of this horse,” said Brown, who won two races Monday and is the meet’s leading trainer through 11 days with 14 wins. “I just thought it was appropriate to use a fresh jockey that doesn’t have any preconceived notions about her, someone I work well with, have a lot of rapport with and felt like Javier was the right choice.”
Castellano, who will join Garrett Gomez and Victor Espinoza as jockeys inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday morning, said he rode Carina Mia with patience and confidence.
He’d ridden against her before, most recently when she was fourth and he was second on Paid Up Subscriber in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont June 10 and in her 2017 debut when he was fifth on Lightstream and she was third in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs May 6.
Castellano knew what Carina Mia was capable of and he knew she held a serious class edge over the six fillies and mares in the 7-furlong stakes restricted to non-winners of a graded stakes in 2017.
“It worked out great, I had a great trip and rode with a lot of patience and a lot of confidence because I know I’ve got the best filly in the race,” Castellano said. “She gave me the best result. Chad did a good job with the filly. He just got her from Billy Mott.
“She’s an amazing filly, put me in a good spot all the way into the race and when it was time to ask her she responded so well.”
Castellano kept Carina Mia down on the inside shortly after the break and up the backstretch as longshot Absatootly and Momameamaria went at it early. Indulgent and Luis Saez lapped onto Carina Mia’s right side as the two leaders clicked off a soft quarter of :23.42.
Carina Mia and Castellano continued to follow behind the two leaders into the far turn as Indulgent and Birdatthewire stacked up to her outside into the bend. Carina Mia was fifth through the half in :46.08, Castellano staying patient with a good hold on the filly.
Dylan Davis didn’t come off the fence much, maybe one path, when he and Absatootly and Momameamaria and Manny Franco turned for home in front. Castellano switched Carina Mia to the outside, angling the filly into a path just wide enough to slip between Momameamaria and Indulgent while Irad Ortiz Jr. and Going For Broke dove toward a hole on the fence.
“I was concerned because it looked like that horse in front of her was getting ready to stop,” Brown said of Absatootly. “We chose Javier to ride this horse to start over with her and I thought he’d fit her quite well. He’s been in these situations plenty of times, he was just biding his time, hoping to get a little seam because he knew what he kind of horse he had under him. She was good enough to get through.”
The four fanned across the track at the eighth pole through 6 furlongs in 1:09.78, the two Brown trainees rolling and the six others sputtering. A sixteenth from home it was between those two, with Carina Mia edging clear late over her comebacking stablemate, runner-up in last year’s Alabama and off since a third in the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct in late November.
“The way I see it, the speed, I don’t think is of the good quality and as competitive as my filly,” Castellano said. “I don’t want to hook the speed or go to the lead and have them chase me. I change everything and Chad gave me the opportunity to use my best judgment in the race and that’s what I took. I let the two speeds go, just sat in behind those two horses. I had the perfect trip.”
Carina Mia won for the fifth time in 13 career starts, adding the Shine Again to victories at 2 in a Keeneland maiden race and the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill and at 3 in the Acorn. She placed in three other Grade 1 stakes as a 3-year-old, including a runner-up finishes to champion Songbird in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga and Cotillion at Parx, and was ninth in the Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
Carina Mia came to Brown’s barn shortly after the Ogden Phipps, where she finished fourth and 4 1/4 lengths behind Songbird.
“I had a lot of respect for her, I’d run against her,” Brown said of his early impressions of Carina Mia. “She trains well, she’s a good looking filly and has a good team of people behind her at Three Chimneys.”
Carina Mia and Going For Broke could show up next at Saratoga on the Travers Day undercard, the former in the Grade 1 Ballerina going 7 furlongs again or stretching back out to 9 furlongs for the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. Going For Broke is possible for the Personal Ensign.
“I’ll tell you, I put her in here knowing that she could run well, but knowing that 7 is a little short for her and just trying to get her started after a very lengthy break last year where she was knocking on the door,” Brown said of Going For Broke. “I’m so pleased with her race, that she came back as good as she did.”
Little Pit Bull
Paulassilverlining wears down Finley’sluckycharm
By Tom Law
Chad Brown walked the aisle away from his box, met Steve Young on the clubhouse steps, clapped him on the back and summarized the effort of Paulassilverlining in two words.
“All heart,” Brown said as he walked to the winner’s circle to meet the mare who joined Juddmonte Farms’ deep and talented band of broodmares-to-be after her third consecutive graded stakes win for her new connections in Wednesday’s Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga.
The 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper needed to show that heart, and perhaps get a little lift from a former stablemate, to outrun another horse with a one-word name on a graded stakes streak in the $200,000 feature that kicked off the second week of racing in upstate New York. Paulassilverlining won the 6-furlong Honorable Miss by a neck from Finley’sluckycharm with By The Moon another half-length back in third in the field of five.
Paulassilverlining won in 1:10.10, a time only topped at this early stage of the meet by the Grade 1-bound 3-year-old colt Takaful’s 1:09.89 Opening Day. Jose Ortiz, who rode Paulassilverlining to Grade 1 victories in the Madison at Keeneland and Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs to start the season, rode her again Wednesday.
“He timed it just right,” Brown said. “She has a lot of heart, and from the time she’s been in our barn she’s done nothing wrong and has been a real pleasant addition to our stable. She’s so competitive, a lot of heart, a lot of talent.”
Paulassilverlining, a half sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Dads Caps and a multiple graded stakes winner at 2 and 4 for Michelle Nevin, landed in Brown’s care this spring.
She was one of several mares Juddmonte Farm showed interest in acquiring privately last year and the farm called on Young to broker the deal with her owner and breeder Vince Scuderi.
Young, who might have bought the filly privately before her win in the Grade 2 Matron in 2014 if not for an uninspiring workout, got the deal done in mid-March.
“I bought her on the way to the March sale in Ocala, so like March 15,” Young said. “We talked last year about some horses and this is the first horse I’ve bought for them. The second is Jamyson ’n Ginger. She makes you look good, she’s a half-sister to a two-time Carter winner, she’s a multiple Grade 1 winner, it’s a great deal for everybody.”
Ortiz is one who didn’t lose out when the mare was transferred from Nevin to Brown. He’d ridden her in 11 of her first 18 starts – including the Matron, the Grade 3 Distaff and Vagrancy and Grade 2 Gallant Bloom – and stayed aboard when Paulassilverlining showed up on the overnight for the Madison.
Even with her regular pilot aboard, and coming off back-to-back Grade 1 victories, and being in the barn of the meet’s defending training champion and Eclipse Award winner from last year, Paulassilverlining went off as the 8-5 second choice in the field of five.
The favorite’s role went to Finley’sluckycharm, winner of eight of 10 lifetime and three straight including back-to-back Grade 3s at Churchill, at 6-5. A touch unsettled in the paddock and after Brian Hernandez Jr. got a leg up from Bret Calhoun, Finley’sluckycharm settled in the warm-up.
Paulassilverlining and Ortiz warmed up with the pony at first before breaking off alone and jogging to the post.
Heading to the Saratoga Room after the race for a glass of champagne, Brown and Young continued their conversation about what made the difference in the three-quarter mile race separated by a few feet.
“You know what the cool thing is she’s got a great jockey that takes 40 horses a week away from the pony and he asks Chad, ‘Can I leave her with the pony because she’s too rough warming up?’ ” Young said.
Brown said Ortiz told him he had a plan when they met in the paddock, and he wasn’t about to change with the rider who knows the mare well.
“He had a routine; he warmed her up with the pony to take the edge off then he just jogged her alone, did you see that?,” Brown said.
“This goes back to something (Bobby) Frankel taught me, when we’d get horses transferred to us, he’d say, ‘don’t be a hero, do what they’ve been doing.’ That was his line, ‘don’t be a hero.’ Jose and her have, looking at her previous races when she came to me, some great chemistry. I use Jose anyway, so it was natural just to leave him on the horse. It’s a huge advantage running this horse having that relationship between the two. He knows this filly extremely well.”
Ortiz knows her well enough not to get overly concerned when Finley’sluckycharm got away with a relatively easy opening quarter of :22.69 just ahead of longshot Parx shipper Disco Chick. Ortiz kept Paulassilverlining close, only 2 lengths off the leader through the quarter, and started to ask a bit past the half-mile pole.
“I didn’t want (Finley’sluckycharm) to get a big lead,” Ortiz said. “She was going easy enough for him, and I didn’t want them to get comfortable in there.”
Finley’sluckycharm continued to lead around the far turn and through the half in :45.46, with Paulassilverlining just to her outside.
The two turned for home side by side about three paths off the fence, Hernandez going left-handed and Ortiz going right as they approached the eighth pole and passed 5 furlongs in :57.29.
By The Moon, Paulassilverlining’s former stablemate still trained by Nevin, threatened at that point and continued her sustained rally to the outside of Paulassilverlining. As By The Moon surged, Paulassilverlining, perhaps sensing a late run on the outside, drew on even terms with Finley’sluckycharm inside the sixteenth pole. Paulassilverlining edged clear just before the wire as the trio hit the finish together.
“She never stopped running, that other filly and her, they just kept fighting,” Hernandez said. “She was traveling well the whole way and that was our whole thing, we know our filly. We just wanted to let her get into a nice rhythm. Turning for home I thought we’d put that other filly away, but when you get into races with these kind of Grade 1 winners they don’t go away. They just keep coming at you. That’s all that was today.”
Calhoun hoped to see Finley’sluckycharm a bit more settled in the paddock, but saluted the winner.
“I thought we had her put away in midstretch but she came back and got us. Classy filly,” Calhoun said. “That’s the most my filly’s every gotten excited in the paddock, probably used herself a little more than normal. Hopefully we’ve addressed that and we can be a little quieter for her next spot. But she got beat by the best sprint filly in the country. I was pretty excited in the stretch, I thought we’d put her away and she came back.”
Brown, who described Paulassilverlining as a “little pit bull” for her tenacity as he watched the mare train last week, also paid tribute to the mare with 11 wins in 21 starts and earnings of $1,491,230.
“She was giving the other fillies some weight and the other filly is a real quality horse as seen in the odds,” said Brown, who plans to run back in the Grade 1 Ballerina on the Aug. 26 Travers Day undercard. “Our filly won two Grade 1s in a row and she didn’t even go off favored. Got away with a soft first quarter, the leader, at 22 and 3, at this caliber of race is not fast and Paula was able to wear her down. It was a great stretch duel and thank God we came out on top.”
Broman homebred Bar Of Gold wins Yaddo for Kimmel
By Shayna Tiller
The last time John Kimmel stepped into the winner’s circle at Saratoga Race Course before Bar Of Gold’s victory in Friday’s $150,000 Yaddo Stakes during the Saratoga Showcase Day card was August 26, 2015.
Kimmel descended the clubhouse steps with a grin, making his way to the main track. He stood smiling at the big screen in the infield as Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred mare appeared, charging down the stretch without another horse in sight.
“Look at her on the gallop out, there isn’t anybody even close to her,” said Kimmel. “Look at that!”
Irad Ortiz Jr. trotted up to the winner’s circle atop Bar Of Gold, beaming and high-fiving Kimmel.
“I knew it, I knew it,” said Ortiz. “When she cut the corner I knew it.”
Bar Of Gold, a 5-year-old mare by Medaglia d’Oro who is Kimmel’s second highest earner now with a bankroll of $918,500 from 22 starts, successfully campaigned on the dirt through her 4-year-old season. Multiple times she placed in graded stakes at distances spanning from 6 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.
Kimmel decided to try the turf as Bar Of Gold started her 5-year-old campaign this spring. She finished fourth in the Plenty of Grace at Aqueduct, going 1 mile on the grass for the first time.
“We had experimented a little bit with the grass stuff last summer, worked her a couple times at the Oklahoma track,” said Kimmel. “(Joel) Rosario worked her twice over there and said, ‘You’ve got to try this filly on the grass.’ ”
The Bromans bred and raced Bar Of Gold’s dam, the graded stakes-winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Khancord Kid.
“Her mother was a graded stakes winner on the grass, never won on the dirt,” said Kimmel. “By Medaglia d’Oro, who’s had his compliment of grass horses. When this year came around, we thought we’d give it a go.”
She made her next three starts on three different surfaces – second on a sloppy sealed track in the Grade 2 Ruffian in May, seventh on a fast dirt track in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps in June and back on the turf for a second in an allowance in July.
“We came back in the Ogden Phipps and I didn’t know what to think,” said Kimmel. “She got banged around a little bit, and in close quarters. She just got discouraged and didn’t run her ‘A’ race at all. So we went back to the grass and she ran a really good race, ran her last quarter in 22 and 3 and got beat.”
Bar Of Gold finished third in her last start in the Fasig-Tipton De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 5, going 1 mile on the grass.
“This horse has had some really difficult trips and I thought there were some races she should’ve won and she’s been banging heads with some of the best,” said Kimmel. “I thought I picked a soft spot here and forgot about Fourstar Crook. She showed she can handle top class horses when she’s on her game. She really likes the firm ground. She likes to hear her feet rattle.”
Ortiz took the mount for the third consecutive time in the 1 1/16-mile stakes, chasing just behind the pace until the turn entering the stretch. Ortiz shoved his hands and body over to the right for a split second, before ducking into a hole along the rail, taking the lead and prevailing by 1 1/4 lengths. Heavy favorite Fourstar Crook was runner-up, breaking her eight-race winning streak.
“Irad’s really getting to know her now because she gives you a really quick turn of foot and the thing about it last time is the ground had a little give to it and he had to ask early and ran out of gas a little bit going wide and had to make a big move,” said Kimmel. “Today he waited and waited. It wasn’t that she got bumped at the top of the stretch, he kind of faked that he was going to go to the outside and then dropped in and she shot in there like a cannon. He’s really getting to know her and is very confident with her now.”
After going winless for nearly two full Saratoga meets, Kimmel could not stop smiling in the clubhouse with a mark in the win column.
“Oh my God, just frustration with Saratoga in general,” said Kimmel. “It’s been horrible. Next thing you look you’re not winning any races, you think you have a good shot in one and something out of your control happens. That’s horses I guess.”
With a win on his side, Kimmel optimistically looks forward to Bar Of Gold’s next step.
“She’s come out of these grass races in really good form, the dirt races took a little more toll on her,” said Kimmel. “These grass races are easy on her. She’s just a class act, stayed healthy and maybe we can have some fun with her for the rest of the year. Maybe get out of the New York-bred conditions and win a graded stake with her.
“She showed a new dimension today and she’s never really won around two turns. That was a big thing I actually think she can go in open company, too. She liked the firm ground, it made a big difference, too.”
Turf star Lady Eli does it again in Grade 2 Ballston Spa
By Tom Law
Sol Kumin can’t get enough action.
He’s bought into so many horses through the Sheep Pond Partners and Head of Plains Partners he’s involved with that it’s probably hard to keep track of them all. Half-interests, quarters, eighths, other fractions. Sheep Pond has joined with 29 partnership groups since 2014 while Head of Plains counts nearly 100 in the same timeframe.
Kumin and his partners are always on the lookout for the next prospect. But the best horse they own isn’t a prospect at all, quite the contrary, and chances are she won’t even be in the Sheep Pond fold once November rolls around.
Lady Eli is that horse and she’s not only the best for Sheep Pond but perhaps the best female turf horse in America after winning again Saturday in the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa at Saratoga Race Course. Slated to be sold in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale shortly after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar, Lady Eli improved to 3-for-4 this year with a 1 1/2-length win over Dickinson in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa.
Kumin and Jay Hanley, who head up the Sheep Pond group with two friends, celebrated Lady Eli’s latest victory with a huge group at Saratoga.
They led the Divine Park mare into the winner’s circle, posed for photos, dashed off to the Saratoga Room for champagne while the Travers Day crowd spilled onto the streets. They even conceded that watching Lady Eli win her eighth graded stakes in front of the appreciative crowd that stuck around for 40 minutes after the Travers made the decision to sell even more difficult.
“It does. It’s hard, very hard,” Kumin said. “We’ve been struggling with it but we don’t breed, it’s not part of our program and it’s a lot of dollars for us for what we do and what we’re trying to accomplish at the racetrack. We know we’ve got to recycle a lot of those dollars, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Lady Eli figures to be one of the more sought-after broodmare prospects in the November sale and the 5-year-old out of the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur will no doubt land in the hands of one of the world’s top breeders. Kumin and Hanley make no bones they’re not in that same conversation.
“If we turned into breeders all of a sudden we’d start dabbling, so to speak, and it’s almost a disservice to her and the breeding establishment to say, ‘oh yeah, we can do that,’ ” Hanley said. “We’ll be sad to see her go, but it’s been such an amazing ride and it continues to be. We’re just happy to be a part of it.”
Lady Eli’s latest victory came five weeks after she ran down a stubborn Quidura and held off stablemate Antonoe to win the Grade 1 Diana going 9 furlongs the first Saturday of the meet. The Ballston Spa looked like a near rerun of that race, albeit at 1 1/16 miles against familiar foes Dickinson and Antonoe and new faces On Leave and Roca Rojo.
Irad Ortiz Jr., Lady Eli’s only rider in her 13-start career, rated her a few paths off the inside early as Dickinson set the pace just ahead of Antonoe and On Leave rounding the clubhouse turn on the Mellon course. The winner stayed fourth up the backstretch, tracking Antonoe while Jose Ortiz made a bid for the lead aboard On Leave after a soft half-mile in :48.92.
Irad Ortiz gave Lady Eli her cue around the far turn, passed those rivals and looked like a winner the moment the field came into the stretch. Dickinson, who beat Lady Eli in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April, stayed on well in the lane before giving way inside the final sixteenth. Roca Rojo and Antonoe, Lady Eli’s stablemates in trainer Chad Brown’s barn, finished third and fourth with On Leave fifth. Lady Eli won in 1:39.70.
The ownership group announced last week that Lady Eli would be offered in the Keeneland November sale and didn’t learn she’d be running in the Ballston Spa until this week.
Brown originally intended to wait with Lady Eli and use just one prep – the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park Oct. 8 – for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar Nov. 4. The plan changed during Travers Week as Brown watched Lady Eli train and after he factored in the timing and the possibility of adverse conditions downstate for the Flower Bowl.
“The decision wasn’t ours, it was Chad’s. Let’s be clear about that,” Kumin joked. “It was an 8 a.m. call, ‘Hey, what’s up buddy? I’m entering Lady Eli today and I’m going to take a look.’ We laughed, ‘Take a look,’ that means she’s running.
“He just said he was worried about too long between races, ‘If we catch wet turf at Belmont and it puts us in a tough spot, she’s ready to run, she wants to run and I think I’m going to run her.’ ”
The Ballston Spa, a race Lady Eli lost in her comeback last year after a well-documented near-death battle with laminitis, also wasn’t in the plan. Lady Eli made three starts this year before the Ballston Spa, all Grade 1s by design. She’d run in two Grade 1s to end her 4-year-old season last year, too, winning the Flower Bowl and finishing second by a nose to Queen’s Trust in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
“It made all kinds of sense, it just wasn’t what we thought about from the beginning of the year,” Hanley said. “We thought about Grade 1s only. We all kind of looked at it and saw the gap between the Diana and the Flower Bowl was like 10, 12 weeks and we were like, ‘OK, that feels like a long gap.’ It was a good decision in retrospect.”
“We had a few moments where we were like, ‘Oh my goodness, is this going to turn out OK?’ But it makes sense, it’s five weeks from her last race and if she goes to the Flower Bowl she’ll be six weeks to the Flower Bowl and four to the Breeders’ Cup and that’s it. It makes sense, it wasn’t exactly what we thought at the beginning of the year but obviously it’s great.”
As Good As It Gets
Lady Eli adds to growing legend in Diana
By Sean Clancy
“Those are transactions. This is love.”
That’s how Sol Kumin described winning Grade 1 stakes with horses and winning Grade 1 stakes with Lady Eli.
Kumin described the difference, moments after his first horse, Lady Eli, earned her fourth Grade 1 stakes, taking the Diana by a head over Quidura who had a length on Antonoe in a three-way scrum in Saturday’s $500,000 stakes.
Owned by Kumin’s Sheep Pond Partners, trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Lady Eli won for the ninth time in her 12-race career. It was anything but simple for the favorite.
Antonoe charged through the gate from stall 2, galloping a furlong down the track before Javier Castellano was able to stop her. Lady Eli, provoked by the move, broke through her gate as well, but was stifled by a member of the gate crew, who held on to the left side of her bridle like a kid holding on to the tail of a kite on a windy day. The miscue unnerved Kumin and Brown.
“Dude, that scared the hell out of me,” Kumin said.
“I didn’t feel good about it at all,” Brown said.
With his gloved left hand, Ortiz dabbed behind Lady Eli’s ears and they tried again. Unflustered, Lady Eli buckled slightly to the right but found her rhythm quickly as Ortiz cajoled her out of the peloton and into a solitary spot in fifth. Fourth-choice Quidura and Junior Alvarado took the initiative and led past the wire as Paco Lopez angled Dickinson from the outside stall to find a spot in second. Longshot My Impression and Jose Ortiz set up camp in third, Antonoe stayed along the inside rail, Lady Eli lobbed comfortably in fifth and Harmonize trailed. Quidura led the six-horse field through a quarter-mile in :23.59 and a half in :47.51 while Lady Eli waited from her toe hold in fifth.
After getting caught late and losing two photo finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November and Jenny Wiley in April, Brown and Ortiz discussed strategy.
“They were tough,” Brown said. “Sometimes these turf races are like a chess game, the last move wins. In a couple of those defeats, she didn’t make the last move.”
With four rivals in front of him and one longshot behind him, Ortiz was planning on making the last move in the Diana. Then he scrapped that plan.
“I didn’t make the last move,” Ortiz said. “I moved in the turn because I was in behind My Impression, I could see Jose running out of horse, I said, ‘Man, I’ve got to go early.’ I have to make sure Antonoe doesn’t push him because I’m going to go too wide, otherwise I have to check and wait, I had to move. There are seconds, you need to figure out what you’re going to do.”
Ortiz knew what he was going to do, sliding Lady Eli outside My Impression, then outside Dickinson and Quidura.
“At the quarter pole, it was time to move,” Ortiz said. “I’ve got a good filly, use my hand ride, show her the whip, every time I asked, she gave me something, she always does. Always.”
Without a choice, Castellano aimed for the rail and Alvarado cued a kick from Quidura, adding to her lead, but just for a moment. Lady Eli attacked from the outside as Ortiz waved his whip, without daring to use it for anything more than a request. Lady Eli gained a head margin on Quidura, Antonoe hesitated and ultimately never got through the hole, finishing with Castellano standing up in his irons (stewards called an inquiry but the results stood).
“For a second, I knew he had horse and I knew if he got through, he was going to fight with my filly,” Ortiz said. “It looked to me like she didn’t want to go through there, it was too tight for her, for any horse. I tried to keep it tight, stay close to Junior, I never touched him, never bumped him.”
Lady Eli pinned her ears all the way to the wire, holding a head margin on Quidura as Ortiz turned his whip down and punched his left fist down with one quick strike of celebration.
Galloping back to the winner’s circle, Lady Eli received an equal-opportunity reception as fans from the third floor terrace to the clubhouse boxes to the macadam apron stood and cheered for the mare who has won a Grade 1 every season she’s raced from 2 to 5.
Along the way, she overcame laminitis after stepping on a nail in 2015.
“She had every right to accept defeat but she just dug a little deeper. She’s unbelievable, just a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” Brown said. “She has so much raw talent and so much heart to overcome everything she has and always to find more, it amazes me, it doesn’t surprise me, but it amazes me.”
Kumin has been amazed by Lady Eli since her first win, a maiden on the Saratoga turf in 2014.
“She’s the first one, we’ve had her the longest, she ran in house silks the first time, it was three years ago, not five years ago, three years ago, that whole experience got us into it,” Kumin said. “Just her personality, the heart, the fight, going through the lows and the highs. The whole sport has lows and highs but she’s given you the whole sport in one, the highest the highs and the lowest of lows. We won this race last year with Dacita, that was awesome, great buy, she’s going to be worth X, where are we going to run her next but it didn’t feel anything like this. It’s just not the same.”
That was a transaction.
“We win races all the time. Mind Your Biscuits wins in Dubai. Undrafted wins a Grade 1 at Ascot. Exaggerator wins the Preakness. Life wins, hard to do, they’ll probably never happen again. This horse wins, it’s not even in the same stratosphere, the way you feel, the way you’re attached to her, this is different.”
Beats By Dre
Drefong adds another Saratoga Grade 1 to list
By Ben Gowans
Bob Baffert didn’t make the trip to Saratoga from Del Mar to watch champion Drefong win Saturday’s Grade 1 Forego Stakes, but didn’t need to be on hand to give his opinion on the outcome.
“We just saw the real Drefong,” Baffert said after he watched the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champ take down his second Grade 1 at Saratoga in as many years.
Baffert’s longtime assistant Jimmy Barnes couldn’t agree more with his boss following Drefong’s 4-length victory in the $600,000 stakes.
“Drefong showed up, as expected,” Barnes said of the Baoma Corporation-owned Gio Ponti colt.
The real Drefong was not present in his 2017 debut at Del Mar July 29 in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby. When coming out of the backstretch chute, he ducked in suddenly at the gap where the chute and oval connect and unseated Mike Smith. Drefong ran loose among the rest of the field for the remainder of the race, causing chaos for many of the contenders.
“That was terrible,” Barnes said.
Barnes’ wife and exercise rider Dana Barnes rode the three Baffert horses in Saratoga this week for Travers Day stakes – Drefong, Travers winner West Coast and H. Allen Jerkens third American Anthem – and shared the same sentiment about the Bing Crosby.
“I was so shocked, that was the last horse I would ever think would do that,” she said. “That was really, really bad.”
When looking at Drefong and his main rival in the Forego in Mind Your Biscuits in the paddock before the race, Drefong wouldn’t have been the answer to which horse dumped his jockey in its last race. Because Mind Your Biscuits was keyed up before the race, he left the paddock behind the rest of the field instead of in sequential order. With Mind Your Biscuits on edge while being ponied right behind him, Drefong stayed calm.
Mind Your Biscuits settled down once on the track, but tired to sixth in the stretch while Drefong drew away.
Smith stayed on Drefong in the Forego and didn’t have to do much more than that.
From the outside post in the field of 10 with the Morning Line Kitchen not far to his right over the outside rail, Drefong’s California speed was evident from the outset. He cleared and crossed over in front of the nine rivals to his inside only a few strides after leaving the gate. Although there was no foe to his inside when leaving the chute and crossing over to the main track, he kept his mind on business instead of taking a sharp left.
“Almost all his races, he’s fast out of the gate,” Barnes said of the colt purchased for $450,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. “He’s always been a very good workhorse. He’s pretty level headed, he’s about the same as always.”
The even-money favorite raced in the 3-path up the backstretch while clicking off fractions of :22.89 and :45.58, not dissimilar to the fractions of :23.11 and :45.85 he set in taking the Grade 1 King’s Bishop last year on Travers Day. The colt turned away a brief challenge from eventual fifth-place finisher Tale Of S’Avall on the turn and started to widen his advantage turning for home.
Smith hunkered down in the stretch, balancing himself perfectly in the saddle while using his patented left-handed stick four times. Smith and Drefong finished 4 lengths in front of runner-up Awesome Slew, stopping the clock in 1:21.12.
“I was hoping that he would run like he did last year here,” Smith said. “He really likes that summer breeze here. I knew that he was liking it today and I was just thinking positive. I think he ran even better than last year.”
Following a winner’s circle photo with Drefong, Barnes showed champion sprinter-like speed that his horse showed on the racetrack, dashing out of the winner’s circle and then through the clubhouse, juking around the Travers day crowd like a running-back on his way back to John Terranova’s barn on the backstretch.
“I just had to get back to make sure this horse (West Coast) got on his way in good order,” Barnes said just before the aforementioned colt won the Travers.
That’s why he’s counted on by Baffert.
“He does not like to leave those horses without anybody back there,” said Dana Barnes.
Baffert called Barnes just before he gave a leg up on Drefong to Smith.
“He did call me once,” Barnes said before watching the Travers on a television in the clubhouse closest to the track. “He just asked me how things were going, just checking in.”
Everything went to plan for Baffert and Co.
“We knew he was our best chance going in there,” Baffert said. “When he hit that third gear there, I was really happy, and happy to hear the cheers.
“We gave him a lot of time off and brought him back. It was a lot of patience there. To bring him back to the Breeders’ Cup we wanted to get two good runs in him. Sometimes things work out for the best. This was pretty exciting.”
Drefong won for the sixth time in eight starts and upped his earnings to $1,523,385.
TAKAFUL, From July 22 Racing Recap:
• Kiaran McLaughlin won two races on Opening Day last year. He carried on that tradition Friday as Takaful took the fourth and Muqtaser won the seventh, both for Shadwell Stable.
“I have to give my crew at Belmont the credit,” McLaughlin said after Takaful won his 6-furlong allowance. “Joe Lee, my assistant there, they really did a great job.”
After a blowout score in his debut by 8 lengths at Belmont in October, Takaful was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Remsen. He ran off early and could not carry his speed 9 furlongs, finishing third. He started the year with a seventh in the Grade 3 Jerome at Aqueduct and hadn’t raced since an eighth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream in early March.
The layoff wasn’t for lack of trying.
Takaful was entered to run in the same condition going 6 furlongs in late June at Belmont.
The headstrong colt ran off in the post parade with jockey Jose Ortiz a few minutes before the race. Ortiz realized he had no chance of pulling him up without aid and was not stopped until he reached the frontside where he received assistance from an outrider. He was a late scratch that afternoon.
“It was unlucky he ran away from the pony, I just told him to jog him to the gate,” McLaughlin said. “We put a lip-cord on him (this time). Last time he just had a fight with the pony boy and horse. It was just unlucky.”
Ortiz was aboard again Friday and the son of Bernardini showed speed from the gate and was never challenged winning by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:09.89. McLaughlin said the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens would be likely be next for Takaful.
After Muqtaser took the seventh, McLaughlin again dished out the credit to others.
“The racing secretary staff deserve a lot of credit, the book goes so we can point for races as soon as the condition book’s out. So, it worked out well,” McLaughlin said. “Joe Bravo deserves a lot of credit. They were going so slow he went ahead and went to the lead and kept him going.
“It’s great to get off winning two for Shadwell. They’ve been my biggest supporter since I took out my trainer’s license in 1993, so it’s great to win for them.” – Ben Gowans
Firenze Fire KOs field after snoozing in stall
By Tom Law
Jason Servis loves it when he comes to the barn and sees a horse he’s running that afternoon lying down.
When Servis showed up at his barn inside Horse Haven on the Oklahoma Training Track Saturday afternoon, a few hours before the co-featured Grade 3 Sanford Stakes, he saw Firenze Fire doing just that. The 2-year-old son of Poseidon’s Warrior was sprawled out and relaxed so much that Servis didn’t think to roust him, even though he was due for a visit from the blacksmith.
“I’ve always had a lot of luck when a horse is laying down before a race,” Servis said. “He was doing that today when the blacksmith showed up. I said, ‘oh, you’ve got to come back later, let him be.’ ”
Whether leaving the colt alone for a bit worked or not in the Sanford is had to say, but it provided enough of a good omen to Servis later that day when he tacked up Ron Lombardi’s homebred for his stakes debut in the 6-furlong Sanford. Firenze Fire ran his record to 2-for-2 with a 1-length victory over Free Drop Billy and six others in the Sanford, giving Lombardi’s Mr. Amore Stable and Servis their first graded stakes wins at Saratoga.
“The horse was always very classy and when he won first time I was a little surprised; I really was,” Servis said of Firenze Fire’s 3 1/2-length win at Monmouth Park June 18. “He won going away and there’s really not much around, a spot in Florida, a spot in Delaware, but it’s like, ‘this is where we’ve got to take a shot’ and it all worked out. We’re very excited.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. rode Firenze Fire to start a sweep of the second day of the meet’s stakes, adding the Grade 1 Diana aboard Lady Eli a half-hour later. Firenze Fire returned $27 to any of his backers in the paid crowd of 32,547 and betting elsewhere, the biggest mutuel of the day.
Servis said he was surprised with Firenze Fire’s debut victory going 5 furlongs, but perhaps not so much in the Sanford. Maybe it was the good omens from the colt’s light snooze, or perhaps because Servis gained a little confidence the day before when Firenze Fire’s workmate from his last breeze before the Sanford won at Monmouth.
“His last breeze was like 48 and 4, and he breezed with a colt that ran yesterday at Monmouth Park, a first-time starter, a 3-year-old that won by 5 and ran 1:09,” Servis said “That day they breezed together and went very well. I said, ‘wow, what the heck?’ ”
Firenze Fire’s workmate was Gary and Mary West’s Lasting Legacy, who indeed won by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:09.35 and returned $17 as the fifth choice in a field of nine.
“I told my assistants that this horse could be one of those sleepers that never shows you a lot then all of a sudden he surprises you,” Servis said of Firenze Fire. “He’s not out there dazzling you, dazzling you every time he works. It’s exciting.”
Servis was equally thrilled for Lombardi, who couldn’t make it to Saratoga for the race due to a commitment Sunday.
Firenze Fire is one of the first homebreds for Lombardi, who raced graded stakes winners Tightend Touchdown and American Border, Maryland Million winner Ribo Bobo, stakes winners Miss d’Oro and $493,252-earner Exclusive Strike. Firenze Fire is the product of a mare that Lombardi never actually raced, but hoped to after he and Servis put in a $16,000 claim in April 2012 at Aqueduct.
My Every Wish, a daughter of Langfuhr, finished second in her second start that day for David Jacobson and Drawing Away Stable and Class Personified Stable. She never made it back to the races and Lombardi found himself in the breeding business.
“This is a good story, we claimed the filly and she didn’t make it back to the races,” Servis said. “She had a throat issue, couldn’t breathe and I think she already had throat surgery to correct it. So he decided he was going to breed her, even though she didn’t have much pedigree. Three years later, it’s really something.”
Ortiz kept Firenze Fire four paths off the fence in the early portion of the 6-furlong Sanford while Baffin and Direct Dial, an uncoupled entry for trainer Steve Asmussen, took the early initiative just ahead of hustled up Psychoanalyze. Baffin led through a quarter in :22.27 and held a narrow advantage through a half in :46.06, just ahead of Firenze Fire approaching the stretch.
Firenze Fire took the lead as soon as they straightened in the lane, responding to six left-handed cracks from Ortiz between the quarter pole and the eighth pole and dropping off Baffin at the sixteenth pole.
Free Drop Billy and Robby Albarado followed Firenze Fire nearly the entire trip and into the lane, made steady progress on the winner in deep stretch but couldn’t get closer than a length.
“You can see him getting better and better,” said Dale Romans, who trains Free Drop Billy. “He did a lot of things wrong in his first start and he did almost everything right today. He finished good, the further the better.”
Servis hopes Firenze Fire can go a little farther next time, possibly in the Grade 1 Hopeful, a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, or dare to dream about something even further down the road.
“I asked Irad and he thinks he’ll run long; he’s kind of laid-back,” Servis said. “And when I say longer I’m thinking May, the first Saturday in May. He should get seven-eighths though; I think he’ll get a mile, mile-and-a-quarter. He’s that kind of horse.”
Homebred Sadler’s Joy runs down foes in Sword Dancer
By Brandon Valvo
Ask anyone around Sadler’s Joy when he was a young horse and they will tell you the same thing: He was good from the very beginning.
Bred by Rene and Lauren Woolcott’s Woodslane Farm, Sadler’s Joy is a son of Kitten’s Joy and the Dynaformer mare Dynaire. Caroline Webster, who broke and prepared Sadler’s Joy as a yearling in Ocala, Fla., shared her experience.
“He was tough,” she said. “He demanded a lot of attention. He demanded to be the center of attention. My husband (Rob) chose him as his best horse from Day 1. My husband always told (Rene) he was the best, and he was right. He always knew he was a good horse.”
Lauren Woolcott issued a similar assessment from the chestnut’s early days on the farm in Virginia.
“He was big so he had to grow into himself,” she said. “Raymond Figgins, who does all the work with them early on, would tell us how much he liked him.”
Sadler’s Joy lived up to his connection’s hopes in Saturday’s $1 million Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Last of seven early, he passed all his rivals in the lane to score his first Grade 1 victory. The win followed a string of thirds, including the Grade 1 Man o’ War and Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park and the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga in his last run July 29.
“He’s been knocking on the door for one of these Grade 1s,” winning trainer Tom Albertrani said. “His race in the Manhattan, he was a length-and-a-half away from winning that. It felt like it was a matter of when his turn was going to come up in the next couple of races and luckily, it came today.”
Sadler’s Joy broke slowly under Julien Leparoux and brushed the right side of his starting stall when the gates opened in the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer. Mario Gutierrez put Frank Conversation on the lead and Ryan Moore gave European invader Idaho a stalking trip. Erupt, the other European in the field, raced in third under Stephane Pasquier.
“He broke kind of awkward,” Leparoux said. “When this happens, you have only one chance, to stay behind and wait.”
Sadler’s Joy raced 9 1/2 lengths behind a :24.42 opening quarter-mile and drew within 6 3/4 lengths of a :49.17 half. Sadler’s Joy was back to 8 lengths behind after a mile in 1:38.52 as Idaho put his nose ahead of Frank Conversation approaching the final turn.
Racing into the stretch past 10 furlongs in 2:01.90, Frank Conversation turned away Idaho. Erupt shifted into the three path, but didn’t fire. Bigger Picture raced past him on the outside and Money Multiplier began to unwind. At the rear of the field, Leparoux came wide off the turn with Sadler’s Joy. He tapped his mount on the shoulder and shook him up. Approaching the furlong pole, Leparoux went to the right-handed stick and was still last, but only 3 lengths behind.
“I just wanted to be in the clear coming to the straight, so I took him outside and made a run at it,” Leparoux said. “He made a big run at the end. About the quarter pole when I start asking he was running very hard and by the eighth pole I thought I could get there. Anytime when a horse starts running like this, you can feel the power, it’s a great feeling.”
In the final furlong, Sadler’s Joy angled his head to the right and took a step toward the outside rail. But kept on closing. Leparoux tugged the left rein and hit him right-handed again. Sadler’s Joy surged, but leaned out again. His rider pulled the left rein again and gave another smack. Sadler’s Joy leapt forward and drew even with Money Multiplier and Bigger Picture. Three strides from the finish, Leparoux tucked the whip and let Sadler’s Joy run to the finish. He won by a half-length in 2:24.58. Money Multiplier finished second, a nose ahead of Bigger Picture.
“Last race, he got to the lead early and got caught,” Leparoux said. “When I rode him at Gulfstream, I always came at the last couple of jumps, so today I did the same thing and it might be the key.”
Sadler’s Joy’s Sword Dancer victory is the product of more than a decade of hard work in flat racing for Woodslane Farm. What started as a steeplechase stable 25 years ago has evolved.
The Woolcotts (who won a jump race here in 2015) started breeding horses 11 years ago, and bred Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist in 2011 before selling him the following year and produced Sadler’s Joy, whose Sword Dancer win boosted his earnings to $1,002,968.
The broodmares added a purpose to Woodslane.
“We had a 243-acre farm in Middleburg, Va., and we wanted to have a lot of horses there, so that got us into the flat racing,” Rene Woolcott said. “Steeplechase is really laid back kind of events where flat racing is serious. Serious money behind it, serious horses behind it, serious people behind it. It’s a different game. It took us 11 years to better understand it and get this win.
“It means a great deal. It’s the culmination of 11 years of mistakes, heartaches, lots of injuries with horses. It means a great deal.”
The Woolcotts bought Sadler’s Joy’s dam Dynaire out of the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale for $360,000. Dynaire, out of the Royal Solo mare Binya, never made it to the races. The Woolcotts did right by her and retired her to broodmare duties instead of pressing the issue.
“She had a soft-tissue injury in pre-training and at that time stem cell wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now and just seemed a little dicey with infections and just how you had to go about it,” Lauren Woolcott said. “We decided to leave her unraced. It killed us, but it was better than something happening to her.”
Sadler’s Joy is the first horse the Woolcotts gave to Albertrani. After much deliberation, they finally settled on the multiple graded stakes-winning trainer whose runners have now earned $40,184,001 since 2003.
“What a nice introduction to Tom,” Lauren Woolcott said. “We placed the horse carefully. Caroline put us in touch with him. We interviewed several trainers on her recommendation and from some other people and he just seemed like a really good fit. As small as we are, you can get lost with some people. It turned out to be really good fit.”
Sadler’s Joy gave Albertrani his first victory of the Saratoga meet from 16 starters.
“Someone told me it’s a nice way to get off the duck. I said, ‘Yeah, a million-dollar duck,’ ” he said.
After the race, Albertrani praised groom Angel Matlala, who is a good partner to the demanding horse who has never lost the fire he showed Webster as a yearling.
“He’s a big, strong horse to be around,” Albertrani said. “He can be a handful at times and he’s always on the muscle. His groom, I give a lot of credit to, gets along really well with him.”
Additional reporting by Ben Gowans and Joe Clancy.