Monday Morning Trainer: Busy, busy, busy

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Workout tabs around the country are overflowing as pre-entry day for the Breeders’ Cup arrived Monday after a monstrously busy weekend that saw boatloads of stakes action on the flat and over jumps in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, Ken and Sarah Ramsey break another record in Kentucky and the sudden and tragic death of the recently retired multiple Grade 1 winner and Dullahan.

The next to last weekend in October certainly proved that there is no calm before the storm that will be the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 1-2 as Belmont Park rolled out the New York Showcase program, Laurel Park hosted the Maryland Million and Charles Town Races staged the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics.

Oh, where to begin with those lucrative restricted stakes programs? Why not start with the biggest purses?

The all-stakes nine-race card Saturday night at Charles Town featured the $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic Stakes. The race was a near re-run of the Roger Ramey Handicap four weeks earlier, with Fred High again defeating Russell Road, this time by just three-quarters of a length.

The stakes were a big higher this time around – the purse for the Ramey only being $35,000 – and with defending champ Lucy’s Bob Boy in the field. Lucy’s Bob Boy could only manage a ninth-place finish, a far cry from his victory in the Wild and Wonderful Stakes four weeks earlier in his final local prep.

Fred High, a 5-year-old West Virginia-bred gelding by Crypto Star, is a homebred racing for Edward Krishack and trained by Jerry Robb.

The victory capped a big day for Robb, who won the Maryland Million Lassie with Jonesin for Jerry and was second in the Maryland Million Nursey with Joint Custody.

Total purses for the Breeders’ Classics card came in at 1,039,500 and another big winner on the card was Fear the Facelift by a whopping 12 3/4 lengths in the $180,000 Cavada for fillies and mares going 7 furlongs. Trainers James Casey and Javier Contreras traded wins in the opening four races, with the former winning the $58,500 Dash for Cash with favored Greenway Court and the $58,500 Lottery with 1-10 chalk Hidden Canyon and the latter winning the $58,500 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial with 2-5 favorite Amherst Street and $58,500 Division of Tourism with Blisstikus. Other winners on the night were In the Fairway in the $58,500 Onion Juice, Red Hot Diva in the $58,500 Distaff and Henny’s Princess in the $58,500 Triple Crown Nutrition. …

Not to be outdone by their flat-running counterparts the jumpers were out in force Saturday with two signature fixtures – the Far Hills Grand National card in New Jersey and Great Meadows’ International Gold Cup Races in Virginia.

Divine Fortune – oh-so-close to securing a Grade 1 win in the Grand National, twice in the Iroquois and Colonial Cup and Turf Writers – finally landed one with a front-running masterpiece in the $250,000 Grand National for owners Bill Pape and Jonathan Sheppard, who also trains the 10-year-old Royal Anthem gelding.

We’ve got the recap of the day.

Divine Fortune’s victory vaulted him to the top of the standings for leading horses by money won this season with $202,000. Pape is the leading NSA owner with $516,150, courtesy of 14 victories that is also tops among all owners. Sheppard leads the trainer standings by wins (18) and earnings ($755,650). Darren Nagle, who rode Divine Fortune, is the leading jockey by wins with 13 and second behind Paddy Young by earnings, $491,450 to $456,050.
Updated NSA standings.

The TIHR handicappers were nearly blanked on the card as Tom picked up the lone winner of the day when Bluegrass Summer won the $75,000 Foxbrook Novice. …

The pari-mutuel machines were up and running again in The Plains, Virginia, Saturday for the six-race Gold Cup card (five of which were open for betting).

Merriefield Farm’s Foyle, an 8-year-old Maryland-bred Yarrow Brae gelding, posted what should be considered nothing short of a monstrous upset with a fast-closing victory the headlining $48,500 Gold Cup going 3 1/2 miles over timber.

Tenth last time in a $20,000 open timber at Shawan Downs – and behind fellow Gold Cup rivals Tax Ruling, Straight to It, Aero and Worried Man – Foyle completely turned it around to defeat Straight to It by a length under Kieran Norris. Favored pacesetter Tax Ruling was two lengths back in third. Trained by Bruce Fenwick, Foyle won an allowance over timber earlier this spring on the Grand National card via disqualification and lost back-to-back starts after that and before his Gold Cup score.

Doug Fout trained two winners on the card – Betsy Mead’s Forgotten Man in a $25,000 allowance hurdle with Gerard Galligan aboard and Magalen O. Bryant’s Lea Von in a $15,000 maiden hurdle under Martin Rohan. The day’s other winners were Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr.’s Awesome Pearl in a $15,000 maiden hurdle for trainer Richard Valentine and Norris, Kinross Farm’s Schoolhouse Woods in the $20,000 Steeplethon going 3 miles for Neil Morris and Christopher Read and Hear the Word in the $15,000 Old Dominion Turf Championship for Virginia-breds going 10 furlongs on the flat for Todd Wyatt and Blair Wyatt.

Betting – offered earlier this spring at Great Meadow for the Virginia Gold Cup – for the five races came in at $33,231, with the largest amount for any race not surprisingly being the Gold Cup at $8,008.

The TIHR handicappers fared only slightly better with Sean doubling up with Awesome Pearl and Lea Von and Joe and Tom picking Hear the Word. …

Lots of running in and around Central Kentucky this past weekend, with hundreds of teams participating in the annual 200-mile running relay race known as the Bourbon Chase. Still more action as the Keeneland fall meet continues to wind down with four stakes on its final full week (with four days of racing still to come this week).

James Graham inched his way up the standings with five wins on the week, including a mild upset aboard Shadwell Stable’s Najjaar in the off-the-turf $100,000 Sycamore Stakes going 1 5/8 on the Polytrack. Seemingly beaten around the far turn, Najjaar came again to slip past Eagle Poise in deep stretch to win by three-quarters of a length.

Familiarity with Keeneland – even if it wasn’t on the same course that he finished second on going 1 1/16 miles on turf last spring – and with Graham were keys to the victory in the Irish jockey’s eyes.

“He likes it here,” said Graham, fifth in the standings with seven wins as Rosie Napravnik leads with 10. “He ran second here one day, ran a great race off slow fractions, last spring. It just never opened for him. But they went 50 and change and the horse that won was not a bad animal.

“Horses in this country don’t seem to want to go that far. He’s by the Belmont winner [Jazil], you know, so we were just crossing our fingers hoping to go out there and hoping that everything goes sweet.”

Other stakes winners for the week were Madame Cactus, who drew in off the also eligible list to capture the $250,000 Raven Run in an upset, and Pin Oak Stable’s “house horse” Overheard in the $150,000 Pin Oak Valley View. Juddmonte Farm’s Preferential capped the week with a big run up the inside that led to victory in the Dowager going 1 ½ miles on turf. Bill Mott, quietly in the midst of another strong meet and tied for fourth in the trainer standings with four wins, conditions the 4-year-old Dansili filly. …

One of the most rewarding years of Bill Parcells’ life continued to get better this weekend when his Saratoga Snacks capped Belmont’s New York Showcase card with a victory in the $250,000 Empire Classic Handicap. Parcells, who races the Tale of the Cat ridgling in the name of his August Dawn Farm, added the Empire Classic to his year that also includes induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, back in August.

A few weeks before that induction and a few days after Saratoga Snacks won an overnight stakes at Belmont, Parcells beamed near the Oklahoma Training Track’s Fifth Avenue gate about what might unfold for his stable star in 2013. Not even some kind ribbing from Robbie Medina, assistant to Shug McGaughey, could dampen Parcells’ spirits. He later talked about how much of an honor it would be if Saratoga Snacks could one day emulate the success of fellow New York-bred Saginaw.
Bill Parcells on Saratoga Snacks and Saginaw.

Saratoga Snacks certainly possesses similar consistency to the ill-fated Saginaw, and the Empire Classic ran his record to 7-for-10 lifetime with a pair of seconds and a third. Now his connections are thinking of tackling the Grade 1 Cigar Mile. A win there and he’d be several steps ahead of any level of success earned by Saginaw.

Linda Rice won a pair of races on the card, taking the first of seven stakes when the Freud 2-year-old filly Miss Narcissist won the $150,000 Joseph A. Gimma. She later added the Hudson Handicap with the 4-year-old City Zip colt Palace.

Wired Bryan, who probably could have contended for state-bred horse of the year honors if not for Saratoga Snacks, won for the fourth time in six tries this season, taking the $150,000 Bertram F. Bongard. Winner of the Grade 2 Sanford earlier this season for Mike Dilger, Wired Bryan won the 7-furlong Bongard in 1:22.83. The day’s other winners were the undefeated Cluster of Stars in the $150,000 Iroquois for trainer Steve Asmussen, the Freud filly Effie Trinket for Rick Violette in the $150,000 Ticonderoga and King Cugat gelding King Kreesa in the $150,000 Mohawk for Jeremiah Englehart. …

Finally a bit of sad news with the death of Dullahan, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and Blue Grass at Keeneland and Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Just retired, the 4-year-old by Even the Score was headed for a stud career when hit with colic in the overnight hours Saturday into Sunday. He underwent surgery at a Lexington clinic but was euthanized when surgeons determined there was too much contamination from a ruptured colon.

Watch Saratoga Snacks win the Empire Classic.

Watch Dullahan win 2012 Pacific Classic.

Check out our recap of the 2013 Maryland Million.