Late December is on its way and the New Year right around the corner after that, so what better time than to look ahead at what’s possibly in store for the top tiers of the racing scene in 2015.
And no, we’re not talking about the 3-year-olds. Plenty will be written about them in the coming weeks and months, with Kentucky Derby top 10 rankings abounding by the dozens online and in print. That does still exist, right?
We’re talking about other divisions, specifically the older male and turf male sets.
Gulfstream Park was the place where a couple possible future stars were in action over the weekend, Saturday seeing the stakes debut of Liam’s Map and Sunday seeing the U.S. debut of Munjaz in an allowance/optional on the grass.
Liam’s Map won his third straight in the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, defeating a good field that included Grade 2 winner Valid (the runner-up) and recent Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile third-place finisher and multiple graded stakes winner Pants On Fire (third).
An $800,000 yearling out of the multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Miss Macy Sue, Liam’s Map didn’t make his debut until Travers Day this past summer. He finished second that day, but he hasn’t lost since and came into the 1 1/16-mile Harlan’s Holiday off two wins by a combined 20 lengths. He pressed the pace of multiple Florida-based stakes winner Casaba early, took over leaving the backstretch and won by a half-length over Valid.
Todd Pletcher said he liked how a “good horse looked him in the eye and he responded.”
No doubt a bigger test in graded-stakes company isn’t too far down the road.
The same could be in line for Munjaz, Shadwell Stables’ homebred son of Sea the Stars who won his first start for Kiaran McLaughlin Sunday.
McLaughlin toyed with the idea of running Munjaz in this coming Saturday’s Tropical Park Derby but opted instead for the allowance/optional going about 1 1/16 miles on the grass. He won by 4 lengths in good – albeit not spectacular – time and could be headed to graded stakes company next.
Munjaz won one of three starts in England for John Gosden before coming to the U.S. He was considered an Epsom Derby possible but finished seventh in the Betfred.com Derby Trial in May, which was his most recent start before Sunday.
Hong Kong wrap
So how good is Main Sequence?
The answer seemed fairly easy after Main Sequence won his fourth straight Grade 1 turf stakes in last month’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park. He was flattered a little more over the weekend when Flintshire, closest to Main Sequence in the Turf and one of the highest rated horses on the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, won the $2,128,714 Hong Kong Vase on the Hong Kong International Races program at Sha Tin racecourse.
Flintshire was second in both the Turf and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before his breakthrough win for Juddmonte in the 2,400-meter Vase. The 4-year-old homebred son of Dansili is trained by Andre Fabre and was ridden by Maxime Guyon.
Main Sequence beat Flintshire by a half-length in the Turf, a victory when combined with some of the other Breeders’ Cup and major North American races put him in the Horse of the Year conversation. Many see Main Sequence as the biggest threat to California Chrome in that race, although after Saturday’s result in Hong Kong the names should probably be reversed.
Speaking of good, is any horse going as good these days as Take Charge Brandi?
The upset winner of the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies got it done again over the weekend, winning the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos for owner Willis Horton and trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
The Starlet, the third straight graded stakes win for Take Charge Brandi after three straight drubbings in graded stakes, locked up the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old filly.
The win also increased the Giant’s Causeway filly’s earnings to $1,620,126, nearly $1 million more than the next best based on rankings now available through the Equibase website.
Break on the way
Only five stakes races remain on the New York Racing Association schedule for the rest of 2014 and all three will be contested after the 10-day holiday break that begins as soon as Monday’s nine-race card at Aqueduct is in the books.
Freudie Anne added her name to the list of likely finalists for champion New York-bred 2-year-old filly with a victory in one of the final NYRA stakes of the year when she took Sunday’s East View by 9 3/4 lengths for owner Marc Detampel and trainer Eddie Kenneally.
The daughter of Freud won the 1-mile and 70-yard East View by 1:44.50, more than a second faster than Good Luck Gus needed to take the Damon Runyon Stakes later on Sunday’s card. Good Luck Gus, a son of Lookin At Lucky, was probably already a finalist in his division off a win in the New York Breeders’ Futurity and a runner-up in the Sleepy Hollow.
Read more about last year’s New York-bred champions in the 2014 Awards Dinner program, produced by ST Publishing.