Where does one begin after a weekend like the one we just witnessed?
The easy and logical answer is at the top and that’s where we’ll start, with place that not only hosted two $1 million races for 3-year-olds but the leaders of their respective male and female divisions.
The story of the weekend was the return of dual classic winner and 3-year-old male divisional leader California Chrome, a California-based colt prepping for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in California racing for the first time since June in Pennsylvania. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner didn’t pass in his second try at a track that’s both east of the Mississippi River and north of the Mason Dixon Line, finishing sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby.
Bayern did his best impersonation of, well, Bayern, despite the fact that trainer Bob Baffert was quoted as saying his front-running score reminded him of the recently retired Game On Dude. Bayern was every bit as sharp in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby as he was in his victories in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park and Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park.
Kaleem Shah’s son of Offlee Wild set a track record of 1:46.96 winning by 5 3/4 lengths, a significant turnound from his last-place effort less than a month ago in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga Race Course.
All signs point for Bayern to run next and try 10 furlongs again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and who can blame his connections considering the recent retirements of would-be Classic contenders Game On Dude, Palace Malice and champion Will Take Charge.
California Chrome remains on target for the Classic despite finishing sixth of eight in the Pennsylvania Derby, beaten 7 1/4 lengths while racing on the inside and never looking comfortable. The son of Lucky Pulpit looked like he needed one at Parx Racing and like he did in the Belmont Stakes didn’t ever look like a winner while down in the inside and covered up.
California Chrome won the Derby and Preakness while racing a couple paths off the rail. He’s still the divisional leader based on those wins, but reigning divisional champion Shared Belief races in the Grade 1 Awesome Again this weekend and can close the gap some more if he stays undefeated.
Tonalist goes in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup this weekend, along with Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong and Travers winner V. E. Day, and those sophomores could still factor in the division depending on their performances next month in the Classic.
The 2014 Classic is starting to feel like the 2000 edition when Tiznow, Giant’s Causeway, Captain Steve and Albert the Great swept the superfecta and Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus finished sixth to lead the 3-year-olds.
Watch the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The 3-year-old male division still needs some sorting out but the chase for the 3-year-old filly title is pretty much a done deal with Untapable the clear leader.
The daughter of Tapit rebounded from her loss to Bayern and others in the Haskell to win the $1 million Colillion over a quality opponent in Grade 1 winner Sweet Reason. She defeated that rival by a length for her fifth win in six starts this season for Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen.
The Cotillion was Untapable’s third Grade 1 win of the season, along with the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, and she figures to be among a deep group headed to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff from the East.
Watch Untapable win the Cotillion.
Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Artemis Agrotera collected her second straight win over older fillies and mares and against open company with her overland victory in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap for trainer Mike Hushion.
The 3-year-old Roman Ruler filly broke from the rail but was forced five-wide into the stretch of the 6 ½-furlong Gallant Bloom and still prevailed over a tough group led by fellow state-breds La Verdad and Willet.
Hushion said afterwards that Artemis Agrotera, winner of the Grade 1 Ballerina last time at Saratoga, would head next to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
The Filly and Mare Sprint probably gained another possible starter when Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Thank You Marylou whipped her opponents in the 7-furlong Dogwood Stakes Saturday at Churchill Downs. Another option for the 3-year-old daughter of Birdstone is the Grade 2 Raven Run Oct. 18 at Keeneland Race Course.
The Raven Run figures to be the final start of the season for the ever-durable Miss Behaviour, powerful winner of the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks late Saturday night for trainer Phil Schoenthal and owners Cal MacWilliam and Neil Teitelbaum.