Monday Morning Trainer: Wild Weekend

- -

Racing from coast to coast delivered a little bit of everything and then some.

Oh yes, a lot went on in the weekend’s key preps for the Breeders’ Cup, particularly in the Classic division. It started when Wicked Strong unseated Rajiv Maragh in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and continued when Shared Belief endured and overcame a wide trip winning the Awesome Again at Santa Anita Park.

The results of those two races were rife with implications, too, and not simply because of the results on the track. On the track Tonalist added the Gold Cup to his earlier victories at Belmont in the Belmont Stakes and Peter Pan and Shared Belief probably solidified his status as the favorite for the Classic as he ran his record to 7-for-7 in the Awesome Again.

Off the track Maragh was forced to undergo surgery at a Long Island hospital to repair his broken right arm suffered when he was unseated by Wicked Strong. Maragh was unseated about halfway through the Jockey Club Gold Cup when Wicked Strong clipped heels with eventual fourth-place finisher Moreno, who angled in and caused the mishap. Moreno was disqualified and placed last.

Watch Tonalist win the Jockey Club Gold Cup.


Terrible timing

Maragh meanwhile was left with the possibility of missing the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, where he would ride highly regarded Breeders’ Cup Turf contender Main Sequence. Maragh rode Main Sequence to victory in Saturday’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic one race before he was unseated in the Gold Cup.

Main Sequence stamped himself as the main domestic player for the Turf with his third straight Grade 1 victory after a courageous stretch battle with Twilight Eclipse and Imagining, the same duo he battled in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer last month at Saratoga.

Watch Main Sequence win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.


Belief and a booking

A few hours after the Gold Cup confirmed Tonalist as the East Coast’s leading 3-year-old contender for the Classic – and maybe even for the divisional title – Shared Belief kept his perfect mark intact with a win over a soft group in the Awesome Again.

The victory didn’t come easy for the Candy Ride gelding, who was floated wide around the first turn and into the backstretch by longshot Sky Kingdom and jockey Victor Espinoza. California stewards apparently took issue for Espinoza’s ride and gave him a seven-day booking Sunday, a ban that might prevent him from riding additional Breeders’ Cup preps this coming weekend.

Watch Shared Belief win the Awesome Again.


The champ is back

Defending Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Beholder came into Saturday needing to do plenty if her connections were to even dream about another Eclipse Award and once again the two-time champion delivered.

Beholder won the Grade 1 Zenyatta for the second straight year, setting up what could be a spectacular showdown with Close Hatches in the Distaff. Those two finished one-two last year, Beholder getting the better by 4 1/4 lengths, and seemed to go in slightly different directions this season.

Close Hatches, who goes in this coming weekend’s Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland, hasn’t lost since and her four victories include three straight Grade 1s. One of those Grade 1 victories, in the Ogden Phipps, came at the expense of Beholder.

Beholder suffered an injury in that Phipps and missed some time. The Zenyatta was just her third start this season, but she came through like a true professional Saturday.

The Distaff, which will also mark Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable’s first start against older fillies and mares, added another major player thanks to the dominating performance of Belle Gallantey in Belmont’s Grade 1 Beldame. Belle Gallantey didn’t handle the off track last time out when a well-beaten sixth by Close Hatches in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga. She bounced back well and looked like the same mare who defeated Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap two starts back winning the Beldame.

Watch Beholder get back to her winning ways in the Zenyatta.

Watch Belle Gallantey win the Beldame.


Tough on turf

Emollient touted herself with a very strong half-mile breeze on the Oklahoma Training Track’s turf course last week and she handled the ship to the West Coast and a covered up trip throughout her victory in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive.

Amazingly the Rodeo Drive was Emollient’s first victory in six starts this season and her first win since taking last fall’s Spinster on the Polytrack at Keeneland. She was ninth in the Grade 1 Beverly D. in her most recent start but got back on track with four strong breezes on the grass at Saratoga, including a half in a bullet :46.84 last Monday for Bill Mott.

Plans now call for Emollient to return to New York to train for the Oct. 31 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

– Watch Emollient win the Rodeo Drive.

The West Coast’s key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Turf was Sunday in the John Henry Turf Championship and Phil D’Amato trained the winner, Bright Thought, and third-place finisher, favored Big John B. Bright Thought ended a seven-race losing streak in the John Henry, winning in 1:58.27 for the 10 furlongs.

– Watch Bright Thought win the John Henry Turf Championship.


Sharp juveniles

Several significant pieces to the puzzles that will be the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies will be added this weekend when Belmont and Keeneland run their signature 2-year-old stakes and American Pharaoh and Angela Renee will be waiting for the winners.

American Pharaoh put on a strong performance winning the Grade 1 Frontrunner in front-running style for Bob Baffert and Zayat Stables. Angela Renee, a distant third when last seen in the Grade 1 Spinaway, also make relatively quick work of the field for the Grade 1 Chandelier for James Keough’s Siena Farms and trainer Todd Pletcher.

– Watch American Pharaoh win the Frontrunner.

– Watch Angela Renee win the Chandelier.


Maryland action

Graham Motion enjoyed the weekend as the winning trainer of Main Sequence in the Turf Classic and also bred Miss Bullistic, the winner of the Selima Stakes at Laurel Park.

The 2-year-old daughter of Motion’s Whitney winner Bullsbay won the Selima by 1 ½ lengths at nearly 12-1 for owner Kathleen Willier and trainer Hamilton Smith. The Selima was one of six stakes on Saturday’s card at Laurel.

Matthew Schera’s Cyclogenisis ran his record to 2-for-2 with an impressive victory in the Laurel Futurity for trainer George Weaver. The Saratoga-based son of Stormy Atlantic cruised to a 5 ¾-length win under Trevor McCarthy at 2/5 odds in the field of eight.

The other winners on the card were Madea in the Lady Baltimore, Madame Giry in the Jameela, Manchurian High in the Laurel Turf Cup and Dreamsgonewild in the Laurel Dash. Dreamsgonewild’s win came at the expense of 3/5 favorite and Maryland legend Ben’s Cat, who finished a close third in the field of 10.


Churchill wraps stand

Churchill Downs put the finishing touches on his second September “Homecoming” meeting Sunday and Saturday’s crowd got to see a pair of powerful performances by Cigar Street and Heart to Heart.

Cigar Street started things off when he won his second straight after coming back from a 17-month layoff with a 1 ¾-length score over Departing in the Homecoming Classic. Mott, who prepared Cigar Street for his return to stakes company with his offseason string at Saratoga, did not rule out a start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic for 5-year-old son of Street Sense.

Heart to Heart, hugely impressive winning the Better Talk Now Stakes late in the Saratoga meeting, collected his first graded stakes win in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup one race later. The Ontario-bred and based son of English Channel won the 1-mile Jefferson Cup on the front end by 4 lengths in 1:34.44, not far off Jaggery John’s course record 1:33.78 set in 1995.

– Read more about Heart to Heart here.

Racing in Kentucky now heads to Lexington for the anticipated fall meeting at Keeneland Race Course starting Friday, when the track’s new dirt surface will be used for the first time in competition.


Jump, jump

The fall steeplechase season got underway with the Shawan Downs meeting in Hunt Valley, Maryland, Saturday and Foxfield Fall Races in Charlottesville, Virginia, Sunday.

Eddie Graham, trainer of Arlington Million winner Hardest Core, continued his torrid pace and improved his sparkling record on the season when he sent out Nat Grew to victory in the featured $20,000 open timber at Shawan Downs. Nat Grew won the 3 1/8-mile event by 12 1/2 lengths for Graham’s seventh win from nine starts on the season.

The other winners on the Shawan Downs card were Balance the Budget in the $20,000 maiden-hurdle opener, Super Saturday in the $15,000 maiden timber, Mr. Universo in the $10,000 conditioned claiming hurdle and Witor and One Giant Step in training flat races.

Check out the results from Shawan Downs.

Trainer Lilith Boucher and Doug Fout each sent out a pair of winners – one over jumps and one in a training flat – at Foxfield.

Fout got his day started with back-to-back wins by Wicklow in the $10,000 maiden-claiming hurdle and Beamer in the 1 1/16-mile training flat. Boucher’s wins came with Complete Dyno in the Virginia-bred or sired 1 1/4-mile training flat and Marq Your Bible in the $20,000 maiden hurdle.

Bau Bai Gold was the other winner on the day in the $20,000 maiden for fillies and mares.

Check out the results from Foxfield.

Tom Law was the big winner among the This Is Horse Racing handicappers, correctly selecting six of the 11 winners. Tom tabbed Nat Grew, Super Saturday and One Giant Step at Shawan Downs and Wicklow, Beamer and Marq Your Bible at Foxfield.

Sean Clancy was next with four winners – Balance the Budget, Mr. Universo and Nat Grew at Shawan and Wicklow at Foxfield. Joe Clancy picked three winners – Nat Grew and Mr Universo at Shawan and Marq Your Bible at Foxfield.

Sean leads the way on the season with 47 wins, followed by Joe with 42 and Tom with 41.