Sunday (Recap) Special – Feb. 15

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Valentine’s Day is in the books and we’re safely into the second half of February. Plenty of activity Saturday from the world of racing, nearly all of it previewed in last week’s Saturday Special.

How’d we fare? Fairly well, and hopefully your Valentine felt the same way after the chocolates, flowers, prix fixe dinner or maybe even a trip to the movies for (aghast) Fifty Shades of Grey.

We’ve got a recap of our highlights right here.

We wrote: Ascot. Race 1. 8:30. Tea For Two won his handicap debut by 16 lengths. He’ll try to stamp his ticket to Cheltenham, for which race, that remains to be seen.

What happened? Tea For Two did a little too much on the lead, getting caught by Arpege D’Alene, now a two-time winner for Paul Nicholls. Tea For Two, now 6-for-9, did little wrong and can certainly make amends at Cheltenham.

We wrote: Haydock. Race 1. 8:45. Deep cards all over Europe, including Haydock. Leading juvenile Top Notch puts his unbeaten record on the line against three rivals.

What happened? Top Notch continued his ascent, winning easily at 2/13 favorite. See you at Cheltenham.

We wrote: Ascot. Race 2. 9:05. Ainsi Fideles has lost just once in six tries over fences, the only blemish coming behind Splash of Ginge at Cheltenham in October. David Pipe has taken it easy with him, he makes his first start since that defeat, meeting just three rivals.

What happened? Ainsi Fideles has gradually become a professional. He won easily at the gift price of 6-1. Hopefully, you bet the flower money.

We wrote: Gowran Park. Race 2. 9:10. Arkle runner-up Champagne Fever tries to right his wrong after falling in his latest. Paul Townend takes the ride, taking on three Gigginstown rivals. Star cap is atop Bright New Dawn. White cap belongs to Arnaud. Blue represents Rathlin. Got it?

What happened? Nothing like a confidence booster. Townend deputized for Ruby Walsh and Champagne Fever rebounded from a fall in his previous start. Now, which race to choose at Cheltenham?

We wrote: Haydock. Race 2. 9:20. A.P. McCoy travels to Haydock, sticking with At Fishers Cross, they once won six in a row, but have now lost seven in a row. Time to right the ship, while taking on the likeable Seeyouatmidnight.

What happened? Make that seven. At Fishers Cross ran like he had a hangover, failing to threaten yet again. Winner Closing Ceremony aims at Pertemps Final while runner-up Seeyouatmidnight, off for 10 months, ran well to be second. He’s 40-1 for the World Hurdle.

We wrote: Ascot. Race 3. 9:40. Hello, old friends. Hey Big Spender, 12, aims at win number 11 while Cappa Blue, 13, tries to earn his way back to Aintree, where he finished second in the 2013 Grand National and fourth in the 2012 version.

What happened? Hey Big Spender scratched and Cappa Blue was retired. Well deserved.

We wrote: Haydock. Race 3. 9:55. The Grand National Trial. McCoy gets tabbed for Monbeg Dude in the three and five-eighths of a mile slog. Benvolio just missed in the Welsh National, two places in front of Monbeg Dude.

What happened? Monbeg Dude stayed on to be third, Benvolio faded and Lie Forrit nosed out Harry The Viking in a thriller.

We wrote: Gowran Park. Race 4. 10:20. The Racing Post wrote a captivating article about trainer Edward O’Grady this week. Once the dominant Irish jump trainer, O’Grady searches for a vehicle to return to the top. Kitten Rock could very well be that vehicle. He puts a three-race win streak on the line.

What happened? Kitten Rock won easily but probably didn’t unnerve anybody in the Faugheen camp. Nice horse, deserving trainer.

We wrote: Wincanton. Race 5. 10:35. Irving attempts to rebound after failing to finish in two of his last three. Of course, the one he did finish, he won.

What happened? Irving failed to run down Blue Heron and an aggressive Harry Skelton. Talk about elbow grease.

We wrote: Ascot. Race 5. 10:50. Balder Succes continues his ascent in the Betfair Ascot Chase, taking on the likes of Ptit Zig, 4-for-4 this season, and Irish raider Ballycasey. Strong renewal with four listed at 9/2 or shorter.

What happened? Balder Succes did indeed continue his ascent with a professional tour as Ptit Zig fell and Ballycasey faded. It’s hard not to be impressed with Balder Succes’ professionalism as he continues to go to work and get the money.

We wrote: Gowran Park. Race 6. 11:25. J.P. McManus throws three at this handicap hurdle. Our friend Keith O’Brien wrote an interesting column on TIHR about how super trainers are hurting the game here. McManus certainly approaches it differently than American owners, dispersing horses like fairy dust. On one card at Gowran, McManus owns six runners, spread out with trainers Eddie Harty, Aidan O’Brien (yes, that Aidan O’Brien), Edward O’Grady, Eoin Griffin, Gordon Elliott and Colm Murphy. In all, he entered 22 horses for the day, spread between two countries and countless thankful trainers. Guess, that would help field size and ultimately the health of the game here.

What happened? Fire those trainers. McManus mustered a third with Rathpatrick, who stayed on to pick up a minor share behind Follow The Sign.

We wrote: Mahoning Valley Racecourse. Race 3. 1:40. Bred for bigger and better, Giant Empire should graduate here. She’s by Giant’s Causeway out of stakes-placed Byzantine. She’s finished second in her two most recent starts.

What happened? She’s still a maiden. Might be time to refer to the stallion directory.

What we wrote: Gulfstream Park. Race 5. 2:30. Is there still time? Three-year-olds aim to graduate in this 9-furlong maiden. Maybe they’re not Derby horses but perhaps the Belmont, the Travers? Tonalist broke his maiden Jan. 18 and V. E. Day broke his May 10 last year. Could happen. Gold Shield returns from a brief freshening for Shug McGaughey while Frenchman Bay makes his second start for Jimmy Jerkens.

What happened? Hello, Belmont Stakes. Gold Shield looked strong.

We wrote: Laurel Park. Race 7. 3:27. Have horse, will travel. This Hollendorfer guy is everywhere. The Hall of Fame trainer flies Southern Freedom from Santa Anita to Laurel for the John B. Campbell. Hard-hitting Page McKenney, winner of six races and over $300,000 last year, makes his 5-year-old debut for Mary Eppler. Behemoth upset the Campbell last year but hasn’t won since.

What happened? Page McKenney continues to win, ousting the shippers. About time we write about him in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.

We wrote: Fair Grounds. Race 4. 3:55. Fox Hill Farm and Larry Jones love their sons and daughters of Unbridled’s Song. Broadway Show, a 3-year-old filly from the same blueprint, won her debut in January and returns as the 8/5 favorite here.

What happened? Ouch, she finished fourth.

We wrote: Laurel Park. Race 8. 3:57. Off a stellar year in 2014, Mike Hushion sends Princess Violet to the Barbara Fritchie. She rumbles with local heroine Lady Sabelia, who has won three in a row and five of her last six for Robin Graham and Mrs. Frank Wright. That Hollendorfer guy ships Sam’s Sister, 5-for-6 in her career, including the Grade 1 La Brea and Grade 2 Santa Monica.

What happened? Rumble, indeed. Lady Sabelia handled Princess Violet. Sam’s Sister finished fourth.

We wrote: Gulfstream Park. Race 8. 4:00. Balfe’s Corner, a Triple Crown nominee for Gary Contessa, switches to the grass. If you can name the most popular food at Balfe’s Corner in Saratoga, you’ll get this week’s prize. Email [email protected].

What happened: Balfe’s Corner finished fifth. Better yet, we got an answer, “I could live off of the jellies and jams on fresh made toast.” We were thinking peanuts in the shell.

We wrote: Aqueduct. Race 8. 4:13 New York-bred stakes fillies and mares aim at the Broadway. Isabelle, Atlantic’s Smile and Blithely, 1-2-3 in a January allowance, meet again.

What happened? Isabelle won again, improving her record to 5-for-8.

We wrote: Gulfstream Park. Race 10. 5:00. Merry Meadow goes for her third straight stakes win in the Hurricane Bertie. Bred and owned by David Howe and Bill Parsons, she ticked over the $600,000 career mark by winning the Grade 2 Sugar Swirl in December for Mark Hennig. More Than A Party and Centrique aim for their third straight wins as well.

What happened? Merry Meadow smoked them again, winning by nearly 10.

We wrote: Oaklawn Park. Race 7. 5:09. Whew, that’s a layoff. Gentlemen’s Bet returns to the races for the first time since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2013. Trained by Ron Moquett, the 6-year-old fired a bullet half-mile Feb. 8 and looks primed for his allowance return. It won’t be easy as Unbridled’s Note, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint back in 2013, tries to snap a six-race losing streak for Mike McCarty and Steve Asmussen.

What happened? Z Rockstar upset Unbridled’s Note and Gentlemen’s Bet. Hard to complain about any of them, a half-length separating the trio.

We wrote: Turf Paradise. Race 6. 5:17. The best of three stakes on the card, the Phoenix Gold Cup pits Robertino Diodoro’s pair Castletown and Omar against Santa Anita shippers Ankeny Hill and Pimpernel. The latter fetched $525,000 of Juddmonte Farm’s money at Keeneland in 2012.

What happened? Absolutely Cool led four locals to upset the feature.

We wrote: Gulfstream Park. Race 11. 5:30. I’m Already Sexy, for our favorite Fasig-Tipton member Anna Seitz (sorry, Max), receives a class relief in the Cooper City Handicap.

What happened? She’s still our favorite. I’m Already Sexy returned to winning ways with a head decision over Stoptalkingmaria.

We wrote: Sunland Park. Race 9. 5:44. R. D. Hubbard’s homebred Renewed Vows, winner of her last four, takes on New Mexico-bred fillies and mares in the Peppers Pride. Wonder if Mistico, Hubbard’s star jumper of the 90s, is still around? Somebody find out and let us know.

What happened? Hidden Vows won again, outlasting Little Vidalia by a neck.

We wrote: Oaklawn Park. Race 9. 6:09. Rocket Time seeks his fourth straight in the Essex Handicap. Ride On Curlin, who tangled with the likes of California Chrome and Tonalist last year, won his return in January. Todd Pletcher launches four-time winner Golden Lad from his Palm Beach Downs base.

What happened? Pletcher got the money as Golden Lad ousted Ride On Curlin.

We wrote: Golden Gate Fields. Race 7. 6:45. What a long, strange trip it’s been…The El Camino Real Derby offers a target to an array of Triple Crown hopefuls. Donji ws claimed out of a $30,000 maiden claimer, which he did not win, in January. Indianaughty was bred in Kentucky, shipped to England, won a maiden at Lingfield in August before returning for Team Valor and Dale Romans in January. Metaboss owns a win, a second and a third on the turf at Santa Anita and Del Mar. Ernest Shackleton started in Ireland, broke his maiden at Listowel, and moved here to win an allowance on the turf at Santa Anita. Cross The Line won the California Derby for Hollendorfer. Harmonic joins him from the same stable. Soul Driver cost $60,000 last April, he chased Cross The Line in the Cal. Derby. Stand And Salute makes it three for Hollendorfer. Ontario-bred Conquest Typhoon has won twice on the turf, both Grade 2 stakes, for Mark Casse. Born in California, Mischief Clem tries to become the next California Chrome.

What happened? Hall of Famer Alex Solis traveled north to ride Metaboss for the first time. The son of Street Boss rallied from well back to best Cross The Line and Conquest Typhoon.

We wrote: Sam Houston. Race 6. 9:25. Restricted to colts and geldings which have nominated and remain eligible to the Clarence Scharbauer Texas Stallion Series, the Jim’s Orbit offers Silverhill, fifth in the Grade 3 Sanford at Saratoga last summer, a chance to win his second career race. He was bred by Clarence Scharbauer and races for Douglas Scharbauer. For them, we’ll root for him. Of course, they have Alamo City as well. Heck, we’ll root for both of them.

What happened? Root all you want, Alamo City and Silverhill finished a long way back of Supermason, who won by 14 for Bret Calhoun.

We wrote: Sam Houston. Race 8. 10:19. The Two Altazano. The filly version of the Jim’s Orbit. Infectious is starting to get good for owner/breeder Will Farish while Promise Me Silver has yet to lose for Myrna and Robert Luttrell and trainer Bret Calhoun.

What happened? Promise Me Silver won by nearly 10.

We wrote: Sam Houston. Race 9. 10:46. The Jersey Village Turf tops off a strong Sam Houston card and tops off another Saturday Special here at TIHR. How can you not love Fly The Red Eye who seeks win number 12 in start number 55.

What happened? Fly The Red Eye tried hard again, finishing third behind Magna Breeze and Rule Breaker.