The Monday Special – June 1

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Fighting Mad helped Bob Baffert’s barn move away from a bad week Sunday when she won the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes just days after leading classics contender Nadal suffered a potentially career-ending injury.

Last year’s Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes winner showed that Baffert’s decision to bring her back two weeks after finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer was a smart decision when running away with the Santa Maria at odds of 10-1.

“She needed her last race and she had trained well coming into this,” Baffert said of the win. “We’ve always been high on her and today, I told the jock to put her on the lead, that’s where she wants to be. She can be a little headstrong, but I could see turning for home, I knew she was gonna be tough to beat. Today, she ran like she did at Del Mar, that’s a really good time on this track.”

Following the instructions, jockey Abel Cedillo took Fighting Mad to the lead from the start. The filly proved to be happy with that arrangement, galloped a length ahead of the field for much of the race.

Fighting Mad found more than enough into the stretch. She cleared dual Grade 1 winner Ce Ce in the stretch and held off a late rally from Hard Not to Love to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

The top three proved to be much the best over the rest of the field with fourth-place finisher Kaydetre 17 1/2 lengths behind Ce Ce and Horologist pulled up and walked off after battling with Fighting Mad early.

“When she broke, she broke like a rocket so I was just trying to slow down, Cedillo said. “I know I went a little fast but she just did it on her own. The first race I watched was a ride by Joe Talamo (Aug. 17 Torrey Pines).  She was just doing the same thing, he didn’t budge (on) her and she won by 8. In her other race (a second in a 6-furlong allowance July 19) she was looking around, which she did today, but in the stretch she just did it easy.”

A homebred for Gary and Mary West by their Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day, Fighting Mad burst onto the stakes scene when running in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes last May. Finding no success in that race when seventh, Baffert dropped her back to the allowance level where she finished second before the Torrey Pines.

Maiden Winner of the Week: The re-opening weekend of racing at Laurel Park saw Ylikedis pick the perfect moment to break her maiden Saturday on the turf.

Second last out, Ylikedis broke well and secured a spot on the rail just a few lengths off the leading 8-5 choice Pretty And Fast. Ylikedis handled the speedy gallop and took advantage of a hole opening just outside of the leader as the field turned into the stretch.

She shrugged off Pretty And Fast in midstretch then pulled away from that foe while Deciding Vote made a late attempt to grab the lead. That move was in vain with Ylikedis winning by a length to become the latest winner for Street Sense.

The filly is one of four winners and runners for listed winner Andina, who is also the dam of Grade 3 Florida Oaks winner Andina Del Sur. Each of Ylikedis’s first three dams are stakes winners or stakes placed and with each of her first five dams producing at least one stakes horse.

Trainer of the Week: Rumor has it Churchill Downs will soon undergo a name change to Graham Motion Downs after the success the trainer has had at the track the last few weeks. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but of Motion’s 16 starts at Churchill Downs since the meet started May 16 he’s won five races.

The Fair Hill-based trainer has taken down stakes at the meet with Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing winning her 2020 debut in the Tepin Stakes May 23 and Secret Message in Saturday’s Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes.

Showing a major burst of speed to just get her head in front at the wire with the five horses finishing within a length of each other, Secret Message registered her first win since last May.

“I was just sort of biding time there on the outside and she kept finding her stride down the lane and was able to get up late,” jockey John Velazquez said after the race.

Secret Message was just one of a handful of good results for Motion in Kentucky this weekend with 4-year-old filly Flying the Colors losing by just a head to register her third second-place finish in her four career starts. Owned by the Heider Family Stables, she was also part of a big day for the Heider family with their stable also owning part of Secret Message and all of Mint Julep third Zofelle.

Making sure to end his weekend on a high, Motion’s only Churchill runner Sunday visited the winner’s circle when Crystal Cliffs won her American debut. Bred and formerly based in France, the Canford Cliffs filly was winning her second straight start to improve to 2-for-3.

Sire Of The Week: American Pharoah, already with winners in nine countries, enhanced his reputation of becoming an international sire was on full display over the weekend when he had impressive winners in both Japan and France.

The fun began Friday night when A Shin Amen Ra, a son of stakes-winning I O Ireland, proved to be much the best throughout his allowance at Kyoto. In the lead from the start, jockey Kota Fujika eased off on A Shin Amen Ra at the line to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

Sunday morning the stallion’s €1.1 million Arqana Breeze-Up topper Ocean Atlantique became his seventh stakes winner in the listed Prix de Suresnes at Deauville.

Just like A Shin Amen Ra, Ocean Atlantique went to the front and never looked back. Unlike the Japanese-based colt, Ocean Atlantique never eased up and won by 5 lengths. Ocean Atlantique has finished first or second in all four of his starts and now looks bound for the French Derby.

American Pharoah is the of 17 stakes horses from his first crop and it’s worth noting that both winning weekend colts are out of mares by Giant’s Causeway, American Pharoah’s former stallion barn resident at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.

Horse to Watch: If you watched the 2-year-old race Friday at Santa Anita, you saw possibly the most impressive performance of any juvenile this year when Smoothlikebuttah finished fourth.

On the surface a fourth finish isn’t anything to write home about but the way the California-bred filly raced was something to notice. She hopped and hesitated leaving the gate and wound up 6 lengths behind the second-to-last runner – and 14 1/2 lengths behind the leader – after the first call of the 4 1/2-furlong race.

Once into stride she flew past most of the field to finish fourth and looked as though she would have been a winner with an extra furlong. The race was only open to California-breds, so it’s hard to gauge the quality of the field she closed on but the show Smoothlikebuttah put on shows that she definitely has some talent. 

Handicapper’s Report: Tom Law cut into John Shapazian’s lead for The Special’s leading spring handicapper by just a bit with eight winners Saturday.

Tom picked two winners at Churchill – Lady Cleopatra in the second and Fearless in the 10th; three at Gulfstream – Nowitna River in the third, North Broadway in the fourth and Venezuelan Hug in the eighth; and three at Santa Anita – California Kook in the first, Laura’s Light in the seventh and Reprobate in the ninth. He improved his season record to 54-for-171 (31.6 percent), and now trails John by two winners.

John picked the same three winners at Gulfstream, along with Brittle And Yoo in the first and Lady Cleopatra at Churchill, Brix in the fifth and Laura’s Light at Santa Anita. John leads the way with a record to 56-for-171 (32.7 percent).

Charles Bedard finished the day where he started, in the third spot, after seven winners. He picked Elle M’a Souri in the third and Fearless at Churchill, the same three winners at Tom and John at Gulfstream and Paige Runner in the third and Brix at Santa Anita. Charles’ season record stands at 49-for-171 (28.7 percent).

Rob Whitlock remains in fourth after four winners Saturday – Brittle And Yoo at Churchill, Nowitna River and North Broadway at Gulfstream and California Kook in the opener at Santa Anita. Rob’s seasonal record is 40-for-171. 

Quote of the Week: “Phillip Antonacci purchased the horse at Keeneland. Being of Italian-American descent, and for all the great work that Dr. Fauci’s done, they wanted to find a horse, especially in this time, that they could give a high-profile name to and this is the one.” – Wesley Ward on 2-year-old Fauci who debuts Wednesday at Belmont Park.

A $175,000 yearling, the 2-year-old colt debuts going 5 furlongs on the dirt for Lindy Farms and Ice Wine Stables. By Malibu Moon, the colt may prove to be better on turf with his dam a half sister to four stakes winners on the turf including champions Excelebration and Lancaster Bomber.

Bits and Pieces: New York racing returns Wednesday when the first field loads into the gate at 1:15 p.m. at Belmont. The card kicks off over a month of racing headlined by the June 20 Belmont Stakes. … Bell’s The One returned to her winning ways in the Grade 3 Winning Colors Saturday at Churchill Downs for her fourth stakes victory. … Laura’s Light continued cementing her position as one of the top 3-year-old turf fillies in the nation Saturday with a win in the Grade 3 Honeymoon Stakes.