The weekend between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes – if you weren’t among the fortunate to be able to trek down to Nashville for the Iroquois – allows some to recharge, reboot and regroup.
Our crew here at This Is Horse Racing spent the weekend on the road, Joe and Sean down in Nashville for the Iroquois and Tom not far away in Brandenburg, Ky., participating in a trail-running relay that resulted in three nighttime spills, about two hours of sleep and one memorable experience.
Speaking of memorable, how about the reported tens of thousands that turned out at Percy Warner with temperatures in the upper 80s for the seven-race Iroquois card? The biggest meeting of the spring season certainly delivered. We report on that, and more, in this week’s edition of The Monday Special. Enjoy.
The decision by the connections of champion Good Magic to run in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes swelled the potential field for the second jewel of the Triple Crown to eight.
Unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner Justify, who beat Good Magic by 2 1/2 lengths in Louisville, obviously heads the Preakness field. The others under consideration are Bravazo, Diamond King, Lone Sailor, Quip, Sporting Chance and Tenfold. Bolt d’Oro and Pony Up were under consideration before their connections opted to skip the 1 3/16-mile Preakness over the weekend.
The last time the Preakness field featured a field of only eight was 2015, when American Pharoah romped in the slop en route to a sweep of the Triple Crown. The last time there were fewer than eight starters was 1986, when Snow Chief topped the field of seven.
Our team will be on hand at Pimlico this week to provide all the coverage of this year’s race. Entries for the Preakness will be drawn Wednesday.
Rosbrian Farm’s and Ben and Wendy Griswold’s Zanjabeel came away with the spring steeplechase season’s biggest prize – and purse – Saturday with a 5-length victory in the Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase.
The English-bred son of Aussie Rules, second in the Grade 1 Colonial Cup and the Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey in his first two starts of 2018, took over after the last fence under Ross Geraghty to win the $200,000 Iroquois. Zanjabeel won the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle last fall at Far Hills for Ireland’s Gordon Elliott before he was sold to Rosbrian and transferred to trainer Ricky Hendriks.
Zanjabeel won the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle in his first start for new connections in early November at Pine Mountain. He improved to 6-for-26 with earnings of $320,316 in the Iroquois.
Jack Fisher, atop the NSA trainer standings the last six years but the winner of just two races in 36 starts entering last weekend, doubled that total with a pair at the Iroquois. Fisher went 1-2 in the opener, the $50,000 Green Pastures allowance hurdle with Bruton Street-US’s Lord Justice and DASH Stable’s Whitman’s Poetry. Sean McDermott rode Lord Justice, who won the 2 1/4-mile event by 7 lengths.
The second win for Fisher came in the $40,000 George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Sport of Kings Hurdle going the same distance with Gill Johnston’s Cite. Willie McCarthy rode the winner, who edged Belisarius by a neck.
Maggie Bryant’s Plated, an allowance winner over national fences at last year’s Iroquois meet, added a timber win in Nashville to his resume under Jack Doyle in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial for trainer Jimmy Day.
Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan stayed unbeaten over jumps with a 6-length in the $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Trained by Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by Darren Nagle, the 4-year-old son of Einstein added the 2 1/4-mile Frost to prior wins in allowance races in Camden and Middleburg.
The Fields Stable’s Sarah Joyce defended her title in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley filly and mare hurdle stakes under Jack Doyle for trainer Elizabeth Voss. Winless in four starts since last year’s Henley, the Irish-bred daughter of The Carbon Unit won by a half-length over Inverness.
Three Kingdoms was one of three Irish-breds to win on the day, taking the $35,000 Bright Hour ratings handicap hurdle under Kieran Norris. Trained by Julie Gomena for owner Colvin Ryan, Three Kingdoms won by a neck over Schoodic in his first out since losing his rider in the Noel Laing last fall at Montpelier.
The weekend wrapped up with the annual Willowdale Steeplechase in Kennett Square, Pa., and Jack Fisher maintained his momentum with a victory in the featured $35,000 Willowdale Steeplechase amateur timber stakes with Charles Fenwick Jr.’s Doc Cebu. Hadden Frost rode Doc Cebu, who won by 2 1/2 lengths over Pured It.
Also at Willowdale, Irv Naylor’s Stormy Alex won the $20,000 Rose Tree Cup conditioned claiming hurdle for trainer Cyril Murphy and jockey Graham Watters. The day’s other winners were Riverdee Stable’s Ebullience for Jonathan Sheppard and Jack Doyle in the maiden-claiming hurdle, Thistledown Farm’s Spirit of Shankly in the first division of the maiden timber for jockey-trainer Mark Beecher, Marriebelle Stable’s Spoiler Alert in the second division of the maiden timber for William Meister and Gerard Galligan, Frank Bonsal Jr.’s Stand Down in the amateur apprentice timber for Joseph Davies and Eric Poretz and Kristian Strangeway’s I Am Not Here in the amateur training flat for Todd Wyatt and Brett Owings.
We saw a change at the top of the ST Handicappers’ leaderboard after a monster weekend from Sean and his eight winners. Sean picked four winners at each meet – Lord Justice, Sarah Joyce, Iranistan and Cite at the Iroquois and I Am Not Here, Ebullience, Doc Cebu and Stand Down at Willowdale – to raise his season total to 26.
Joe is one back after five winners on the weekend – Lord Justice, Sarah Joyce, Cite, Ebullience and Stand Down. Tom continues to lag well back after just two winners – Lord Justice and Ebullience – and only 12 on the season.
By the Numbers
2: Wins shy of 7,000 for Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado with one mount at Parx Monday, three at Parx Tuesday and several later in the week at Pimlico.
10: Consecutive stakes victories for 2017 Canadian Horse of the Year Pink Lloyd after Sunday’s New Providence Stakes at Woodbine.
“The LeBron James of Canadian horse racing, does that fit?”
Trainer Robert Tiller after Pink Lloyd won his 10th straight stakes race Sunday at Woodbine
“Substantiation was summarily dismissed by social media misanthropes after seeing Justify favor his left hind leg, their rambling rants ranging from his being ‘off” to ‘lame.’
Comment from Santa Anita’s Barn Notes last week
“It’s a tall order.”
Chad Brown on running Good Magic back on short rest in the Preakness against Justify, who beat him by 2 1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby
“If every horse had his heart, it’d be a lot easier.”
John Velazquez about the fan favorite Patch, a winner in his return Saturday at Belmont Park
The Best of The Saturday Special (Double Dip)
We wrote – Belmont. Race 5. 3:38. Voodoo Song tore it up last summer at Saratoga with four wins highlighted by the Grade 3 Saranac over Closing Weekend. He finished fourth in allowance return last month and shortens up to 7 furlongs on the grass for second start of 2018.
Hope you bet; Voodoo Song went to the front as always and stayed there. He held off American Guru by a nose to return $11.20.
We wrote – Belmont. Race 10. 6:18. Blended Citizen turned heads training at Keeneland Churchill Downs, didn’t get into the Kentucky Derby and preps for possible start in the Belmont in Grade 3 Peter Pan. Eight entered, including the previously thought Preakness-bound Diamond King, Northern Spur winner High North and Santa Anita Derby third Core Beliefs.
Blended Citizen earned a spot in the Belmont field with a 1 1/2-length victory over Core Beliefs, returned $11.40 and keyed a $1 exacta payoff of $19.20.
The Worst of The Saratoga Special
We wrote – Woodbine. Race 8. 5:02. Last year’s Schuylerville winner Dream It Is, 2-for-2 at Woodbine, returns north of the border for Barbara Minshall in $100,000 Star Shoot. Daughter of Shackleford as fifth last time after leading in the stretch of Grade 3 Beaumont at about 7 furlongs and she shortens up to 6 furlongs for this.
Dream It Is will need to wait at least one more start to return to the winner’s circle. She finished third of five in the Star Shoot at odds-on while Sly Beauty won by a half-length over Closer Still at 11-1.