Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekend Recap: Super (Surprise) Saturday

Yesterday, Super Saturday  was something of a coast-to-coast Super “Surprise” Saturday as current favorites fell and old ones fought their way out of long losing streaks. Click the links for videos.

Royal Delta after the 2013 Fleur de Lis (Gr. II)

Belmont Park, Beldame Invitational Stakes (Gr. I): Dubbed the “Royal Rumble” or “Royal Showdown”, the Beldame was the hottest race of the day. Already well on her way to champion 3-year-old filly honors, Princess of Sylmar attempted to cinch the championship by skipping the richer Cotillion Stakes (Gr. I) at Parx in favor of taking on older mares for the first time, including reigning queen Royal Delta. Last out, the Princess had captured the Alabama Stakes (Gr. I) on August 17 while Royal Delta delivered goosebumps with her runaway win in the Personal Ensign Handicap (Gr. I) on August 25

Most, including myself, believed Royal Delta to be the superior horse, if only by a couple lengths. But with a deep pool of talent to draw upon, Princess of Sylmar was not to be underestimated.

Royal Delta bobbled out the gate and initially swapped turns at the lead with Roman Invader while Princess of Sylmar settled into a stalking position. On the sweeping Belmont Park turn, Royal Delta’s ears were up but it was too early to tell whether she could hold off Princess of Sylmar, who was beginning her move on the outside. Royal Delta pulled away from the field by several lengths but the Princess was right with her. It was shaping up to be the race everyone had hoped for!

Princess of Sylmar then powered past Royal Delta with relative ease, winning the Beldame by two lengths, with Royal Delta second, 6-3/4 lengths ahead of third-place Centring. Both Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar returned to applause from the appreciative crowd. 

Belmont Park, Kelso Handicap (Gr. II): Graydar remained unbeaten for 2013 after capturing the Kelso. A winner of 4 of 5 starts, the last in the New Orleans Handicap (Gr. II) in March, the son of Unbridled's Song was returning from a long layup.

Belmont Park, Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (Gr. I): In May 2009, my husband and I were at Arlington Park for a beautiful day of stakes races. In race 9, the Matron, we watched in horror as the A.P. Indy filly Born to Be and jockey Rene Douglas went down after clipping heels with Sky Mom. Neither horse nor rider got up again. The accident ranks as the worst my husband and I have seen in person, and since then I've quietly cheered for Rene Douglas as he endured rehabilitation then re-entered the racing industry as an owner.

One horse Douglas owns in partnership is Private Zone. Once deemed crazy, patience and time have molded the colt into a stakes winner. Earlier this month, Claire Novak wrote a great article on the relationship between Private Zone and Rene Douglas; you can read it here.

In the 6 furlong Vosburgh, Private Zone faced the good sprinter Justin Phillip and The Lumber Guy, winner of the 2012 Vosburgh. Leading from the gate, Private Zone set quick fractions of :22.62, :44.86, and :56.26. Mid-stretch, he was headed by Justin Phillip but the horse's heart wasn't finished and he fought to regain the lead. He succeeded and won by a head in the near stakes-record time of 1:08.02. An inquiry went up but the order of finish was unchanged. One thing is for sure: Private Zone is a courageous horse with a courageous owner.

Belmont Park, Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (Gr. I): Laughing (IRE) and Tannery (IRE), entered as a coupled entry, finished 1-2 in the Flower Bowl. Laughing, who also won the Diana Stakes (Gr. I) is now 4 for 4 in 2013.

Belmont Park, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (Gr. I): Winner of the 2012 Breeder's Cup Turf (Gr. I) and 2012 Arlington Million Stakes (Gr. I), Little Mike had been unplaced in 4 starts for 2013 prior to the Joe Hirsch. In a surprise win, he took the Joe Hirsch by a nose over Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution, winner of the this year's Arlington Million.

Belmont Park, Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (Gr. I): Winless this year since the Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes in January, Ron the Greek took a cue from Little Mike and shrugged off both his losing slump  and the excellent field of horses behind him. If you've read my previous weekend recaps, you'll know that I'm a big fan of this horse, and was thus thrilled by his victory.

Santa Anita, Rodeo Drive Stakes (Gr. I): Familiar foes Marketing Mix and Tiz Flirtatious dueled again in the Rodeo Drive. Last time they faced one another in the Gamely Stakes (Gr. I), Marketing Mix came out on top. This time the spotlight was on Tiz Flirtatious, who won by a head over a determined Marketing Mix.

Santa Anita, Zenyatta Stakes (Gr. I): The champion 2-year-old filly of 2012, Beholder, proved she still holds her good form by winning gate-to-wire in the Zenyatta, defeating Grade I winners Authenticity, Joyful Victory, and Include Me Out. There were a few cries demanding that Princess of Sylmar face Beholder, but some seem to have forgotten that she already did just that in the Kentucky Oaks (Gr. I), which the Princess won handily.

Santa Anita, Awesome Again Stakes (Gr. I): The final surprise of the day was delivered by Mucho Macho Man in the Awesome Again. A non-winner since the July 2012 Suburban Handicap (Gr. II), Mucho Macho Man dug himself out of a long losing streak just like his slump-cousins on the east coast, Ron the Greek and Little Mike, and handily won the Awesome Again by daylight. Paynter finished second, and with that order of finish the race was a tip of the hat to the blue hen mare Primal Force. It was upon Primal Force's shoulders that Adena Springs was built, as two of her sons--Awesome Again (by Deputy Minister) and Macho Uno (by Holy Bull)--are top stallions at Adena. As Mucho Macho Man is a son of Macho Uno and Paynter is a son of Awesome Again, it was a fitting finish to a fitting race.

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