Belmont Park Notes - September 29, 2013
By NYRA Press Office | 09/29/2013 02:58 PM ET
Ron The Greek
Mott lauds Ron the Greek the morning after G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup win, hopes Flat Out and Royal Delta move forward going into Breeders' Cup
Princess of Sylmar, Graydar return from Super Saturday victories in fine fettle; Palace Malice, Cross Traffic remain on target for BC Classic; Havana, 'Maria' breeze for G1 Foxwoods Champagne, G1 Frizette
Little Mike set for Breeders' Cup Turf repeat bid following G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic score
Joe Hirsch runner-up Big Blue Kitten, third-place finisher Real Solution Breeders' Cup-bound for Brown; Easter Gift, fifth in G2 Kelso, possible
Orb OK after last-place finish in Gold Cup; Honor Code breezes for G1 Foxwoods Champagne
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott knows racing can be a capricious endeavor, which is why on Sunday he expressed appreciation for Ron the Greek's dynamic victory in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational and hope that Flat Out and Royal Delta move forward off their losses on Saturday.
Ron the Greek, owned by Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable, Jack T. Hammer, and Gary Barber, won the Gold Cup by 6 ¾ lengths at 21-1 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 114. Mott also trains Preston Stables' Flat Out, winner of the 2011 and 2012 editions of the race, who finished 8 ½ lengths behind the Ron the Greek in third as the 5-2 favorite.
"There wouldn't have been many horses who would have beaten [Ron the Greek] yesterday," said Mott. "He might have fired his best shot right there. I'm not [going to be] disappointed if he doesn't fire that one back."
It was the second win in seven starts this year for Ron the Greek, who took the Sunshine Millions Classic for Florida-breds by 11 ¼ lengths in January at Gulfstream Park. In 2012, Ron the Greek captured the Grade 1 Santa Anita and Stephen Foster handicaps and was sixth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Saturday's race was just the second loss in seven starts at Belmont Park for Flat Out, who had won the 2011 and 2013 Suburban Handicaps and 2013 Westchester in addition to his pair of Gold Cup triumphs.
"It was good. Maybe not his 'A' race, but it was a very good race," said Mott of Flat Out's performance on Saturday. "Steady. That's the kind of race that you can go to the Breeders' Cup with and maybe have a little bit more confidence that you haven't overdone it."
Two-time Eclipse champion Royal Delta was second, beaten two lengths by 3-year-old Princess of Sylmar, in her attempt to win the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational for a second straight year.
"She looks great," said Mott. "I'm not sure she ran her best race yesterday. She might have a better one in her than that. I'm pretty sure she does. I think her last two were better than that, so hopefully she'll come back next time and give us a good one."
Ron the Greek, Flat Out, and Royal Delta all appear to be headed to the Breeders' Cup in November at Santa Anita, with Ron the Greek and Flat Out targeting the Grade 1 Classic. Mott said he will talk to owner Benjamin Leon about whether Royal Delta will compete against males in the Classic or females in the Distaff. The trio will continue training in New York for the time being, Mott said.
Royal Delta was second to Havre de Grace in the 2011 Beldame before going on to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Last year, she won both the Beldame and the Distaff. In 2010, Mott won the Distaff with Unrivaled Belle, who was second in the Beldame.
Plans are more nebulous for Juddmonte Farms' Slumber, who finished fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by winner Little Mike and a head by third-place finisher Real Solution, in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, the 5-year-old's second start this year. Slumber, a listed stakes winner in England, entered the Turf Classic off a 3 ¾-length victory in an optional claimer on August 15 at Saratoga Race Course.
"The bottom line is he missed third by about that much," said Mott. "He kind of had to alter course at the three-sixteenths pole. He was behind when that horse backed up on him, and he had to come around two of them. I don't know what's around that's better than that group that ran [in the Turf Classic]."
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Sunday morning that Princess of Sylmar, heroine of the Grade 1 Beldame, Grade 2 Kelso Invitational Handicap winner Graydar, Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup runner-up Palace Malice and the rest of his Super Saturday representatives all returned from their efforts in good order.
Pletcher was particularly pleased with the performance of 3-year-old Princess of Sylmar, who in her first outing against older horses upended two-time Eclipse champion Royal Delta in the 1 1/8-mile Beldame, earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.
"Any time you take a 3-year-old and run against older horses for the first time and you're able to win, it's a great achievement," Pletcher said. "When the horse that you beat is Royal Delta, it's an even greater accomplishment. It further enhanced Princess of Sylmar's reputation and took what everyone recognized as a remarkable 3-year-old season to another level. We've been blessed with quite a few good fillies, but certainly her 3-year-old season stacks up pretty well with anyone's."
Bred in Pennsylvania by Ed Stanco, Princess of Sylmar began her career at Penn National and next won three straight races over the inner track at Aqueduct, including the Busher and Busanda stakes. After finishing second to subsequent dual Grade 1 winner Close Hatches in the Grade 2 Gazelle, Princess of Sylmar upset the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, romped by six lengths in the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and came home a 2 ½-length winner in the Grade 1 Alabama.
"She's what makes racing such a great sport," said Pletcher. "You take a guy [Stanco] that literally breeds his first mare and gets Princess of Sylmar, who's able to compete with all of the biggest horses in the country, and run against and beat a filly that cost, what, $9 million? It's what's cool about the game, that one from modest beginnings can beat one like that."
Pletcher said a decision would not be made for some time on whether to supplement Princess of Sylmar to the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"With the way yesterday's races are positioned, five weeks out from the Breeders' Cup, it gives us time to sort out how everyone is doing and how everyone came out of the races," he said. "Hopefully we can sit back and let them tell us what the right decision is."
Immediately following the Beldame, Graydar came off a six-month layoff and earned an all-fees-paid trip to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with a solid victory in the Kelso, earning a 103 Beyer.
"He broke a step slow but was able to position himself quickly," said Pletcher. "With five weeks and hopefully a good, steady series of breezes leading up to the [Dirt] Mile, I think he has room to improve."
Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice led a trio of Pletcher trainees in the Gold Cup, in which Brazilian import Vitoria Olimpica finished fourth and Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap winner Cross Traffic was seventh after a disastrous start.
"He kind of did a spread-eagle coming out of the gate; remarkably, he did not grab himself or pull a shoe," said Pletcher. "His chances were eliminated at the beginning, so you just have to draw a line through it and stick with the original plan, which right now would be the Breeders' Cup Classic.
"With Vitoria Olimpica, for only his third start in the United States it was a very good race, and we're very, very pleased with Palace Malice," he added. "He showed up and ran a very good race yesterday. Being a May foal, there's more to come, I hope."
The trainer reported that Sunday morning breezes for spectacular maiden winner Havana (four furlongs in 49.88) and Grade 1 Spinaway runner-up Stopchargingmaria (4f, 49.24) over the Belmont Park training track went "very well" and the 2-year-olds were on schedule for upcoming engagements next Saturday in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne and Grade 1 Frizette, respectively. For the Grade 1 Jamaica, Jack Milton went four furlongs in :49.63 and Notacatbutallama breezed four furlongs in 50.63 in Saratoga.
Little Mike is Breeders' Cup-bound once again after winning Saturday's Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, trainer Dale Romans confirmed on Sunday.
"It looks like he came out of [the race] good," said Romans, who trains the 6-year-old for Priscilla Vaccarezza. "He's a very sound horse. He dances every dance. At least he'll get a little more respect now."
The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was Little Mike's first win since his victory in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf and his first race with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard. The 2013 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf will be contested on November 2 at Santa Anita.
"With Mike [Smith] having had that race under his belt and [Santa Anita] being his home racetrack, I feel pretty good about going," said Romans.
Last year, Ramon Dominguez rode the gelding to a win in the Grade 1 Arlington Million, a fifth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and a triumph in the Breeders' Cup Turf. After the 2013 Turf Classic, Smith said he mimicked Dominguez's hand placement on Little Mike.
"It was pretty smart of Mike [Smith] to think like that," said Romans. "Whatever he did, it worked. He ran like he did for Ramon. Ramon texted me last night to congratulate me. I told him what Mike said, and he got a kick out of that."
Romans added that Little Mike will return to Churchill Downs on Tuesday.
It's on to the Breeders' Cup for Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebreds Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution, trainer Chad Brown said Sunday morning.
The stablemates ran against each other for the first time on Saturday, with Big Blue Kitten finishing a nose behind Little Mike in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. Real Solution checked in another length back in third.
"They came out of the race good, so far," said Brown. "I thought they both ran very well, and so did the winner. We were just on the wrong end of the bob this time. It happens. I thought we were in front just before the wire and after the wire, but on the wire [Big Blue Kitten] was on the wrong end of it but to a good horse."
All three horses are expected to meet up again on November 2 at Santa Anita Park in the Breeders' Cup Turf, a race Little Mike won last year.
"If they stay healthy and they train well, I plan on taking them both out there," said Brown. "Hopefully, we get good, cozy draws. Both of these horses have proven now that they are among the top long-distance grass horses in this country. We'll look for the rematch out at Santa Anita."
Big Blue Kitten had won his two previous starts, the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park in July and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational last month at Saratoga Race Course. Jockey Joe Bravo has been aboard for his past four races, including a runner-up finish on June 9 in the Grade 2 Monmouth.
"I thought Big Blue Kitten had a good, ground-saving trip, other than the fact that he had to pause momentarily turning for home, which probably cost him the win," said Brown. "Up to then he did save a lot of ground and had clear sailing, but that's turf racing. I thought Joe did a good job making a split-second decision to get himself out of trouble. It was only a momentary pause, but anytime you lose by an inch you probably can say it cost us."
Brown said Real Solution had to prove himself at the 1 ½-mile distance before he would consider the Breeders' Cup. In his previous start, he finished second but was elevated to the win via the disqualification of The Apache in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.
"Real Solution's trip I was a little more concerned with, because he was so wide the whole way," said Brown. "He only got beat a length for the whole thing, and he had to run farther than a length for how wide he was. You're going to have to go around horses at some point, but I felt watching the head-on [replay] that he was quite wide the entire way going a mile and a half. I really needed to see if he could go a mile and a half to go on to the Breeders' Cup. Only getting beat a length going that wide, he earned his right to go out there."
Brown is also considering the Breeders' Cup for Grade 3 winner Easter Gift, who was fifth, beaten just 2 ½ lengths, in the Grade 2 Kelso Invitational Handicap. Earlier this year, the Hard Spun colt strung together three consecutive wins, including the Mountainview Handicap in June at Penn National.
"Easter Gift had a bad trip. He had a bad post, and he's not crazy about running on the inside of horses," said Brown. "I don't think [Hall of Fame jockey] Mike [Smith] had any choice. Several times he tried to get him off the rail, and there was just nowhere to go. It's more or less a non-effort. The horse looks like he really didn't run much this morning. I don't know what I'll do. I wouldn't rule out taking that horse out to the Dirt Mile. He's the kind of horse that has a big race in him, I think. He's run a couple numbers already that would make him competitive if he runs his very best race going a mile on the dirt."
Also for Brown on Saturday, The Last Gunfighter finished fifth in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, ahead of three Grade 1 winners in Alpha, Cross Traffic and Kentucky Derby hero Orb.
"I'm never happy when I finish fifth in a race, but I would say I'm not disappointed with his effort. He gave me as good a race as he possibly could," said Brown. "It was a tough race and he didn't disgrace himself any. We'll just regroup with him. I have no plans for him yet."
Buzz Tenney, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, reported Sunday morning that Kentucky Derby winner Orb appeared well following his last-place finish in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational.
Orb, who bobbled at the start of the race, was placed three wide in fifth place for the first six furlongs of the 1 ¼-mile race and then faded. He was beaten 22 ¼ lengths by winner Ron the Greek.
"Orb seemed to come back fine," Tenney said. "He cooled out fine, and we put him on the van and sent him back to Fair Hill [Md.] last night. Really no excuses we could see."
The Jockey Club Gold Cup was the eighth race of Orb's 2013 campaign. He opened the year winning an allowance race on January 26 at Gulfstream Park and then reeled off wins in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, the Grade 1 Florida Derby and the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
Following that, Orb was fourth in the Preakness Stakes and third in the Belmont Stakes. McGaughey then moved Orb to the Fair Hill Training Center to prepare for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, and the Malibu Moon colt appeared to blossom. He was third, beaten less than a length by winner Will Take Charge in the Travers and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 106.
"He looked great, I thought, coming out of Fair Hill," Tenney said. "Going over [to saddle for the Jockey Club Gold Cup], I think we were all very, very confident, and it was disappointing, to say the least. We scoped him after the race yesterday, and he was clean. So far, that's all that's been done."
McGaughey's Honor Code, standout 2-year-old winner of a seven-furlong maiden race in the slop on August 31 at Saratoga, breezed four furlongs in 47.99 seconds Sunday over the Belmont main track. The son of A.P. Indy worked in company with Secret Bid, a 3-year-old out of the champion mare Inside Information, and the pair both tied for fifth-best work of 38 on the day at the distance.
Honor Code, who came from 22 ½ lengths back to break his maiden, is scheduled to compete next Saturday in the Grade 1, $500,000 Foxwoods Champagne at a mile over the Belmont track.
His maiden victory was flattered Saturday when second-place finisher Misconnect scored by a length at Belmont against eight others in his second start, running seven furlongs in 1:22.65, and third-place finisher Purple Sky later broke his maiden at Churchill Downs.
"He's all set up for Saturday unless something jumps up in between," Tenney said of Honor Code. "The horse that was third came back and ran a good race too, people told me. So, maybe that's going to come back and be a key maiden race."
Tenney also said Hymn Book, third in the Grade 2 Kelso on Saturday, came back in good order. Hymn Book was beaten by less than a length in the race, won by Graydar.