Jun 27, 2021
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Zaajel earns 96BSF in G2 Mother Goose score; Undefeated G2 Suburban contender Happy Saver leads breeze contingent for Pletcher

by NYRA Press Office

  • Zaajel earns 96BSF in G2 Mother Goose score; Undefeated G2 Suburban contender Happy Saver leads breeze contingent for Pletcher
  • Cardenas picks up another career milestone after guiding Runaway Rumour to open-company stakes win
  • New York-bred Robin Sparkles: Let’s go to the Spa
  • Althiqa and Summer Romance breeze for G1 Diana; Appleby runners Secret Protector and Creative Flair to travel for Turf Triple
  • Thomas breezes slew of turf workers in preparation for stakes action
  • Cross Country Pick 5 registers total pool of $206K; pays $803

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher enjoyed a great day on and off the track Saturday, celebrating his 54th birthday with a win as Shadwell Stables’ Zaajel captured the Grade 2, $250,000 Mother Goose, a one-turn 1 1/16-mile test for sophomore fillies at Belmont Park.

Assistant Byron Hughes saddled the winner, who garnered a 96 Beyer Speed Figure, while Pletcher spent the day with family.

“It was my daughter Hannah’s high school graduation, so it made for quite a nice day,” said Pletcher.

Sent to post at odds of 18-1 as the longest shot on the board in a compact field of five, Zaajel tracked the pace of previously undefeated 4-5 mutuel favorite Always Carina before making the lead at the stretch call and powering home a 1 1/4-length winner.

The 3-year-old Street Sense bay made her first two starts at Gulfstream Park, including a score in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Forward Gal on January 30. 

Following a troubled sixth in the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks, Zaajel failed to fire when seventh in her turf debut in the Grade 2 Edgewood on April 30 at Churchill Downs.

Pletcher said he was pleased to see Zaajel return to form, who now gives the conditioner a strong one-two punch in the sophomore filly division along with Malathaat, her undefeated Shadwell stablemate, who won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on April 30.

“Zaajel started off very well and won her first two, including the Forward Gal, and we kind of got sidetracked when we went to the Fair Grounds,” said Pletcher. “She didn't break well that day and misbehaved in the gate and got in a little bit of trouble in the first turn. 

“We were trying to keep her and Malathaat separated, so that’s why we gave her an experiment on the turf,” Pletcher continued. “We thought she breezed well on it, but she didn’t run the way we hoped. We had our minds on the Mother Goose for a while and she trained accordingly. We had maybe a little more confidence in her than the betting public did.”

Pletcher said with Malathaat on target for the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies on July 24 at Saratoga, Zaajel could point to the seven-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Test on August 7.

“I'll talk to Rick Nicholls at Shadwell and come up with a plan,” said Pletcher. “She's versatile enough that she's won graded stakes at a mile and a sixteenth and seven furlongs. I don't anticipate we'd want to run her in the Coaching Club with Malathaat on target for that, so we could look at something like the Test or even try two turns out of town. We'll play it by year. We won't rush back off of that effort.”

Pletcher said the relationship with Shadwell has proven to be a fruitful one.

“We've been blessed. It's terrific to have two high-quality fillies like that,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher worked a number of his top horses over the weekend, including undefeated Happy Saver who breezed in company with Country Grammer Sunday in preparation for Saturday’s 10-furlong Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday, July 3 at Belmont.

Belmont’s Independence Day weekend slate runs July 3 through Monday, July 5 offering six stakes races including a pair of Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In qualifiers led by the Grade 2, Suburban [Classic] and the Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud [Sprint], which will see 4-year-olds and up contest at seven furlongs on July 4.

The holiday weekend kicks off July 3 with the $100,000 Perfect Sting and continues on July 4 with the $100,000 Manila, while the Grade 3, $250,000 Dwyer anchors a Monday, July 5 card that also offers the $150,000 Grand Couturier.

Wertheimer and Frere’s Happy Saver, a 4-year-old Super Saver chestnut, completed his sophomore season by making the grade in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup with a three-quarter length win over Suburban-rival Mystic Guide in October at Belmont Park. 

Happy Saver made his seasonal debut a winning one last out with a one-length score in an optional-claiming mile on May 28 on Big Sandy. At 7:45 a.m. Sunday, a rail-riding Happy Saver worked a half-mile in company with fellow Suburban contender Country Grammer in 49.26 seconds on the Belmont dirt training track.

“I thought it was a good work from both. Happy Saver was just a little bit better at the end of the gallop out, but they both worked well,” said Pletcher. “We'll see how they bounce out of it. I'll talk to Elliott [Walden] at WinStar and talk about the Suburban potentially for Country Grammer. We'll firm that up tomorrow.”

Pletcher said Happy Saver’s previous work – five-eighths in 59.40 on the dirt training track in company with Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Moretti – was also impressive.

“We gave him a really solid five-eighths work last week with a big gallop out; that was the one we were looking for,” said Pletcher. “He is coming off just the one start and we're stretching him out to a mile and a quarter, so we wanted to get a good one into him last week.”

Moretti, who is also targeting the Suburban, worked a half-mile in 48.75 Saturday on the Belmont dirt training track.

“We breezed Moretti yesterday, and I think we're on target with him, so we could have as many as three in there,” said Pletcher.

A 5-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro, out of the Grade 1-winning Concerto mare Rigoletta, Moretti is a half-brother to 2017 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile-winner Battle of Midway.

Last week, WinStar Farm’s Country Grammer worked a half-mile in 49.05 on June 21 in company with Mahaamel on the Belmont training track. 

Country Grammer, a 4-year-old Tonalist bay, captured the Grade 1 Gold Cup last out on May 31 at Santa Anita for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. He was recently transferred to Pletcher.

Pletcher said the change of work partners for Country Grammer was a matter of timing.

“I didn't want to work him too quickly after arriving and I wanted to space him out to get there, so that's just the way it worked out from the time he arrived,” said Pletcher. 

In trying to separate a number of his top sophomores, Pletcher said Shadwell Stable’s Mahaamel, an Into Mischief colt bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, will target next Monday’s one-turn mile Grade 3 Dwyer, while Spendthrift Farm’s Following Sea, a Runhappy colt, is pointed to the nine-furlong Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 17 at Monmouth Park.

“I think we'll go in the Dwyer with Mahaamel. He's going to breeze tomorrow and assuming we’re happy with that, we'll go to the Dwyer with him,” said Pletcher. “I spoke to Ned Toffey at Spendthrift and we've decided we'll go to the Haskell with Following Sea.”

A $700,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Mahaamel earned a 99 Beyer with the addition of blinkers in his second-out graduation in a seven-furlong maiden special weight on June 4 at Belmont.

Following Sea earned a career-best 100 Beyer winning a 6 ½-furlong allowance sprint against older horses by 6 1/2-lengths on June 3 on Big Sandy.

Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables’ multiple Grade 1-winning 5-year-old Mind Control, recently transferred to Pletcher, worked a half-mile in 48.06 Sunday on the Belmont dirt training track in preparation for the John A. Nerud.

“He's been a terrific work horse since he came in,” said Pletcher. “We've been targeting this race for a while and he looks good. He's proven he's a really nice horse and he's trained the way you'd expect for a horse with his credentials. He seems like he's doing really well.”

Mind Control, a five-time graded-stakes winner for his former trainer Gregg Sacco, posted both his Grade 1 wins at the Spa, capturing the 2018 Hopeful as a juvenile and added the H. Allen Jerkens to conclude his sophomore season.

Pletcher said a good result in the Nerud could propel Mind Control to another Grade 1 engagement at the Spa, with the $600,000 Forego, a seven-furlong test for older horses on August 28, a possibility.

“We’ll see how he does in here, but something like the Forego could be on the radar,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher said Donegal Racing’s Shamrocket, a 4-year-old Tonalist colt, could return in the $150,000 Grand Couturier, a 12-furlong Widener turf test for older horses on July 5 at Belmont. Also under consideration is the 11-furlong Grade 1 United Nations on July 17 at Monmouth Park.

“The Grand Couturier is a possibility,” said Pletcher. “He'll work tomorrow. We've kicked around the United Nations a little bit or even an allowance race at Saratoga.”

Two starts back, Shamrocket closed to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Man o’ War on May 8 at Belmont and returned last out to win a 10-furlong turf allowance by a neck on June 11 on the same course.

Repole Stable, Phipps Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Dynamic One breezed five-eighths in 1:01.90 Friday on the Belmont dirt training track.

The Union Rags chestnut, who finished second in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3 at the Big A, finished 18th last out in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs.

Pletcher said Dynamic One could point to the $120,000 Curlin, a nine-furlong test for sophomores on July 30 at Saratoga.

“He'll either go to an allowance race or the Curlin,” said Pletcher. “We gave him a little bit of time after the Derby and he's done really well physically and put on some weight. We've freshened him up with a couple of races at Saratoga in mind.”

St. Elias Stable’s graded stakes winner Dr Post added blinkers for a half-mile breeze Friday in 49.42 on the Belmont dirt training track.

The Quality Road colt captured the Grade 3 Westchester in his seasonal debut on May 1 at Belmont and finished fifth last out in the Grade 1 Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 5.

“We put blinkers on him and I liked the response we got. I'm not sure where his next start will be, but it will be with the addition of blinkers,” said Pletcher. 

Dr Post tracked a moderate pace from fifth in the Met Mile but wasn’t able to make up ground in the stretch run as a more prominent Silver State pounced to a one-length score.

“He got too far back and for a race on paper that you thought would have a lot of pace, it never really developed,” said Pletcher. “He was starting to close into a pace less race but it just didn't work out.

“I've had blinkers in mind for a little while,” added Pletcher. “But when he won the Westchester off the layoff, I didn't want to make an equipment change. Now, we can make that move.”

Pletcher saddled a pair of contenders in Con Lima and Jouster in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Wonder Again for sophomore fillies on June 3 on the Belmont turf, a key prep for the 10-furlong Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks, first leg of the Turf Triple series for sophomore fillies on July 10.

Although sent to post as the longer price at 8-1, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Joseph Graffeo, Del Toro, Eric Nikolaus and Troy Johnson's Con Lima prevailed by a half-length, while the pacesetting Jouster settled for fourth for owners Starlight Racing and Glen Hill Farm.

Pletcher said the experienced Con Lima, who boasts a record of 11-6-4-0 with purse earnings of $379,865, showed more than enough to start the first leg of the Turf Triple.

“She's ultra-consistent. She shows up and runs hard every time,” said Pletcher. “I thought she handled the mile and an eighth really well and it gives us optimism that she'll handle the mile and a quarter.”

Pletcher said Jouster, who captured the one-mile Grade 2 Appalachian on April 3 at Keeneland, will point to the one-mile Grade 3, $150,000 Lake George on July 23 at Saratoga.

“She'll go the Lake George. She didn't quite see out the mile and an eighth, so we'll focus on shorter races,” said Pletcher. “That's why we wanted to go in the Wonder Again, to see if maybe we could stretch her out for these lucrative races at longer distances, but I think she's best at a mile.”

Lawana and Robert Low’s Sweet Melania, a 4-year-old American Pharoah chestnut, breezed a half-mile in 50.97 on the Oklahoma training turf at Saratoga on Friday.

The multiple graded stakes winner captured last year’s Grade 3 Wonder Again but has not raced since finishing last-of-9 in the License Fee on April 30 at Belmont.

Pletcher said Sweet Melania is under consideration for Saturday’s $100,000 Perfect Sting, a one-mile Widener turf test for older fillies and mares.

“I've not firmly decided yet. I'm looking to see what options I have at Saratoga with her,” said Pletcher.


Cardenas picks up another career milestone after guiding Runaway Rumour to open-company stakes win

Jockey Luis Cardenas continued his career progression on Saturday, piloting Runaway Rumour to an upset victory at 13-1 in the $100,000 Wild Applause for 3-year-old fillies over the Belmont Widener turf.

The victory was the first black-type stakes win of Cardenas’ career, with the New York-bred Runaway Rumour facing open company for the first time and improving to 3-for-3 overall after besting the Chad Brown-trained favorite Minaun by a half-length.

Cardenas previously captured the $70,000 Peeping Tom with Gustavo Rodriguez and Andrew Gurdon’s Ryan’s Cat for trainer Rudy Rodriguez in March, a starter stakes on the New York Claiming Championship Day program at Aqueduct Racetrack.

After making the first three starts of his professional career in 2019, Cardenas became a regular in 2020, notching 41 wins to lead all apprentice riders on the highly competitive NYRA circuit. 

Now a journeyman, Cardenas has been trying to assert himself in one of the world’s major horseracing circuits. The native of Lima, Peru has amassed a 33-38-62 record in 440 mounts this year, compiling earnings of more than $2 million entering Sunday. With more than 1,000 career starts on his ledger, Cardenas earned a trip to the winner’s circle in a six-figure stakes contest, marking the next step in a career that started when Cardenas worked as a groom and hotwalker at Monmouth Park.

“I couldn’t believe it, to be honest,” Cardenas said with a smile. “I got in the car afterwards and I was so excited, but I was trying to keep my emotions together. But as soon as I drove back home, I was thinking about my family. I get strength from them. If you have a lot of faith, nothing can go wrong. 

“Running down the stretch, I could hear everyone cheering and it got me pumped up. I’m pretty sure the horses sensed it too; they could feel the energy,” he added. 

The 24-year-old Cardenas said he wanted to be a jockey from the time he was 6, and his career prospects improved when he moved to the United States at age 12. As he got older, Cardenas willingly traveled the country to make that dream a possibility. Besides his experience in New Jersey, Cardenas also went to South Carolina to work at the Webb Carroll Training Center before eventually returning to the metropolitan area, working in New York as an exercise rider for trainers Leah Gyarmati, Bruce Levine and Randi Persaud among others.

“It’s been a lot of work but I give thanks to everybody; my agent, P.J. Campo, the trainers, the jock’s room, they all help me out. Everyone tries to help you out here,” Cardenas said. “Watching the replays has been really important. With Runaway Rumour, I watched the replays and she was fantastic, so I tried to imitate the way the jockeys rode her before, and it worked out very well.”

Cardenas’ style has led to success, though this year has provided an additional challenge as he no longer has the five-pound bug. But the extra weight hasn’t deterred Cardenas, who said he’s just trying to use his preparation to continue the success he’s enjoyed as an apprentice rider.

“The weight difference is a factor; I don’t think five pounds is a lot, but it makes a difference,” Cardenas said. “Now that you’re a journeyman, you have to prove you belong in here. There’s a lot of ups-and-downs in this business, but my family keeps me together. I love this sport. It’s my life. It’s always what I wanted to do and I just want to keep moving forward.”


New York-bred Robin Sparkles: Let’s go to the Spa

Michael Schrader’s popular New York-bred Robin Sparkles, who earned a career-best 94 Beyer in an open optional-claiming win on June 24 at Belmont, will point to the Grade 3, $200,000 Caress, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares on July 24 at Saratoga.

Trained by Bruce Brown, the 4-year-old Elusive Quality bay made every call a winning one, annexing a field of seven by 2 1/4-lengths in the six-furlong inner turf sprint under Jose Ortiz. 

Bred in New York by Hibiscus Stables, Robin Sparkles launched her campaign with a second in the six-furlong License Free on the Belmont turf in April and followed with a three-quarter length score in the off-the-turf one-mile Mount Vernon on May 31.

“That was pretty impressive the other day,” said Brown regarding the July 24 score. “It was her third race back and with fitness and everything else, she's right where she needs to be. She got a good turf course. Usually, you don’t see a horse run that fast, set every fraction and do it all by themselves. A lot of times in fast races, a couple horses will duel and then somebody comes late, but when they do it all alone it makes it even more impressive.”

Robin Sparkles enjoyed a three-length lead at the half-mile call and was four lengths in front at the stretch run en route to a sharp win in 1:07.14.

“When she's good like that, she really puts them away around the turn,” said Brown. “It takes the heart out of them when they're making their move and suddenly she's another three or four in front. Down the stretch, it was just a matter of coaxing her along.”

A winner of 6-of-9 starts, Robin Sparkles has posted wins at all three NYRA tracks, including a maiden win at Saratoga in August traveling 5 ½-furlongs on the turf. 

Brown said he had hoped to test the talented bay’s turf stamina in the Mount Vernon, but will now target a pair of Spa turf sprints with the Caress and $120,000 Smart N Fancy on August 21 on the ledger.

“She's run so well up there that we'll point for the Caress,” said Brown. “We tried to stretch out in the race that got rained off and that was going to be the opportunity to see if she gets a mile against state-breds. I think New York-bred [races] is the ideal spot for her, but they don't have anything for her at Saratoga. 

“She still won the stake going long on the dirt and she was struggling a little bit at the end, but I think it was more the distance than the surface,” he added. “She's run well on dirt before, so she's not an automatic scratch if a race comes off.”

Robin Sparkles is currently enjoying a respite at her owner’s In Front Training Center in Ghent, New York. 

“She's been a blessing for him. He spoils her when she's there,” said Brown. “He'll send her to me two weeks before she races so she can breeze and then right after she runs, he'll take her back home. She'll probably come right into me at Saratoga on the 12th and breeze a week out from the race.”

In 2013, Brown saddled Kentucky-bred filly Spring to the Sky to an off-the-board effort in the 6 1/2-furlong down-the-hill Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, which the mare Mizdirection won.

Brown said if all continues to go well with the improving Robin Sparkles, he wouldn’t rule out sending his filly to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar for the five-furlong edition of the Turf Sprint in November.

“The one thing about that race is it's the end of the season, so if she was to go on and keep running the way she is and keep winning, why not take a shot,” said Brown. “I like that it's five-eighths, which is right up her alley. That’s a plus. She'll have to show us she can keep performing, but it's something that might be worth a shot at the end of the rainbow.”


Althiqa and Summer Romance breeze for G1 Diana; Appleby runners Secret Protector and Creative Flair to travel for Turf Triple

Trainer Charlie Appleby enjoyed a one-two finish with Althiqa and Summer Romance in the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game on June 5 going one mile on turf for fillies and mares.

On Saturday, the 4-year-old fillies breezed solo on the Belmont inner turf with Althiqa covering the distance in 48.66 and Summer Romance in 49.45 in preparation for the nine-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Diana on July 17 at Saratoga.

“They went solo yesterday just to get back on the grass and give them a little blowout,” said traveling assistant Sophie Chretien. “They both went very well and they're very happy.”

Summer Romance, with Luis Saez up, set a sharp pace in the Just a Game, but could not stay off the late run of Althiqa, under Hall of Famer Mike Smith.

“They ran one-two. You can't do better unless you dead heat,” said Chretien, with a laugh. 

Chretien said Summer Romance may have had the tougher assignment last out, and will benefit from the added distance at Saratoga.

“Althiqa came from behind and the other was in front, and Althiqa is a pure miler,” said Chretien. “Maybe Summer was a bit too fresh, but that's racing. Longer might be better for Summer.”

Two more Appleby-trained Godolphin runners will arrive at Belmont next Sunday with Secret Protector to target the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational and Creative Flair on point for the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational. The 10-furlong first legs of the Turf Triple series are slated for July 10.

Creative Flair, by Dubawi, won the 10-furlong Abingdon on June 10 at Newbury, while Secret Protector, by War Front, arrives from a third to Mohaafeth in the Group 3 Hampton Court on June 17 at Ascot.

“The colt was with me in Dubai. He came into the year in February with a win at Meydan and was promising,” said Chretien. “He's a lovely colt and he just finished third in a good Ascot race and the one that won was really nice.”

Chretien said if Secret Protector can handle the quick turnaround and travel time, he should be a factor. 

“If he travels well, and he should as he's quite a relaxed horse, then it should be fine,” said Chretien. “I believe he came back well from his race and he's a genuine horse. Ten furlongs will be perfect for him.”


Thomas breezes slew of turf workers in preparation for stakes action

Honey Cake could make her 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Perfect Sting for older fillies and mares going one mile on the Belmont Widener turf, working towards that goal by registering a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.80 on the inner turf course Sunday.

The Irish-bred daughter of Siyouni started her career in France, including a win in the seven-furlong Prix Ceres last out in November at Fontainbleau for then trainer Henri-Alex Pantall. Transferred into the care of conditioner Jonathan Thomas when arriving in the United States, Honey Cake has registered three breezes at Belmont this month in preparation for her first start in more than seven months.

Before shipping to Belmont, Honey Cake spent time at Niall Brennan’s stables in Ocala, Florida, which Thomas credited with helping her prepare for her return to racing.

“We’re coming in a little short off of works, but I thought what we saw this morning was very good,” Thomas said. “She spent some time at Ocala with Niall Brennan and he put a lot of foundation under her. He did a lot of aqua therapy with her in getting her fit. We’ve given her time to acclimate and hopefully she takes to American turf racing.”

Honey Cake twice participated in Group 3 races in France, finishing out of the money both times but compiled four wins in eight starts overall before shipping overseas. 

“She seems to have a good mind and knows daylight when she sees it,” Thomas said. “She’s a horse who acts like she likes to be covered up.”

Thomas also saw another turf worker prepare for a possible next start in a stakes race as Augustin Stable’s Burning Bright went five furlongs in 1:01.85 on the inner turf Sunday with a potential start in the $150,000 Grand Couturier going 1 1/2 miles on the turf on Monday, July 5 on tap. 

Thomas said the Grand Couturier’s 12-furlong distance is intriguing, though he left open the possibility of looking ahead to potential starts during the 40-day meet at Saratoga Race Course. 

The 4-year-old Empire Maker gelding, out of 2008 Champion Grass Mare Forever Together, posted a 7 1/4-length score going 1 1/4 miles in an optional claimer moved off the Belmont turf on May 30. The Kentucky homebred has not raced on turf in his last five starts, with his only grass contest coming when 10th on debut in March 2020 at Tampa Bay Downs.

“It’s a thought; there’s also some interesting options at Saratoga we’re going to keep in mind,” Thomas said regarding the Grand Couturier. “We’ll just see around entry time. He’s gotten over the turf very well. He’s held his own against some pretty good company. We think anything over a mile and eighth can suit him well. If we can get him into some of these longer races, we’re interested to see what he’s all about.”

Corelli, also owned by Augustin Stables, and Hard Love breezed in company on Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:02.01 on Belmont’s inner turf.

Hard Love, who has started his career 3-1-0 in four starts, remains on target for the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on July 10 in the first leg of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for 3-year-olds. 

Owned by Robert LaPenta, Augustin Stable and Madaket Stables, the Kitten’s Joy sophomore has won his last two starts, including the 1 1/16-mile Woodhaven on April 17 at Aqueduct Racetrack before besting Desert Peace by a head in a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer on June 5 at Belmont.

The Belmont Derby would mark the first time Hard Love would be stretched out to 1 1/4 miles.

“He came out of his last really well and followed with two nice works,” Thomas said. “We’re not looking for bullet works in the mornings but I thought yesterday he really polished his work up nicely and galloped out well. He looked great this morning, so fingers crossed we get to the Belmont Derby in good shape.”

Corelli, who netted a 96 Beyer for his third-place finish last out in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Monmouth, is slated for the Grade 3, $150,000 Forbidden Apple going one mile on the Saratoga turf in the meet’s first Friday card on July 16. 

The 6-year-old Point of Entry gelding began his campaign with a win by a nose over next-out winner Pixelate in the Henry S. Clark in April at Pimlico, garnering a 94 Beyer.

“It’s no reflection on the whip rules down at Monmouth, but we felt he loafed a little bit late just kind of looking for a little added encouragement, but the numbers came back nice and he came out of it well,” Thomas said. “We’re looking forward to getting him under different racing circumstances.” 


Cross Country Pick 5 registers total pool of $206K; pays $803

Saturday’s all-stakes Cross Country Pick 5 featuring action from Belmont, Churchill Downs and Thistledown paid $803.25 for selecting all five winners for the 50-cent wager. The total pool was $206,425.

Graded stakes action commenced the sequence when Double Thunder, at 4-1, won the Grade 3, $150,000 Bashford Manor for juveniles going six furlongs on the main track in Churchill’s Race 9. The Hall of Fame duo of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez teamed for another score, as Double Thunder posted a 4 3/4-length victory and paid $10.20 on a $2 win wager. Pletcher saw his charge complete the course in a final time of 1:11.17.

Thistledown took center stage in the second leg as the favorite Masqueparade bested King Fury by a half-length to win the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the main track in Race 9. Trainer Al Stall, Jr. won the prestigious race with Masqueparade, under rider Miguel Mena, hit the wire in 1:50.82. The winner paid $6.40.

Belmont got in on the act in Race 9 when Runaway Rumour made a furious late bid from the outside before finishing strong in a half-length victory in the $100,000 Wild Applause for 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the Widener turf course. Jockey Luis Cardenas earned his first career stakes win, with the Jorge Abreu trainee paying $29. Runaway Rumour improved to 3-for-3 in her career, completing the course in 1:34.25.

Churchill hosted the last two legs, starting with Set Piece’s half-length win in the Grade 2, $300,000 Wise Dan for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the turf in Race 10. Set Piece, trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, returned $5.40 as the favorite. Set Piece, who was last-of-10 a half-mile in, rallied to post a final time of 1:40.50.

Maxfield, another favorite, concluded the sequence with a 3 1/4-length win in the Grade 2, $600,000 Stephen Foster in Race 11. Conditioned by Brendan Walsh with jockey Jose Ortiz shipping in to ride at Churchill for the day, Maxfield tracked in sixth position on the backstretch in the 1 1/8-mile race on the dirt before having plenty in reserve for the stretch run, registering a final time of 1:48.53. Maxfield paid $2.80.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms, and at simulcast facilities across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.

The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit

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