The Belle of Delaware
The Delaware Handicap may have had star power going in (Princess of Slymar), but one thing it did not have was early speed. Enter Belle Gallantey. Taking full advantage of the lack of anyone else wanting the lead, the five-year-old After Market mare, accompanied by rider Jose Ortiz, led at every call of the ten furlongs of the year’s marquee event at Delaware Park, on their way to a surprising and easy victory. Claimed for $35,000 just five starts ago, Belle Gallantey has been transformed in the training hands of Rudy Rodriguez to become a Grade 1 winner. She has now run five very good races in a row since being claimed by Michael Dubb and partners, including finishing less than two lengths behind Close Hatches in the Ogden Phipps most recently. Saturday’s big victory was the culmination of her rise to prominence since the barn switch. Meanwhile, for the 1-5 favorite Princess of Sylmar, this second place finish in the $750,000 race was not what was expected of her. Giving eight pounds on a speed favoring track, while receiving a questionable ride behind a slow early pace, certainly compromised her chances, but no excuses, Belle Gallantey deserved this one. I have little doubt that Princess of Sylmar will be back in strong form next time out, but on this day, all accolades go to our newest grade 1 winner. Belle Gallantey is ZATT’s Star of the Week.
Million Day Hopefuls
The best day of the year at Arlington Park, or for fans of American turf racing for that matter, is Arlington Million Day. We are not there yet, but the Suburban Chicago oval does a wonderful job of teasing their International Festival of Racing with Million Preview Day. Many of the horses that we will see at Arlington on August 16 came together Saturday for a series of graded stakes races (Arlington Handicap, Stars and Stripes, American Derby, and Modesty Handicap) that act as semifinals to the big show on Million Day. The rules are simple; if they are good enough to win on Preview Day, then they are good enough to compete for even bigger prizes five weeks later. The winners of the four turf stakes were: Finnegans Wake, The Pizza Man, Divine Oath, and I’m Already Sexy respectively. While all four did their jobs and certainly proved that they belong with all the turf stars that will show up for the International Festival, the horse who most impressed me on the Arlington Park grass on Saturday did not even win. His name is Admiral Kitten, and he missed winning the Arlington Handicap by a head-bob. Last through most of the ten furlong affair behind glacial early fractions, you could say that things did not set up well for the confirmed closer. Still, the four-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy closed with great energy, and at the finish, he got to a point where it was too close to call to the naked eye between him and Finnegans Wake. In other words, I believe Admiral Kitten ran a winning race. Keep in mind, on Million Day 2013, Admiral Kitten was the winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. I look forward to seeing him back again this year, and this time he will be gunning for the Million.
41 starts - 27 wins. They don’t make many like Ben’s Cat anymore. On Saturday at Parx, the eight-year-old gelding thrilled his many fans with another thrilling stretch run to just get there in the Grade 3 $200,000 Parx Dash. In full flight in the stretch, but still looking like he had left himself with a little too much to do, Ben’s Cat dug deep into his seemingly limitless pool of determination to relentlessly reel in the leaders. It did not matter that these were some of the fleetest turf sprinters in the nation, when Ben’s Cat has his sights set on yet another victory, he is almost impossible to deny. As they came to the wire, Ben’s Cat was zeroing on his talented competition, and sure enough, a three-way photo between each of the three 5-2 favorites revealed a popular winner. Ben’s Cat had done it again for The Jim Stable of trainer King Leatherbury, narrowly having edged out Tightend Touchdown by a nose, with Marchman another nose back in third. What a finish it was, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that it was the 27-time winner who got the lion’s share of the prize. His second straight win in the Parx Dash raised his lifetime earning mark to just over $2.1 million. Let me say it again … 41 starts - 27 wins. They don’t make many like Ben’s Cat anymore.
Myositis Dan is Back
Not to be outdone by a terrific day of turf racing Saturday at Arlington Park was the return of Myositis Dan. No, that is not the personal name of some communicable disease, but rather the moniker of a very talented young three-year-old. When last seen, the son of Istan was flying down the middle of the track to just fall short in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. Beaten two noses that evening, Myositis Dan fell literally one jump short of nailing Bayern and Embellishing Bob at the wire, so it goes without saying that I was anxiously awaiting his return. Admittedly, I was a little worried about this return race, though. In a small field, and at seven furlongs, I was not sure if the bay colt would be able to run down a pair of multiple stakes winners who both possessed a great deal more early speed. After watching the first half mile, though, things looked great for Myositis Dan. Solitary Ranger was not letting Cool Cowboy get away with an easy lead, and you could just tell that young rider Draden Van Dyke was sitting on a ton of horse, as Myositis Dan ranged up into contention. As the short field came into the stretch, the Brereton Jones color bearer blew the doors off his competition and strolled home an easy winner. It was impressive. Among other things, his colorful trainer, Tom Proctor mentioned to me after the race that the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga could be the summer goal for Myositis Dan. Looks like I may have an early longshot play on Travers Day.
Lexie Lou Flattered
By now, most are familiar with the exploits of Lexie Lou. Her important victory last week in the historic Queen’s Plate, over a gaggle of males, came on the heels of a romping win in the Woodbine Oaks. Her remarkable form was further flattered on Sunday, when one of the fillies she vanquished in the Oaks came back to dominate the $250,000 Bison City Stakes at Woodbine. Sent off at 5-1 in the second leg of the filly Triple Tiara of Canada, Unspurned set down solid early fractions under Justin Stein, and then just kept on going on her way to a 2 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/16-miles Polytrack affair. The turnaround was striking after having been defeated by more that ten lengths last time by Lexie Lou, but it just goes to show how good the Queen’s Plate victress has gotten of late. Unspurned’s victory might also be a sign of good things to come for the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, as well. Saddled in the walking ring by Hall of Fame conditioner, Roger Attfield, because he felt she got a little hot on Oaks day, the well-bred filly raised her record to 7-3-1-1, while winning for the second time in three starts this year. On the improve, Unspurned is eligible to be a threat on turf as well, and could be soon thought of as the second best three-year-old filly in Canada.