Super Saturday more than lived up to its name, not only the star-studded cast assembled at Belmont Park, but at Santa Anita and Churchill Downs, as well. On a day littered with memorable performances, selecting one as the best over the rest can be an unenviable task...
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Fort Larned turned on the speed to roll over his Homecoming Classic foes. Not to be outdone, the BC Turf champ, Little Mike showed he still has it with a brave and determined win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. While the news broke today that one Juvenile Champion retired, another dazzled yesterday at Santa Anita, as Beholder blitzed her competition while running against older for the first time. Tiz Flirtatious and Laughing continued their winning turf ways on respective coasts, while Private Zone proved resolute on the lead. Bond Holder finished with a flourish, and Graydar reminded us what we had all been missing the past several months. But none of them are this week’s leading star.
The decision only became tougher from there. A majestic looking steed who seemingly had lost his way, Ron the Greek uncoiled his powerful late kick at Belmont Park like we had not seen since he won the Sunshine Millions Classic by a pole. The result was a massive victory over Palace Malice, Flat Out, and all the rest in a strong Jockey Club Gold Cup. The 6 ¾ length romp in the 1:59.70 was one of the best performances of the year … but was it enough to be tops for the week?
A few races earlier on the Super Saturday card, the showdown that we were all waiting for materialized as two fantastic females came together when the Beldame field turned for home. Royal Delta, the undisputed queen of female dirt racing the past few years, was on the inside. Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred who has gone from maidens at Penn National last fall to dominating the most prestigious three-year-old fillies races of the year this year, was on the outside. The battle lasted only briefly, as youth was soon served. The little three-year-old filly powered by her decorated opponent in emphatic style.
Then last, but certainly not least, Mucho Macho Man returned to the scene of his narrow loss in last year’s Classic with an overpowering victory in the Grade 1 Awesome Again. Looking right at home on the same Santa Anita track that will once again host the Breeders’ Cup Classic in five weeks, the five-year-old horse finally earned his first grade 1 victory, after four seasons of being a factor in big races. His 4 ¼ length victory over Paynter in 1:48 and change points him out as a real contender in the Classic again this year.
Let’s face it, all three performances were off the charts, and anyone of the three are worthy. In the end, I decided on the performance that I deemed the most important. Ron the Greek was great, and it was nice to see him at his best again. Mucho Macho Man’s win not only demonstrated that he is back to absolute top form again, but finally getting that long overdue grade 1 win was a needed cherry on his career. But even above both of those, in my eyes, was the winner of the showdown. Presumed to be a champion already at year’s end, Princess of Sylmar proved something when she took it to a whole new level yesterday. By beating by far the best older mare in the country yesterday, and in convincing style, she not only clinched an Eclipse Award, but she also became a real player in the Horse of the Year race.
ZATT’s Star of the Week, is … Princess of Sylmar.