All eyes on Woodbine today for the best racing in North America, beginning with the G2 Canadian which many appear willing to simply give to Forever Together—okay, probably rightly so, but don’t discount Points of Grace. In the G1 Northern Dancer, the Sheppard-Leparoux combo could score their second stakes win on the day, with Just As Well coming in off a second-place finish to Gio Ponti in the G1 Arlington Million. Sure to be overbet, Champs Elysees looks unlikely with the firm turf, but Marchfield should be tough, and one I would not leave out of my trifecta is Solitaire. In the G1 Woodbine Mile, of course, my sentimental favorite is the mare Ventura, but Ferneley comes in strong as does Bribon and Rahy’s Attorney.
Nice return for Godolphin’s Regal Ransom in the G2 Super Derby, wiring the field with Richard Migliore up, but the most visually impressive performance was the late-closing Blame, a colt I hadn’t previously heard of (but Gary West highlighted on his blog for those wise enough to read it in advance of Saturday’s race). Wow, talk about damline breeding! His dam is a three-quarter-sister to HK-G1 QEII Cup victor Archipenko, and, through his third dam Special, he is related to Corinthian, as well as top sires Nureyev, Sadler’s Wells, Perugino, and Chequer. Get that boy a G1 so he can retire to stud (I say tongue in cheek).
On Saturday, Alan Garcia rode three consecutive winners at Belmont—claimer Band of Thunder and maiden Simple Western sandwiched Rutherienne in the G3 Noble Damsel. However, I just couldn’t get enthused about D’Funnybone winning the G2 Futurity—the colossal joke that Rick Dutrow has become as the poster child for all that is wrong about racing repulses me. His strategically-arranged suspension can’t come soon enough. In the G2 Matron, I never discount Stanley Hough, so not surprised by victress Awesome Maria—and how fitting that her dam Discreetly Awesome is a half-sister to G2 Futurity runner-up Discreetly Mine! That would have made for a nice daily double. No satisfactory explanation yet for the horrible performance of odds-on favorite Worstcasescenario, but I’m willing to forgive Dashing Debby as she’s only still learning.
Personally, my favorite winner on Saturday was 9-year-old gelding Cloudy’s Knight who successfully returned from a year-long break to win the G3 Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes for new trainer Jonathan Sheppard. That break concerned me, but Sheppard is one trainer I trust to have him ready, and Rosemary Homeister, Jr. rode him a treat. A close second favorite was 6-year-old mare Danzon who won the Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf, also off a lengthy layoff, for new trainer Kellyn Gorder. No word on where each of them is headed next, but it’s good to see them back.
As I am ever on the lookout for Foolish Pleasure descendents, I must note not only did Banrock and Grand Couturier score wins at Belmont last weekend, but also 3-year-old Darley-owned colt Demerit won the G2 Caulfield Guineas Prelude in Australia on Saturday, over top quality competition that include Trusting and Manhattan Rain. Additionally, Godolphin-owned 4-year-old gelding Fateh Field (Distorted Humor, out of the Foolish Pleasure mare Too Cool To Fool) has settled in nicely since arriving in the U.S. from Dubai. After three races spaced nearly a month apart since July, he’ll race for the third time in two weeks (!) on Wednesday. On September 12, he finished second by a quickly-gaining head in a 6f Tapeta allowance race at Presque Isle; that was followed by a 7f turf allowance at Belmont on September 17 which he won by a neck, passing Evolutionist “with a flourish” according to the chart. Next up: a 7f turf allowance optional claimer (not for a tag), race 8 at Belmont on September 23. His regular jock: Jean-Luc Samyn (yay!).
For the NTRA, I am blogging about the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and my first post is about how I believe the F&M Sprint shouldn’t exist. Talk about being a contrarian! Actually, I examine just how successful fillies and mares have been in the open company Sprint—in 10 of the 18 years in which at least one filly or mare raced in the Sprint, a member of the fairer sex has either won or finished second. That’s pretty damn good. Indian Blessing and Ventura have already taken on male rivals this year, so why not challenge the original Sprint? That said, I am excited about the F&M Sprint, even though it’s relegated to Friday (not Saturday), ESPN2 (not ESPN) and runs for $1 millions less. Look forward to everyone's comments and thoughts as we are now less than seven weeks from the Breeders' Cup.