While the action was light in terms of the number of major stakes races this weekend, it wasn’t light in terms of quality racing.
The weekend spotlighted racing’s stars of tomorrow with both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks having their first points races of the season in the $173,250 Iroquois Stakes and $168,150 Pocahontas Stakes, while the 2-year-olds were also putting in bids for this year’s Breeders’ Cup juvenile races as both races were “Win and You’re In” events.
The Iroquois Stakes brought on a huge upset with Cleburne rallying from the back of the field to win by a neck at odds of 34.10-to-1. It was a great night for Donegal Racing and Dale Romans as the pair swept the top two spots in the race. Cleburne’s assault was a shocker but stablemate Smart Cover may have been even more of a surprise as he flew up extremely late for second.
The duo paid $500 for the exacta with Smart Cover going off at odds of 26-to-1. Third-place finisher Tapiture also needs to be mentioned as he hung on for third after the assault by the stablemates.
While Cleburne got the win and is undefeated in two starts, Smart Cover was more impressive to me. He took a while to get rolling in the stretch but once he locked in on Cleburne, he took off. As the races get longer and he figures out what is expected of a racehorse, he should be a pretty big threat. The big worry distance-wise for him is that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is the same distance, 1 1/16 miles, as the Iroquois.
JERRY CRAWFORD (right) LEADS CLEBURNE INTO THE WINNER'S CIRCLE
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
This crop of 2-year-old colts looks tough so far, so he won’t have an easy going of it in the Juvenile if he doesn’t get rolling sooner than he did on Saturday. Cleburne could have the same problem as he is also a closer and closers often encounter more problems than those nearer to the front.
"They both ran super races. They're both nice horses; they want to run long. I couldn't be happier with them,” Romans said. We'll at least go with the winner [to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile], and we might go with both."
The Pocahontas Stakes showed a totally different running style when Untapable won after sitting just off the early leaders. Untapable looked like she would only get second but made a big move to catch Stonetastic and win by a half-length. While I applaud Untapable’s ability to find a second wind and get to the front, I hope that this race taught her some things.
Untapable looked like she wanted to lug in when Rosie Napravnik convinced her to go after Stonetastic. It looked like Napravnik had to keep the filly’s head to the outside in order to attempt to keep her straight in the lane. Since Untapable was only making her second start, I’m probably being a little harsh on her but I think if she does that in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies it will cost her big time. Trainer Steve Asmussen said that plans had to change for the filly in Saratoga and that he was happy with her ability to make the move she did off of only one start.
“I think she's a very special filly. That was a huge move considering she had one sprint race,” he said. “We had planned on running her once at Saratoga, but it didn't work out. She's not short on ability, but definitely a little short on experience.”
Solitary Ranger returned from a four-month break to compete in the Arlington-Washington Futurity and he broke his maiden in a Grade 3 event on Saturday. Solitary Ranger pressed leader Lotsa Mischief during the early stages of the race as they ran through pretty quick early fractions. Lotsa Mischief faded to last but Solitary Ranger kept on going to win by 5 ½ lengths.
It was probably always obvious to those that watch him closely that Solitary Ranger has talent - he finished second to international Group 1 winner No Nay Never at Keeneland over the spring - but most probably didn’t expect him to go on to win a graded stakes race in his next race out.
“The horse has a lot of talent,” trainer Wayne Catalano said. “Wesley Ward has a nice horse [No Nay Never] that beat him, and he went on across the pond and won the best two races in [Europe]. That flattered our horse. I just pointed him toward this race the whole time. He ran a nice race. We talked about that he might be fresh. I told [jockey Florent Geroux] to use his own judgment, but whatever you do, don't move too early.”
The Arlington-Washington Futurity has had an impact on the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in recent years. Street Sense, winner of the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 2007 Kentucky Derby, finished third in the race in 2006, but it was on a dirt track at the time. The Polytrack angle might play better in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, but I’m not sure how well Solitary Ranger would do in either race. He’s a wildcard for me and I can’t see him taking on the best of the crop this year at longer distances.
SOLITARY RANGER DRAWS OFF TO WIN THE ARLINGTON-WASHINGTON FUTURITY
Photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos
Other thoughts on the weekend:
- While it wasn’t a weekend race, it is worth talking about the Del Mar Futurity. California-bred Tamarando put in a back-to-front performance to get up in the seven furlong race just in time. He didn’t even appear on the screen until the field had almost hit the wire and won by ½ length. California is always a circuit to watch for interesting racing and Tamarando could add to that excitement. He has never run on dirt before so that puts a crimp in being able to really judge his talent but if he adapts, I could see him making races interesting the rest of the year.
- Departing proved that his connections are spotting him right when he won the $500,000 Super Derby by four lengths on Saturday. He’s turned into a nice graded stakes gelding, winning three of his five graded stakes outings and earning more than $1.3 million. I would like to see him take another crack at the upper levels of the sport, as he failed at his only Grade 1 try, but that was nearly four months ago and a young horse’s maturity can change a lot in that timeframe.
- The Fugue, who finished third in last year’s Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf after an awful trip, looks to be returning to the Breeders’ Cup this year. She won the Group 1 Red Miles Irish Champions Stakes against males on Saturday afternoon in Ireland and her connections say the Breeders’ Cup Turf now is on the agenda. She has had two impressive wins since finishing last in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes in July, a race in which she was running with an undetected infection. She proved that she can be competitive with the males, so if she comes over for one of the Turf races, don’t overlook her.
JOCKEY WILLIAM BUICK CELEBRATES HIS WIN ON THE FUGUE
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
- To end the Stars of Tomorrow weekend recap, we have to spotlight Australia. The colt out of the great mare Ouija Board impressively won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial at Leopardstown in Ireland on Saturday. With its name, you can probably guess that the race was a “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Australia won by six lengths after he figured out that he actually needed to run, putting away any doubt people may have had about his talent. His connections haven’t committed to the Breeders’ Cup but Coolmore isn’t shy about sending over their Ireland-based horses for the Breeders’ Cup, so this one could go either way. It would be great to see him over here on the turf as his dam won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf twice during her career. His trainer Aidan O'Brien is also experienced when it comes to conditioning a horse for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf as he has won the last two editions of the race.
AUSTRALIA HAPPILY WINS THE BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE TURF TRIAL
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire