WEATHER: 72*F, CLOUDY
Race 1: Claiming $16,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 5 1/2 Furlongs
WINNER: 3, Tough Old Bird
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Donk, Bernhardt, Marquis, David Donk, Dylan Davis
OFF ODDS: 5.50/1
FRACTIONS: 23.06, 46.53, 58.68, 1:05.18
Going into this race, there appeared to be three serious candidates in the field of six. Tough Old Bird has competitive speed figures, but had lost four times in a row at this level. Connie A was getting blinkers on, had run her three lifetime tops at Belmont Park, and lost by a less than a length last out, outfinishing Tough Old Bird. City of Dreams was dropping in for a career-low tag for the white-hot Jason Servis barn, and getting Irad Ortiz up for the first time. Bettors put their trust in Servis, sending City of Dreams off as the 1/1 favorite despite a poor performance last time out.
As it turned out, skepticism about City of Dreams was well-founded. She pressed early pace-setter Tough Old Bird through the first quarter, but gave way on the turn and ended up finishing well behind. Connie A had a good trip pressing those early leaders, but came up empty when asked. Meanwhile, it was all wine and roses for Tough Old Bird, as she showed a new dimension by going straight to the lead from the inside and not stopping. Runner-up Our Whim didn’t run too badly, as she was three-wide on the backstretch and three-wide turning for home. She closed some ground late to end up a clear-cut second behind the easy winner.
Race 2: Maiden Claiming $40,000, 3yo, Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 3, Lady Oxbow
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: The Websters and the Hatfields, Kent Sweezey, Javier Castellano
OFF ODDS: 11.20/1
FRACTIONS: 23.32, 48.31, 1:13.00, 1:37.97, 1:49.09
The three favorites in race two had all lost at this level beforehand. 9/5 favorite Jasmine’s Gem was fourth for this tag last out, finishing behind two of her rivals in here. Second favorite Secret Quality finished second in that race on debut, while Kickin Kimberly had finished third that day and was making her third start off the layoff. No one paid much attention to Lady Oxbow, taking a class drop from maiden special weight horses at Monmouth Park and getting a jockey upgrade to Javier Castellano.
Early on, Lady Cavalier and Creative Princess led the way, while Kickin Kimberly, who checked hard on the first turn, stalked the pace on the rail. Secret Quality was directly to her outside up the backstretch, and got a clear four-wide shot at the leaders turning for home. Kickin Kimberly, meanwhile, had nowhere to go until the last eighth of a mile.
As the field turned for home, Jasmine’s Gem, who was off the rail throughout, wrestled a slight lead, and engaged in a tense battle with Secret Quality down the stretch. It looked as if it would be one of those two, until Lady Oxbow, who had saved ground most of the way, angled wide at about the eighth pole and kicked by to break her maiden at generous odds. It goes to show the benefits of paying attention to horses who haven’t lost at today’s condition. Sometimes, it can pay off. Secret Quality ended up getting her nose down over Jasmine’s Gem for second, while Kickin Kimberly lacked a serious punch when clear and finished fourth.
Race 3: Claiming $14,000 (n/w3L), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
WINNER: 6, Shamrocked
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Randall Manor Racing, Raymond Handel, Manny Franco
OFF ODDS: 3.35/1
FRACTIONS: 22.95, 46.10, 57.80, 1:10.18
The fairly important scratch of Appealing Henry brought this race down to a field of five. Lucky Town had lost a few times in a row at the n/w3L level, but never for a tag this low. He was sent off as the rather improbable 6/5 favorite, with Lightning Buzz and his very fast speed figures at 5/2, and Shamrocked, coming off a win against n/w2L claimers, at 3/1.
More Front went to the lead, set the pace from the rail, and folded his tent on the turn. Lucky Town pressed the leader two-wide and appeared to be in a prime stalking spot, but didn’t fire and ended up up the track. It was Shamrocked, who had never lost a n/w3L claiming race, who took control three-wide on the turn and drew off to an impressive win. Lightning Buzz ended up second, but never looked like a serious threat to catch the winner. In his last six races, he now has a mark of 6-1-3-2. Buyer beware for next time.
Race 4: Claiming $25,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/16 Miles (Grass)
WINNER: 8, Miss Aja Brown
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Ben Mondello, Rudy Rodriguez, Irad Ortiz
OFF ODDS: 0.70/1
FRACTIONS: 24.36, 47.34, 1:10.89, 1:35.07, 1:41.38
Last time out, at this level, surface, and distance Miss Aja Brown got involved in a speed duel early, and ended up finishing well behind. There were a few reasons to believe in her anyway: she had by far the best jockey in the field, she was running first off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez, and she had shown good form at Belmont in the past, with three victories. Moreover, if she could get a clear lead, unlike last time, she could put this field to sleep.
As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened. Irad sent his mount right to the lead, and opened up a very loose lead while setting the opening quarter in 24.36. When that happens, the front-runner is usually not caught, and that’s how it played out.
Riding Gia Michael, Abel Lezcano let himself fall asleep, and likely cost his mount a shot at at least finishing closer. Despite that, he saved ground with her early, angled out for the stretch run, and ended up finishing a clear-cut second.
Race 5: Maiden Claiming $40,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 6 Furlongs (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 1, Bella’s Game
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: R A Hill Stable and Blackridge Stables, George Weaver, Joe Bravo
OFF ODDS: 1.10/1
FRACTIONS: 22.98, 46.49, 58.01, 1:09.46
In her only try prior to this one, Bella’s Game finished a respectable second at this level. With the scratch of her primary rival, Paddydunalot, she was hammered at the windows, going off as the heavy favorite in the field of five.
Early on, Maryland shipper Smart Throb went right to the lead, and wasn’t seriously challenged. On the turn, Smart Throb was still clear, and a duplication of the last race at 17/1 wasn’t totally impossible. However, as they entered the stretch, Currency Chaos, who had rated off the pace three-wide, took command. A few moments later, Bella’s Game, who had gotten a great ground-saving ride from Joe Bravo, angled wide and rolled past the rest like they were standing still to win going away. While the ground Currency Chaos lost early on wasn’t enough to make up the difference between her and Bella’s Game, it was nevertheless an impressive effort by the runner-up, and she should be noted for next time if she draws a post closer to the inside.
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight, 2yo, 5 Furlongs
WINNER: 1, Lexitonian
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Calumet Farm, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez
OFF ODDS: 3.15/1
FRACTIONS: 22.42, 45.83, 57.97
This race featured a bunch of interesting two-year-olds. The fearsome Pletcher-Velazquez duo sent out Lexitonian for Calumet Farm. Bankit debuted for Steve Asmussen, coming in off a bullet five-furlong workout on June 20. Bernin’ Thru Gold was also working impressively for Mark Hennig. Bettors ended up making Bankit the 9/5 favorite, with Wesley Ward third-timer Odie at 5/2 and Lexitonian at 3/1
Bankit ended up going to the front and setting fast fractions, with Odie pressing him all the way. At the same time, Velazquez was saving as much ground as he could with Lexitonian, and smartly moved him through an opening on the rail, as opposed to trying to angle him wide. That ground ending up making the difference, as he got past all of his rivals to break his maiden in a snappy final time of 57.97 seconds.
Bankit ran an extraodinarily determined race, fighting off the challenge of Olympic Express and Bernin’ Thru Gold to hold on for second. Bernin’ Thru Gold ran very well, too, racing in the three-path the entire way, but losing to rail-skimming Lexitonian by a length or so. This has the look of a very productive race moving forward.
Race 7: Maiden Claiming $40,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NY-bred, 1 Mile (Grass)
WINNER: 7, Geranium
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Waterville Lake Stables, Thomas Bush, Luis Saez
OFF ODDS: 3.45/1
FRACTIONS: 23.64, 47.48, 1:11.73, 1:36.46
Both of the top two finishers in here ran very well. Reconsider It, making her second start off the layoff, went off as the 2/1 favorite. In contrast to last time, when she came from off the pace, here she decided to go to the front, receiving pressure from longshot Saturdaynightfling all the way. While her rival tired entering the stretch, Reconsider It fought on gamely, as she was headed by I Like Your Style turning for home, but rebuffed that rival and finished clear of her in the end.
Unfortunately for Reconsider It, there was another formidable foe in the race. Geranium was making her third career start, and had improved her brisnet figure by 12 points last time out. Here, she was three-wide on the backstretch and four-wide on the turn, but didn’t let that stop her, as she fought by the front-runners late for the victory at 3/1. Also worthy of mention is fourth-place finisher Sardonyx, who lacked running room as they turned for home, then was forced to check hard late in the race when trying to get through horses. She’s one to keep in mind for next time.
Race 8: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w2x), 3yo and up, NY-bred, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 7, Gucci Factor
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Castleton Lyons, Christophe Clement, Joel Rosario
OFF ODDS: 2.50/1
FRACTIONS: 24.51, 47.36, 1:12.04, 1:35.30, 1:41.09
Gucci Factor had only run on the grass twice, but his last try on the lawn was an impressive one. He scored in a n/w1x NY-bred allowance back in December at Aqueduct. He ended up going off as the slight favorite over Mo Diddley, who had won going seven furlongs last time and was stretching out for the first time.
It ended up coming down to those two late. Mo Diddley sat a great trip stalking the two leaders, and took the lead at the eighth pole. Gucci Factor fell behind early on, but made a powerful four-wide move on the turn and kicked clear to win going away from Mo Diddley, who finished a length clear of Cloontia for third. The biggest disappointment in the race was Macagone, the 3/1 third choice. He saved ground the whole way around and was in hand on the turn, as if jockey Irad Ortiz thought he had a full head of steam with him. Once Macagone got clear, however, he had no kick, and ended up finishing up the track.
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $40,000, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, NY-bred, 1 Mile (Grass)
WINNER: 9, Classic Lady
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Classic Mile Park, Kelly Rubley, David Cohen
OFF ODDS: 9.10/1
FRACTIONS: 22.64, 45.86, 1:11.93, 1:36.51
It’s not every day a horse who is 0-for-19 and known for being a chronic maiden goes off at 3/5. Grand Banks was making her third start off the layoff and had lost several times in a row at the level. No one else in the field had great grass form either, though, so the bettors decided she was the best of the bunch, and hammered her as such.
At the break, 77/1 shot I Admire You went on a do-or-die front-running mission, with Justenuff Hope and Frosty Linz getting the best positions off the leader. Meanwhile, Grand Banks was being kept well out of it, languishing in last place. Once the longshot leader tired, Frosty Linz shot to the lead from her inside and grabbed the advantage. Grand Banks was in tight behind horses, then found a seam on the inside. While Grand Banks outkicked most of the field, she wasn’t able to get by Classic Lady, who also saved ground on the turn and held off Grand Banks to score.
Classic Lady was making her grass debut, having been a non-factor for a $30,000 tag on dirt last out. She has been working out at Fair Hill for Maryland-based Kelly Rubley, and was shipped up to New York to try and catch a maiden win. She got what she wanted here, but I don’t know if beating a field like this one means she can beat NY-bred allowance horses on the grass in Saratoga. It remains to be seen if she’ll stay here over the summer, or will resurface next at Laurel Park.
As for Grand Banks: she is now 0-for-20, and has lost at odds-on twice in a row. Look out.