WEATHER: 76*F, CLOUDY
Race 1: Maiden Special Weight, 2yo, 6 Furlongs (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 5, Joyful Heart
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Amerman Racing, Brian Lynch, Jose Ortiz
OFF ODDS: 1.60/1
FRACTIONS: 22.78, 46.04, 57.24, 1:08.84
Remember how on Saturday, bettors flocked towards a two-year-old in race 1 who was the only horse with experience in the field? Well, the same thing happened here, as Joyful Heart, second on debut last out after stopping in the stretch, went off as the favorite. As it turned out, he probably needed that race, for he went right to the front and just kept on going to break his maiden handily. The time, while superficially impressive, was not nearly as fast as those run by older horses later in the card. Still, for a 2-year-old in July, it’s not half-bad.
One horse to keep in mind going forward is the Chad Brown first-timer, Teachable Moment. This race was indeed a teachable moment for him, as he broke in the air and dropped far behind. In spite of that, he made a solid three-wide move on the turn, and closed strongly late to finish third, beaten just a head for second. Wherever he shows up next, he will be dangerous.
Race 2: Claiming $12,500, 3yo and up, 1 1/16 Miles
WINNER: 1A, Imperatore
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: M and M Racing, Robertino Diodoro, David Cohen
OFF ODDS: 1.45/1
FRACTIONS: 24.44, 48.26, 1:12.02, 1:36.58, 1:43.30
This race was a merry-go-round. Imperatore, a winner for $16,000 early in the year at Oaklawn Park, was running for the first time since early April. He went right to the front and was able to set a moderate early tempo. Marriage Fever pressed him all the way to his outside, but despite Marriage Fever’s best efforts, he could not get by. In the last eighth of a mile, Imperatore kicked clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths, with Marriage Fever a clear-cut second. Bar None, who raced wide throughout and was third place for most of the going, crossed the wire in that position.
Race 3: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs
WINNER: 2, Pop the Hood
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Chester and Mary Broman, Rodrigo Ubillo, Abel Lezcano
OFF ODDS: 7.50/1
FRACTIONS: 22.36, 44.73, 56.81, 1:09.44
This one lost a major contender, as Professor Snape, one of the morning line favorites, was scratched. As such, Pop the Hood, who was a justifiable 15/1 in the morning line, went off at 7.50/1, still the second-biggest price in the race. He had been on the pace in his first two races of 2017, and faded each time. If he was going to win today, the key would be to rate just off the leaders.
That’s exactly what Abel Lezcano did, placing his mount in a perfect stalking spot on the rail off front-runners Devils Halo and Killybegs Captain. Lezcano moved his mount to the lead three-wide on the turn and fought with a game Killybegs Captain down the lane. The longshot ended up prevailing, but do not discount the effort of Killybegs Captain. He fought hard the entire way after running a tougher race than Pop the Hood. Devils Halo also ran well, as he re-rallied in the stretch after fading on the turn. There’s no visible excuse for favored Have Another, who looked menacing on the turn but couldn’t keep a rally together in the stretch. He got going a bit in the last few yards, but never really looked like a winner.
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, 1 Mile (Grass)
WINNER: 4, Another
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Harvey Clarke, Leana Willaford, Junior Alvarado
OFF ODDS: 4.50/1
FRACTIONS: 23.08, 46.93, 1:11.22, 1:33.88
Officially, this was another winning Leana Willaford trainee, but all of Bill Mott’s horses are running in Willaford’s name while Mott serves a suspension. As such, you can credit another grass win to the Mott/Alvarado duo, which has been a hot hand as of late. This one was making his third start off the layoff, having been beaten less than a length last time out. In a race that looked wide-open on paper, taking 9/2 on a horse like this was an enticing proposition.
At the start, first-time starter Favorable Outlook (the only debuter in the race) and Servis-trained Overnight Success went to the lead, setting a snappy tempo. Another broke slowly and was forced three-wide on the backstretch, then three-wide again on the turn. Overnight Success still looked like he had a chance entering the stretch, but Another got by in the last eighth and drew off to victory.
Favorable Outlook couldn’t hold off Another, but did outkick the rest of the field of finish second. Look for him to make some more noise next out. High Promise saved ground the whole way, then was blocked on the turn. Once he got clear, he showed some punch to finish third.
Race 5: Claiming $16,000 (n/w2L), 3yo and up, 6 1/2 Furlongs
WINNER: 8, Truly a Moon Shot
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: La Marca Stable, Rudy Rodriguez, Irad Ortiz
OFF ODDS: 1.60/1
FRACTIONS: 22.49, 45.67, 1:10.32, 1:17.02
Truly a Moon Shot presented a conundrum. On one hand, his brisnet figures were vastly superior to those of anyone else’s in the field. On the other hand, he looked like the kind of horse who hated winning, with just one trip to the winner’s circle in 21 tries. This year, he had finished second or third six times without a win. Had he finally found a field that he could beat, or would his tendencies prevent him from getting the job done? Bettors were a tad apprehensive; even though he was the 8/5 favorite, he could have been 4/5 or 3/5 based on his figures.
As it turned out, he found his comfort zone with this field. Flatexcel, the weaker half of a well-backed Drawing Away Stables coupled entry, zoomed to the front, setting the pace all by himself. Truly a Moon Shot was hung three-wide on the backstretch, then three-wide on the turn. In spite of that, he got bast Flatexcel late and drew off to an almost two-length victory. Flatexcel held on for second, while 41/1 Street Cat Sam was on the rail the whole way and made ground late to get third. Anything Pazible, the better half of the coupled entry, did not fire as expected and was a non-threatening fourth.
Race 6: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, 6 Furlongs (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 8, Fig Jelly
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Michael Dubb/Bruce Irom/Michael and Joseph Zinman, Jason Servis, Jose Lezcano
OFF ODDS: 2.10/1
FRACTIONS: 22.33, 44.95, 56.08, 1:07.36
Presque Isle Downs to Belmont Park, Wayne Rice to Jason Servis, Arienne Cox to Jose Lezcano. Yes, Fig Jelly got a whole bunch of upgrades in this race, and bettors took notice, making him the 2/1 favorite. He got involved in an early scrum with Polar Axis, running for the first time in 2018. That rival flattened out in the stretch, and Fig Jelly took command in the lane. New York Song, who was also coming off a layoff and was bottled in late, finally found some running room late and got going, but just missed getting up over the favorite. You can expect a better race out of him next time. Unlockthepotential, who hadn’t raced since breaking his maiden over this track last October, rolled down the center of the track late, but could only manage third, beaten less than a length.
Race 7: River Memories Stakes, 4yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/2 Miles (Grass)
WINNER: 2, Homeland Security
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: William Lawrence and Klaravich Stables, Chad Brown, Jose Ortiz
OFF ODDS: 4.10/1
FRACTIONS: 23.80, 49.24, 1:14.49, 1:38.17, 2:01.99, 2:26.11
This grass stakes race was very wide-open, as they tend to be. It looked as if Flower Fashion, a Clement trainee going for her second straight win over the track, would go out and jog to a loose early lead. After about three-eighths of a mile, however, Jose Ortiz sent his mount, longshot Savannah Belle, to the front with a bold wide move on the first turn. She opened up a clear lead, and turning for home, it looked as if she would steal this one on the front end at 27/1.
However, the other Ortiz brother had other plans. Homeland Security, fourth in her lone start on the year, saved ground the whole way and launched her bid on the turn. She kept on coming from the outside, and in the last few strides, finally got by the front-runner to get the win. That was Homeland Security’s third win on the Belmont grass from five tries. In her only race outside of Belmont, at Saratoga last August, she was a mild fourth in an 11-furlong n/w1x allowance. You can expect to see her in a stakes at Saratoga next out; it will be interesting to see how she does there.
Race 8: Allowance (n/w2x), 3yo and up, NY-bred, 6 Furlongs (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 6, Stolen Pistol
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Brad Grady, Joe Sharp, Luis Saez
OFF ODDS: 2.55/1
FRACTIONS: 22.12, 44.58, 55.93, 1:07.40
Longshots ruled the roost in the early stages. 90/1 Chasintheblues, 38/1 Callant, and 27/1 Love That Jazz all went out to the front and set the early fractions, with Dezzer, who had a rough break and was forced to rush up, stalking right behind them. It looked as if the pace would completely melt down and set it up for the logical closers.
While Chasintheblues, Love That Jazz, and Dezzer gave way entering the stretch, Callant hung in there valiantly. Whatstotalkabout, another Servis/Irad charge, loomed menacingly alongside the longshot, but could not get by until very late. Meanwhile, Stolen Pistol rallied four-wide on the far turn and took advantage of the tired pace-setter and Servis’s latest project to swoop by and win it. That marked his second win in a row, having taken a NY-bred n/w1x allowance race last time. He remains eligible for open n/w1x company, so look for him there at Saratoga.
Race 9: Victory Ride Stakes, 3yo, Fillies, 6 Furlongs
WINNER: 6, Dixie Serenade
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Uptowncharlybrown Stud LLC, Edward Coletti, Mychel Sanchez
OFF ODDS: 47.75/1
FRACTIONS: 22.25, 44.63, 1:09.75, 1:16.57
There was a tussle right away in this one. Eight Belles Stakes winner Mia Mischief and Classy Act went at it right from the get-go, going head-to-head through the early stages. Sower sat an absolutely perfect trip off these two, stalking three lengths back, while 1 1/2 lengths clear of fourth place. Sower pulled alongside the two dueling fillies as they turned for home and figured to blow by them. She did not, as while Mia Mischief folded her tent entering the stretch, Classy Act fought gamely, refusing to let Sower go by her.
While Classy Act won the battle, prevailing over Sower by half a length, she lost the war. Dixie Serenade, a lightly-regarded Penn National invader, came out of nowhere on the inside to stun the field as the second-biggest price. She was well behind and off the pace early, and her powerful closing kick helped her win by a neck. It was her first race outside of Pennsylvania, and was certainly a memorable one. Props must be given to both of the top two, as they each ran huge races.
Race 10: Maiden Claiming $40,000, 3yo and up, NY-bred, 1 Mile (Grass)
WINNER: 2, Accolade
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Glenn Fagan, Abel Castellano, Javier Castellano
OFF ODDS: 3.90/1
FRACTIONS; 23.60, 45.44, 1:10.17, 1:34.92
Both of the top two horses here couldn’t have asked for a better setup. Three longshots went to do battle early, and Cross Multiply was restained off the lead and saved ground off the pace. Delaware Park shipper Accolade rated two-wide, just off of Cross Multiply. When the leaders quit, the two made their bids. They battled each other in the stretch, but in the end, Accolade got the money to break his maiden in his ninth try. After going up and down the east coast looking for a win, returning to his home state ended up doing the trick.