WEATHER: 79*F, SUNNY
Race 1: Claiming $40,000, 3yo and up, 6 1/2 Furlongs
WINNER: 4, Always a Suspect
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Victory Racing Partners, Brian Lynch, Joel Rosario
OFF ODDS: 7.10/1
FRACTIONS: 22.75, 45.72, 1:09.00, 1:15.16
The Michael Dubb entry of J S Bach and Forge were the heavy favorites in here, going off at 2/5. The former sat a great trip stalking pace-setter Full Salute on the inside, while Forge was hung three-wide going up the backstretch and made a strong three-wide move on the turn. Turning for home, things looked good for them. Forge was surging to the front, while J S Bach had saved ground throughout and now was being asked to go.
They encountered a pretty tough rival: Always a Suspect. Dropping from the $50,000 level and seeking his first win since April 5 of last year, he pressed the leader throughout, then continued to fight on down the stretch. Despite Forge taking a half-length lead in the stretch, Always a Suspect battled back on the inside and ended up springing the upset over the heavily favored entry. They finished second and third, two lengths clear of Full Salute, who held on well for fourth. With the relatively slow early pace, no one from behind managed to make up any ground.
Race 2: Maiden Special Weight, 2yo, 1 1/16 Miles (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 10, Seanow
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Werthemier and Frere, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez
OFF ODDS: 6.40/1
FRACTIONS: 24.14, 50.99, 1:16.81, 1:40.19, 1:45.93
The old saying that “pace makes the race” was very apt here. Seanow, a second-time starter, was very chilly on the board, despite the presence of the popular Pletcher/Velazquez combination. He went right to the early lead, encountering an early challenge from High Sheriff, who was a Wayne Lukas first-time starter, and as such barely a threat. The pair went the half-mile in a dawdling 50.99 seconds, and six furlongs in an equally glacial 1:16.81 — this over a firm grass course! With those kind of fractions, it was no surprise that Seanow was able to hold off his challengers and break his maiden.
Digital Footprint, having turned in an impressive workout on the grass just a few days prior, was sent off as the 9/5 favorite. He was wide on both turns, and never stood a chance given that slow pace. He did rally to finish second, beaten 3/4 of a length. He’s a prime candidate for improvement next out. Noble Spirit rated off the pace two-wide, but was outkicked by the winner and ended up third.
Race 3: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w3x), 3yo and up, 7 Furlongs
WINNER: 1, No Dozing
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Lael Stables, Arnaud Delacour, Joel Rosario
OFF ODDS: 6.70/1
FRACTIONS: 22.23, 44.20, 1:08.15, 1:20.81
It was a strange race. Once the formidable favorite, Wonderful Light, scratched, all the attention went to Awesome Slew, and for good reason. He lost the grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes by a neck two races ago, and was second in the Carter Handicap three races ago. Taking that big drop in class, bettors made him the 4/5 favorite.
The stars of the race ended up being Behavioral Bias and No Dozing. The former, shipping from Churchill Downs, went straight to the lead and set blazing fractions, including a sub-22 second second quarter. No Dozing, running for the first time since last November, pressed that leader on the inside, and made his bid on the turn. The race setup should have benefited Awesome Slew, as he angled wide on the turn and took dead aim at the leaders. He couldn’t gain much ground, and was a disappointing third.
It looked like Behavorial Bias would hold on to the lead in the final yards, but No Dozing, after a quarter-mile of trying to wear him down, finally got by and won by 3/4 of a length. No shame for either of the top two, who ran pretty well. Lots of shame for Awesome Slew, who had no apparent excuse.
As an aside: this one was one of three winners given out by our own Mike Mahon in his Saturday analysis column, and by far his highest-priced one, paying a generous $15.40.
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 3/16 Miles (Mellon Grass)
WINNER: 4, War Cabinet
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Allen Stable, Shug McGaughey, Javier Castellano
OFF ODDS: 2.80/1
FRACTIONS: 24.48, 50.37, 1:14.49, 1:38.17, 1:55.41
Chronic maiden Windjammer went straight to the lead, and encountered pressure on her outside from Beau Belle, a Churchill invader making her first start for the Tom Albertrani barn. The two went through a pretty even pace early on, and when Windjammer gave way on the turn (as she was expected to do, being a horse who hates the idea of winning), Beau Belle gained the advantage turning for home.
She had to fend off one more rival: War Cabinet. Making just her third start, and her first since a dull race at Keeneland back in April, she was two-wide early on off a slow pace, and made a four-wide rally on the turn to draw even with Beau Belle in the stretch. It was a good battle down the lane, but War Cabinet ended up prevailing. The switch to a firm grass course and a clean beginning definitely played to her favor.
Race 5: Claiming $32,000, 3yo, Fillies, 6 Furlongs
WINNER: 4, Tee Up
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Robert Ross, Michelle Nevin, Joel Rosario
OFF ODDS: 7.10/1
FRACTIONS: 23.15, 46.23, 58.03, 1:10.41
It was a confusing race on paper, with just about everyone in the field of seven having run a race that could win this one. Our Girl Abby, who crushed the field at Gulfstream Park last out, was sent off as the 2/1 favorite.
Right out of the gate, Tee Up went to the lead and set a moderate pace. She was allowed a clear lead despite the slow fractions, something that boded well for her. Last out, she was involved in a speed duel, but held on well enough to finish second. With a firm advantage, she looked dangerous.
As they turned for home, Our Girl Abby came right up to the outside of Tee Up, with rail-riding Karen’s Gem also looming a threat down towards the inside. Tee Up kept the lead throughout, and as they came down to the wire, Our Girl Abby made one last-gasp bid and got into a head-bobbing photo. Tee Up ended up getting the bob, and scored her first win on dirt in her seventh try. Karen’s Gem, despite a favorable trip, was unable to gain any ground in the stretch, and wound up third, beaten a head.
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight, 2yo, 5 1/2 Furlongs
WINNER: 2, Nitrous
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Winchell Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables, Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana
OFF ODDS: 0.85/1
FRACTIONS: 22.00, 45.66, 57.46, 1:03.70
Another day, another impressive 2-year-old maiden winner for Steve Asmussen. He sent out second-time starter Nitrous here, who lost his debut at low odds last out at Churchill Downs. Well-backed once again, he broke very well and went straight to the lead, encountering pressure all the way from Market King and The Big S. Despite all the challenges, Nitrous never gave in, digging deep on the turn and pulling away in the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths. He was moving powerfully at the end, suggesting longer distances should not be hindrance for him.
Pennsylvania-bred first-timer Puttheglassdown was not respected in the betting, despite a decent worktab. He closed from far back to get second, keying an exacta that paid $36 for $2. Most Mischief was extremely wide every step of the way after breaking from the outside post, but managed to hold on for third. The distinctively marked Southern Phantom fell far behind early, but wound up a fast-closing fifth with a good closing punch.
Race 7: Allowance Optional Claiming (n/w3x), 3yo and up, 1 3/8 Miles (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 1, Call Provision
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Klaravich Stables, Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz
OFF ODDS: 1.65/1
FRACTIONS: 25.37, 49.52, 1:15.36, 1:39.82, 2:02.82, 2:14.28
As he was fully expected to do, Hello Don Julio went straight to the early lead in this marathon affair and set a comfortable early tempo. Call Provision, coming off a narrow defeat at this level, got a great trip saving ground off the leader. Despite a brief challenge on the second turn from Memories of Peter, Hello Don Julio was still looking strong as the field turned for home.
On the third and final turn, Call Provision lacked any running room, but once he got clear, he angled two-wide and started a strong bid to try and catch the leader. Despite a gutsy battle by Hello Don Julio, Call Provision proved to be the better of the two, and he got up to win by a neck. Rocketry was far off the slow pace early and then made a four-wide rally on the far turn. He outkicked two other rivals right behind the top two to secure third.
Race 8: Allowance (n/w1x), 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 5 1/2 Furlongs (Mellon Grass)
WINNER: 10, Battle Joined
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Courtlandt Farms, Mark Hennig, Irad Ortiz
OFF ODDS: 2.20/1
FRACTIONS: 22.09, 44.77, 55.99, 1:01.80
This one was dominated by speed. Battle Joined zipped right to the front and set a clear early lead, holding a two-length advantage as they turned for home. Conquest Tizfire sat an absolutely perfect trip off that leader, 2 1/2 lengths behind her, while sitting three lengths clear of third. Turning for home, it looked like Conquest Tizfire could blow by any time she wanted.
Unfortunately for backers of Conquest Tizfire, she hates the idea of winning. In her last three races, all of them at this level, she had come in the top three without winning. That’s rarely a good sign, and it proved to not be one here, either. She drew right up to the outside of Battle Joined, and things appeared to be just about over for the leader. Battle Joined didn’t quit for the entire stretch run, eventually winning by a half-length over her embattled rival. Third-place finisher La Nautrel got the trip she wanted, rating off the pace on the inside. She didn’t have quite enough closing punch to catch the winner, however.
Race 9: Sanford Stakes, 2yo, 6 Furlongs
WINNER: 1, Sombeyay
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Starlight Racing, Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano
OFF ODDS: 2.85/1
FRACTIONS: 22.26, 45.49, 57.64, 1:10.35
Just like the Schuylerville on Friday, this stakes was won by a horse who broke their maiden at Gulfstream Park. Sombeyay had most recently finished second in the Tremont Stakes, after breaking his maiden easily back in April. With a five-furlong bullet workout under his belt last Saturday, he looked like he was ready to go here. In a race that looked wide-open on paper, bettors made him the slight 5/2 favorite.
A speed duel developed early on, with Churchill Downs shippers Bano Solo and Strike Silver battling through speedy early fractions. Sombeyay rated just off those leaders, then came on three-wide late. Strike Silver won the battle over his rival, putting away Bano Solo in the last eighth. However, he didn’t have enough fire power to hold off Sombeyay, who got up in the last few strides to win by a neck.
Race 10: Diana Stakes, 3yo and up, Fillies and Mares, 1 1/8 Miles (Mellon Grass)
WINNER: 1, Sistercharlie
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Peter Brant, Chad Brown, John Velazquez
OFF ODDS: 1.15/1
FRACTIONS: 24.25, 47.77, 1:11.62, 1:34.58, 1:46.26
Ever since coming to the United States, Sistercharlie had put together quite the resume for herself coming into the Diana. Most recently, she came from far behind to lose the New York Stakes by just a head. Despite the presence of some quality rivals, the public was excited enough to make her the heavy favorite.
Just a Game Stakes winner A Raving Beauty broke well, but was reined back behind Hawksmoor, who crossed over from the outside post and set the early pace. Sistercharlie rated two-wide well off the pace, and began to launch her bid on the turn. A Raving Beauty, who stalked on the inside, looked loaded for bear on the turn, but had her rally stymied on the turn when forced to check behind horses. Proctor’s Ledge, who was second in the Just a Game, was forced wide after lacking room on the turn.
As they entered the stretch, Ultra Brat, who sat off the early leader on the rail, inherited the lead and began to draw away. Sistercharlie had a clear path to go and it looked like she was going to be a threat. Ultra Brat was clear at the sixteenth pole, and was a mere five seconds away from pulling a 15/1 upset in the first grade 1 of the Saratoga meet. In the very last stride, Sistercharlie got up, winning by a nose to give Chad Brown his fourth win in this race.
Race 11: Claiming $50,000, 3yo and up, 1 Mile (Inner Grass)
WINNER: 10, Jess I Am
OWNER/TRAINER/JOCKEY: Zayat Stables, Brad Cox, Florent Geroux
OFF ODDS: 5.30/1
FRACTIONS: 24.29, 48.38, 1:11.88, 1:34.95
As usually happens, the two horses with the easiest trips finished one-two. Expected Ruler was stretching out from six furlongs, and looked to be up against it on paper. However, he was sent to the lead by Kendrick Carmouche, and and managed to get a comfortable lead, with Jess I Am pursuing just off the pace. With that slow pace, Expected Ruler was strong turning for home, but couldn’t sustain his energy through that blazing final quarter. Jess I Am kept on coming, and wore down the winner in the last moment.
This was Jess I Am’s first race on grass in 2018, and his first try on the surface since a win back in November at Fair Grounds. Despite his lack of recent grass form, two things stood out about him: trainer Brad Cox’s 34% hit rate with horses going dirt to grass, and his blazing-fast four furlong workout in 47 4/5 seconds last week. Those two stats proved to be enough to get him to the winner’s circle.