Where to begin? A weekend of graded races across the continent including appearances by Zenyatta, Quality Road, a resurgent P-Val and a horse that will have many Breeders' Cup Classic 'cappers playing the Blame game.
Zenyatta prances in the paddock
Alex Evers/ Equisport Photos
Zenyatta captured the G1 Clement Hirsch at Del Mar to increase her record to 18-0. Racing wide throughout, Zenyatta waited near the back of the pack as Rinterval set a slow pace of 25.41 and 50.61. Jockey Mike Smith, noticing the slow pace, moved Zenyatta earlier than usual along the backstretch before sweeping five-wide to reach Rinterval in early stretch. For a few brief strides it appeared Zenyatta might be in a bit of trouble but the six year-old mare quickly got her groove back and raced through the wire an untroubled winner.
Zenyatta zips to victory in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar
Blame made his case for top horse in North America with a hard-fought victory over Quality Road in the G1 Whitney. Quality Road was able to set an easy pace in the mile and an eight test, so easy that by the top of the stretch, jockey John Velazquez peered comically over both shoulders for competition. Garrett Gomez and Blame took the invitiation and rallied relentlessly down the lane to nail Quality Road by a head in a time of 1:48.88. Musket Man closed belatedly for third.
Don't Blame me for winning the Whitney!
Majesticperfection wired the G1 Vanderbilt at the Spa putting his best hoof forward for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Woodbine-based Smokey Fire flamed out finishing seventh, a disappointing result following his recent win over Hollywood Hit off a layoff. Conditioner Steve Asmussen is pointing Majesticperfection to the BC Sprint.
"He’s been very fast, he’s a very good horse, and I’m very proud that he ran this race on this level," said Asmussen. "We could all read how well he’d run in the other spots, but for him to bring it up against this level of competition, it puts him exactly where we want him to be. He was away very cleanly today and you could tell Shaun was very comfortable. He had his chance to show who he is, and he got it done. I think he beat a very good group, but we’ve got to reproduce that performance again. I would be very tentative [about his plans between now and the Breeders’ Cup], and it’s just one of the suggestions, but it would most likely be the Vosburgh [Grade 1, $350,000, October 2 at Belmont Park] and the Breeders’ Cup [Sprint].”
Zoom! Majesticperfection pefect in the Vanderbilt
Champagne D'Oro took gold in the Test, a race made easier when morning-line favorite Franny Freud, who defeated Champagne d’Oro in the six-furlong Prioress Stakes last out at Belmont, was scratched with a career-ending soft-tissue injury.
Pica Slew set the early fractions of :22.41 and :44.50 with Champagne d’Oro following ever so closely in front of Lovely Lil, Bonnie Blue Flag, and Christine Daae. Champagne d’Oro got into gear around the turn and passed Pica Slew at the three-sixteenths marker to win in 1:22.71.
Champagne D'oro passes the Test with flying colours
Patrick Valenzuela continues his homecoming with his first California stakes victory since 2007 when he steered J P's Gusto to a half-length win in the G2 Best Pal Stakes. J P's Gusto broke well and then wrestled the lead from Western Mood setting fractions of :22.58 and :46.31. J P's Gusto held strong throught the stretch to hold off Sway Away in a time 1:16.61.
P-Val wins the Best Pal with Gusto
At Woodbine, Tree Pose got in front early 'leafing' the field behind to win the Nandi Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Shadowsinthenight and Lucky Be Me. That's another Woodbine win for hot stallion Old Forester as the young filly covered the six furlongs in 1:09.64 under Jono Jones.
Strike a (Tree) Pose
Sand Cove wired a fine four-horse Seagram Cup field Sand Cove holding off Stunning Stag. Sand Cove set a pedestrian quarter of 26.00 reaching the half in :50.38. Jockey Richard Dos Ramos picked up the pace through the third quarter reaching six furlongs in 1:13.76 (a :23.38 quarter)and had more than enough left to repel a bid from Stunning Stag. The classy Sand Cove improves to nine lifetime win with earnings of $774,732.
The Seagram Cup was a day at the beach for Sand Cove
Sharp Secretary passed the Duchess field on the left hand side holding off an outside bid from Kitty in a Tizzy and Chantilly Nayla. It was Simply Spiteful who galloped out of the gate and opened up a six length lead through too-fast fractions of :22.16 and :44.12. Sharp Secretary and Eurico Rosa da Silva inhaled Simply Spiteful at the top of the stretch commanding the lead with enough in the tank to hold off the rallying Kitty in a Tizzy and Chantal Sutherland who finished a head in front of Chantilly Nayla and Emma-Jayne Wilson.
No video yet, but here's a photo of speedy Sharp Secretary
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Perhaps the most heart-warming story of the weekend was the victory by Set In Stone in the Andy Passero Memorial Handicap at Fort Erie. Here is the media release courtesy of Fort Erie Race Track media department:
FORT ERIE, August 8 – The rain began to fall as the horses were making their way into the paddock for the inaugural running of the Andy Passero Memorial Cup but the sky’s would soon clear as the horses made their way onto the track for post parade. Not surprisingly the favourite of the 1 1/16th event was the MAD Racing Stable and Martha Gonzalez’ 3-year-old grey gelding named Set in Stone.
Andy Passero was a longtime horse owner and an outstanding citizen in the town of Fort Erie. He had been a part of the racing business for his entire life and was a partner in MAD Racing Stable. Sadly, Andy passed away in 2009 after a tragic car accident when returning home from watching one of his horses race at Woodbine.
Kettle Rapids went to the lead in the early stages of the race setting an opening quarter of 23.3 and a half in 47.2 while jockey Francine Villeneuve had Set in Stone sitting in a tracking position just waiting to make his move. “I was surprised we didn’t get the lead,” said the jock. “He settled in nicely, he was waiting for me to give him the cue to go. When Francine asked her charge he responded taking the lead coming down the home stretch. “I could feel the crowd cheering us on, he was destined to win,” said the emotional rider. “I’m so glad to be a part of this.”
On track was a large group of Andy’s friends and family who wanted no other result than to see the grey son of Menifee win. In the end, he prevailed by half a length in a final time of 1.42.4.
For all involved, this was an emotional victory but one that was meant to be. “I looked up in the sky and I knew Andy was watching,” said trainer Nick Gonzalez.
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