Last weekend, the five year old chestnut Wise Dan returned to turf for the first time in 10 months and easily won the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga by five lengths. The Charles Lopresti trainee has performed very well in his limited action on turf. His record now stands at 2 wins and a fourth in three career races. Last year, he finished 4th in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) behind Gio Ponti, Get Stormy and Sidney’s Candy, as well won the Firecracker Handicap (G2) at Keeneland. The win in the Fourstardave was a little redemption as Get Stormy was seven lengths behind in 3rd place. In 2012, Wise Dan has been one of the top older males winning 2 of 3 races, Fourstardave and Ben Ali, with the other a close 2nd in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. He lost by a head to Ron the Greek. In his career, he has won on all three surfaces; dirt, all weather and turf. He’s a versatile horse who has won 4 of his last five races since the Shadwell loss and has shown he should be in consideration for older horse of the year.
The focus this upcoming weekend remains on the turf divisions at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Three Grade 1 stakes races worth a total of $2,250,000.
SECRETARIAT STAKES – $500,000 – THREE YEAR OLDS – 1 1/4 MILES – TURF
A field of eight three year old colts will take to the Arlington track to compete for the $500,000 purse. The 9/5 morning line favorite is the Dale Romans trained Silver Max. Despite this being his first attempt in Grade 1 company, he rides a six race winning streak that includes two grade 2 races and one Grade 3. If you dismiss his only dirt try in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on January 29, he is on a seven race turf winning streak that dates back to his maiden win on January 13. The Badge of Silver colt has won going one mile, 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/4 miles which was his latest in the Virginia Derby (G2) at Colonial Downs. He wants the lead and there is how he has won most of his races. However, in the VA Derby, he showed that competition on the front end wouldn’t ruin his chances. On the backstretch, he was in a duel for the front end, but took over at the far turn and never looked back in a one length victory over Lucky Chappy (IRE). He’s won on the Arlington turf before in the Arlington Classic Stakes in May, so he has an advantage with that prior experience. In 13 career starts, he has won 7 times, finished second five times and his only off the board effort was in the Holy Bull. All of the 2nd place performances came before breaking his maiden. Robby Albarado will once again be aboard. He was on him in the Virginia Derby and Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland in April. In between, this horse has had a different jockey each time. Rafael Bejarano, Victor Lebron and Shaun Bridgmohan. Quite impressive.
The morning line second choice is Summer Front. The Christophe Clement trained colt by War Front has been just as impressive. In 7 career starts, he has won 5 times. He comes into the Secretariat off back to back wins in the Duluth Stakes at Saratoga and Hill Prince Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. Both races on the turf. After winning his first three races on turf including two stakes, they tried him on the all weather at Keeneland in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G3) and he ran a strong 2nd. Next he ran a poor 8th on the dirt in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park. Clement got back to his senses and ran him on the turf. He won both as we mentioned at the top. Jockey Ramon Dominguez will want nothing to do with the lead. He will sit back early and make a strong move as they turn for home.
There will be two European invaders in this race. Daddy Long Legs, who we’ve seen on US soil twice in the last 9 months. First, he ran 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November and 20th and last in the Kentucky Derby. He was actually eased at the far turn during the race. Amazingly enough, he was shipped back to Europe and ran 3 weeks later in the Abu Dhabi Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) at Curragh where he finished 4th. That was his last race. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, he won the UAE Derby at Meydan Race Course on the all weather track. Last year, he did win two Group 2 events on the turf course, so he does have the ability to perform well on the grass. It seems to be his best surface so far after seven career races.
The other Euro is the French colt Bayrir. Lightly raced with just four starts under his belt, however, the Alain De Royer-Dupre trained colt has won three of those four including his latest the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam going 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Maisons-laffitte. Prior to that at Saint-Cloud, he won the Prix Ridgway going 1 1/4 miles on the turf. He is obviously proven at the distance, but will need a decent pace up front in order for his late move to really come into play. He has shown in all four races to sit far back early on.
Other American hopefuls include Finnegan’s Wake, who ran 3rd in the Virginia Derby and American Turf Stakes (G2), another Romans trained colt Cozzetti who is coming off a win in the American Derby (G3) at Arlington Park on July 14 and Handsome Mike, who attempts the turf for the first time. He is coming off a 4th place finish in the Haskell Invitational on July 29 after missing 4 months due to injury.
The one horse I didn’t mention yet is the only horse that MIGHT give Silver Max some grief on the front end. All Stormy had the lead in the American Derby the entire race until Cozzetti caught him in the final strides. He was able to sit on easy early fractions to allow him to have enough left in the tank to put up a fight at the end. Silver Max has set quick fractions in prior races during his winning streak, so I don’t expect All Stormy to last long on the front end.
This race is setup perfectly for Silver Max. He should go gate to wire. I like the off speed performances from Cozzetti in his only two tries on turf. He and Summer Front will make a move on Silver Max, but it won’t be enough. They will fight for 2nd and 3rd. Bayrir will be the only horse to come from far back to make an impact. He will finish on the board in 3rd or 4th.
Stay tuned, the next race analysis will come soon. It will cover the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes (G1) for Fillies & Mares three years old & up going 1 3/16 miles on the turf.