It was one of those crazy weekends where nothing went right for the favorites and everything went right for the betting public. A total of 8 graded stakes races across the continent and 7 of them resulted in upsets.
The only favorite to win was Include Me Out in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap for fillies and mares at Del Mar. The Ron Ellis trained four year old filly started the year with three consecutive wins in the La Canada Stakes (G2), Santa Margarita Invitational Stakes (G1) and Marjorie L. Everett Handicap (G2). With a three lengths lead down in the stretch it looked as if she would cruise to victory again in the Vanity Handicap (G1) at BetFair Hollywood Park. She was caught by Love Theway Youare and lost by 2 1/2 lengths. She didn’t look right. It looked as if she injured herself and stopped running as hard.
Saturday afternoon in Southern California, the star filly got back on track with a hard fought neck win over hard charging Star Billing. The 1 1/16 miles distance seems to be her specialty as that is where 3 of her 4 wins have come. The final time of 1:41.96 was only 1/2 second off the track record set by the great mare Zenyatta back in 2008. She now joins I’ll Have Another as the only four-time graded stakes winner in 2012. She is at the top of her game right now. With the win, she gets the automatic bid for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic in November.
WEST VIRGINIA DERBY
The two year old champion Hansen once again showed that he is not a long distance runner. The 1 1/8 miles distance of the $750,000 Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park was just too much. Bet down as the 3/5 favorite, the gray Tapit colt went to the lead as expected and even posted moderate fractions of 24.33 and 47.33 for the first 1/2 mile. He held a slight advantage as they turned for home, but was passed halfway down the stretch by Macho Macho, Bourbon Courage and Called to Serve. He finished 4th beaten 2 /4 lengths. Macho Macho hadn’t won a stakes race prior, Bourbon Courage hadn’t hit the board in two previous tries in graded company and Called to Serve had placed 5th in his only try in the Swaps Stales (G2) on July 4th at BetFair Hollywood Park. Not exactly stiff competition. This was the 4th career loss for the Tapit colt with all of them coming in 2012 and three of them coming at distances of 1 1/8 miles or longer. They tried the mainstream route of the Kentucky Derby and now they attempted the sidestepping with the Iowa and West Virginia Derby. Unless a future race is 1 1/16 miles or less, they shouldn’t bother. That is where he needs to be.
WHITNEY INVITATIONAL HANDICAP
It wasn’t a huge upset, but Fort Larned defeating Ron the Greek at Saratoga was an indication that the older male division is as wide open as the three year old male division. Ron the Greek had won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) as well as finished runner-up in three other top races in 2012. He was set off as the 5/2 favorite and once again finished 2nd. A consistent performer who has been tough all year, but has had his full share of the runner-up bug. Fort Larned, coming off his win at Prairie Meadows in the Cornhusker Handicap is starting to put his stamp on the division and showed his recent performances were not a fluke. He won the Whitney by 1 1/4 lengths at odds of 7/1. I’m proud to say we hit the exacta, trifecta and superfecta on this race! Click here to view the post from last Thursday.
ALFRED G. VANDERBILT HANDICAP
The Whitney may not have been a huge upset, but this six furlongs Grade 1 stake at Saratoga produced the longest shot of the weekend for a graded stakes. Poseidon’s Warrior, a four year old Speightstown colt, hasn’t run in a graded race since last August in the Foxwoods King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) in which Uncle Mo won. He finished 6th beaten over 11 lengths. In between that race and this one, he won a couple of entry level stakes and unplaced in two to kick off this year. It wasn’t a shock to see him go to post at odds of 36/1. The second longest shot on the board. The heavy favorite was Shackleford. They both ran complete opposites to what we thought would happen. Poseidon’s Warrior got up in the last jump to defeat Justin Phillip by a neck and Shackleford was never a factor and ran last. I’ve never seen Shackleford run that poor or heartless. Did he get hurt or was this just a mere gallop to prepare him for the King’s Bishop later this month? The latter just doesn’t make sense. Nonetheless, it was strange to see a horse who always puts his full effort in every race, no matter what the distance of the race may be, run so poorly. This will be something to keep an eye on in the coming days.
The short six horse field of three year old fillies was loaded with speed and talent, but in the end, the true speed and favorite of the race hurt herself. Agave Kiss went off as the 4/5 favorite and ran like it for five furlongs. The problem is the race was six furlongs long. Jockey Ramon Dominguez had the Lion Heart filly go out in fractions of 22.14 and 44.64 for the half mile. She held a firm lead of two lengths until the top of the stretch. With less than 1/16 mile to go she tired and was passed by Emma’s Encore (5/1) and Judy the Beauty (3/1). Did she need to go out so fast? No. If Dominguez could have reeled her in and slowed the fractions just a little, this filly could have hung on for the win. Emma’s Encore was last early on and made her way passed each horse as the race progressed. She unleashed a huge rally down the stretch to win by a nose. Judy the Beauty was sitting 3rd and looked as if she would pull off the win, but Emma’s Encore was just to strong on this day. The final time was 1:09.35 and trainer Allen Jerkens gets his 1st graded stakes win of 2012. Junior Alvarado was aboard.
HONORABLE MISS HANDICAP
On Friday, it was the older fillies and mares sprinting for the $200,000 purse in this Grade 2 event. Jockey Junior Alvarado had a successful weekend as he guided C C’s Pal to a come from behind victory in a time of 1:09.88 for six furlongs. She went off at odds of 3/1. The favorite It’s Me Mom, went out to the front and posted ridiculous fractions of 21.14 and 43.78 for the first half mile. She faded quickly after that and finished 7th beaten 8 3/4 lengths. For C C’s Pal, this was her second graded win of the year. She previously won the Vagrancy Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park on June 2. For trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., this was his sixth win of 2012.
BEST PAL STAKES
It’s not often a horse wins a graded stakes race in their debut, but that is exactly what happened at Del Mar Sunday afternoon in the Grade 2 race for two year old colts and geldings. The even money favorite Scherer Magic came into the race winning his first two races. After winning his maiden debut by 7 1/4 lengths, trainer John Sadler and owner Gary Barber claimed the horse for the $50,000 tag. He came back a month later to win the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (G3) at Hollywood Park. He sat back early like he did the first two times but this time had traffic trouble on the backstretch and far turn. He couldn’t rebound and finished 5th. Stealing the show was 8/1 and first time starter Know More. The Lion Heart colt is owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O’Neill, the same connections as Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. He ran like a seasoned veteran. Jockey Garrett Gomez had him settled early and sent him a little wide as they turned for home. That didn’t seem to matter. Aside from lugging in half way down the stretch, this colt ran incredible and won by 1/2 length over two fillies, Heir Kitty and Miss Empire. Both trained by Peter Miller. The final time for 6 1/2 furlongs was 1:16.14. Do they have another Derby contender on their hands? Of course it is way too early to determine that, but he certainly put himself on the radar with this impressive performance.
North of the border at Woodbine, it was 23/1 longshot Alpha Bettor who came home winner in this Grade 3 race on the all weather track. He ran like the favorite instead of the 2nd longest shot on the board. Jockey Tyler Pizarro had him sitting off the pace in the 1 1/16 miles race and made the move as they straightened down the stretch. He passed the second choice City Wolf with a couple of jumps before the wire. The 9/5 favorite Pool Play finished 4th beaten 6 1/2 lengths. He never factored after sitting far back early. This was the first graded win for the four year old colt and first graded win of 2012 for both Pizarro and trainer Daniel Vella. Congratulations!
If you had bets on any of these upsets, congratulations go out to you too! Let’s hope we see more of these results in weeks to come. It’s always good to see the chalk (favorites) miss, especially if you nail the upsets.