Belmont Park was the host of four graded stakes on the holiday Monday race card.
It started off in Race 7 with the Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes. The favorite was 4/5 Somali Lemonade. Trainer Michael Matz must be getting tired of his star horses not running to potential. His Derby horse Union Rags did not fare well after a rough trip. However, there wasn’t an excuse such as a rough trip or fractions. Simply put, the three year old Lemon Drop Kid filly did not run. She finished 4th. It was 8/1 Better Lucky who ran the best race of her brief career. It was her third career win, but first in a stake. She sat off the leaders Preach Tome Daddy and Zultanite. She slipped through down the stretch and held off a late charge by Regalo Mia. She won by a nose. Zultanite ran 3rd just a neck behind. Somali Lemonade was five lengths further back in 4th.
Next up, was the first of three Grade 1 stakes. The Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) field had five fillies and mares featuring Awesome Maria, winner of six straight dating back to February 19 last year. She’s won 7 career graded stakes races including the Ogden Phipps last year. It is her only Grade 1 win. Could she repeat? The answer is no. Another heavy favorite would be upset. Although this upset wasn’t as surprising. It’s Tricky, is a multiple graded stakes winner herself. The four year old Mineshaft filly had won back to back stakes races after finishing 2nd three times in a row to end off 2011. She won the TVG Acorn Stakes last year, same race being run on this day. It was an upset win over Turbulent Descent. She proved spoiler once again. She sat off the leader Cash for Clunkers until the midway part of the stretch. A game effort by the leader, but at the end, it was the class of the Kiaran McLaughlin trained filly that would prevail. Awesome Maria seemed tight when asked at the far turn. She went three wide on the turn for home, but that was not the reason. She did not have her usual burst.
The TVG Acorn Stakes (G1) featured another Bob Baffert speedster in the three year old Ghostzapper filly, Contested. Winner of three straight after finishing 2nd in her maiden debut last September at Del Mar. We mention speedster as we watched another Baffert speedster finish 2nd twice in the last month. Bodemeister ran extremely well in both the Preakness and Kentucky Derby, but lost to I’ll Have Another. This time, Contested made sure his trainer would get the win. Indeed he did. There was no question who was the best horse on this day. Leading from gate to wire, the three year old Ghostzapper filly would post a final time 1:34.61 and win by 5 lengths. This was her 2nd graded stakes win. She won the Eight Belles Stakes (G3) on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
The featured race of the day was the Metropolitan Handicap (G1), more popularly known as the Met Mile. This one mile dirt race on the main track was full of multiple graded stakes winners. All but one of the six horse field was coming into the race off a win. Only Caleb’s Posse, did not finish 1st in his last race. The Posse colt had finished 2nd twice since capturing the Breeders’ Cup Mile last November.
True to form, Shackleford would take the early lead. In surprising fashion, 8/5 post time favorite To Honor and Serve and Carter Handicap winner Jackson Bend would follow close behind. The first 1/4 mile went in 22.77. Caleb’s Posse was in his usual spot about 8 lengths behind. Shackleford still held the lead after a half mile which went in a quick 44.73. The Dale Romans trained colt extended his lead as they hit the far turn. To Honor and Serve were still sitting 2nd and 3rd respectively. Charles Town Classic winner Caixa Eletronica and Caleb’s Posse starting making their moves. The first to tire was Jackson Bend. He was through as they straightened out in the stretch. To Honor and Serve was struggling. Shackleford was looking as tough as he’s ever been. Caleb’s Posse was mounting a huge rally down the middle of the lane. With each stride, Shackleford’s lead was disappearing. With heads bobbing at the end, it was tough to tell who was the winner. After a photo finish, Shackleford would win by a mere nose and Caleb’s Posse hard luck would continue.
Shackleford has now won back to back races for the first time since late 2010-2011. This win makes it back to back graded stakes races. He won the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) on May 5, the under card leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Caleb’s Posse finished 2nd To Calibrachoa in the Tom Fool Handicap (G3), 2nd to Jackson Bend in the Carter Handicap (G1) and now by another nose in the Met Mile (G1). Unbelieveable.
IN OTHER NEWS
Belle Royale (IRE) wins for the second time in as many starts since arriving from Ireland. She won the American Beauty Stakes on April 7 at Santa Anita and on Monday won the Gamely Stakes (G1) at BetFair Hollywood Park. It was 1 1/8 miles on the turf. She defeated the Irish filly, Quiet Oasis (IRE) by 1/2 length.
Up the coast at Golden Gate Fields, it was the impressive 9 year old Awesome Gem who took home the Berkeley Handicap (G3). It was his 6th career graded stakes win and pushed his career earnings to $2,821,370. He’s won 11 out of 50 races and has been 1st or 2nd 26 times. Just when you think you’re getting old, you see a horse like this going strong.
Finally, we welcome Nates Mineshaft to the 2012 triple graded stakes winner company. The Fair Grounds horse of the meet got back in the win column after taking the Lone Star Park Handicap (G2) on Monday. He’s now won the Lone Star Handicap (G2) at Lone Star Park as well as the the Mineshaft Handicap (G3) and New Orleans Handicap (G2).