Saturday Stakes Recap
Saturday Stakes Recap
Ron the Greek rallies to edge Wise Dan in Stephen Foster
Ron the Greek confirmed his championship credentials with a thrilling victory over Wise Dan in the Grade 1, $437,200 Stephen Foster Handicap, rallying up the inside to edge the favorite by a head on the wire. The five-year-old horse capped a big night for trainer Bill Mott, who also saddled champion Royal Delta to an eight-length score in the Grade 2 Fleur des Lis one race earlier on Saturday's Downs after Dark program.
A convincing 3 1/2-length victor of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap earlier this term, at the site of this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, Ron the Greek entered the 1 1/8-mile Foster off a runner-up effort behind Alternation in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. He turned the tables on that rival, who wound up a disappointing fifth, and Ron the Greek now ranks at or very near the top of the older horse division.
With regular rider Jose Lezcano, the bay son of Full Mandate broke sharply but was squeezed and shuffled back early in a tight pack of runners, rating well off the pace in sixth along the rail as the field entered the first turn. He remained on the fence the rest of the way.
Nates Mineshaft sprinted to the fore from his inside post and led through opening fractions in :23 3/5, :47 1/5 and 1:10 4/5. Wise Dan, who was roughed up when sandwiched between horses shortly after the break, accelerated out of trouble and raced several paths off the rail in third, within two lengths of the pacesetter, as the field made its way down the backstretch. Fort Larned was also up close on the inside, and Ron the Greek was still reserved nearly 10 lengths back after the opening three-quarters of a mile.
After making steady progress through the far turn, Ron the Greek came under a full ride turning for home and started to respond to Lezcano's urgings. Nates Mineshaft passed the mile mark in 1:36 1/5 with a two-length advantage, but started to weaken significantly in the final furlong. Wise Dan, who weaved in and out during the stretch drive, threatened to win while charging on the far outside late, but Ron the Greek closed determinedly to get up in the final jumps.
He stopped the teletimer in 1:50 2/5 on the fast track.
Owned by Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and breeder Jack T. Hammer, Ron the Greek was overlooked as the 9-1 fifth choice among eight rivals and returned payouts of $20.80, $6.40 and $5.40 to his supporters. Wise Dan, the 4-5 favorite, wound up nearly a length better than third-placer Nates Mineshaft. The runner-up survived a claim of objection from the jockey of Rogue Romance, who wound up another 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth. Alternation, Nehro, Mission Impazible and Fort Larned completed the order of finish.
Ron the Greek has captured four of his last six starts, posting a five-length win in the Sunny and Mild Stakes in November before adding a 2 1/4-length win in the Queens County Stakes to his line one month later. He opened the year with a second to Mucho Macho Man in the Sunshine Millions Classic. The Florida-bred also captured the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes in 2010.
With the $262,932 payday, Ron the Greek joined the millionaire's club, boosting his bankroll to $1,112,597 from a 19-7-4-1 career line. He is the only registered stakes winner out of the winning Fortunate Prospect mare Flambe', who is a full sister to stakes-placed Fortuesque, herself the dam of Grade 2 winner and dual classic-placed Musket Man. This female family has also produced 1969 champion two-year-old colt Silent Screen.
Royal Delta asserts class in Fleur de Lis
Besilu Stables' Royal Delta dropped her initial two starts of 2012 but on Saturday returned to the form that saw her earn an Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old filly last year when drawing off under a hand ride to score by eight lengths in the Grade 2, $179,700 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Sent off the 3-5 favorite against her five opponents, the four-year-old daughter of Empire Maker tracked in third as Sterling Madame set opening fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12. Jockey Mike Smith, who was taking over from regular rider Jose Lezcano, hit the button nearing the turn and Royal Delta shot forward to draw even, and then off, rounding the turn.
The dark bay mare quickly opened up in the stretch and Smith began wrapping with a furlong to go, allowing his mount to still finish up 1 1/8 miles on the fast dirt in 1:49 2/5.
Royal Delta gave back $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10 to her many supporters. Afleeting Lady tracked in second throughout and maintained that spot under the wire, 4 1/4 lengths clear of 3-1 second choice St. John's River. Sterling Madame followed by another 6 1/2 lengths while It's Tea Time and trailer Distorted Love completed the order of finish.
Royal Delta broke her maiden by 12 lengths at Belmont Park as a juvenile, but didn't begin her three-year-old season until mid-March when she offered no run to be ninth in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Trainer Bill Mott brought her back a month later at Keeneland, and the filly got back to her winning ways with a three-length score against allowance rivals.
Royal Delta captured her first stakes win when taking the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico and was given a brief break before returning to be third in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. The Kentucky-bred miss vindicated that loss when dominating the Grade 1 Alabama by 5 1/2 lengths, but was no match for eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace next out in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational, running second in that contest. She closed out her three-year-old campaign with an easy 2 1/2-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, clinching champion three-year-old filly honors in the process.
Mott saddled his charge in the Grade 3 Sabin to start 2012, but Royal Delta could only manage second in that race. She then flew to Dubai for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup against the boys at Meydan and suffered just her second off-the-board placing when ninth in that synthetic affair. Given plenty of time to recover from her trans-Atlantic trip, the dark bay miss easily captured this one to boost her career earnings to $1,824,900 and improve her mark to 11-6-2-1.
Royal Delta was campaigned by her breeder, Palides Investments N.V. Inc., through her Breeders' Cup triumph then passed through the sales rings for the first time just three days after that score. She sold for a sale-topping $8.5 million at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale to Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables, which was the most ever paid for a horse in training at Keeneland November and the most paid for any horse at the sale since broodmare Playful Act brought $10.5 million in 2007. The previous Keeneland record for a horse in training was the $6.1 million paid by Aaron Jones for the graded stakes-winning colt Half Ours in 2006.
Royal Delta is descended from a black-type rich family as a daughter of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. That one would capture six stakes, including three Grade 3 contests, during her time on track while racking up nearly $750,000 in earnings. Royal Delta's second dam is Group 2 victress Lyphard's Delta, who would go on in the breeding shed to produce Grade/Group 1 winners Biondetti and Indy Five Hundred.
Lyphard's Delta is herself a daughter of Proud Delta, who was honored as champion handicap mare in 1976, and counts as a full brother Grade 3 hero and sire Proud Debonair.
Royal Delta has a three-year-old full brother named Empire Way who ran second to eventual Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis in early February.
Love Theway Youare upsets Vanity
Myung Kwan Cho's Love Theway Youare pulled off a stunning upset of Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Vanity Handicap, wearing down the heavily favored Include Me Out in the final sixteenth and drawing away to win by 2 1/2 lengths under Garrett Gomez. The fifth-longest price in the field of six at 18-1, Love Theway Youare returned $38, $6.20 and $4.20 after completing 1 1/8 miles on the Cushion Track in 1:51.
The trailer by as many as 12 1/2 lengths down the backside, Love Theway Youare began to advance from an inside position around the far turn, but was still well back as 3-5 favorite Include Me Out forged to the lead passing the quarter pole. Southern California's leading older filly this season opened up a three-length advantage through the stretch and appeared home free, but didn't put forth a strong enough effort in the final furlong as Love Theway Youare continued to gain on the public choice. Include Me Out, who had sat a perfect trip behind the leaders before taking control, had no response once passed and Love Theway Youare won comfortably while in receipt of seven pounds.
"When we first came off the bend, she switched leads and dropped in front of the other horses," Gomez said. "I lost (Include Me Out) because she quickened and I didn't know if I could get to her. Then as I got by a couple of those other horses, I could see that horse starting to come back a little bit and I said, 'Well, I think I have her now.' This filly just keeps staying and she did so again today. She kept coming and coming. She doesn't have any kind of gear, she's just one-paced the whole time."
"I thought I was gone. She has a kind of tendency to pull herself up," said Joe Talamo, who was aboard Include Me Out. "You know, when I passed (Caelis and Atlantic Swing), I really thought the race was over. We've always beat (Love Theway You are) so far, so many times. In hindsight, I wish I would have waited a little longer."
Include Me Out, who had previously beaten the winner in the Grade 2 La Canada, Grade 1 Santa Margarita and Grade 2 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap this term, was 6 3/4 lengths clear in second. Zafeen's Pearl, making her U.S. debut, won the head bob over Caelis for third. Atlantic Swing finished fifth, while Rock and Glory, who set the early pace of :23 and :46 2/5, was eased when hopelessly beaten. The race lost some of its initial luster after the withdrawals of Zazu and Ellafitz.
A maiden winner in her sixth career start, at Santa Anita, Love Theway Youare repeated in her next start against allowance foes, but that score over the main track at Hollywood on April 22, 2011 would be her final victory prior to the Vanity. The four-year-old filly has generally struggled to be competitive since then, placing just twice in 11 starts, all of them stakes. Her two in-the-money finishes were a third in last year's Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks and a second to Include Me Out in the Santa Margarita on March 17, a race contested in the slop and which attracted just four horses.
In her last two starts before the Vanity, Love Theway Youare trailed throughout in the Grade 2 La Troienne, and then lost jockey Alonso Quinonez soon after the start of the Marjorie L. Everett. Her record now stands at 19-3-1-3, $362,990.
A daughter of Arch, Love Theway Youare was produced by the multiple stakes-winning Tabasco Cat mare Diversa. The filly's third dam was multiple Grade 1 winner Sabin. Other notables from this family are two-time steeplechase champion Flat Top, Grade 2 winners Saint Anddan and Street Sounds, and Grade 3 victor Luftikus. Love Theway Youare was bred in Kentucky by Christopher Dragone.
Summer Front overcomes traffic, wins Hill Prince
Extricated from behind a wall of horses in the stretch by jockey Ramon Dominguez, Waterford Stable's Summer Front found racing room inside the final sixteenth and under hand encouragement wore down Howe Great to win Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Hill Prince at Belmont Park. The 6-5 favorite paid $4.70, $2.90 and $2.70.
Breaking inward into the gap leaving post 1, Summer Front did not lose much in the way of ground and settled in fourth while racing along the hedge down the backside. Up front, Spring to the Sky set fractions of :23 1/5, :46 1/5 and 1:10 2/5, and was followed by Film Shot and 2-1 second choice Howe Great.
In the stretch all three of those rivals led Summer Front, who saw a gap between rivals close. Forced to wait for room in order to shift the favorite outside, Dominguez confidently handled the colt and the pair finished a half-length to the good of Howe Great after a burst of speed in the final 70 yards. Final time for one mile on the firm Widener turf was 1:33 3/5.
"Turning for home, I was concerned about being on the inside. Unfortunately, I had no choice," Dominguez said. "The one thing that I was very happy about was the way my horse was handling himself. He was on the bridle where he was going to really go, and sure enough when I got him out, he did. A move like that always takes a lot of horse out of you, and I was very impressed with him."
"Ramon has always liked that horse and has great confidence in him and obviously knew he was going to get there because he never panicked. He was so cool," winning trainer Christophe Clement said. "That's the problem with the one draw: sometimes you take the risk of being boxed in, but I'm a firm believer in saving ground, anyway. I was concerned. He (was) riding, not me, so there's nothing I can do."
Film Shot, at 28-1, clung to third by a head over 10-1 chance Margano while finishing a length behind the runner-up. Completing the order of finish were Spring to the Sky, Our Entourage, Star Channel, Mr. Handsome, Big Screen and Shkspeare Shaliyah. Scratched from the field were Easter Gift, Le Bernardin, Monarchic and Swag Daddy.
Summer Front is now undefeated in four career starts on turf. He went three-for-three as a juvenile, taking his debut over Belmont's inner turf by 1 1/2 lengths going six furlongs, and then notched the King Cugat at Aqueduct by a half-length and the Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park by 1 1/2 lengths.
He returned from a four-month layoff in the Grade 3 Lexington on April 21. The 2-1 favorite when making his debut on Polytrack, Summer Front rallied to be second behind longshot winner All Squared Away. He did not take as kindly to dirt in his most recent outing in the Grade 2 Peter Pan, finishing a distant eighth after a troubled start. His record now stands at 6-4-1-0, $256,800.
"The last time we won this race was with Gio Ponti (in 2008), so we're obviously going to think about the (Grade 2) Virginia Derby (on July 21) a little bit. That's what we did, and it worked. I don't like to compare (Summer Front and Gio Ponti) too much, but it worked in the past. We'll have to think about it again. I've always liked my horse. I messed up by running him in the Lexington and Peter Pan, but I had to try because he really trained well on dirt and it'd be a mistake not to try."
Bred in Kentucky by Graceville Breeding, Summer Front was a $475,000 Keeneland April two-year-old in training purchase. A son of War Front, he was produced by the unraced El Prado mare Rose of Summer, making him a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Laragh. Rose of Summer herself was a half-sister to Grade 1 victor Siphonic.
Further back, this family includes multiple Grade 2 winner Dixie Dot Com, versatile Grade 3 winner Summertime Promise, and the leading handicap performer Hillsdale.
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