We will take a world tour in this report. Curragh in Ireland had high profile races over the weekend. France had a Group I race on Sunday that produced a nail-biting finish. In the United Kingdom on Saturday, the Northumberland Plate, a 3200-metre race, was run. In America, Belmont Park had the Grade I Mother Goose Stakes. The Beverly Hills Handicap was run at Hollywood Park on Saturday. The Grade I Takarazuka Kinen was run on Sunday at Hanshin racecourse in the land of the Rising Sun. There were two Derby races run on Sunday in Denmark and the Czech Republic. Slovakia, I want to point out, is an independent country now. Whatever not covered in this blog, will be part of the next.
I will begin with what happened at Belmont Park on Saturday. Devil May Care was coming off a tenth place finish in the Kentucky Derby and was the 9/10 favorite in the Mother Goose, a race that Rachel Alexandra won in 2009. There were five distaffers in the race and three of them came from Todd Pletcher’s yard. Trainer Pletcher, who broke the Derby duck in May, was celebrating his 43rd birthday.
John Velasquez had Devil May Care in third position in the five-runner field and out of harm’s way until the final turn. The favorite hit the front early in the lane. Jockey Velasquez took a glance to his left. There was no threat. Biofuel was making a charge. A shaking of the reins was all that Devil May Care needed. Biofuel was seen off. With less than 200 metres to run, Connie And Michael was coming on with a run on the inside and Devil May Care had to be reminded and the Mother Goose was put to bed. The 1700-metre Mother Goose was run in 1 42.06 seconds. Devil May Care is by Malibu Moon ( A P Indy) out of Kelli’s Ransom (Red Ransom) and was winning her second Grade I race at Belmont Park. She won the Frizette last October.
Todd Pletcher was delighted. “It was a big race from her. I always felt that she was the best filly in her generation. She trained brilliantly, like she always does.”
Jockey Velasquez spoke. “Down the lane, I let her do her thing. She took the lead and it was good enough today.”
Prairie Meadows is a track in Altoona, Iowa. The twilight card on Saturday featured the $300,000 Grade II Cornhusker handicap. When the dust settled after the race, it was Shadowbdancing, Eddie Razo up, who had come away victorious. Shadowbdancing, second in the 2009 Cornhusker, beat Racing Bran by a length. The 1800-metre race on the dirt track was run in 1 48.24 seconds. A $2.00 win ticket returned $22.80. Shadowbdancing, a five year-old by Montbrook, is trained by Terrel Gore.
Eddie Razo, who is riding in Iowa this summer, commented on his ride. “He settled really nice down the backside. At the 3/8 pole, I said ‘Go ahead’ and he took care of business. He is a very nice horse.”
Trainer Gore confirmed that Shadowbdancing will race next in the West Virginia Governor’s Cup at Mountaineer Park.
Followers of jockey Julien Leparoux are relieved that the (2009) Eclipse award-winning rider will return to action on Thursday at Churchill Downs. Leparoux suffered a compression fracture in a vertebra in a fall at Pimlico on May 14. He rode on May 15 and May 16. A medical examination revealed the damage and Leparoux was advised rest.
“I will be ready to come back to work Thursday, definitely ready. I feel great. I went home to France and then took a vacation at the Bahamas. That part of it was good but I was kind of bored at times," said jockey Leparoux.
We are switching our attention to Japan, At Hanshin racecourse, the Grade I Takarazuka Kinen was run. Seventeen ran in the 2200-metre event. Buena Vista, a stakes-winning four year-old filly, was the 7-5 favorite and was taking on the boys. Jockey N Yokoyama had Buena Vista in fourth and third and moved between horse to gain command with 200 metres to go. For a moment, it looked like the race had been won. Nakayama Festa, a four year-old colt and a 368/10 chance, rallied from middivision and closed in a hurry. With strong assistance from jockey Y Shibata, Nakayama Festa swept past Buena Vista to win by one half length. The winner is trained by Y Ninomiya.
Nakayama Festa is by Stay Gold out of Dear Wink. The Takarazuka Kinen was run in 2 13 seconds on the grass. The winner ran the last 600 metres in 35.8 seconds. The going was good as the course was drying up after heavy rain in the morning. The race carried a purse of 3,099,000 US dollars. A 100 yen win ticket returned 3,780.
Stay Gold, the winner’s father, ran four times in the race from 1998 until 2001. Once second, once third, once fourth and once unplaced, Stay Gold must finally be smiling. A sum of 17,999,464,100 yen was bet on the Takarazuka Kinen. A sum of 25,340,183,100 yen was bet on the Sunday card. Ninety yen will get you one American dollar. The Japanese bet with both hands. The point is that if there was a third hand, they would bet with three hands.
Let us now take a look at the two big races at the Curragh on Saturday. The Grade I Pretty Polly, a 2000-metre race for fillies and mares, was taken by Chinese White. The Pretty Polly was the last career race for the Dermot Weld pupil who was handled by Pat Smullen. Akdarena set a fast pace. Chinese White raced second about four or five lengths off. The field was strung out and the John Murtagh-ridden and O’Brien-trained Remember When, the 18-10 favorite and a maiden trying to win a Group I race, lay in the rear. Chinese White went ahead midway down the lane and Flying Cloud pursued. Akdarena was getting leg weary and jockey Murtagh was getting no response from his filly.
Chinese White was a 4-1 chance. I remember the conversation I had with Barry Johnson, a leading bookmaker in England, in June 2008 at Epsom Downs on Oaks day. Mr Johnson was sweet on Chinese Whhite’s chances in the Oaks. Minutes before the race, Mr Johnson told me that money was not coming for Chinese White from the right people. He was right. The Oaks went to Look Here, a 33-1 chance, ridden by Seb Sanders.
This is what I believe influenced the fans at the Curragh. The favorite was the subject of big-time hype. Chinese White was pregnant. She was in foal to Cape Cross. Serious gamblers are deterred by such facts.
Dermot Weld was happy. “This is a special moment. This mare deserves it. It is her last race and it is fitting. She bows out with a Group I win.”
However, in the Grade III 2800-metre At the Races Curragh Cup, Smullen and Weld had to play second fiddle with the Melbourne Cup-bound mare, Profound Beauty to Tactic, a John Dunlop trainee, ridden by Tadhg O’Shea. Five ran and Tactic was a 5-1 chance.
Roses For The Lady, Fran Berry up, set fast fractions. Tactic went ahead with 300 metres left and Profound Beauty came calling. In a duel in the last 200, Tactic held the hard-charging Profound Beauty. The 2009 At the Races Curragh Cup was taken by Profound Beauty.
The race was run in 2 58.92 seconds and Tactic won by two lengths. Jockey O’Shea stated, “I had a willing partner who handles the ground and stays well. It was a worry taking on Profound Beauty as she’s the favorite for the Melbourne Cup and won well at Leopardstown last time out. My horse stayed on well and stuck his head where it counted.”