We will begin with a thought on Starspangledbanner who won the Darley July Cup at Newmarket last Friday. A 2-1 chance and the favorite, Starspangledbanner was coming off a front-stepping won in Royal Ascot’s Golden Jubilee Stakes. Fourteen ran in the July Cup and the Aidan O’Brien-trained speedball again made it all in the July Cup. John Murtagh was aboard. Equiano, winner of the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, mounted a fierce challenge. Starspangledbanner’s resolve was tested but no chink was found in his armor. The July Cup, a Grade I contest, was the British leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
By Choisir out of Gold Anthem by Made Of Gold, Starspangledbanner, a four year-old colt, clocked 1 12.57 at Ascot. In the July Cup, the time was 1 9.81 seconds, considerably faster. There is a possibility that Aidan O’Brien may elect to take his chances in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs coming November. From 15 starts, Starspangledbanner has a 7-1-2 record for earnings of 1,045,550 pounds and there is, without question, more to come.
Jockey Jimmy Fortune rode two winners in the Friday card at Newmarket. In the 3 45 P M race, Catfish won at 40-1. Let us assume you bet one pound on Catfish. You will have 41 pounds. In the 4 20 PM race, Jimmy Fortune won with Memen, a 12-1 chance. Now, you bet your 41 pounds on Memen. Your return will be 533 pounds. That is a 532-1 double for Jimmy Fortune who primarily rides as a free lancer this year in England.
Here is graded action from America. Gio Ponti won two Eclipse awards in 2009. He was second to Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gio Ponti was the 2/5 favorite in Saturday’s Man O’ War Stakes (2200 metres on the grass) at Belmont Park. It was a Grade I race. Eight answered the starter’s call. Gio Ponti, a Christophe Clement ward, trailed. Mission Approved went ahead in the lane but Gio Ponti, in the hands of Ramon Dominguez, rallied. The winning margin was a neck. The time was 2 16.20 seconds.
Gio Ponti, now five, ended a five-race losing streak. Trainer Clement spoke, “the grass is green and even greener now. I am delighted. The race went completely against him. They walked in front. He was last. He is versatile. We will look at the Arlington Million or the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.”
Blind Luck has been a money spinner for her connections. She was the 3/10 favorite in Saturday’s Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park. Seven ran on the sloppy dirt track and it was a Grade II race with a $250,000 purse. It was the first time in the slop in the 12-race career for Blind Luck. Joel Rosario rode Blind Luck.
Blind Luck was seventh and last down the backstretch and made up ground gradually. In the stretch, she ran on to catch Havre de Grace, who was shaping like a winner, on the line. It was a head bob. The 1700-metre Oaks was run in 1 43.34 seconds.
Jockey Rosario commented. “It was close but she got there. She broke slow, the track was wet. Sometimes, you have to take your time and let your horse settle. At the 3/8 pole, I asked her and she did what had to be done. She’s a nice filly.”
Let us take at the action at Calder in Miami, Florida. It was the ‘summit of speed’ and the main races were sprints. The Princess Rooney stakes was a 1200-metre Grade I race for fillies and mares. It was a ‘you win and you’re in’ race for the Breeders’ Cup. Jessica Is Back, a six year-old mare, ridden by Elvis Trujillo, proved the best. She returned $19.00. The time was 1 11.48 on the main track. Martin Wolfson trains Jessica Is Back.
Warbling had what looked like an insurmountable lead in the Princess Rooney but Jessica Is Back closed with a tremendous rush. Trainer Wolfson thought aloud. “She (Jessica Is Back) ran hard in her last start against Rachel Alexandra. Calder is a tough track for shippers and though Warbling opened a long lead in the stretch, I was confident that my mare, coming off that mile and eighth, would be able to run her (warbling) down.”
Pica Slew won the Grade III Azalea. Coffee Boy took the Grade II Carry Back. The Grade II Smile sprint went to Big Drama. All the four winners (including Jessica Is Back) are Calder-based., proving the point home ground advantage is critical.
We now go to Hollywood Park in Los Angeles, California. The Grade I Triple Bend was won by E Z’s Gentleman, a 39/10 chance. The time for the 1400-metre race was 1 21.11 seconds. Sangaree was second and Gayego, the 3-2 favorite, salvaged third. E Z’s Gentleman and Sangaree are trained by Bob Baffert. E Z’s Gentleman gave jockey Martin Pedroza (44) his 1,000th career victory. Pedroza stalked M One Rifle and took advantage of an opening along the rail to hit the front and win by three and one quarter lengths. Trainer Baffert indicated that the $300,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes over 1400 at Del Mar on August 28 may be the next race for E Z’s Gentleman.
Jockey Pedroza was emotional. “I am sweating so much because this is like winning the Santa Anita Handicap or six races in a day. Getting my 1,000th win in a Grade I here, means a lot to me.”
It was the first Grade I win for Pedroza since winning the 2006 Santa Maria Handicap.
There was another Grade I race at Hollywood Park on Saturday. It was the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. Fans refused to look beyond Rail Trip who was the 2/5 favorite. Rail Trip carried high weight of 123 pounds and was the defending champion. Victories in this year’s Mervyn Le Roy Handicap and the Californian Stakes had cemented Rail Trip’s already lofty reputation.
Victory in the Gold Cup, however, belonged to Awesome Gem, a seven year old. Six ran and Awesome Gem took 2 03.31 seconds to run the 2000-metre (dirt) distance. David Flores rode. Craig Dollase trains Awesome Gem who returned $18.00 on a $2.00 wager.
Rail Trip was wide all the way. He led 200 metres out but Awesome Gem put in a burst to get the verdict by one half length. Awesome Gem was getting seven pounds from Rail Trip. Tres Borrachos, who normally sets a fast pace, broke in the air and settled in the rear. Compari went at a slow clip.
Trainer Dollase was in an ebullient mood. “I have finally won the Hollywood Gold Cup. It is pretty exciting. A lot of work went into keeping this horse sound over the years.”
Awesome Gem found room late on the fence and jockey Flores explained. “When that hole opened up, I could not look for any better spot. That was the most beautiful thing, when you have a horse that can accelerate like that at any time.”
I do not agree with those who say that Suraj Narredu rode an ill-judged race on Sun Kingdom. On that day, Moonlight Romance ran better despite some anxious moments in the first eighth. Hughes tracked the leader and this put Moonlight Romance in double jeopardy. I do not know how fast the fractions were. The fractions must have been soft enough and that helped Moonlight Romance. Suraj’s timing cannot be faulted. There is one thing about which I am certain. Sun Kingdom is capable of finding more and reversing the result. Richard Hughes is world class. He is smart and he thinks with precision and clarity. He is an asset.
I had mentioned in my Racing Pulse story about an article that Suraj Narredu had written in a Bangalore publication. I had said that Suraj’s writing skills are as good as his riding skills. This reference was omitted, I believe inadvertently, and I wanted to make sure my readers know that there was an omission.