Monday, August 23, 2010

Blind Luck takes Saratoga's Alabama: Evening Jewel justifies favoritism in Del Mar Oaks

Kieren Fallon is a friendly character. He spent several minutes chatting with me at Arlington Park on Saturday. He went nowhere with Armstrong Mill, his first ride, in the Stars and Stripes Handicap. In the Beverly D, Fallon was left at the gate with the Gerard Butler-trained Pachattack. Summit Surge, Fallon’s mount in the Arlington Million, lay in midfield and could not strike a blow.

At Deauville (France) on Sunday, jockey Fallon was aboard Contredanse, a Luca Cumani trainee, in the Group III 2000-metre Prix de la Nonette. Contredanse set out on a good gallop and looked like a winner 200 metres out. Lily of the Valley, the 7/5 favorite, and Zagora made their bids. In a three-way battle, Lily of the Valley, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, got up to win by a head from Contredanse who was a head in front of Zagora. Six ran and the time was 2 11.8 seconds. Jean-Claude Rouget trains Lily of the Valley who was winning her fifth consecutive race. Her first win came at Toulouse, next two at Saint Cloud and the fourth at Chantilly.

Two races later at Deauville, William Buck completed what has been termed the ‘transatlantic double.’ In the case of Kieren Fallon, there was minor recompense on Monday at Kempton Park in England. Fallon clicked with the Luca Cumani-schooled Cheetah in the second race. Cheetah traveled strongly while showing no ill effects from a 10-month layoff and was the 12/10 favorite.

“I do not ride two meetings in a day. It is too much. It has been a good season. I felt good about being leading rider at York’s Ebor meeting. I will reach 100 winners soon,” Fallon told me.

“I want to come to India to ride for a good stable. If there is an offer, I will seriously consider. I like racing in India,” he said.

“I will see you in Europe in September,” he concluded.

Dream Ahead was a 131/10 chance in the French tote in the Group I Prix Morny. The favorite was the streaking Libranno from Richard Hannon’s yard. Richard Hughes was the rider. Eleven freshmen ran in the 1200-metre (grass) Prix Morny. Libranno was completely off color and was beaten a long way from home. There was a colt from England trained by David Simcock who, in his career, had not won a race at the highest level. Dream Ahead was a nine-length winner in his debut at Nottingham in mid July. It was a leap of faith for trainer Simcock. A colt, who could compete in a contest for non winners of two races, was in Group I company but the confidence was not misplaced. William Buick brought Dream Ahead with a fluent run when it mattered to win by a length and a half. The time was 1 9.6 seconds. Tin Horse, a 30/1 longshot, headed the beaten brigade.

Dream Ahead is by Diktat out of Land of Dreams who is by Cadeaux Genereux. The English 2000 Guineas next year had a new contender with the British bookmakers. Dream Ahead was listed in the market at 16-1.

Trainer Simcock was absolutely thrilled. “I have always liked him. He is very mature and a scopey horse. We will think about the Middle Park Stakes (early October) and then the Dewhurst (mid October) after that.”

Here is news about Goldikova. She suffered a loss in the Jacques le Marois at rain-sodden Deauville on August 15. It has been reported that she is in fine shape and her next start will be in the Prix de la Foret on Arc day at Longchamp. The schedule calls for a trip to Churchill Downs in November for a three-peat in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

There was another Group I race at Deauville on Sunday. Stacelita, the French Oaks heroine last year, was the 4/5 favorite in the 2000-metre Prix Jean Romanet. Christophe Soumillon had the favorite in stalking position and struck the front about 400 metres from home. Antara, ridden by Frankie Dettori, mounted a serious challenge. It was a duel that kept the grandstanders on the edges of their seats. Stacelita kept going to win by a head to give jockey Soumillon two Group victories for the day.

The time was two minutes 9.3 seconds. Stacelita had run second to Midday in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the latter took the Yorkshire Oaks last Thursday. Stacelita is by Monsun ( a German sire) and out of Soignee who is by Dashing Blade. The Romanet was the eighth win in 11 outings for Stacelita who comes from Jean-Claude Rouget’s barn.

Trainer Rouget spoke. “The whole objective this season was to win a Group I with her as a four year old. There was that risk of running her three weeks after the Nassau. We will see her again in the E P Taylor in Canada. Hong Kong is also there. It was a good race today as the slow pace did not suit her.”

There was a Grade I race, the Alabama Stakes over 2000 metres for sophomore girls, at Saratoga on Saturday. Six ran and Acting Happy, setting a painfully slow pace, was at the helm. Devil May Care, the odds on favorite, and Havre de Grace raced as a pair in fourth and fifth. Blind Luck was sixth and last but in striking distance. Havre de Grace and Devil May Care challenged Acting Happy early in the lane as Blind Luck came charging four-wide turning for home. Havre de Grace was getting the measure of the stubborn Acting Happy and Devil May Care was not finding more. For a moment, it looked like Havre de Grace had the race won but Blind Luck, with her patented late rush, was gaining. With Joel Rosario in the all out mode, Blind Luck edged ahead in the shadow of the wire. Acting Happy stayed on to be third and Devil May Care finished a badly beaten fourth.

Blind Luck paid $5.60 on the tote. The 2000-metre Alabama was run in 2 03.89 seconds. Blind Luck is by Pollard’s Vision out of Lucky One who’s by Best of Luck. Pollard’s Vision is by Carson City. The Alabama gave Blind Luck her fifth Grade I win and made her five for five on the dirt. From 13 starts, Blind Luck has won nine times for earnings of $1.878,712.

Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer reflected. “I thought that when Joel (Rosario) made his move coming into the lane, he would have a good chance to run them down. It seems like we have the best three year-old filly right now.”

Another Grade I race in America on Saturday was the Del Mar Oaks, a turf contest over 1800 metres for three year-old girls. A filly who had made Blind Luck work extra hard in the Kentucky Oaks in April came out victorious. Evening Jewel, trained by James Cassidy who turned 65 on Saturday, gave her trainer a great birthday gift. Lacking room in the last turn, Victor Espinoza waited patiently and an opportunity came along. There was an opening and jockey Espinoza was quick to seize it. As Evening Jewel was getting to the top, Harmonious, a John Shirreffs pupil ridden by Mike Smith, came charging. However, Harmonious, off a win in the Grade I American Oaks at Hollywood Park, could not keep a straight course and that left Evening Jewel the winner by one half length in 1 47.27 seconds. Eight fillies ran.

Evening Jewel was the 14/10 favorite. The Northern Afleet filly was a winner in the Ashland at Keeneland (polytrack) in April. In the Kentucy Oaks at Churchill, Evening Jewel had what looked like a winning lead and was mugged on the line by the late-charging Blind Luck. Marilyn and Tom Braly own Evening Jewel. It was another shot in the arm for Tom Braly who is battling cancer.

James Cassidy said, “it was unbelievable. Normally, she has the lead or is outside and then does her thing. She was boxed in traffic today. She had to re-rally and do it all over again. Somebody said I could not win on my birthday. I have done it.”

John Shirreffs trains Harmonious. He commented. “She saw the lights on the tote board and started drifting out.”

Tom Krish

Chicago, Monday, August 23, 2010

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