It's been a busy weekend in the horse racing world with top stakes races at Belmont and Santa Anita. We'll start with Belmont, where the Jockey Club Gold Cup was hosted in addition to several other stakes races.
Vosburgh S. (G1)
$350,000 for 3 yr. olds and older - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
The Vosburgh Invitational was first ran in 1940 and is now a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Shortly after the break, IMPERIAL HINT found his way to the lead and kept it to the wire under a hand ride taking the win in 1:08.27. MR. CROW finished second two lengths back and SILVER RIDE came from the back to finish third. Our picks had IMPERIAL HINT for the win and the Daily Double paid $10.
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1)
$500,000 for 3 yr. olds and older - 1 1/2 miles - Turf
Created in 1977 in honor of the award winning journalist Joe Hirsch, this turf race for 3 year olds is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf. CHANNEL MAKER is known to be a bit lazy when it comes to passing other horses, so Bill Mott took a different approach with the colt and sent him to the front. The strategy seemed to work even though most of the race looked to be a match race between him and TEODORO. CHANNEL MAKER came off on top with a time of 2:30.73 and by four and a half lengths over grade 1 winner ROBERT BRUCE. SADLER'S JOY finished third.
Pilgrim Stakes (G3)
$200,000 for 2 yr. Olds - 1 1/16 miles - Inner Turf
Pegged as an unofficial prep race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Pilgrim Stakes featured a field of 10 today at Belmont. After a rough break, the field settled in with OLE MOLE setting the pace with SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN tailing him and with FORTY UNDER at the back of the pack. FORTY UNDER began gaining ground quickly on the backstretch and around the turn. He quickly took the lead winning in 1:44.37 with SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN second and SOCIAL PARANOIA coming in third.
Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1)
$750,000 for 3 yr. Olds and Older - 1 1/4 miles - Dirt
It was a star studded field for the Jockey Club Gold Stakes with the likes of DIVERSIFY, MENDELSSOHN, GRONKOWSKI and THUNDER SNOW. But the final result turned out to be an upset and Cinderella story all rolled into one.
It was a slow start with THUNDER SNOW hanging out at the back of the pack with DIVERSIFY and MENDELSSOHN going to the front and setting very fast fractions. The two raced together several lengths ahead of the pack, but coming into the turn THUNDER SNOW and the 42-1 longshot, DISCREET LOVER closed the gap. In the homestretch, DISCREET LOVER dug deep and surged to the front, beating THUNDER SNOW by a neck with MENDELSSOHN third. The final time 1:59.99.
Trainer Uriah St. Lewis was all smiles with a handful of winning tickets. His 42-1 longshot paid $93 on a $2 wager and had bet $100 across the board. "We were right where we wanted to be. It was great," he said. In a streak of six losses, St. Lewis had learned his lesson chasing down the likes of DIVERSIFY in the Suburban and the Whitney. This time he instructed jockey Manuel Franco to "Take back, make one run." Those instructions paid off in a big way.
American Pharoah Stakes
$300,000 - 2 yr. Olds - 1 1/16 miles - Dirt
Out on the West Coast, Santa Anita was a buzz with more big stakes races including the American Pharoah - a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. After a quick break, the ROWAYTON went straight to the front with GAME WINNER and GUNMETAL GRAY tailing. GAME WINNER slowly took the lead and in the stretch surged ahead with GUNMETAL GRAY overtaking ROWAYTON. The final finish was GAME WINNER in 1:43.77, GUNMETAL GRAY second and ROWAYTON finishing third.
Our picks paid well on this one with the win paying $2.60, Place $2.10 and Show $2.10. The 4/2 Exacta paid $5.60, 4/2/1 Trifecta paid $8.40, Pick 3 paid $4.80 and the Daily Double paid $5.80.
$300,000 - 2 yr. Old Fillies - 1 1/16 miles - Dirt
VIBRANCE set the pace with BELLAFINA tagging along on the outside until the turn when jockey Flavien Prat made his move. That was all she wrote. BELLAFINA earned the win ahead of VIBRANCE by six and a half lengths in 1.44:59. BRILL finished third.
Trainer Simon Callaghan decided to take the blinkers off of BELLAFINA for this outing. The filly had been very aggressive in the Debutante and pulling the blinders this time out allowed her to relax and let the race play out instead of running herself out with fast fractions. Our picks paid $2.80 for the win and $3.40 for the show.
Rodeo Drive Stakes
$300,000 - 3 yr. Olds and up - 1 1/4 miles - Turf
It's not very often you see a former claimer in a top stakes race, but with VASILIKA things are a little different. The filly had 22 starts in claiming and allowance races before she found herself in the company of PAVED and CAMBODIA, but apparently she likes Santa Anita. It's a bonus that the Rodeo Drive Stakes is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
The two Irish horses TISBUTADREAM and QUEEN BLOSSOM set the pace early, but CAMBODIA quickly caught up. VASILIKA ran midpack, slowly working her way up to the front. It was a crowded finish with VASILIKA edging out the win, followed by PAVED and CAMBODIA. The final time was 1:59.04. While the filly was never Breeders' Cup nominated, she earned her berth with this win. "We'll probably talk about it," Hollendorfer said. "We're not nominated, but I think it's feasible to nominate her.
Our picks paid $2.40 for the win, $2.40 for the place and $9.80 for the Daily Double.
Awesome Again Stakes
$300,000 - 3 yr. Olds and Older- 1 1/8 miles - Dirt
The Awesome Again has been ran since 1982. Many champions have won this race including Silver Charm, Tiznow, Lava Man and Ferdinand. It's safe to say that the winner from this weekend is in pretty good company.
SHADES OF VICTORY and WEST COAST set the pace early. SHADES OF VICTORY quickly faded as ISOTHERM and ACCELERATE pressed. Around the turn, ACCELERATE took the lead from the outside for the win in 1:50.38. WEST COAT came in second with ISOTHERM finishing third.
Our picks paid $2.60 for the win, $2.10 for the place and $3.20 for the 6/5 Exacta. The Pick 3 paid $9.80 and the Daily Double paid $8.40.