JC / Railbird

Graded Stakes

Belmont Stakes Day

Tapwrit wins the Belmont Stakes, and the 2017 Triple Crown season ends with trainer Todd Pletcher taking two of the three races and super-sire Tapit getting his third Belmont winner, achieving that record within four years:

The star of the Belmont card, though, was Songbird, making her 4-year-old debut a winning one in the Ogden Phipps. It was hardly an effortless return for the champion, who had to fend off a strong challenge from Paid Up Subscriber on the turn and work to get past her in the stretch. An appreciative crowd gave the filly and jockey Mike Smith an ovation when the pair paused in front of the clubhouse apron on their way to the winner’s circle.

“Let’s call this a great race off the layoff,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “I’m not sure she’s at the top of her game right now, but she did very well today.”

Beyer and TimeformUS speed figures for the Belmont card graded races:

Race Winner BSF TFUS
Belmont Stakes Tapwrit 103 120
Manhattan Ascend 104 130
Met Mile Mor Spirit 117 130
Just a Game Antonoe 101 119
Woody Stephens American Anthem 102 121
Jaipur Stakes Disco Partner 109 120
Ogden Phipps Songbird 97 116
Acorn Stakes Abel Tasman 99 117
Brooklyn War Story 102 114

Figures via DRF stakes results and TFUS figuremaker Craig Milkowski.

Watch the Belmont Stakes and replays of the other graded races:

Crammed

Jeff Scott is another questioning the “Big Day” trend:

So-called “mini-Breeders’ Cups” are a growing trend, but are they always a good thing? With the Saratoga meet extending over 40 days, does it make sense to cram nearly half the Grade 1s (6 of 15) into a three-hour period on a single one of those days? At a time when attendance has been in steady decline, wouldn’t it be better to keep the major attractions more evenly distributed, to give people — especially close followers of the sport — more of a reason to come to the track all seven weekends of the meet, not just four or five of them?

Super Saturday Aftermath

Two weeks ago, the Breeders’ Cup Classic looked as though it would be a showdown between two California 3-year-olds. Now it’s setting up as an East Coast vs. West Coast sophomore clash, after Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist exited a troubled Jockey Club Gold Cup with his second Grade 1 win and an improved, blinkers-off running style, and undefeated Shared Belief was tested, but not bested, by trainer Bob Baffert’s duo of Fed Biz and Sky Kingdom in the Awesome Again. Both winners reportedly came out their races in fine shape.

That’s the good news. The bad is that jockey Rajiv Maragh is out indefinitely with a broken arm after falling from Wicked Strong during the first half of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Junior Alvarado, aboard Moreno when he veered into Wicked Strong’s path, causing the two to clip heels, is due before the stewards at Belmont Park this Wednesday to discuss the incident. [10/1/14 Update: Alvarado has been suspended for 15 days (DRF+ link).]

At Santa Anita, the stewards have already handed Victor Espinoza a seven-day suspension for the Awesome Again, in which his mount, Sky Kingdom, the longest shot in the field, steered Mike Smith and Shared Belief toward the center of the track on the first turn and then kept them running wide until he tired on the far turn and fell back to finish last. Trakus shows Shared Belief running 66 feet more than runner-up Fed Biz, who had a rail trip.

“It’s ridiculous,” Espinoza told Art Wilson on Saturday, responding to the allegation that Sky Kingdom was acting as a foil for his stablemate’s competition. “I would never try to hurt anybody or bump somebody, especially a horse like that. He’s an amazing horse. My horse, he always runs on the outside. He doesn’t like having dirt kicked in his face.”

Whether intentional or not, writes Mike Watchmaker, “what Espinoza did in the Awesome Again looks bad. Really bad. It appeared unprofessional.” You can judge for yourself: Watch Santa Anita’s HD replay.

While Smith was hotly deriding his rival’s post-race explanation, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was playing it cool. “We’re all big boys,” he said. “It’s no big deal for me. Mike [Smith] will have to settle up with Victor [Espinoza]. It’s not the worst thing in the world to have a tough race and be double fit for the Breeders’ Cup. That race will be tougher, so we’ll need to be tougher too.”

Beyer speed figures and TimeformUS ratings for Super Saturday’s Belmont Park and Santa Anita graded stakes winners:


Figure sources: DRF stakes results (Beyers); Craig Milkowski (TimeformUS)

Re: Shared Belief’s 114 for the Awesome Again, Craig Milkowski tweeted, “If our figures included ground loss, particularly ground loss in relation to pace, Shared Belief would easily be 125+ …”

Super Saturday 2014

Today’s group and graded stakes with potential Breeders’ Cup implications from Newmarket to Santa Anita, listed in order of approximate post time:

Charts, replays, and occasional updates to be added through the day.

4:25 PM: Stephanie’s Kitten, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies winner, just earned her way into this year’s Filly and Mare Turf with a win in the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park as the 6-5 favorite (following second-place finishes in the Beverly D. and Diana this summer). You know Stephanie’s Kitten will be at Santa Anita so long as she’s sound, but the same can’t be said for Kelso Handicap winner Vyjack — according to the post-race quote sent out by NYRA, trainer Rudy Rodriguez had been targeting the Cigar Mile. “I have to talk to the owner and see what his plans are now,” said Rodriquez. Woodward winner Itsmyluckyday, not Breeders’ Cup nominated, finished third in the Kelso. Said Jockey Paco Lopez after, “He tried really hard, but I don’t think he liked the track.” Woodward runner-up Moreno is pegged as the 7-2 second favorite on the Jockey Club Gold Cup morning line.

4:55 PM: Private Zone must like Belmont. Winless in three starts since last year’s Vosburgh Stakes, he became the first horse in 24 years to win the Vosburgh for two consecutive years (the last was New Jersey-bred Sewickley in 1989-1990, whose broodmare sire was Dr. Fager, a back-to-back Vosburgh winner in 1967-68). Too bad for Private Zone that the Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita again. He finished 10th in the 2013 Sprint.

5:47 PM: Wow — 10 minutes to post in the Zenyatta Stakes and 95% of the show pool is on two-time champion Beholder, making her first start since sustaining an injury while finishing fourth in the June 7 Phipps at Belmont:

The pools for the Zenyatta Stakes by percentage, 10 minutes before post time

6:10 PM: You have to admire a filly as game and classy as Beholder:

10:00 PM: Here’s how much further Trakus says Shared Belief had to run than runner-up Fed Biz to win the Awesome Again after Sky Kingdom (the other Baffert and the longest shot in the field) forced him wide on the first turn:

Trakus numbers for the 2014 Awesome Again finish

Stakes Inflation

Chris Rossi on the graded stakes bubble:

As foal crops have declined, so has the number of race days for a total of 6,250 race days lost since 2006. Yet the number of stakes awarded graded status has remained level: 475 awarded in 2006 and 474 awarded in 2011. This failure to adapt to the new racing landscape has resulted in an increase of 14% in the number of races awarded graded status.

The 2016 projection should strike fear in everyone involved in breeding and selling American Thoroughbreds. Without correction, short fields and ducking connections won’t be just the bane of bettors in the very near future.

(Neither the Paulick Report nor Equidaily like to pick up Raceday 360 pieces, but both should aggregate this one.)

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