Some great drama and some great and some not so great performances as Supe Prep Weekend II played out on Saturday.

As this is written, it’s approximately one hour to first post at Longchamp then, after a couple of more Grade 1s stateside, we’ll have some idea who the major players will be four weekends from now.

A short take on the high and low lights that transpired in the following major fall events, broken down by region.

And none of this would have been possible had God not invented the DVR. No major in depth revelations, but here are some good places to start when compiling your own analysis.


BELMONT TURF SPRINT: Since there’s no Eclipse category for turf sprinters—nor should there be—and this ungraded race is intended as a prep, NYRA should do the horsemen a favor and schedule this race at 5-1/2 furlongs, five if possible.

In our view, 6 furlongs into the shorter Breeders’ Cup sprint doesn’t go--and I’m a big turnback fan on a daily basis. Short turf sprints are for fast specialists, period.

Defending champion and Belmont course loving, the redoubtable Disco Partner did his thing as expected, improving his record to 9-for-14 over the course and 6-for-9 at the trip. If the Churchill Lawn takes a toll on the speed he could be fine, but we’ll take a position against.

If he goes, looks like Mike Michael would train late-scratch Churchill winner Maniacal up to the race.

An aside: Christophe Clement’s and Todd Pletcher’s uncoupled mates canceled each other out up front, while their late running mates completed the exacta.

G1 BELDAME: No Elate? No problem for Jose Ortiz. Taking this storied 9 furlong event back to back, Ortiz got had Wow Cat break with her field, allowed her to find her stride in good rhythm, launched mid-turn, winning by a non-threatened 3-1/4 lengths in full stride at the line with apparent energy in reserve. Chad Brown trained multiple Group 1 winning Chilean import is coming up to the Distaff the right way, in peaking form.

Have At It benefitted from an ideal run, sitting off a ridiculously loose soft-pace setting, never leaving the fence under heady David Cohen handling, striking feat in the Breeders’ Cup hearts of absolutely no one.

Ridiculously overbet Brown trainee Raging Bull had—ahem—absolutely no punch. Back to the drawing board with an eye toward his 4-year-old season. For Peter Brant, the game giveth then it taketh away in less than an hour. A shout-out to Chris Clement, his second stakes win of the afternoon.

Has Jose Ortiz stopped looking around yet? In a wow performance, after breaking with the field, Complexity scooted away and Ortiz began sneaking peeks, under his arms, over his shoulder, looking everywhere for competition that never materialized.

Nursing a length lead down the long backstretch run, tripping the timer in 45.31 at the half, he began separating himself at the turn—still looking for rivals—opened five and headstretch and was ridden out for a 3-length score in a lively 1:34.63, showing no signs of shortening stride at the wire despite his speed-oriented pedigree. His performance was, well, freakish, and it gave Brown his second Grade 1 of the day.

Two others caught the eye. Despite a troubled beginning, Shug McGaughey trainee Code of Honor, farther back than anyone anticipated, made a wide sweep into the lane and continued very well to the wire, lengthened stride very nicely late. The winner’s stablemate Maximus Aurelius works faster in his trials than he ran down the Belmont backstretch. Even farther back than Code of Honor, Aurelius Maximus rallied very well while wide through the lane, losing show by the bob of a head. He’s bred to go as far as they write races.


G2 WOODFORD: Hard-hitting Bucchero (30) 11-6-3 got away quickly after overcoming bumped break, settled into stride and sat a perfect rail trip, getting first run, taking his second straight Woodford. Horse for course is now (3) 2-1-0 in Lexington. Runnerup Will Call was very good. Dawdling early, he tipped six wide into the lane and roared home, nearly getting up. He’ll be second off the layup when he gets to Churchill, where he’s 2-for-2 lifetime. Talented 4-year-old now (12) 6-2-1 lifetime and figures to be live in Louisville.

G2 THOROUGHBRED CLUB OF AMERICA: Vertical Oak was very good, proving the speed of the speed, but Golden Mischief was better, chasing the pace, steadied between horses on the turn, then re-rallied gamely for the score. Perfect tripping Chalon, sitting off dueling leaders clear, tipped into 5-path entering the straight under what appeared an overconfident Javier Castellano. Flicking at her with a downturned right stick, he did not ask in earnest until inside the furlong pole and the ground loss very likely cost her the win.

G1 FIRST LADY: About 10 minutes after getting his picture taken in New York, Chad Brown-trained A Raving Beauty, with Johnny at the controls of a soft pace on ground that had some cut to it, was nursed throughout, separated herself in midstretch, needed every bit of that advantage as Dona Bruja stormed down the center of the course and made it an exciting finish, ultimately running out of ground at the end. It was Brown's third Grade 1 of the day.

Well backed European Crown Walk had a perfect rail trip behind the leaders beneath Mike Smith but the filly appeared to be a grinder, not a turn-of-foot type. Either that or she may prefer top of the ground footing. But you’d have to wonder if any of these would match up should one of the Arc horses ship west.

R9 G1 BREEDERS FUTURITY: It was a mess from the start as favorite Dream Maker was caught in a gate sandwich and eliminated at that point. Albin Jiminez sent Knicks Go to the front, first-time long with first-time Lasix, rated the colt cleverly and had more than enough to pull off the 70-1 shocker by 5-1/2 dominant lengths.

Two horses caught the idea: Derby Date gave an amazing effort, 5 wide 1st turn, 4 wide the rest of the way, making a huge turn move as to loom a possible win threat but understandably tired late. Standard Deviation was even farther back than Derby Date. Also compromised by a wide draw, he lost ground throughout, angled 7-wide into the lane while making very good ground but missing the place by 3/4s of a length, hanging a bit at the end. But it was a very promising second run.

G1 SHADWELL TURF MILE: Next Shares saved ground throughout under a heady Tyler Gaffalione, got through easily on the fence into the lane before drawing off with authority. West Coaster clearly appreciated getting off those billiard tables in SoCal, following up on his Kentucky Downs score in his prior start.

Third finisher Qurbaan suffered through a wide trip and should continue moving forward while Analyze It continued his schizophrenic season with a strong and promising first half season and not so much this summer and fall. In an attempt to change his style, he rated off the pace, did lose ground throughout but never loomed a threat.


G1 SANTA ANITA SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP: The champ is back and ready to defend his title. Roy H. was supposed to be vulnerable to his strong working rival, Ransom the Moon. Leaving the three-eighths, ‘Ransom’ had all the wide momentum and appeared to be going stronger of the two into the lane, which is exactly where Paco Lopez pulled the string, getting first run on his speed pace setting stablemate, Distinctive B, continuing stoutly to the wire as ‘Ransom’ flattened out. The champ vs. bullet Imperial Hint is s highly anticipated match.

G2 CITY OF HOPE MILE: Fly to Mars and Sharp Samurai put on their usual good show and made the last race of the day worth waiting for, rating a 10 on the drama scale. But the fact that a sharp recent claimer was 2-1/4 lengths farther, even in a swiftly run 1:32.47, raises eventual class questions come the first weekend in November especially on ground that is likely to play much differently.

Bets n' Pieces: The remaining serious preps are taking place today and tomorrow topped by seven Group 1s from Longchamp Sunday morning EDT, including the fabled Arc.

Stateside over the next two days are today’s two Grade 1s from Belmont, the Frizette and Flower Bowl and the G1 Spinster and G3 Bourbon at Keeneland. The remaining graded stakes is Monday’s G3 La Woman for filly sprinters at Santa Anita.

Two-year-olds will prep in today’s Futurity and Matron Monday at Belmont, first time each will be raced on the turf at 6 furlongs; Keeneland will offer the Indian Summer for juvenile filly sprinters and the babies will go longer at Santa Anita, with the mile Zuma Beach and the Surfer Girl for fillies.