HRI Exclusive: HorseRaceInsider has learned from multiple sources that the major stakes races of Saturday, August 17, have concluded. The beginning of the end came last night—fairly sure it was last night—at 9:46 pm, EDT.
Here’s what we learned:
- That early speed is always dangerous
- That Acclimate and Higher Power have gained all-expenses-paid entry into the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Classic, respectively—even though it’s a home game for both
- That Chad Brown is the most super of super-trainers, although John Sadler is narrowing that gap.
- That whether you like or dislike the Saratoga weather, give it about 30 minutes; just ask the Alabama fillies. Certainly, Dunbar Road didn’t mind the atmospherics.
- That the best race of the day was Grade 2, not a Grade 1.
- That sunny skies, when turfing and surfing, with temps in the 70s, never gets old
- That Andre Fabre, thanks to Earthlight, also will return to the Breeders’ Cup, all expenses paid, this time with a Juvenile Turf Sprinter
Early speed, especially soft-paced or uncontested speed and coming over hard or short-cropped turf, will win, even if grass racing IS a rallier’s game.
How Acclimate easily could shoot to the front from the far outside slip in the nine-horse Del Mar Handicap and make all, in splits of 24.12, 47.70 and 1:11.97, even at 11 furlongs, laughably slow by SoCal standards, was fortunate for both his connections and backers.
Of course, there was more than enough in the tank for a final three furlongs in 36.56. Kudos to runnerup Oscar Dominguez who came from last and cut the winner’s margin to a length at the wire.
The Pacific Classic, which attracted horses that are a bit better than Grade 2 but not quite Grade 1 thus far, was rife for an upset. HRI mentioned in its Pacific Classic advance that John Sadler might have had something up his sleeve.
Thus this week’s declaration of Catalina Cruiser from the race in favor of “turf horse” Higher Power. Presumably, Flavien Prat had his choice, landed here, and completed a “win-and-in” French sweep; countryman Florent Geroux walking the dog earlier with Acclimate.
Prat stalked to Quip’s lead, who inexplicably had no answer on the final turn when Higher Power came calling, despite 47.68 and 1:12.65 splits. The other favorites, Seeking the Soul and Pavel, also no-showed. It seems some horses either like Del Mar or they don’t.
Considering the pace, a 2:02.43 final was respectable. No one closed off the moderate pace except fourth finisher Tenfold, who saved ground at no juncture beneath an extremely conservative Mike Smith.
Conversely, Johnny Velazquez rode like a Hall of Famer, winning three at Del Mar including the G1 Del Mar Oaks with very talented Cambier Parc, giving Brown his fifth, a second Grade 1, and a Grade 2, which he was nice enough to share with Graham Motion.
Johnny reserved Cambier Road until both were ready, tipped her wide at headstretch for a clear run and the filly did the rest. Timed 1-1/18 miles in 1:46.75, the final furlong was clicked off in 11.98. Imagine that, a Chad Brown turf horse that can kick strongly late?
Meanwhile, back at the Spa, Varenka and Regal Glory, with Blowout in a strong supporting role, put on a great show in the G2 Lake Placid.
Blowout gained an easy lead at another absurdly slow early lick—even for New York—and had plenty left for the stretch challenge, falling a grim neck shy of withstanding the dead-heating fillies, both flying down the center of the course.
Varenka gets a few more style points after spotting Regal Glory by almost two lengths into the straight, but no one can dispute a final three-sixteenths in 28.69, the closing sixteenth in a somewhat incredible 05.74. Check out the remarkable stretch run.
After the skies had opened, no Alabama filly was interested in setting the pace. Consequently, Javier Castellano, trying to save ground from a wide draw with Point of Honor, found himself in tight entering the lower first turn, eating lots of wet dirt the rest of the way.
In the meantime, Jose Ortiz, attempting to win his third straight Alabama, saved ground throughout and enjoyed a trouble free journey until he was ready to set his filly down.
Effortlessly moving four wide approaching headstretch, Ortiz tipped six wide into the lane and Dunbar Road was now on a roll. She gained the lead in midstretch, greenly lugging in at that point, but began to draw away, increasing her winning margin to 2-3/4 lengths.
The entertainment continued Sunday morning with the Group 1 Prix Morny from Deauville, France. Of his three options, Frankie Dettori chose to ride Raffle Prize, the favorite who he put on the lead immediately.
The pace was not soft nor was the lead uncontested, but Dettori still looked a winner about a furlong out as Earthlight surged up alongside and a battle was joined. The Mark Johnston-trained filly just had too much momentum and would not be denied victory.
Parenthetically, Dettori returned an hour later for main man John Gosden and the team emerged winners of the G1 Prix Jean Romanet, Frankie giving Coronet a perfectly covered-up trip. Nothing new about this team’s result, nor the means to get there.
Catch your breath and get ready; Travers week starts now.
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