Edited NYRA Staff Release – George Krikorian’s War Like Goddess, who was a dominant winner of Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet, will now set her sights on another matchup with male rivals in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 5 at Keeneland.
A bay daughter of English Channel, War Like Goddess scored the second Grade 1 victory of her career with a smart ride by Jose Lezcano, tracking in third through the first mile and a quarter of the 1 1/2-mile turf marathon before unleashing her bid in the final turn and powering away to a 2 3/4-length score over determined pacesetter Bye Bye Melvin. The win, which earned a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure, came on the heels of a troubled second when attempting a title defense in the Grade 2 Flower Bowl at Saratoga Race Course where she stalked a pedestrian pace set by the victorious Virginia Joy and came up a neck shy after a late run in the stretch.
Mott said it was satisfying to see War Like Goddess work out a clean trip in the Joe Hirsch with Lezcano in the irons for the first time.
“It was good. I was happy to see her get an opportunity to run her race,” said Mott. “I think it helped that there was a little pace in the race and they strung the field out a little bit and that they weren’t all jammed up going super slow. There was a legitimate pace horse in there.”
With the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf contested at 1 3/16-miles at Keeneland, War Like Goddess will instead set her sights on added distance against the boys in the 12-furlong Grade 1, $4 million Turf.
The Joe Hirsch win was the second graded score on the card for Mott and Lezcano, who teamed up three races earlier to capture the Grade 2 Vosburgh with Juddmonte’s Elite Power. The win garnered a 96 Beyer and awarded Elite Power with a berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 5 at Keeneland as part of the “Win And You’re In” series should his connections decide to test him in deeper waters.
The Vosburgh was the fourth consecutive win for Elite Power, adding to a nine-length maiden victory in June at Churchill Downs and two allowance level scores at the Louisville oval and Saratoga, respectively. His other start this year was a third-place finish in a May maiden in his first start back from a six-month layoff.
“He’s been great this year,” said Mott. “We had to give him a little time over the winter, but he’s got a near-perfect record this year.”
Mott also provided updates on his multiple Grade 1 winners Casa Creed and Channel Maker, who have both scored graded wins on the turf this year. LRE Racing and JEH Racing’s Casa Creed, a son of Jimmy Creed, finished a close fifth behind the victorious Annapolis in the Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile yesterday at Keeneland after rallying from 5 1/2 lengths off the pace.
The 6-year-old bay has captured two Grade 1 events this year with a gutsy half-length score in the six-furlong Jaipur in June at Belmont Park and a 1 1/2-length victory in the one-mile Fourstardave Handicap in August at Saratoga.
With victories in the Jaipur and Fourstardave, Casa Creed has been awarded a berth into both the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and Breeders’ Cup Mile as part of the “Win And You’re In” series. Mott said he and Casa Creed’s owners are still determining which division he will contest.
As for Channel Maker, the veteran gelding is expected to make a start in the 12-furlong Grade 3 Sycamore on Friday at Keeneland. An 8-year-old son of English Channel, Channel Maker was last seen finishing a distant 10th in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer in August at the Spa. This year, he boasts a victory at the same course and distance as the Sycamore in the Grade 2 Elkhorn in April, an effort in which he set a stakes record with a final time of 2:27.10. He also posted a determined neck victory over Soldier Rising in the Grand Couturier in July at Belmont Park.
“He’ll run in the race at Keeneland this week, but I doubt he’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup,” said Mott.
A nine-time winner from 47 starts, the evergreen Channel Maker has collected in excess of $3.6 million in purses and six graded stakes victories. He received Eclipse Award honors in 2020 for Champion Turf Male, as well as the Sovereign Award for 2017 Champion 3-Year-Old Colt.
G3 Matron-winner American Apple to target G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
KatieRich Stables’ Kentucky homebred American Apple provided trainer Daniel Leitch with his first career stakes score, powering gamely to the wire to secure a neck win in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Matron at six-furlongs over good outer turf at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Eric Cancel picked up the mount from regular pilot Gerardo Corrales and engineered a perfect trip from post 3 in the 11-horse field of juvenile fillies. The American Pharoah bay rated kindly in third position from the two-path before angling outside the pacesetting Fleetfooted in upper stretch and staving off a late bid from Redifined to post a 47-1 upset in final time of 1:09.59. The victory garnered a career-best 87 Beyer Speed Figure.
Leitch admitted to being concerned as the field made the turn for home.
“I was a little nervous there. He [Cancel] had so much horse and nowhere to go, but thank God that hole opened up and he went on with it. It was a really good ride,” said Leitch over the phone en route back to his Kentucky base at Keeneland. “She walked on the truck like a champ. She ate up everything last night and it seems like she didn’t even run yesterday. She seems like a real superstar. Hopefully, everything goes good from here on out.”
While there was some consideration post-race for American Apple to stay against her own kind in the six-furlong $120,000 Stewart Manor on November 5 at the Big A, Leitch said she is most likely to cut back and take on the boys in the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at 5 1/2-furlongs on November 4 at Keeneland.
“We’ll probably go for the Breeders’ Cup,” Leitch said. “We know this is what she likes now. We’re stabled there so why not just walk her over instead of shipping her back up.
“She’s a filly going against the boys. If she runs good, it’s a big thing,” he added. “If not, we’ll go back against the fillies somewhere else. You have to go for it when you can.”
Leitch said American Apple will enjoy a little downtime before returning to serious training.
“We’ll give her a couple days walking and then take her back to the track and see how she goes from there,” Leitch said. “We’ll see how her attitude is. I want to keep her happy and not do too much with her. We’ll play it day-by-day.”
Out of the KatieRich-campaigned graded stakes-placed Clever Trick mare Miss Mary Apples, American Apple is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Lady Apple, who thrived in dirt routes for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
American Apple made her first two starts with fifth-place finishes in dirt sprints at Churchill Downs while keeping good company with her May debut won by eventual stakes winner Devious Dame and her June follow-up captured by eventual graded-stakes winner Just Cindy.
American Apple, who had been outworking another well-regarded KatieRich homebred in Zapple, was switched to turf for her third outing on July 15 at Ellis Park and ran a prominent third traveling one mile over firm going in a race won by C C Cruise Control, who finished fifth in Friday’s Grade 2 Jessamine at Keeneland.
Leitch’s confidence in American Apple’s talents was buoyed when Zapple romped to a 9 1/4-length score two days later on July 17 an off-the turf maiden special weight sprint at Ellis Park. He brought American Apple back on September 14 in a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint at Kentucky Downs and the talented bay responded with a driving nose score.
“We started looking at what the Pharoah offspring were doing and they were doing really well on the turf sprinting,” said Leitch. “We tried her long first time and she got a little headstrong and didn’t really settle. She was right there at seven-eighths but just didn’t finish up that last eighth. That’s why we shortened
her back up at Kentucky Downs and she ran really ran well there.”
Leitch said Corrales, who guided American Apple through her first four starts, is likely to keep the mount at Keeneland.
“When we were breezing her in April, he said this was his Breeders’ Cup horse,” Leitch said. “We didn’t think that at the time. We thought she was nice, but he was the one saying it back then.”
While American Apple followed her maiden score with Saturday’s impressive stakes coup, Zapple endured a troubled trip at second asking when off-the-board in the seven-furlong Debutante on August 14 at Ellis.
“She got pinched real bad and stumbled. We had to put three stitches in her leg,” Leitch said. “She’s at the farm right now. Hopefully, we get her back in the next month and see where we go with her.”
The Matron score, notched with just his 52nd career starter, is part of a meteoric rise for the 28-year-old Leitch, who won with his first starter, Midway’s Angel, last September at Horseshoe Indianapolis.
A native of California, Leitch moved to Kentucky at 5-years-old with his mom, Michelle Leitch, who had worked as an exercise rider for John Ward and the Paulson family among others.
“I grew up on the track. Any time I had off school, I’d go to the track and help her out,” Leitch said.
He noted some of his formative years came in the barn of trainer Alice Cohn.
“I’d go around her barn a lot and ask to help out with whatever I could do instead of just sitting there,” he said, with a laugh. “When I was 9-years-old, I was cleaning water buckets, feed tubs and sweeping and raking. Whatever needed to be done.”
Leitch persevered with his on-track education and quickly rose through the ranks.
“I walked hots, grooming and just worked my way up to foreman, assistant and now I’m training,” he said. “I’ve got 12 in training now – one of my own, three from Laura Wohlers and the rest are KatieRich. I’ve had really good opportunities and I can’t thank my connections enough.”
Leitch sports a 50 percent in-the-money record of 11-7-8 from his 52 starts for purse earnings of $462,448. He said Saturday’s stakes score was surreal.
“I’m still thinking this is a dream and I’m waking up from it,” Leitch said. “I always knew she had it in her. She’d been training really good and working really good and I knew she was going to be a good horse. It was just her figuring it out and doing it in the afternoon. The last two starts she really figured it out and she really improved yesterday.”
Leitch plies his trade daily at Keeneland and his mom, now retired from exercise riding, oversees a barn at KatieRich Farms. The young conditioner said he’s in awe of how far he’s come in such a short time.
“Last year, I didn’t think I’d even have a winner but to have a winner in your first year and now to have a horse for the Breeder’s Cup, it’s unbelievable,” Leitch said.
Mind Control to train up to G1 Cigar Mile
Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stable’s multiple Grade 1-winner Mind Control – a last out repeat winner of the Parx Dirt Mile on September 24 – is slated to train up to the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile on December 3 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 6-year-old Stay Thirsty bay brags a highly productive resume, including eight total graded stakes victories from a 28-11-3-6 record and earnings of $1,773,334. He has won at least one graded stakes each year since 2018, when he burst onto the scene with an upset triumph in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Mind Control gamely turned back Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Hot Rod Charlie in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile on June 18 at Monmouth Park. The effort matched a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure, a number he also ran in last year’s Parx Dirt Mile when defeating Grade 1-winner Silver State. He crossed the wire second in this year’s running of that race but was elevated to first, following the disqualification of Far Mo Power.
Mind Control boasts a 7-4-2-1 record at Aqueduct, where he has won three graded stakes races.
“He came out of the race in perfect order. He’s over at Belmont Park with Todd’s division. What we are going to do is give him a little freshening and run him back in the Cigar Mile,” said Red Oak racing manager Rick Sacco. “He absolutely loves Aqueduct and at this point in his career, he has four starts going a mile – three wins and a second. He put up some big numbers last out. A 5 on the sheets and a third triple-digit Beyer.”
Prior to his most recent effort, Mind Control was stretched out to nine furlongs for the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on August 26 at Charles Town, where he finished third beaten 4 1/2 lengths.
“We turned him back to a mile from the Charles Town Classic,” Sacco said. “Todd and I thought he would handle the sharp turns at Charles Town, even though it was a little out of his distance. He stumbled out of the gate, lost all position, dropped way out of the race and finished a strong third.”
Sacco said the Cigar Mile could be Mind Control’s last race.
“That’s the plan. We had multiple stallion offers last year and Steve Brunetti and Sol Kumin wanted to still run,” Sacco said. “Every single year from 2 to 6, he’s won a graded stakes. He’s knocked off Hot Rod Charlie and Silver State who are both really nice horses. He’s awesome at a mile and we’re really looking forward to the Cigar Mile. There could be one more race after the Cigar Mile in January, but right now our focus is getting him ready for the Cigar Mile.”
Sacco also reported that Mind Control’s multiple graded stakes placed half-sister Goddess of Fire has been given an extended break and is turned out at Red Oak Farm. The Pletcher-trained 3-year-old daughter of Mineshaft was a last out seventh in the Grade 1 Cotillion on September 24 at Parx.
Bye Bye Melvin under consideration for G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf
Bye Bye Melvin put to rest any doubts trainer Graham Motion had about the 5-year-old son of Uncle Mo stretching out to 12 furlongs with a game pacesetting second in Saturday’s 12-furlong Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
The Alex M. Campbell, Jr. homebred equaled his career best 101 Beyer with his runner-up effort to War Like Goddess, logging the same number in his previous effort when a wire-to-wire winner going nine furlongs on September 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
Guided by Feargal Lynch, Bye Bye Melvin logged honest splits of 24.25 seconds, 48.96, 1:13.68 and 1:39.10, and battled gamely in mid-stretch when challenged by War Like Goddess to finish 2 3/4 lengths in arrears of the dual Grade 1-winning mare.
“Considering it was his first time doing that, I thought it was very impressive. It was fairly obvious on paper that he’d be on the lead and Feargal did a good job with him,” Motion said.
The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was Bye Bye Melvin’s third start off a 14-month layoff. Prior to his September victory, he was a close fourth beaten a neck in July at Saratoga in a race won by next out graded stakes winner Emaraaty. This was his first start since finishing a well-beaten tenth in the Grade 1 Manhattan in June 2021 at 10 furlongs, which prior to the Joe Hirsch was the furthest he had travelled.
Out of the Grade 1-winning Dynaformer mare Karlovy Vary, Bye Bye Melvin is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes-winning turf stayer Mean Mary, by Scat Daddy, who was also conditioned by Motion.
“I was a little concerned [regarding stamina] just because of the Uncle Mo on top, whereas she was by Scat Daddy,” Motion said. “You never quite know. His one race going a mile and a quarter was a little disappointing, but I don’t think he was doing as well then as he is now. He’s some animal. In the flesh, he’s an impressive-looking individual.”
Motion said a rematch with War Like Goddess in the 12-furlong Grade 1, $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 5 at Keeneland will be under consideration for Bye Bye Melvin. Motion previously captured the Turf with Better Talk Now  and Main Sequence .
“We’ll take a look at the Breeders Cup,” Motion said. “We ran Mean Mary [seventh in the 2020 Filly and Mare Turf] and things didn’t work out. I don’t think it was through any fault of her own. But I feel like there’s no reason not to give it a try. It’s Mr. Campbell’s home track, and this is what it’s all about. The horse who beat him yesterday will be the favorite in whichever race she goes in.”