THE WEEKEND WRAP UP
Feb. 5th – 6th
Mor Spirit Wins Gr. 3 Robert B. Lewis
The West Coast’s top Kentucky Derby contender, Mor Spirit showed he’s got plenty more in the tank in Saturday’s $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park. The bay colt, conditioned by Triple Crown winner and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, won by a length and half and earned himself 10 critical points to start in horse racing’s most prestigious event.
Going in the favorite, Mor Spirit broke nicely and settled into a comfortable third while pacesetters I Will Score and Uncle Lino battled it out leading into the final turn of the 1 1/16 mile race. Expertly piloted by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, Mor Spirit sprang into action and quickly overtook the front runners as they approached the wire.
“I actually got there quicker than I wanted to. I was loaded going into the stretch,” said Stevens. “He’s pretty special and I’m looking forward to facing more competition. He seems to do just enough for what’s in front of him; he likes a target. I think as he faces better horses, he’ll only get better.”
The Pennsylvania-bred is a 3-year-old son of Eskenderya and I’m a Dixie Girl (Dixie Union), and was purchased at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Two-Year-Olds in Training sale for $650,000 by current owner Michael Lund Petersen. To date he has won three of his five career starts and has career earnings of $378,400. His next start has yet to be determined, but Baffert shared that he will be shipping out of state.
Mor Spirit $3.40 $2.40 $2.10
Uncle Lino ———- $5.20 $2.80
I Will Score ————— $2.60
$1 Trifecta → $22.40
Songbird Soars in Las Virgenes Stakes
Keeping her perfect record intact, Eclipse Award Champion Songbird absolutely dominated the field of five fillies in the GII $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday. Traveling a mile in a speedy 1:36.84, the 3-year-old bay filly and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith won by an impressive six and a half lengths.
Songbird took the lead before the first turn and never looked back. In what could only be described as a paid workout, she distanced herself from the field effortlessly with every stride. With no urging by Smith, Songbird cantered home and showed that she is arguably the best 3-year-old in America.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling,” said Songbird’s owner Rick Porte, who races under the name Fox Hill Farms. “She just gives you goose bumps and you just wonder ‘How did I get this horse?’ I don’t think I’ve ever had one that’s so dominant and does things so easily. It would be nice to win the Kentucky Derby, but I’d like to do it with a nice colt . . . I don’t like the (Kentucky Derby) point system. We’d have to run in the Santa Anita Derby with her. I think it’d be great for our ego, but the smart move is to stay on the path we’re on to the (Kentucky) Oaks.”
Songbird, trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, has won all five of her career starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and has earned $1,682,000. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and Ivanavinalot (West Acre) holds a winning margin of 28 ½ lengths. Saturday’s win awarded her 10 points towards the Kentucky Oaks, and she currently sits in first place on the leaderboard with 40 points.
Songbird $2.10 $2.10 $2.10
Land Over Sea $5.60 $4.00
She’s a Warrior — — $4.60
$1.00 Trifecta → $17.80
$1.00 Superfecta $131.60
Marquee Miss Edgy in Martha Washington
Ingrid Mason had 3-year-old Marquee Miss primed and ready to go Saturday. The daughter of Cowbay Cal narrowly won the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park over 1-2 favorite Nickname, earning her first 10 points toward the Kentucky Oaks in her second start of 2016.
Durango, breaking from the four hole, took the lead early to set the pace. Her fractions of :23.64 for a quarter and a half in :47.12 left My Master Plan and Marquee Miss, sitting in third, poised to make moves as they ran close to her. Nickname settled for a tracking position in fourth. The clock hit 1:12.19 for three-quarters with Nickname hitting her stride and coming up the rail near the wire. Marquee Miss, under jockey Channing Hill, had plenty left despite looking as though she was going to fade briefly down the stretch and came charging to edge Nickname. The final time for the race was 1:39.18.
The Martha Washington makes the second stakes win at Oaklawn for Marquee Miss; she also won the January 15th Dixie Belle. Her record now stands at three wins from six starts with career earnings of $164,925.
Marquee Miss $26.20 $7.00 $5.00
Nickname ———– $2.80 $2.60
Dorodansa —————– $3.60
$1.00 Trifecta → $204.40
Mshawish Gallops to Win Gr.1 Donn Handicap
The heavyweight on Gulfstream’s weekend card was the GI $500,000 Donn Handicap, which saw Pletcher-trained Mshawish win over a field of eight going 1 1/8 miles on the dirt.
The race boasted a field of top 4-year-olds and older horses that included Valid, Travers Stakes winner Keen Ice, Belmont Stakes graduate Madefromlucky, and 9th place Kentucky Derby graduate Itsaknockout. The pace was set by Financial Modeling and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. while Valid stalked in second and Mshawish tracked in third. It wasn’t until the turn for home where jockey John Velazquez was able to maneuver Mshawish off the rail and through an opening that put him on the outside of Valid and Nik Juarez. Drifting a tad into the four path (no obstruction), Mshawish strongly gained ground and galloped clear on the stretch to win by two lengths.
“It turned out the way I thought it would,” explained jockeyJohn Velazquez. “Two horses went out to the lead and I just had to wait right behind them, hoping I had enough horse to get out [from off the rail]. He felt great the whole way around. When I asked him, he responded right away. Made me look real good!”
Fractions for the race were modest for the first half (:24.12 and :48.13) and picked up towards the end (1:11.88 and 1:35.60) for a final time of 1:47.89 – a second and change slower than the 1:46.86 set by Lea in 2014.
Saturday’s Donn Handicap marks a consecutive victory in the race for trainer Todd Pletcher and also his fifth since 1976 – his first coming in 2003 with Harlan’s Holiday.
Mshawish, a 6-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro and Thunder Bayou (Thunder Gulch), is a multiple graded stakes winner. Last year he won the GI Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, the race that ran just prior to this year’s Donn. The Kentucky-bred is owned by Al Shaqab Racing and stands a record of 23-8-2-3 with $2,221,351 in career earnings. This was his second GI victory.
Mshawish $11.20 $5.80 $3.60
Valid ———— $6.40 $4.20
Mexikoma ———— $5.00
$1.00 Trifecta → $113.60
$0.10 Superfecta $70.77
Hoppertunity Bests Imperative to Win Gr.2 San Antonio
Hoppertunity finally ended his nine race losing streak by a whisker in Saturday’s most exciting race, the $500,000 GII San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat, Hoppertunity rallied in the stretch to out-duel Imperative in an absolutely thrilling photo-finish.
Breaking slowly from the gate, Hoppertunity and Imperative trailed by seven lengths the majority of the mile and 1/8 journey. Passing the quarter pole, both decided to get involved and a fierce fight for the finish was on. It was anyone’s race as the field of eight battled coming into the homestretch. Hoppertunity and Imperative swung five-wide, chipped away at the leaders Donworth and Cat Burglar only to hit the wire at what appeared to be a dead heat. Hoppertunity was given the win to the dismay of Imperative’s jockey Mike Smith.
“I had to wait for some room to get him out and that really cost me. I still thought he won,” said Smith. “I’m dumbfounded right now, I can’t even talk. I could have sworn that we won.”
Hoppertunity’s trainer, Bob Baffert, was confident they got the job done.
“I thought Hoppertunity had his head down at the right time. It was a great run. He always comes flying late. He got away decent for him.” Baffert said. “He’s just getting rolling now . . . It was a good prep for him for the Dubai World Cup.”
Hoppertunity is a 5-year-old son of Any Given Saturday and is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. He has won five of his 18 career starts and has earned $1,872,675.
Hoppertunity $5.80 $2.80 $2.20
Imperative ——– $4.00 $3.00
Donworth —————- $3.60
$1 Superfecta → $119.30
Lukes Alley Denies Shining Copper in Gulfstream Park Turf H.
The GI $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, run over 1 1/8 miles, featured big names like The Pizza Man and Shining Copper, but neither were able to stake claim on Saturday, February 6th. Instead, it was trainer Josie Carroll’s Lukes Alley and jockey Paco Lopez that got to the wire first, a neck in front of Shining Copper.
The field of eight was lead by Shining Copper — the Chad Brown trained gelding that is notorious for setting the pace, usually creating large gaps between himself and the rest of the field. This time, Shining Copper remained within four lengths of the stalker, Takeover Target, and set fractions of :24.54, :49.12, 1:13.63 and 1:36.68. The son of Aragorn (IRE) almost had it and dug deep to maintain his position, but was ultimately denied by Lukes Alley, who sat fourth for 95% of the race and then surged late to take the cake.
The winner, an Ontario-bred son of Flower Alley and Vaulcluse, was bred by Eugene Melnyk and is owned by Melnyk Racing Stables Inc. Saturday’s win marks Lukes Alley’s first GI victory as well as his first win on U.S. soil. To date the 6-year-old has earned $758,956 and stands a record of 14-8-4-0.
Lukes Alley $12.20 $5.20 $3.60
Shining Copper — $5.00 $3.60
All Included ———— $5.80
$1.00 Trifecta → $216.90
Tommy Macho Impressive In Fred W. Hooper
Backers of Tommy Macho were pleased to see the four-year-old horse sent off as the 7-2 second choice, something that may not happen again after his smashing victory in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Racing for the first time since December, Tommy Macho was only .4 from matching the track record of 1:33.13 set by Normandy Invasion in 2014.
Wildcat Red took the lead for an opening quarter of :23.42 while being tracked to the outside by Just Call Kenny while Tommy Macho, ridden by Luis Saez, settled for running in seventh. The pair looked unconcerned through a half in :45.49 and began their domination through three-quarters in 1:09.05. Wildcat Red gave up his advantage, leaving Stanford and Just Call Kenny to contend with. At the top of the stretch Stanford and Tommy Macho looked to set up for a duel to the wire, but Stanford was no match for his stablemate. Tommy Macho crossed the wire 3 ¾ lengths in front with a final time of 1:33.53 for the mile.
Stanford held on for second in his first start since July 2015 while Grande Shores was behind him in third.
Tommy Macho is now 4-1-3 from 9 starts with earnings of $443,190. Trainer Todd Pletcher stated that there are plenty of options for Tommy Macho’s next start. Among them is the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII) on March 5.
Flamboyant Rallies to Win San Marcos
The French-bred team of 5-year-old gelding Flamboyant and jockey Brice Blanc came from off the pace to capture Saturday’s GII $200,000 San Marcos Stake at Santa Anita Park. Traversing the mile and a quarter turf marathon in 2:01.58, the duo won by less than a length.
In the field of nine’s first time past the grandstands, 18 lengths covered the lot which was lead hastily by the favorite, Hay Dude. The ranks tightened as they entered the final turn and it was an all out dash as the group sprinted for home. Gaga A, the only mare in the race, shook loose as the leader but Flamboyant chased her down just before the wire.
“It was a very nice win, he ran well. He ran well last time, he ran well this time, he’s run well the last few times,” said winning trainer Paddy Gallagher. “The first quarter was quick enough for him. Down the backside Brice got him into an even better spot and by the three-eighths pole he was in a perfect spot, good enough to get there.”
Flamboyant, owned by David Bienstock and Charles Winner, won the San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita by a neck last month. In his 19 starts, he has won five and has earned $518,368.
$1 Trifecta → 11.70
Kobe’s Back Gets the Win in Palos Verdes Stakes
It’s been quite the challenge for Kobe’s Back to prove himself against some of his past foes. But the 5-year-old son of Flatter finally got himself a victory in Sunday’s GII Palos Verdes, sweeping past Cautious Giant in the final moments, winning by just half a length.
A short field of five participated in the six-furlong race, which saw Rocket Heat set the early fractions of :21.88 and :44.45. Kristin Mulhall trained Cautious Giant took over briefly in the stretch going :56.33 but could not ward off winner Kobe’s Back, piloted by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, and runner-up Salutos Amigos with Rafael Bejarano in the irons. Final time for the race: 1:08.70.
Kobe’s Back, a Kentucky-bred owned by C R K Stable, is a multiple graded stakes winner trained by Peter Eurton. His last win came almost one year ago in the GIII Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland, going seven furlongs on dirt. The 5-year-old, who was purchased at the OBS March sale as a 2-year-old for $480,000, has earned $772,250 to date with 4 wins in 17 career starts.
Kobe’s Back $7.00 $3.40 $2.40
Salutos Amigos $2.80 $2.20
Cautious Giant — — $3.00
Suwannee River No Challenge for Tammy the Torpedo
Last out December 19th in the Tropical Park Oaks, Tammy the Torpedo just got up in time to win by a neck, but she received a far different trip in the February 6 Suwannee River Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream. On paper, the 1 ⅛ mile race lacked pace, and it looked to be much the same as it unfolded in the flesh.
None seemed willing to take command out of the gate, so as the field entered the first turn, jockey Joel Rosario sent Tammy the Torpedo to the front. There she clicked off fractions of :23.93, :48.58, and 1:12.50 for six furlongs. For a moment in the far turn, the field bunched up and it looked as though some wanted to make a move. But none were able to overtake the front-runner, who crossed the wire 1 ½ lengths ahead in a final time of 1:48.28. Behind her, Rainha Da Bateria was second, with Habibi a head behind her in third.
Tammy the Torpedo, a four-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, is now 4-0-1 from 7 starts. The Suwannee, her first graded stakes victory, brought her earnings up to $254,710.
$1 Trifecta → $21.50
THE WEEKEND WRAP-UP COVERS 3-YEAR-OLD KENTUCKY DERBY AND OAKS PREPS, BREEDERS’ CUP “WIN AND YOU’RE IN” RACES, AND STAKES RACES FEATURING PROMINENT HORSES. TRACKS COVERED INCLUDE SANTA ANITA, DEL MAR, LOS ALAMITOS (TB), GULFSTREAM PARK, TAMPA BAY DOWNS, AQUEDUCT, BELMONT PARK, SARATOGA, KEENELAND, CHURCHILL DOWNS, OAKLAWN AND MONMOUTH PARK.
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