The Summer at Saratoga Series presented by NBC Sports on the VERSUS network brought us another great addition of nationally televised thoroughbred racing on back to back days this weekend. The action began yesterday with the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap. In this season’s 3rd BC Classic automatic qualifier race for the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In series, there was a lot of possibilities on the table for this field of 11. After the field was loaded into the gate and a clean race was run, there wasn’t a doubt on who was the most deserving horse.
Tizway and Rajiv Maragh pulled away in the stretch and went on to win by 3 lengths. After the announcement that one of the dudes has retired, First Dude that is, a multiple stakes winner in 2011 and likely Classic favorite has been tough Pickens. On Saturday Tizway, Trained by James Bond, stamped himself as sure-fire contender in both categories.
Some details to pay attention to with Tizway and his win. Tizway becomes the 1st horse in 2011 to become a two-time winner of a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win & You’re In race. In doing so he also becomes the first horse to become a duel qualifier in 2 different challenge divisions, the Dirt Mile and Classic. On May 30th at Belmont Park, Tizway returned to form at a distance he has enjoyed – 1 Mile. The win in the Met-Mile qualified him for the BC Dirt Mile but the looming question Tizway needed to answer was if he was going to move on taking a chance at advancing to the BC Classic? If so, then the next question was obvious — can he win at a longer distance? Until yesterday it had never been done. But Tizway in the 2011 Whitney gave us more than just that an answer to that question. Like the Met-Mile, he won without leaving any doubt that he was the best horse in the field.
Most important to Tizway’s last two wins are the horses he beat. Yes, the final time in Saturday’s Whitney, 1:52.83, was the slowest since 1959 but that’s something that I’m throwing out. The track was listed as Fast but there was talk of the surface being very dry and causing it turn dull by the end of the day. Regardless, Tizway looked strong and clearly defeated a Grade 1 field. Prior to the Met-Mile, a Grade 1 win had eluded Tizway. After Saturday he now has 2 and is probable for going after his 3rd in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on 10/1. Tizway, by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, is running hot right now and is on track to contend for the BC Classic title in November.
On the West Coast at Delmar over the weekend an automatic berth into the Ladies Classic was on the line in the $3k Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes. After two horses scratched the field was narrowed down to 5. Not having finished out of the money in her last 8 starts and winning 3 of those, Switch was the clear betting favorite. However, it was the longest shot on the board that stole the show and beat the favorite by a neck. Ultra Blend, ridden by Tyler Baze, went off at 10-1 and captured her first ever Grade 1 win.
Ultra Bend has been nothing but consistent in her racing career – in the money in 21 out 23 lifetime starts, 11 career wins. She got the credit she deserves and there’s no better way to do it then by taking home your 1st grade 1 victory. However, what’s going to be tough for her is taking advantage of her ticket to the Ladies Classic. Even though she got the best of Switch on Saturday, I can’t give her better odds of winning the Ladies Classic than Switch. And both horses are still behind Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in my book. Things may change before November but until then, the leading contenders for the Ladies Classic is still a two-horse field.
Back to Summer at Saratoga where today featured a pair of sprints, GI $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap & the G2 $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap. Neither of today’s races carried an automatic qualifier for any Breeders’ Cup races but a few of the contenders in both fields are working their way up to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint or Filly & Mare Sprint. In the first of the 2 races, the Honorable Miss, it was front running Tar Heel Mom that ran away from the other 4 horses to win by just over 5 lengths. The winning time in this 6F sprint for older fillies and mares over a track listed as “Good” was 1:10.42. Also racing was Irish Gypsy, winner of the A Gleam Invitational (BC Challenge, Win & You’re In: Filly and Mare Sprint) at Hollywood Park on July 16th. Shipping from the West Coast and breaking from a familiar spot for Trainer Baffert, PP 1, she showed little today and finished 4th.
- 3. Tar Heel Mom A. Solis $5.70 $3.40 $2.50
- 5. Beat the Blues M. Mena $6.60 $3.00
- 4. Champagne D’Oro D. Cohen $2.70
- $2 Exacta: $25.20, $2 Trifecta: $104.00
Finally, it was the Vanderbilt Handicap that was the featured race in today’s card at Saratoga. In what turned out to be a stunner, it was Sean Avery that went wire to wire and refused to let the favorite Trappe Shot get by him before the wire. Exchanging head bobs in the stretch, Sean Avery got the last nose in front in the photo finish and won the 6F sprint in a quick time of 1:09.71.
Owned by Black Swan Stable and Trained by Allen Iwinski, Sean Avery claims his first ever Graded Stakes victory. Sent off as the 2nd longest shot in the field his racing class was bet against his recent racing. 2011 has been a good year for the 5 yr old gelding that didn’t race in 2009. The win is now the 3rd in 4 tries and the first since finishing 2nd in the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth on the 4th of July. Calibrachoa was 3rd and rounding out the field in order of finish was Apriority, Noble’s Promise, Hamazing Destiny, Bank Merger, and Atta Boy Roy.
- 5. Sean Avery J. Bravo $36.20 $10.00 $6.30
- 8. Trappe Shot J. Velazquez $2.80 $2.10
- 5. Calibrachoa J. Castellano $6.00
- $2 Exacta: $113.00, $2 Trifecta: $860.00, $2 Superfecta: $2,394.00
The Summer at Saratoga series has been great for horse racing this summer and the ratings have been good as well. While the series continues on the Versus network next weekend with the G1 Sword Dancer, the turf races with Breeders’ Cup Challenge implications will take place right here in Chicago at the Arlington Million. Stay tuned for an in-depth look and analysis this week.
Written by: Little Brink