Lady Eli a Half-Length Shy of Victory in Miracle Comeback
Arrogate certainly stole the show at Saratoga on Saturday, smashing records all over the place in winning the Travers Stakes (GI). The gray son of Unbridled’s Song broke a 17-year-old track record for 1 ¼ miles, set the mark for the fastest edition of the famed Midsummer Derby in 147 years and won by a record margin — 13 ½ lengths, to be exact — and was the talk of the sport in the final hours of Saturday evening.
But his performance, while nothing short of spectacular, in no way should shadow the awesome performances from the winners of the five Grade Is and one Grade II stakes that supported the main event, including the miraculous comeback of fan favorite and Breeders’ Cup winner Lady Eli following her successful life-threatening battle with laminitis after stepping on a nail last year.
Previously undefeated Lady Eli went postward as the public’s 4-5 choice in the Ballston Spa Stakes (GII) and it took a near record-setting performance to beat her, as Courtland Farm’s Strike Charmer rallied from well of the pace to get past Lady Eli in the stretch and claim a three-quarter-length win at odds of more than 27-1. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:38.77, just shy the course record of 1:38.54 set a year ago.
The 6-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, who is trained by Mark Hennig, has now earned $632,850 from her record of 21-6-4-3.
“It’s an amazing story that (Lady Eli has) come back from what she had,” Hennig said. “Anytime that happens with a horse we all feel it in the industry, when one of our best horses suffers something like that. When horses founder it’s such a struggle and it’s a great story that she did make it back, but we don’t mind raining on her parade today.”
Flintshire Dazzles in Sword Dancer, BC Turf in Future
Juddmonte Farm’s Flintshire picked up his third consecutive North American graded stakes victory and his second consecutive Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (GI) with an eye-opening last-to-first performance over six talented turf rivals. The 6-year-old son of Dansili, who began his career in Europe before shipping stateside last year and then returning across the pond to finish fourth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (GI) in October, has been in the care of Chad Brown in New York since earlier this year.
Under jockey Javier Castellano, Flintshire won the 1 ½-mile firm turf test by 1 ¾ lengths in a time of 2:23.45.
“I’ve never seen anything like him outside of Lady Eli. He’s the greatest horse I’ve ever seen,” Brown said. “He came to me a great racehorse. I just try to keep him happy and healthy. Give credit to my team. They have kept him in top form.”
Six-year-old Flintshire has now won eight of 22 career starts, with 10 seconds and one third, for earnings of $8,809,910. His other Grade I/Group I scores include the 2014 Hong Kong Vase and 2013 Grand Prix de Paris.
Flintshire is expected to make his last start before the Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI), which he is already guaranteed a spot in as the Sword Dancer was a designated “Win and You’re In” race for Racing’s Championship Day, in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (GI) at Belmont Park on Super Saturday, Oct. 1.
A.P. Indian Smokes Competition in Forego
On a day where falling records was relatively commonplace, Green Lantern Stable’s A.P. Indian wasn’t one to be outdone and set a record of his own, winning the $700,000 Forego Stakes (GI) by 2 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:20.99 for the seven-furlong distance over a fast main track to establish the new stakes record.
In his pace-stalking performance, the near-even-money favorite lowered the previous stakes record of 1:21 held by Quick Call (1988), Housebuster (1991) and Emcee (2012).
A.P. Indian, a 6-year-old son of Indian Charlie who is trained by Arnaud Delacour, was again ridden to victory by jockey Joe Bravo for a fifth consecutive trip to the winner’s circle this year and brought his career line to 16-10-4-0, $1,112,434.
“I was really shocked, he was just so relaxed all the way through to the wire,” Bravo said. “It’s really a pleasure to be able to ride a horse like that. It just shows the control and different dimensions he possesses. It took him a little time to develop but, wow, he’s just enjoying the game. He knew he would beat those horses today.”
This year the Forego is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI), and A.P. Indian can easily be considered the top sprinter on the East Coast heading to Santa Anita in just more than nine weeks.
Delacour is undecided as to whether A.P. Indian will train up to Racing’s Championship Day or race once before, possibly in the $350,000 Vosburgh Invitational (GI) at Belmont Park on Oct. 1.
Drefong Wins King’s Bishop in Stakes Debut
Charles Chu’s Drefong shipped all the way across the country to make his stakes debut and debut he did, winning the $500,000 King’s Bishop Stakes (GI) by 3 ¼ lengths in near gate-to-wire fashion under jockey Mike Smith. The son of Gio Ponti, who set all the pace in splits of :23.11 and :45.85, drew off to win by in a final time of 1:21.25 over the fast main track.
“When he left there and I saw the first quarter in :23, I thought that was a good pace,” Baffert said. “It wasn’t too taxing on him. He’s just an incredibly fast horse. I’m proud of him; he ran so well. And the Chu family, they just got in the game a few years ago. They’ve been extremely lucky with their horses, so this was a big win for them. Good for them. I’m here just to fulfill their dreams.”
Drefong has now won four of his five career starts for earnings of $378,040, which is still shy of the $450,000 his owners paid for him as a Keenelend September yearling in 2014.
“Drefong came back great,” Baffert said Sunday. “He smoked out of there and did his thing. That was pretty neat to watch him run. The plan for him is the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.”
Haveyougoneaway Provides Firsts with Ballerina Win
Gary Barber and Sequel Racing’s Haveyougoneaway made it clear she isn’t going anywhere and will be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s Breeders’ Cup after her half-length win in the $500,000 Ballerina Stakes (GI), a “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (GI).
The New York-bred daughter of Congrats provided young trainer Tom Morley with his first career Grade I victory and, likely, his first starter in racing’s world championships. Under jockey John Velazquez, Haveyougoneaway completed the seven furlongs of the Ballerina in 1:21.63 over the fast main track.
“What a thrill,” Morley said. “You can’t beat that. It’s Saratoga, we just won a Grade I. It’s as good as it gets, it really is. The first Grade I means everything. It’s the Ballerina, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. It’s Travers Day, we’re here in Saratoga. That’s the icing on the cake.
“Now obviously we’ll have to plot our route to California carefully. She’s run three times in pretty quick succession. She ran at the back end of Belmont and won a stake, came up here and won opening week and then came back and won the Ballerina in just under four weeks. She’s had three big efforts in relatively quick succession, so we might just train up to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Cavorting a Router After All, Scores BC Berth in Personal Ensign
For most of her career, Stonestreet Stables’ Cavorting had largely been considered a sprinter. The daughter of Bernardini, who was purchased by her owner as a weanling in November of 2012, had been very successful at the one-turn distances last year, winning the Jersey Girl (GIII) and Test Stakes (GI) before going on to finish a respectable fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (GI). This year, however, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin decided that he’d try to stretch her out and, after winning the Ruffian Stakes (GI) at seven furlongs, the Ogden Phipps Stakes (GI) at 1 1/16 miles, the next logical progression would be 1 1/8 miles.
Under jockey Javier Castellano, Cavorting logged an impressive last-to-first performance to defeat four other distaff rivals by a half-length in the $750,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (GI). It was the third consecutive victory for the bay filly, who now owns a career line of 13-8-1-1, $2,063,000. She also won the Adirondack Stakes (GII) as a juvenile.
“She’s a top filly. She’s definitely one of the best fillies I’ve ever trained, if not the best filly,” McLaughlin said. “To win graded stakes at 2, 3 and 4 is quite impressive.”
The Personal Ensign was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, earning Cavorting berth in the Distaff in November. Though McLaughlin said the Beldame Invitational Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park on Oct. 1 or the Spinster Stakes (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 9 remain under consideration for Cavorting, the most likely option is training up to the Breeders’ Cup.
“We’ll probably just go to the Breeders’ Cup, we’re not sure,” McLaughlin said. “The Beldame is there and the Spinster is there, but probably just to the Breeders’ Cup.”