Five Takeaways from September 19-20 Weekend
Frosted Primed: Frosted saved ground along the rail, advanced into contention rounding the far turn and easily proved best in the final furlongs of Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G2), recording his first victory since the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (G1) in early April with a two-length decision. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained son of Tapit would have more wins this year if not for American Pharoah. Pennsylvania Derby runner-up Iron Fist deserves credit – the Tapit colt is developing into a formidable performer for Jerry Hollendorfer, registering a career-best 103 BRIS Speed rating and finishing eight lengths clear of third – but Frosted is at a different level presently and will head to the Breeders’ Cup Classic in peak form. He may not be good enough to beat the big guns (American Pharoah, Beholder and Honor Code) but Frosted remains intriguing, with the likelihood of a hot pace setting up well for his turn of foot.
Chatterbox best of a questionable bunch: Winless since the March 28 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), I’m a Chatterbox posted a two-length decision in Saturday’s Cotillion (G1) and now rates as the clear leader among 3yo fillies on the main track. But don’t put her in the same company of a Lady Eli or the rapidly improving Sentiero Italia, a pair of top-class 3yo fillies on turf. I’m a Chatterbox registered a 97 BRIS Speed rating in the Cotillion, a number on par with the sub-100 figures she’s been earning all year, and Calamity Kate finished a clear second at 22-1 odds. Whether it’s Lovely Maria, Embellish the Lace, Stellar Wind, Curalina or I’m a Chatterbox, the 3yo dirt fillies share the common characteristic of not running very fast this season.
Majesty for F&M Sprint : Super Majesty made her stakes debut a winning one in Saturday evening’s Dogwood (G3) at Churchill Downs, winning the 7f test comfortably by 1 ¾ lengths and stamping herself as a top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). The late-starting 3yo didn’t make her career debut until May 24 at Santa Anita and is now 3-for-4 for Jerry Hollendrofer, recording her only setback by a nose at a mile. A daughter of Super Saver, Super Majesty has registered BRIS Speed ratings as high as 103 and this year’s Filly & Mare Sprint could be there for the taking. Judy the Beauty, last year’s champion filly sprinter, is winless from two starts this season, finishing a well-beaten third most recently as the 4-5 favorite in the July 29 Honorable Miss (G2), and questions surround other contenders such as Cavorting, Dame Dorothy, Taris and Unbridled Forever. Super Majesty is blossoming at the right time.
Record Handle at Kentucky Downs: Despite moving a Saturday card to Monday and running two fewer races from last year, Kentucky Downs closed its five-day 2015 session with record handle of $16,887,188, a 6% increase. Horseplayers continue to support the contentious turf races at the takeout-friendly Franklin, Kentucky track, with full fields being the norm due to lucrative purses. Maiden special weight races are worth $120,000 and allowances $125,000 or $130,000, and it was remarkable to see no claiming or starter races offered on a pair 10-race Saturday programs. The stakes fare and overall quality of the racing programs is improving and the only complaint seems to be the location of cameras for the simulcast feed.
Baffert stable heating up: A seven-time leading trainer at Del Mar, Bob Baffert experienced a slow meet by his standards this year, finishing sixth in the standings with 13 wins from 66 starters (20%). But the Hall of Famer won a couple of maiden races the final weekend at Del Mar, including impressive 2yo debut scorer Justin Squared, and Baffert has captured six races during the first eight racing programs at Los Alamitos. Five of the Los Alamitos winners were breaking their maiden, including the Quality Road filly Lemhill Basr, an $800k 2yo purchase who rolled to a 4 ¼-length decision when making her debut on September 10. Last weekend, Baffert sent out Treasuring, a 2yo daughter of Smart Strike who earned her first tally by 7 1/4 lengths; and Toews on Ice, a 2yo son of freshman sire ArchArchArch who pocketed his first victory with a 7 1/2-length thrashing in the Barrett’s Juvenile.