Second last year, Grand Arch makes amends in Fourstardave
A ground-saving third to the far turn as second choice King Kreesa set the pace, Grand Arch advanced to second approaching the quarter pole, opened up a short lead in deep stretch and just held off the late bid of 2-1 favorite Ironicus in a time of 1:34.65 for a mile on the firm inner turf.
Owned by Jim and Susan Hill, trained by Brian Lynch and ridden by Luis Saez, Grand Arch paid $18.20 to win.
Grand Arch was second in last year's Fourstardave to Seek Again, who rallied for third in what was easily his best try of the season.
This was the first stakes win of the season for Grand Arch, whose lone win in seven 2014 starts was the King Edward (G2) at Woodbine. After losing the Fourstardave, Grand Arch went on to finish a strong second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland behind Wise Dan.
Grand Arch kicked off his 2015 campaign with an allowance score over soft ground at Keeneland, so the six-year-old gelded son of Arch evidently loves the Lexington, Kentucky, course. That's a point in his favor with the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) being held there October 31, and he surely can do better than the 11th-place finish he posted in that event at Santa Anita last November.
Ironicus is another solid U.S.-based contender for the Mile. The gray son of Distorted Humor showed a tremendous kick to take his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Dixie (G2) at Pimlico in May. He next dominated allowance foes at Belmont, but simply uncorked his rally too late here behind a moderate pace of :24.20, :48.30 and 1:12.03 set by King Kreesa.
It's possible either or both the top pair could give next month's Woodbine Mile (G1) a try, but saving themselves for the Shadwell Turf Mile might seem more practical. Both races carry advertised purses of $1 million, but due to the current gap between the U.S. and Canadian dollar on the exchanges the money on offer at Keeneland will be significantly higher than that at Woodbine.
Seek Again's title defense fell two necks short of success, but he still doesn't seem quite as good as last year when he won this and ran Wise Dan to a head in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1). It seems doubtful he can beat the top two in a hypothetical rematch at Keeneland.
King Kreesa was well-backed after putting his speed to good use in a pair of stakes during the Belmont meet, but his relative class was exposed despite having all the advantages of setting a comfortable pace.
Mshawish, making his first start since traveling to Dubai in March, perhaps was in need of a race. He finished fifth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, and the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) winner figures to be a stronger presence next time.
Jack Milton was beaten more than six lengths here in what was his second sub-par effort in a row. Ninth in the Manhattan (G1) last time, he also figures to show up for the Shadwell Turf Mile in early October. He's another who moves up on that surface having won the Maker's 46 Mile (G1) on soft ground in April.
(Grand Arch photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)