Smashing performances ahead of Del Mar and Saratoga

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 5th, 2017

This is typically a slow time for Thoroughbred racing, with highly-anticipated openings of Del Mar and Saratoga only a couple of weeks away, but a number of performances stood out in the five-day period between June 30 and July 4.

And most of these horses will be looking to make a serious impact at Del Mar or Saratoga.

3-year-old Fillies

Abel Tasman has a stranglehold upon divisional honors presently by virtue of wins in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Acorn (G1), but a pair of up-and-coming fillies will be looking to change the landscape in the coming months following tremendous wins in the Queen’s Plate and Mother Goose (G1), respectively.

Holy Helena broke her maiden the second time out at Belmont on May 12 and the Ghostzapper filly stepped up to thrash male rivals two starts later, romping by 3 ½ lengths in the 1 ¼-mile Queen’s Plate at Woodbine on July 3. The prolific late-bloomer may not be close to her ceiling yet for Jimmy Jerkens, who indicated a preference to point toward the August 19 Alabama (G1) at Saratoga instead of the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Unchained Melody also has the Alabama on her radar after a superb stakes debut in the July 1 Mother Goose, leading from the break in a three-length tour-de-force. She didn’t begin her career until March 19 and the only setback from four outings came at 6-furlongs, with the daughter of Smart Strike crushing foes in a pair of 1 1/16-mile races. The speedy lass is starting to come on for Brian Lynch, registering a 102 BRIS Speed Rating in the Mother Goose.

2-year-old Fillies

A pair of exciting prospects for August 5 Sorrento (G2) and the September 2 Del Mar Debutante (G1) were on display at Santa Anita on July 2. And the first North American winner from new sire Animal Kingdom made a splash at Churchill Downs on June 30.

Surrender Now scored with the greatest of ease in the Landaluce at Santa Anita, drawing off to an eighth-length decision, and is now 2-for-2 for trainer Peter Miller. The first stakes winner for freshman sire Morning Line, Surrender Now received a commendable 96 BRIS Speed Rating.

Diamondsandpearls, a $1.7 million juvenile purchase by Congrats, won at first asking for Bob Baffert in eye-catching fashion, capturing a 5-furlong maiden special weight going away by 6 ¼ lengths on the Landaluce undercard. Looking forward to her upcoming match-ups against Surrender Now.

Sunny Skies had to wait nearly an hour in the paddock for the June 30 Debutante at Churchill Downs, which was delayed by a torrential rainstorm that left the track sloppy in a matter of seconds, but it made little difference as she dominated from the start as the 6-5 favorite, comfortably winning by a 1 ¾-length margin. A nine-length debut winner at Keeneland, the Kenny McPeek-trained chestnut should have Saratoga races like the August 12 Adirondack (G2) and September 2 Spinaway (G1) on her agenda.


Danzing Candy continued to star for Baffert in the July 1 San Carlos (G2) at Santa Anita, dueling through early splits of :22.15 and :44.26 before repulsing the challenge of a perfect-trip challenger in the stretch by a neck. Versatile enough to aim for the Sprint and Dirt Mile (G1) on the Breeders’ Cup program, the 4-year-old Twirling Candy colt has reeled off an impressive set of 105-108-104 BRIS Speed Ratings winning three consecutive stakes this year, and could be pointed toward the July 29 Bing Crosby (G1) and/or August 26 Pat O’Brien (G1) at Del Mar.

Anybody who wasn’t aware of Imperial Hint had the opportunity to watch a brilliant effort from the fast-rising colt in the July 1 Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream. Jockey Javier Castellano was forced to tap on the brakes a couple of times on the backstretch as 4-year-old son of Imperialism was eager to run while stuck behind rivals and pacesetter Awesome Banner appeared to be the beneficiary, entering the stretch full of run with a clear advantage. Imperial Hint would not be denied, impressively reeling in his accomplished rival with scintillating turn of foot in midstretch, and won going by nearly five lengths. The Florida-bred has now won four straight in convincing fashion, garnering BRIS Speed Ratings of 109-102-106-103, and races like the July 29 A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) and August 26 Forego (G1) at Saratoga are logical options.

Limousine Liberal contested the last two editions of the Sprint with little success and entered 2017 without a stakes win to his credit, stretching his stakes-losing skein to 10 when finishing third in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland in April. He broke through with a 13-1 upset in the May 6 Churchill Downs Sprint (G2) and came right back to easily capture the June 3 Aristides (G3). The 5-year-old made it three straight while showing his versatility in the June 30 Kelly’s Landing on a sloppy oval, putting the competition away with a swift move on the far turn and cruising to the finish line unopposed, and Limousine Liberal is peaking presently for Ben Colebrook. He will be stepping up to face stiffer competition if he proceeds to upcoming Saratoga stakes (Vanderbolt and/or Forego) but the gelding may finally be good enough to knock off top-class rivals.

Dirt Mile dynamo

Seymourdini established himself as one to watch when breaking his maiden by nine lengths in his final juvenile appearance in 2015 but little went right in three sophomore appearances last season. The Bernardini ridgling has turned things around in a big way this year for Linda Rice, recording his third consecutive lopsided win in the July 3 State Dinner at Belmont Park. He went right to the lead and extended his margin at every call through fast fractions on the muddy track, reaching the wire 10 ½ lengths on top. That followed a pair of one-mile allowance/claiming tallies at Laurel Park by 12 ¼- and 12 ½-length margins. And Seymourdini has earned BRIS Speed Ratings of 107-104-112 in the last three starts. Rice may try to stretch the middle-distance specialist out to 1 1/8 miles in the August 5 Whitney (G1).