Stars shine on turf, dirt and stonedust

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Ted Black

July 12th, 2016

Last weekend might have seemed ordinary for many Americans since it did not involve a major holiday of any kind, but for thoroughbred and standardbred racing fans alike it provided many memories courtesy of numerous quality performances from runners and pacers.

Belmont Park in New York hosted the Stars And Stripes card last Saturday afternoon and a pair of Grade I, six-figure stakes on the turf were designed to highlight the talents of several European imports. But in one of those two events it was a budding American star who emerged as the best three-year-old of either gender on the grass.

Heading into the Grade I, $1 million Belmont Oaks for three-year-old fillies on the turf, much of the attention was focused on Ballydoyle (Colm O'Donoghue) who was among the best freshman fillies in all of England last year when she won one Grade I event and finished second in another. Her two starts to begin her current campaign, however, had been anything but overwhelming as she finished second and sixth, respectively, in a pair of Grade I events. But the public made her the 2-1 favorite nevertheless.

Breaking from well to her outside was Catch a Glimpse (Florent Geroux), who arrived sporting a seven-race win streak on the grass including the Grade III Penn Mile against the boys and the Grade III Edgewood at Churchill Downs. Catch a Glimpse actually emerged on the scene last fall when she captured the Grade II Natalma at Woodbine and then followed that up with a victory in the Grade I Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland.

When the gate opened in the Belmont Oaks, Catch a Glimpse displayed her usual sharp early speed and gained command passing under the finish line the first time and faced the daunting task of leading throughout the one-mile and one-quarter affair. But as she had done against the boys in her most recent outing and last fall over a yielding course at Keeneland, Catch a Glimpse controlled the tempo from the outset and refused to be overhauled in the lane to score in 1:59.73.

A three-year-old daughter of City Zip out of an Irish River mare trained by Mark Casse, Catch a Glimpse has now won eight straight races and all eight of her starts on the grass. Her latest triumph pushed her career earnings past $1.8 million and she can now lay claim to being the best sophomore of either gender on the lawn. That seems fitting considering that Songbird is the best three-year-old of either gender on dirt this year.

Several races earlier on the card, Deauville (Jamie Spencer) rebounded from an 11th place finish in the Grade I Epsom Derby to capture the Grade I, $1.25 million Belmont Derby by covering the one-mile and one-quarter in 2:00.51. A sophomore son of Galileo trained by Aidan O'Brien, Deauville notched his first win in three starts this year and now sports three wins and career earnings of nearly $900,000 from seven career starts.

In the race between the two Grade I turf events, New York-breds Effinex and Samraat finished one-two in the Grade II, $400,000 Suburban at one-mile and one-quarter on the main track while Dubai invader Mubtaahij finished third as the tepid favorite in his first start since finishing second to California Chrome in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Effinex notched his second win in four starts this year and rebounded from a dull effort as the 3-5 favorite in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. He had also been previously the beaten favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap.

That same evening at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, the spotlight was on the four-year-olds as the one-mile oval hosted a pair of $250,000 Graduate finals, one each for trotters and pacers. Even a late evening shower could not have dampened the enthusiasm for either event.

In the Graduate final for four-year-old trotters, Musical Rhythm (John Campbell) overcame post 10 and a fast early tempo to overhaul Wings Of Royalty in the lane to score in 1:51.2. A son of Cantab Hall trained by Benoit Baillergeon, Musical Rhythm notched his 12th win in 14 starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings past $275,000. Maryland-bred Centurion ATM, who had been no better than sixth in three Graduate legs, gained the place spot at 32-1 for trainer Ake Svandstedt.

Then two races later on the card in the Graduate final for pacers, Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) lived up to his role as the 3-5 favorite when he parked 9-5 second choice Freaky Feet Pete past the quarter to gain command, sat a loose pocket trip down the backside and through the far turn, angled out at the head of the lane and overhauled 'Freaky' in the lane to score by a length in 1:47.2 over a track turned sloppy by a late shower.

The sport's reigning horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit now sports a 9-3-1 slate and $625,000 bankroll from 13 starts this year and boasts an excellent 32 wins and $2.8 million banked from 40 career tries. He avenged a third-place finish behind Always B Miki and Freaky Feet Pete in the Ben Franklin one week earlier at Pocono Downs on a night when Wiggle It Jiggleit left, yielded toe Freaky Feet Pete, who then surrendered command to Always B Miki and then tried to overhaul that one first over and settled for third.

Freaky Feet Pete delivered another solid effort in defeat. The four-year-old Rockin Image stallion owns a 5-2-1 slate and $295,000 banked from eight starts this year. He opened the campaign with three easy scores in the Invitational at Hoosier Park then was third in the Battle Of Lake Erie at Northfield Park when Wiggle It Jiggleit rebuffed his early bid and left him parked the mile first over.

Those eager to see a rematch between Wiggle It Jiggleit, Freaky Feet Pete and Always B Miki will not have to wait long. All three are among the dozen older pacers entered in this Saturday's $475,000 William R. Haughton Memorial at one-mile and one-eighth at the Meadowlands. Defending Haughton hero Mach It So, winner of the last two Open Handicaps at Yonkers Raceway, will also be on hand to defend his title and face the sport's 'big three' in the main event.