The Pizza Man back in business in Northern Dancer; Rainha Da Bateria edges Dacita in Canadian

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

September 17th, 2016

Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man had been experiencing a downturn in 2016, but the popular Illinois-bred rose to the occasion in the $228,401 Northern Dancer Turf (G1) on Woodbine Mile Day.

A fast-finishing sixth as the defending champion in the August 13 Arlington Million (G1), the Roger Brueggemann veteran got a rider switch to Flavien Prat here, and the pair hit it off. Prat had The Pizza Man track the dawdling pace set by World Approval, so he was always in position and not left with too much to do.

World Approval tried to steal the 1 1/2-mile test by carving out splits of :26.97, :53.99, 1:19.92 and 1:44.78 on the good E.P. Taylor turf course. As the United Nations (G1) winner who’d previously placed in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) and Manhattan (G1), World Approval was not one to be ignored on the front end.

The Pizza Man accordingly kept the leader in close range and accosted him at the head of the lane. Also emerging as a threat was Wake Forest, who burst from midpack to challenge. But The Pizza Man topped them all in a final time of 2:31.75, prevailing over Wake Forest by a neck, with World Approval a further neck away in third.

It was a clean sweep of the trifecta for horses coming out of unplaced efforts in the Arlington Million. Hence the result was a boon to the Illinois racing scene, for reasons beyond The Pizza Man’s birthplace.

British shipper Majeed ran a mighty race to take fourth after blowing the start and finding himself in a poor tactical position in last. Danish Dynaformer, Camp Creek, Button Down, and Eclipse champion Big Blue Kitten (who’s been off form all year) rounded out the order under the wire.

The Pizza Man was making good two years after his initial appearance at Woodbine in the 2014 edition of this race, when he was fifth. The English Channel gelding was subsequently fourth in the Canadian International (G1), and according to Midwest’s Richard Papiese, he’ll try for the double back at Woodbine October 16.

In addition to his 2015 Arlington Million trophy, The Pizza Man has scored major wins in the 2014-15 editions of the Stars and Stripes (G3), the 2014 American St Leger, and last fall’s Hollywood Turf Cup (G2). The seven-year-old homebred has bankrolled $2,079,326 from his 31-17-2-2 line.



After finishing a bumpy third to stablemate Dacita as the proverbial meat in the sandwich in the July 23 Diana (G1) at Saratoga, Rainha Da Bateria deserved a change of luck. Her turn came in Saturday’s $229,309 Canadian (G2) at Woodbine, where she made the most of favorable circumstances to deny even-money favorite Dacita in an all-Chad Brown photo finish.

By that nose margin, Rainha Da Bateria secured a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The Broken Vow filly’s only prior stakes victory had also come in a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event, the 2014 2014 Jessamine (G3), which propelled her into the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) for former trainer for Graham Motion.

Unfortunately, Rainha Da Bateria hadn’t won since the Jessamine. Ninth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, she went on to place in the Jimmy Durante (G3), Blue Norther, Mrs. Revere (G2), and Suwannee River (G3) before joining Brown. In her first start for his barn, she was best of the rest behind Tepin in the May 7 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day.

Rainha Da Bateria’s good fortune at Woodbine coincided with a change of ownership. Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables acquired her from Three Chimneys after the Diana, and she furnished an immediate return on investment.

Several factors conspired to her benefit: enough rain fell to change the course to “good,” less than ideal for firm-turf lover Dacita; Rainha Da Bateria got nine pounds from Dacita; and thanks to a heady ride by Julien Leparoux, she also got first run on the heavy favorite.

As 11-1 shot Midnight Miley sprinted to a big early lead through fractions of :23.85 and :46.42, Rainha Da Bateria raced in second. She thereby arrived on the premises first when the pacesetter faltered in upper stretch, and Rainha Da Bateria spurted two lengths clear.

Meanwhile, Dacita didn’t get away cleanly when bumping Steip Amach. That may not have been consequential, since the Chilean champion was due to lag at the back of the pack anyway. Taking the inside route to launch her stretch rally, Dacita appeared to be fighting the ground to gain traction. She deserves extra credit for sheer will power to reduce Rainha Da Bateria’s margin. The further they went, the closer Dacita got, and she passed her rival – but after the wire.

Dacita had another, literal, burden to overcome in the Canadian. As the 124-pound highweight, she was spotting Rainha Da Bateria nine pounds. To miss by a whisker, on a rain-affected course, despite that big a weight concession, was a tremendous performance. She’ll be a lot happier in the Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

The Canadian underscored the depth of the Diana, with its alumnae dominating the result. Finishing third was Faufiler, the fifth-place finisher from the Beverly D. (G1). Defending Canadian champion Strut the Course was fourth, followed by Steip Amach, Midnight Miley, and Goodyearforroses.

Rainha Da Bateria, who covered about 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.87, returned $11.30 to win as the 9-2 second choice. Her resume now reads 16-3-4-2, $520,060.

The Pizza Man photo courtesy Melanie Martines (@SkimtheRail) via Twitter