Triumph and tragedy in Bowling Green
All set to use my working title, "Red Rifle hits the bull's eye in Bowling Green," I saw the dreadful news about 2-1 favorite Innovation Economy. The budding turf star had been pulled up on the backstretch, and since I didn't see the incident as it happened, I hoped that it wasn't serious. Then Daily Racing Form's David Grening tweeted that Innovation Economy did not survive.
The loss of Innovation Economy overshadowed the result. Here was one of the last major performers sired by world-renowned Dynaformer, who died in 2012. Bred by Dr. John Chandler in Kentucky, he was a three-quarter brother to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Dynaforce. His dam, the Gone West mare Somerset West, is herself a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 millionaire Cetewayo, who won the Sword Dancer (G1) here in 1998. And in a cruel twist, Cetewayo had also won the Bowling Green, at its former home of Belmont.
Just a four-year-old, and still a colt, Innovation Economy had a world of upside. He brought a three-race winning streak into the Bowling Green, capped by a successful stakes debut in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup Invitational.
And in one horrifying moment, it was all over. Lobbing along contentedly at the rear of the field through the first six furlongs, Innovation Economy broke down irreparably.
Condolences to his owners, Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, and to trainer Chad Brown, who has been racked by his star filly Lady Eli's battle against laminitis. Just as she reportedly improves, he loses another in the blink of an eye.
The race went on, and so must the recap.
Red Rifle was cross-entered to Sunday's Seagram Cup (G3) on Woodbine's Polytrack, a sensible spot considering that he just landed the July 1 Dominion Day (G3) at the same venue. I even snarkily wondered whether his connections -- Twin Creeks Racing Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher -- would wish they'd gone back there instead. It's a fascinating counterfactual: if Red Rifle hadn't drawn the far outside post at Woodbine, might he have opted for the Seagram? Did his better post position at Saratoga (the rail) decide his destiny?
If so, it was a real stroke of luck, for Red Rifle showed a much sharper turn of foot in the Bowling Green than I can ever recall previously. Indeed, I'd had him pegged as more of a grinder type, based on his front-running scores in the 2014 Maxxam Gold Cup (in a track-record 1:48.73 for 1 1/8 miles at Sam Houston), the Yankee Affair on Belmont's turf, and the Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2). That opinion also appeared valid in his placed efforts in last fall's Sycamore (G3) and this season's Mineshaft (G3) and Excelsior (G3).
But Red Rifle did sweep from farther off the pace in the Dominion Day. The 6-1 chance successfully employed the same tactics here to complete his collection of graded wins on all three surfaces.
Under Javier Castellano, Red Rifle was nestled several lengths off the early pace of :25.15, :49.79, 1:14.66 and 1:38.16 on the firm inner turf. He saved ground throughout until the top of the stretch, when knifing between pacesetter Iron Power and the rallying Imagining. Spurting away by a decisive 2 1/2 lengths, the Giant's Causeway gelding completed 1 3/8 miles in 2:13.69 and paid $15.40 to win.
War Dancer, who was also in the thick of contention in midstretch, could not contain the winner's burst but easily bested Imagining for second. In the process, the son of War Front thwarted the Giant's Causeway exacta. This was the third straight disappointment for Imagining, who doesn't appear to be the same horse he was this time last year. Iron Power faded to fourth.
Red Rifle's newfound change of gear should serve him well going forward. The five-year-old gelding now sports a mark of 19-7-5-1, $696,306.
Red Rifle photo (top) courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Chelsea Durand.
Innovation Economy photo (center right) courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese Photography/David Alcosser.