Sunday, September 28, 2014

Belmont Park Notes: September 28, 2014

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


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Belmont Park Notes


  • Clement lauds G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Tonalist for steady progression throughout 3-year-old season
  • Breeders' Cup on tap for G1 Joe Hirsch winner Main Sequence
  • Rodriguez still on Cloud 9 after winning G1 Beldame with Belle Gallantey, G2 Kelso with Vyjack
  • Brown has solid showing on TVG Super Saturday, emerges with a few Breeders' Cup hopefuls
  • V. E. Day (6th), Wicked Strong (unplaced) return from G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup in good order


ELMONT, N.Y. - While happy to have won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup for the first time in his career, trainer Christophe Clement on Sunday gave all the credit to Tonalist, who defeated Zivo by 1 ¾ lengths on Saturday in the 1 ¼-race for 3-year-olds and up.


"He's been improving all year long," said Clement. "As a trainer, it's very exciting because you can see him improving through the year. The main thing is the horse. Obviously, he's a very nice horse and he's the one who has been improving and does the running."


In June, Tonalist became Clement's first Classic winner when he took the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes by a head. The only other horse to win a Grade 1 on the dirt for Clement is Funny Moon, who took the 2009 Coaching Club American Oaks.


This summer at Saratoga, Tonalist was second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in July and third in the Grade 1 Travers on August 23. Clement removed the blinkers from Tonalist for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the colt responded by making a steady charge from last despite having to check while entering the far turn and in midstretch.


"It's very exciting," Clement said of Tonalist's Gold Cup win. "He came out of the race in good order. We're all thrilled and excited about it."


Clement said Tonalist likely will make his next start in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic on November 1 at Santa Anita Park, but before a final decision is made the trainer will evaluate the horse's condition and talk to owner Robert S. Evans. The Jockey Club Gold Cup was a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race in the Classic division.


"Of course we'll keep him eligible to the Breeders' Cup," said Clement. "I'll talk to Mr. Evans later this week. The idea would be to train to the race, but we have plenty of time to talk about it."


*           *           *


It's on to the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf for Main Sequence, who remained undefeated on American soil with a dramatic win in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.


The 5-year-old Flaxman Holdings homebred had lost 10 straight races dating back to June 2012 before coming to the United States, where he has reeled off three straight Grade 1 victories, none by more than a head.


Following a win in the August 22 Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course, trainer H. Graham Motion had considered training Main Sequence up to the 1 ½-mile Turf, a race Motion won in 2004 and was second in 2006 with Better Talk Now. This year's race is scheduled for November 1 at Santa Anita.


"[His wins] never seem to be easy," Motion said. "I would like to have put him in cotton balls and just not run him again before the Breeders' Cup, but the timing for [the Joe Hirsch] was so good, and this is a very prestigious race on its own account. It's a great race to win."


Main Sequence was trained by David Lanigan in his native England before joining Motion. There, as here, the horse has had to overcome issues at the starting gate.


"He wants to be a little antsy in the gate, but he also wants to be a little sluggish coming out of the gate. There's a fine line between what you can do with schooling him," Motion said. "We've schooled him several times and walked him out the front. He was still antsy [Saturday]. You're not going to teach an old dog new tricks. He did it with David. David had prepared me very well for it, so we were aware of it."


Despite another awkward start, Main Sequence found himself closer to the pace than he had been in his previous races. He had already earned an all-fees paid trip to the Breeders' Cup by virtue of his triumph in the United Nations at Monmouth Park in his American debut.


"I was around the horse when we were over [in England] with Animal Kingdom last year because he was obviously with David then," Motion said. "The only thing I've ever told Rajiv [Maragh] is just not to worry about it. Even if he doesn't break well, just don't worry about it. I was actually a little surprised once he got away from there how close he was. He was much more in the race than he has been."


Main Sequence had won three of 14 starts in England before coming to the United States, where he is now 3-for-3 with earnings of $960,000, pushing his career bankroll to $1,648,386.


"I think what helps him over here is they tend to go perhaps a little quicker than they do at home, so he has a little bit of a pace to run at," Motion said. "Even when the fractions are slow, they still go a little quicker than they do at home. I think when he breaks a step slow he's still got a pace to run at and that really helps him. He's also a little quirky if he makes the lead too early, like you saw [Saturday]. He's definitely a quirky horse, but he's definitely got a ton of ability."


*           *           *


Aqueduct-based Rudy Rodriguez was back at work Sunday morning after enjoying his best day as a trainer on Saturday at Belmont Park.


The 42-year-old ex-jockey, who went out on his own in 2010 after working for Rick Dutrow, Sr., Rick Dutrow, Jr. and late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, won the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame with Belle Gallantey and the Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Handicap with Vyjack, and was second in the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh with Dads Caps.


"It was a great day," Rodriguez said. "Just to compete in those kinds of races is amazing, and to win two and run second, that's unbelievable, you know?"


Winner of the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap in July, Belle Gallantey rebounded from a disappointing finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, run in the Saratoga mud last month, to romp by 8 ¼ lengths in the Beldame.


Owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and Gary Aisquith, 5-year-old Belle Gallantey is now 5-for-7 with purse earnings of $851,400 in 2014.


"She looks like she came back pretty good," Rodriguez said. "She ate up good last night and had a lot of energy this morning. She looked the same to us. We're going to wait a couple days and see how she is and take it from there. Right now, we don't have any plans for her. We're going to watch and see how she is and then see what we want to do."


Vyjack had lost eight straight graded stakes attempts and showed one victory in nine starts after opening his career with four consecutive wins, including the Grade 2 Jerome and Grade 3 Gotham. He rallied from midpack to win the one-mile Kelso by a length.


"He's one of our favorite horses," Rodriguez said. "To see him run the way he did, it was amazing. All along, we've thought he had some talent and he can compete with those horses. The horse is not easy to train, and thank God he came back good, too. The plan was to run him in the [Grade 1] Cigar Mile [November 29 at Aqueduct], that's why we put him in the mile race. I have to talk to the owner and figure out what he wants to do."


Grade 1 Carter Handicap victor Dads Caps was beaten a neck by repeat winner Private Zone in the Vosburgh, and now has three wins and four seconds in eight lifetime tries at six furlongs.


"He ran great. We were very proud of him," Rodriguez said. "He ran a winning race. The winner is a very game horse. We went by him in the stretch and he came back and beat us. He still ran great. I haven't talked to the owner yet, but we'll make a plan and take it from there. The horse ran big and came back good."


Rodriguez has five graded stakes wins this year, including four Grade 1s: the Carter, Delaware Handicap, Spinaway with Condo Commando, and Beldame. He also won five graded stakes in 2013.


"It was a great day," he said. "The horses were all training very good. For them to perform the way they did was unbelievable."


*           *           *


Trainer Chad Brown sent out a fleet of runners on TVG Super Saturday at Belmont Park, and emerged with some strong Breeders' Cup contenders.


Brown's day was capped by Stephanie's Kitten's victory in the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl, which the Kitten's Joy mare won with ease. According to Brown, the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf has always been the objective for Stephanie's Kitten's 5-year-old campaign, and her victory in the 1 ¼-mile Flower Bowl has the trainer brimming with confidence.


"She came out of the race in great shape so far. As long as she's sound and doing well [the Filly & Mare turf] is the plan," said Brown. "Her last three races have been terrific; I certainly wouldn't trade horses with anyone. I was really happy she adapted to the slow pace because I wasn't sure how she'd react laying that close."


Brown also saddled fourth-place finisher Watsdachances and seventh-place finisher Alterite in the Flower Bowl, who came back well, according to the trainer.


Two races later, in the Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch, Brown's entry of Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution finished fourth and sixth, respectively. A slow pace hindered the chances of Big Blue Kitten, while Real Solution failed to deliver his best effort, according to the trainer.


"I'd like to go [to the Breeders' Cup Turf with Big Blue Kitten]," said Brown. "I would have liked to have seen a stronger pace, and he had a little trouble turning for home, but not terrible. I was a little disappointed he didn't kick that last eighth and catch up to the top three, but all in all he wasn't beaten too far. If he's sound and well, I would like to take a shot with him out at Santa Anita and hope for a stronger pace.


"Real Solution just didn't have it [in the Joe Hirsch]," Brown added. "It was likely his last race, but I have to confirm that with Mr. [Ken] Ramsey. He's scheduled to enter stud at [the Ramsey's] farm."


Brown also sent out two horses in the featured Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, with the New York-bred Zivo giving the trainer his best finish. Zivo lagged behind a lively pace, was forced to steady near the three-eighths pole after Wicked Strong unseated Rajiv Maragh, but still mounted a strong rally in the stretch to finish second.



"Zivo came back great. He ran terrific," said Brown. "In my eyes, it was another career best race for him. He had some trouble, as did a handful of other horses when [Maragh] went down, but regained his composure and restarted his race at that point. He was second best yesterday, but a good second."


The patiently handled Zivo, who progressed through his New York-bred conditions methodically, may get a crack at the Breeders' Cup Classic, according to Brown.


"I'd like to take a shot in the Classic, but I have to talk to Mr. [Tom] Coleman," said the trainer. "He's doing so well right now, and it's one of the best races in the world. Why not?"


Brown's other entrant, Last Gunfighter, finished sixth, and the trainer is unsure what will be next for the son of First Samurai.


*           *           *


Trainer Jimmy Jerkens reported that both his Jockey Club Gold Cup conteders returned from the 1 ¼-mile race in good order. Grade 1 Travers winner V. E. Day finished sixth after breaking from post position 10, while Wicked Strong, the second choice in the betting behind winner Tonalist, was unplaced after unseating jockey Rajiv Maragh about halfway through the race.


"Both horses came back good," said Jerkens. "V. E. Day lost an awful lot of ground early on. Post 10 is tough; I think it's even tougher on a come-from-behind horse. He wasn't able to tuck him in turning in on the backside and then he was stacked wide. He got him in a little bit on the turn, but then he had to go and swing out again wide when you lose the most ground. I think with a better post he would have gotten a check."


Jerkens said it was likely that Wicked Strong, who lost Maragh when bumped by Moreno, might not return to racing until 2015.


"It doesn't look like we're going to California with either one of them," said Jerkens. "There's a chance we might give Wicked the rest of the year off. He's OK and everything, but he's grinded it out pretty good and we hope to have a nice handicap horse next year."


The trainer said options remain open for V. E. Day, including a possible return to turf in the Grade 3, $250,000 Red Smith on November 15 or remaining on the main track against 3-year-olds in the Grade 3, $200,000 Discovery Handicap on November 1, both at Aqueduct Racetrack.



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