Horse racing notes: Brown's stars meet in Turf Classic today
What a day Aug. 17 was for trainer Chad Brown.
The Mechanicville native won the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course with Big Blue Kitten.
Less than two hours later, he watched the video feed from Arlington Park, where Real Solution finished second in the Grade I Arlington Million, only to be placed first by virtue of disqualification of The Apache.
Today, he has both horses entered in the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on the Super Saturday card at Belmont Park.
Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution are part of a three-way entry with the Ramsey horse Joes Blazing Aaron, trained by Mike Maker. The entry is favored at 8-5 on the morning line.
Other than a 10th in the Group 1 Prince of Wales at Ascot in June, Big Blue Kitten has been very consistent in 17 career starts, never having missed the board otherwise.
“He’s finally getting those longer distances, and I think that, in combination with physically maturing, has him in top form, as long as the turf is firm,” Brown told the New York Racing Association. “He’s won two Grade I races in a row, so he should be a major player.”
Belmont was fast and firm on Friday, with no rain in the forecast.
Big Blue Kitten passed $1 million in earnings with his Sword Dancer win, which made him 2-for-2 at Saratoga. He won the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame as a 3-year-old in 2011.
Since then, he’s been bouncing between top-level allowance races and lower-level graded stakes, until a win in the United Nations at Monmouth Park in June and the Sword Dancer, which covered the same distance as the mile-and-a-half Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
Real Solution has taken a decidedly different route to this race, starting his career in Italy last year before being brought back to the U.S. by the Ramseys, who bred him.
He was a close fourth behind Lubash in the Grade III Fort Marcy in May, a close third to Point of Entry on a yielding Belmont turf in the Grade I Manhattan and closed well to get to the wire a head behind The Apache in the Arlington Million.
“We’ve always liked this horse,” Brown said. “He’s taken a little time to really find his stride, so to speak. He keeps improving with every race we run him, and it seems like he’s sitting on another top effort.”
This will be Real Solution’s first attempt at a mile and a half.
The Arlington Million and Manhattan are a mile and a quarter.
“This horse appreciated [more] time with me, and he’s still a rel-atively young horse,” Brown said. “With the way he was closing in the Million, perhaps the distance won’t bother him.”
The Turf Classic field includes the two who finished behind Big Blue Kitten in the Sword Dancer, West Point Thoroughbreds’ Twilight Eclipse and Nutello, who is making his second start in the U.S. for trainer Graham Motion after racing in France.
“He pretty much had one day in Saratoga as he came out of quarantine and then ran the next day,” Motion said. “He had to adjust to a lot, but he performed well. We’ve had this race in mind ever since he ran well in the Sword Dancer.”
The field also includes Little Mike, who hasn’t won in four starts this year after upsetting the Breeders’ Cup Turf at 17-1 last November. He was sixth in the Arlington Million.
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The highlight of the Belmont card is the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, and there are four other Grade I stakes on the program besides that and the Turf Classic.
Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar will square off in the Beldame, and an all-stakes $500,000-guaranteed pick four covering the Vosburgh, Flower Bowl, Turf Classic and JCGC will follow the Kelso.
All six are “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup qualifying races for which the $100,000 entry fee will be waived.
Graydar is the 7-5 favorite in the one-mile Kelso and has won three straight, including the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park, but he hasn’t raced since March because of an ankle chip.
“We certainly have him fit enough to get the mile.”
The eight-horse Vosburgh field includes four horses who won stakes at Saratoga, although two of those subsequently lost.
Justin Phillip is the 3-1 favorite for trainer Steve Asmussen and Zayat Stables, having won the A.G. Vanderbilt for his first Grade I victory in 29 career starts, then he lost to Strapping Groom, who is 5-1 in the Vosburgh, in the Forego.
Forty Tales won the Amsterdam, then was upset by Capo Bastone in finishing fourth in the King’s Bishop.
The New York-bred The Lumber Guy is back after winning the Vosburgh last year, followed by a second to Trinniberg in the BC Sprint.
This will be The Lumber Guy’s second start since being returned to the barn of Mike Hushion after a stint in California that produced two seventh-place finishes.
“We just want to go over there and win, and more importantly, win the next time,” Hushion said.
The Richard Santulli entry of Laughing and Tannery is 8-5 in the Flower Bowl after Laughing held off Pianist in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga for her third straight graded stakes win.
Laughing has tried a mile and a quarter just once in her career, a seventh in the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine in 2011.
Santa Anita also has a big stakes day lined up, with five “Win and You’re In” BC qualifiers.
Marketing Mix is 7-5 in the Rodeo Drive for fillies and mares at a mile and a quarter on the turf coming off a fourth in the Beverly D. on Arlington Million Day.
She won the Rodeo Drive by 2 1⁄4 lengths last year.
Joyful Victory is a slight favorite, at 2-1, in the Zenyatta for fillies and mares at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track after she won the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth by 71⁄2 lengths.
The nine-furlong Awesome Again drew a field of 10 led by Haskell winner Paynter, who made a heroic recovery from several life-threatening ailments but is still trying to regain his stride.
Besides the Grade I Chandelier and Front Runner at Santa Anita today, Belmont has Grade II juvenile stakes on Sunday, the Matron for fillies and Futurity for colts.
Sweet Whiskey is 2-1 in the Matron after breaking her maiden at Saratoga and finishing fourth in the Spinaway.
In Trouble, who broke his maiden at Saratoga on Aug. 10, is 5-2 in the Futurity, and the field also includes Saratoga Special winner Corfu, who was second in the Hopeful.
New York-bred Wired Bryan, first in the Sanford, second in the Saratoga Special and fifth in the Hopeful, is entered in the Futurity, but is likely to run in the New York Breeders Futurity at Finger Lakes today.
Impressive Hopeful winner Strong Mandate worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Churchill Downs last Saturday and will breeze again today in preparation for next Saturday’s Champagne at Belmont. He’s scheduled to ship to New York on Sunday or Monday.