By BILL CAIN
and Mike MacAdam
The filly quietly glided over the synthetic main track on Friday morning, the only roar coming from an occasional jet airliner angling low over Woodbine Racetrack from nearby Pearson International.
Trainer Josie Carroll chatted with an acquaintance, but otherwise concentrated on Inglorious’ easy gallop under exercise rider Moses Guce, so perhaps she didn’t hear this roar, either.
She claims not to have heard the thunderous wave that followed Inglorious down the stretch on June 26, when she beat 16 colts in the Queen’s Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.
Inglorious won’t run in the second leg, the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie next Sunday, a development that may dismay Canadian racing fans, but comes to the benefit of Saratoga Race Course and the Grade I Alabama on Aug. 20.
Carroll and owners Donna and Vern Dubinsky of Donver Stable are opting to get back to running against fillies, and to get back to the Alabama, which they won in 2009 with Careless Jewel.
Skipping the Prince of Wales for the Alabama also affords Carroll some time to allow Inglorious to comfortably recover from the Queen’s Plate.
“Part of it was timing,” Carroll said on Thursday. “She’s run five races already, and pretty close together. That last race, she made it look easy, but it’s never easy when you go a mile and a quarter against the colts. I said to the owners that I could see us get a little tired in between.”
Inglorious, a daughter of Hennessy out of the Smart Strike mare Noble Strike, will continue light work until the middle of next week, when she will breeze for the first time since the Queen’s Plate.
The ship to Saratoga is not arduous, and Carroll doesn’t have to worry about weather disruptions on Woodbine’s Polytrack, so they’ll stay in Toronto until a day or so before the Alabama.
Carroll, the first female trainer to win the Plate, in 2006 with Edenwold, didn’t mind admitting that she’s still basking in the glow of Inglorious’ big victory, which pushed her career record to 5-1-0 from seven starts, and made her just the fifth filly to complete the Woodbine Oaks-Queen’s Plate double.
“I had some family sitting at the end of the grandstand, and they said when she started to make her move, the roar started at one end and followed her all the way down the stretch,” Carroll said. “But I was so in the moment, I guess I [sensed] nothing else was around me.
“You know what’s great about these big races — and this was the first time I really experienced it — when you bring the horse back on the grass and they stand in front of the crowd, you get that pure appreciation of the animal and the accomplishment, as opposed to just racing and ‘I bet this one.’ You just get that pure appreciation of the sport, and that always sort of knocks me out.”
Carroll and the Dubinskys know what it takes to win the Alabama, but she said that this experience likely will be less taxing on the connections than their 2009 trip with Careless Jewel.
She was known for her pre-race antics, and lived up to that reputation by dumping jockey Rob Landry as they approached the starting gate.
Careless Jewel won by 11 lengths.
“I was apprehensive, because that filly can pull some stunts,” Carroll said. “She dropped the rider twice, once in the paddock and once behind the gate. The two fillies are so different. I was so calm with this filly going into this race, because I know she’s going to go out and be a professional and give you everything she’s got. At that point, you get calm, because you know you’ve done everything you can do, everything’s on track, and it’s just a matter of if your filly’s good enough.”
Inglorious was plenty good enough in the Queen’s Plate.
She cranked a bullet :59.00 for five furlongs, fastest of 26 works on June 16, which told Carroll everything she needed to know about whether running against the boys was the right move.
“Every day, she just amazed me. “She worked in :59, the rider told me he went too fast, but he went by me, and I couldn’t blame him. He had a hold on her, he never turned her head loose. She went back to the barn, cooled out like she did every day. When they act like that, you know they’re on their game. If you’re going to take a chance, you do it when they’re on their game.”
Under the hottest jockey at Woodbine, Luis Contreras, Inglorious tracked the front runners from the middle of the pack.
When Check Your Soul took a crack at the leaders, Contreras roused Inglorious, and she was much the best, rolling down the middle of the track and blowing by Hippolytus to win by 2 1⁄2 lengths.
“It’s obviously a very satisfying race to be competitive in, and it meant a lot to the owners to be able to come in with a competitor, rather than just coming in with a horse,” Carroll said. “They came in with a horse with a legitimate chance. And they gave me the leeway, after her last race, if I didn’t think she bounced out of it 100 percent, we could make other plans. Really, I was pretty tentative about it. I wouldn’t commit to it, because, a filly with great potential, you don’t want to ruin her. But truthfully, she went into that race better than the last one.”
Carroll is aware that the decision to forego a Canadian Triple Crown attempt for the Alabama may not be popular with fans.
Inglorious has a chance to solidify her foothold in what is shaping up to be a competitive 3-year-old filly division, though, and the Alabama ranks as one of the most important races on the schedule.
“I think it [decision] weighed a little bit on the owners because they had so much fun the last time,” she said. “It was such a great day for them, and such a great, historic race. They had such a great time there.
“But really, I think we were looking for the best possible spot for the filly. And it would be nice to see what she could do in a Grade I, so she can get some Grade I behind her name. I understood the historical significance of that race. That’s just, to me, the best 3-year-old filly race of the year.”
DELAWARE OR DEL MAR?
A rematch of the nation’s top two fillies could happen next Saturday at the $750,000 Grade I Delaware Handicap, but it will depend on whether trainer Jerry Hollendorfer — recently elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame — decides to ship Blind Luck from Northern California to face Havre de Grace.
The two 4-year-old fillies own the top two spots on the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Horse of the Year poll. They met in March at Oaklawn Park’s Grade III Azeri, with Havre de Grace the victor.
The other option for Blind Luck, winner of the Alabama at Saratoga Race Course last year, is the Grade I $300,000 Clement Hirsch at Del Mar on Aug. 6.
“I’d like to run at Delaware if they weight me properly, but if they don’t, then I can wait and run at Del Mar,” Hollendorfer said. “But I would like to run in that race at Delaware.”
In the distance, beyond whichever race Blind Luck runs next, Hollendorfer said he is definitely taking a hard look at running her in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 28.
Aside from the race being a good fit for the filly, the track was such a nice fit for her trainer last year.
“I had some nice experiences when I was out there last year with Blind Luck,” Hollendorfer said. “First off, I got to meet Allen Jerkens, a name everybody knows, that I’ve known since probably the first week I was on a race track. It was an honor to be stabled in his barn. Then, number two, we won the race there, the Alabama, so I’ve had nice experiences there.”
MAN O’ WAR
On June 11 at Belmont Park, New York-bred Mission Approved spoiled Gio Ponti’s day with a win over the 6-year-old in the Grade I Manhattan.
Mission Approved led from the break to the wire, finishing the
11⁄4-mile run 11⁄4-length ahead of Bim Bam, who edged Gio Ponti by a head to place.
Today, Gio Ponti will look not only to avenge that loss in the $600,000 Grade I Man o’ War, the two-time Eclipse champion male turf horse and 2009 Eclipse champion older male will look to write a little history with his third consecutive win in the race.
Gio Ponti is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, with Mission Approved (5-1) the third choice and Irish shipper Cape Blanco (5-2) the second.
Mission Approved is 8-5-1 in his 23 career starts. He is 2-2-0 in his last four races, including a second to Gio Ponti in last year’s Man o’ War.
“It’s exciting, you know? It’s a big Grade I, and he’s won it the last two years, so let’s try to do it a third time,” Gio Ponti trainer Christophe Clement told the NYRA. “It’s New York — it’s never easy.”
WEST POINT OUT WEST
New York-based ownership group West Point Thoroughbreds will have a pair of horses in graded stakes at Hollywood Park today.
Runflatout will run in the Grade II Swaps on the undercard. The
3-year-old won at first asking on Jan. 29 in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita, then jumped to graded company, where he has run 10th in a Grade II at Santa Anita, then second in two Grade III races at Hollywood Park.
In the 1 1⁄8-mile Swaps, he will again face Coil, who is 3-0-1 in his four career starts and beat Runflatout by a length in the Affirmed, having won his last three.
The Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, a “Win And You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Classic Division race, will feature West Point Thoroughbreds’ Awesome Gem, the defending champion.
The chestnut is 8-14-5 in 44 starts. He is 1-1-1 in five starts this year, four of them Grade III affairs. Two back, he won the 1 1/16-mile Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap by a length over Flat Out, both of them beating favorite Game On Dude, who won the Santa Anita Handicap in March. In his last, he was the beaten favorite, second in the Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, 21⁄2 lengths back from Headache.
In the 1 1⁄4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup, he will once again face Game On Dude, loading beside him at the gate. Twirling Candy and First Dude also join the field.
Twirling Candy is 2-0-0 in three starts this year and is fourth in the latest NTRA Horse of the Year poll. Game On Dude sits at eighth in that poll, 2-1-1 in four starts.
Twirling Candy has won seven of his nine career starts. Game On Dude is 3-1-1 in his last six starts.
First Dude was three votes and one spot from the top 10. He has won his last two races, the Grade III Alysheba at Churchill Downs most recently for his first graded win.
LEADING OWNER DIES
Carl Lizza of Flying Zee Stable, NYRA’s leading owner in 2011 heading into the weekend with 31 wins, died Friday at the age of 73 in his home in Rockaway, N.J.
Lizza was the leading New York owner in 2004 and 2005, and he has been among the top 10 owners each year since.
AROUND THE TRACKS
To help promote the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Breeders’ Cup created a new incentive for race fans to follow along from tonight’s “Win And You’re In” Hollywood Gold Cup all the way up through the Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
There are six “Win And You’re In” races, including the Haskell Invitational on July 31 at Monmouth, the Whitney Handicap on Aug. 6 at Saratoga, the TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 28 at Del Mar, and two races on Oct. 1 — the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita.
Fans attending a Classic Division Challenge race can enter a contest to become virtual owners of the winners of all six races. If one of those horses goes on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the virtual connections will split $250,000. . . .
Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last year, Dakota Phone was retired this week because of an injury suffered this spring. The 6-year-old gelding — trained by Hollendorfer and owned by John Carver, Halo Farms and George Todaro — was a 37-1 shot in the race, one of his two wins that year, the other being the Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.
Dublin, the winner of 2009’s Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga, also was retired. Both his career wins came at the track, the other a maiden special weight race. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas and owned by Robert Baker and William Mack, the Afleet Alex colt was seventh in last year’s Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness. . . .
Calder Race Course will run four graded stakes today, headlined by the Grade I Princess Rooney Handicap. The undercard includes the Smile Sprint and Carry Back, both Grade II races, and the Grade III Azalea.
Champagne d’Oro, who fared well in a trip to New York last year, will be the second choice in the Princess Rooney at 4-1. The filly won the Grade I Acorn last year and was second in the Grade I Prioress, both at Belmont Park, before winning the Grade I Test at Saratoga.
HERE AND THERE
The 11th annual Travers Celebration at Saratoga Race Course will kick off with an outdoor cocktail party on Aug. 25, two days before the 142nd “Mid-Summer Derby.”
Dubbed “Moonlight over Saratoga,” the party will take place from 7:30 until 11 p.m. at the clubhouse entrance. There will be dancing and live music from the New York Players.
Tickets are on sale at www.traverscelebration.eventbrite.com or by phone at (518) 383-6183. The cost is $175 per person or $125 for people younger than 30.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 395-3146 or [email protected]. Reach Gazette Sportswriter Bill Cain at 395-3154 or [email protected]. Read the thoroughbred horse racing blog, “The Wire,” at www.dailygazette.-com/weblogs/wire/.