Round two in the Alpha-Golden Ticket matchup will take place outside Rocky Balboa’s hometown today.
Round one didn’t resemble any of the “Rocky” fights so much as it did the final shot of “Rocky III,” when he sparred Apollo Creed and they popped each other in the jaw simultaneously as the credits rolled.
Alpha and Golden Ticket raced to a dead heat in the Travers at Saratoga Race Course, and will square off again today in the $1 million Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing in Phildelphia.
“We had no pressure at all last time,” said Golden Ticket’s trainer, Kenny McPeek. “We also like to think that we could beat Alpha this time. It’s a great grudge match over there. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. And I know Kiaran had his horse ready.”
“It’s good for the business and good for everybody involved, and we both get to carry the same weight again,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Alpha for Godolphin Racing. “We’ve always done better in New York, and hopefully, it’s just Churchill Downs he doesn’t like, and Parx he likes OK.”
Alpha, a son of Bernardini, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite, and Golden Ticket, who went off at 33-1 in the Travers, is 5-2.
Alpha has never finished worse than second, except for his two starts at Churchill, where he was up the track in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year and up the track again in the Kentucky Derby this year.
He caught Golden Ticket in deep stretch in the Travers and actually had the slightest nose in front in the final stride, but Golden Ticket head-bobbed barely enough to get the dead heat, the first for the win in the Travers since 1874.
“It’s great to share a Grade I with Kenny McPeek or anybody, for that matter,” McLaughlin said. “Because it makes the horse that much more valuable as a stallion, and it helps Bernardini. It’s just great for the whole operation.”
“We would’ve been sick if we lost, and I know he would’ve been sick, too, so we’re not going to make a negative out of that at all,” McPeek said.
McLaughlin’s other 3-year-old star, the filly Questing, will also race on the Pennsylvania Derby card, against three rivals in the $1 million Cotillion off her win in the Alabama, which was one of the most impressive performances of the Saratoga meet.
She’ll face the undefeated My Miss Aurelia, the 2011 juvenile filly champion who had an impressive race of her own at Saratoga, winning the Mandy’s Gold in her first start since last year’s Breeders’ Cup.
“We probably would have preferred a mile and an eighth or even further, but it shouldn’t be a big deal,” McLaughlin said. “I’m more concerned about giving My Miss Aurelia seven pounds, and she is fast, so it’s going to be an interesting race for the first mile, who’s in front and how fast we’re going.”
The card also includes another interesting rematch, between Currency Swap and Trinniberg, in the $300,000 Gallant Bob.
Currency Swap, trained by Saratoga Springs native Terri Pompay, nosed out Trinniberg for the win in the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga last year, and round two occurred this summer in the Grade I King’s Bishop at Saratoga.
Willy Beamin spoiled that storyline by winning, as Currency Swap finished sixth and Trinniberg ninth.
DYLAN DAVIS WINS
Apprentice jockey Dylan Davis, a Saratoga Springs High School graduate and son of former jockey Robbie Davis, scored the first win of his career as a jockey on Wednesday at Suffolk Downs.
He won the seventh race on Soldier Sam for trainer Colin Sherwood.
“I don’t even know what to say,” an exuberant Davis said in a Suffolk Downs release. “That was a blast. I want to do it again!”
Soldier Sam sat off the pace and made a bold last-to-first move after weaving through traffic and angling to the middle of the track under Davis, catching Big Cash and prevailing by a length and a half.
Davis, 18, is younger brother of Jacqueline Davis, a graduate of Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy and one of the top riders at Suffolk Downs.
Dylan Davis, the youngest of six children, began his riding career in August at Saratoga. He plans to spend the rest of the fall competing at Suffolk Downs before, along with his sister, moving his tack to Aqueduct this winter.
Spurious Precision, the undefeated Saratoga Special winner owned by Shaker High School graduate William Lawrence and Klaravich Stables, was euthanized on Tuesday after breaking his left knee during a workout at Aqueduct.
He had been preparing for the Oct. 6 Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park.
The preliminary diagnosis indicated that the injury might be repaired surgically, and he was sent to the Hogan Equine Clinic in Cream Ridge, N.J., but additional X-rays revealed extensive damage to the bone structure of the knee.
“He went a mile Monday and he looked super,” trainer Rick Violette Jr. told the New York Racing Association. “But [exercise rider Rodney Payne] felt his stride change as they finished the work, and he pulled him up right away.
“We sent him down to Dr. Patricia Hogan, but the comprehensive set of X-rays taken at the clinic showed that, in addition to a slab fracture, he had significant damage that could not be repaired.”
Purchased for $105,000 from the OBS Sale in April, Spurious Precision made his debut at Saratoga on July 21 and won by 31⁄2 lengths. The son of High Cotton followed that up with a five-length win in the Saratoga Special.
LOADED GALLANT BLOOM
Except for Groupie Doll, most of the contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint will be running in the Grade II Gallant Bloom at Belmont today.
The 10-horse field includes Ballerina winner Turbulent Descent, who is the 9-5 morning-line favorite; 2011 filly sprint champion Musical Romance; the top two from the Grade I Prioress, Emma’s Encore and Judy the Beauty; and the top two from the Honorable Miss, C C’s Pal and Island Bound. Musical Romance won the Grade I Princess Ronney last time out, and Risky Rachel is coming off a win in the Union Avenue at Saratoga.
“It’s like a Breeders’ Cup in September,” C C’s Pal owner Eric Fein told NYRA.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had considered training Turbulent Descent up to the Breeders’ Cup, but she came out of the Ballerina well enough to merit another start.
“I think she may need another race to be really spot-on for the Breeders’ Cup,” Pletcher said. “It was nice winning the Ballerina with her, and it’s pretty rare
seeing a horse who can win Grade I’s at 2, 3 and 4. It’s a special accomplishment.”
Turbulent Descent won the Hollywood Starlet at 2 and the Santa Anita Oaks and Test at 3.
HORSES AND HARVEST
A fundraiser for Camp TLC, which provides a summer camp for children of backstretch workers during the Saratoga meet, will be held in conjunction with the Breeders’ Cup at Druthers Brewing on Broadway in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, Nov. 3.
“Horses, Harvest and Camp TLC” will include Druthers craft beer, wine and appetizers from 4-7 p.m.
A karaoke contest and silent auction will be held throughout the evening.
Camp TLC was originally founded as a vehicle to provide camping to youth living with AIDS/HIV, and has expanded to bring programs to kids living in isolating circumstances, such as the children of backstretch workers at NYRA tracks like Saratoga.
Tickets for the Saratoga fundraiser are $45 and can be reserved at http://harvestandhorses.eventbrite.com or (917) 363-5154.
AWESOME GEM RETIRED
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Awesome Gem, Grade I winner and earner of over $2.8 million, has been retired from racing. The 9-year-old son of Awesome Again was scheduled to run in Sunday’s Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Handicap at Fairplex.
“[Trainer] Craig [Dollase] called me this morning and said Awesome Gem had some filling in a front leg,” West Point president Terry Finley said. “The decision to retire was easy. He deserves it. He’s been a horse of a lifetime for his partners, West Point Thoroughbreds, and team Dollase. After a seven-year career, he owes us nothing. This horse took us across the globe, to four Breeders’ Cups, and won or placed in 22 graded stakes.
Amongst Awesome Gem’s accomplishments are wins in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup, Grade II San Fernando Stakes, Grade III Longacres Mile, Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap, and Grade III Berkeley Handicap.
He has a record of 11-15-7 from 52 starts and earnings of $2,881,370.
AROUND THE TRACKS
The New York Racing Association announced this week that director of communications Dan Silver is leaving to become the director of racing operations at Penn National.
His last day with NYRA will be Oct. 1.
The fields for Jockey Club Gold Cup Day at Belmont are starting to take shape.
The probables for the JCGC include Whitney winner Fort Larned, Ron the Greek, Flat Out, Hymn Book, Fast Falcon, Atigun and San Pablo. Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Travers winner, is being considered.
The Joe Hirsch Turf Invitational field will likely include Point of
Entry, who will be shooting for his third straight Grade I, Little Mike, Center Divider, Game Ball, Lucky Chappy, Prince Will I Am, Treasure Beach and probably one of two from Donegal Racing, Dullahan or Finnegans Wake.
Mechanicville native Chad Brown is likely to send two to the Grade I Flower Bowl, Zagora and Dream Peace. The field may also include I’m a Dreamer, Nahrain, Hit It Rich, Bizzy Caroline and Hessonite.
Royal Delta and It’s Tricky may hook up again in the Beldame, and the Vosburgh is likely to draw Poseidon’s Warrior, Sean Avery, Zero Rate Policy and Royal Currier.
Pointing toward the Kelso are 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, To Honor and Serve, Coil, Goldigger’s Boy and Tapizar.
MORE PAYNTER IMPROVEMENT
Haskell winner Paynter had his casts removed on Friday and showed uniform wall growth in all four hooves, and he was walking soundly after a bout with laminitis in three of his feet.
Zayat Racing Stable said they expect that he’ll race again next year.
Paynter, who got sick in August and did not make the Travers, still has not fully overcome colitis.
DEPUTED TESTAMONY DIES
Deputed Testamony, the last Maryland-bred to win the Preakness, died at 32 on Tuesday and was buried at the Boniface family’s Bonita Farm in Darlington, Md. He was the oldest living classic winner in North America.
He skipped the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness by 23⁄4 lengths over Derby runner-up Desert Wine, with Derby winner Sunny’s Halo sixth.
Deputed Testamony sired 21 stakes winners in 20 crops, including graded winners Under Oath, Testafly and Gold Fleece.