Belmont Park put on a quality card on Saturday with 4 graded stakes culminating in the Grade 1 Man O’ War over a stamina-sapping mile and 3/8.
First on the graded stakes menu was the Grade 2 Ruffian for older fillies and mares over a mile. I was amongst quite a few race watchers who were concerned that Cavorting might struggle to get home. However, we were so wrong. She had to race wide from the get-go as she stalked Calamity Kate and Carrumba. She hit the front about 2 furlongs out and hearts were in mouths as to whether she would see out the trip. However, there was never a moments worry as she drew away leaving Carrumba flat-footed and there was five lengths between her and Carrumba at the finish line.
Given she ran so well at Saratoga last year, no doubt we will be seeing her in some of the top races there in the next few months.
There was quite a shock in the Beaugay Stakes, a race for older fillies and mares over a mile and a sixteenth of the turf course. Many were expecting Tapitry to set the fractions but instead My Miss Sophia went out like a bullet from a gun. She held sway until about 1 ½ furlongs out when Tapitry took over and it looked all over. However, Strike Charmer, under a strong Irad Ortiz drive, took over with a sixteenth to go and drew away to win by 2 ¼ lengths, rewarding backers at 9/1.
This was one of Strike Charmer’s best performances but she will be lucky to get such a hotly contested pace in front of her next time out.
As expected, unified duly took the Grade 2 Peter Pan stakes but it wasn’t the procession everyone expected, given the opposition didn’t look strong. Unified sat off the pace set by Singleton early on and when he hit the front 3 furlongs out, he look set for a comfortable win. However, he could never get completely clear and looked to be tiring as he held off the late charge of Governor Malibu.
He needed to put in a strong performance to encourage connections to stump up the fee to run him in the Belmont Stakes in 4 weeks time. The performance didn’t immediately scream that Unified will stay the extra 3 furlongs of the Belmont but he showed admirable toughness to see the race out. Connections will no doubt watch the Preakness to see how the principals run before they make a decision on Belmont’s triple crown finale.
The grade 1 Man O’ War was won in some style by the 2/1 favorite, Wake Forest, taking his first grade 1 contest. He was held up in last place throughout the first mile, taking a ground saving trip. With a furlong to go, he was still behind in fifth and looked to be having major traffic problems. However, he got to the outside and powered home to win cosily by ¾ length. Wake Forest is a German import and had plenty of good form in his native country over 10 furlongs and it may be that his recent defeat by Kaigun just overstretched his stamina.
Our old friend, Kaigun was disappointing with his bid flattening out to finish 6th. He has been busy in these long distance races for some time and he may be due a break.