There was plenty of high class racing fare on offer this weekend with the top grade 1 action to be had at Woodbine notably the Woodbine Mile and the Northern Dancer Turf. However, but before we review those races let’s take a look at some of the action from Charles Town and Belmont Park.
We don’t make many visits to Charles Town, a track that is not really designed for horses, but the track provides some valuable races and Saturday was no exception. The feature of the card was the Charles Town Oaks over a decidedly un-Oaks like trip of just 7 furlongs.
The race required the punters to work out the conundrum. Will the horse with the best form, Sophia’s Song, handle the bull-ring circuit and at what price was that risk worth taking? If you did wade in at the short price you knew your fate pretty quickly as, in fact, everything that could go wrong did!
She broke badly and was slowly into stride so Castellano decided to take her inside. She didn’t appear to enjoy the kick-back on the first bend but did start to make good ground in the back stretch before being forced to go round some of the beaten horses. By this time Covey trace and Mia tori were setting sail for home.
Sophia’s Song finished well but the straight is short and she ran out of real estate. That’s racing and just one of the things that can happen around a track like Charles Town. Let’s take nothing away from the winner, Covey trace, who ran well last time out and was always well-positioned and had the necessary fortitude to outbattle Mia Tori in the stretch drive.
Belmont Park hosted a big ticket grade 2 event in the Sands Point Stakes for 3 year old fillies and worth an impressive $500,000. The market got it right here as, despite it looking an open race, all the money was for On Leave, who went off at odds of 3/4.
Jose Ortiz bounced the horse out of the stalls and controlled the pace from the front with a cagey field jockeying for position in behind. He kicked for home entering the stretch and had the whole field in trouble and under maximum pressure. On Leave was then able to saunter home some 2 ½ lengths in front of Diamond Fields. In fact the remaining horses all finished in a bit of a heap.
On leave is unbeaten this year and has clearly improved in the transition from two to three years old. She has been stepped up in class with each race and each time she has come out on top. It will be interesting to see where connections go from here but her future looks very bright.
Surprise, surprise, the big race of the day, the $1m Woodbine Mile went to the incomparable Tepin, making it 8 wins on the bounce. Drawn nicely in the 8 box she was able to observe in 4th place on the outside before making her move and taking it up about 2 furlongs from home. She was then kept up to her work to come home ½ a length to the good of the 24/1 outsider, tower of Texas.
She did appear to tire a little at the end of the race (confirmed by Jockey Julien Leparoux) but this was not surprising as she had had a good 3 month rest after her trip to Royal Ascot and she was probably a little ring-rusty. No doubt she will come on for this, which must be a worry to all her potential future opponents!
The final race for this review is the Northern Dancer Stakes a $300,000 race over a mile and a half of the Woodbine turf track. There was a significant chance that the Arlington Million form would have significant bearing on this race as four of the fancied runners, The Pizza Man, Wake Forest, World Approval and Danish Dynaformer had run in that valuable race. The result showed this to be the case as these four finished first, second, third and fifth respectively with The Pizza Man delivering for the first time this year.
There was little pace on and The Pizza Man was always in the right place, ie close to the front. He duelled with the front-running World Approval throughout the straight and hung tough to put away that threat and that of the closing Wake Forest to prevail by a neck.