Our review of last Saturday’s graded racing action starts with the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park, where Flintshire attempted to add another grade 1 to his already impressive resume.
The problem was that the ground (soft) had gone against him and the likely slow pace from the small field was also not in his favour. As we indicated in our preview, this did provide an opening to the opposition which otherwise did not look good enough.
Ectot with grade 1 form on soft in France as a two year old took full advantage of the opportunity. He bobbled a bit at the start but otherwise travelled very kindly for jockey Ortiz. He took the lead from the start and controlled the fractions. Relishing the ground, he pushed clear in the stretch and won untroubled by 5 furlongs.
Flintshire made a move coming into the stretch but was never able to challenge and was simply outfinished by the impressive winner. No doubt he will be seen to better advantage once he got his ground.
The next grade one on the Belmont card was the Vosburgh Stakes for the sprinters. With the withdrawal of AP Indian, the very speedy XY Jet went off the 7/5 favorite on the back of his excellent run in the Golden Shaheen at the World Cup meeting.
Unfortunately for backers of this horse, he got locked into various speed duels, which jockey Jaramillo was not prepared to back out of. These speed battles and the sloppy going took its toll on the favourite and he had nothing left in the final furlong and faded to finish back in 5th. The hot pace allowed Joking to finish late and fast to win going away by a length.
The final grade 1 on the Belmont card was the Beldame, a $400,000 race for 3 year old and above fillies and mares over a mile and an eighth.
Forever Unbridled looked a cut above the opposition and so it proved. She broke well and held a good position in fifth place about 2 wide. She made her move about 2 furlongs out and passed the field with some ease and was able to coast home 2 ¼ lengths to the good of Tiger ride.
Our final race is the Awesome Again Stakes on the Santa Anita card, where we got the opportunity to see how California Chrome was tuning up for the Breeders’ Cup. Unfortunately the scratching of hoppertunity took some of the gloss of the race as a contest.
However, the race still had to be won and California Chrome didn’t let his supporters down. He took the lead from his stall 1 draw and was pressured early on by the classy Dortmund. By the ¾ pole CC had drawn away by 2 lengths and was never in any danger thereafter, cruising home by 2 ¼ lengths.
That was an ideal prep run for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. California Chrome will earn a $1m bonus if he can add that race to his wins in the Pacific Classic and Awesome Again and it is going to take an exceptional performance to stop him winning that treble.