Belmont Race Report (Cont.)

Belmont Race Report (Cont.)
Photo: AP/NYRA/Adam Coglianese
With Anticipation, winning the Man o' War for the second straight year.
With Anticipation scored consecutive victories on the turf this year in the grade I United Nations Handicap, Sword Dancer Handicap, and Man o' War Stakes, and only a disqualification in last year's United Nations prevented him from winning all three races in back-to-back years.

In the Man o' War, he was up against several quality opponents, such as the Bobby Frankel pair of Skipping and Lord Flasheart, and the Godolphin invader Tobougg, a two-time group I winner as a 2-year-old who had finished second in the group I Champion Stakes and Hong Kong Cup in 2001. Providing the speed was Balto Star, who had been turned into a turf horse by trainer Todd Pletcher after scoring front-running victories in major dirt races like the Arkansas Derby and Spiral Stakes (both gr. II).

Balto Star, as expected, went to the front, as Pat Day settled With Anticipation right behind in second. Richard Migliore, on Balto Star, was able to slow the pace down to a crawl, with fractions of :51.06, 1:16.02, and 1:40.18. Approaching the head of the stretch, Migliore gunned for home, and no one was able to keep up. While the 8-1 Balto Star was opening a three-length lead, With Anticipation, the 4-5 favorite, was going nowhere. Day just continued to hand-ride the horse, waiting for him to kick into gear. Nearing the eighth pole, the big gray suddenly took off and came charging after Balto Star. With a sensational final eighth in under :11, With Anticipation collared Balto Star and drew clear to win by a length, covering the 1 3/8 miles in 2:15.05. It was a half-length back to the fast-closing Man From Wicklow.

"When Pat first asked him mildly, he didn't seem to respond right away," Sheppard said. "He has that big move in him. It's just a question of getting it out of him. He was a little slow untracking himself, which was good, because he was able to get into his rhythm without having to be rushed. Ever since he was a yearling, he's had a mind of his own, and you have to be careful not to ask him to do too much before he's ready to do it."

Unlike last year, when he ran With Anticipation in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) off the Man o' War, Sheppard will bring him back in the Turf Classic (gr. IT) on Sept. 29. "Sometimes, it's a little easier on these old horses to race them rather than give them a long layoff," he said. "We tried it the other way last year, and that didn't work, so we'll try something different."

An Imperial Return

It's been a tough year for the Godolphin racing stable in America, with the death of Tempera, the loss of form by Imperial Gesture, and the recent injury and retirement of Street Cry. When Grandera rallied to nip Hawk Wing in the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) earlier on Sept. 7, spirits began to pick up, as assistant trainer Tom Albertrani prepared to saddle Imperial Gesture in the Gazelle.

The daughter of Langfuhr was second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), and had bounced back from her dismal effort in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) with a scintillating allowance victory at Saratoga. Facing top-class fillies Bella Bellucci and Take Charge Lady in the Gazelle, she was sent right to the front by Jose Santos, who had a strong hold of his filly through a half in :46.73 and three-quarters in 1:10.44. Even when Take Charge Lady moved up to challenge at the top of the stretch, Santos still was pulling back on the reins.

When he finally turned her loose, Imperial Gesture drew clear and threw in a strong final eighth in :12.46 to win by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:47.12. She covered her final three-eighths in :36.68, which was more than a second faster than they closed in the Woodward.

"She's been really very well, and rebounded from her last race, so we had no concerns about running her back in two weeks," Albertrani said. "When she shipped to Belmont after the Kentucky Oaks, she showed no signs of life at all. She lost a lot of weight, so we basically took our time and let her get some muscle back on her. We'll see how she comes out of this race, but as of now, we may just train her up to the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I)."


Speedy Wonder

Joan and John Phillips' Wonder Again scored her fourth straight victory on the turf, winning the Sept. 8 Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) in much the same fashion as she won the Lake Placid Handicap (gr. IIT) on Aug. 18. In both races, the daughter of Silver Hawk demonstrated a quick burst of speed.

In the $233,000 Garden City, she looked as if she were going to win by daylight once again, but had to hold off the late charge of Riskaverse, who fell a half-length short. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to an unlucky Pertuisane, a French import purchased recently by Bobby Frankel who was trapped for most of the stretch run.

Wonder Again covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.33, paying $5.40.


(Chart, Equibase)

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