Belmont Park Race Report: Blue Blazes

It was the perfect time, the perfect place, and the perfect distance. Never before in memory had two fillies squared off against each other after running as fast as Dream Supreme and Dat You Miz Blue had in their previous starts.

Dream Supreme, owned by George Steinbrenner, was coming off a victory in the Humana Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, in which she sizzled seven furlongs in 1:20.70. Dat You Miz Blue was coming off one of her typical runaway victories in an allowance race at Belmont, in which she scorched six furlongs in 1:07.92. With sizzled and scorched already used up, that leaves only blazed, and we're going to save that one for later.

Something had to give when the two 4-year-old fillies faced off in the 6 1/2-furlong Vagrancy Handicap (gr. III) on June 16. Dream Supreme had the class to go along with her speed, having won two grade I and two grade II stakes, in addition to being beaten only four lengths by Kona Gold in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). She even managed to equal Saratoga's track record for 5 1/2 furlongs in her career debut.

Dat You Miz Blue, owned by Cynthia Knight and bred by her late husband, Landon Knight, was a New York-bred who had never won a stakes in open company. But in her seven career victories, her average winning margin was an amazing nine lengths, and she had never won a race by less than 5 3/4 lengths. She won the seven-furlong Broadway Handicap for state-breds in 1:21.06 in April and captured her career debut two years ago at Saratoga in :57.66 for five furlongs, while romping by 14 1/4 lengths.

With Dream Supreme dropping back a sixteenth of a mile and Dat You Miz Blue stretching out a sixteenth of a mile, the Vagrancy was a perfect showdown between class-speed and speed-speed. But it proved to be no contest, as Dat You Miz Blue once again came hurtling out of the blue like a falcon in a dive to treat Dream Supreme with the same disdain she had her allowance foes and fellow New York-breds. At the wire, the daughter of Cure the Blues was 6 3/4 lengths in front of Dream Supreme. She had blazed the distance in 1:15.32 after setting fractions of :21.97, :44.32, and 1:08.61.

As you've no doubt gathered by now, the theme here is speed, as evidenced by the fact that in only five paragraphs we've already used up our allotted number of verbs and metaphors.

But when it comes to Dat You Miz Blue, scorched, blazed, and hurtled are beginning to seem like commonplace words. We'll even throw in the sizzled we gave Dream Supreme. Just watching this filly graze in the afternoon, you can see where the fire comes from. Several days before the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), trainer Jimmy Jerkens stood on a grassy area outside Todd Pletcher's barn, grazing Dat You Miz Blue. Out of nowhere, the filly reared straight up, and stayed up for several seconds. Then she did it again. Then she turned it off as quickly as she had turned it on and went to grazing like an old cow.

"She'll rear up like that every day for the first five minutes, then she puts her head down and starts grazing," Jerkens said.

In her four starts this year before the Vagrancy, Dat You Miz Blue romped in three of them, all in extremely fast times. Her lone defeat came in the one-mile Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III), in which she inexplicably dropped back after six furlongs, finishing a well-beaten sixth. Jerkens said he believed something was bothering her, although he hasn't been able to figure out what. But after bouncing back off that defeat and blowing away an allowance field by 63*4 lengths, while missing the track record by about a fifth of a second, Jerkens decided to take on Dream Supreme. He wasn't a bit concerned about coming back in three weeks off such a fast race.

"I don't really believe that 'bounce' theory," he said. "She obviously loved the track the other day. She's trained just as good since that race and I think now's the time to try our luck against Dream Supreme."

As it turned out, luck had nothing to do with it. A field of five went to the post for the Vagrancy. In addition to the two standouts, there was the grade I-winning Finder's Fee, and Katz Me if You Can and Lucky Livi, the one-two finishers in the recent Genuine Risk Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont.

But it basically was all about the showdown people were expecting, at least for a while. Dream Supreme, sent off at 4-5, was able to put pressure on Dat You Miz Blue, second choice at 8-5, from the inside, and moved up menacingly nearing the quarter pole. But John Velazquez, on Dat You Miz Blue, was sitting on a ton of horse who hadn't even been asked to run. Despite never feeling the whip, Dat You Miz Blue drew off on her own, as she loves to do, winning under a hand ride.

"She was tough today," said Jerkens, who took over the training of Dat You Miz Blue just over a year ago. "When I had her last year, she was breaking all screwed up. Now she breaks much better. When they're as strong as she is, they get more confidence. I was happy with the outside post, because she wouldn't have to stand in the gate too long, and it looked like the outside was the place to be today."

Chances are, both fillies will hook up again, possibly in the seven-furlong Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, and you can bet we'll be digging up some new verbs and metaphors to describe that one.


PROUD AND COURAGEOUS

No one knows just where it happened, but after Proud Man posed for his winner's circle photo following his gutsy victory in the Hill Prince Stakes (gr. IIIT) June 16, his connections looked down and simultaneously pointed to the deep laceration on his right hind leg. The son of Manlove was then loaded on an ambulance and brought back to his barn for examination. New York Racing Association veterinarian Dr. Neil Cleary reported there didn't appear to be any internal damage to the leg.

Proud Man, owned by Double R Stable, Robert Kaufman, and Stephen Weiss, did his owners and trainer Harry Benson proud by digging in the length of the stretch and out-battling the 9-5 favorite Navesink, while holding off the fast-closing Package Store in a three-horse photo.

A graded stakes winner on turf at Calder, Gulfstream, and Hialeah this winter, Proud Man was trying to rebound from a second-place finish in the Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT), his first race ever outside Florida.
Navesink, undefeated in three career starts, all on turf, had set a comfortable pace in the Hill Prince, and had plenty left turning for home. But Proud Man, under right-hand whipping from Rene Douglas, was relentless. He inched away from Navesink, who was just nailed at the wire for second by Package Store. The three horses were separated by a neck and a head, with the winner paying $9.20. The winning time for the 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf course was 1:48.25.

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