Belmont Park Race Report (Cont.)


Not only is Frankel knocking off major stakes at an incredible rate, he's becoming a thorn in the side of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, winning the Whitney, Woodward, and Turf Classic with horses who are not nominated and not likely to run on racing's biggest day.

As Frankel awaited Timboroa's return, there was that familiar grin and impish twinkle in his eye, and his typical summation of the day's events: "I thought this horse would win. There was no pace in the race."

Sometimes, there's just no need to say any more.

Super Bowl
Back when Joe Mercer was one of the leading riders in England, he had the privilege of being aboard the great Brigadier Gerard, who captured 16 straight races. Now, as racing manager for Sheikh Maktoum, he's had the equal privilege of being a part of the incredible story of Lailani, who made it seven straight victories with her win in the $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. I) on Sept. 29.

The daughter of Unfuwain began her 3-year-old campaign coming off two horrendous efforts last year, both at odds of 33-1. After breaking her maiden at Windsor by 10 lengths, she rattled off three victories in handicap races, twice carrying 133 pounds. When she defeated the classy Foreign Affairs in the Vodafone Handicap at Epsom, Mercer and trainer Edward Dunlop knew they had something. They jumped her way up in class in the group I Irish Oaks, and she came away with a neck victory, followed by an impressive score in the group I Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.

A few days after the Nassau, however, she was full of herself out on the gallops and tripped and fell, bruising her shoulder. "That put our program back a couple of weeks," Mercer said. Instead of rushing to make the Prix Vermeille (Fr-I), it was decided to run in the Flower Bowl as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).

It was not an easy spot, with England's Legend, 7 3/4-length winner of the Beverly D. (gr. IT); Starine, 5 1/4-length winner of the Diana Handicap (gr. IIT); and Tweedside, 7 3/4-length winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I).

Lailani looked super in the paddock, bouncing along on her toes and her hind quarters dappled out. With the cold weather hitting the Northeast, Mercer expects her coat to begin turning soon, as they have on the horses back in England, but was thankful it held off until the Flower Bowl. "I don't mind her coat going, I just didn't want it this week," he said.

If Lailani was going to pull off her seventh straight victory, she was going to have to run down England's Legend, who looked to be the only speed, much as Timboroa was in the Turf Classic. In the Beverly D., England's Legend went to the front and blew her field away, and as she coasted along with a four-length lead down the backstretch of the Flower Bowl, it looked like a repeat performance. But Lailani, under Jerry Bailey, just kept after her and began cutting into her lead. She took over inside the eighth pole and went on to win by three-quarters of a length in 2:01.88 for the 1 1/4 miles on the inner turf course.

As Bailey led her back, he said to assistant trainer William Knight, "She's a sweetheart." In the winner's circle, Mercer's first words were, "Wonderful; absolutely fantastic."

Sometimes, there's just no need to say any more.

Ogden Phipps' Finder's Fee, one of the steadiest fillies over the past few years, came flying late to nip Cedar Knolls in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) Sept. 29. The daughter of Storm Cat came from last in the four-horse field to win by a neck in 1:17.60 for the 6 1/2 furlongs.

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