Crowded House: Big Brown crosses the wire in the Haskell before a crowd of 45,132 at New Jersey's Monmouth Park.
Photo: BILL DENVER / EQUI-PHOTO
Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s homebred filly Indian Blessing, who began her remarkable career almost a year ago by breaking her maiden at Saratoga, returned for the first time Aug. 2 in the $250,000 Test Stakes (gr. I) and like she did in her debut, destroyed the competition.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Indian Blessing entered the Test off a convincing 5 1/4-length win in the July 5 Prioress (gr. I) at Belmont when she won in similar stalking fashion under Velazquez. Last year’s 2-year-old champion filly is now 7-2-0 from nine career starts and solidified herself as the premier 3-year-old female dirt sprinter in the nation. She has earned $1,997,200.
Joseph Shields Jr.’s homebred Any Limit fought off Miss Macy Sue in the early stages and opened up her lead around the turn, eventually romping to a 5 3/4-length victory in the $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) Aug. 1 at Saratoga.
Sent off as the longest choice in a field of five, Any Limit broke sharply and was aggressively sent to the front by Cornelio Velasquez, much like she was in the July 4 First Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont. The only difference was the 5-year-old Limit Out mare had to hang on for a neck victory in that contest. In the Honorable Miss there was no doubt about it.
A nearly 10-month layoff did not seem to bother Peachtree Stable’s Red Giant, as the 4-year-old colt powered down the stretch under John Velazquez and caught Stalingrad just before the wire to win the $150,000 Fourstardave (gr. IIT) by a neck Aug. 2 on the Saratoga turf.
Following Henrythenavigator’s fourth consecutive group I victory in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood July 30, trainer Aidan O’Brien, who was saddling his 16th Group I win of the year, said the colt’s ultimate goal is the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.
The nay-sayers who thought Zenyatta might have been vulnerable after her comparatively plodding win in the Vanity (gr. I) last time out were left with little left to criticize when the statuesque filly blew by her rivals to capture the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II) under wraps at Del Mar Aug. 2. Zenyatta, the top-ranked older female in the nation, remains perfect in seven lifetime races.
Zenyatta, loping along at the back of the field heading into the final turn, came from off the pace with a bold move leaving the bend while angling out for the drive to win drawn down in the final stages by Jockey MIke Smith. She scored her fifth consecutive grade I or II triumph by one length in a track-record time of 1:41.48 for the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack distance.
Odds-on choice Black Mamba unleashed a powerful kick in the final furlong to overcome a bit of traffic trouble and earn grade I glory for the first time in the $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap on the Del Mar turf Aug. 3.
Her fourth win in 20 lifetime starts was worth $240,000 to owner Doubledown Stables Inc. of Richard B. Templer, and boosted her bankroll to $599,171. Black Mamba, a daughter of Black Minnaloushe, began her career in her native county. She won her first U.S. start, an allowance race at Del Mar, one year ago.
Ready Set (rail) holds off Web Gem to win the rich West Virginia Derby.
Photo: CHUCK P. SAUS / MOUNTAINEER CASINO RACETRACK
It certainly wasn't as impressive as his wins in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) or Preakness (gr. I), but Big Brown got the job done in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) before 45,132 spectators at Monmouth Park Aug. 3.
Drifting out slightly down the lane in spite of steady right-handed urging from his jockey, Big Brown picked it up late and swept past the tiring Coal Play close to home to score a 1 3/4-length win in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell.