Proud Spell, with wins in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), and Delaware Oaks (gr. II), needed a victory over grade I Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Music Note in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) to regain her place atop the 3-year-old filly division.
By defeating Music Note by a head after a stirring stretch duel, Proud Spell now can earn an Eclipse Award without having to go to the Breeders’ Cup, which is what Jones had been hoping to achieve.
“Hopefully, that will settle the Eclipse Award,” Jones said. “I just can’t see them settling it on an artificial surface and using that as the one-race measure. That’s why they have dirt horses and they have turf horses. And now you need a third kind of horse. I know we’re not looking to go to the Breeders’ Cup with Proud Spell.
“She wasn’t comfortable on the Polytrack at Keeneland (in which she finished a dull third in the grade I Ashland Stakes). We work over the Tapeta synthetic surface here at Fair Hill, and while it’s good for her to train on it, she still works slow, and had a slow work over it for the
Jones said he has not set any schedule yet for Proud Spell, who has now won seven of her 11 career starts for earnings of over $1.9 million.
Jones also said his Philip H. Iselin (gr. III) winner Honest Man may point for the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. III) Sept. 27. Jones said the son of Unbridled’s Song has worked extremely well over the synthetic surface at Fair Hill. Solar Flare, runner-up in the Suburban Handicap (gr. I), likely will run next in the Massachusetts Handicap Sept. 20.
The next Breeders’ Cup question mark could come in the Travers Stakes (gr. I), as three of the leading contenders – multiple stakes winner Pyro, Withers (gr. II) and Prince of Wales winner Harlem Rocker, and Jim Dandy (gr. II) winner and Preakness (gr. I) runner-up Macho Again – have all run uncharacteristically bad races on synthetic surfaces. Pyro never picked his feet up on Keeneland’s Polytrack in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I); Macho Again has tried Polytrack twice – at Keeneland and Turfway Park -- and finished up the track both times; and Harlem Rocker suffered his only career defeat on Woodbine’s Polytrack, where he finished a dull fourth as the 1-5 favorite in the Queen’s Plate Trial.
Also, Fountain of Youth (gr. II) winner Cool Coal Man’s only venture on Polytrack in the Blue Grass resulted in a ninth-place finish. There are a couple of promising colts in the field – Mambo in Seattle and You and I Forever -- whose last start on a synthetic surface also produced poor performances.
What makes the situation even more unusual is that Harlem Rocker’s owner, Frank Stronach, also owns Santa Anita and is the person who decided to install another synthetic surface this spring after the initial Cushion Track surface proved to be a disaster during Santa Anita’s winter meet. Would he then keep his star 3-year-old out of the Classic because of the track?
Trainer Steve Amussen has already stated he will never run Pyro on a synthetic surface again, and it’s hard to imagine West Point Stable running Macho Again on it after his two dismal performances, but they have not addressed the matter. Harlem Rocker obviously would be the most likely to try again on a different type of synthetic surface, despite his apparent disdain for the Woodbine Polytrack.
If Santa Anita
Harlem Rocker turned in a sharp work for the Travers Sunday, drilling five furlongs in :59 3/5 in company with Understatement on the
“I thought he went really well this morning and he’s coming into the Travers in good order,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We were shooting for between 1:00 and 1:01. It was a tick quicker than we wanted to go, but he did it the right way. He did it well and galloped out strongly. He seemed to cool out quickly. I always work him in company. He has become a very good work horse, which hasn’t always been the case. He’s gotten better as he has been going along.”