As eight juvenile colts roared into the stretch at Woodbine in the $200,000 Summer Stakes (G2T), it appeared that a game of chess had just been completed.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who scored in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (G1T) a day earlier on World Approval, appeared to have timed another Canadian match just right. Riding favored Hemp Hemp Hurray close to the pace set by El Dulce and having been confronted by Count Alexander on the outside, Velazquez turned on another gear with the Wesley Ward-trained Artie Schiller colt in mid-stretch and left those challengers behind.
Even West Point Thoroughbreds' Untamed Domain, playing a cagey game of hide and seek near the back wearing blinkers for the first time under jockey Joe Bravo, didn't appear to stand a great chance when Hemp Hemp Hurray was set loose.
Untamed Domain's sire Animal Kingdom may have passed along a determined gene or two, as the Graham Motion trainee rallied from fifth at the top of the lane and nailed Hemp Hemp Hurray in the final strides after a prolonged stretch battle.
In addition to the chess match, there was the game of jockey musical chairs as Velazquez was aboard Hemp Hemp Hurray instead of the Todd Pletcher-trained El Dulce, whom he had ridden twice before. When El Dulce went right to the lead under Jose Ortiz without much of an argument with the field, it was only Hemp Hemp Hurray who chose to keep him company on the outside.
Ortiz had ridden Untamed Domain in his last two starts, most recently a third-place finish in the With Anticipation Stakes (G3T) at Saratoga Race Course, but it was Bravo who was aboard this time.
For much of the race it appeared El Dulce and Hemp Hemp Hurray were going to travel to the wire exclusively after fractions of :23.89 and :47.53 through a half-mile, until jockey Slade Callaghan moved three wide with Count Alexander after three-quarters in 1:11.65 and appeared to have collared the two frontrunners. Then the real running started.
Count Alexander wasn't able to continue his momentum as they straightened into the stretch with Hemp Hemp Hurray pulling away.
Admiralty Pier, who acted up in the gate before the race, started to get going on the rail with a menacing run but never caught up to the leaders. Bravo coaxed just enough out of Untamed Domain on the outside to get the job done by a neck in a time of 1:34.73 for one mile over the firm ground.
"The whole puzzle really came together today," said Bravo. "Graham did a great job by putting the blinkers on for the first time."
Velazquez had no excuses. "Perfect trip," he said. "He was a little bit strong the first part of the race and that was it. He didn't have enough to fight down the lane."
Out of the graded stakes-placed Lear Fan mare Ciao, Untamed Domain earned his second win from four starts and raised his earnings to $165,600. Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Untamed Domain was purchased for $90,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The Summer, a Breeder’s Cup “Win and You’re In” race, gives Untamed Domain an automatic berth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
Admiralty Pier finished third, followed by Count Alexander. Untamed Domain paid $8, $4.40, and $2.90 across the board.