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Las Vegas, NV - What a weekend! Packed cards on both coasts produced more Breeders' Cup contenders for the Big Day at Santa Anita in November. Santa Anita hosted its first weekend of action for its autumn meet while Belmont Park was the scene of Jockey Club Gold Cup Day on Saturday when five Grade 1 and one Grade 2 races were contested. Let's take a look at what happened starting at Santa Anita.
In the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita Saturday, Marketing Mix was the class of the field as even money favorite and outclassed Nereid who was a game second by 2 1/4 lengths. Stormy Lucy was third another 2 1/4 lengths back in the 13-horse field of fillies and mares. The winner earned an automatic bid as the likely favorite in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
1-5 favorite Game On Dude maintained his perfect record at Santa Anita Park with a smooth victory in the $250,000 Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes Sept, 29, a perfect tune-up for his return to the Breeders' Cup Classic over his favorite track. Nonios finished second although he didn't pose much of a challenge to the winner while Richard's Kid barely beat Rail Trip for third.
The Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes also took place at Santa Anita Saturday. Love and Pride the 4-1 third choice kept her recent hot streak going and earned an automatic bid into the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic by going gate to wire to win by 3 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park Sept. 29. Joyful Victory was second in the race and 5-2 second choice Include Me Out finished third. Amani, the 2-1 favorite in the field of nine fillies and mares, finished fifth.
The $150,000 Grade 1 John Henry Turf Championship went down on Sunday Sept. 30 at Santa Anita Park. The 3-1 second choice Slim Shadey led all of the way and won by 2 1/4-lengths to avenge his defeat at the hands of Turbo Compressor in the Grade 1 United Nations two back when he finished fifth. Turbo Compressor, shipping in from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher as the 3-2 favorite, closed ground through the stretch to get second. Interaction came from the back of the pack to finish third.
Phipps Stable's homebred and 3-5 favorite Point of Entry extended his winning streak to five in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park, officially punching his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Turf. Treasure Beach put on a game challenge but finished second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Finnegan's Wake who finished third.
Also at Belmont Park on Saturday the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap featured one of the only true upsets of the day. 8-1 Jersey Town who hadn't won since 2010 passed pacesetter and 9-5 second choice Shackleford late. Shackleford finished second by 3 1/2 lengths and Trickmeister finished third in a race that favorite To Honor and Serve finished fourth.
Barry Schwartz's 3-year-old The Lumber Guy rallied from just off the pace to win the Grade 1 $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational Stakes Sept. 29 at Belmont Park as the 2-1 second choice. Caixa Eletronica, sent off at 7-1, rallied stoutly for second, topping pacesetter Poseidon's Warrior by 1 3/4 lengths.
In the Grade 1 Beldame it was all about Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta the 4-5 favorite who destroyed the field by 9 1/2 lengths on Saturday at Belmont Park. The impressive win earned Royal Delta an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Rival It's Tricky tried to set the pace when Cash for Clunkers had some issues in the starting gate and finished second while Go Unbridled finished third.
English shipper 5-1 odds Nahrain knifed between the Chad Brown duo of Zagora and Dream Peace to get up late in Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park erasing the memories of a less-than scintillating 2012 in North America. Zagora finished second a half length behind the winner while the 2-1 favorite Dream Peace was third by a nose.
Lastly at Belmont Park - the main event of a packed day of racing. Preston Stables' 7-2 third choice Flat Out successfully defended his title in the Grade 1, $1 Million Jockey Club Gold Cup, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his first win in the prestigious 1 1/4-mile race since saddling Cigar to victory in 1995. In turn Flat Out earned an automatic bid into the Breeders' Cup Classic November 3. Stay Thirsty mounted an impressive challenge but fell short in second and 5-2 favorite Fort Larned was third, 5 1/2 lengths behind the second place finisher.