Fourth of July weekend started off with a bang on Friday with seven graded stakes races across the country. Belmont Park started off the fun with the Grade 2, $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap for three-year-olds and up at seven furlongs. Aldebaran left no doubt to his status as the nation's top
sprinter Friday afternoon, as he came from far back, sliced through a hole on
the inside and powered to a two-length victory over rallying Peeping Tom in a final time of 1:22 2/5. It was the fourth win in siz starts this year for the 5-year-old son of Mr. Prospector. Trainer Bobby Frankel said: "He ran well today, but I don't think he was at his best. I brought him back a little quick for this, but he
will probably get two month off now. I'll look to bring him back in the
Forego (Grade 1, $250,000, 3 and up, seven furlongs, Saratoga Race Course,
Sunday, August 31st)." 6-year-old Peeping Tom put in a strong late bid to
get second, two and a half lengths ahead of State City in third. More
House Party winner of the Prioress Stakes at Belmont Park.
Next up at Belmont was the Grade 1, $200,000 Prioress for three-year-old fillies at six furlongs where favorite House Party went wide to avoid any trouble and cruised to an eacy 3 1/4 length victory over Chimichurri and Princess V. in a final time of 1:09 4/5. It was House Party's fifth win in 11 career starts, her fourth in seven starts this year and her first Grade 1 victory. Jockey Jose Santos said: "We knew there was a lot of speed in there. On paper, the race set up perfectly for her. I worked her a few days ago and she worked great. I
just wanted to keep her out of trouble. I could see there might be problems at the top of the stretch. I saw that a sixteenth of a mile before it happened. I just wanted to swing wide with her. She was much the best." More
Snow Dance winner of the New York Handicap at Belmont Park.
The final stakes event of the day at Belmont was the Grade 2, $250,000 New
York Handicap for fillies and mares at a mile and a quarter on the inner
turf. Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel was running the favored
three-horse entry of Pertuisane, Trekking and Lilac Queen but 27-1 long shot Snow Dance was not to be denied today. She sat just off the early pace set by Trekking and took command in the stretch and held off Pertuisane to win by one length in 1:59 3/5 while Riskaverse finished third. "I was looking forward to running her long on natural turf, and last time, it was a natural bog," said trainer John Ward of Snow Dance's 37-length loss to
Mariensky on the soft turf in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap here on May 31st. "This is what she likes to do, and we didn't get a chance to get to it this spring." More
Gators N Bears winner of the Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park.
South of Belmont Park is picturesque Monmouth Park, where three year olds sprinted six furlongs in the Grade 3, $97,250 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup. 7-1 fourth choice Gators N Bears stalked the brisk early pace, took over after a half a mile, and, opening a 4 1/2 length lead in the final furlong, held off the late charging Mt. Carson to win by 1/2 a length in a time of 1:09.80. The win gave Gators N Bears his first stakes win after suffering seconditis in three of his previous tries at added money events. Trainer Leo S. Nechamkin II said, "The only horse I was afraid of was Mt. Carson, but I know he has tender feet. Gator was a little fitter horse and I think the harder, fast track was to his advantage. This is a tribute to Bob Camac, who bred this horse. He's 100 percent horse and we're glad to have him."
Be Gentle winner of the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Heading west to Kentucky and Churchill Downs where the Grade 3, $110,900 Debutante Stakes was contested. This event for two year old fillies sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs, turned out to be the D. Wayne Lukas show, with his entrants finishing 1-2. 2-1 second choice Be Gentle went gate to wire under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, holding off the late rally of favored 3-2 stablemate Renaissance Lady by 1 1/4 length in a final time of 1:03.96. The win is the Virginia-bred's second in as many career starts. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said: "Once she got to the top of the stretch as easy as she did I was real comfortable that she would finish. I started watching Renaissance Lady. I didn't think that anyone would catch her."
Wacky Patty winner of the Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park.
Rounding out the day's action, we find ourselves on the west coast at sunny Hollywood Park for two stakes events. First up is the Grade 3 Landaluce Stakes for two year old fillies sprinting six furlongs. 9-5 favorite Wacky Patty did not disappoint her backers, stalking the early pace of 8-1 shot Cherish Destiny and then inching away from her in the final furlong to win by a length in 1:10.28 under jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. 2-1 second choice Platinum Princess was 5 lengths back in third.
The headliner on Hollywood's card was the Grade 2, $150,000 American Handicap for older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. After two scratches, a compact field of just five faced the starter, including the once-highly-regarded Sunday Break, this time dismissed as the 7-1 fourth choice. However, even-money favorite Candy Ride lived up to the bettors' expectations, prompting the pace of 2-1 second choice Special Ring for the first lap around the course, and then prevailed inside the final furlong to win by 3/4 length in a time of 1:46.20. Winning his first race in the U.S., the Ron McAnally trainee showed that he is capable of winning on both turf and dirt, and is being pointed at the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Jockey Gary Stevens said, "The jets got cranked up at the half-mile pole and they just kept cranking. He gives me a heck of a good feeling. [Owners Jenny and Sidney Craig] wanted a Pacific Classic horse and Ron got them one."