As we continue our look back at the 2012 racing season, let's take a look at the months of July, August and September.
The second half of the racing season kicks off following the disappointment of another Triple Crown failure but with the prospect of some great summer racing action.
Game On Dude continued to make his case as the best older male in the Classic division with a strong victory in the G1-Hollywood Gold Cup on July 7th. Out in New York, Mucho Macho Man rolls to a 2 1/2 length victory in the G2-Suburban over Hymn Book. Race favorite To Honor and Serve finishes a well-beaten fourth.
Summer officially begins with the start of the Saratoga and Del Mar meets on opposite ends of the country. Questing (GB) demolishes the field in the G1-Coaching Club American Oaks, winning by over four lengths to Zo Impressive.
A fantastic field in the G2-DelCap on July 21st, where Royal Delta continues to round back into top form with a neck victory over Tiz Miz Sue at the wire. Royal Delta went to the post as the 1/2 favorite, with Awesome Maria the second choice at approximately 9/5. Awesome Maria had trouble exiting the starting gate and never really got comfortable at any point of the race. She finished 3rd, almost six lengths of Royal Delta.
At Colonial Downs on Virgina Derby Day, Lentenor wins the ungraded Kitten's Joy Stakes by a head over Action Andy. Lentenor and Nicanor, full brothers to Barbaro, never came close to matching the class of their well-known sibling but they were decent grass horses at the allowance/ungraded stakes level.
On July 28th at the Spa, Alpha continues to run well when race in New York as he wins the G2-Jim Dandy by two lengths over Neck n'Neck.
A day later on the Jersey shore, Paynter puts up what was arguably the best performance by a three-year-old colt all season long when he wins the G1-Haskell by 3 3/4 lengths over Nonios. Dullahan struggles to a 5th place finish while 2/1 second choice Gemologist finishes last of the field of six.
Paynter's Haskell victory earned him a 108 Beyer, 109 Bris and 117 Equibase speed figures, along with a -78 Performance Rating. There were 61 graded stakes races for three-year-old colts in 2012; Paynter's Haskell victory earned the second highest Beyer (I'll Have Another, Preakness, 109), the co-highest Bris (I'll Have Another, Preakness, 109), the second highest Equibase figures (Currency Swap, Amsterdam, 119), and the highest Performance Figure. Overall, Paynter's Haskell rated as the top race in the division, just ahead of Trinniberg's victory in the Woody Stephens, Bodemeister's win in the Arkansas Derby, and I'll Have Another's Preakness triumph.
According to the Equibase economic figures, the month of July concludes with wagering on U.S. races falling by 7.37% as compared to July of 2011, with a 2.63% drop in purses and a 5.43% drop in race days. Overall, wagering is up by 0.89%, purses up 6.27% and race days up 0.49%.
The month of August gets underway with a big performance by Fort Larned in the G1-Whitney at Saratoga. Fort Larned, coming into the race off a gate-to-wire victory in the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows on June 30th, stalks the early speed of Endorsement and rolls to the front at the top of the lane. Ron the Greek, sent to the post as the 5/2 favorite, makes a big late run in the stretch but can get no closer than a length and a quarter at the wire.
On my graded stakes results/standings spreadsheet (which I'll publish with the final ratings in the next couple of days), Fort Larned's victory ranked as the best race in the Classic division over the course of 2012, just ahead of his win in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Fort Larned earned a 110 Beyer, 109 Bris, 123 Equibase and -89 Performance Figure in the Whitney.
On Aug 5th, Poseidon's Warrior shocks the field of the G1-Vanderbilt with a neck victory over Justin Phillip and Emcee at odds of 36/1. His victory keys a $359 exacta.
Wise Dan continues his monster 2012 with a five length victory in the G2-Fourtstardave Handicap at the Spa on Aug 11th. During 2012, there were 25 graded stakes races that fell into the Turf Mile division, Wise Dan had four of the top five wins in terms of a composite speed figure ranking with his win in the Fourstardave as the top rated race. The race earned Wise Dan the top Beyer, Bris and Performance Figure of the season in the division, and the fourth highest Equibase figure.
Little Mike, proving those of us that had doubts about his stamina wrong, wires the field in the G1-Arlington Million on Aug. 18th, winning by a length and a half over the late charging Afsare (GB). Earlier on the Million Day card, European's I'm A Dreamer (IRE) and Bayrir (FR) win the G1-Beverly D. and the G1-Secretariat. The inaugural running of the American St. Leger at a mile and 11/16ths on the Arlington turf course, is won by Jakkalberry (IRE) by 2 1/4 lengths over Ioya Bigtime.
On Aug 19th at my home track of Emerald Downs, Taylor Said, a horse based at Hastings Park in Vancouver, BC, wins the G3-Longacres Mile under Derby and Preakness winning jockey Mario Gutierrez. Defending champion Awesome Gem, now a nine-year-old gelding, finishes 3rd as the 2/1 favorite.
At Del Mar, Dullahan's fantastic synthetic ability rushes to the forefront as he closes from the back of the pack to win the G1-Pacific Classic by a half-length over favorite Game On Dude in a sparkling final time of 1:59.54. Dullahan earns a 111 Beyer for the win, the highest Beyer for any graded stakes race in the Classic division in 2012. However, the corresponding Bris, Equibase and Performance Figures were less agreeable. The 104 Bris figures ranks 21st of 35 races; the 108 Equibase figures ranked 27th of 35; while the Performance Figure ranked as the third highest overall.
The month of August closes with one of the oddities of racing; the dreaded dead heat. The 143rd running of the G1-Travers Stakes at Saratoga ends with long shot Golden Ticket and race-favorite Alpha nose and nose at the wire. Another long shot, Fast Falcon, finishes 3rd at odds of 32/1, keying boxcar payouts in the superfecta pools.
Wagering on U.S. races rises by 11.64% in August when compared to August of 2011, with purses jumping an incredible 21.44%. Overall, the big August handle pushes the year-to-date handle up 2.29% over 2011, with an 8.39% gain in purses.
As the Saratoga and Del Mar meets draw to a conclusion, To Honor and Serve wins the G1-Woodward by a neck over race favorite Mucho Macho Man, while Emcee dominates the G1-Forego by 4 1/2 lengths to Hamazing Destiny and Jersey Town. The Saratoga meets finishes with Shanghai Bobby winning the G2-Hopeful by 3 3/4 lengths.
Another month, another dominating performance by Groupie Doll, this time in the G2-Presque Isle Downs Masters at 6 1/2 furlongs on the plastic. She wins by 3 3/4 lengths over Kitty in a Tizzy and Sally Sally as the 7/10 favorite.
Speaking of raking up a string of dominating performances - Wise Dan ships up to Canada and rolls home at the 3/5 favorite to win the G1-Woodbine Mile over Hunters Bay and European raider Cityscape (GB).
In one of the more oddly run races of the year, the de facto match race between Questing (GB) and My Miss Aurelia in the G1-Cotillion at Parx goes to My Miss Aurelia after Questing couldn't hold onto the lead after setting what appeared to be ridiculously slow fractions. Questing went 25.19, 50.04 and 1:14.72 through the first six furlongs, led by a length to a length and a half through most of the early running, and then was worn down in deep stretch by the ultimate winner. It was a disappointing result for Questing in a race that, on paper, looked like an event that was her's to lose.
A couple of nice juveniles, Music of My Soul and Finallygotabently, close out Emerald's 2012 meet by running 1-2 in the Gottstein Futurity. Even though he was defeated in the Gottstein, I love the looks of Finallygoabently heading into 20132 for trainer Tom Wenzel. Owned by Northwest Farm and Debbie Paxton, Finallygotabently is by Bernardini out of the super Emerald Downs filly Smarty Deb, a filly that ran in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park and who also beat the boys in the Gottstein that same year.
The month of September ends with some of the biggest Breeders' Cup prep races on the calendar: the G1-Jockey Club Gold Cup (Flat Out), G1-Flower Bowl (Nahrain (GB), G1-Hirsch Turf (Point of Entry), G1-Vosburg (The Lumber Guy), G1-Awesome Again (Game On Dude), G1-Chandelier (Executive Privilege) and G1-FrontRunner (Power Broker).
September ends with a 2.60% gain in handle on U.S. races, and a 13.77% gain in purses as compared to Sept of 2011. Overall, handle is up 2.32% after three-quarters of the 2012 racing season, with purses up 9.04%.