If you watched California Chrome's brilliant Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness races, you witnessed an explosive turn of foot. Simply put, the term refers to a horse's ability to accelerate quickly and put distance between himself and other runners in the blink of an eye.
In each of those races the handsome chestnut colt challenged for the lead midway on the far turn, changed leads smoothly on cue and spurted clear, entering the stretch to put away his field of rivals. When a horse is so smooth, has such a long fluid stride and levels off so beautifully, that is near racing perfection.
Trainer Graham Motion has a nice three-year-old filly who also has shown a wicked turn of foot in each of her three starts on the turf, winning by widening margins once she found daylight.
Despite the challenge of making her first start in nearly six months, Daring Dancer proved too much for all her rivals in a 2 1/2-length victory in the one-mile turf $100,000 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky in April. Daring Dancer is a Maryland-bred daughter of Empire Maker out of the Red Ransom mare Vienna Affair (GB). She is undefeated, three-for-three, earning $104,580.
Watching from his barn office at the Fair Hill Training Center, Motion saw his talented bay filly with Alan Garcia aboard score in her first try against graded stakes company.
"I told Alan that she was very fit but it was a tough race," Motion related. "She wouldn't necessarily have to win to run a good race because it was such a competitive race coming back as a three-year-old. We had her up at Fair Hill all winter and she's really been ready for a while. For me it was exciting to see that kind of turn of foot and what a super ride Alan gave her."
Empire Maker Daughter
Daring Dancer is from the final U. S. crop of Empire Maker, who was exported to Japan in advance of the 2011 breeding season. Sent off as the third choice, the bay filly settled in nicely behind the leaders down the backstretch just a few lengths off the pace in fifth. Daring Dancer closed into contention rounding the far turn but was stuck in traffic in the upper stretch and steadied at the three-sixteenth pole. As front-running Locarolina slowed a bit, Garcia skillfully threaded through a pair of rivals in the stretch and unleashed an explosive kick to win by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:36 for the turf mile.
"The focus was to get her to finish well," Garcia said. "She broke great; she saved all the ground. We were waiting at the top of the stretch for a hole to open, and it did. She finished very strong."
The talented filly is owned by Kevin Plank (owner of Under Armour sports apparel company) whose racing operation is at the historic Sagamore Farm. Daring Dancer roared from 10 lengths back to break her maiden convincingly in a 5 1/2-furlong dash at Laurel last September. The filly then stretched out successfully in a one-mile allowance at Churchill. Impressively, both times she launched her winning move between rivals, a trait she duplicated in the Appalachian. Her three victories have come by a combined margin of seven lengths. Daring Dancer has now bankrolled $104,580 while competing exclusively on turf.
"I've been breezing her with an older mare at Fair Hill and she's been very much holding her own," Motion said in early May.
As Sagamore is based in Glyndon, Maryland, Motion set his sights on the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Preakness Friday, May 16. But a deluge that day forced the race off the turf, and Daring Dancer was among the five of eight entrants that were scratched. She would have been an overwhelming favorite had the race stayed on turf. The undefeated filly's next target could be the $400,000 Just a Game Stakes run at one mile on the turf on Belmont day on June 7.
Princess Romps in '14 Debut
Princess of Sylmar made a triumphant return to the races at her roots, easily taking the $100,000 Cat Cay Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack by 3-1/2 lengths over Wedding Toast.
Returning from a five-month vacation, Princess of Sylmar showed her flashy form versus five rivals in the one-mile Cat Cay. Heavily favored, the Pennsylvania-bred was making her first start since finishing a bewildering last of six in the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November.
Seeking her third stakes win at the Big A and seventh overall, the four-time Grade 1 stakes winner was last out of the gate and raced 3-1/2 lengths behind pacesetter and stablemate Highestmaintenance through an opening quarter-mile in 22.97 seconds and was three lengths off through a half in 45.61 seconds. Jockey Javier Castellano turned the 4-year old loose at the five-sixteenths pole, making a three-wide move splitting horses to snatch the lead at the top of the stretch.
"I liked the way she did it today," said Castellano. "Very professional, as always. The pace set up for her well. One thing she did well today was split horses through that narrow hole and went right by those horses very nicely. That was phenomenal. She was much the best. She was more settled and very classy in the post parade."
"With the way she had been training she indicated she's as good as ever,” trainer Todd Pletcher said in the winner’s circle. “We were expecting a good performance. I thought for this type of race it came up pretty tough. [Wedding Toast] is a very good filly. We feel like we had her ready to run well, but we tried not to overdo it. It's a long season, and there are bigger goals ahead."
Last year, Princess of Sylmar won six of eight starts including wins in four Grade-1 races-- the Kentucky Oaks, the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama and the Beldame Stakes.
The immediate goal for Princess of Sylmar is going to be the Grade-1, $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes on Belmont Day, June 7.
"We'll see after that, but I think races like the Delaware Handicap are a possibility, the Personal Ensign, the Beldame," Pletcher said. "Those are the type of races we're looking at right now. I think she runs well fresh. One thing with her we're always trying to be aware of is keeping her weight up. It's a long season, and, considering she runs as well as she does fresh, there is no need for a prep in between."
Ed Stanco bred the daughter of Majestic Warrior at Sylmar Farm near Nottingham, PA.
"By giving her the time off, she got bigger, gained weight, 150 pounds, I think. Javier said she's right back in her form," said Stanco, a resident of Malvern, PA. "This was what we were looking for. She didn't have to have a breakthrough performance today, just show us form and that you want it. My biggest concern today, for me, anyway, was the fact that when they go from age three to four, sometimes they might not have the interest. Today she showed it, which is great. That should set us up for some fun this summer."
Princess of Sylmar enhanced her record to 9-1-0 in 12 starts. She has earned $1,667,220 to date, including $60,000 for her Cat Cay victory.
Wise Dan Undergoes Emergency Colic Surgery
Two-time reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan underwent emergency colic surgery at the Rood & Riddle Clinic in Lexington, Ky. on May 16. Wise Dan is a son of Wiseman's Ferry who is based at Dana Point Farm in Lenhartsville, Pa.
The 7-year-old chestnut gelding was expected to stay at the clinic three to five days depending on how he recovers.
“He had a routine gallop (at Keeneland Racecourse), trained great this morning,” said trainer Charlie LoPresti. “About an hour after training he started acting like he was uncomfortable in the stall. We medicated him and he didn’t respond. He had a piece of small bowel that just looped over and was getting inflamed. If he didn’t go in there and get it straightened out we could have been in big trouble.”
According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), colic is the leading cause of death in horses. Abdominal pain is caused by an obstruction or strangulation in the intestine that shuts off the food passageway and blocks blood supply. Horses though can have multiple feet of intestines removed and still have a normally functioning digestive tract, reports the AAEP.
Wise Dan, last time out a winner in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day, has won 12 of his last 13 starts, the lone defeat coming in a stakes race last year at Keeneland moved from turf to the track’s synthetic surface. Owned by Morton Fink, Wise Dan has won six Eclipse Awards — for Horse of the Year, Champion Grass Horse and Champion Older Male. He’s also a two-time defending winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile.
Barring any setbacks, the ten-time Grade-1 winner could resume walking under tack in four weeks and return to jogging by 5-6 weeks in preparation for a return to racing.
"He's doing great, I was allowed to take him out for 15 minutes of grazing," LoPresti said two days after the surgery. "He's very normal, very bright. We're never out of the woods with something like this, but I would say he's really good. He was pushing us around, he was real strong.
"Our big concern is making sure he doesn't lose too much conditioning, but we don't want to push it either. He's an amazing animal to go through what he's gone through and act as good as he does."