Beautiful Belmont Park lived up to its name on Saturday—absolutely gorgeous late summer weather here, and while the sun-deprived apron and seats were chilly, the backyard and paddock areas were bathed in sunshine and plenty warm enough. We added layers to watch the races, and shed them to go to the paddock.
Race 4 was the Grade III Noble Damsel; while not a stellar field, it did feature Christophe Clement’s Rutherienne, who last started in the Grade II Ballston Spa at Saratoga, in which she was beaten a head by Salve Germania.
Rutherienne is nothing if not a model of consistency; including yesterday’s race, she’s made 22 lifetime starts, and her record is 11 – 2 – 7. That’s two off the board finishes in 22 starts. The wins don’t come as frequently as they used to, and she had to work hard Saturday to get past Quiet Meadow, but get past she did, by a tiny, tiny nose, right at the wire. Timing is everything; that fraction of a second at the finish is the only point in the race at which she was winning.
Also run Saturday were the Grade II Futurity and Matron, first run in 1888 and 1892 respectively. A look at the last decade of winners reveals that of the two races, the Matron has been more likely to yield future Grade I winners than its colt counterpart.
Of the winners of each race since 1998, only two Futurity winners—Lemon Drop Kid and Tale of Ekati—went on to win Grade I races.
Of the ten Matron winners since then, half–Proud Spell, Folklore, Storm Flag Flying, Raging Fever, Finders’ Fee–went on to win Grade I races.
Small sample size, lots of other factors to consider, likely a pretty much meaningless observation from which one would be wary to draw conclusions. Nonetheless, maybe, just maybe, the Matron has become the more interesting race of the two. Full list of winners over the last decade at the bottom of the post.
Your 2009 winners, D’Funnybone (courtesy of Adam Coglianese of NYRA) and Awesome Maria (courtesy of Nick Aquilino).
On Sunday, the lone steeplechase race of the Belmont fall meeting took place, the Grade I Lonesome Glory, featuring Saratoga stars Sermon of Love, Mixed Up, and Danielle Hodsdon. Sermon of Love won a flat race under Hodsdon at the Spa; the jockey came back later that week to win a jump race with Mixed Up. Later in the meet, in the Grade I New York Turf Writers’ Cup steeplechase, Hodsdon piloted Sermon of Love to a second-place finish.
Yesterday, Hodsdon was back aboard Mixed Up, but the race was won by longshot Red Letter Day, Bernard Dalton up, at 21 – 1. Sermon of Love finished next to late; Mixed Up, last. Red Letter Day is trained by Janet Elliot, who in August became the first female trainer inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.
And in another unfortunate last place finish, Crazy Catlady, who has hit the board in three of her last four starts, including a good third in the Yaddo at Saratoga, was last in Sunday’s John Hettinger Stakes. The chart reads “bid turn flattened,” but I’m not sure that I agree. Yes, she finished last of seven, but she was probably beaten by only about three lengths, and it looks as though she hit some trouble in the stretch as John Velazquez tried to steer her between horses. Both the pan and head-on replay indicate that the filly didn’t quite get to the hole before it began to close, and that she checked; not saying that she would have won, but I didn’t see any “flattening,” and in fact, I think that she finished with plenty of energy. Not that I’m biased or anything…
Weird note: there was another John Hettinger Stakes on August 8th at Saratoga. Not sure that I’ve ever seen two races named the same thing on the same circuit, especially scheduled so close to each other. Both were run on turf, the one in Saratoga at a mile, the one yesterday at Belmont at a mile and an eighth. The one in Saratoga was for three year old fillies; the one at Belmont for three and up fillies and mares. Maram won the first one, You Go West Girl the second. Seems like it might create a little confusion?
Futurity winners 1998- 2008
Lemon Drop Kid
Park Avenue Ball
King of the Roxy
Tale of Ekati
Matron winners, 1998 – 2008
Oh What a Windfall
Storm Flag Flying
Sense of Style