Ake Svanstedt did have that spectacular 1:49 world record from Sebastian K last year on Sun Stakes Saturday, but he did not have any starters in the $500,000 Beal final. This year he’ll have a pair, just as many as Jimmy Takter and one more than Ron Burke. His Muscle Hill colt, Southwind Mozart, finished second at 26/1 in the first elimination, coming off a win over NW1 where he broke his maiden. And Centurion ATM, a $100,000 yearling purchase by SJs Caviar, that Ake is very high on, finished third in the second elimination at 10/1. If that isn’t enough, Sebastian is scheduled to make his seasonal debut in the invitational.
Jimmy Takter’s Pinkman, the 2014 division winner, who was three for three entering his Beal elimination and nine for eleven lifetime, got caught by 16/1 shot Wicker Hanover, but he still made the final. Entrymate, Whom Shall I Fear missed out. In that same elimination the highly regarded but unpredictable Muscles Yankee colt, Guess Whos Back, broke stride for Brian Sears. His absence from the final is disappointing.
In addition to Wicker Hanover and Pinkman, Explosive Matter, who is having a breakout year, got the gelding Shoot The Thrill into the final. Tim Tetrick, who has a penchant for matriculating any horse with four legs into the big dance, brought the 24/1 shot home third behind principals Uncle Lasse and Crazy Wow. The Beal is considerably more wide open than last year, when Nuncio, on an overland route to the wire, was no match for stablemate Father Patrick.
The two horses saddled with the 8 post in the pair of Franklin eliminations overcame that handicap and won those splits. Luck Be Withyou got it done on the front end with Pocono’s leading driver, George Napolitano Jr, sitting behind him, while State Treasurer wowed the viewers by coming from ninth at the three-quarters to win his split for David Miller. Last year, eventual winner Sweet Lou took his elimination in 1:47.4, while Domethatagain snuck up the inside and put a dagger in Captain T’s heart. That was the beginning of the end for the Captain. Lou just held off Bettor’s Edge in the final in a world record 1:47.
In 2014 four-year-olds Captain T, Sunshine Beach and Captive Audience made up a third of the Franklin finalists; this year elimination winner Luck Be Withyou is the only one. McWicked, He’s Watching and Always B Miki are ignoring Jeff Gural’s call for more four-year-old racing. They’re still on sabbatical.
McWicked dominated the Hempt last year. This time around the race is more competitive. For one thing, elimination winners Artspeak, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Wakizashi Hanover are all at the mercy of the open draw. And all three are legitimate contenders, two of them with top five drivers. In The Arsenal and Lost For Words will also add to the excitement.
Montrell Teague won the Hempt in 2011 with Wakizashi Hanover’s paternal brother, Custard The Dragon. He won off a pocket trip at 10/1. The Dragon Agains tend to make their bones in the aged ranks, but Wakizashi is probably his best three-year-old male ever, and Custard was also good. Plus, he’s one of the few not gelded. This won him a trip to Alberta for stud duty.
Montrell’s dad, George, also won the Hempt with Johnny Z and Badlands Nitro. Brian Sears drove those two to victory. So the Teague family is closely aligned with this race.
There are three sons of Bettor’s Delight in the Hempt, three more in the Franklin and a pair in the Lynch final. So 30% of the starters in the three pacing stakes will be by the prolific son of Cam’s Card Shark.
After four years of domination by great sophomore pacing fillies—Put On A Show, Peelers, Jewel and Nitelife—we were treated to a hit or miss grab bag of distaffs last year. George Nap got Fancy Desire to the top after a 26.2 quarter in the Lynch and that was that.
The 2014 Horse of the Year, JK She’salady, was expected to reintroduce dominance to this division, but she lost her third straight in her Lynch elimination. Number two option, Sassa Hanover, also lost. John Campbell beat those two with Put On A Show’s little sister, The Show Returns, a 9/2 option. Steve Elliott’s Western Ideal filly Stacia Hanover won another split as the even money choice and Virgil Morgan’s SBSW filly, Momas Got A Gun, who came in with one win in six 2015 starts, won the other for Brett Miller. The Lynch will be a horse race.
Last year five world records were set or equaled on the Sun Stakes card. Even over a sloppy track, with the rain pouring down, the miles were fast in Saturday’s elimination round. The long range forecast for the finals calls for warm 85 degree temps with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms. We’ll take that.