Ghostzapper's Varenka Dramatic DH Winner of Saratoga's Lake Placid S. (G2)


Favored Varenka and second-choice Regal Glory hit the wire as one after a thrilling four-horse stretch drive to dead-heat for the win on Saturday in the 36th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid at Saratoga Race Course.

Both fillies settled off the pace as Blowout led the field of 3-year-old turf fillies through dawdling fractions of 26.36 and 51.10 seconds, with three-quarters going in 1:15.39 under darkening skies and over an inner turf course rated firm. Heading into the turn, jockey Luis Saez made the first move aboard Regal Glory, tipping the Animal Kingdom filly to the outside in the three path as Amandrea ranged up to challenge the pacesetter.

Following along, however, were Varenka and Javier Castellano, who went even wider to trigger a contentious stretch run among the four fillies, with Blowout grimly hanging on to the lead on the inside and Amandrea staying in the mix until the final yards, when the top two surged to the front with inches to spare in the photo finish.

Both fillies were walked in a circle outside the winner's circle for several minutes as rain began to fall while racing officials perused the photo before posting the "head heat" sign.

"You have to be lucky," said Castellano. "Those 'bobs' can go either way. It was a very exciting race and those two horses showed up and I rode to win. In the moment, I thought I had won the race but after watching the replay, I thought it could go either way."

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile race was 1:43.68.

It was the second straight victory and first in a stakes for Augustin Stable's Varenka, who won an optional claimer earlier in the meet. Overall, the daughter of Ghostzapper is now 3-2-2 from eight career starts, with her only off-the-board effort coming when fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The H. Graham Motion trainee returned $2.90 for a $2 win wager and earned $75,000, boosting her bankroll to $278,100.

"I'm speechless, to be honest," said Motion, who won the race in 2009 with Shared Account. "I had another one of these up here in the Amsterdam [with Secret Firm in 1998, who dead-heated with Mint] when I first started training. I just can't believe she got there because they went so slow. That was a crazy performance.

"I thought we had [it won] right before the wire and right after the wire, but I wasn't sure on the line. All credit to Javier [Castellano]. He said he was going to be patient with her, and he was patient."

The Lake Placid was the second graded stakes win for the Chad Brown-trained Regal Glory, who took the Grade 3 Lake George at the Spa on July 18. Owned by Paul Pompa, Jr., the filly has never been worse than second in seven career starts, with five victories including the Penn Oaks at Penn National earlier this year and the Stewart Manor last fall at Aqueduct Racetrack.

"Both horses finished great to run into a slow pace like that," said Brown, who won last year's Lake Placid with Rushing Fall. "I thought Luis [Saez] did a great job."

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Signature Red's Red Cabernet Best in Eternal Search Stakes


The theme of the evening played out to perfection in Wednesday’s on track feature as Piano Bar Racing’s Red Cabernet and jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson were fitting winners of the $100,000 Eternal Search Stakes on Ladies Night at Woodbine.

Fillies and mares competed on track throughout the entire eight-race program while wine-tastings, dining specials and giveaways were all part of the Ladies Night festivities at the Toronto oval.

Bred in Ontario by Paul Buttigieg, the five-year-old by Adena Springs North's Signature Red now has six wins from 23 career starts and $267,420 banked in purses for her ownership group of six friends who purchased her for a modest $35,000 at the 2015 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Yearling Sale.

“I mean she’s just been great,” said trainer Ian Black, noting this year’s Canadian Premier Yearling Sale is just two weeks away. “It just shows that a small group together can buy a nice horse.”

Wilson worked out a ground-saving trip aboard Red Cabernet in the 1-1/16-mile Ontario Sire Stakes event behind race leader Without a Doubt and the stalking Zestina through fractions of :23.77, :48.21 and 1:11.76 over the new inner turf course. Red Cabernet slipped out coming off the final turn to take the lead with a furlong to go then held off the outside closer She’s the Berries by a neck in 1:42.89. Piper’s Legacy, the 2-1 favourite, rallied between rivals to take third prize less than a length behind while Without a Doubt settled for fourth.

“She’s a heck of mare. You point her in the right direction and she goes,” said Wilson after the victory. “I remember breezing this filly down at Payson Park when she was two turning three and she’s just always been that type that you thought could win stakes and do well. That was the first time on the inner [turf course] for her and she had a little look around late and she kind of waited on them a little bit, but then they got to her and she realized, ‘oh, I’m in a horse race,’ and put her ears right back and went right back to business.”

A winner over the same distance on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course in last August’s Victoriana Stakes, Red Cabernet earned her first victory in four starts this year. She returned $11.30 to win as the 9-2 fourth wagering choice.

“She was in some tough spots and probably the wrong surface [earlier this year],” said Black. “This is the race I looked at all year. When I found it, I saw that they changed to the inside [turf course] and I wasn’t 100 per cent sure, but she proved me wrong.”

“At the end of the day, the credit really does go to the horse,” said co-owner Jim Menzies. “Ian has done a great job with her, Emma gave her a great ride and, as you saw in the last 100 yards there, it was almost like she decided, ‘ok, I’m going to win this one,’ and that’s what she went ahead and did. It was thrilling.”

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Stronach Stables Homebred Green Light Go Still Unbeaten After 'Special' Romp


T here was no stopping Stronach Stables Green Light Go on his way to winning the $200,000 Saratoga Special Stakes Presented by Miller Lite (G2) Aug. 10 at Saratoga Race Course. Under wraps by jockey Junior Alvarado, the Hard Spun  juvenile ran his short record to 2-for-2.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens unveiled Green Light Go July 4 at Belmont Park. The bay colt led every step of the 5 1/2-furlong race and drew off by 3 1/4 lengths after dueling through the first half. That effort earned him to 3-2 favoritism Saturday at the Spa, when he came from fifth for a dominant 3 3/4-length victory.

"He ran well without having to be on the lead, and that was good to see," Jerkens said. "The track has been so speed-favoring initially. I told Junior to take him out of there and don't discourage him from running, but if someone really wants the lead, that it'd be fine. It turned out he didn't break quite as fast as his first start, but it worked out well."

Alvarado settled Green Light Go off the pace as Long Weekend led the first quarter-mile in :21.71 before Tuggle, by the Adena Springs stallion Point of Entry,  stuck his head in front through a :44.16 half-mile. Green Light Go was set down for the drive turning for home, and despite drifting in and brushing with a fading Tuggle, continued on strong to the wire. 

After running six furlongs in 1:09.07, Alvarado was able to ease his mount near the finish line before a final time of 1:15.68.

"We knew coming into the race it was going to be a test for him to see what he could handle," said Alvarado, who has been aboard for both starts. "I told Jimmy, 'Let's leave the gate running and if he takes the lead on his own, that's fine; and if not, I'm not going to rush him off his feet.' But I knew I had to get him out of there.

"I put him in the race and he handled everything very professionally. I was just a pilot on top of him. I knew how much horse I had the whole way, and I was very excited at the way he was handling the kickback, and just rating behind horses very kindly. We knew how good he was and I trusted him there.

"He's got a body like a 4-year-old and his mind is like an old horse's mind. He's very focused. There's nothing like a 2-year-old about him."

The performance has Jerkens considering a grade 1 spot next out for Green Light Go.

"He sat in the pocket just nice up against the bridle. He didn't care about taking dirt which was really nice to see," Jerkens said. "He leaned a little in the stretch; maybe a little green, but I guess he's still learning, too. He had good purposeful works between races and has handled it. He was also composed in the paddock, so we might really have a nice one here."

The conditioner said he would speak with owner Frank Stronach first, but said the Oct. 5 Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont "seems a little more appealing" than the Sept. 2 Runhappy Hopeful Stakes (G1) during the Saratoga meet.

The Champagne, a "Win and You're In" challenge race for the Nov. 2 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park, is run at a mile, an eighth longer than the Hopeful.

Bred in Kentucky by Stronach's Adena Springs, Green Light Go is out of the Virginia-bred mare Light Green. The Pleasantly Perfect daughter is a stakes winner at Belmont and was a close runner-up in the Prioress Stakes (G1) there. Light Green was bred to Shaman Ghost  for the 2020 foaling season.

Green Light Go has run without Lasix in both of his races, in which he's earned $154,000.

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Ghostzapper Yearlings Average $455,000 at The Saratoga Sale


Ghostzapper yearlings were once again popular with top-level buyers at the prestigious Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale on August 5 & 6.

Six Ghostzappers were offered and five of them found new homes for an average price of $455,000:

A $550,000 filly bred by Stonestreet Farm, purchased by Bach Stables LLC out of the Taylor Made Sales consignment.

A $500,000 colt purchased by West Point Thoroughbreds & Larsen L. E. B., agent out of the St George Sales draft.

A $475,000 colt purchased by John C. Oxley out of the Taylor Made Sales consignment

A $400,000 colt purchased by Debby M. Oxley out of the Denali Stud consignment

A $350,000 filly purchased by Phoenix Thoroughbred, LTD out of the Denali Stud barn.

Ghostzapper's $455,000 Saratoga Sale average ranks just behind Quality Road and is higher than Into Mischief, Candy Ride, Pioneerof the Nile, Uncle Mo, etc.


Silent Name's Summer Sunday Streaks to G2 Royal North Victory


Summer Sunday kept her flawless Woodbine record intact winning the Grade 2 Royal North Stakes for fillies and mares at Woodbine Racetrack.

The $175,000 six-furlong sprint was the four-year-old filly’s seventh local conquest and second straight Graded victory, but first on Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Turf Course, for trainer Stuart Simon and owners Anne and William Scott.

Following a cavalry charge out of the gate, Summer Sunday assumed command with Veil pressing the pace and Magic Spell racing between those two rivals briefly before that filly settled behind. After fractions of :22.96 and :45.09, Summer Sunday drew clear in the stretch to score by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:08.26.

Despite having Veil alongside and competing on a new surface, winning jockey Rafael Hernandez said his filly took it all in stride.

“I’ll tell you, we’ve been working that from two races ago and she’s been showing everything she can do, you know, relaxing good,” said Hernandez, who is the second-leading reinsman of the meet and has earned eight wins this week. “I know the race was going to be tough, but I know whoever’s going to beat me, they had to run faster.

She’s just a nice horse, good horses run anywhere,” he added. “She found the turf was not bad for her.”

Bred in Ontario by Trinity West Stables Ltd., the Silent Name-Dancing Allstar filly has earned $469,615 from nine lifetime starts with wins in all seven of her Woodbine races.

“It’s getting a little scary, she’s got a little streak going,” said Simon. “She’s just so genuine, she’s been a gift.  She’ll just do whatever you want of her.

“She’s just got such a fantastic head on her that she knows when it’s go time. She just naturally does things that you need her to do to be successful.”

Following back-to-back stakes wins in the Ballade and Grade 3 Hendrie, Summer Sunday was sent postward as the 5-2 third choice and returned $7.50 to win. Magic Spell came through in the stretch and chased the winner home for second-place honors while the favored shipper Oleksandra finished third.

Summer Sunday, who was a $95,000 yearling purchase at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Sale, also won the Nandi and Muskoka Stakes during her juvenile campaign and picked up a Fury Stakes score last year.

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Ghostzapper's Guarana Still Perfect After CCA Oaks (G1) Stroll


What looked like Guarana under pressure through the far turn Saturday at Saratoga amounted ultimately to patience by jockey Jose Ortiz. Once she was asked, the star filly sprinted away to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, postponed a day due to high heat along the East Coast.

In what was her two-turn debut and third start overall, Guarana didn’t win by the open margins she enjoyed in her first two starts, with victories first out by 14 3/4 lengths and then in Belmont Park’s Acorn (G1) by another six.

This time, Point of Honor closed from last in the field of five to finish a closer second after Guarana, a Three Chimneys homebred by Ghostzapper, went wire to wire in a final time of 1:49.65 in the 1 1/8-mile race.

"First time two turns against some really nice fillies in the race -- definitely some concern she could do it," said trainer Chad Brown. "We believed in her. She's been a brilliant horse all along. I'm happy she showed up for everyone today."

Point of Honor’s owners lodged an objection after Guarana drifted out in the stretch. But stewards didn’t change the running order with their filly mount too far back at the time to be impeded.

Behind Point of Honor, Off Topic ran third, Champagne Anyone fourth before Boxwood rounded out the running order.

Champagne Anyone flanked Guarana through opening fractions of 24.27, 49.49 and 1:13.58. Through the turn, Off Topic ranged up to make it three wide before Ortiz shook up Guarana and those rallies stalled.

"With a horse so talented like her, you just don't want to get in trouble," Ortiz said. "It was a good thing to be on the lead. I was afraid because of the objection lodged by the owner, but she did overreact to the left-handed (whip). I got lucky she was clear."

Guarana, away at 1-5, returned $2.50 to win.

Next in Saratoga's series for 3-year-old distance fillies is the Aug. 17 Alabama (G1) that stretches to 1 1/4 miles.

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Mucho Unusual Makes Stunning Late Run to Capture San Clemente S. (G2)


George Krikorian's homebred filly Mucho Unusual showed off her tremendous turn of foot July 20, rallying from last in the field of 10 to claim the $201,755 San Clemente Stakes (G2) over one mile at Del Mar. 

The 3-year-old filly is the latest Stakes winner for her sire, 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Mucho Man, who was also represented by Haskell Inv. (G1) runner-up Mucho Gusto on the third Saturday in July.

Sent out as the 5-2 co-favorite with Keeper Ofthe Stars, Mucho Unusual broke slowly under Joel Rosario and went to the rear of the field, running well back and off the pace. 

Harmless and Devils Dance each vied for command from the break, with Harmless getting the upper hand as they reached the six-furlong point in 1:10.84. But the lead was short-lived as fast-moving grade 3 winner Apache Princess, under Kent Desormeaux, swung out leaving the backstretch and made a four-wide bid for control. 

With seven lengths to make up to catch the leader, Mucho Unusual was angled out even farther to the outside by Rosario and dug in. Drifting back in toward the middle of the field as they approached the finish, Mucho Unusual kicked home under left-handed urging in a massive final effort to pass Apache Princess. The 3-year-old bay managed to eke out the win by a neck in 1:34.66 on firm turf.

"She just didn't show me a lot (of speed) early, so I let her do her thing away from there," said Rosario. "On the backside, she wanted to go, so we went after them. Turning for home, I thought about going down inside, but she was making up ground and I didn't want to chance it. She had that nice acceleration through the stretch, and we got it. I love it here at Del Mar." 

"I left (race tactics) up to Joel, but I was just as surprised as everybody else that she was as far back as she was," said the filly's trainer, Tim Yakteen. "She was doing really well, and I conveyed that to Joel in the paddock. We're really pleased with her effort. Things have been going according to plan, and this is one industry where that doesn't often happen. The prep race at Santa Anita set her up well for this, and this should set her up well for the (Aug. 17 Del Mar) Oaks (G1)." 

It was the third consecutive victory—and first in a graded stakes—for the daughter of Adena Springs rising stallion Mucho Macho Man. She earned black-type honors Feb. 18 in the California Cup Oaks at Santa Anita Park before scoring again four months later in a June 16 allowance optional claiming race at the Southern California track. 

Bred in California, Mucho Unusual is the fifth foal out of the Unusual Heat mare Not Unusual. It was the only time Not Unusual has been mated to a sire other than California-based Mr. Big . Not Unusual has produced stakes-placed Unusually Big and grade 3 victor Big Score. The mare has a yearling colt named Big Talker and a filly born April 13. 

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Impressive Wire-To-Wire First Winner for Silver Max


Maxis Babe rocketed out of the gate to establish a clear lead and never looked back en route to a sparkling Maiden victory at Woodbine Racecourse. Favored at 3-5, the juvenile filly is the first winner by record-setting Grade 1 winner Silver Max.

"Rafael Hernandez has not been tested on Maxis Babe, and won't be!" exclaimed Woodbine track announcer Robert Geller. "Maxis Babe striding free for a big win here....she's absolutely run them ragged".

Her final margin of victory was 4 3/4 lengths.

Bred by Adena Springs, Maxis Babe was purchased for $18,000 at last summer's CTHS Yearling sale. She's trained by Norman McKnight and races in the colors of Racer's Edge, Inc. and Maxis Stable. The bay is out of the Holy Bull daughter Bazooka Babe, a half-sister to Stronach Stables homebred Preakness S. (G1) champion Red Bullet.

The speedy Silver Max won all 12 of his races in gate-to-wire fashion, seven of them at the Graded level. His signature victory came in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile where he handed the great 2-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan his only defeat in his final 15 starts.


Ghoul's Night Out Is Ghostzapper's 70th Blacktype Winner With Laurel Stakes Score


Mens Grille Racing’s Ghoul’s Night Out, trained by Hamilton Smith and ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr., drove past A Great Time in deep stretch to win the $75,000 Jameela Stakes at Laurel Park.

Ghoul’s Night Out, a 5-year-old mare by Ghostzapper, covered the 5 ½ furlong course in 1:02.65. It was her first stakes victory and her first win on the turf in three attempts. The consistently brilliant Ghostzapper is now the sire of 70 blacktype winners lifetime, 11% from starters.

“She ran twice on the grass and handled herself pretty well both times,” Smith said. “It was a tough race, no doubt, but she came into the race real good and I expected her to run good. I didn’t think she’d win it, but I thought she’d run well.”

While Magician’squestion and Elevated Vision posted fractions of :22.16 and :45.27, Vargas rated Ghoul’s Night Out in fourth directly behind A Great Time, who drove past the pacesetters down the stretch to take the lead under jockey Trevor McCarthy. Despite a game effort by A Great Time, Ghoul’s Night Out managed to get up in the final yards for the victory.

“This filly always try for me,” Vargas said. “Today was a little bit of a step up because we had some fillies running in open stakes. But she was traveling so good. When I ducked her out she just went for it.”

Fear No Evil, the 1-2 favorite and facing Maryland-breds for the first time since last May after racing in six consecutive open stakes, rallied to finish third.

The Jameela is named for the Grade 1-winning millionaire Maryland-bred mare, who later gained fame as the dam of sprint champion Gulch.

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