Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from Saturday’s Arlington Million Stakes and Beverly D. Stakes, both run for the first time at Churchill Downs, and other major weekend developments:
SMART OBSERVERS: Trainer Brendan Walsh and jockey Tyler Gaffalione saw that the Churchill Downs turf course was favoring speed when they watched front-running Dalika capture the Beverly D. They decided to keep Godolphin homebred Santin closer to the pace than normal and were rewarded with a 1 ¾-length victory against persistent Smooth Like Strait in the Arlington Million Stakes. “We were able to watch how things played in the Beverly D. and in Santin’s best races he sits a little closer to the pace,” Walsh said. “We decided to make that the game plan.” Santin became the seventh horse to win two Grade 1 races in the United States this year. He eyes a probable start in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF.
NOTEWORTHY ASSIST: Al Stall Jr. was quick to point to the contribution of someone else after Dalika set a course record of 1:46.31 in the 1 1/8-mile Beverly D. Stakes, eclipsing Lure’s 1993 mark by three-hundredths of a second. “I really have to thank trainer Tom Drury, who helps us out with this horse at Skylight [Training Center],” he said. “She’s a little bit tough to train, so we’ve been keeping her out there, where it’s pretty quiet.” Dalika netted her first Grade 1 triumph and an automatic berth in the $2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
ROAD WARRIOR: A venture to the Middle East for races in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took nothing away from Casa Creed. He made it 2-for-2 since returning home when he rallied from last in the $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. He had successfully recorded a repeat victory in the Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes on June 11 at Belmont Park. Both wins were piloted by Luis Saez. “He’s in great form and won two Grade 1s since coming back, so scrap that theory that they can’t travel and do good,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. The 6-year-old son of Jimmy Creed secured a berth in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF with his Fourstardave performance.
SWEET VICTORY: Trainer Michelle Lovell earned her most significant victory to date with her first Saratoga starter when Damon’s Mound delivered in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes. The son of Girvin backed up a rousing 12 ½-length rout in his July 2 debut at Churchill Downs for breeders and owners Cliff and Michele Love. Lovell had not won above the Grade 3 level since launching her training career in 2003. Lovell said of Damon’s Mound, “He’s been a super sound and mature animal and I just look forward to his future.”
SUPER WORK: Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher is not one to get overly excited about a workout. He was elated after runaway Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes winner Charge It produced what he described as an “awesome” five-furlong drill in 1:01.01 on the main track at Saratoga in preparation for the Aug. 27 Runhappy Travers Stakes. “Super work. Loved the way he did it, moving great and galloped out really strongly on a track that’s not real fast,” Pletcher said, adding, “I think he’s very confident and he’s doing well. Mentally, he’s made big strides.”