On a muggy evening at Arlington, three-year-olds bred in the Land of Lincoln took the spotlight for a pair of one-turn mile stakes races. BABYBLUESBDANCING, last year’s standout two year-old in the Illinois filly ranks, reemphasized her place as the best of the group with a runaway victory in the Purple Violet Stakes. On the other hand, the Springfield Stakes produced a new Illinois-bred sophomore to watch: SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT, who overcame a speed duel and held confidently clear.
Purple Violet Stakes: BABYBLUESBDANCING Remains a Force at Three
BABYBLUESBDANCING, last year’s best Illinois-bred juvenile filly, still has a ways to go before catching up to her dam’s achievements. After all, Bluesbdancing won ten times in 31 starts from ages two through six, including six stakes races. Though Bluesbdancing last ran in 2008, she remains trainer Terrel Gore’s second leading earner to date, behind only millionaire Shadowbdancing.
Still, BABYBLUESBDANCING remains on the right path toward living up to her dam’s class.
The earliest money did fancy well-proven BABYBLUESBDANCING. Through the wagering, she traded favouritism with SHEZAHOTMAMA, who had just won a $40,000 N2L against older fillies and mares on May 27, and wheeled back a week later for this stakes race. The late action poured in on SHEZAHOTMAMA, sending her down to 1.3/1 odds by post time. BABYBLUESBDANCING, the only stakes winner in the field, left the gate a clear second choice at 2.1/1. HOPE N WISHES, a last-out allowance winner who also drew some betting attention, left the gate a clear third choice at 3.2/1.
Sharp out of the gate, 52/1 outsider COUNTESS ST MICHEL wasted no time in seizing control of the pace, guiding the field through early fractions of 23.68 for the quarter and 47.01 for the half. . SHEZAHOTMAMA stalked just outside the leader’s flank through the opening half-mile, with HOPE N WISHES next on the rail. KONZA KHROME and BABYBLUESBDANCING made up the next flight, with the rest further back.
Through the turn, the test began for COUNTESS ST MICHEL. SHEZAHOTMAMA inched up to her immediate outside, and BABYBLUESBDANCING began a steady advance around them. Turning for home. As COUNTESS ST MICHEL marked three quarters in 1:12.51, both of those fillies were coming to her throatlatch.
Passing the three-sixteenths pole, BABYBLUESBDANCING nosed into the lead. COUNTESS ST MICHEL, inside, was tiring but still trying. SHEZAHOTMAMA, in between, was slightly behind that pair. As BABYBLUESBDANCING kicked into her next gear, COUNTESS ST MICHEL drifted in, enough that SHEZAHOTMAMA checked and swung outside.
BABYBLUESBDANCING drew away through the final furlong, hitting the wire 7 lengths clear of COUNTESS ST MICHEL. SHEZAHOTMAMA pressed on, but after checking, could not get any closer than another 1 3/4 lengths behind the longshot pacesetter. ROMANCIN N DANCIN closed from last for fourth, another 5 1/4 lengths back. KALISPELL, SPRING CITY GAL, KONZA KHROME, and HOPE N WISHES completed the order of finish.
There was both a jockey’s claim of foul and an trainer’s objection, with jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr. and trainer Larry Rivelli with SHEZAHOTMAMA claiming against rider Sebastian Saez on COUNTESS ST MICHEL for drifting in. However, the stewards made no changes.
BABYBLUESBDANCING stopped the clock in 1:38.13 for the mile on polytrack, and paid her backers $6.20 to win. The exacta with COUNTESS ST MICHEL second (2-7) returned $126.90 for a $1 wager. A $0.50 trifecta with SHEZAHOTMAMA third (2-7-6) came back with $185.40. A dime superfecta with ROMANCIN N DANCIN in the lowest rung (2-7-6-8) paid $123.30.
BABYBLUESBDANCING is an Illinois-bred three-year-old filly by Sky Mesa out of the Golden Gear mare Bluesbdancing. Bred by RNB Racing LLC, she bears the silks of Lizabeth Gore. It was her first victory in three starts at age three: she had finished second in an allowance against older fillies and mares at Hawthorne to start the year, then finished off the board in a sloppy allowance at Churchill on Kentucky Oaks day. Her Purple Violet Stakes victory was her second career stakes win, and her fourth victory in nine career tries. The $31,283 winner’s share of the purse brought BABYBLUESBDANCING’s career earnings to $110,021.
After the race, jockey Julio Felix praised BABYBLUESBDANCING’s physical prowess, as well as her intellect. “It was only a matter of time — when I pushed the button, she was going to go. Today, she really exploded. And, the moves that I’ve taught her, she has never forgotten, since last year. I’m very proud of her: she really is turning into the filly that I thought she would be.”
Trainer Terrel Gore had only one significant concern coming into the Purple Violet. “I was worried about the polytrack. She ran okay on it last year, but she ran so much better when she got on the dirt.”
And, how does it feel for a filly who was so good at two to stay so good at three?
Gore kept it simple. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Springfield Stakes: Speedy SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT Continues His Progression
New year, new horse, new running style.
Last summer at Arlington, SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT chased around some of the most promising juveniles on the circuit: the precocious RIV. Eventual Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) winner Wellabled. Eventual Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity winner Devileye. After three starts, SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT remained a maiden.
Off from August to April, SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT returned a more formidable competitor. He adopted a frontrunning style, led at every call during both a maiden victory at Hawthorne, then wired an allowance at Fairmount Park last month. Today in the Springfield Stakes he returned to polytrack for the first time since last summer — and would face his stiffest class test of the year so far.
The public doubted his chances, sending SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT off as just the fourth betting choice of eight, at 6.2/1. DON’T SPLIT TENS came in off of races at Fair Grounds and Keeneland, and came to face Illinois-breds for the first time. He also boasted a solid polytrack pedigree, being a Congrats half to My Option, a multiple Grade 3 winner on the Arlington synthetic. DON’T SPLIT TENS took the betting interest throughout, and went off the 6/5 favourite come post time. RIV, coming off a pair of wins in allowance-optional company this year, was the clear second choice at 2.3/1.
Outside-drawn SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT got out of the gate quickly, but so did longshot GO OSHIE GO inside him. The pair battled through fractions of 23.44 for the quarter and 46.31 for the half, with RIV and DON’T SPLIT TENS drafting behind.
Through the turn, the complexion changed. GO OSHIE GO had given his best, leaving SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT to take over the lead alone. With the pressure gone, rider Chris Emigh settled the leader through a calmer third quarter, and ticked off the three-quarters in 1:10.58. DON’T SPLIT TENS continued chase from the next flight; RIV dropped away.
Turning down the stretch, favoured DON’T SPLIT TENS loomed the danger. Emigh asked SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT to go on. He could. DON’T SPLIT TENS tried all the way to the wire, and separated himself well from the rest of the pack. But, SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT held confidently and crossed the wire 2 lengths clear of DON’T SPLIT TENS. It was another 5 3/4 lengths back to CAT’S RUNAWAY, who had rallied up the rail to get a neck ahead of GO OSHIE GO for show honours. ON THE LAM, R FAST LIFE, ALL STRIKES, and RIV completed the order of finish.
SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT stopped the timer in 1:35.49 for the mile on polytrack, and returned $14.40 to his backers. The exacta with DON’T SPLIT TENS second (8-1) paid $26.80 for $1. A trifecta with CAT’S RUNAWAY in the lowest rung (8-1-2) came back with $101.25 for a $0.50 base bet. The dime superfecta with GO OSHIE GO holding fourth (8-1-2-5) paid $142.81.
SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT is a three-year-old chestnut gelding by Smoke Glacken out of the Out of Place mare Lake in the Sky. Bred in Illinois by Michael Reavis and Carol Ricker, current owner William Stiritz purchased him for $50,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale. Like all of Stiritz’s horses, SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT is trained by Scott Becker. The victory was SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT’s third in six lifetime tries. It was his first stakes triumph in his first stakes attempt, and the $31,312 winner’s share of the purse brought his career earnings up to $71,336.
Jockey Chris Emigh was worried about the early stages, but identified the third quarter as the key to the race. “I had a duel going on, which I didn’t want. But I got rid of him [GO OSHIE GO] on the turn, and got a big breather, and then just kicked away.” John Poole, an assistant trainer for Scott Becker, was confident even through the pace battle as he watched the Springfield Stakes unfold. He noted that SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT “just galloped around there, pretty easy. The other kid, on [GO OSHIE GO], he was sending him. Chris [Emigh] was just sitting.”
Emigh lauded SMOKE ‘N’ GLOAT’s development between age two and age three. “He’s just a different horse this year, when they brought him back,” he recalled. “He just was green last year, a two-year-old. Now he’s a three-year-old and he’s a mature horse — wants to win.”
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