Welcome to “The Weekend Accolades,” a weekly series in which we’ll look back on the previous week of racing and hand out a few informal awards to horses, trainers, jockeys, etc. that achieved notable feats in racing. Enjoy!
Veteran of the Week: Big Blue Kitten
After a slightly disappointing campaign in 2014, during which he won only a listed stakes race, the multiple grade I-winner Big Blue Kitten seemed to be showing signs of his age, but the seven-year-old veteran has turned back the clock this year and looked as good as ever while winning the United Nations Stakes (gr. I) at Monmouth Park. With stablemate Shining Copper carving out fast fractions, Big Blue Kitten settled at the rear of the field before shifting outside and rallying powerfully to score by 1 1/2 lengths over a deep and talented field that included grade I winners Slumber, Twilight Eclipse, Imagining, and Main Sequence. Now a two-time winner of the United Nations, Big Blue Kitten appears poised to have another great season this year–not bad for a seven-year-old!
Overlooked Performance of the Week: Bradester in the Salvator Mile
With all the great races at Belmont Park, Woodbine, and Gulfstream Park, not much attention was given to the Salvator Mile (gr. III) at Monmouth Park, but the victorious Bradester stamped himself as a horse to watch this summer with an eye-catching victory. In his second start since finishing 13th in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) in Dubai back in March, Bradester showed speed from the start and helped set modest fractions of :24.42 and :47.61 before accelerating the pace through six furlongs in 1:10.83. The stiff third quarter left Bradester in command of the race, and while the talented pair of Red Vine and Valid stayed on strongly in the homestretch, they couldn’t come close to catching Bradester, who crossed the wire in front by two lengths while stopping the clock in 1:35.32. That time was good enough to earn a massive Beyer speed figure of 109, suggesting that Bradester could be a factor in some very big races this summer.
Photo Finish of the Week: The Suburban Handicap
It wasn’t the biggest race of the weekend, but it was almost certainly the most exciting! 2014 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Tonalist was the odds-on favorite to win the ten-furlong Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park, but after dropping far behind the early pace and making a sweeping move to reach contention on the turn, he hooked up in a battle for command with pace-setting Coach Inge and mild longshot Effinex. Passing the eighth pole, it looked like Coach Inge was poised to steal the race in gate-to-wire fashion, but he got a bit leg-weary in deep stretch, which allowed Effinex and Tonalist to surge past and hit the wire together in a photo finish. The camera revealed Effinex to be the winner by a head, a satisfying victory given that the colt had been eased one start earlier after bolting on the final turn of the Brooklyn Handicap.
He didn’t win, but 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Texas Red looked great in his comeback performance in the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) on Saturday at Belmont. After missing the Triple Crown races with a foot abscess, the son of Afleet Alex resumed serious training in May with an eye on winning the Travers Stakes (gr. I) in August at Saratoga, and the Dwyer was a major step in the right direction. With regular rider Kent Desormeaux in the saddle, Texas Red had a bit of trouble keeping up early on as the leaders posted fractions of :22.83 and :46.29, but unleashed an eye-catching run while racing wide on the turn to reach contention at the top of the stretch. He did flatten out a bit thereafter as eventual winner Speightster ran the final quarter-mile in a sharp :24.21, but Texas Red stayed on well to finish second by 2 1/2 lengths, an excellent effort in his first start since February. His next start is expected to come in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga on August 1st.