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!
Performance of the Week: American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes
Come on, you saw this one coming, didn’t you? :) No performance last week could possibly top American Pharoah’s triumph in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), which secured him the elusive Triple Crown and stamped his legacy for all time. It was a performance that will never be forgotten.
The seven-year-old Slumber has shown promise throughout his career, finishing second, third, or fourth in seven graded stakes races dating back to December 2011, but victories have been few and far between for the son of Cacique. Coming into Saturday’s ten-furlong Manhattan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park, Slumber hadn’t won a race since August 2013, but all that changed when he burst clear of his ten rivals in the final furlongs of the Manhattan to score a convincing 2 3/4-length victory at odds of 14-1. The victory wasn’t just his first grade I win, it was also his first graded stakes win period–and all this at the age of seven!
Jockey of the Week: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Victor Espinoza won the Triple Crown, an incredible achievement, but Irad Ortiz, Jr. had the best overall weekend in terms of races won. He started off on Friday by winning three stakes races at Belmont–the $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational, the $250,000 Tremont Stakes, and the $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes–and followed that up on Saturday by winning the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) and Manhattan Handicap (gr. I), giving him a remarkable five stakes wins in two days. Wow!
Sprinter of the Week: Rock Fall
Just how good is Rock Fall? The four-year-old son of Speightstown entered Friday’s True North Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park with a four-race win streak, highlighted by an allowance victory at Keeneland that earned him a massive 109 Beyer speed figure. The True North marked his stakes debut, but that didn’t matter to Rock Fall, who tracked fractions of :22.34 and :45.01 before powering clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths in the time of 1:08.37 for six furlongs. His beaten rivals included two-time Carter Handicap (gr. I) winner Dads Caps, Belmont Sprint Championship (gr. III) winner Clearly Now, Gallant Bob Stakes (gr. III) winner Favorite Tale, and Diablo Stakes winner Stallwalkin’ Dude. As is fitting for a horse that so easily defeated such a talented field, Rock Fall received a Beyer of 110 for his victory. If he stays healthy, I think Rock Fall has the talent to earn an Eclipse award as champion male sprinter of 2015!