Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Forget about having a clear cut leader among this year's thoroughbreds going into the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita this autumn.
Upsets in some of the summer's major stakes races have already taken a toll on the leading horses as Labor Day quickly arrives.
Just this past Saturday at Saratoga, previously undefeated and top ranked Palace Malice finished a tiring sixth as the 3-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile, $1.5 million Whitney Handicap. The 4-year-old colt, trained by Todd Pletcher for Dogwood Stable, failed to stay with frontrunner Moreno as the 10-1 longshot drove to a 1 1/4-length victory.
"I don't know what went wrong," said Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who rode Palace Malice. "He didn't run at all. He was in perfect position. On the backstretch he was looking around. I was hoping by the half-mile he'd move on, but he never showed any interest. He went through the whole race not paying any attention. He trained great, he warmed up great; he just didn't run."
Palace Malice had been leading the NTRA Poll since winning the Met Mile on the Belmont Stakes program. He also had the benefit of having two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan sidelined after colic surgery. But, Pletcher's colt has been winning impressively this year through the first four starts.
"Sometimes they throw in a dud, and right now it looks like that's what he did," said Pletcher.
It was Pletcher's 4-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar who got beat three weeks earlier in the Delaware Handicap as the 1-5 favorite. Belle Gallantey, the 6-1 second pick, got the best of the 'Princess' and put Close Hatches alone as the top older female.
"I thought that over on that far turn she had the opportunity to go through and just didn't, and that happens," noted 'Princess' primary owner Ed Stanco That's the part I was surprised about but what can you do? That's racing. And then she started to come on again but the race was over at that time."
In the Haskell Invitational, two divisions were affected by the surprising result. Leading 3-year-old filly Untapable was the 7-5 favorite versus eight males, but could no better than fifth behind 9-2 second choice Bayern.
"We had the widest trip of everybody; she ran a hell of a race and ran as hard as she could," the filly's rider Rose Napravnik said.
In California, Game On Dude will return in the Pacific Classic on Sunday, Aug. 24 for his first start since dropping the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 28.
Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome has been biding his time at Los Alamitos since finishing in a dead heat for fourth in the Belmont Stakes. He's training at his home base but when he's coming back to the races is only a guess.
Almost the only major thoroughbred not to lose this year, in addition to Close Hatches, is defending two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan. However, the 7- year-old gelding has been away for three months following emergency surgery. He is expected to start at Saratoga on Aug. 30 in either the Bernard Baruch Stakes on turf or the Woodward on the main track.