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An unusually dense fog enveloped Hot Springs, Arkansas, on Monday, probably leaving some fans wondering whether they were watching racing from Oaklawn Park or Aqueduct. The victory by McNeill Stables' CALEB'S POSSE (Posse) in the $100,000 Smarty Jones S. was clear as can be, however, as the homebred rebounded from a lethargic performance in last month's Springboard Mile at Remington Park to post a decisive 2 3/4-length win in the one-mile contest for three-year-olds.
When trainer Steve Asmussen brought a select squad to Santa Anita for the first time this winter, a couple of well-regarded Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects were among them. Iroquois S. (G3) winner Astrology (A.P. Indy) was already a proven graded commodity, and now Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred TAPIZAR (Tapit) has joined him after a 4 1/4-length triumph in his stakes debut in Saturday's $100,000 Sham S. (G3).
Gem Stable's J P'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal) had never been on the lead in his three starts prior to Sunday's $150,000 Best Pal S. (G2). But having broken sharply from the rail, and with the scratch of the speedy River's Chapel (Chapel Royal), the savvy Patrick Valenzuela knew what to do with his pick-up mount.
Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton's ASTROLOGY (A.P. Indy) was hammered into 6-5 favoritism in Sunday's $122,300 Iroquois S. (G3) at Churchill Downs, but his odds reflected much more than hunch players taking a flyer on the opening "Stars of Tomorrow" program. Rather, the well-bred colt from the Steve Asmussen barn had strong credentials to recommend him.
Stuart Janney III's homebred AIR SUPPORT (Smart Strike), a troubled fourth behind Soldat (War Front) in the September 3 With Anticipation S. (G3) at Saratoga, gained revenge by upsetting that 3-5 favorite in Sunday's $147,500 Pilgrim S. (G3) at Belmont Park. With Rajiv Maragh aboard, the Shug McGaughey juvenile negotiated 1 1/16 miles on the yielding turf in 1:47 4/5 to enter calculations for the November 5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2).
Repole Stable's UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie) lived up to the pre-race hype with an emphatic 4 3/4-length score in Saturday's $300,000 Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont Park. The 1-5 favorite off a dazzling 14 1/4-length debut win at Saratoga August 28, the Todd Pletcher trainee was tested early by 22-1 chance I'm Steppin' It Up (Congrats), who pressured the favorite through splits of :22 2/5 and :45 4/5.
Columbine Stable's J. B.'S THUNDER (Thunder Gulch) entered Saturday's $400,000 Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland off an easy Saratoga turf maiden score and exited a Grade 1 winner following yet another front-running victory. The Al Stall Jr. trainee took the lead from the start and, after setting fractions of :24, :48 3/5, 1:13 2/5 and 1:37 4/5, drew off in the stretch under Shaun Bridgmohan to be four lengths clear on the wire in a final time of 1:44 for 8 1/2 Polytrack furlongs.
Gem Stable's J P'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal) dueled throughout Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) beneath jockey Patrick Valenzuela, easily put away rival Comma to the Top (Bwana Charlie) entering the stretch and drew off to be 4 1/2 lengths clear on the wire of the closing-day feature. Trained by David Hofmans, the bay ridgling finished up the seven-furlong test on the Polytrack in 1:22 4/5 to complete a hat trick of graded wins.
Bumped and pinched back in a rowdy start to Sunday's $100,000 Bourbon S. (G3) at Keeneland, Catesby W. Clay's homebred ROGUE ROMANCE (Smarty Jones) would have had an ample excuse if he had failed to fire. Instead, the 3-1 favorite delivered a superb closing kick from the tail of the field to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths.
Zayat Stables' JAYCITO (Victory Gallop) took the overland route down the backside and around the far turn at Hollywood Park in Saturday's $250,000 Norfolk S. (G1), but had enough stamina to overtake even-money favorite J P's Gusto (Successful Appeal) to land the 1 1/16-mile Cushion Track feature by a length under Mike Smith.