By Alan Carasso
In many ways, it was a 'good' problem to have.
Having added a maiden success in the GI Kentucky Derby to his Hall of Fame resume at long last aboard Mage (Good Magic) in early May, jockey Javier Castellano continued a magical ride when teaming with Jena Antonucci to make history in the GI Belmont S. on the progressive Arcangelo (Arrogate), as the connections of Mage turned their collective attention to the second half of the season.
Mage resumed with a very good runner-up effort when reportedly not fully fit for last month's GI TVG.com Haskell S., a steppingstone to the GI Travers S., and a burning question over the next three weeks or so revolved around which colt would be the apple of Castellano's eye come the final Saturday in August. For her part, Antonucci always expressed confidence that Arcangelo would win out at the end of the day, and so it proved, as Luis Saez was named on Mage when Castellano declined to commit in a manner deemed timely enough.
A decision–or non-decision, as the case was–having been made, Castellano was now locked into the son of the late 2016 Travers romper Arrogate for a race he'd won a record six times previously, most recently with Catholic Boy (More Than Ready) in 2018. Deftly handled on an afternoon that was crying out for something–anything, really–resembling a happy ending, Arcangelo proved equal to the task under an A-plus steer from his 45-year-old reinsman.
“I never give up,” Castellano said. “I always work hard for moments like this. I've been up and down and thank God I've been lucky enough to win my seventh Travers. It's like the Super Bowl for Tom Brady. I'm so blessed to have people supporting me. When people support your career, it's great.”
Scotland (Tapit) won the break from his outside draw and led them past the winning post for the first time, as 'TDN Rising Star' Forte (Violence), a bit toey in gate one, a keyed-up Mage and GI Preakness S. hero National Treasure (Quality Road) raced handiest to the speed. Arcangelo was fifth of the seven as he hugged the rail, and he was followed by the newly blinkered Disarm (Gun Runner) and, unsurprisingly, the perpetually slow-starting 'Rising Star' Tapit Trice (Tapit).
Castellano made a key move entering the clubhouse turn, allowing Arcangelo to improve inside of Forte, and when National Treasure rolled forward to prompt Scotland, it left the gray colt with the run of the race from the box seat. Traveling beautifully in midpack passing the midway point, Arcangelo needed next to no encouragement to keep pace with the leading group, and, once eased out into the four path, made ominous progress outside the typically one-paced Tapit Trice approaching the five-sixteenths marker. Spun out five or six wide into the stretch as Forte began to wind up with a bit of a run from behind, Arcangelo struck to the front with a furlong and a half to race and stayed on nicely for the victory. Joel Rosario rolled the dice up the fence with Disarm and was in tight inside of a weakening Scotland in upper stretch, then flew home to be runner-up in a case of what might've been. Tapit Trice plugged on for third, ahead of his favored stablemate Forte in fourth. National Treasure, Scotland and a disappointing Mage completed the order of finish.
“I feel like on the backside I had so much horse, I could blow by and open up by 10 and I just took my time and let him develop,” Castellano added. “I put him outside, enjoyed my ride and very lucky and thankful and blessed you guys gave me the opportunity and a lot of confidence to ride the horse and working together every single step. It seems to me he's a super horse. Keep our fingers crossed, keep him sound. All the credit to Jena. She does such a good job with the horses.”
It was another feather in the cap of Antonucci, the first of her sex to train a Belmont winner and the second to saddle a Travers winner, joining Mary Hirsch (1938).
“The significance of accomplishing anything in any gender at the top of any sport or industry is a gift,” she said. “It doesn't come without the team and without every single person on our team. The significance of this is hard to put into words right now.
“Anyone that wants something bad enough, you just have to work your tail off for it. It doesn't matter–man, woman, boy, girl–that's just white noise. If you want it, go fight for it and make it happen for yourself.”
It had been 77 days since the Belmont, but Antonucci had no problem whatsoever bringing Arcangelo into the Travers off works.
“It just never was a layoff in my mind with this horse,” she explained. “I understand the traditionalists of this sport are always going to view gaps in that manner. This horse has had his entire career that way because [owner] Jon [Ebbert] wants this horse to be brought along slowly, correctly and be given the time he needs to grow up. I feel we have respected that with the horse and Jon has respected that in the horse.”
A debut second sprinting in the Gulfstream slop last December, Arcangelo was fourth to future GII Louisiana Derby hero Kingsbarns (Uncle Mo) over a mile Jan. 14 before graduating with Castellano at the controls Mar. 18. The ridgling battled hard in taking the May 13 GIII Peter Pan S. to earn his way into the Belmont, and, with Antonucci riding as hard as anyone from the Belmont boxes, easily defeated Forte at Big Sandy.
What once was an open question is no longer, as put succinctly by Forte's part-owner Mike Repole.
“I'm not afraid to say it; that's the top 3-year-old in the country. No doubt.”
Arcangelo is one of four stakes winners–all graded–from the second of what will be just three crops for the late Arrogate and is one of his five Grade I winners to date. To date, Arcangelo has been represented by a total of nine stakes winners, seven at the graded level. From a family with tremendous depth and influence in the stud book, it is remarkable that he was purchased by Ebbert for just $35,000 at Keeneland September in 2021.
A May 11 foal, Arcangelo is out of the unraced Modeling, a half-sister to GISW Streaming (Smart Strike), SW Treasuring (Smart Strike) and SW Cascading (A.P. Indy), who was acquired by Don Alberto Corporation for $2.85 million in foal to Distorted Humor at the 2014 Keeneland November Sale.
Given the black-type in his third dam, it's hardly surprising Arcangelo might have been cut out for a race like the Belmont. Better Than Honour fetched an eye-watering $14 million from Southern Equine Stables at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton November Sale, some 17 months after her daughter Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy) duplicated her half-brother Jazil (Seeking the Gold)'s feat in annexing the final leg of the Triple Crown. Better Than Honour was also responsible for U.S. Grade II winner and Japanese Group 1-placed Casino Drive (Mineshaft); Breeders' Cup Marathon hero Man of Iron (Giant's Causeway); and the dam of MGSW & GISP Greatest Honour (Tapit). Tapit himself played a large role in Saturday's outcome as the broodmare sire of the first two home and the sire of the third.
Modeling has not produced a live foal since Arcangelo and was most recently covered by Munnings.
TRAVERS S.-GI, $1,250,000, Saratoga, 8-26, 3yo, 1 1/4m, 2:02.23, my.
1–ARCANGELO, 126, r, 3, by Arrogate
1st Dam: Modeling, by Tapit
2nd Dam: Teeming, by Storm Cat
3rd Dam: Better Than Honour, by Deputy Minister
($35,000 Ylg '21 KEESEP). O-Blue Rose Farm; B-Don Alberto
Corporation (KY); T-Jena M. Antonucci; J-Javier Castellano.
$687,500. Lifetime Record: 6-4-1-0, $1,754,900.
Werk Nick Rating: A.
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Disarm, 126, c, 3, Gun Runner–Easy Tap, by Tapit.
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. 'TDN Rising Star'. O/B-Winchell
Thoroughbreds LLC (KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen. $250,000.
3–Tapit Trice, 126, c, 3, Tapit–Danzatrice, by Dunkirk.
'TDN Rising Star'. ($1,300,000 Ylg '21 KEESEP). O-Whisper Hill
Farm, LLC and Gainesway Stable (Antony Beck); B-Gainesway
Thoroughbreds Ltd. (KY); T-Todd A. Pletcher. $150,000.
Margins: 1, 2HF, 4HF. Odds: 2.70, 12.20, 13.50.
Also Ran: Forte, National Treasure, Scotland, Mage.
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.
— TwinSpires Racing 🏇 (@TwinSpires) August 26, 2023