09/27/2008 7:12AM

12 Grade 1 races!!!


Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational:
Much will be made of Proudinsky running three times in five weeks (if he does compete this afternoon), but he ran quite well when second to Big Brown at Monmouth last time out, and he has the stout German breeding necessary to navigate this demanding 12 furlong distance.  Plus, he's run very well on wet turf courses in the past, and should benefit from all the rainfall the Belmont green has received over the last couple of days.  With Presious Passion likely to dictate a solid pace, Proudinsky can rally from the second flight while getting the jump on confirmed closers like Dancing Forever
Strike a Deal ran a big race when second in his 2008 debut in the Volponi, but he's disappointed me in his three subsequent starts.  His most recent defeat at Woodbine was terrible as the 9-10 chalk as he was a bit eager early, and didn't change leads until late in the stretch.  This distance may be a bit far, but he may sit a good spot while closest to Presious Passion. 
Dancing Forever made a dramatic stretch move to win the Manhattan as he altered course sharply to the hedge in late stretch.  He seemed a bit washed out going to the post of the Sword Dancer last time as the favorite, though, and never got on track.  He's been given plenty of time by Shug McGaughey, and his 'A' race is probably more than enough to win this.
Grand Couturier ran into trouble in the upper stretch of the Sword Dancer, but Alan Garcia sat chilly, waited for another hole to materialize, and shot on through.  Grand Couturier wouldn't mind a little cut in the ground, but his best efforts have come at Saratoga.  Summer Patriot will run all day, but steps up in class.   
Selections:  Proudinsky, Strike a Deal, Dancing Forever

Jockey Club Gold Cup:
As a fan, I want Curlin to romp by multiple lengths, thus setting up the race of the year with Big Brown and company in the Breeders' Cup Classic.  While that seems like the probable scenario on paper, you can't take 2-5 or less on Curlin to Win.  You guys and gals know that I'm a big Wanderin Boy supporter, and while he's a cut below the top class handicap horses, he can get brave if you give him a loose lead on a wet track.  I think he's making the front at all costs here as he doesn't seem comfortable passing other rivals, and he was only beaten three lengths by Curlin in the Woodward despite failing to make the front.  At the least, I get a cheap thrill on the lead.  At the most, I pull off a huge upset with limited financial investment. 
Curlin is the most likely winner, and the 'A' play on multi-race tickets.  While many critics focus on his all-out stretch drive in the Woodward, few remember that he was pin-balled going into the first turn.  He's a deserving champion, and is always capable of putting on a dramatic performance. 
Mambo in Seattle's photo finish defeat in the Travers broke my heart and bankroll.  He's stepping up to face older horses, but this colt has a lot of upside potential, and would benefit greatly if Wanderin Boy faces pressure up front from Merchant Marine and Timber Reserve. 
Merchant Marine looks to add Curlin's scalp to the impressive collection cultivated by "Giant-Killer" Allen Jerkens.  Timber Reserve's recent optional claiming win at Saratoga was awesome, and it shows what this oft-injured son of Forest Camp can do when he's feeling good. 
Selections:  Wanderin Boy, Curlin

Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship:
It looks like a three-horse race on paper.  Out of Control got hurt after being nosed out in the Manhattan, and then was thrown into the fire against Curlin on dirt in his return to the races.  He's back on his best surface here, is reunited with Garrett Gomez, and arguably has more tactical speed than his main rivals. 
Red Giant ships West for Pletchazquez, and has been freshened up after scoring over yielding ground in the Fourstardave.  He successfully handled this distance in last year's Virginia Derby, and is capable of a breakout performance. 
Spring House is a very good turf horse, and he was much the best in the Del Mar Handicap.  He likes to come from well off the pace, and it will be interesting to see if Julio Canani has him fully cranked up here with the Breeders' Cup on the horizon. 
Transduction Gold made a wide move in the Del Mar 'Cap, but was no match for Spring House in the lane.  You Got Me Rocking may try to steal it on the front end.
Selections:  Out of Control, Red Giant, Spring House

Lady's Secret:
The match-up of the day pits Hystericalady against Zenyatta, and most 'cappers are siding with the former citing Hystericalady's major pace advantage.  While Hystericalady is a top, top filly, and her pace edge is compelling, it's quite possible that Zenyatta is simply a freak of nature.  Her win in the Hirsch at Del Mar was amazing.  She was off a half-length slowly, and far off the early pace.  She angled sharply from the rail to the three path on the turn, and then inhaled the leader without taking a deep breath.  It was a masterful effort from a filly that has yet to taste defeat, and I just can't go against her after watching that effort. 
It's hard to make a strong case for any of the others.  Wake Up Maggie and Super Freaky ran one-two in the Adoration at Del Mar, but this is obviously tougher.  Santa Teresita chased Zenyatta in vain at Hollywood.
Selections:  Zenyatta, Hystericalady

Ancient Title:
Don't really have a firm grasp on this race at all so will spread.  Street Boss is the horse to beat based on his four race win streak, and favorable pace scenario.  He has a powerful stretch kick, and he overcame the inside post to win the Bing Crosby going away. 
Cost of Freedom was claimed by John Sadler at Del Mar, and promptly recorded at 110 Beyer Speed Figure in his first start for the new connections.  He then was a vet scratch on September 3.  You don't know what you're going to get with this horse, but if he goes off at a big price, he's worth a flier. 
I'm a big Sailors Sunset fan, and will use him in all sorts of gimmicks.  He ran very well in the Bing Crosby as he was embroiled in a four-horse duel while three wide and in between horses, and was the only part of the pace around at the end.  He hasn't won in over a year, however, and his most recent start lacked punch.  He likes to go to the front, and may be compromised by the other speeds, but that race two back stands out to me.
Delta Storm looks like the latest Mike Mitchell success story.  Claimed for $40,000 by Mitchell at Churchill Downs in May, Delta Storm is now two for three in Southern California including a stakes win in at Del Mar.  Idiot Proof received a nice prep on the turf at Del Mar, and will be running and gunning here.  He wouldn't be a surprise, and looks like a nice sleeper for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.  In Summation's career was resurrected by synthetic surfaces, and he can sit just off the expected hot pace.
Selections:  Cost of Freedom, Street Boss, Sailors Sunset

Oak Leaf:
Stardom Bound looked like a strong favorite, but she was kicked by a pony yesterday, and her participation is now questionable.  I'll give Montana Fields one more try here as I liked her maiden win two back, and she should handle the added distance quite nicely.  She was no match for Stardom Bound, but if that one scratches, this race becomes a wide-open affair.
If Stardom Bound runs, she's obviously the one to beat, but this latest injury coupled with her inexperience at this distance, and poor gate habits make her hard to take at short odds.  Toro Bonito goes two sprints to a route for Baffert, has enough speed to find a good spot going into the first turn, and may get the jump on the closers.  Magic Roberta is a maiden tackling winners, but is bred to go long on the bottom, and she wasn't disgraced when only beaten a length by Toro Bonito at Del Mar.  Palacio de Amor looms the speed of the race, but she shook loose in the Del Mar Debutante, and proved no match for Stardom Bound while late to change leads.
Selections:  Montana Fields, Stardom Bound, Toro Bonito, Magic Roberta

Yellow Ribbon:
Wait a While won this race in 2006, and signaled a return to top form with her most recent start in New York.  She loves this firm turf course, and has the tactical speed to find a good spot despite her far outside post position.  Black Mamba has really turned it up a notch in her last two starts, and looks like the best of the local contingent.  I Can See is more of a bridesmaid than a consistent winner, but she has a strong late kick, and can get a piece of this.  Vacare appreciate the class relief in her most recent race at Del Mar, but I still wonder if she's lost a step from last year. 
Selections:  Wait a While, Black Mamba, I Can See

Looked at this race for over an hour, and still have no idea so will spread with little confidence.  I'm intrigued with Spirit One despite the fact that his win in the Arlington Million was aided by an easy lead coupled with the cat-and-mouse tactics of the foes that were chasing him.  Can he run as well on a synthetic surface?  Can he handle tougher pace opposition?  Those questions are valid, but they also may keep some money away from him.  I'll give him a shot to prove himself if the price is right.  Tres Borrachos didn't do anything in the Travers, but he beat Colonel John with a rail-skimming ride in the Swaps, and may receive a similar ground-saving trip here.  Well Armed is an extremely consistent runner, and should appreciate turning back in distance.  He may be better when on the lead instead of chasing so we'll see what Aaron Gryder does with him coming out of the gate.  Zappa may want more ground to work with although he should get a strong pace setup.  Surf Cat is a battle-hardened veteran that has overcome his share of injuries.  He's another that will likely contest the pace.  Slew's Tiznow showed a lot of class in winning the El Cajon in his first start of the year following various physical ailments.  Albertus Maximus, Tiago, and Mostacolli Mort should all receive the pace necessary to properly setup their late rallies.  While Mast Track stole the Hollywood Gold Cup on the lead, he ran sneaky well in the Pacific Classic, and can't be ignored despite his outside post.  What a fun, but extremely difficult race to handicap!
Selections:  Spirit One, Tres Borrachos, Well Armed

Sunday's Grade 1 race is for juvenile colts, and they've come from just about everywhere in the country to run here.  Regal Ransom was an impressive debut winner at Saratoga over a demanding seven-furlong distance, and may attempt to shake loose stretching out to two turns while breaking from the rail.  Street Hero is still a maiden, but he had a terrible, terrible trip two back, and was only beaten three-quarters of a length for all the marbles in the Del Mar Futurity.  The addition of blinkers may put him over the hump.  Silent Valor, Midshipman, and Azul Leon all boast multiple wins.  Silent Valor showed versatility by coming from off the pace to win the Sapling at Monmouth.  Midshipman has done everything right going short for Baffert.  Azul Leon was forced to the seven path turning for home, and was herded in between horses in the late stages of the Best Pal.  Another tough race to handicap featuring some quality runners.
Selections:  Regal Ransom, Street Hero, Silent Valor

More importantly, who do you like this weekend? I'd like to know.

Back on Monday evening with the stakes and Beyer recap.