10/10/2009 1:49PM

9 1's on 10/10/09

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1:50 pm: Here's the timetable for today's nine Grade 1 races, three apiece at Belmont, Keeneland and Oak Tree. Good luck seeing them all live, since with typical precision planning there's a jam-up just after 5 p.m. ET with the Breeders' Futurity scheduled for 5:10 and both the Champagne and Yellow Ribbon at 5:15:

I'll be following along from the in-home OTB and will share some first impressions and update the chart above as the day wears on. TV coverage of the Keeneland and Oak Tree stakes is scheduled to run on ESPN Classic from 5 to 7:45 p.m. in addition to the usual TVG and HRTV shows.

All three tracks are running guaranteed late pick-4's -- $250k at Keeneland (races 6-9), $350k at Belmont (7-10), $500k at Oak Tree (7-10). Post times (ET) for the first legs of those sequencews are 4:00 at Keeneland, 4:11 at Belmont, and 6:55 at Oak Tree.


2:50 pm: One down, eight to go. The newly (and needlessly) upgraded Jamaica Handicap was probably the day's least important Grade 1, but it counts and it broke a nightmarish streak for winning trainer Todd Pletcher: Take the Points gave him his first G1 victory in New York since the 2007 Turf Classic (English Channel). Since then, Pletcher had won several out-of-town G1's, but was on 0-for-50 roll in such races at the NYRA tracks.

Take the Points also won the Secretariat at Arlington in August, so he has won the first two of the year's only three Grade 1 races for 3-year-olds on the grass. The final such race is the Hollywood Derby Nov. 29, a more realistic next goal for Take the Points than a Breeders' Cup race (to which the Even The score colt would have to be supplemented.) Take the Points is only the third 3-year-old male to win more than one U.S. G1 race this year, joining Summer Bird (3) and Zensational (3). (Rachel Alexandra won five G1's three against males.)

Take the Points paid $7.40 as the second choice after holding off Straight Story by a head, with Courageous Cat another three-quarters back in third as the 4-5 favorite.


4:50 pm: The G2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes isn't a G1 (which makes no sense if the Madison Stakes at the Keeneland spring meeting is) but it was a major prep for the BC F&M Sprint and produced the probable second choice (to Ventura) for the race when Informed Decision ($3.40) ran down Carlsbad to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:09.03.

Informed Decision is now 6 for 6 on synthetic tracks and 10 for 13 overall. Her only loss this year -- or in five career starts at the BCFMS distance of 7f -- came in the Ballerina, where she spun her wheels over a sloppy track and ran third to Music Note and Indian Blessing.

Diamondrella ($7.20), who shocked Forever Togetheri n the Just a Game on the Belmont undercard, just beat her again in the G1 First Lady at Keeneland. Forever Together trailed early and finished well but could manage only third to the winner and Tizaqueena.

It's unclear what's next for Diamondrella. The first Lady is a WAYI for the BC F&M Turf, a silly designation since the First Lady is only a mile and the BCFMT is run at either 10 (this year) or 11 furlongs. Diamondrella has never been more than a mile. She seems better suited to the F&M Sprint distance-wise, but ran poorly behind Informed Decision in the Presque Isle Masters last time out in her first try over a synthetic surface.

Fiorever Together remains a puzzle this year. She looked like the Eclipse champion of last year winning her season debut in the Jenny Wiley, but has lost three of her four starts since, albeit with some less than ideal trips. Has she lost a step since last year or was this one-mile prep a good set-up for a successful title defense?


5:05 pm: From 0-for-50 to 2-for-2: Pletcher sent out his second G1 winner of the day when second-time-starter Devil May Care, an easy winner of her debut in the slop at Saratoga, just held off Matron winner Awesome Maria to win the G1 Frizette. Devil May Care got a sweet rail trip down the backstretch, came out to collar and overtake Nonna Mia at the top of the stretch, and lasted by a head over Awesome Maria in 1:35.07. Before making any BC Juvenile Fillies futures bets off that time, note that the Belmont track is very quick today -- $12k claimers went 6f in 1:09.57 earlier on the card. So let's see how fast they run the Champagne, coming up next at Belmont.

First there's the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. (It would be nice if Keeneland ran it on the same card as the Alcibiades -- won yesterday by Negligee -- the way Belmont does with the Frizette and Champagne and Oak Tree did with the Oak Leaf and Norfolk last Sunday.)


5:25 pm: Even though everyone was running late, we still had the unoftunate scenario of three G1's being run in the space of five minutes, with the gates opening for the Champagne 21 seconds after they did for the Yellow Ribbon. Very quick takes:

Breeders' Futurity: Noble's Promise, a Cuvee colt who sold as a weanling for just $10k, held off Aikenite in a pace-pressing victory.

Champagne: Homeboykris, making his first start since being privately purchased out of a Calder maiden race July 11 and turned over to trainer Rick Dutrow, ran down Discreetly Mine in 1:35.12 -- five-hundredths slower than the Frizette. Homeboykris, a Roman Ruler colt, sold for $11k at a 2-year-old sale in March. Dublin, the Hopeful winner and a strangely overbet 3-5 favorite, favorite, had no punch in the stretch and ran fifth.

Sorry, still haven't seen the Yellow Ribbon, won by favored Magical Fantasy ($4.40) in 1:59.59, who is headed for the BC F&M Turf on the same course and distance.


5:50 pm: Looks like there was a little bridgejumping in the Frizette and Champagne. Awesome Maria attarcted $120k of the $150k in the Frizette show pool and returned $2.10 after finishing second. Dublin took two-thirds of the show pool in the Champagne and ran out, producing show payoffs of $10.40, $7.10 and $5.70 in a six-horse field.


6:00 pm: Court Vision gave Dutrow his second G1 of the day, nailing loose-on-the-lead Karelian at the wire to win the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile for his first victory in six starts this year. It was Court Vision's first start since being given to Dutrow, who put blinkers back on the 4-year-old Gulch colt after three starts without them. Justenuffhumor, the 7-5 favorite off six straight victories, lagged behind the slow pace and did little running, checking in sixth of seven.

The final time was 1:38.68, virtually identical to Diamondrella's 1:38.68 in the First Lady, but Court Vision rallied from behind a much slower pace -- 50.45 vs. 48.13. 


6:10 pm: Phew. Time for a little breather before the Goodwood and Lady's Secret. Maybe I'll even make a little Oak Tree pick-4. I skipped Belmont's -- too many other good races to handicap to get involved with the two headsplitters they bracketed the Frizette and Champagne with -- so my handle so far today has been a pathetic $192 into the Keeneland pick-4. I got alive to four of them in the Turf Mile. Used Karelian ($1394 for $1), but not Court Vision ($1056).


6:30 pm: Pletcher just added the G2 Oak Tree Mile to his earlier G1 victories in the Jamaica and Frizette as Cowboy Cal led all the way as the 8-5 favorite. The race was probably decided at the start when Mike Smith, riding speedball Monterey Jazz for the first time, worked hard to wrangle him back off the lead. That gave Cowboy Cal an easy lead that he never surrendered.

If Cowboy Cal and Court Vision are now the leading American hopes for the Breeders' Cup Mile, the europeans should sleep well tonight. They're nice horses but just not at the same level as Goldikova, Mastercraftsman and Delegator.

Can't play that OSA late pick-4 because the finale is, as is often the case out west, a firster-laden maiden race. But there will be plenty of action in the next hour without parimutuel involvement, with Mine That Bird up next in the Goodwood and then Zenyatta going for #13 in the Lady's Secret.

Belmont missed its $350k pick-4 guarantee as the bet drew just $335,979. That was almost $10k less than Keeneland handled on its $250k guaranteed pick-4. Keeneland used all stakes races for its guaranteed pick-4 while Belmont surrounded the Champagne and Frizette with a conditioned claimer and a statebred maiden race. Also, Keeneland drew its card a full day earlier than Belmont.


7:05 pm: They're not only sleeping well in Europe tonight, they're probably laughing. Gitano Hernando's victory over California's best older horses in the Goodwood makes you think that any good Europeans who can handle Pro-Ride surface will be the horses to beat in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Gitano Hernando, who lost his only Group race when beaten a head in the G3 Dee Stakes at Chester May 8, was being pointed for the Belmont Stakes earlier this year, held off the repeatedly disappointing Colonel John, with Pacific Classic winner Richard's Kid third. Mine That Bird was a dull sixth, making a brief middle move after trailing early and settling for sixth. Jockey Calvin Borel said after the race tha yhe thinks the Derby winner is "better on dirt" but said he would ride him in the Classic if the connections wanted to try again.

Mine That Bird had every right to be less than his best today off a long layoff and at a shorter distance than his best, but he still should have shown a little more spark.

Gitano Hernando had been considered a more serious candidate for the $500k Marathon than the $5 million Classic, but today's result may make his connections, and several others, take a longer look at the Classic.


7:55 pm: The 13th was one of the easiest. Zenyatta swooped past another overmatched field in the Lady's Secret to extend her record to 13 for 13 and begin a fascinating debate over where she should run next: The Breeders' Cup Distaff (Ladies' Classic), where she would be heavily favored to surpass Personal Ensign's 13-for-13 record and retire undefeated after 14 starts? Or the Breeders' Cup Classic, where she would face males for the first time, putting her unbeaten record in greater jeopardy but giving her at least a chance to unseat Rachel Alexandra as the Horse of the Year?

Jockey Mike Smith said after the race that Zenyatta won easily and that he only turned her loose "for about four steps." Students of time, however, will note that Zenyatta's winning time of 1:42.89 for 8.5f was sharply inferior to Gitano Hernando's 1:48.39 for 9f in the Goodwood 35 minutes earlier.