11/12/2011 9:42AM

Long Island Handicap, Sharp Cat Stakes


Today's Long Island Handicap is the rare turf marathon without a single newly-minted European invader.

Sure, MUSICAL RAIN was bred in Ireland, but she's raced here 10 times already. We can claim her as one of ours.

Yes, HASAY was foaled in Great Britain, but she's run five times over American soil in 2011 for Team Valor, the owners of Animal Kingdom, the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby. There's nothing more American than the Derby so Hasay plays for our team.

The defending Long Island champion, MEKONG MELODY, was dropped in Ireland, but the statute of limitations on her has long run out. It's been fifteen starts and three years since she's been overseas.

Just to make sure I remain completely patriotic, however, I will eschew those three and select HIT IT RICH, a gray daughter of Smart Strike.

Hit It Rich has yet to race beyond nine furlongs, but her pedigree and temperament seem well-suited to the additional distance. We all know of Smart Strike's exploits at stud, but the dam, Cuando Puede, is a half-sister to the long-winded, multiple Grade 1 winner Honey Ryder (won 11 stakes races, two at 12 furlongs).

Hit It Rich only defeated three other rivals in an off-the-turf allowance over the Keeneland polytrack on October 13, but she did it the right way. After breaking smartly, Hit It Rich allowed the speed to go on and she tracked that loose leader from the second spot. When it was time to attack, Hit It Rich responded and she kept to her business in professional fashion in the stretch, winning by 3 3/4 lengths for trainer Shug McGaughey. Shug's horses often improve with distance and maturity and it's possible that Hit It Rich, a soon-to-be 5-year-old, is reaching her peak.
Hit It Rich also boasts good tactical speed. She may be on the lead in the Long Island, a race without a ton of early pace. If Javier Castellano slows down the tempo down the backstretch, Hit It Rich's chances of lasting this demanding distance go way up.


In Sunday's Sharp Cat for juvenile fillies at Hollywood, CHARM THE MAKER looks like the filly with a future. By Empire Maker out of Grade 3 winner Charm the Giant, Charm the Maker won first-out at Del Mar before finishing a close third in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf at the Sharp Cat distance. Add in the fact that Charm the Maker pitched a fit behind the gate before the Oak Leaf and that she's still a little green, and it's easy to see why this filly will take boatloads of money. She's the most likely winner, but I'll take a slight stab with Willa B Awesome, a Cal-bred that ran a corker behind the promising Starlight Magic in the recent California Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. That race was Willa B Awesome's first run route try and she was up and on a solid pace, making the front after six furlongs. Although no match for Starlight Magic in the stretch, she was 10 1/2 lengths clear of the third runner and the race came back faster than the juvenile male division at the same distance. Willa B Awesome won her debut over this cushion track and may find herself tracking stretch-out sprinter LADY PECAN. Willa B Awesome could attempt to get the jump on Charm the Maker turning for home. This will be a tall task for the Cal-bred, but she should offer playable odds.


Quick and dirty selections:

New York Stallion Series (Aqueduct R2, Sunday): THE FUNKY EXPRESS, LENDERS WAY, KING OF THE DISCO
New York Stallion Series (Aqueduct R3, Sunday): PAGE BY PAGE, SALTAMONTES, LADY ON THE RUN
New York Stallion Series (Aqueduct R7, Sunday): UNCLE T SEVEN, MAKE NOTE, SILENT ANGEL
New York Stallion Series (Aqueduct R8, Sunday): THINK I'M HOOKED, HOOKED ON DANCE, BAIT

For more detailed analysis, please check out the video previews that Mike Beer and I produced for some of this weekend's major stakes races:



(Sunday's races should be up later tonight/tomorrow morning).


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