07/13/2009 7:03PM

Powerhouse Performances


Each of the weekend's three Grade 1 stakes races was won with a fast, powerful and dominant performance. Rail Trip and Gio Ponti assumed leadership of their older-male divisions in victory, and Game Face ran the race of her life to join the discussion of who the nation's best filly sprinter might be:

Rail Trip's Hollywood Gold Cup victory was the breakout performance of the year among an otherwise subpar group of older main-track males. His three-length victory was good for a Beyer of 111, the highest of the year on a synthetic track and one which has been equalled in Grade 1 route company this year only by the 111's earned by Quality Road in the Florida Derby and Rachel Alexandra in the Mother Goose. Big figures often go hand-in-hand with perfect trips, and Rail Trip certainly had one: Sitting second behind the mild pace of a lone, likely-to-stop leader in Tres Borrachos. Still, it was a stronger and faster performance than any turned in this year in comparable races such as the Donn, Santa Anita Handicap, Met Mile or Stephen Foster.

Gio Ponti joined Rachel Alexndra as the nation's only three-time Grade 1 winner this year with his victory in the Man o'War Saturday, where he was more impressive than his 1 3/4-length margin of victory over Musketier might suggest. Gio Ponti was wide on both turns and stuck behind a dawdling pace, but appears to have a push-button turn of foot and mowed down the leader when asked. He has now turned in sharp turf Beyers of 104 (Kilroe Mile), 107 (Manhattan) and 105 (Man o'War) while winning three straight Grade 1 races and moving up from 8 to 10 to 11 furlongs. Unless a legitimate Group 1 killer from Europe shows up in Chicago next month, he's the favorite for the Arlington Million.

Game Face ran by far the fastest of the four graded stakes on Calder's Summit of Speed card Saturday, winning the G1 Princess Rooney by 6 3/4 lengths. Her time of 1:10.74 may look pedestrian, but not in comparison to those recorded in victory by First Passage (1:11.22 in the Azalea) and the males Eaton's Gift (1:11.25 in the Smile) and Not For Silver (111.91 in the Carry Back). Game Face's task was made easier by the scratch of Indian Blessing and the absence of Informed Decision, who still has to be considered the division's leader off two Grade 1 victories in Kentucky. Informed Decision skipped the Princess Rooney to stay on synthetics and run a week earlier in the Chicago Handicap at Arlington.

---There's a one-day $63,720 pick-6 carryover into Wednesday's card at Belmont, the second in three straight days where the Belmont finale was won by a very long longshot: Slick Wheelie ($97.00) on Friday, Skyebay ($96.50) on Saturday, and Kaz Dear ($55.00) on Sunday.

The common thread? All three nightcaps were turf sprints.

---TicketMaker, the new tool in DRF Formulator that constructs multirace tickets based on your A-B-C designations, is now available as part of all Formulator cards and plans through the end of July. (After that, it becomes a part of Enhanced or Deluxe cards only.) Please let us know what you think of it and share any suggestions for improving it in future versions.