06/14/2009 6:45PM

Rough Weekend for Stars

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The four recent Eclipse Award finalists who raced this weekend all lost as heavy favorites, with three of them finishing 4th or worse.

Music Note: Last year's Mother Goose, CCA Oaks and Gazelle winner, and third to Proud Spell and Eight Belles in the voting for the 3-year-old filly championship, ran fifth in the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Saturday as part of a three-ply entry favored at 7-to-20. Music Note, held out of the Shuvee last month after training poorly, made a brief surge into contention entering the stretch turn but had nothing in the tank after that and was beaten 10 3/4 lengths.

Einstein: A finalist for both the Older Male and Turf Male titles last year, Einstein was bidding for a third straight Grade 1 victory in Saturday's Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, and also trying to become just the second horse (joining Lava Man) to win Grade 1's on dirt, grass and synth. Einstein ran third, beaten just a length and a nose, after a titanically bad trip that prompted this unusually long and dramatic official chart footnote: "Einstein bobbled at the start to get away a bit slow, checked off heels near the seven-eighths marker, was bottled up between horses down the backstretch and through the second turn, shifted out a bit and found a seam entering the stretch, was bumped and stuffed behind rivals with three-sixteenths to run, got through towards the inside late but was left with too much to do."

Kip DeVille: The 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile winner, and runner-up in that race last year, led to the top of the stretch but then faded badly and ran fourth of five as the 0.75-1 favorite in the G3 Poker at Belmont Sunday. The Belmont turf was soft -- the winning time was 1:36.50, as opposed to Kip DeVille's 1:32.94 winning last year's Poker -- but he's won on soft turf before, including the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile, which was run in a boggy 1:39.78.

Indian Blessing: The champion female sprinter of 2008 and champion 2-year-old filly of 2007 was 1-2  in the Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park Sunday. She stalked Coco Belle early but was laboring by upper stretch and faded to finish fourth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. Although Indian Blessing has run decently on synthetic tracks before, she clearly is a much better filly on real dirt, and trainer Bob Baffert said she's headed back to that surface and New York.

Kip Deville and Indian Blessing and Kip DeVille were making their first starts since racing on the Dubai World Cup card March 28, supplying further ammunition to those who believe American horses often fare poorly when returning from that taxing trip.

The Shuvee and Desert Stormer were both run as the fourth race on their cards, a ploy by track managements to increase the likelihood of a Pick-Six carryover by keeping races with apparent "cinches" out of the sequence. At least California can argue that it's exposing its stakes racing to eastern simulcast customers this way, but Belmont's running a Grade 1 stakes at 2:37 p.m. just seems a little tacky. It's also questionable whether it accomplished anything. Both the Phipps and the allowance race run in its place were won by the second choice, so there probably would have been a carryover either way, and the bet handled only $81,446 with the Phipps removed from the sequence. The late pick-4 missed its $350,000 guarantee by $12,364.


--A few other notes on the weekend's racing, which included nine graded stakes:


 

--Note above that the Fleur De Lis was slightly faster than the Stephen Foster, which was run half an hour later at the same distance. The first five Foster finishers were only 1 1/4 lengths apart. The older males are not exactly an imposing division this year.

--Obrigado will be the only horse to run in two American graded stakes at more than 12 furlongs this year: he finished third in the San Juan Capistrano April 19 and then won Saturday's Round Table, both 1 3/4-mile races. The Breeders' Cup Marathon has been lengthened to 1 3/4 miles this year but is not yet a graded stakes because this will be only its second edition.

--That's the same reason that Saturday's $200k Monmouth Stakes, invented last year to lure Big Brown, is not a graded race this year. This second edition, however, may have been the most stirring race of the weekend. Presious Passion did almost exactly what he did in the MacDiarmada two starts back, setting the pace, looking absolutely cooked at the top of the stretch, and then improbably rerallying at the rail to win a photo. No one's posted the Monmouth on YouTube yet, but here's that MacDiarmada in case you missed it the first time around:

I admit that my initial affection for Presious Passion began with his completing a Pick-4 at 67-1 in the McKnight two Decembers ago, but he has turned into one of my favorite horses since then for his genuine will to win.