10/02/2011 10:22AM

Saturday's Breeders' Cup Prep Recap

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There was a boatload of stakes Saturday with major Breeders’ Cup implications. Here are thoughts on all of them:

BELMONT PARK

                Flower Bowl – Stacelita really is something very special. Wide every step of the way on extremely deep going no one had to like, including her, Stacelita still put in a big run around the far turn and was as dominant a two length winner as you will see for the sixth Grade or Group 1 victory of her career. Stacelita is a quasi-European – she only relocated to this country over the summer – but we can call her ours now, and she will be formidable in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf no matter who the Europeans send over.

                Joe Hirsch Turf Classic – Jamie Spencer put odds-on Cape Blanco into a full out drive five-sixteenths of a mile from the finish. What was his hurry? But while Cape Blanco gets credit for surviving Spencer’s impatience, and for showing guts in gamely lasting over Dean’s Kitten, the feeling is Cape Blanco’s “sell by” date is up, and that all his trans-Atlantic crossings has finally caught up to him.

                Vosburgh – I was starting to think that Belmont’s muddy, sealed track was speed biased, at least in sprints, after a 31-1 first time starter went wire to wire in the third race, and the fourth race was won easily by a horse who carved out a fast early pace. But this result sealed it for me, no pun intended. Yes, I know Giant Ryan’s trip to the front was made easier by the early bumping that virtually eliminated Euroears and Apriority. But Giant Ryan still going wire to wire on what was left leads me to affix a big question mark on this race, and the horses who ran in it.

                Kelso – Even in view of how the track was playing, and what a huge advantage he had on an uncontested lead, this was still a very nice win by Uncle Mo. And runner up Jackson Bend ran lights out considering he was racing against the grain of the track, and was compromised by the slow opening quarter mile. I firmly believe that mile races like this are absolutely what Uncle Mo was born to run in. But I do understand owner Mike Repole’s position regarding Uncle Mo and the BC Classic. I get it when Repole says that if Uncle Mo won the BC Dirt Mile, he doesn’t want to have to think about what might have happened if he ran Uncle Mo in the Classic instead. Under those circumstances, Uncle Mo should run in the Classic. But, not that it matters, I’ll be betting against. I don’t think Uncle Mo wants any part of 10 furlongs.

                Beldame – Oddly run race with Life At Ten opening up big early, and then dropping anchor to let others come to her. I thought it was interesting how Havre de Grace and Royal Delta were a little closer early than usual. But man, Havre de Grace is some terrific horse. And her runaway victory here over a surging 3-year-old in Royal Delta, as well as her overall record, which includes that big score over Flat Out in the Woodward, put her in my mind back on top in her division over Blind Luck even before Blind Luck started later on in the Lady’s Secret.

                Jockey Club Gold Cup – Nice ride by Alex Solis keeping Flat Out closer early than usual, and Flat Out’s decisive victory here not only enhanced his status, but also boosted the stock of Havre de Grace and Tizway, who Flat Out chased home in the Woodward and Whitney. The one unsettling aspect to this race is that the limited Drosselmeyer finished second. As for Stay Thirsty, he wasn’t as fast as Flat Out going into this race, and he still isn’t. Stay Thirsty’s ineffective third lends credence to the notion that he is a Saratoga specialist, and did not help his candidacy for the 3-year-old male title.

SANTA ANITA

                Norfolk – This race was a timely reminder that there is a big difference between one turn and two turn 2-year-old form. Drill was clearly better than Creative Cause in the Del Mar Futurity going one turn. In this two turn race, Creative Cause was obviously much better than Drill. Yes, I know Creative Cause had a good trip prompting a slow pace, but Drill had dead aim on him in upper stretch and just couldn’t keep up.

                Lady’s Secret – While we all wait to find out what in the world happened with Blind Luck, whose distant last place finish (a non-effort, really) was the first time she finished worse than third in her busy career, Zazu’s victory deserves some discussion. The pace here was hotter than expected, and as a result Zazu was much farther back early than anticipated. But as it turns out, the hot pace for Zazu was a good thing because dropping back and making one big run is probably Zazu’s most effective style. The other thing about Zazu is, she just gives off the unmistakable impression that her best races are still in front of her, something to keep in mind when she heads to the Breeders’ Cup.

                Goodwood – You have to give Game On Dude credit for holding on after contesting a fast pace. On the other hand, you have to wonder how good this race could have been when Awesome Gem, a thoroughly admirable veteran, but who is really a Grade 3 horse at this stage of his career, finishes a gaining second. As for Coil, he had no excuse, and is not the horse I thought he might be after he won the Haskell.

                Yellow Ribbon – The added distance, which I thought might be a problem for Dubawi Heights, turned out to be no problem at all. Still, Dubawi Heights’s victory here was as much flattery for Stacelita as anything else, for Dubawi Heights was no match for Stacelita two starts back in the Beverly D. Harmonious got no help losing ground every step of the way, but she just did not have the kind of stretch kick that was expected from her.

                Impression from a few other Saturday stakes:

                Cotillion – Plum Pretty ended her three-race emphatically with a runaway score, injecting new life into her candidacy for the 3-year-old filly championship. Runner up It’s Tricky, who finished in front of Plum Pretty in the CCA Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga, was put into a full out drive on the far turn, but had no response, and seems to have tailed off sharply.

                Indiana Derby – Terrific ride here by Julien Leparoux on Wilburn. Okay, Wilburn did get a base on balls with the rail being open on the far turn. But I really liked how Leparoux sent Wilburn through to quickly open a clear lead on the far turn with the intent on putting favored Shackleford at a strategical disadvantage. That’s a move jockeys should use more often. As for Shackleford, we’re still waiting for him to validate his Preakness win.

                Blue Hen – This race was not graded, didn’t have a six figure purse, and wasn’t much more than a public workout for the 2-5 Grace Hall. But it did afford Grace Hall, winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway, the opportunity to go two turns on dirt without shipping before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Blue Hen might not have been a serious prep, but make no mistake, Grace Hall is a serious race horse.