10/04/2009 3:34PM

Off the Turf, No WAY In


The decision to take today's Kelso, Pilgrim and Miss Grillo off the grass at Belmont cost the latter two races their Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" status and might cost all three their Grade 3 ratings upon review by the Graded Stakes Committee later this week.

The surface switch reduced the Kelso and Miss Grillo to three-horse fields and the Pilgrim to five.

The Breeders' Cup website explains the loss of WAYI status as follows: "In the event a designated Breeders’ Cup Challenge turf race (Turf Division, Filly and Mare Turf Division, or Mile Division) is taken off the turf, due to unsafe racing conditions, the horse that wins the 'off the turf' race will NOT receive an automatic qualifying position to enter the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in the applicable turf Division race. The decision to take a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Division turf race off the turf course is under the sole discretion of the racetrack/racing association, not Breeders’ Cup Limited."

Althought the verbiage refers to the three other Cup grass races specifically and does not mention the Juvenile Turf or Juvenile Turf Fillies, the races for which the Pilgrim and Miss Grillo were qualifiers, a Cup official said Sunday afternoon that the rule applied to them as well.

The decision on their graded status could be just as significant. There are so few qualifying races for the juvenile turf events that anyone who wins, or perhaps runs second or third, might qualify for one of the berths awarded by points earned in graded stakes.

Several of the turf-meant horses scratched from today's races will return in similar events at Keeneland next weekend. Court Vision, scratched from the Kelso, will run in the G1 Shadwell Mile and Interactif, morning-line favorite for the Pilgrim, will run in the G3 Bourbon.

In the three-horse Kelso -- effectively a $225k N3x allowance -- 6-5 Le Grand Cru beat 3-5 Ready's Echo by a length and a half with a mile in 1:37.36. In the three-filly Miss Grillo, "rank outsider" 4-1 Dad's Crazy, a maiden making her dirt debut after three grass defeats, upset 1-2 Tapitsfly and Fuzzy Britches in 1:40.01 -- nearly two seconds slower than a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies run half an hour earlier in 1:38.30.

[Update 5:30 pm: Another Pletcher-trained maiden just won the Pilgrim: Eskendereya, a Giant's Causeway colt from a Seattle Slew mare, was a good second on grass in his Saratoga debut, and rallied nicely today to score in a good 1:37.85.]

Speaking of horses who score their maiden victories in stakes races, that was the case with Interpatation, the $89.50 winner of yesterday's Turf Classic. If you go back four years and 43 starts, you'll see he won the 2005 G3 Palm Beach (at $79.20) in his seventh career start. Interpatation had been 0 for 22 in graded stakes since then, winning two allowance races and two runnings of the ungraded President's Cup at Philadelphia Park. 

--It's hard to argue with a decision to take races off the grass in the name of safety, but it does seem peculiar that the course was deemed safe enough to run two Grade 1 races in the midst of a monsoon yesterday, but not so 24 hours later, a time during which there was very little additional rain and on a brilliantly sunny and warm afternoon.

Bel100309 Still, the ferocity of Saturday's storms, and how rapidly they turned the turf to mush, was something to behold. Just before the rains came, the course labelled "good" was actually pretty close to firm. In Saturday's fifth race, 2-year-olds ran 1-2-3 around the course in a quick 22.93, 46.50, 1:10.47 and 1:35.65. An hour and 45 rainy minutes later, the 10-furlong G1 Flower Bowl went in 26.81, 53.81, 1:20.43, 1:46.63 and 2:12.43, nearly 15 full seconds off the course record. Half an hour after that, the 12-furlong 26.01, 54.22 1:22.20, 1:48.79 and 2:41.22. 17 seconds off the course record.

It is, of course, hard to attach much significance to either race given the bizarre footing. Pure Clan, the Flower Bowl winner, had not been under strong consideration for the BC F&M Turf but now may be headed in that direction. Gio Ponti, who labored through the stretch at 1-2 to lose to 43-1 Interpatation, was a bit questionable at a mile and a half but the JHTC was more like a 13-furlong test. Still, trainer Christophe Clement sounded as if he's now leaning towards running Gio Ponti in the 10-furlong Classic instead of the 12-furlong Turf, the same plan for Sea the Stars, who won today's Arc de Tromphe, if he comes at all. So at the moment it looks as if America's top grass horse and Europe's top grass horse would meet not on grass in the Turf but on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in the Classic.

A weird season just keeps getting weirder. 

As for Summer Bird, who took clear leadership of the nation's 3-year-old males winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he probably has the 3-year-old Eclipse Award wrapped up unless Kentucy Derby winner Mine That Bird wins the Classic. Summer Bird, who trained on Pro-Ride but has never raced on it, will be pointed for that race but trainer Tim Ice said this morning that he will also be entered in the Turf.

The preliminary winning Beyer Speed Figures for Saturday's five Grade 1 races are 111 for the Gold Cup, 108 for the Beldame and Vosburgh, 102 for the Turf Classic and 97 for the Flower Bowl.