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The Weeklet in Review
The first three cards of the 33-day Belmont Fall meeting consisted of 29 races, six of them stakes -- three Grade 1's, two statebred races and a turf sprint. Those and other highlights of the opening half-week:
Friday Sept. 7
*Races 1 & 2: Tough start to the meet for odds-on favorites. In the opener, 4-5 Tactical Gold fell a length short of catching 21-1 Wood Winner. In the second, Immortal Eyes, 1-5 off a close second to The Leopard Aug. 11 at Saratoga, sprinted clear early but was nailed late by Lukas firster Silver Edition ($18.40), a $270k Silver Deputy colt whose 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.87 was good for a strong debut Beyer of 92.
Race 6: Another good-looking firster in statebred 2-year-old Freud filly Meriwether Jessica, a 12 1/2-length winner for Linda Rice with five furlongs in 57.37, earning a Beyer of 80.
Race 8: Gold and Roses, 9-5 morning-line but 4-5 at post time, ran the meet record for odds-on favorites to 0-for-3, tiring to finish fourth in the MacArthur Handicap for older statebred males. Gold and Roses was stretching out off six straight starts at 6 or 6 1/2 furlongs, but had handled a mile successfully four times earlier in his career. Here, he made what looked like a winning middle move to the lead but just as quickly Naughty New Yorker made a better one, taking over after six furlongs in 1:09.76 and drawing clear late by 2 1/4 lengths over Shuffling Maddnes. Naughty New Yorker, a 5-year-old Quiet American trained by Pat Kelly, is now 10 for 37 with over $827k in earnings. His mile in 1:34.26 earned a Beyer of 102.
Race 9: Cornelio Velasquez, coming off his first New York riding title at Saratoga, won his fourth of the opening-day (attendance: 4,386) card on statebred maiden That's Good.
Saturday, Sept. 8
*Race 2: The season's first one-mile maiden race for 2-year-olds usually falls opening weekend at Belmont Fall, and the winner often goes on to become an important runner: Three years ago it was Sun King, and last year it was Nobiz Like Shobiz. This year's candidate is Anakim, a Giant's Causeway colt from Kimmel who won by three lengths in 1:35.44 over a quick track. Anakim was well-beaten in two previous shorter starts but by good ones: he was second in his debut to next-out Sanford runner-up Tale of Ekati, and then fourth to next-out Hopeful winner Majestic Warrior.
*Race 5: Nicely-named 2-year-old filly Catmosphere (Storm Cat-Myrrh) won her debut going seven furlongs on the turf in 1:22.63 for trainer Alan Goldberg and coowners Jayeff B stable and celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
*Race 7: The Garden City for 3-year-old grass fillies was the first of three straight Grade 1's on what used to be called "Super Saturday" (when the Woodward was part of it), and it was the most puzzling of the trio. Alexander Tango's victory wasn't a huge surprise, since we're getting to that time of year when G2/G3 European imports routinely beat the locals to win G1 American races. Nor was the poor showing by 8-5 favorite Rutherienne, who was coming off a cross-country trip to the Del Mar Oaks and hadn't faced a world-class horse yet. What was weird about the Garden City was the very slow pace, how bunched the field was at the finish (2 1/2 lengths from 1st to 9th)and how slow the final time was: a mile and an eighth on a rock-hard inner turf course in 1:48.97. Three races later, mediocre N1x statebreds would cover the same distance in a faster 1:48.84. Alexander Tango gets extra credit for rallying from far behind a dawdling pace (25.80, 50.32 and 1:14.52), but it may continue to pay to look for fresh faces in this division.
*Race 8: The G1 Ruffian drew a field of just four older fillies but among them they had carved up the four biggest prizes for the division in New York so far this year: it was G2 Shuvee winner Teammate(13-1) vs. G1 Phipps winner Take d'Tour(8-5) vs. G1 Go For Wand winner Ginger Punch(3-5) vs. G1 Personal Ensign winner Miss Shop(5-1). Take d'Tour was off poorly but still cruised to the front in 23.28 as Teammate was restrained from showing her usual speed. That forced Ginger Punch to go after the leader earlier than expected, and Rafael Bejarano timed it perfectly, taking over just after six furlongs in 1:10.06 and holding off Miss Shop's late run by three-quarters of a length in another bunched-up finish -- just 2 1/2 lengths from first to last. Ginger Punch's winning time of 1:40.25 translated to a mild Beyer of 95, which isn't going to beat Rags to Riches or Nashoba's Key in the BC Distaff.
*Race 9: In the Man o'War, Doctor Dino continued the dominance of foreign-breds in G1 grass races this year but he wasn't much if at all better than runner-up Sunriver, Ashado's half-brother, who also finished right behind him when they were third and fourth in the Arlington Million. Sunriver was hounded all the way around the track by 2-1 favorite Yellowstone, who showed uncharacteristic and unexpected early speed in his American debut. Sunriver won the long pace battle but then lost the race war to Doctor Dino in the final strides. Doctor Dino, a 5-year-old by Muhtathir, ran the 11 furlongs on the Widener in a quick 2:12.36, good for a 108 Beyer. He also completed a consecutive triple of G1 winners who would have to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup. At least it wasn't one of those "Win and You're In (But Only If You're Nominated)" days.
*Race 10: My Man Lars won a three-way photo to take the finale in 1:48.84, so all three statebreds with nothing more than a maiden victory coming in ran faster than the anyone in the G1 Garden City. He also completed a pick six worth $9,778 after a $35k opening-day carryover attracted nearly tenfold action Saturday with a new pool of $319k.
Sunday, Sept. 9
Race 3: So many of the (too many) turf sprints being run in New York are for statebred maidens and conditioned claimers that it's sometimes hard to see real quality in these short grass races, but English Colony looks like the real deal. The 3-year-old Rock of Gibraltar colt, bred in England by co-owner Will Farish, has won four straight grass sprints, culminating in his 2 3/4-length victory here in the $78k Lights and Music Stakes. English Colony, trained by Angel Penna Jr., missed the course record by just a fifth running seven furlongs on the Widener in 1:20.13, good for a Beyer of 100.
Race 7: The first of three statebred odds-on favorites in the day's last four races came up short when Renee's Sashay, a strong second in her Saratoga debut, was a flat second to Abby Morgan, the distant third-place finisher that day.
Races 9 & 10: As discussed in a previous post, 3-to-20 shot Oprah Winney cruised in the five-filly Schenectady Handicap to the delight of show bettors who pounded her at $2.10, then 2-5 shot Posted ran a weary fourth in the finale, burning those who tried to get another 5 percent return while setting up boxcar show payoffs on the others. Oprah Winney, a Statebred of the Year candidate with open-company victories in the Interborough, G2 Barbara Fitchie and Regret, ran the six furlongs in 1:09.60 without being asked for her best, earning a Beyer 93.
--Racing resumes Wednesday with a pair of highly-rated 2-year-olds from last year seeking to get their careers back on track in the featured $75k More Than Ready Stakes. Tiz Wonderful, undefeated in three starts 2 including an impressive victory over Any Given Saturday in the Kentucky Jockey Club, returned from eight months on the sidelines in an ill-conceived spot; taking on Street Sense in the Jim Dandy, where he was fractious before the race and faded to run sixth and last. He's had three good six-furlong works since but it's a guess whether he's still the colt he was last fall. His main rival is E Z Warrior, who also won his first three starts and then was on the bench seven months. He didn't handle Polytrack returning against elders in the Bing Crosby, then flashed his old form with a tough-trip third to Hard Spun in the King's Bishop, rallying late after hitting the gate early.
Also worth a look Wednesday is Giant Gizmo in the 7th, a N2x turf allowance at a mile. Giant Gizmo, a Frankel/Stronach Giant's Causeway 3-year-old, beat subsequent G2 winner Inca King in a maiden race at Woodbine last fall, then returned from nine months away with a better-than-it-looked front-running N1x victory on grass at Saratoga. It's almost worth rooting for the race to come off the turf (there was some badly-needed, intermittently heavy rain here Tuesday) to see if he's as talented on dirt as he he's been on Polytrack and grass.
There must be no 'run up' on inner races at Belmont as it seems all quarter times are run in :25+. Can Tom Durkin stop calling that the pace is 'crawling' in these races? Someone needs to tell him of this fact.
Sunriver is a full to Ashado, no?
Wednesday's feature looks initially like a match race between EZ Warrior and Tiz Wonderful. But what are these horses' connections planning to do after this race? Tiz Wonderful was once considered an even more solid Derby prospect than Curlin, and he was so rank at Spa, but his effort was quite disturbing as Flashstorm finished in front of him by a whole lot. EZ Warrior stretches for first time at the distance and first time at Bel. Do any of the other two have a shot? I would imagine that Lukas is going to tell Cornelio in the paddock to secure that lead and the rail and see if they can blitz them on the turn and open up before those big dawgs get rolling late...
steve: comment if you will on the wgt advantage these grd 2/3 euro horses have. they run with 130 lbs come here get 10- 15 lbs!! how's rac sec justify that?
Steve, You noted the inner turf course was "rock-hard". Can the same be said for the Widener course? How different are the two course other than the obvious aspects of dimensions? Is the grass the same? Maintained the same? Thanks, Billy
Posted appeared to have been a bet against in his Belmont start based upon his erratic run through the stretch when he won at Saratoga during the middle portion of the meet. This might have been the first exacta I ever caught based on visual handicapping only. No way I would have had the tri though.
The Garden City was run like a Europeon race--slow early and sprint home-and won by one of the three Euro's. Sharp Susan goes from running 6 panels in 1:10 flat to 114 and change at the same venue and Kent D wonders why he's outkicked down the lane on a speed filly. It amazes me how many turf races really turn into "jockeys races". When you think they will flying up front the opposite happens and vice versa-you can't handicapp stupidity off the past performances.