07/20/2006 12:00AM

Bob Umphrey Turf Marathon Stakes preview


India Halo defeated males last time out in the Arthur L Stakes at Calder, and hopes to repeat that feat on Saturday in the 2 mile Bob Umphrey Turf Handicap. She didn't have the easiest of trips in the Arthur L as she was steadied coming out of the gate, and was last of seven runners after only a few strides. Jockey Eduardo Nunez calmly weaved her through the compact field, and India Halo grabbed the lead passing the stands the first time. She was well rated on the front end, and dug in gamely to defeat several of the rivals she will face on Saturday. The extra distance shouldn't be a problem for India Halo, as she doesn't really get warmed up until the nine-furlong mark. She doesn't necessarily need the lead to win, and may end up stalking A. J. Melini in the early going. India Halo boasts improving Beyer Speed Figures, and may offer a bit of value.

One Off is certainly the horse to beat. Trained by Neil Drysdale, One Off has experience at this demanding distance, finishing a close second in a handicap at Yarmouth back in 2003. One Off hasn't finished first since being imported from England, but he's faced top company. He earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure when second in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1 3/4 miles in April at Santa Anita. One Off has been given plenty of time to acclimate to South Florida as he worked over the Calder turf course five days ago.

Magic Mecke is a horse for course with all of his lifetime victories coming at Calder. He showed no rust in the Mecke Handicap despite it being his first race in seven months, and was drawing away from the field in the final furlong. The distance may be cause for concern, however. Magic Mecke has never raced over 11 furlongs, and his broodmare sire is primarily a sprint influence.

Todd Pletcher always seems to have a horse entered when the big money is on the line, and Clevedale will try to bring the lion's share of this $250,000 purse back to the Pletcher barn. Clevedale earned a 96 Beyer winning a key race at Gulfstream three back, but was washed out going into the gate, and ended up in a perfect pace-tracking, ground-saving spot on the far turn. He's bred to run all day as both his sire and broodmare sire won the Kentucky Derby.

1. India Halo
2. One Off
3. Magic Mecke