Updated on 09/17/2011 10:43AM

Bop lays over Punch Line field


Colonial Downs in Virginia is known for attracting huge fields of horses for its turf races. So why has the track's first turf stakes race, the five-furlong, $50,000 Punch Line Stakes for Virginia-breds on Saturday, attracted only six horses?

In a short word: Bop.

Bop, a 6-year-old sprinting specialist, towers over the other five horses in the Punch Line, and everyone else appears to be running for second money. If the race is playable at all, the best strategy is to ton up on a cold exacta and put together a hefty trifecta part-wheel, and Bop should be singled on top. He's also the free bingo square in the pick three and pick six.

Bop, a son of the speedy Rahy, has won six of his last nine races, and even his apparent clunker - an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3, five-furlong Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 2 - wasn't all that bad. He was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths.

In his race before the Aegon, the $75,000 Yankee Affair at Gulfstream Park, Bop led from start to finish to win by three-quarters of a length and set a course record. The race was Bop's first start in 2003, following a six-month layoff. Bop has won the the past two runnings of the Punch Line.

Based on Beyer Speed Figures and back class, Smashing Beau will be the second choice, but the horse is surrounded by question marks, including whether he'll run at all. Smashing Beau's past performances suggest that he is more effective rating over a longer distance of ground, and he'll have trouble keeping pace with Bop. Still, he easily looks second best in the race.

Smashing Beau is also entered in the seventh race at Colonial on Friday, a 1 1/16-mile turf race.

If Smashing Beau doesn't go in the Punch Line, it's dart time for horseplayers to fill out the exacta.

Oxford Time has back class, but his two races since returning from a one-year layoff have been anything but stellar. The improving Milestone has two consecutive victories, but against $5,000 and $10,000 claimers.

Polish Vision has run in one race in the past 18 months, and he is coming off a six-month layoff. At least the 10-year-old horse is familiar with the distance: Polish Vision has started 33 times at five furlongs on the turf, winning five times.

Velvet Elvis hasn't finished better than third in more than a year.