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Both turf courses cause for concern
ELMONT, N.Y. - Concerns over the condition of both turf courses at Belmont Park prompted New York Racing Association officials to move three of Sunday's five scheduled grass races to the dirt and will limit the number of turf races carded for the immediate future.
Jockeys expressed concern about the turf after the fifth race on Saturday's card, one in which Open Debate, a 3-year-old maiden trained by Allen Jerkens, suffered a broken leg and had to be euthanized. However, the jockeys agreed to ride the remainder of Saturday's grass races, which included two Grade 1 stakes. Their concerns prompted NYRA management to announce late Saturday that three of Sunday's races would be moved to the dirt. One turf race was kept on each course.
NYRA management said the turf courses - which hadn't been used since late July - hadn't properly dried out from a rainy Labor Day weekend and some additional showers on Sept. 5. It has not rained in this area since that time.
John Passero, NYRA's director of racing surfaces, said all the rain created a situation where the roots were shallow, and thus easily torn. Passero labeled the turf courses "good" for Friday and Saturday when a total of nine turf races were run. Four of the five races carded for Sunday were for the Widener, or outer turf course. Passero said the inner course dries better than the outer course.
There are three turf races carded for both Wednesday and Thursday.
"With the heavy rains and cool temperatures last week coupled with the shallow roots this time of year, it resulted in the turf courses not holding up as well as we had hoped," Passero said.
However, jockey Richard Migliore didn't necessarily agree that it was all weather related.
"If it was rain, it would be soft all the way around," Migliore said. "But how come it's good to firm turf for an eighth of a mile, then it's soft to yielding the next eighth of a mile, then it's hard for a sixteenth of a mile, and then it's mushy? There's no consistency to it and we're ripping it up. We're bringing [large] clods up and horses are bobbling and stumbling all over the place."
Trainer John Kimmel walked the outer course on Sunday and thought it was softer the further out he walked on it. One of the three horses Kimmel ran on the turf Saturday came back with a bruised foot.
Passero cut the grass and rolled it in an effort to tighten it up on Sunday. On Monday, he planned to have the rail put out 10 feet on both the Widener and inner turf course.
While dry conditions were expected to be prevalent through Wednesday, there is a 60 percent chance of showers on Thursday and a 30 percent chance on Friday.
Exercise rider says Bernardini getting better
If you thought Bernardini was impressive winning the Jim Dandy and Travers this summer, exercise rider Simon Harris believes you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Harris only gets on Bernardini when he has timed workouts. On Sunday, Harris guided Bernardini through a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.68 over Belmont Park's main track. It was Bernardini's first breeze since he won the Travers by 7 1/2 lengths on Aug. 26.
"I don't want to jinx him, but he feels like he's getting better and better," Harris said Sunday. "Straight up, he does. He feels stronger to me. I don't think we've seen the best of this horse yet."
Bernardini will likely breeze every six days as he leads up to his showdown with multiple Grade 1 winner Invasor in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup here on Oct. 7.
Nobiz Like Shobiz impresses in debut
Trainer Barclay Tagg appears to have another top-flight youngster in Nobiz Like Shobiz, who made a sparkling debut here on Saturday, winning a one-mile maiden race by 10 3/4 lengths. He covered the distance in 1:35.26 while being geared down late by jockey Cornelio Velasquez. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 94 for the effort.
"I expected it in a way, but I've trained myself to stop thinking about it," said Tagg, the trainer of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. "It didn't necessarily surprise me, but it was awful pleasant to watch. What surprises me is I can be lucky every now and then."
Tagg trains Nobiz Like Shobiz for owner/breeder Elizabeth Valando, who along with her husband, Thomas Valando, campaigned 1990 champion 2-year-old Fly So Free. That horse, trained by Scotty Schulhofer, won the Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Tagg said he would point Nobiz Like Shobiz to the Grade 1 Champagne here on Oct. 14. The Champagne is run at one mile.
"I'll go right to the Champagne; he did it pretty easy," Tagg said. "I wasn't brought up that way, but I'll do it. I remember when Ruffian won first time out and I said to [trainer] Frank Whiteley, 'Frank are you going to look for an a-other-than?' He said, "Does it look like she needs it?' "
Showing Up remains Breeders' Cup-bound
If Nobiz Like Shobiz wins the Champagne, he may give Tagg two horses to run in this year's Breeders' Cup on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. Despite suffering his first defeat on turf in the Man o' War, Showing Up remains on track to start in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf, Tagg said Monday.
Showing Up finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Cacique and lost second by a nose to Go Deputy in the final jump. Still, the race was good enough for Tagg to continue to point Showing Up to the BC Turf, run at 1 1/2 miles.
"Finishing third in that race, I guess I shouldn't be afraid of the Breeders' Cup," Tagg said.
Tagg said Showing Up cost himself second by the way he tried to fight back at Cacique in the stretch.
Bobby Frankel, the trainer of Cacique, is also likely to train his horse up to the BC Turf. Todd Pletcher, trainer of Go Deputy, is likely to skip the Breeders' Cup in lieu of the $2 million Canadian International on Oct. 22.
Cacique's winning Beyer Speed Figure for the Man o' War was 106.
Pine Island likely straight to Distaff
Though trainer Shug McGaughey said he would nominate Gazelle winner Pine Island to next month's Beldame Stakes here, the 3-year-old filly will most likely train up to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"We'll probably go straight to the Breeders' Cup just because I threw her to the wolves so many times," said McGaughey, who has won three runnings of the Distaff.
Since July 1, Pine Island has run in four straight Grade 1 races. After finishing second to Bushfire in the Mother Goose and second to Wonder Lady Anne L in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 22, Pine Island has won the Alabama (Aug. 19) and Gazelle.
As a closer, Pine Island should benefit from what appears will be a lively pace in the BC Distaff with the likes of Take D' Tour, Fleet Indian, and Pool Land possibly in the field.
"I agree," McGaughey said.
Pine Island earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for her Gazelle victory.
Two new apprentices
Two new apprentice riders have joined the colony here, trying to establish themselves for the upcoming winter meet at Aqueduct.
Angel Rodriguez, 19-year-old native of Puerto Rico, made a successful debut last Saturday guiding He's Hurr Cuelee's to victory in a claiming race. It was his 46th career winner. He added two more wins on Monday at Philadelphia Park, where he has been riding regularly.
Rodriguez, a five-pound apprentice, is named on four horses Wednesday and six on Thursday. Jose Morales is his agent.
David Lee Bourque will make his New York debut on Wednesday, when he rides class-dropper Don'tleaveamarc in the seventh race for trainer Keith O'Brien. Bourque, a seven-pound apprentice who has 28 career wins, has been riding at Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs and will be represented by Randy Romero.