11/08/2012 3:57PM

Byron King: Kissable should get smoother trip in Long Island Handicap

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Tom Keyser
Kissable had a rough trip in her last start, the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Often a troubled trip can be described in a few words, the space available on the far side of the past performances. “Off slowly,” or “rallied 6 wide,” doesn’t require many words, after all.

But there is no way to adequately describe Kissable’s trip in the E.P. Taylor with such brevity. So for horseplayers pondering her chances in Saturday’s Grade 3 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct, here is a more descriptive version – one that perhaps may convince you to play her, as I intend to do.

Kissable, away alertly from post 12 in a 13-horse field, immediately was disadvantaged from her starting position, which in 1 1/4-mile turf races at Woodbine comes around a sharp hook before a backstretch run.

Not only did breaking from such a position cost her ground loss – Trakus measured her as racing 23 more feet at that point than the race winner, post 3-breaking Siyouma – but it also took her out of her game. In an effort to not lose even more ground, jockey Johnny Velazquez had to take her back to 11th in the 13th horse field.

Under a firm hold, she seemed to want to be closer to the pace and not tucked in, but there was simply nowhere for her to run. So Velazquez kept her behind rivals in the three path, and once a hole finally opened in the stretch, she did her best to close the gap, rallying from ninth to finish fourth, beaten just 2 3/4 lengths.

In a race as demanding as the E.P. Taylor, a Grade 1 race for $1 million, only a star can have that kind of trip and be successful. And though Kissable is a quality filly, she isn’t a star.

Saturday in the Long Island, conditions look much more favorable for her to get a fair shot. She faces a shorter field of nine, and drawn in post 4 with a longer run to the first of three turns, she shouldn’t lose much ground early.

Conditions also play to her strengths in the Long Island. This is a filly that won the three-turn, 1 1/2-mile Waya stakes on yielding turf at Saratoga in August – evidence that she can handle a marathon distance and give in the ground, a key consideration after midweek precipitation in New York.

Beyond that, she should offer a fair price if she sticks to her 4-1 morning line. Hit It Rich and Mystical Star are favored ahead of her, but both come with faults.

Hit It Rich ran poorly over yielding turf at Belmont in the Flower Bowl, giving the impression she prefers firm or good ground, and Mystical Star has never raced 1 1/2 miles and to this point has seemed to prefer 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles.

Mystical Star has also never raced in a three-turn race, inexperience that can sometimes cause a horse to get aggressive passing the stands for the first time, when they are accustomed to having to kick into gear.

These factors further contribute to making Kissable a confident play in the Long Island.

Autumn Stakes: City Wolf nearing top form

The other Saturday stakes that attracted my attention most was the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes at Woodbine at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.

The selection there is City Wolf, a synthetic specialist with a 4-for-9 Woodbine record, who seems to be rounding back into peak form after a slow start to his 2012 campaign. He has run well in two of his last three starts, most notably in his latest Oct. 14, when second in the Grade 3 Durham Cup behind wire-to-wire winner Delegation.

If Delegation’s name sounds familiar, it should. He ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last Saturday at Santa Anita in his first start on dirt.

So it was quite an effort from City Wolf to run just 1 1/4 lengths behind Delegation at Woodbine when the latter got away with splits of 50.59 and 1:15.18 in the 1 1/8-mile Durham Cup.

If City Wolf runs back to that effort, this race is over. There is no Delegation in the lineup, and those that also ran in the Durham Cup were well behind City Wolf at the finish.

Breaking from the outside post, he is also perfectly drawn to either scoot to the front in a paceless race or establish his usual outside pressing position.