09/21/2009 12:00AM

Deal Making set to close Turf deal


NEW YORK - Even if the calendar says it is still technically summer, there is a distinct fall feel to the national stakes schedule Saturday, with a few events usually associated with autumn set to be decided.

For example, the Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, which is the richest race on the continent Saturday with a purse of $750,000, is a race used in years past as a springboard to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic by Sunday Silence, Unbridled, and Concern. And the Futurity and Matron stakes, a pair of Grade 2, $250,000 races for juveniles at Belmont Park, which are part of a stakes tripleheader Saturday at Belmont along with the Grade 3, $100,000 Noble Damsel, are fall-like races.

But those who hate letting go of summer can take solace in the fact that the main event at Woodbine is the $300,000 Summer Stakes for 2-year-olds on the turf.

Kentucky Cup Turf

I'm sure we all would agree that the phrase "shock the world" is one that outlived its one minute of usefulness in sports a long time ago. But one of the rare times it was actually appropriate in this game occurred in this race last year when Rumor Has It ran off to a long early lead and never looked back en route to a 59-1 upset. Rumor Has It is back to defend his title Saturday, and if anything, he comes into this race this year in much better form than he was when he won it last year. He did win a couple of overnight stakes at Arlington two and three starts back, whereas this race was his only victory all of last season.

One of the striking things about this race, however, is that for a 1 1/2-mile event, the early pace has the potential to be very strong. It's unlikely anyone would be able to outrun Rumor Has It for the early lead if he really wants it. After all, he opened up a nine-length early lead last time out, and held a lead of 20 lengths in the early stages three starts back in a 1 3/4-mile race he eventually won by almost six lengths. But Timeless Fashion, for one, has consistently shown a with-the-lead style in shorter middle-distance races with faster paces, and he seems entirely capable of ensuring that no one involved in the pace here gets a free pass.

I want a closer in this spot, and Deal Making is the closer I want even if this will be his first career attempt beyond nine furlongs. First off, Deal Making was in with much tougher company than he faces here last time out in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch. And even though he finished an uneventful eighth of 10, the Beyer Speed Figure of 90 that he earned represented a step forward, and suggests that he is now primed for a peak performance third start back off a nine-month absence.

Last year, Deal Making turned in two efforts in defeat that say he is certainly capable of winning a race like this. The first was in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes, in which Deal Making managed to be a narrowly beaten third despite getting no pace to rally into and encountering stretch trouble. The other was in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, in which he managed to be beaten less than three lengths for all the money despite being far back early after a troubled start. Notably, Deal Making finished strongly in both races. According to Formulator Web, Deal Making went his last three eighths in the Oak Tree Derby in 34.44 seconds, and he covered his last three furlongs on deeper footing in the Hall of Fame in 34.61 seconds. Those kind of finishes strongly suggest Deal Making can handle an extended distance. So does the fact that he's by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.

Summer Stakes

Fantastico Roberto is back on turf here, on which he romped in his first two career starts in Italy. Maybe that will make a big difference for him. I'm skeptical, however. I didn't care for Fantastico Roberto's U.S. debut last time out in the Spectacular Bid Stakes, even if it was on Arlington's Polytrack. Fantastico Roberto looked like he was going to run over the top of his field in the Spectacular Bid late on the far turn, but then came up completely empty in the stretch, and the final time wound up being slow. But I can see the betting public being taken with Fantastico Roberto's surface switch, and if they are, it could help the price of my horse, Bridgetown.

Bridgetown was most impressive in his maiden win at Saratoga last time out. He made the lead with ease despite going an opening quarter in 21.60 seconds, and demonstrated an eye -catching burst of acceleration away from his field in upper stretch. And to validate his performance, the runner-up Bridgetown drilled that day, Billions Boy, came back to win his maiden at Saratoga.

Super Derby

Maybe he will prove me wrong, but I'm still not sure why Regal Ransom has a reputation strong enough to make him the favorite in this race. I still wonder just how good the UAE Derby Regal Ransom won last March really was. And as for West Virginia Derby upsetter Soul Warrior, Big Drama really should have won that race, and he came up flat in his next start, so I question the West Virginia Derby form.

Blame is my alternative pick. Blame did have a sweet rail trip when he won the restricted Curlin Stakes last time out, but he turned in the best race of his career in what was his first start around two turns. And the colt Blame beat, Gone Astray, came back to win the Pennsylvania Derby by more than nine lengths, earning a Beyer Figure of 104.