09/14/2009 11:00PM

Grand Couturier takes aim at Hirsch

Email
Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Grand Couturier, a two-length winner of Sunday's Bowling Green under Alan Garcia, will defend his title in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Oct. 3.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Grand Couturier saw exactly what they were hoping to see from their 6-year-old in Sunday's at Belmont Park. So, the next time Grand Couturier will be seen will be in the Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational here on Oct. 3. Grand Couturier won that race last year by 10 1/4 lengths.

Grand Couturier won for the first time in four starts this year when he overpowered Winchester and drew off to win Sunday's $158,000 Bowling Green by two lengths. Under jockey Alan Garcia, Grand Couturier ran 1 3/8 miles in 2:15.86 over yielding turf and earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

"The positives about the race were the horse took Alan into the race early on, which he hadn't been doing, and he still performed as well as we were hoping,'' trainer Robert Ribaudo said Monday morning in his Belmont office. "Still, to compete in a race like the Turf Classic he's going to have to step it up.''

The Turf Classic is the next expected target for the turf division-leading Gio Ponti and Just as Well, who were the top two finishers from the on Sept. 6 at Saratoga, is also under consideration for the Turf Classic, according to trainer Bill Mott.

"Other than the Europeans - and you don't know who might be coming - the turf division looks like Gio Ponti and everybody else,'' Ribaudo said. "If Gio Ponti runs in the Turf Classic it's a war. If they decide to try something else . . .''

Ribaudo said he has no plans to run Grand Couturier in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf - he finished last in it a year ago. The only other option would be the $2 million Canadian International at Woodbine on Oct. 17.

"If you look to avoid horses like Gio Ponti and Better Talk Now and you go to Canada and you get four Europeans, what do you accomplish?'' Ribaudo said. "He likes this turf course, the money's good in the Turf Classic, it's run at the time of year when the turf has some give in it, even if it doesn't rain.''

Indian Blessing, Quality Road work

Belmont's two dirt tracks dried out sufficiently by Monday morning to where 123 horses put in workouts over the main and an additional 130 breezed over the training track. Among the more impressive workers on a pristine late summer morning was two-time champion filly Indian Blessing, who blazed five furlongs in 58.14 seconds in preparation for a start in the Gallant Bloom here on Sept. 26.

Monday's move, under exercise rider Simon Harris, was Indian Blessing's first since she finished second to Music Note in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga.

"Simon thought she felt great, couldn't have gone any better,'' said Tonja Terranova, who along with her husband, John, is overseeing trainer Bob Baffert's New York string.

Terranova said Indian Blessing missed significant training time leading up to the Ballerina, first due to a foot abscess that kept her out of training for two weeks when she first arrived at Belmont, then because of wet weather at Saratoga.

"I thought she really ran good considering she walked for two weeks and she would have had two more breezes in her if not for the weather,'' Terranova said.

Meanwhile, Quality Road went four furlongs in 49.11 seconds Monday morning under jockey John Velazquez, his first work since finishing third in the Travers on Aug 29. Quality Road is being pointed to the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 3.

"It was a very easy bit of work, but he did it well,'' said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, who was in Kentucky attending the Keeneland September horse sale. "Conditioning-wise, he's doing real well.''

The multiple stakes winner Munnings went four furlongs in 49.67 seconds as he prepares for a likely start in the Grade 1 Vosburgh, also Oct. 3.

Also working at Belmont on Monday was Hold Me Back, the runner-up in the Travers who went a half-mile in 50 seconds over the training track, according to Mott. Hold Me Back is being pointed to the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park on Sept. 26.

Swift Temper possible for Spinster

Trainer Dale Romans said Swift Temper came out of her victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap very well and that he and owner Mark Stanley are still at least a week away from deciding whether to run her one more time before the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Nov. 6. If they opted to run again, that race would most likely be the Grade 1 Spinster over the synthetic surface at Keeneland on Oct. 11. The Breeders' Cup is being run over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface.

Swift Temper has only run once over a synthetic surface and that was three years ago in the second start of her life when she was beaten 22 3/4 lengths at Turfway Park. Bobby Barnett trained her then.

"She's a different horse now than she was early on,'' said Romans, who noted that Swift Temper would soon be returning to Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Romans hopes to build on his New York success this weekend when he participates in possibly both the Matron for juvenile fillies and Futurity for juvenile colts and geldings. Successful Score, a maiden winner at Saratoga in his third career start, is likely to start in the Futurity against Saratoga Special winner D' Funnybone. Speightful Lady, a debut winner at Saratoga, is possible for the Matron.

Successful Score finished second in races at Churchill Downs and Belmont before breaking through with a 3 1/2-length maiden score when blinkers were added and he was stretched out to seven furlongs.

"He's a nice horse and doing good,'' Romans said. "Even though his pedigree says all sprint, he's a horse that's going to improve with a little more distance.''

Girolamo headed for Jerome

Girolamo more than likely earned a spot in the Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome on Oct. 11 by virtue of his 5 1/2-length win in a second-level allowance race here Sunday. Facing mostly older horses, the 3-year-old Girolamo rated in fourth position through a half-mile in 45.55 seconds before making the lead midway around the far turn and coming home an easy winner under Garcia. He ran a mile in 1:35.11 while being eased up. He earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

"It was nice to see him rate and do it the right way,'' said Henry Spiller, a Godolphin Stable assistant trainer. "It was a pretty solid field for a two-other-than.''