09/19/2007 11:00PM

Isipingo on cusp of breakthrough

EmailNEW YORK - The wealth will be spread around the country Saturday, as tracks that wouldn't usually command the stakes spotlight do so with some well-scheduled rich races. The $500,000 Super Derby heads a card at Louisiana Downs that also includes four $200,000 stakes. There are also $500,000 stakes at Philadelphia Park (the Fitz Dixon Cotillion Handicap) and Suffolk Downs (the revived Massachusetts Handicap).

Other noteworthy stakes Saturday are the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs and a Grade 2 stakes doubleheader at Belmont Park consisting of the Brooklyn and Gallant Bloom handicaps.

Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap

With only seven starts, Isipingo is the most inexperienced member of the Bay Meadows BC field. But in this instance, that's a good thing. While his more established opponents have already shown the limits of their capabilities, Isipingo's best races are likely still in front of him. And yet, his recent form strongly suggests he is already competitive at this level, all of which makes him a solid play.

Isipingo really came around last spring at Hollywood Park, when he began a three-race win streak that extended to Del Mar. But the race that points him out as a force in this spot was his most recent, a solid if surprising third in the Del Mar Mile. Isipingo had to deal with a significant cutback in distance as well as a trip in which he was three wide around both turns. Yet, he was beaten less than two lengths by Crossing the Line, who won that day as though he is one of the top turf milers on the continent, and a case could be made that Isipingo could have been second, ahead of Becrux, had he saved some ground. On Saturday, Isipingo will enjoy the stretch back out in distance, and he projects to sit a sweet trip off a pace that figures to be honest and contested.

Fitz Dixon Cotillion Handicap

In any other year, Octave would be a leading contender for champion 3-year-old filly off her Grade 1 victories in the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks, and on-the-board finishes in races like the Kentucky Oaks, Ashland, and Alabama, in which she was the victim of a tough trip. But Rags to Riches has made sure this isn't any other year. In any case, Octave will be a heavy favorite in the Cotillion, and deservedly so. Still, Octave has a lot of seconds on her record, and even when she wins, she doesn't win by much. So at a short price, I'm inclined to try and beat her with Moon Catcher.

Moon Catcher finished fourth behind Octave last time out in the Alabama, but her performance was mystifying. Moon Catcher was expected to be a pace player, but she dropped way out of it right away to be a distant trailer early. The one positive is that Moon Catcher didn't lose all interest being as far back as she was. This time, she will be reunited with jockey Carlos Marquez Jr., under whom she recorded solid wins prior to the Alabama in the Delaware Oaks and Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup, both at this 1o1/16-mile distance.

Kentucky Cup Turf

For a 1 1/2-mile turf race, the Kentucky Cup Turf sure has a lot of early speed. Starspangled Gator figures to go early, as does Fri Guy, and Golden Strategy could be part of the pace as well. I like General Jumbo to capitalize on this setup.

After a lengthy slump, General Jumbo showed a return to form in his last two starts, the most recent a second to the tough Revved Up in the John's Call at Saratoga. General Jumbo found himself contesting much of the pace in that race, but primarily by default, as evidenced by the ridiculously slow fractions. Yet as well as he ran at Saratoga, I think General Jumbo is most effective coming from off the pace, and he will be able to do just that this time.