Updated on 09/15/2011 1:05PM

Jury still out on Saturday's heroes


Park on Saturday: Left Bank's victory in the Vosburgh Stakes and Express Tour's score in the Jerome Handicap. But as impressive as these efforts were, you have to wonder what impact those two horses will have on the World Thoroughbred Championships.

After his awful trip in the Forego Handicap late in the Saratoga meet, Left Bank had a big one coming. He was somewhat untrustworthy earlier in his career, many times looking like a Grade 1 animal in modest company, but found wanting when the competition got tougher. But Left Bank suggested in his terribly unlucky second in the Forego that he had put those days behind him.

Left Bank enjoyed a sweet trip in the Vosburgh, stalking the standout 3-year-old sprinter Squirtle Squirt from the outside, and he got up in in deep stretch. His time of 1:20.73, only 0.40 off the track record, was excellent, and the victory in a Grade 1 ensures that as an aspiring sire he will get a fair shot at stud.

When it comes to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, however, Left Bank's Vosburgh win may not mean all that much. In the 17-year history of the Breeders' Cup, only one winner of the Vosburgh went on to win the Sprint. That was Artax in 1999. There's good reason for that. The Vosburgh is run at seven furlongs and the Sprint is run at six furlongs, and the difference is significant. Squirtle Squirt was still clearly in front after six furlongs in the Vosburgh. Left Bank needed virtually every bit of the final furlong, a furlong that will not be available to him on Breeders' Cup Day. And while Artax proved that it is possible to win the Vosburgh and Sprint in the same year, between those two victories he cut back to win at six furlongs in the Forest Hills Handicap.

There doesn't seem to be any Breeders' Cup race available for Express Tour. The Sprint looks like it's too short and the 1 1/4 miles of the Classic appears too long. After Express Tour's fine mile in the Jerome Saturday, that's a shame.

Speed was strong at Belmont Saturday from the middle of the card on; all the evidence you need is that Tugger was able to win the off-the-turf Noble Damsel Stakes at a mile. But that does not detract from the way Express Tour ran. He dueled Hero's Tribute into defeat through fast fractions of 22.38 seconds and 44.60, answered challenges from Illusioned and Burning Roma at the top of the stretch, and, somehow despite the pace, drew off like a fresh horse to win by 5 1/2 lengths in a solid 1:34.57.

Granted, Express Tour wasn't beating any Point Givens. But Illusioned and Burning Roma can both run. And, when you consider that Express Tour was making his first start since June 9, his performance becomes all the more exemplary. Now I understand why Express Tour was such a fancied dark horse candidate in the Kentucky Derby.