06/10/2007 11:00PM

Kimmel's eye looking sharp


ELMONT, N.Y. - The fact that Better Than Honour became the first mare to produce two Belmont Stakes winners is a source of pride for trainer John Kimmel, who bought Better Than Honour, a daughter of Deputy Minister, for $750,000 as a yearling in July 1997.

Kimmel trained Better Than Honour through her eight-race career that included a win in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes - albeit via disqualification - and a narrow and controversial loss in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes in 1999.

The qualities that Kimmel saw which made him buy her for owner Robert K. Waxman at Keeneland have certainly been passed down to her offspring. Better Than Honour is the producer of Jazil and Rags to Riches, the last two winners of the Belmont Stakes.

"She was a gorgeous filly by Deputy Minister out of a Kentucky Oaks winner [Blush With Pride]. She was the most expensive yearling filly to sell," Kimmel recalled Sunday morning. "At that time they had the summer and fall sale. The fall usually was a little lesser quality than the select Keeneland horses. She was the best of what was there. She was a beautiful horse physically with tremendous pedigree. She turned out to be a good racehorse."

Better Than Honour won her maiden race in her fourth career start. Following that, she crossed the finish line second in the Demoiselle at Aqueduct, only to be put up to first via disqualification.

Kimmel felt that Better Than Honour should have received the same fate in the 1999 Acorn Stakes, when she was beaten a head by Three Ring, who carried her out in the stretch drive of the race, prevailing by a head. After a claim of foul, the result stood, much to Kimmel's chagrin.

"I always thought she was capable of Grade 1 things," Kimmel said. "When she basically didn't get put up in a race that she really deserved, it was unfortunate."

Hours later, Kimmel was at a black-tie function where he spotted New York Racing Association steward David Hicks sitting at the next table.

"I held up three fingers and I said 'Mr. Hicks, how many fingers am I holding up?' " Kimmel said. "He said three. I said 'You're not as blind as you were this afternoon.' "

For Kimmel, this was his second brush with Triple Crown glory. In 1994, he was the trainer of the 2-year-old Thunder Gulch, who was sold to Michael Tabor in the fall of that year. Thunder Gulch went on to win the Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Travers in 1995.

Pletcher plots courses for other fillies

While Rags to Riches' victory in the Belmont was certainly the story of the weekend, it overshadowed the fact that trainer Todd Pletcher swept the trio of 3-year-old filly races that coincide with the Triple Crown events.

Rags to Riches won the Kentucky Oaks, Panty Raid took the Black-Eyed Susan the day before the Preakness, and Cotton Blossom won Saturday's Grade 1 Acorn an hour before the Belmont. Pletcher also ran second in the Oaks with Octave.

While Rags to Riches is likely to make her next start in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont on July 21, Pletcher mentioned that the other three are all possible to run in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 30. Octave, who hasn't run since the Oaks, is a definite for the race while Panty Raid and Cotton Blossom are possible.

Cotton Blossom rebounded from a tough trip in the Kentucky Oaks to win the Acorn by one length over the 3-5 favorite, Dream Rush, on Saturday.

"The Mother Goose is a possibility if three weeks is enough time between races for her," Pletcher said. "I thought it was a big effort, a real big effort. It looks like the Oaks was a key race."

Pletcher said Panty Raid was on course for the Delaware Oaks until the decision to run Rags to Riches in the Belmont. Now, Pletcher said he would discuss things with the owners. The $500,000 Delaware Oaks is run on July 14.

Circular Quay may try turf race

Circular Quay, who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness, could be headed to the turf. On Sunday, he worked four furlongs in 48.67 seconds on the turf in company with the a European Group 3-placed filly, Wingspan. Angel Cordero Jr. was aboard for the work.

"He worked good, but they're out there on the good footing," said Cordero, referring to the fact that all turf works are done over the outer part of the course. "I was sitting on him and he acted the same way he worked on the dirt. To me, that means he likes it."

Pletcher said he was pleased with the breeze and said if Circular Quay continues to do well on the grass he would be pointed to the $1 million Virginia Derby on July 21.

Pletcher also said that Wait a While, the beaten favorite in Saturday's Just a Game, was still on target for the Grade 1 CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park on July 6. Wait a While finished 3 3/4 lengths behind My Typhoon, who got away with easy early fractions, but who came home the final quarter in 22.50 seconds. My Typhoon earned a lifetime-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107 and is likely headed to the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga on July 28.

"I think she's better on the California turf courses," Pletcher said of Wait a While. "They're a little more of a putting-green type surface that she just skips over and quickens on."

Wait a While won the American Oaks at Hollywood Park last July and the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita in September.

Regarding Keyed Entry, who bolted while finishing last in the True North, Pletcher said the horse was headed to a farm in Ocala to get a mental freshening.

Clement content with Meribel

Trainer Christophe Clement said he was very content with his decision to have skipped the Just a Game with Meribel, who instead won the $83,500 Foresta Stakes on the Belmont undercard by unleashing a lethal stretch kick. She won the race by 1 1/4 lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 94.

"I thought she ran very well," Clement said. "Obviously she's a spectacular filly to watch because she always comes from way out of it. I still think the Just a Game was a very good race even if Wait a While finished second. But no remorse, I'm very happy with winning a stakes."

Clement said Meribel would most likely make her next start in a graded stakes out of town. The next graded turf race for fillies and mares at Belmont is the New York Handicap on June 23, which Clement feels is too close to her last race.