10/05/2008 11:00PM

Quick hits on flurry of action


NEW YORK - For the second straight week, we had a jam-packed weekend of important stakes racing, most of which might be best addressed in timeline form:

Friday, 4:47-5:16 p.m.

I was surprised that Precious Kitten took the track early from Dreaming of Anna in the First Lady at Keeneland, because she seems most effective when she has a target to run at. But even if Precious Kitten sat a stalking trip, she still would not have fended off Forever Together's monstrous closing kick. It was the same kind of kick Forever Together showed winning the longer Diana, suggesting that stretching out to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf distance of 1 1/4 miles should not be a problem for her. . . . Distance clearly is an issue for Mani Bhavan, who stopped to a walk in her first try around two turns in Keeneland's Darley Alcibiades. Dream Empress loved the distance and Polytrack, winning going away. But though she has lots of room for improvement, her winning Beyer Figure of 80 was underwhelming.

Saturday, 3-4 p.m.

Sing Baby Sing took forever to get past the speed in Keeneland's Phoenix Stakes, which speaks highly of Talent Search. True, Talent Search had a big class edge on paper, and Keeneland was playing toward speed in sprints, but Talent Search impressed by holding as tough as he did after disputing scorching fractions off a 10-month layoff. . . . Reverse the trips in Belmont's Jamaica and Gio Ponti would have beaten Court Vision.

4-5 p.m.

The first two finishers in the Summer Stakes at Woodbine, Grand Adventure and Skipadate, were only separated by a head, and were far in front of the rest. And I think both are thoroughly legitimate. . . . Square Eddie, in his first U.S. start, was almost Arazi-like romping in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. It was intriguing to hear new trainer Doug O'Neill say that Square Eddie, by Curlin's sire Smart Strike, looked like a baby Curlin. But I would feel a lot better about Square Eddie if his Breeders' Futurity Beyer were better than just an 87. . . . Trainer Steve Klesaris, whose one-time prime Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies prospect Mani Bhavan came a cropper in the Alcibiades, produced perhaps an even better one in Sky Diva in Belmont's Frizette Stakes. Sky Diva won with complete authority while barely being asked to run, the same manner in which she won her only other start, and there really is no limit to what her ceiling might be. Runner-up Persistently tried to save more ground than she did when second in the Matron, and succeeded. But it didn't matter. . . . Thorn Song is an admirable hard tryer, and his persistence was rewarded with the biggest score of his career in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. But I don't think we saw the Breeders' Cup Mile winner in this race. It's also worth noting that the dull effort in this race from Rahy's Attorney, who was not at all compromised by his outside post, brings into question the validity of the form of his Woodbine Mile, in which last year's Breeders' Cup Mile winner, Kip Deville, finished fifth.

5-6 p.m.

School was out only one-fifth of the way into Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Stakes when Group 2 Euro shipper Folk Opera got away with an uncontested opening quarter-mile lead in 26.41 seconds. Sure enough, Folk Opera won, but in workmanlike rather than impressive fashion. . . . When Vineyard Haven won the Hopeful, he capitalized on terrible trips from the second- and third-place finishers and earned the lowest winning Beyer (84) ever assigned to that race, so he was a horse many loved to hate in the Champagne at Belmont. Vineyard Haven showed how much that meant to him as he went on to dominate a quality running of the Champagne by almost six lengths, winning in final time fast enough for a 99 Beyer. The Hopeful form got even more of a boost when third-place finisher Munnings and second-place finisher Cribnote came back to be second and third here. In the meantime, that Regal Ransom maiden race at Saratoga, which some thought was a stakes race in disguise, isn't looking so good now. Regal Ransom gave way in last week's Norfolk, and Brave Victory, who beat maidens after finishing second to Regal Ransom, finished seventh, beaten 14 lengths, in the Champagne. . . . If you think there was a speed bias in the sprints at Keeneland, then you would have to think that Wild Gams, whose rally in Keeneland's Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes fell a head short of catching front-runner Indyanne, was best on Saturday. . . . If you had the exacta of the 29-1 Marsh Side over the 38-1 Spice Route in Woodbine's Pattison Canadian International, I have two things to say to you: I agree that your $2 exactor came back light at $1,062. And, may I borrow your crystal ball? Also, don't take Doctor Dino's loss at 6-5 in this race as an indictment of Euro form, because he is simply not a true Grade 1 animal.

Sunday, 5-6 p.m.

Carriage Trail is capable on dirt and better than that on turf. But after her romp in the Juddmonte Spinster, there is absolutely no doubt she is at her very best on Keeneland's Polytrack. It's scary to think that she probably would have won by 20 and would have significantly bettered her 105 Beyer had she not drifted severely through the stretch. The trouble for her, however, is the Breeders' Cup is not at Keeneland.

. . . Finally, after competing exclusively in two-turn races all year, Tale of Ekati got to do what I think he has been crying to do all along, which is to go one turn. In Sunday's Jerome at Belmont, his first one-turn start since he was a much-the-best winner of the Futurity a little more than a year ago, Tale of Ekati was a decisive winner over a very good field. New favorite for the 2009 Met Mile?