12/21/2010 3:11PM

Rich starter allowance races top Christmas Eve card


Endymion and Free Country, both of whom have dropped drastically in class since running in graded stakes as 3-year-olds of 2009, will attempt to regain a little bit of their former glory in Friday’s Gift of the Magi, one of two holiday-themed starter allowances with rich purses on the Chrismas Eve card at Parx Racing.

The suburban Philadelphia track is the only place in the nation offering live Thoroughbred racing on the day before Christmas.
The Gift of the Magi, which goes as race 7 on a card that begins at 12:25 p.m. Eastern, is a seven-furlong race restricted to horses who have not won a race this year and have started for a claiming price of $12,500 or less during the current season. It carries a purse of $45,000.

As a 3-year-old, Endymion was good enough to win the Jersey Derby over a sloppy track at Monmouth Park. That race earned him a shot at the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, where he flashed brief speed and faded to last of eight. Endymion ran a solid second in his first start at 4 this past May, facing third-level optional $65,500 claimers, but by October had plunged all the way to the $12,500 level. He was claimed out a third-place finish that day by owner-trainer Peter Kazamias. In two starts for Kazamias, Endymion finished fifth going a mile in a third-level optional $40,000 claimer and set the pace til midstretch and held on for second at the same starter allowance level as Friday’s race.

Early in 2009, Free Country was considered a Triple Crown prospect. He finished a respectable fourth in the Grade 3 Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, but was badly beaten in both the Louisiana Derby and Illinois Derby, both Grade 2 stakes. He has lost nine straight while descending the class ladder this season. In his only start locally on Dec. 7, Free Country was beaten 15 lengths as the 6-5 favorite in a $10,000 claimer restricted to nonwinners-of-three lifetime. He now makes his first start for high-percentage trainer Scott Lake, who is 10 for 45 (22 percent) with recent claims that he brings back to the races within 21 days. On the down side, Lake is 0 for 12 first time off the claim in races contested between 6 1/2 and seven furlongs.

Although Endymion owns the best last-race Beyer Speed Figure, a 78, I’mtrulyinthemood and Deanoguska are coming off performances very close to that number.

The 4-year-old I’mtrulyinthemood, making his first start off a $12,500 claim by trainer Phil Aristone, earned a 74 for his fourth-place finish against $16,000 claimers on Nov. 19. The runner-up in that race, Raised for Speed, returned to win at the same level with an 85 Beyer.

Deanoguska, part of an uncoupled entry for Lake, comes out of the same Nov. 19 race as I’mtrulyinthemood. He finished third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Raised for Speed and a nose in front of I’mtrulyinthemood while also getting a 74 Beyer. He was claimed for $7,500 in October and is mired in an 0-for-15 slump this year.

Malibu Artiste on a roll

Malibu Artiste looks to make it five straight wins since she arrived in Bruce Levine’s barn in the co-featured Mistle Toe (race 8), a $50,000 starter allowance for fillies and mares who have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less the last two years. It will be contested at seven furlongs.

Since coming to the East Coast following a $25,000 claim in Southern California, the 4-year-old Malibu Artiste has won at Saratoga, Delaware Park, and twice at Parx. Most recently, she scored by two lengths in an $8,000 starter allowance on Dec. 5.

Her competition includes the Lake uncoupled entry of I’llthinkofsumthin and Bank’n On Gold, who finished noses apart as the one-two finishers in a $25,000 claimer on Dec. 3, and From Gray to Gold, a former synthetic track specialist who has gone 4 for 9 since coming to Parx last April.