10/07/2007 11:00PM

Sorting out last group of BC preps

EmailNEW YORK - Some thoughts on some of the major stakes run over the weekend:

Darley Alcibiades: It's impossible to quantify how much of an effect Keeneland's Polytrack had on the outcome of this race, what with outside closers seeming to enjoy an advantage early in the Keeneland meet. Nevertheless, that was an impressive winning late kick from Country Star, who went into the Alcibiades a maiden after finishing second on turf in her only other start. Granted, this Alcibiades wasn't an especially fast race, but the 83 Beyer Speed Figure that Country Star earned is already right in the ballpark with the other winning Beyers in all the major 2-year-old filly stakes leading into the Breeders' Cup. Country Star's closing style, which isn't usually a good fit for Monmouth Park, might be a good fit for this year's Juvenile Fillies considering a few of the other major stakes winners in the division look like they want to be either on or very close to the pace.

Meadowlands Cup: Diamond Stripes prevailed over an improved Magna Graduate, with a rallying Xchanger just a nose back in third. In other words, this was a fun race to watch, but it is likely to have zero impact on the BC Classic picture. However, this race could have significant impact on the BC Dirt Mile, which, depending on your opinion of Discreet Cat, is either already his property, or there for the taking for horses like Diamond Stripes, Magna Graduate, and Xchanger.

Champagne: War Pass deserves all the credit for his mild upset here. He ran hard from start to finish, literally bottoming out his opponents, and while he did get noticeably tired late - he went his last quarter in 25.88 seconds, and his 5 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole shrunk to 1 1/2 lengths at the wire - he still ran fast enough to earn a solid Beyer of 103. The thing is, it's fair to wonder just how draining this effort was, and if War Pass can recover quickly enough in three weeks' time to run another big race in the BC Juvenile. I can't get too down on Ready's Image's distant last-place finish, because he looked in the Hopeful like a colt with real distance limitations. But Majestic Warrior's distant sixth was a real puzzler. Yes, he might have been too close early, but he looked nothing like the special individual seen at Saratoga.

First Lady: When Vacare beat Precious Kitten by punching in the stretch into slow fractions, she showed she is a really nice turf filly. And while there is a much bigger difference between the mile of this race and the 1 3/8 miles of the BC Filly and Mare Turf than just three furlongs, I think Vacare deserves a shot to go to the Breeders' Cup. The form of the Beverly D., brought into serious question last week through losses by Royal Highness and Citronnade, took another blow when Lady of Venice, third in the Beverly D., finished fourth here as the favorite without excuse.

Frizette: Indian Blessing might have secured the role of favorite for the Juvenile Fillies after winning this by 4 1/2 lengths at 3-5. Even so, she will have plenty of folks lining up to bet against her at Monmouth. After being rank early when taken back to second and then blowing the race open into the stretch, she required 27.24 seconds to complete her final quarter-mile.

Shadwell Turf Mile: Purim at a $43.80 win mutuel. Ummm . . . okay. I think the thing to take out of this race is the reminder that horses seem to either love or hate the sandy nature of Keeneland's turf course. So if you were a Shakis fan before his third-place finish as the close second choice in the betting, this is not the time to get off him. The big question here is what to make of favored Astronomer Royal's flat sixth-place finish. He did, after all, knock heads this year with some of Europe's best milers. Did he not like the course? Or, should European form in relation to the BC Mile be reassessed?

Juddmonte Spinster: Panty Raid won't win a championship this year because she has the misfortune of being in the same division as Rags to Riches, the first filly in more than a century to win the Belmont Stakes. But Panty Raid deserves some sort of award for her versatility. She was already a Grade 1 winner on turf, having accomplished that in the American Oaks, and after her determined score in this race, she is now also a Grade 1 winner on a synthetic surface. She is sort of a younger, East Coast version of Nashoba's Key, with a difference being that Panty Raid also won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on conventional dirt. On the face of it, Lady Joanne also ran a big race here to be a narrowly beaten second after setting the pace, which wasn't the preferred running style for much of Keeneland's opening weekend. But the fact that Teammate closed from eighth to be third, beaten only one length for all the money, casts a bit of doubt on the strength of this race. Teammate has never been an effective closer, and she has always been shaky in the stretch against top-class company. So either Teammate just happens to be a Polytrack freak (this was her first try on a synthetic surface), or this race really wasn't run as strongly as it first appeared.