Updated on 09/16/2011 8:16AM

Stretch drive toward Cup

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Vindication, winning the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, could be one of the favorites in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

NEW YORK - In theory, almost all of the stakes races at major tracks this time of year are supposed to help crystallize the picture for the World Thoroughbred Championship Breeders' Cup races. In practice, that isn't always the case.

How about the stakes run this past weekend at Belmont and Turfway? What did they mean in regard to the Breeders' Cup, which is now only five weeks from Saturday? Here are some initial impressions:

Floral Park Handicap: Carson Hollow parlayed an uncontested early lead into a daylight score over three older opponents in a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Carson Hollow is still improving. But there are many other front-runners eyeing the Sprint, which would seriously compromise her chances.

Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap: Probably no impact here. Startac, who got up to win over Volponi, may be considered for the Breeders' Cup Mile. But, he is more of a nine- to 10-furlong horse. Volponi, meanwhile, was taken out of consideration for the Breeders' Cup in the days before this race.

Jerome Handicap: Boston Common, who is as quick early as any 3-year-old this side of California, was able to stretch his speed to a mile in a decisive victory. He is a possibility for the Sprint, but in that race he may be just another contributor to an early pace that many expect to be so fast that it will result in a melt down.

Ruffian Handicap: A genuine shocker here, as Mandy's Gold, a speedy sprinter stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time in her career, rallied from off the pace to win going away. Mandy's Gold whipped some talented horses, so the question isn't whether she's good enough. The question is, can she stretch out even farther and handle two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Breeders' Cup Distaff? That's a big question. You ran very well, finishing second after disputing a fast early pace, but 1 1/16 miles really looks like the farthest she'll go. Minister's Baby, who emerged as the boss of her division in the Midwest, may have been too close to the early pace. But the way Minister's Baby gave ground through the stretch wasn't encouraging when it comes to her Distaff chances.

Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies: Atlantic Ocean probably earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with a clear-cut decision. Success at two turns by 2-year-olds should never be underestimated, especially this year with the two Breeders' Cup 2-year-old races being run at 1 1/8 miles. And young horses like these can improve overnight. But this group will have to. The final quarter-mile of this one-mile race was an interminable 27.99 seconds.

Kentucky Cup Juvenile: This was the race on Saturday that will have the most profound impact on the Breeders' Cup. Vindication was very impressive visually, if not against the clock. He encountered trouble at the start that put him far off the early pace for the first time in his life and yet still produced a quick, wide burst of speed on the far turn, which he used to take command of the race. Vindication is now 3 for 3 and has invaluable two-turn experience. At this time can be considered no worse than second choice for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Sky Mesa.

Turfway Breeders' Cup: Probably zero impact here, even if the winner, Trip, does wind up in the Distaff, which is unlikely. Trip did run very well, scoring by many and completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.01, as compared with Vindication's time for the same distance of 1:46.70 the race before. But Trip was beating modest competition on a track she absolutely adores.

Kentucky Cup Sprint: Day Trader is Breeders' Cup Sprint-bound after capitalizing on a lack of true early speed by others in this race to win by more than three, much like Carson Hollow was able to do in the Floral Park. And much like Carson Hollow and Boston Common, who ran Day Trader into the ground in last month's King's Bishop, Day Trader's on-the-pace style doesn't seem to fit with the way this year's Sprint is shaping up.

Kentucky Cup Classic: This race has, in some years, been very representative in terms of the Breeders' Cup Classic, but it doesn't look like that will be the case this year. Perfect-trip winner Pure Prize had to be happy that the wire arrived before fast-closing Dollar Bill did. Since Dollar Bill no longer wins the kind of races that have names on them, it's hard to get excited about the Breeders' Cup chances of anyone coming out of this event.

Matron: The first of the two Sunday races at Belmont, this race will have a huge impact on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Storm Flag Flying, a daughter of the great sire Storm Cat, from 1995 Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag, was so dominant winning this that she now may be the favorite for her Breeders' Cup race. Storm Flag Flying won by almost 13 lengths, but what was also impressive was the improved positional speed she showed over her maiden win in her only other start.

Futurity: The inclination may be to give Whywhywhy more credit than he actually deserves for winning this in a nasty thunder squall, thus artificially inflating his status for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Still, he deserves credit for beating Pretty Wild by the same margin the highly regarded Sky Mesa did in the Hopeful. Undoubtedly, Whywhywhy is better now than he was when he cashed in on favorable circumstances to win stakes in his previous two starts. But he is a son of Mr. Greeley, and not many of his get relish the nine furlongs of the Juvenile.