09/29/2008 12:00AM

Timely look at day of stakes


NEW YORK - Things were happening so fast and furiously Saturday afternoon that perhaps the best way to sort most of it out is with a timeline:

3-4 p.m. Eastern

If you were looking for more evidence that Thoroughbred racing now encompasses three distinctly different games (dirt racing, turf racing, and synthetic-track racing), look no further than the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies. Sugar Mom couldn't win a maiden claiming race on dirt in June, yet made it three straight decisive synthetic-track wins since with her score in this event. . . . There might be something to the claim made by trainer Bobby Frankel after Ginger Punch failed at odds-on in the Beldame that she is not as good when forced to set the pace. That said, the slow fractions Ginger Punch set in the Beldame gave her a huge tactical advantage, and she still couldn't hold off the late-running Cocoa Beach.

4-5 p.m.

He didn't beat much, but that was a freaky performance from Fatal Bullet in the Kentucky Cup Sprint. . . . I loved Alan Garcia's ride on Dynaforce in the Flower Bowl Invitational. When Kent Desormeaux and heavily favored Mauralakana tried to overwhelm Garcia and Dynaforce with a quick move on the far turn, Garcia went right to the whip to get Dynaforce to answer back. Not every rider would have done that. Many would have let Mauralakana go and attempted to answer back later, and they would have lost. . . . The first indication Saturday of how unsettled the male sprint division is came in the Vosburgh. The implausible Black Seventeen, the longest shot on the board by far at 23-1, scored an upset that was likely entirely due to a love for a wet track. Though narrowly beaten, Fabulous Strike did well after disputing a fast pace in his first start since June and only his second start this year. But, Lucky Island, who never got out of first gear after a sluggish start, didn't come close to resembling the potential divisional leader he looked like two months ago.

5-6 p.m.

Maybe Red Giant is better than I gave him credit for, but I still think that group of 3-year-old turfers he competed with last year and the field he beat in the Fourstardave Handicap in his first start this year was overwhelmingly average. So I take Red Giant's win in the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial as an indictment of the West Coast male turf division. . . . Grand Couturier showed he is probably one of the few legit Grade 1 turfers around, with a complete domination of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, squashing the notion that the two-time Sword Dancer winner is a Saratoga specialist. Trouble is, Grand Couturier won't get the cut ground he likes in the Breeders' Cup. Meanwhile, what happened to the "mighty" Proudinsky? He's the one who just ran Big Brown to a neck at Monmouth and he loves off turf, but a search party is still looking for him in the Joe Hirsch. . . . Words don't do justice to how impressive Zenyatta was yet again winning the Lady's Secret. And while everyone knows that there is no chance of her facing males in the Breeders' Cup Classic, that doesn't stop us from hoping it will happen. . . . After Zanjero romped in the Kentucky Cup Classic, owner Ron Winchell said he would go for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and not the Classic. It's refreshing to see an owner resist deluding himself. . . . Let's be honest, earnings are as much of a barometer of a Thoroughbred's greatness as ontrack attendance is to a track's health. Still, it was kind of cool to see Curlin become North America's first $10 million horse. But without taking anything away from what this true champion has accomplished, I can't help but think that the Curlin of last fall wouldn't have let horses like Wanderin Boy and Past the Point get close to him.

6-7 p.m.

Shaky sprint division, part 2: Cost of Freedom, claimed for $50,000 89 days earlier by trainer John Sadler, made it 2 for 2 since and became a Grade 1 winner in the Ancient Title. Heavily favored Street Boss seemed to lose momentum when he went very wide into the stretch and settled for second. But as big a finisher as Street Boss is, check out Cost of Freedom past the wire. He galloped out about 10 lengths in front.

7-8 p.m.

Stardom Bound was a million lengths the best winning the Oak Leaf. With the wide move she made going by six or seven horses in about four strides, the only way she won't win the Juvenile Fillies is if they let her opposition cut through the infield. . . . Wait a While clearly adores the turf at Santa Anita, as evidenced by her second Yellow Ribbon victory. But given how hard she had to work Saturday to deny Vacare, who had never seemed a 1 1/4-mile mare before, Wait a While's affinity for Santa Anita might not be enough to carry her in the Filly and Mare Turf.

8:24 p.m.

It's easy to admire brilliant champions. Horses like Well Armed are admired by those with more discerning tastes. Well Armed is not great. But as he showed in his gutsy Goodwood win, Well Armed makes the most of what he's got and he is as honest as you could want a horse to be. The 1 1/4 miles of the Classic might be just outside his comfort zone, but if Curlin doesn't show and Big Brown stubs his toe, Well Armed will let you know he's in the race.