05/28/2013 8:59AM

Trip Notes: American Handicap, Sheepshead Bay, and more

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Belmont
Sheepshead Bay (race 8)

Tannery showed big-time potential in Ireland and then in the U.S. when 3rd in the Grade 1 Garden City last summer. However, her form has tailed off a bit since. But after a 4th in a stakes here May 1 (finishing behind a couple of today’s foes) she got back to her “A” game and posted the upset. She bided her time, obviously enjoyed the soft footing , stayed along the inside to make her run and gamely came through to beat an unlucky Anjaz. The Grade 2 New York here June 29 may be next. Anjaz, 4th in the Grade 3 Orchid at Gulfstream March 30, her U.S. debut, moved forward to run a big race here after a miserable start. She lunged at the start to get away poorly, sitting last. She remained there to the far turn, came with a nice run on the far turn to reach contention, had to alter course sharply when straightening away and stayed on gamely in a big try. Oddly enough she broke poorly in the Orchid as well, and the starting crew here put a blanket on her before the start, which trainer Tom Albertrani did not like and blames for her poor start here. Minakshi, a rallying 2nd in her U.S. debut behind today’s foe Julie’s Love in the Owsley here May 1 (Tannery was 4th), this time broke alertly to set the pace. She tried to battle back when passed by the top 2 in midstretch, couldn’t keep up with those 2 but was well clear of the others. Mystical Star chased Minakshi early but then weakened. Hessonite, the favorite having won 5 of her last 6 including a smashing win in the Grade 3 Beaugay here May 4, had previously shown she likes non-firm turf. However, after stalking the pace she loomed a threat going to the far turn but then fell away and basically eased under the line. Trainer David Donk reported that she seemed OK after the race.

Churchill
Louisville Handicap (race 10)

Dark Cove, coming off a smashing win in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at this trip at Keeneland April 26, validated that form but whereas that win was easy, this time he had to rely on his courage to come through. Carrying highweight he was midpack early while Al Qasr set slow splits, moved closer going to the far turn, grabbed the lead, opened up a bit into the lane as if he was going to run away with it, but then had to gamely rebuff the stern challenge of Atigun. Not bad for a horse his trainer Mike Maker claimed for $50,000 in April 2012. In fact, he could still have been claimed for $50,000 as recently as March 7 of this year. Atigun confirmed he’s a true stayer and showed he handles turf well, too. Coming off a smart win going shorter here May 4, his first turf try, this time he got more ground with which to work and enjoyed it. Sent off the slight favorite over Dark Cove, he lagged back early, didn’t get into the race as quickly as the winner but swung wide on the turn and into the lane to produce an energetic run through the lane, though he couldn’t quite get to Dark Cove while closing the gap with each stride. Najjaar sat well back, came with a threatening run into the lane but couldn’t sustain it while well clear of the rest (6 1/2 lengths). Ioya Bigtime, a multiple Grade 3 winner at this trip but coming off a dull 9th to Dark Cove as the favorite in the Grade 2 Elkhorn, sat midpack but never mustered a run. That’s 2 straight not-so-hot outings after a string of good races and makes you wonder if he’s lost a step or 2 or needs a break.

Arlington
Arlington Matron (race 7)

Imposing Grace was 6th vs. some of the division’s best in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Cburchill May 3 and getting away from such rivals paid off here. She sat 2nd while Lotta Lovin went out to a clear lead, setting a modest pace. Imposing Grace moved closer turning for home, went up to fight for the lead with that gal while Sisterhood came up alongside to challenge as well, got the better of Lotta Lovin and actually was edging away a bit from a stubborn Sisterhood in the final yards. Sisterhood sat just behind the winner from the start, moved alongside that foe in midstretch to make it a 3-horse battle with Lotta Lovin but couldn’t quite finish with Imposing Grace. Lotta Lovin set a modest pace, battled back when hooked by the top 2 into the lane but got a little weary late. Ausus, the favorite, sat midpack, kept to her task in the final furlong to close the gap while 4th though she never once looked like a winner. Hooh Why stalked the pace but never made a run.

Arlington
Hanshin Cup (race 9)

Hogy had a tough start and was unable to make a dent when 6th on grass in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland April 13, but a better start, more ground and return to synthetic did the trick here. His better start allowed him to use his speed, sitting 3rd from the start. He bided his time there, surged to the lead into the lane, quickly opened up and had more than enough left in the tank to keep hard-trying Mister Marti Gras at bay.  Mister Marti Gras lagged well back early, started to move forward on the far turn with a wide run, and kept on with good energy to close the gap, though he never really looked as though he’d catch Hogy. He was much the best of the rest, too (5 3/4 lengths). Hammers Terror dueled early with Nates Mineshaft, held a slim lead into the lane, had no answer when the top 2 surged past but stayed on well enough to hold 3rd. Nates Mineshaft, making his first start since finishing a sharp 3rd in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill almost a year ago, bounced right out to the lead but was hounded by Hammers Terror and hit the brakes hard. After the long layoff and off this outing you have to wonder if he’s just not the same horse.

Arlington
Arlington Classic (race 10)

General Election almost had Ky. Derby aspirations when rallying for 2nd at 34-1 in the Grade 3 Lexington on Keeneland’s Polytrack April 20. Instead, his connections wisely skipped that, waited and moved him to turf for the first time and all that paid off with a nice win. He broke a bit slowly to be well back early while saving ground off a very slow pace. He remained back and inside to the top of the lane, drifted out some in the lane but came home smartly to get up in the final yards and win going away. He did have to survive an inquiry for some crowding in midstretch that hindered Gefest but that was deemed to be the fault of Dorsett instead. Off this there’s no reason he shouldn’t take the next step (Grade 3 American Derby here July 13 and should all go well there, maybe the Grade 1 Secretariat here Aug. 17). Admiral Kitten, the favorite off a smart 2nd to the very tough Noble Tune in a Grade 2 turf stakes at Churchill May 3, was even further back early, content to stay there, swung very wide into the lane, still had a lot of work to do once straightened away but finished strongly in a good effort. Dorsett sat midpack, came with a smart run into the lane to challenge for the lead, drifted inward in midstretch to bump with Gefest, lost some of his momentum but stayed on gamely for 3rd. However, he was DQ’d to 4th for bumping Gefest. Gefest stalked the pace, was still in the thick of it in midstretch when in tight between the winner and Dorsett but stayed on well for 4th beaten just a head and a nose for 2nd. He was moved up to 3rd via the DQ of Dorsett. Procurement, a scary Southern California raider, was well back early and finished with good energy but was just on the scene too late.

Betfair Hollywood Park
American Handicap (race 3)

After a sharp sprint comeback run at Santa Anita (2nd in the Grade 3 San Simeon) Obviously showed he’s as good as ever, which puts him among the elite turf milers in the land. He had no trouble dominating here as he bounced right out to a clear lead as the heavy 2-5 favorite, and really didn’t have a nervous moment thereafter as he basically played keep-away all the way around to win handily. The Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile here June 29 figures next. Lucayan, making his first start in the U.S. after doing some good work in Europe (Group 1 winner in France last year) was away a step slowly to be last early, stayed there going down the backstretch, started his run into the far turn and finished decently, though he never really scared the winner. He’s eligible to improve off this run, meaning he could make things a lot more interesting come the Shoemaker Mile. Barocci sat back early, moved closer going into the backstretch, was just behind the eventual winner, couldn’t get on terms with that foe and just lost 2nd in the final strides. Drill seemed in a good spot stalking in 4th but never made a move.