05/29/2012 9:02AM

Trip Notes: American Handicap, Sheepshead Bay Stakes, and more


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sheepshead Bay (race 8)

Aruna was disappointing when sixth in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland April 14 but was the victim of pace that day. Her rider, Ramon Dominguez, made no such mistake here as the classy mare sat fourth while pacesetter Aqsaam ran off to a huge early lead. She bided her time to the top of the lane as Aqsaam came back to the pack, surged to the lead, opened up and was basically taken in hand late. They closed the gap on her in the final sixteenth yes, but the issue had already been determined. Trainer Graham Motion said her next start may be the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga July 28 (ran second in that last year) or the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Aug. 18. She would be very tough in either. Hit It Rich sat second while Aqsaam ran off to a huge lead (12 lengths at one point), made a run at that tiring runner into the lane but did so at the same time as Aruna and was no match for that rival when it mattered. Mystical Star actually kicked her gate open before the start, then bided her time, came with a nice run and got third. She was disqualified to eighth, though, as her antics at the start were deemed to give her an “unfair advantage.” Principal Role talked in third, swung wide into the lane but never produced any real punch. Magical Cat, meanwhile, was held in the gate by her assistant starter who apparently realized Mystical Star broke through the gate early. The race was already under way when Magical Cat was released but the field was already away from the gate by about a dozen lengths. She was pulled up before the first turn and declared a non-starter.

Louisville Handicap (race 10)

Simmard took advantage of a great trip as the veteran stalked the early pace, moved up on the far turn to challenge Harrods Creek, got the better of that rival on the far turn, kicked clear and had more than enough to keep  hard-charging Joinem at bay. He shipped back to his homebase of Woodbine and may point for a race like the Grade 3 Singspiel June 24, a race in which he ran fourth last year. Joinem, freshened, since a good third in the Grade 2 Muniz at Fair Grounds April 1, lagged back and finished with good energy, though the issue was never really in doubt. Tahoe Lake, the favorite after finishing second in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland April 27 (Simmard ran third), bided his time, moved up early to be in a good stalking position, got shuffled back a bit between horses, looked poised to make a run into the lane, kept to his task but never mustered the necessary rally. Rescue Squad, coming off an improved third at Keeneland April 22, sat back and never made a move.

Arlington Matron (race 7)

Upperline made it two straight and looked better than ever with a powerful tally in a race in which she finished fourth in 2011. Coming off a win in the Grade 3 Bewitch on the Keeneland turf April 26 she showed enough speed to stalk the pace, stayed within reach of pacesetter Hooh Why to the top of the line, appeared in trouble when that rival shot clear by midstretch but then blasted home to take command and win going away. She may actually be better on turf and judging by her current form could she can be a player Aug. 18 in the Grade 1 Beverly D. (she ran fifth in that race in 2011). Hooh Why went right out to the lead, took some pressure from Sea Level Drive, opened up into the lane as if she had this in the bag but then had no answer for the winner’s big charge. Ariana D bided her time, came with a threatening run on the turn but couldn’t sustain it. Kathmanblu stalked the pace but gave way badly in a disappointing effort.

Betfair Hollywood
American Handicap (race 8)

Wilkinson’s placement in this tough race for his first West Coast start seemed dicey at best since he’d been no factor in three prior starts this year, but the one-time Grade 1-placed turfer validated his connections’ judgment with a 44-1 upset. He stalked the brisk pace of Compari and Liberian Freighter, went after Liberian Freighter as that foe held the lead turning for home, got the better of him in midstretch, edged away and had enough to keep hard-charging favorite Mr. Commons at bay. The Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile June 30 will be next, according to new trainer Jeff Mullins. Mr. Commons, the heavy favorite, sat back and came with a smart run though he never once really appeared a threat to the winner. This was his first start in almost 3 months and should set him up well for the Shoemaker Mile as well. Liberian Freighter battled on the lead with Compari, was on the lead going to the far turn, still held it to midstretch but couldn’t go with the winner and lost second in the final strides. Compari was on the pace and stayed on decently. Mobilized, coming off a huge main-track stakes score, sat back but failed to make an impact. It’s likely back to the main track for him.