06/11/2012 10:06AM

Trip Notes: Belmont Stakes, Manhattan Handicap, Whittingham Handicap, and more


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Belmont Park
True North Handicap (race 7)

Caixa Eletronica is one of the game’s great claims. Taken for a mere $16,000 a couple years ago he’s since banked over $1 million and added this first-place prize to his coffers under a perfectly timed ride by Javier Castellano. He sat back last with Smiling Tiger while Pacific Ocean set fast splits under pressure. Caixa Eletronica continued to sit well back, didn’t appear to be going anywhere, but once straightened away came with a rush to get up in the final strides. His versatility distance-wise gives trainer Pletcher options. Justin Philip sat just behind the pacesetters, swung out into the lane to get out from behind those tiring rivals, surged to the lead looking like the winner but just couldn’t quite fend off the winner. Smiling Tiger sat well back with the winner, moved earlier to the outside on the far turn and kept on steadily though he was never really a threat. Pacesetters Pacific Ocean, Royal Currier and Crossbow weakened, while another pacesetter, Giant Ryan, took a bad step in midstretch, was in the process of being pulled up and fell. He suffered a sesamoid fracture and ligament damage to left fore. He was schedule for surgery to try and save him to be a stallion.

Belmont Park
Longines Just a Game (race 8)

Another stellar ride, this one by Ramon Dominguez as he put Tapitsfly on the lead and never looked back. She broke alertly from her rail draw, set solid splits while pressured by Wallis, kicked clear into the lane and while Winter Memories loomed ominously into the lane Tapitsfly kept her at bay fairly easily so the issue never really seemed in doubt. This filly looks all the way back as after as strong 2010 she wasn’t nearly as sharp in 2011 but is in peak form now. Winter Memories lagged back, as is her custom, remained in the clear, steadily advanced, took off after Tapitsfly into the lane and briefly looked very scary but she lugged inward in the lane when being hit with the whip and really didn’t close the gap in the final furlong. This was her first loss at Belmont. Hungry Island sat last early, was just behind Winter Memories on the far turn and into the lane, swung out to launch her bid but didn’t produce the needed punch. Up in Time lagged back with Hungry Island and made some headway though she was never a factor.

Belmont Park
Woody Stephens (race 9)

Trinniberg got cooked in the Derby when chasing Bodemeister but the race didn’t knock him for a loop as the speedster was cut back to this sprint trip and showed he still had it. He used his speed to bounce right out to the lead, took pressure from Currency Swap but managed edge away into the lane and held nicely. Currency Swap, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful last year, appears to have found his niche sprinting as he dogged the winner from the start but just could never get to him. Il Villano, romping winner of sprint stakes on the Preakness undercard, stalked and stayed fairly one-paced. Hierro, easy winner of the Grade 3 Derby Trial, was dead on the board and never really threatened as he lagged back and stayed there. Maybe he needs wet going.

Belmont Park
Manhattan Handicap (race 10)

Talk about a division looking for a leader. No one has really stepped up in the male turf division and today it was French raider Desert Blanc’s day to shine. Making his 2nd start in the U.S., he stalked the modest pace of favored Hudson Steele, moved up eagerly between horses as the field sprinted for the wire and gamely outnodded Papaw Bodie for the win. Papaw Bodie likewise stalked the pace, moved up eagerly between horses to engage Desert Blanc and just came up a nose short in a good try. Boisterous was last down the backside and came with a steady run though he was never really a threat. Hudson Steele, the favorite, was able to set a modest pace but weakened in the final furlong. This trip (1 1/4 miles) may be a bit beyond him. Brilliant Speed got a dream trip stalking in 3rd, looked dangerous turning for home when sent down but just didn’t punch it in.

Belmont Park
Belmont Stakes (race 11)

The race obviously lost much of its luster when Triple Crown candidate I’ll Have Another scratched and was retired due to injury. Union Rags, the disappointing favorite in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, got a bit of redemption as he notched his own classic victory. Under a brilliant ride by new jock John Velazquez he saved ground the entire time, sitting midpack early behind Paynter’s decent pace. He steadily advanced, ended up just behind Paynter turning for home, had to wait for that foe to inch off the rail to give a lane, got that room in midstretch and dug deep to push his way through the opening along the rail and got the narrow win. This was very nice but for all the broadcast hoopla over his win it must be noted he only narrowly won and wasn’t facing I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister or Creative Cause. Paynter did everything right – he bounced out to the lead, was able to slow things down, fought back bravely all the way and just missed. Paynter did lose his left hind shoe during the race. Atigun sat midpack, came with a strong run into the lane but just couldn’t quite finish with the top 2 in a fine try. Street Life lagged back and finished decently Dullahan was, well, dull. He was well back early, came under a ride on the far turn but never really made any impression. This may confirm that he’s simply better on turf and synthetic.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Honeymoon Handicap (race 3)

My Gi Gi showed her 2nd (beaten a nose) in the Grade 3 Senorita was no fluke as the daughter of E Dubai got her first stakes win here in game fashion. She sat 4th early while Long Face set modest fractions, crept closer on the turn, made her run to the lead in midstretch and then desperately held off the furious rally of favorite Lady of Shamrock. Lady of Shamrock, the heavy favorite, was last early, started to make her move between horses only to get shut off. He then swung out though all appeared lost but she put in a dazzling burst of foot to just miss. Stormy Lucy stalked the pace, moved up to challenge into the lane but couldn’t quite finish with the top 2. Trois Aureole chased pacesetter Long Face, took the lead in midstretch but got outfinished by the top 3.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (race 10)

It was 2011 champion older horse Acclamation’s first start of the year, but it didn’t matter as the veteran powered to a 3rd straight victory in this race. He once again used his lethal speed. He shot out of the gate to a clear lead, but was still able to set slow splits. He kept a clear lead, was still clear turning for home and had enough to keep Slim Shadey, his only real rival the way the race developed, at bay. It was a super return and shows he’s good as ever. Slim Shadey stalked in 3rd, tried to make a run at the winner on the far turn and into lane and doggedly kept after him but just couldn’t get to him while much the best of the others. Utopian and Juniper Pass both sat back, both moved up turning for home as if ready to challenge but neither produced such a run.