06/04/2012 9:20AM

Trip Notes: Californian Stakes, Vagrancy Handicap, Affirmed Handicap, and more

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Belmont Park
Vagrancy Handicap (race 9)

C C’s Pal, coming off a 3rd in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie, 2nd in the Grade 2 Distaff and 2nd in the My Juliet, used her speed to get back on the winning track. She broke alertly and spurted out to a clear early lead, was able to set modest splits while under pressure first by Dontbeshy I’ll Buy and then by She’s Cheeky, rebuffed those challenges, and gamely held sway as hard-charging favorite Nicole H was bearing down on her late. Nicole H stalked the pace, doggedly went after the winner in the final furlong but just couldn’t quite get to her while much the best of the rest. She’s Cheeky bided her time, made a run at the winner on the far turn but couldn’t sustain it.

Churchill Downs
Winning Colors (race 6)

Island Bound benefited from a freshening, got a dream pace scenario and took advantage for the upset. A 2-time winner here she was last early while Honey Chile and Page Springs sizzled early, steadily advanced to the turn, swung wide and powered home to win going away. Beat the Blues likewise sat back off the pace, though not as far back as the winner, made a nice move into the lane but couldn’t finish with the winner. Speedacious stalked the brisk pace, came wide into the lane but didn’t have the needed punch. Good Deed, the favorite, stalked the early pace, moved up sharply to take the lead going to the far turn, battled to midstretch before giving way.

Churchill Downs
Aristides Stakes (race 7)

Rothko, a monstrous allowance winner here last fall and making his first start since chasing top-class West Coast sprinters The Factor and Amazombie in the winter, apparently benefited from the layoff and certainly from the class drop as he was much the best. He bided his time early, made a strong wide run on the far turn into the lane to surge to a clear lead and while the gap narrowed in the final furlong he really didn’t have an anxious moment. The way he won this says he may be ready to again try those deeper waters. Will’s Wildcat stalked the pace, tried to run with the winner into the lane, was no match for that foe but kept to his task gamely to at least close the gap in the final furlong, even if the issue had long been decided. Whiskey Rebellion dogged pacesetter Cash Refund, was no match for the top 2 but kept to his task to hold 3rd. Noble’s Promise lagged back but never really mustered a run. He may not be what he once was as he’s winless in 7 starts since capturing this last year.

Churchill Downs
Mint Julep Handicap (race 8)

Bizzy Caroline returned to the site of her best work (2 for 3 on this course including a Grade 3 win and a 2nd in a Grade 2) and that was just what the doctor ordered. As the favorite she lagged back, bided her time, swung out on the far turn and kept on resolutely to just get up to edge a stubborn Heavenly Landing in the final strides. It didn’t hurt that likely favorite Tapitsfly was scratched. Heavenly Landing bounced right out to the lead, was under pressure from Hard Seven, spurted clear into the lane and looked long gone but just couldn’t quite fend off the winner. Hard Seven dogged Heavenly Landing from the start but couldn‘t keep pace with the top 2 in the lane. Ravi’s Song, 2nd in this last year and racing in foal, stalked in 4th, swung wide on the far turn but never really mustered a run. That’s probably it as she’s likely off to be a mommy.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Californian Stakes (race 8)

Proving his Group 1 Dubai World Cup dud was an aberration, Game On Dude got back on track and re-established himself as the leading handicap horse out West - and it really isn‘t close. Freshened since fading badly in Dubai in late March, he used his customary speed to go right out to the lead. He was pressured some by Morning Line but began extending his margin going to the far turn and quickly turned this into a laugher as he romped home. This stamps him a heavy favorite for the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup July 7. Kettle Corn, winner of the Grade 3 Native Diver here last December, sat 4th and finished with good energy but was never really on the winner’s radar. He may try the winner again in the Gold Cup as well. Prayer for Relief stalked in 3rd but was basically one-paced throughout. The disappointment of the race was Morning Line. Winner of the Grade 3 Mervyn LeRoy here last month in his first start for new trainer John Shirreffs, he chased the winner early but gave way badly to finish last in the 4-horse field. Something may have gone awry.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Betfair Hollywood Park
Affirmed Handicap (race 8)

Nonios has always been extremely well regarded and he showed why under a super ride by Martin Pedroza. He stalked the slow pace of Gun Boat, who took command early and had things his own way up front after fellow speedster American Act scratched. He saved ground, appeared in trouble as the field started to sprint for home as he was in behind the leaders, was able to move through between horses, surged to the lead and outsprinted heavy fave Liaison to the wire. Liaison, coming off a fine Ky. Derby try and returning to the site of his biggest win (Grade 1 CashCall Futurity last fall), stalked the pace while in the clear, moved up gradually on the turn, remained in the clear while wide into the lane, came home nicely but couldn’t outfinish the winner. He ran well; simply got beat. Holy Candy sat at the back of the pack while saving ground, though he wasn’t too far off the lead as the splits were slow. He moved off the rail turning for home, found a lane, came through between horses to briefly look very dangerous but didn’t sustain his run. Gun Boat was able to establish a modest pace but didn’t stay the trip. It’s likely back to sprinting for him. Blingo sat back, made a move into the lane but flattened out. It’s likely back to turf for him.