11/26/2012 10:28AM

Trip Notes: Cigar Mile, Hollywood Derby, and more


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Demoiselle (race 6)

Three scratches race morning knocked this down to a field of 4. Unlimited Budget, coming off a dazzling debut win here just 9 days earlier, validated that form as she went right to the lead, set modest splits and basically played keep-away all the way around. Emollient, coming off a huge maiden win before being scratched from the Grade 3 Tempted Nov. 4 (got loose a couple days prior, suffered a hind ankle abrasion) showed no ill effects from that and might have been more of a threat except that she managed to find all sorts of trouble despite the small field. She stumbled at the start and managed to be boxed in on the rail while pressing the winner down the backstretch. She moved up inside to get within a neck of Unlimited Budget while being a bit rank, either couldn’t or wouldn’t move through to grab the lead, took back, angled out for room while the winner opened up into the lane, doggedly went after her again when clear but couldn’t get to her. The way the card progressed, the inside was not the place to be as well. The final time wasn’t much (1:52.16) but the division looks quite promising with these two adding their names to a group that includes Beholder, Executiveprivilege, Sign, Dreaming of Julia, So Many Ways and Kauai Katie. Giant Cats Eye plugged along for 3rd but was never a threat.

Remsen (race 7)

Two in a row for Pletcher/Repole as Overanalyze, who looked beaten in the stretch, rerallied to get the nod. Overanalyze stalked stablemate Delhomme from the start, appeared beaten when Normandy Invasion came with a strong run along the inside, but got going again to get back on terms with Normandy Invasion and win the head bob. A son of Dixie Union (sire of Grade 1 Belmont winner Union Rags), Overanalyze is now a multiple graded stakes winner (won Grade 2 Futurity) and figures to be firmly on the Derby trail. Normandy Invasion, who comes off a romping maiden win here Nov. 2, bided his time surged into contention in the lane, grabbed the lead as if he was going to win off but lost some of his oomph and couldn’t quite counter Overanalyze’s rerally. Still, a very nice first stakes attempt makes this son of Tapit one to watch. Delhomme, like his stablemate a son of Dixie Union, set the pace under pressure from Overanalyze, battled back gamely through the lane but couldn’t quite keep pace with the top 2 while much the best of the rest (16 3/4 lengths clear). The top 3 ran well, particularly when you note they were nearly 2 seconds faster than the girls in the Demoiselle and ran faster than 3-year-old fillies did in the Gazelle. All 3 will winter in Florida. Micromanage, Pletcher’s third runner and part of the favored entry with Overanalyze, sat midpack but gave way badly to finish last. His trainer said he could find no excuse for his dull run, however.

Cigar Mile (race 8)

A couple morning scratches – 2010 winner Jersey Town (fever; retired as this was to be his final start) and Associate (pastern infection) – turned this into a 5-pack. Stay Thirsty made it an amazing day for Pletcher/Repole as he gives that trainer/owner combo a third straight graded stakes win on the day, and Stay Thirsty’s gutty win over top filly Groupie Doll likely keeps her out of the Horse of the Year discussion. Stay Thirsty, from his rail draw, didn’t show as much speed as usual. He bided his time early well off the pace of Buffum and Coil, came with a strong sustained run to get abreast of the gallant filly and just managed to get his nose down on the wire. Too bad he’s headed off to stud after maybe his best 2 efforts (ran 2nd beaten just a head in the Grade 1 JC Gold Cup). If there was any doubt – and there shouldn’t have been – about Groupie Doll standing head and shoulders above distaffers and most males around one turn it was dispelled here. She wasn’t far off the pace while staying out in the clear, made her patented powerful run on the turn, and while that is lethal vs. the girls, it couldn’t put away these stronger males. Still, she ran splendidly to the line and only lost because Stay Thirsty’s nose was down at the precise, required instant. A superb filly. Coil pressured Buffum from the start, was getting the better of that rival into the lane when hooked by Groupie Doll but couldn’t keep up with her and the hard-charging winner.

Gazelle (race 9)

Dance Card stamped herself a potential big-time player in the distaff division for 2013 as the she made it 4 straight wins (2nd in only other start, that to today’s foe Book Review) and notched her first graded stakes win in front-running fashion. Under red-hot Ramon Dominguez (won five on the card), who was also celebrating his birthday, she bounced right out to the lead, set solid splits and basically led her rivals on a merry chase, winning comfortably. One concern: for the second straight race she bore out significantly through the lane. She won fairly easily but still ran slower than the 2-year-old boys did in the Remsen. Sea Island, a  non-factor 6th to Dance Card in the Belle Cherie Sept. 23 but then a strong 2nd in a turf stakes Oct. 27, lagged back and finished with good energy to edge My Wandy’s Girl for 2nd. My Wandy’s Girl, the Puerto Rico superstar who won her U.S. debut here Nov. 15, did the hard work chasing the winner from the start but tired just a bit from those efforts and lost 2nd late. Book Review, a strong 2nd choice off 2 big wins and who gave Dance Card her only loss, made a mild bid turning for home but flattened out.

W. L. McKnight Handicap (race 9)

The 3-year-olds strike a blow as the only 2 sophomores in the field end up running 1-2 as Twilight Eclipse and Mucho Mas Macho upset the elders. Twilight Eclipse, coming off a 3rd in a dirt stakes at Belmont Oct. 21, had posted his only 2 wins on turf and obviously enjoyed returning to that footing. He sat 3rd while Ioya Bigtime moved out to a clear lead, came with a smart run into the lane to challenge that rival, had no trouble going on past and drew away. Mucho Mas Macho, a stakes winner on turf over 3-year-olds here Sept. 15, sat back, made his run into the lane to be just behind Twilight Eclipse but couldn’t finish with that foe. Vertiformer was last early but made steady progress throughout. He might have finished closer but had to steady late to avoid running up on Mucho Mas Macho’s heels. Ioya Bigtime, a Grade winner on turf at Kentucky Downs Sept. 15 and near-miss 2nd in another Grade 3 on grass at Keeneland Oct. 18, bounced right out to the lead, opened up a large margin down the backside, still had the lead turning for home and tried to fight back when Twilight Eclipse came to him in midstretch but then ran out of gas. Forte Dei Marmi, who came off back-to-back 3rds vs. top-class Grade 1 company at Woodbine (including some top Euros), stalked the pace but gave way badly. Apparently those tough Canadian races took their toll.

Fred W. Hooper Handicap (race 11)

Csaba and Ducduc battled to a draw in this entertaining renewal. Csaba, the overwhelming 1-5 favorite coming off a 14-length win in the Tropical Park Derby on this main track, went right out to the lead, took pressure from Two Is to Many, dispatched with that rival into the lane, opened up a clear lead and hung on tooth-and-nail to keep his share of the win with the hard-charging Ducduc. Inside was notoriously dead all day so the fact Csaba was on the rail throughout speaks to how well he ran. Ducduc came here sharp having won the Our Dear Peg Sept. 8 and running 2nd in the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Oct. 13, was in a bit tight soon after the start, got settled and bided his time in 4th, remained there to the top of the lane and doggedly set out after the winner and just got up in the final stride to get his share of the win in what was strictly a 2-horse race as they finished far clear of the rest (7 1/4 lengths). Fair Whit stalked in 3rd, tried to make a run at Csaba into the lane but was unable to do so and ran on evenly to keep the show.

Golden Rod (race 9)

Seaneen Girl did the Woodbine form proud as the daughter of Spring at Last, who’d only run on Woodbine’s Polytrack, posted the 31-1 upset. The longest-priced horse in the race, she settled midpack, crept closer on the far turn, swung outside favorite Gal About Town coming into the lane and was able to best that rival to the wire. She’ll winter at the Fair Grounds. Gal About Town, no match for Sign when 2nd to that miss in the Grade 2 Pocahontas, stalked the pace while staying wide, moved up smartly into the lane, was immediately tackled by Seaneen Girl and only grudgingly gave way in the final yards. Liberated, a rallying maiden winner here Oct. 28, was last early, swung very wide into the lane and finished with good energy. This result certainly gives credence to those who saw an outside bias today as all 3 broke from the outside posts (8, 9, 7). Broken Spell was a bit slow into stride and never mustered a run.

Kentucky Jockey Club (race 11)

A stirring renewal, and one that may well have big implications for the first Saturday in May. Uncaptured looked super romping in the Grade 2 Iroquois last and validated that run with a game effort here. The son of Lion Heart (2nd to Smarty Jones in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby) showed more speed to hound pacesetter Track Rocket, moved up to grab the lead on the turn, was immediately tackled by Frac Daddy, appeared in trouble when that foe took the lead in midstretch but rerallied along the inside to edge that stubborn rival. As strong as this race looked its worth noting they ran a smidge slower than the girls did in the Golden Rod about an hour earlier. Frac Daddy, coming off a big maiden win, ran splendidly. He broke slowly but had the speed to stalk in 3rd, just behind Uncaptured. He moved with that rival into the lane, took the lead in midstretch but couldn’t quite outduel that tough foe. Dewey Square, the much-ballyhooed son of Bernardini from the ever-strong Romans barn who easily won his first 2 starts, was just behind the top 2 from the start, lost some ground as he pitched wide into the lane but got going smartly once straightened away to finish well. He’ll be heard from. Positively, 2nd to Uncaptured in the Iroquois, showed a bit of speed, took back but never mustered a run.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Generous (race 5)

Den’s Legacy showed he’s the real deal. A winner on synthetic and already twice stakes placed on turf, the son of Medaglia d’Oro notched his first stakes win and showed he loves the grass. He sat 4th from the start, bided his time while saving ground, waited for room, found a seam into the lane, shot through to take the lead and held off hard-charging Euro raider Rising Legend. The latter broke slowly, sat last early, was still well back going to the far turn, still had a lot to do turning foe home but finished full of a run in a most encouraging effort. Shining Copper, making his first start as a gelding, was reluctant to load. Once they got him into the gate he broke decently sat midpack much of the way and kept on well for 3rd, even if he never really looked the winner. Under Review, who showed talent on turf at Arlington earlier in the fall, was slow into stride and never really mustered a run. This may have been too much too soon for a horse coming off a layoff and who is a maiden winner only.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Miesque (race 9)

More proof of how pace makes the race. Travesura, an outsider who easily won her only turf start, vs. maidens at Santa Anita Oct. 7, took full advantage of a soft pace to post the upset. The daughter of Limehouse broke alertly and went right to the lead. She was able to get away with murder up front (24.61, 49.24, 1:13.48) leaving her more than enough gas in the tank to keep a couple hard-charging rivals at bay in the final furlong. Pussycat Lips, an Irish invader, lagged back and finished strongly between horses. Flashy Ways likewise bided her time and finished with good energy. Premier Steps, the French import who was hammered down to 4-5 favoritism, got bumped and squeezed back at the start and never really got going in a disappointing effort.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

River City Handicap (race 10)

Keep Up posted a huge upset (30-1) and capped off a fabulous couple days for rider Miguel Mena (also won Saturday’s Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club). Out of Grade 1-winning mare Keeper Hill, the 5-year-old seems to have found himself. He won his first 2 starts on grass this fall and handled this huge step up in class. He broke very slowly from a far outside post, was content to lag well back, remained there to the far turn, swung very wide into the lane and blasted home. He’s now a perfect 3 for 3 on turf and is off to the Fair Ground. He’s shown versatility, too. Boisterous, the heavy favorite after back-to-back graded stakes wins in NY, sat midpack early while saving ground, steadily advanced, moved smartly to the lead in midstretch and looked the winner – until Keep Up came roaring past. Still, a nice run and another strong campaign. Skyring, a 3-year-old facing elders, chased pacesetter Global Power, moved up with Boisterous to challenge into the lane, stayed right near that rival but like Boisterous couldn’t fend off the winner’s big charge. Optimizer sat back with the winner, was trying to make his run in the lane but couldn’t find a clear path. He would have been much closer.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Matriarch (race 5)

Better Lucky took advantage of a bad trip for favorite Dayatthespa and showed her own quality, posting a 35-1 upset. She stalked early in 4th though she had to steady while in traffic, moved up to be 3rd down the backside behind pacesetter Summer Soiree, moved up strongly in the lane to reel in that rival and edged clear. Tiz Flirtatious, another longshot, had to steady sharply when the field bunched up on the far turn to lose position, lagged back and finished smartly to get 2nd. Summer Soiree, as she did last year, bounced out to a clear lead but weakened once headed by the winner. Dayatthespa, the favorite off 5 straight wins, lost all chance when she was in tight on the first turn and appeared to try and hurdle the inner rail, losing her action, nearly losing her rider. It’s to her credit that she got going again well enough to finish 5th. Emulous, the highly regarded Euro raider, lagged back but never mustered a run.

Betfair Hollywood Park
Hollywood Derby (race 9)

Unbridled Command proved he’s the real deal as he notched his 5th straight win. Coming off a laugher over NY-breds in the Mohawk at Belmont Oct. 20, he had something to prove class-wise. Well, he proved it. The son of Master Command was away slowly, sat well back early, made a powerful wide sweeping run to circle the field, continued this terrific acceleration to surge to a clear lead by midstretch and while they closed the gap he was never really in any danger. Grandeur, smart winner of the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita Nov. 2 in his first U.S. start, validated that form as the son of Verglas lagged well back from the start, sitting last of 14, was still there going to the far turn finished full of run. He just couldn’t get to the winner. Lucky Chappy likewise was far back early and finished strongly. Rjwa, the lone filly in the race, lagged back, was making her move into the lane, had to steady but got going again to finish decently. Summer Front was slow into stride while staying outside, had to steady turning for home and made minimal headway. Golden Ticket, the Grade 1 Travers winner (in a DH) trying turf for the first time, pressured pacesetters My Best Brother and Handsome Mike and gave way. Speaking of Which, 2nd to Grandeur in the Twilight Derby, sat midpack while seemingly in a good spot but was in tight, had to check turning for home and gave it up after that.