11/28/2011 11:11AM

Trip Notes: Clark Handicap, Cigar Mile replays

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Friday, November 25

Aqueduct
Go for Wand Handicap, Race 9

The scratch of Arena Elvira (who instead won the Grade 2 Falls City at Churchill Nov. 24) left a field without a graded stakes winner and Lovely Lil was able to take advantage. She broke alertly to duel with favorite All Due Respect, held a narrow advantage while being dogged by that rival to the far turn, was able to rebuff a challenge from that foe into the lane, edged clear and kept to her task nicely for the win. All Due Respect broke very sharply, relinquished the pacesetting duties to the winner but only narrowly while hounding that rival, tried to make a run at her into the lane but just couldn’t get to her. Still, not a bad run at all for her first start in nearly seven months. C C’s Pal lagged back and finished well though she was never really a factor. Katy Now stalked the pace but never mustered the necessary rally.

Churchill
Clark Handicap, Race 11

Wise Dan backed up his big Grade 2 Fayette win with another strong performance to notch his first Grade 1 win. The versatile son of Wiseman’s Ferry stalked the pace of Will’s Wildcat, surged to the lead into the lane and powered clear to win easily. He’s now a Grade 2 winner on synthetic, Grade 1 winner on dirt and Grade 2 winner on turf. Mission Impazible was just in front of the winner from the start, tried to go with that rival into the lane, was no match for that foe but kept to his task well to be a clear 2nd. Flat Out lagged back as usual, came with a steady run but never once looked as though he might win. Ruler on Ice, the Grade 1 Belmont winner, lagged back but could make only modest headway. Prayer for Relief, who missed the Grade 1 BC Classic when ill, sat midpack, made a mild move on the turn but then gave way in a disappointing run. General Quarters lagged back but retreated from there to finish last and appears only a shell of his former self.

Hollywood
Matriarch, Race 9

Star Billing was a rallying 2nd to Summer Soiree in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks but got her revenge and notched her first Grade 1 win here. She bided her time while Summer Soiree was a clear leader through a brisk pace, gamely went after that rival into the lane, engaged her while hugging the rail, and edged away in the final yards for the win. This could be a nice rivalry brewing and with the likes of these two, Zagora, Winter Memories, Hungry Island, Nereid and Marketing Mix, the turf distaff division holds a lot of promise for 2012. Summer Soiree did everything right in defeat. She broke very sharply, kicked right out to a clear lead, set solid splits while still clear, saw the field close the gap on the turn but spurted away again into the lane. She was tackled by the eventual winner in midstretch, battled gamely but just couldn’t quite stay with that rival in the final yards in a fine effort. Those 2 will be freshened with an eye on a spring return. Never Retreat stalked in 4th, kept to her task but was unable to get to make a dent when it mattered. She ran on for 3rd but was never really a threat in her career finale. Unbridled Humor stalked the pace, looked dangerous into the lane but couldn’t sustain her bid. Gypsy’s Warning, the defending champ, lagged back but never made a run. She may be off to the breeding shed. Up in Time was at the back of the pack from the start, clipped heels and veered out sharply on the far turn, losing her rider.

Saturday, November 26

Aqueduct
Demoiselle, Race 6

Disposablepleasure only narrowly prevailed but the margin in no way tells the story as she showed considerable heart to overcome a brutal trip. She stumbled terribly at the start, nearly losing her rider. She was able to gather herself at the back of the field. She steadily advanced while saving ground but then had to steady hard as the field tightened up on the far turn. She had to wait for room, finally found some into the lane, doggedly went after leader Wildcat’s Smile and was just able to get the nod. It was a terrific effort, and she also had to survive a claim of foul as another rider blamed her for the fracas on the far turn. She did grab a quarter but trainer Pletcher said it isn’t serious. Wildcat’s Smile stalked the pace, made a smart run to take the lead into the lane, battled back gamely when hooked by the winner but just missed in a find try. Bourbonstreetgirl lagged back, came with a wide run on the far turn, seemed to get pushed even wider by the eventual winner, but kept on well to get 3rd though she was never really a threat to the top 2. Wee Party set the pace but weakened a bit once headed.

Aqueduct
Remsen, Race 7

O’Prado Again, a $350K son of El Prado, broke his maiden on Keeneland’s synthetic track but proved here he could handle dirt as well as the significant step up in class. He bided his time early, made an early move to be in stalking position down the backside, was content to stalk in 3rd, doggedly went after pacesetter Souper Speedy in the lane and was able to wear down that foe and edge past. His breeding and versatility in terms of footing may stamp him a 3-year-old to watch in 2012. Souper Speedy, coming off a game maiden win, went right out to the lead but was under constant pressure from Our Entourage. He maintained the narrow lead, got rid of Our Entourage in deep stretch but couldn’t fend off the winner and just held 2nd. El Padrino, smashing maiden winner at Belmont Oct. 29, stalked the pace and came with a nice run but just wasn’t quite good enough. Managed Account, who won the Toccet here Nov. 6, stumbled and got bumped at the start to be toward the back of the pack and never made a move.

Aqueduct
Cigar Mile Handicap, Race 8

To Honor and Serve validated his trainer’s judgment to go in this race after running 7th in the Grade 1 BC Classic just a few weeks ago. He went right out to contest the pace with Calibrachoa, pressed that rival through brisk splits, got the better of him in the final furlong and edged away while keeping hard-trying closer Hymn Book at bay. This guy could be in line for a big 2012. Hymn Book showed he may well belong with some of the top runners as the son of Arch sat last from the start, swung wide into the lane and powered home and while unable really frighten the winner finished well clear of the rest. He’s off to Florida to start his 2012 campaign. Calibrachoa set the pace under heavy pressure from the winner, couldn’t keep up with that rival when challenged and then weakened a bit. Haynesfield stalked the pace, looked dangerous briefly turning for home but came up empty.

Aqueduct
Gazelle, Race 9

Awesome Feather, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2010 who only recently returned from serious injury, showed she’s as good as or even better than ever, running her mark to 8 for 8 with a dominant performance. She chased pacesetter Love and Pride from the start, went after that foe into the lane, had no trouble going past, drew away and didn’t have a nervous moment thereafter. Draw It sat midpack, came with a steady run and while never able to scare the winner kept to her task to just get up for 2nd. Love and Pride set the pace under constant pressure from the winner, was no match for that foe but kept on gamely to just miss 2nd. R Gypsy Gold was a bit slow into stride and never made a move. Savvy Supreme seemed to be in a great spot stalking the pace but gave way badly as if something may have gone awry.

Churchill
Golden Rod, Race 9

On Fire Baby, winner of the Grade 2 Pocahontas, the traditional prep for this race, validated her form and then some as she made it 3 wins in 4 starts with an impressive tally. The daughter of Smoke Glacken won the Pocahontas from well off the pace but here she broke alertly, went right out to the lead, took some pressure from Jamraa but was still able to set modest splits, and then blew the race open with a strong move into the lane to open up and win easily. She’s bred primarily to go short on both sides so you wonder if this is the outside of her distance capabilities, though she sure ran as though more ground would be just fine. Goldrush Girl, coming off a game maiden win on Keeneland’s Polytrack, showed she could handle dirt as she was well back early but steadily advanced. She made a nice run into the lane though by then the winner was long gone. Back Spin, who rallied from far back to break her maiden here Oct. 30, showed promise as well as she lagged back, was still last on the far turn but finished with interest. Customer Base, seemed in a good spot stalking in 3rd to the top of the lane but gave way.

Churchill
Kentucky Jockey Club, Race 11

Gemologist, so promising when winning his first 2 starts, showed he is indeed a horse to take seriously for the classics trail. He showed he’s not just a one-dimensional speed horse, too. He stalked the pace in 3rd, bided his time, went after the lead into the lane, took over and edged clear. He may take an identical path as the same owner’s Super Saver, who won this in 2009 on his way to winning the Kentucky Derby in 2010. Ever So Lucky likewise showed he’s the real deal. He broke sharply to take the early lead, relinquished the lead to Seve, took over again going to the far turn, was immediately confronted by the winner, gamely battled back but just couldn’t keep up in the final half-furlong. Considering this was just his 2nd start there remains plenty of upside. Timely Tally, 2nd to Gemologist here Oct. 30, lagged back as usual, started a run on the far turn but ran up into a wall of tiring horses, had to steady briefly, then swung very wide into the lane while still last and finished strongly. He is one to watch as well. Optimizer sat back, came with a threatening run to be just behind the leaders turning for home, stayed on gamely but just couldn’t get to them.

Calder
William H. McKnight Handicap, Race 10

Musketier was in too deep in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine Oct. 16 so the 9-year-old appreciated the class drop and got back on the winning track. He stalked the pace while saving ground, slipped through along the hedge into the lane to take command and persevered gamely to the wire to keep a couple closers at bay. Simmard, who also found the Grade 1 Canadian International waters too deep and was well behind Musketier that day, improved considerably as well. He finished 5th in this race last year but this year sat back early, moved up nicely going to the far turn to be just behind Musketier, moved wide into the lane to challenge while Musketier rode the hedge to make his move, kept to his task gamely but just couldn’t quite get to the winner. Winchester, the multiple Grade 1 winner who was favored, lagged back and came with a decent rally but never really looked a threat to win it. Center Divider sat midpack and could make only modest headway.

Hollywood
Citation, Race 9

Jeranimo, who ran so big to win the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile before prompting the pace and fading in the Grade 1 BC Mile, got back to waiting tactics and back to top form with a powerful victory. The son of Congaree bided his time in 6th, swung wide into the lane and blasted past his rivals to win easily. He’ll get a break now. War Element was just behind the winner early while wide, moved up to press the pace going down the backside while still racing wide, stayed on gamely but was no match for the winner. It was a fine run for this relatively inexperienced horse and he may have a bright future and since he’s not as push-button as the winner and more one-paced he may prefer more ground. Calimonco stalked the pace, moved to the lead into the lane but couldn’t sustain his run. Bob Black Jack, making his first start on turf and just his 2nd start in over 21 months, set the pace, tried to battle back when hooked but weakened in the lane, took a bad step nearing the wire and had to be vanned off, reportedly suffering a career-ending suspensory injury to his left fore.

Sunday, November 27

Hollywood
Hollywood Derby, Race 9

Ultimate Eagle made it a big weekend for trainer Mike Pender, who also saddled Jeranimo to a strong win in the Grade 2 Citation Saturday, and proved he’s the real deal since adding blinkers and moving to turf. Coming off a 34-1 win in the Oak Tree Derby, he was sent off at 14-1 and as in the Oak Tree Derby speed was his primary weapon. Just as in that race he bounced right out to the lead, was able to dictate the pace and gamely played keep-away all the way around. He looks ready to be a major player in the turf distance set out West. Imagining chased the winner from the start, doggedly kept after him all the way around but couldn’t get to him. Western Aristocrat lagged back and came with a solid, steady run but never looked as though he would win. Venomous, 2nd to Ultimate Eagle in the Oak Tree Derby, sat back, made a nice run along the inside but it wasn’t enough. Could be he wants shorter. Willcox Inn, the slight favorite off a Grade 2 and Grade 3 turf wins in Illinois, was last early and never got involved. Surrey Star stalked the pace but gave way badly and was vanned off with a soft tissue injury to the right fore. Cloud Man was midpack and broke down going to the far turn, suffering a fractured cannon bone and pastern to the left fore. He was later euthanized because of the severity of his injuries.