03/04/2013 10:42AM

Trip Notes: Gotham Stakes, Santa Anita Handicap, and more


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Top Flight Handicap (race 7)

Summer Applause bounced back to the form that made her one of the favorites for last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. After that run she was sidelined due to injury (knee chip) and didn’t return until Jan. 26 at Sam Houston when she blew the start, had her saddle slip and her rider lose his irons to lose all chance. There were no such miscues today as she broke well to get a nice stalking trip, went eagerly after the leaders into the lane, surged to the lead, drew clear and was never really in danger thereafter. Now that she’s back in form that opens up all sorts of options for trainer Chad Brown. Twice the Lady, coming off an easy win in the Affectionately here Jan. 26, bided her time while not far behind the winner, made her run in tandem with that foe but was always a couple lengths behind and couldn’t make up the needed ground. Still, not a bad run at all. Sunny Desert stalked the pace, got shuffled back going down the backside, was very wide turning for home and finished with good energy. Sisterly Love chased pacesetter Natalie Victoria, took over turning for home from that tiring rival but then had little to offer in the lane.

Tom Fool Handicap (race 9)

Comma to the Top showed the courage that made him a gritty graded stakes winner out West. Shipping east just a week after running a strong 3rd in the Grade 2 San Carlos at Santa Anita, he validated the SoCal sprint form here. He went right out to the lead, was taken on by Head Heart Hoof into the lane, rebuffed that challenge, looked beaten when Saturday’s Charm came to him in the lane but showed a ton of courage to snatch the victory. The top level may be a bit too much for him but in the right spot he can certainly do damage. Even so, the Grade 1 Carter here April 6 is probably tempting. Saturday’s Charm, coming off a romping optional claimer win here Feb. 1, showed he’s indeed in top form as he broke slowly, bided his time at the back, steadily advanced to the top of the lane and doggedly went after the winner only to just miss in a fine try. Head Heart Hoof, winner of his last 2 including the Grade 3 Toboggan, chased the winner from the start, moved up to challenge him into the lane but couldn’t quite keep pace in the final furlong. Smash stalked the pace while wide and never mustered a run. Johannesburg Smile stumbled at the start, bided his time at the back but never got involved in a disappointing effort.

Gotham (race 10)

Vyjack answered questions about his versatility, class and distance as he stormed to an impressive win and right onto many a handicapper’s list of main Derby protagonists. He came into this unbeaten in 3 starts, having used his speed in each. This time, however, he got away slowly to be well back. No matter. He lagged back, swung very wide turning for home, still seemed in deep water when straightened away but powered through the final furlong to actually win quite handily. Good as he looked there is some question about the quality of his opposition, but that ain’t his fault. The Grade 1 Wood here April 6 might be next. West Hills Giant, 3rd in the Java Gold, added blinkers and handled the step up in class as he went right to the lead from his outside post (though that move bunched up the field to his inside, forcing a number of riders to check and steady), took pressure from Transparant, got rid of that foe into the lane, tried to battle back when hooked by the winner and while no match for him gamely held 2nd while racing a bit greenly. He had to survive an inquiry for his move to the inside going into the first turn. Elnaawi, a big maiden winner here Jan. 12, got squeezed back going into the first turn, moved to the outside for clear sailing down the backstretch and edged closer, commenced a nice run on the far turn, was alongside the winner when straightened away, was no match for that rival but kept on nicely. Those 2 could to try Vyjack again in the Wood. Overanalyze, the favorite who was making his first start of the year after last being so game winning the Grade 2 Remsen here, broke well to stalk the pace from his outside post but was basically one-paced thereafter.

Herecomesthebride (race 9)

Kitten’s Point couldn’t handle Coffee Clique when 2nd to that foe here Feb. 2, but she gained revenge on that rival and then some to notch her first stakes win. She was already Grade 3-placed at 2 and showed talent when rallying smartly for 2nd in that Feb. 2 optional claimer here. She showed more speed this time as she sat 2nd just behind pacesetter I O Ireland, took over into the lane when that miss tired and gamely held off a very unlucky Tokyo Time. The latter got bumped hard at the start, still had the speed to be just behind Kitten’s Point early, got shuffled back to last turning for home and looked done but she found another gear and some room and finished strongly to just miss. Fine try. Tuttipaesi, the favorite after coming from Europe and easily winning a stakes here Jan. 1, sat 4th early, made a threatening move into the lane but couldn’t sustain it. Coffee Clique, a winner of 2 of her first 3, lagged back early and never mustered a run.

Swale (race 10)

Clearly Now, a non-factor 3rd in the Grade 3 Holy Bull (beaten 13 1/2 lengths), fully flattered that form as he returned to what may be his best game – sprinting – and proved a smart winner. He lagged back early, put in a smart sustained run while wide on the far turn, swept to the lead and was edging away at the line. Nice as this was, you still get the feeling that if you ran this race 10 times you might have 4 of 5 different winners. They haven’t given up on him going long, either, as his trainer Brian Lynch said the Grade 1 Florida Derby March 30 could be next. Singanothersong, who set the pace before fizzling to 6th in the Grade 2 Hutcheson, bounced back nicely as he again showed his speed to duel early with Tulira Castle, put that rival away into the lane, tried to battle back when hooked by the winner and while unable to fend off that rival gamely just held 2nd. Undrafted, coming off a sharp 3rd in the Grade 2 Hutcheson, validated that run as he sat midpack and kept to his task well. Forty Tales, the favorite off a strong 2nd in the Grade 2 Hutcheson when encountering ample trouble, lagged back early, swung very wide on the far turn and made only minimal headway.

Santa Anita
Las Virgenes (race 6)

Beholder, who was upset in her seasonal debut when 2nd in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, bounced back to form. She was found to have a throat ulcer after the Santa Ynez but trainer Richard Mandella reported all was well as she was entered here and she validated his confidence. As usual it was her speed that was the decider as she bounced right out to a clear lead while being chased by Fiftyshadesofhay, was able to set slow early splits (23.78, 47.55) which left her plenty in the tank and she bounded away on the turn and through the lane to win easily while under just a hand ride. The Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks here April 6 figures next. Still, good as she is you have to wonder if she’s a legit Kentucky Oaks filly as her pedigree and style make her a tad suspicious at anything beyond 1 1/16 miles. Fiftyshadesofhay, generally considered Bob Baffert’s 3rd best 3-year-old filly behind Executiveprivilege and Blonde Fog, continued her emergence and stepped in nicely for those 2 sidelined runners. She chased the winner from the start but was really no match. She figures to come back in the Oaks as well, and unlike Beholder this gal’s pedigree is more tilted toward the longer game. Scarlet Strike continues to nibble away at this level and once again sat back and kept to her task well, even if no threat. She’s probably always going to find 1 or 2 just a bit too tough at this level but can certainly do some damage in the right spot.

Santa Anita
Kilroe Mile (race 9)

Suggestive Boy, dazzling winner of the Grade 2 Arcadia here last month from a brutal post, had to use his all his courage and class to gamely prevail here, firmly establishing himself at the top of the West Coast turf miler pecking order. A multiple Group 1 winner and Horse of the Year in Argentina in 2011, he’s quite comfortable in his new surroundings. He stalked the hot pace of Vagabond Shoes and Forest Mouse, pounced on those rivals turning for home, grabbed the lead by midstretch and stayed on gamely to just beat Silentio to the line. Add his name to a super division that already includes the likes of Wise Dan, Data Link, Turallure and Jeranimo. For now, though, he’s to stay in SoCal, his next target possibly the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood June 29, a race in which he was 2nd last year. Silentio did nothing wrong. He bided his time toward the back, launched his run into the lane, was getting to the winner but just came up a nose short. Fed Biz, making his first start on turf, handled it beautifully, stalking the pace and staying on gamely just behind the top 2. Mr. Commons, was last early, started to make a move on the far turn and carried a strong run through the lane but had left himself with too much to do.

Santa Anita
Santa Anita Handicap (race 10)

His loss in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 3 notwithstanding, Game On Dude is no doubt the king of Santa Anita. The 6-year-old son of Awesome Again won the Big Cap for the 2nd time and made his record an amazing 7 for 8 here. And he did so in one of his best performances, setting a record for margin of victory. His best work has come when he’s right on or near the pace and that was the case here as he went right out to set the pace. He coasted through furlongs in 47.19, had Clubhouse Ride make a run at him on the far turn, but then kicked away from his foes and just kept extending his advantage, under a hand ride no less. He also did this despite blowing a front shoe. He’s the 4th 2-time winner of this and next may be the $1 million Charles Town Classic April 20. Clubhouse Ride sat midpack a few lengths off Game On Dude, made a run at him on the far turn but had his brief challenge rebuffed. He gamely kept on for 2nd. Called to Serve raced with Clubhouse Ride early, didn’t move as early as that foe, then had traffic troubles on the far turn but came on nicely in the lane to just miss catching Clubhouse Ride. The Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap April 13 or Grade 3 Pimlico Special May 17 may be next. Ron the Greek, the defending champ moved up alongside Called to Serve on the far turn but never got involved in what was basically just a one-horse race.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Palm Beach (race 10)

Rydilluc made it 3 romping wins in as many tries on grass as the son of Medaglia d’Oro dominated again. He dogged pacesetter Dad’z Laugh from the start, took over from that foe on the turn, opened up and didn’t have to draw a deep breath thereafter, winning clear and doing so geared down. Not only is he obviously a potential Grade 1 Secretariat type, but based on the power of this win and a pedigree that says dirt is no problem, he may have launched himself onto the Derby trail, and trainer Gary Contessa mentioned the Spiral or Blue Grass as his next race. Charming Kitten sat midpack, came with a steady run and while never really a threat to the winner stayed on well for 2nd. He’s the real deal on turf and the way the Kitten’s Joys love synthetic he could still pop up in a race like the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland next month. Reporting Star was just behind the winner much of the way, was no match for that foe turning for home but stayed on decently. Dewey Square stalked in 4th, had to steady going into the far turn to lose position but was unable to get going thereafter. After a dull run in the Grade 3 Holy Bull and now this, he may simply not be as good as originally thought.