10/01/2012 9:13AM

Trip Notes: Jockey Club Gold Cup, Zenyatta, Rodeo Drive, and more

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Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012

Belmont
Beldame (race 5)

Awesome Feather and My Miss Aurelia may both be unbeaten and both are champions, but this race left little doubt that regardless of their status the one to beat in the BC Ladies’ Classic is Royal Delta. Coming off a subpar run in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign (2nd) last year’s 3-year-old filly champ was back to her best, posting a dominating victory. She dogged pacesetter It’s Tricky from the start, moved up to challenge that rival turning for home and while briefly it looked as though there might be a grand duel Royal Delta blew those thoughts – and It’s Tricky – out of the water with a powerful final quarter, drawing off to win in a romp. The other good news to come out of this is that they intend to race her in 2013 as a 5-year-old, and maybe then take a swing at the boys in the Grade 1 BC Classic, a la Zenyatta, Havre de Grace. It’s Tricky went right to the lead, set a solid pace, tried to battle back when Royal Delta came to her on the turn but was no match. Go Unbridled sat last early, was still last into the lane and plugged along to get 3rd though she was never a factor.

Belmont
Kelso (race 6)

Jersey Town, winner of the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in 2010 but winless since, picked a good day to get back to top form as he posted a mile upset and punched his ticket to Santa Anita, most likely for the BC Dirt Mile. He stalked the pace in 4th early, steadily advanced, surged past Shackleford into the lane and opened up to win quite comfortably despite drifting out the last furlong. Shackleford set the pace under pressure from a couple rivals, tried to battle back when Jersey Town came to him but was no match for that foe. Trickmeister dogged Shackleford from the start, gamely kept to his task but just wasn’t good enough. To Honor and Serve, the favorite, got bumped at the start to get away slowly, still seemed in a god stalking position going down the backside but never mustered a run in a disappointing effort. Mott said the BC Classic is still in the plans.

Belmont
Vosburgh (race 7)

The Lumber Guy struck a blow for the 3-year-old as the Grade 2 Jerome winner, making his first start since fading to 6th in the Grade 2 Peter Pan here May 12, came back firing. He stalked the pace of Poseidon’s Warrior and Little Drama, went after those foes into the lane, surged to the lead late and had more than enough of a buffer to keep tough elder Caixa Eletronica at bay. Caixa Eletronica was slow into stride, as is his custom, bided his time early, steadily advanced, came home with good energy but never really appeared a threat to get to the winner. Poseidon’s Warrior and Little Drama dueled from the start and while unable to finish with the top 2 stayed on for 3rd and 4th, respectively. Sean Avery, who won a stakes here Sept. 8 after 13 months off, seemed in a good spot stalking in 4th early but never mustered a run. Royal Currier threw a fit in the gate and was scratched.

Belmont
Flower Bowl (race 8)

Nahrain, 2nd in last year’s Grade 1 BC F&M Turf at Santa Anita, showed she’s ready for another go at that big prize with a game tally here in a blanket finish. The Euro raider, who hadn’t looked nearly as sharp in 3 starts overseas this year, bided her time off a very slow pace, moved up smartly to reach contention into the lane, surged through between horses with gusto and prevailed gamely as 4 gals finished within a length at the finish. This race was run Euro style (slow early, fast late) and she took full advantage. She did have to withstand a claim of foul as the rider of Dream Peace lodged a complaint against her for some bumping into the lane but the result was allowed to stand. You get the feeling that if you ran this race 10 times you’d get 5 different winners. Zagora stalked the very slow pace of Hit It Rich, made an early run to the lead, was given her head turning for home, took command into the lane, spurted clear but couldn’t quite fend off the winner. Dream Peace sat back off the slow pace, kicked wide into the lane and finished well. With a better pace picture she might have been the winner. I’m a Dreamer, like the winner a top Euro import, was last from the start, still there turning for home, finished strongly but like Dream Peace saw a race shape that worked against her as she left herself with too much to do.

Belmont
Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (race 9)

Point of Entry left no doubt he’s the U.S.’s top hope for the BC Turf as he put up another stellar performance. The son of Dynaformer made it 5 straight and his 3rd straight Grade 1 as he stalked the pace Arlington Million winner Little Mike early, then of Euro Grade 1/Group I winner Treasure Beach. He hounded Treasure Beach to the top of the lane, pitched out wide, rolled past that rival and won going away. Treasure Beach pressed Little Mike early, took over when that rival quickly relinquished the lead, was able to set dawdling splits but couldn’t match the winner in the lane. Kindergarden Kid was just behind the top 2 early after stumbling at the start, cut the corner into the lane to try to make headway, plugged along well for 3rd but was really no threat. Little Mike, the 2nd choice off that big Arlington Million win, set the early pace but retreated early in a disappointing effort. It wasn’t the distance; he gave way very early. Maybe the course was far too soft for him.

Belmont
JC Gold Cup (race 10)

The handicap division out East has been a chase of musical chairs all year and this renewal did little to sort things out and establish a clear leader from this region for the BC Classic. Flat Out, winner of this race last year but winless since, made it 3 for 3 at Belmont with a game  effort. Coming off a good 3rd in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga to hint he was back to top form, he showed a bit more speed to sit midpack early, steadily advanced to the top of the lane, doggedly went after pacesetter Stay Thirsty and wore that rival down in the final strides to get the narrow decision. Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Grade 1 Travers winner but disappointing this year with just one 2nd from 3 starts, tried different tactics, going right out to set the pace. He bounced right out to the lead, set solid splits, gamely battled back when hooked by the winner and just dropped a narrow decision while much the best of the rest. Great ride by Dominguez – it just fell a head short. Fort Larned stalked the pace, made a threatening run into the lane but couldn’t sustain it. Ron the Greek lagged back as usual but never mustered his customary rally.

Santa Anita
Chandelier (race 6)

If there was any doubt before, there was no doubt after – Executiveprivilege is head-and-shoulders the best 2-year-old filly out West. The $650K daughter of First Samurai made it 5 wins in as many starts and showed more versatility. She’d won before from well back and from just off the pace but this time rider Bejarano (who luckily escaped injury in a spill Friday) was clever enough to put her right on the lead as he saw a track favoring speed and not much other zip signed up once main threat Beholder. She was able to set modest splits while under modest pressure, began to open up on the turn and increased her from there to win in a romp. Scarlet Strike, making her stakes debut, lagged back and finished smartly for 2nd, though she was never on the winner’s radar. Miss Empire showed much more speed than usual to pressure the winner early, couldn’t keep pace when it mattered, couldn’t finish with Scarlet Strike but finished far clear of the rest.

Santa Anita
FrontRunner (race 7)

Trainer Baffert may have lost Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity winner Rolling Fog to injury but may have found a capable replacement as maiden Power Broker, making his first start on dirt after finishing 2nd in a turf route stakes at Del Mar, posted a powerful victory. The $360K son of Pulpit, still a maiden coming into this, stalked the pace of stablemate Carving while 3rd, remained there to the top of the lane, surged to the lead and blasted clear to win easily. His time was a half-second faster than stablemate Executiveprivilege ran while winning the Chandelier about 20 minutes prior. That gave Baffert/Bejarano a sweep of the 2 2-year-old stakes here this day. Know More, the favorite, dogged Carving from the start, moved up with Power Broker turning for home as it appeared a 2-horse duel was in store, but was then no match for the winner while gamely holding 2nd. Capo Bastone got away poorly to be last early, was still well back turning for home but finished well.

Santa Anita
Zenyatta (race 8)

Love and Pride, who led all the way to upset Royal Delta in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga Aug. 26, showed the power of speed again, particularly on a speed-favoring track as like Executiveprivilege she took command early and never looked back. She set a modest pace while taking some pressure from Via Villaggio, kicked away into the lane and was never threatened. Joyful Victory stalked in 3rd, made a run at the winner turning for home, gamely kept up the chase though she was no match for that foe. The 2 invaders finishing 1-2 doesn’t speak well for the strength of the West Coast distaff set now, does it? Include Me Out sat well back early, steadily advanced, came into the lane with good energy and rallied but was never really a threat. The track profile didn’t help her. Amani, the favorite, was well back early, still well back turning for home and made only modest headway. She might be a smidge overrated, though in fairness with her style she really had no chance the way the track was playing today.

Santa Anita
Rodeo Drive (race 9)

Marketing Mix stamped herself a player for the Grade 1 BC F&M Turf with an easy victory. This gal has all sorts of class and versatility and on firm turf she loved she sat midpack while Let’s Go Cheyenne and Vivo Per Lei shot out to set a hot pace while well in front, moved up smartly on the far turn to reel in the tiring pacesetters, surged to the lead and drew off to win with authority. Nereid sat well back from the start, remained well back turning for home but finished strongly, though by the time she got on the scene the winner was long gone. Stormy Lucy likewise sat back with Nereid, didn’t accelerate as quickly as that rival but came home well. Let’s Go Cheyenne set a fast pace while under heavy pressure from Vivo Per Lei and paid the price. These waters may be a smidge too deep but certainly getting that kind of early pressure killed any hopes she may have had. City to City sat back and never made a move.

Santa Anita
Awesome Again (race 10)

Game On Dude made it 5 wins in as many starts here, and with the handicap division back East being topsy-turvy likely established himself the favorite for the BC Classic to be held here next month. He chased pacesetting Northwest invader Winning Machine, blew past that rival into the lane, opened up a clear lead and was never in any danger thereafter. Nonios stalked the pace in 4th, made a run at the winner into the lane and while no threat to Game On Dude kept to his task well to prove clearly best of the best. Richard’s Kid was inexplicably last early, still last going to the far turn, finally got going and finished decently but never really got involved. Of course, his chances decreased with the way the track was playing even before his sluggish start. Suggestive Boy was in tight early while midpack and never made a run. He may be best suited with a return to turf and a shorter trip.

Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012

Belmont
Matron (race 7)

Kauai Katie dominated her first 2 starts using her speed, but the filly showed versatility here as this time she dominated while being more patient. She sat off pacesetter Baby J, made her move turning for home, took command and drew away to win easily, and she ran faster than the boys did about an hour later in the Futurity. Baby J zipped out to the lead, was no match for the winner in the lane but kept to her task well to be a clear 2nd. Seasoned Warrior stalked in 4th, moved closer turning for home but couldn’t make any further impact.

Belmont
Futurity (race 9)

Overanalyze broke slowly to be last early, remained well back to the far turn, commenced a strong run into the lane that swept him past the leaders and clear for the easy win. Visually this was smart, though the filly Kauai Katie ran faster. Carried Interest, making his first start since a smart debut win here July 5, dueled with Handsome Jack, got the better of that rival in the lane but had no answer for the winner’s rally. Weekend Hideaway stalked the pace and kept to his task decently. Handsome Jack dueled with Carried Interest but weakened a bit in the final furlong from those efforts.

Santa Anita
John Henry Turf Championship (race 9)

Slim Shadey, so strong last winter/spring before he went off form in July, came back from a freshening good as ever, and punched his ticket to the Grade 1 BC Turf with a front-running win. Now 3 for 5 on this course, he bounced right out to the lead, a bit surprising since favorite Turbo Compressor seemed most likely to carve the pace. Nonetheless, Slim Shadey went out to a long lead, saw the field cut into his margin turning for home but he gamely pressed on and kept them at bay in a fine outing. Turbo Compressor was content to let Slim Shadey go out to a clear lead while stalking in 3rd, was asked to go after that foe on the turn, cut into the gap and briefly looked threatening but try as he might he just couldn’t cut into the gap further. Interaction lagged back and finished decently though he was no threat. Bourbon Bay was slow into stride and never made a move in a disappointing run.