08/06/2012 10:34AM

Trip Notes: Whitney Handicap, West Virginia Derby, Clement L. Hirsch and more

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Aug. 4

Saratoga
Prioress (race 9)

Emma’s Encore showed her 39-1 upset in the Grade 3 Victory Ride no fluke as she indeed provided an encore by capturing this race over some of those same rivals. She broke slowly from her rail slot to be last early, remained there to the far turn, commenced her run there and kept on doggedly to get up in the final strides. Can’t claim this was merely a love of Saratoga as her Victory Ride win came at Belmont. She provided yet another upset for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens. Judy the Beauty stalked the pace of heavy fave Agave Kiss, went after that rival into the lane, got the better of her late and seemed on her way to victory before just getting nailed. Agave Kiss went right out to the lead, was still clear and looking scary to midstretch but weakened in the final half-furlong. This filly was among the division’s best just a couple months ago but 2 successive fade jobs have you wondering if she’s over the top.

Saratoga
Whitney (race 10)

The handicap division remains a game of musical chairs as Fort Larned’s smart win meant yet another different winner in yet another Grade 1 for handicap horses. The son of E Dubai has really blossomed and must rank among the division elite off this. He showed his customary speed to stalk pacesetter Endorsement from 3rd, blew the race open into the lane as he surged to the lead and well clear, and was simply hand ridden to the line. Though the gap narrowed, the issue was never in doubt. Ron the Greek, a 2-time Grade 1 winner this year, was last early, still there down the backstretch, pitched wide into the far turn to start his run, swung wider still into the lane and finished strongly, though the issue had already been determined. Flat Out likewise sat back and finished well. Hymn Book sat midpack, started a decent run turning for home but couldn’t sustain it.

Mountaineer
West Virginia Derby (race 8)

Macho Macho, an allowance winner and Grade 3 placed, ran the race of his life to notch his first graded win and put a major dent in the big late-summer/fall plans of heavy favorite Hansen. Macho Macho sat 3rd well of the pace battle of Hansen and Hero of Order, steadily moved closer to that pair going to the far turn, moved up to challenge into the lane, got rid of Hansen and then battled gamely to fend off Bourbon Courage. Bourbon Courage sat midpack, came with a smart run through the lane but just couldn’t get to the winner. Called to Serve sat 4th, pitched wide into the lane and finished well. Hansen dueled with Hero of Order, got rid of that rival into the lane but the damage was done as he weakened. It seems evident he’s not as effective beyond 1 1/16 miles, at least against top company.

Del Mar
Clement L. Hirsch (race 8)

Include Me Out bounced back to top form. After 3 straight graded stakes wins this year she opened up a big lead, idled and lost the Grade 1 Vanity at Hollywood June 16. However, she got back on track here as she bided her time early, steadily advanced, made a smart run to the lead in midstretch and gamely held off a hard-charging Star Billing for the win. Star Billing, making her first start on anything other than turf, lagged back early and finished smartly but just ran out of ground. Amani, a monster in her native Chile, was last early, remained well back turning for home but finished strongly for 3rd. This was a most encouraging first run considering it was not only her first run in the U.S. but it was her first run since Dec. 17, first on synthetic and came vs. a tough bunch. She can be a factor in the division in the future. Switch stalked the early pace, took over down the backside, was still clear on the far turn but weakened. At this stage of the game she appears better suited to sprinting.

Aug. 5

Saratoga
Alfred G. Vanderbilt (race 10)

Poseidon’s Warrior loved the sloppy going as he posted a big upset while notching his first graded win, a Grade 1 at that. He stalked the pace of Emcee while sitting in the clear, and kept to his task doggedly to win a 3-horse blanket photo. Justin Phillip was just behind the winner much of the way, came home smartly but just couldn’t quite get to Poseidon’s Warrior. Emcee bounced out to set a brisk pace, was under constant pressure but stayed on gamely. Shackleford, the heavy favorite, pressed the pace but gave way badly. You could say he hated the mud but there’s also the distinct possibility that 6 furlongs is just too sharp for him, even if he does have classy speed.

Del Mar
Best Pal (race 8)

Much-ballyhooed firster Know More showed he may be the real deal as the son of Lion Heart, debuting in a Grade 2, backed up trainer Doug O’Neill’s confidence with a big win. He handled himself like a pro, biding his time early, staying wide and in the clear, and finished strongly to get up for the score. From here the next logical spot is the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity Sept. 5. The girls more than held their own as fillies Heir Kitty and Miss Empire ran 2nd and 3rd. The former stalked the pace of Amarish, got the lead in deep stretch but couldn’t fend off the winner, while the latter sat last, stayed there to the top of the lane and finished with good energy, though she was never really a threat. Scherer Magic, impressive winner of the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile, sat back but made minimal headway. Amarish, the division leader earlier this spring with 2 big wins, set the pace but gave way readily for a 2nd straight race.