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Trip Notes: Woodward, Forego, Sapling, Del Mar Derby and more...
Saturday, August 31
Saratoga - Bernard Baruch (race 8)
COMMENT: Heavy overnight rains made the turf course yielding. Last year as a 3-year-old Silver Max looked like a real comer in the turf division but his form took a downturn. Well, apparently that’s a thing of the past as he looks every bit as good and in fact even better now, posting a second straight impressive graded stakes win. After romping in the Grade 3 Oceanport at Monmouth Park July 28 when leading all the way, he again used his speed here, grabbing the lead after the first quarter mile. He took pressure from Tetradrachm but rebuffed that foe, setting splits that indicated the turf was playing much faster than usual for yielding, and kicked clear to keep hard-trying Paris Vegas at bay. Paris Vegas sat third early, made a run at the winner into the lane but couldn’t get to him while much the best of the rest. Tetradrachm pressured the winner early but couldn’t keep pace in the lane. Once-classy Turallure sat fourth but never mustered a run.
Saratoga - Forego (race 9)
COMMENT: Heavy overnight rains turned the track sloppy. The result was more confusion to the sprint division. Strapping Groom, claimed for $35K just over three months ago, posted the big upset ($32.40). He went right into duel with confirmed sizzler Fast Bullet, put that rival away, drifted out some in the stretch, looked in trouble when Jackson Bend came up to his inside challenge in deep stretch, but kept on gamely to prevail. This was also nice for the connections, who lost the much-loved Saginaw to injury the day prior. Jackson Bend, winner of this in 2011 and seventh in this last year, bided his time early, steadily moved closer to the top of the lane, looked like the winner when he made a strong move inside Strapping Groom in deep stretch, but couldn’t get past him late. He was much the best of the rest, though. Justin Phillip, coming off a big win in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt here, stalked the pace, kept to his task decently but never really appeared a threat to the winner. Fast Bullet, a winner of 4 of his first 5 including the Grade True North at Belmont Park June 8 and freshened since, dueled early with the eventual winner but fell apart. He reportedly returned sore.
Saratoga - Woodward (race 10)
COMMENT: Heavy overnight rains turned the track sloppy. Key scratches were of Fort Larned (reported hind end problem; will await the Grade 1 JC Gold Cup at Belmont Park Sept. 28) and Mucho Macho Man (track condition; will go to Santa Anita for the Grade 1 Awesome Again Sept. 28). An equipment change and a horse-for-course angle added up to an upset, as Alpha showed more speed and more gumption than in the past to lead this group on a merry chase. With blinkers added, he bounced right out of the gate to the lead, set modest splits and stayed on gamely, keeping the hard-charging Flat Out at bay. That makes him 4 for 5 over this track (won last year’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers). Off this there’s no reason not to go to the Grade 1 JC Gold Cup at Belmont Park Sept. 28 – though he won’t get an uncontested lead (maybe not the lead at all) if Fort Larned and Cross Traffic show up as expected. Flat Out did nothing wrong. As usual he bided his time and produced his customary good run. He just couldn’t get to the winner. Successful Dan sat fourth, was asked for run on the inside but never really got involved. Paynter lunged at the start to hit the gate, had the speed to chase the winner but gave way badly. Maybe he hated the footing, but the other possibility is his return win was so big we got fooled into thinking he could be top-class again.
Arlington - Washington Park Handicap (race 9)
COMMENT: Willcox Inn skipped another shot at the Grade 1 Arlington Million as his connections wanted this slightly shorter trip, and the plan worked. A winner of his only prior start on this track, he showed he handles the Polytrack nicely as he bided his time early, steadily advanced to move closer, came to challenge Gallant Eagle into the lane and gamely prevailed over that foe and a hard-charging Hattaash. Gallant Eagle continued his sharp form despite moving well up in class as he bounced out to a clear lead, gamely battled back when hooked by the winner in midstretch, and just missed in a super try. He’s now 4 for 6 here (second in both losses). Hattaash, stepping well up in class after over two months off following a dull optional-claiming run, came back sharper as he was back near Willcox Inn early, didn’t accelerate as quickly but finished strongly in the final half-furlong to miss by just a nose and a neck. Agent Di Nozzo, the favorite, was slow into stride and never mustered a run.
Del Mar - Del Mar Debutante (race 9)
COMMENT: You might have thought the addition of blinkers might make an already speedy She’s a Tiger speed-crazy, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, the daughter of Tale of the Cat seemed more focused as she made it 3 wins in 4 starts and for the time stamped herself the West’s top 2-year-old filly. She hounded favored Awesome Baby from the start, kept after that gal eagerly and without being asked on the turn, took control into the lane, opened up, and ran on smartly to keep hard-charging Fascinating at bay. The Grade 1 Chandelier at Santa Anita Sept. 28 figures next. Fascinating, one of three entered by trainer Bob Baffert, was a bit sluggish early and still last going into the far turn. She found a seam to start her run, swung wide into the lane and finished with good energy. This $1.3 million daughter of Smart Strike looks headed the right way. Concave, unbeaten in her first two starts including the Grade 2 Sorrento here Aug. 7 (beating She’s a Tiger), bided her time early, made a threatening run along the inside turning for home, but couldn’t sustain it. Awesome Baby, so impressive winning her debut here Aug. 4, set a hot pace under heavy pressure from the winner while on the rail and wilted once passed. Still, it’s far too early to give up on this $220K daughter of top-class Awesome Again.
Sunday, September 1
Saratoga - Saranac (race 9)
COMMENT: Course was listed as good after more rain but certainly looked much softer. Despite the turf conditions speed has been king on this course and Woodbine shipper Five Iron, from his rail draw, took full advantage. The son of Sharp Humor bounced right out to the lead, remained clear through solid spits and really didn’t have a nervous moment at any point. That makes for a third straight front-running win, so he’s the real deal. Trainer Brian Lynch said Five Iron will likely have one more start and then be rested up for a 4-year-old campaign next year. Notacatbutallama was a bit slow into stride, came with a threatening run into the lane, but was unable to close the gap on the game winner. Joha chased the winner from the start, made a bit of a run at him turning for home but couldn’t sustain his run. Tattenham was well back early and finished decently, though he was never really a factor. Frac Daddy, coming back quickly (eight days) off a nice N1X win on the inner course Aug. 24, his first turf try, stalked but gave way. Maybe the quick return was too much for him.
Saratoga - Spinaway (race 10)
COMMENT: Main track was sloppy/sealed after more rain. Sweet Reason, a daughter of champion Street Sense, followed up her smashing debut win here Aug. 9 when she rallied from far back to dominate, notching trainer Leah Gyarmati’s first graded stakes win. She was again slow into stride but as in her debut, commenced a strong run going into the far turn, rolled past the leaders, and won in a romp while geared down. On the surface of things she appears to be, with She’s a Tiger, the best 2-year-old filly in the game, though it’s tough to know whether her two smashing wins were helped by the muddy track each time. A race like the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park Oct. 5 figures next, and should all go well there a trip to Santa Anita for the Grade 1 BC Juvenile Fillies Nov. 1. Stopchargingmaria, a huge debut winner here July 19, stalked the pace, tried to go with the winner into the lane, was no match for that gal but was much the best of the others. Dancing House bided her time and finished decently, though she was never a threat. Sweet Whiskey, the favorite off a big debut win here Aug. 11, stalked the pace, made a bit of a run on the far turn but flattened out. There was an inquiry looking into the fact Brazen Persuasion, dead-heat winner of the Grade 3 Schuylerville, refused to break, but the stewards ruled there was no equipment malfunction or starter interference, so just bad luck for those who backed her.
Monmouth - Sapling (race 11)
COMMENT: Three scratches beat up this field, turning it into a four-way contest. Dunkin Beard, a big maiden winner at Saratoga last month, took advantage as the son of Dunkirk stalked in third early while Yes I’m Lucky and Foileen dueled for the lead. Dunkin Beard kept after Yes I’m Lucky into the lane after he dispatched with Foileen turning for home, reeled in that rival late and edged away. Yes I’m Lucky, unbeaten in his first three starts including a stakes win at Calder June 22 and smart win in the Tyro on turf here Aug. 4, set the pace under heavy pressure from Foileen, got rid of that for into the lane but couldn’t fend off the winner while clearly better than the other two. Run for Logistics, last in the small field early, plugged along for third though he was never a factor. His rider lost his irons at the start and that couldn’t have helped.
Del Mar - Del Mar Derby (first division – race 6)
COMMENT: Gabriel Charles showed he’s ready to be a force in the 3-year-old turf ranks as the son of Street Hero (a top-class sprinter) showed he’s quite comfortable playing this longer turf game. He bided his time, was still well back turning for home while Redwood Kitten set a solid pace, pitched out into the lane and powered past his rivals to win going away. His time of 1:46.94) for the nine furlongs was much faster than the second division’s (1:48.24), but that was mainly a function of much faster earlier splits. There’s no more Oak Tree Derby, so he’ll either have to tackle elders or wait for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park in late November. Gervinho stalked in third, got shuffled back a bit turning for home, but came back on nicely, though he was no match for the impressive winner. Redwood Kitten set a solid pace, battled back gamely when hooked in midstretch, but couldn’t keep up with the winner and lost second in the final yards. Legitimate excuse for Rising Legend as his saddled slipped leaving rider Julien Leparoux without control
Del Mar - Del Mar Derby (second division – race 9)
COMMENT: While the first division was taken from well off the pace, this was taken on the lead as Ethnic Dance notched his third straight win. It wasn’t a walk in the park, though, as he had to survive a stewards’ inquiry. He was able to get away with modest splits, drifted inward, which forced a couple foes to check, but kept on gamely for the win. He’s now 3 for 4 on turf, the lone loss coming when second, beaten just a nose. Infinite Magic, game winner of the Grade 3 American Derby at Arlington July 13 (beating Admiral Kitten, who came back to win the Grade 1 Secretariat), bided his time early and came with a smart run in the lane. Den’s Legacy, a sharp second in the Grade 2 La Jolla here last month, stalked in third, had to steady off the winner’s heels in deep stretch when that rival drifted inward, but kept on gamely for third. Dice Flavor, the tepid 9-2 favorite off his win in the Grade 2 La Jolla, was well back early and never made a move in a disappointing outing.
i'm also hoping Paynter cabn regain his top-class form. i am not going to ount this one against him. the result seemed to be a group effort....aided by scratches and weather. and remember, Bejarano can make really good horses look really bad. it's sort of his trademark. remember Breeders Cup? and countless other big races too numerous to mention. he doesn't always seem to be riding for the trainer that employs him. certainly not for the bettors.
No decision yet on Paynter. Would like to see one more race on fast dirt track.
Paynter, ....not top class any more ......I will give him the benefit of the doubt before I would say that