09/30/2007 11:00PM

Weekend left Breeders' Cup clues

EmailNEW YORK - The major stakes action came fast and furious over the weekend. Here, in chronological order, are one man's impressions of some of them:

Yellow Ribbon: The chart says Nashoba's Key won by three-quarters of a length, but she was as impressive as you could ask to win by that narrow a margin. Citronnade had everything her way. After catching soft ground last time out in the Beverly D., she was back on her home circuit, back on the firm footing she excels over, and back in control of the early pace. But Nashoba's Key not only caught Citronnade to remain undefeated, but she also did so after doing the dirty work of keeping Citronnade somewhat honest on the front end. Nashoba's Key was already the nation's best older female on synthetic surfaces off three straight graded stakes wins, and now a good case could be made that she might also be the best turf female. I would love to see her try to establish herself as the best older female on conventional dirt as well in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, but that won't happen. After what she did in the Yellow Ribbon, Nashoba's Key will be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and understandably so.

Flower Bowl: No excuses for odds-on Wait a While. She had every chance to get past the game pacesetter Rosinka, but never did as longshot Lahudood shot up the rail and passed them both late. Also a big disappointment was Royal Highness, the Beverly D. winner who faded to sixth after racing alongside the eventual winner early. Royal Highness's empty effort, coupled with Citronnade's loss in the Yellow Ribbon, brings into question the validity of the form of the Beverly D.

Kelso: After Market ran okay, finishing a rallying second to the underrated Trippi's Storm, but with the Breeders' Cup just three weeks away, we were looking for more than just "okay." I don't think going a mile against top turf company is really After Market's best game. Going 1 1/2 miles at the Grade 1 level might not be, either, but I think he would have a better chance going longer.

Kentucky Cup Classic: Okay, so Hard Spun got a dream setup, and he capitalized on his easy lead to turn back the Kentucky Derby and Travers winner, Street Sense. And it is possible that Street Sense might not be as good on synthetic surfaces as he is on conventional dirt. He did, after all, lose his prior two starts on Polytrack but used them as springboards to big wins in the Derby and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. It should be noted, though, that those two big wins were at Churchill Downs, and Street Sense's goal this time is the Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park. But this race suddenly didn't feel like a prep for Street Sense when he drew almost even with Hard Spun in upper stretch, as he was put to strong whip pressure from both sides when presented with a shot to win. Now it seems reasonable to question whether Street Sense has progressed from the spring to the fall as most 3-year-olds do. Street Sense earned Beyer Speed Figures of 110 in the Derby and 111 when he got nailed in the Preakness. Since then, his Beyers are 105, 108, and the 107 he earned on Saturday.

Oak Leaf: Cry and Catch Me is getting some grief for just holding off Izarra and earning a Beyer Figure of only 81. But consider this: The winning Beyers in the last two big 2-year-old filly stakes in New York, the Matron and Spinaway, were 82 and 84, respectively.

Vosburgh: Fabulous Strike, he of the lofty Beyer Figures earlier in the year, was impressive, not because he won by a lot, but because he won for the first time over a strong group of opponents, which makes him an obvious prime contender for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. No one really knew what to expect from Discreet Cat in his comeback, but I doubt anyone expected the kind of empty third-place finish he delivered. Even in view of this tough a Vosburgh field, his performance makes it hard to be enthusiastic about his Breeders' Cup prospects. Finally, the obstacle standing between Mach Ride and firm status as a first-rate sprinter is his frequent inability to break sharply from the gate.

Jockey Club Gold Cup: It would be easy to say the story of this race was Lawyer Ron's inability to stay the 1 1/4 miles. But Curlin deserves considerable credit for running a terrific race to wear down Lawyer Ron off a layoff of nearly two months and for earning a career-best Beyer of 114, which suggests he took the step forward that we're still waiting for from fellow 3-year-old Street Sense. As for Lawyer Ron, this wasn't going 1 1/8 miles around two turns at Saratoga, conditions under which he shot to the top of the active older male division with victories in the Whitney and Woodward. This was Belmont Park, and this was going 1 1/2 turns, which I have always thought to be a more demanding 1 1/4-mile run than the two-turn trip Lawyer Ron will get at Monmouth in the Classic.