09/12/2013 3:18PM

Weekend Warrior for Sept. 14: Picks for Garden City, PTHA President's Cup, Kentucky Turf Cup

John Duca/Tom Cooley
Swift Warrior is a good candidate to improve in the PTHA President's Cup at Parx.

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It’s a good thing the weather forecast for most of North America on Saturday is favorable, because turf is very much the name of the game on this weekend’s stakes schedule.

Both of the stakes at Belmont Park, the Grade 1, $500,000 Garden City and the Grade 3, $200,000 Noble Damsel, are on the turf, as are the five stakes on the card at Kentucky Downs, topped by the Grade 3, $400,000 Kentucky Turf Cup. The $250,000 Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President’s Cup at Parx Racing in on the grass, and so is the Grade 3, $175,000 Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington. And both of the Grade 2, $200,000 events at Woodbine, the Summer and Natalma stakes, also are on the turf.

Garden City Stakes

Emollient, one of only three 3-year-old fillies who are multiple Grade 1 winners this year (Princess of Sylmar and Beholder are the others), is a very logical contender here. She delivered as the favorite in the American Oaks in her most recent appearance in what was her first career start on turf, and that race has subsequently proven to be productive. American Oaks runner-up Emotional Kitten came back to be a creditable third in the Del Mar Oaks, despite being compromised by a slow pace, and the third- and fourth-place finishers both came back to win their next starts. Emollient, whose other Grade 1 score this year was a big win in the Ashland on Keeneland’s Polytrack three starts back, has not raced in two months, but she won the American Oaks off a similar layoff, and she sports purposeful works for her return. Perfectly logical, for sure.

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So is Discreet Marq. Discreet Marq will be looking for her fourth straight stakes victory, and she showed a new dimension last time out when she successfully rated early in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. That only makes this former speedball all the more dangerous.

I think Summer of Fun has a good chance here, too. Summer of Fun beat softer company when she won the restricted Auntie Mame Stakes most recently, but she looked good doing it, and she gives the strong impression of being a rapidly improving performer.

But I like Alterite because her Group 1 form in France means there is a very good chance this French import is simply better than this field. Alterite came within a neck of winning the Group 1 Marcel Boussac Criterium Pouliches last fall at Longchamp, and her victory in her 3-year-old debut this year was so impressive that it led her previous trainer, Jean-Claude Rouget, to speculate for publication that she was one of the best of her generation.

Indeed, when Alterite raced back in the Group 1 French 1000 Guineas, she was bet down to only 5-1 in a 20-horse field, but could only manage a 10th-place finish after a less-than-perfect trip. Alterite did rebound two starts back, however, being beaten just a nose in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary, again at Longchamp. But she was unable to make an impact in the French Oaks in her last start, finishing sixth.

Alterite, who notably gets Lasix for her U.S. debut (which might explain her French Oaks loss), owns some Racing Post Ratings that suggest she has an advantage on this field. Beyond that, Alterite is owned by Martin Schwartz and trained by Chad Brown, and she has a profile that is very reminiscent of other recent female European imports for this owner/trainer combination, namely Zagora, last year’s champion female turf horse; Stacelita, champion female turf horse of 2011; and Samitar, winner of last year’s Garden City.

PTHA President’s Cup

Hampstead Heath, second in stakes at Woodbine in his last two starts, and Change of Command, winner of the Elkwood Stakes two starts back, have the best blend of consistency and good recent form in this race. Hampstead Heath, however, is expected to scratch in favor of Sunday's Northern Dancer at Woodbine. By comparison, Swift Warrior’s recent form looks somewhat spotty. But on his day, Swift Warrior is better than Change of Command, and he is my play because he gets a favorable setup this time that should lead to a top effort.

Swift Warrior finished behind Change of Command when both made their last starts in the Oceanport Stakes, but I’m not going to hold that against Swift Warrior. Aside from running into a dominating Silver Max that day (and Silver Max came back to win the Bernard Baruch in his next start), there were a lot of other early speed-types in the Oceanport, and that caused Swift Warrior to get a bit lost in the early running. Although Swift Warrior has fired from off the pace on occasion in the past, I think he’s much more effective and reliable when forwardly placed early. With all the other speed in the Oceanport, Swift Warrior couldn’t get that kind of forward trip, so I’m going to draw a line through that outing. But there isn’t nearly as much speed in this spot, and I think he will get the kind of close-to-the-pace trip that was the hallmark of his best performances this year.

In his first two starts this year, Swift Warrior was a dominant winner of the John B. Connally Stakes after making the pace, and he came from slightly off the pace to win the Tampa Bay Stakes. Two starts back, going a 1 3/16-mile distance that might have been a touch beyond his scope, Swift Warrior finished a close third in the Colonial Turf Cup after disputing the pace, beaten only a head for second by Hyper, who came back to win the John’s Call Stakes and last Saturday’s Bowling Green Stakes in his next two starts.

Kentucky Turf Cup

Suntracer and Najjaar finished second and third in the American St. Leger most recently, but their finishes look a little better on paper than they actually were. American St. Leger winner Dandino overcame major traffic trouble in the stretch and was a far more decisive winner than his half-length win margin would suggest.

I prefer Temeraine, who made his last start at Arlington on the same day Suntracer and Najjaar did. But Temeraine ran in the big one, the Arlington Million, and was a rallying fifth, beaten less than four lengths, at 61-1. But what Temeraine’s Arlington Million effort really did was validate his surprisingly sharp second in the Arlington Handicap two starts back and confirm that he is dramatically improved.