09/13/2012 2:00PM

Weekend Warrior for Sept. 15: Somali Lemonade back at high level in Garden City Stakes


It’s a good thing there is a favorable weather forecast around the country Saturday, because the day’s four graded stakes are all scheduled to be run on turf. Belmont Park has two of them, the Grade 1, $300,000 Garden City and the Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel. The other two are the Grade 3, $200,000 Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs and the Grade  3, $175,000 Pucker Up at Arlington. Also to be run on the turf is the $250,000 PTHA President’s Cup at Parx Racing.

Garden City Stakes

Only seven entered this race, but despite the small field, this is a potentially interesting betting race. Samitar will be the favorite, and while she certainly can win, she doesn’t necessarily have to win. Samitar can win this race because she won the Irish 2000 Guineas three starts back and might simply have too much class for the rest of this field. And she can win because on Saturday, she makes her first start for trainer Chad Brown while also being first-time Lasix. Brown has excellent numbers at virtually everything he does, but he has other-worldly numbers with newcomers to his barn and with first-time Lasix users.

But the reason why I think Samitar doesn’t have to win has to do with her performance in the Lake George Stakes in her recent U.S. debut. Samitar ran okay in the Lake George, finishing third, beaten just a neck for it all. At the same time, from the far turn to the finish, Samitar had every chance to win that race and just could not get the job done. And now, Samitar stretches out an additional sixteenth of a mile. For the first time in her life, Samitar will have to go as far as nine furlongs, and it is possible that distance might be outside her comfort zone. As noted, Samitar just might be better than these. But as the favorite, I’m willing to take a shot against her.

I’m also willing to go against the second choice in the morning line, Karlovy Vary. Karlovy Vary is a reputation horse, having won the Grade 1 Ashland earlier this year, and she might find herself controlling an easy pace here as she did in the Ashland. But on turf, Karlovy Vary has yet to win a race beyond the overnight level.

Although I thought she might be done dealing earlier this year, I like the resurgent Somali Lemonade. Somali Lemonade looked like a potential star at the start of her career a year ago, winning her debut most impressively and then taking the Jessamine even more impressively. And Somali Lemonade lost nothing in stature when a relatively close sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf as she was asked to win from an impossible position from near the back of a 14-horse field.

But as good as her performances were last year, Somali Lemonade was as blah in her first three starts this year. Her efforts in the Sands Point and Boiling Springs were particularly empty, and it was easy to conclude that she was just an early flash in the pan. That all changed at Saratoga. Somali Lemonade finished sixth in the Lake George, beaten only a little more than a length, but caught the eye because she was blocked for much of the stretch drive and was full of run at the finish. And Somali Lemonade proved her good performance in the Lake George was not a mirage with another fine try most recently in the Lake Placid. Despite being compromised by a slow pace, something she might have to deal with again Saturday, Somali Lemonade finished strongly again to be a close third. In truth, she was no match for Lake Placid winner Stephanie’s Kitten on that day, but Somali Lemonade did suggest she is back at her high 2-year-old level. Maybe she’s just a second-half-of-the-year filly.

As for the Noble Damsel, it attracted the one-two finishers from last month’s De La Rose Stakes at Saratoga, Julie’s Love and Dealbata. Of those two, I prefer Dealbata, because Julie’s Love was a perfect-trip winner. But I think La Cloche has a chance. La Cloche never fired in the De La Rose and finished fifth. But she was very good winning the Voodoo Dancer two starts back, and now returns to the course and distance of that score.

Kentucky Turf Cup

Although it might not seem like it because I often pick against him, I have nothing but respect for Rahystrada. He is the quintessential old pro, and he comes into this in better form than he was in when he dominated this race last year. His win two back in the Arlington Handicap over the solid New York stakes horse Boisterous was good, and his rallying third last time out in the Arlington Million was even better, considering how compromised he was by the slow pace. The only problem with Rahystrada is his price. He won’t be one.

There are several alternatives, such as Ioya Bigtime, whose last two starts at Arlington might have been the best two of his life, and Tahoe Lake, who doesn’t want to win, but who did run in Grade 1 races in two of his last three starts. But my play is Kindergarden Kid.

Kindergarden Kid is first off the claim by trainer Mike Maker, which is always a good thing, and he comes off a wide-trip second in an especially tough optional claimer at Saratoga. That race was won by a Juddmonte-Bill Mott production named Slumber, who looks stakes bound, and behind Kindergarden Kid in fourth was Bombaguia, who came back to win his next start and who was nailed in the last jump in last week’s Bowling Green. Notably, Kindergarden Kid has back class that suggests he can stand the move up Saturday.

PTHA President’s Cup

Here’s something you don’t see too much of anymore, a turf stakes with a lot of early speed. I wanted a horse who could get first jump at the pace players, and I think Freud’s Honour is the one.

Freud’s Honour has raised his game in his last two starts. Not only was he competitive with seasoned stakes horses in the United Nations and East Hanover, he showed he could rate kindly while going extended distances he was unfamiliar with. Freud’s Honor has learned how to rate, and now he cuts back to a nine-furlong distance that is a better fit for him.