09/20/2012 1:23PM

Weekend Warrior for Sept. 22, 2012: Currency Swap can upend Trinniberg

Barbara D. Livingston
Currency Swap can get a good stalking trip from an outside post in the Gallant Bob.

Parx Racing offers not one, but two $1 million races Saturday in the Grade 1 Cotillion and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, as well as a lucrative supporting feature in the $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes. There are also rich races Saturday at other tracks that don’t often grab the spotlight, namely the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks and the Grade 3, $200,000 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park. Meanwhile, at Belmont Park, the main event is a good renewal of the Grade 2, $200,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap.

Gallant Bob Stakes

Although the main focus at Parx will be on the battle in the Cotillion between Questing and My Miss Aurelia, and then the rematch in the Pennsylvania Derby between the Travers dead-heaters Alpha and Golden Ticket, this 3-year-old sprint stakes might be the better betting race.

Trinniberg is the morning-line favorite, presumably on the strength of victories in the Swale, Bay Shore, and Woody Stephens Stakes earlier this year. But Trinniberg went essentially unchallenged early in each of those scores, and he was supposed to win with such a huge tactical advantage. However, it has been a different story for Trinniberg when he was subjected to real early pace pressure.

I hate to even point it out because the race was about three furlongs too far for him, but the fact remains that when Trinniberg ran in the Kentucky Derby, he was outgunned for the early lead by Bodemeister and he retreated to finish 17th. Two starts back, when he was the 1-5 favorite in the Carry Back Stakes, Trinniberg was hooked early by Fort Loudon and gave in to that opponent late. And last time out in the King’s Bishop, Trinniberg was under what was really only token pace pressure and yet he still backed off late to finish ninth.

The big question here is if anyone else in this field is fast enough to go after Trinniberg early, and if so, would be willing to do it. I think Il Villano is, and will. Il Villano showed high early speed early in his career, but he tried rating in his last three starts. This approach worked well the first time when he ran away with the Chick Lang Stakes on the Preakness undercard, but the results were mixed at best in his last two outings. Il Villano comes into this off a three-month layoff, and being fresh, he will be inclined to show more early foot. In addition, Il Villano drew toward the inside, and that might force his hand and make him go early.

Currency Swap is a solid play here. Currency Swap weakened late to finish sixth in the King’s Bishop as the favorite, marking the first time he lost at Saratoga in four starts there. Currency Swap also finished second to Trinniberg in the Woody Stephens three back, but I don’t hold either race against him. Although he was close to Trinniberg early in the Stephens, he never truly went after him, and that gave Trinniberg an easier lead than it looks on paper. And in the King’s Bishop, Currency Swap seemed very uncomfortable being pinned down on the inside. He is drawn toward the outside Saturday, and is in line for the sort of stalking trip he had when he decisively won the Amsterdam two starts back.

Kent Stakes

All six of Lucky Chappy’s U.S. performances dating back almost a year have been solid, including his second to the prolific Silver Max in the Virginia Derby two starts back and his third in the Saranac most recently. The problem is, while Lucky Chappy is often gaining late, he has yet to get the job done in this country. And until he shows he can actually close the deal here, it’s worth trying to beat him.

I like Optimizer. Frankly, it’s a miracle there is anything left of Optimizer. He must be one tough son of a gun, because despite being repeatedly being placed in totally unsuitable spots for most of his career, he showed with a strong win last time out that he somehow was not ruined.

Optimizer’s first four starts this year came in Kentucky Derby preps, and even though he ran only marginally well in one of them (a second in the pace-collapsing Rebel), he not only started in the Derby, he ran in the Preakness and Belmont as well. Optimizer was crushed in all three events, which was no surprise because he is not a dirt horse, he is a turf horse. He showed grass potential when he won his debut on turf last year at Saratoga, and followed with a second in the With Anticipation Stakes, finishing ahead of the accomplished Dullahan.

Optimizer finally returned to turf after the Triple Crown madness and showed signs of life finishing a gaining fourth in the Virginia Derby. He followed with a fifth in the off-the-turf Hall Of Fame Stakes, an effort that can also be dismissed because he was compromised by a speed bias. Last time out, Optimizer opened eyes with a powerful allowance win at Saratoga. Contrary to what he had done in his 14 prior starts, Optimizer made the pace in that race, and a pace that seemed stronger than the fractions would suggest. Yet he won with complete authority, earning an 88 Beyer that looks good in this spot.

Gallant Bloom Handicap

Turbulent Descent and Musical Romance are the big names in this race. Turbulent Descent just won the Ballerina, the fourth Grade 1 win of her career, in her first start for Todd Pletcher, while Musical Romance, last year’s champion female sprinter, won the Grade 1 Princess Rooney in her last start. And yet, while I acknowledge that these two might tower over this field, I have to admit I wasn’t bowled over by either’s recent win.

I’m stabbing with Roman Treasure. Roman Treasure’s sixth in the Honorable Miss last time wasn’t bad when you consider how close she was to a wicked early pace, and now she returns to a Belmont main track over which she has done her best work. Moreover, Roman Treasure has to outrun only Dust and Diamonds to control the pace here. I think she has the most speed of the two, and a rider who will be more inclined to send.