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What's Alost worth before he runs?
ELMONT, N.Y. - About six hours before he runs in the $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational on Saturday at Belmont Park, Alost will be on the block at a horse sale at Longchamp in Paris.
Owner Dominque Bayet has set an undisclosed reserve on the 5-year-old gray Alost, a winner of 5 of 22 career starts
If a bidder hits the reserve, the purchaser could potentially have a Grade 1 winner later that same day.
"It's funny," said Bayet. "Somebody might find it attractive. We will see what happens. I will be happy either way."
This will be Alost's fourth start in the U.S. The horse has been highly competitive in his two previous New York efforts. He was a fast-closing third in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct last November and missed by only one length in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap in June. Alost was sixth last time out in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.
Bayet has been present for all three U.S. races. Bayet, a computer executive from Chantilly, France, is taking advantage of the latest trip to explore Manhattan after spending mornings with his horse at Belmont.
Bayet, 43, has been a horse owner for four years, taking the plunge at the urging of Antonio Spanu, Alost's trainer.
The two first met a local pub amid some friendly competition.
"We used to play darts together in a little place in Chantilly," Bayet said. "Before long, I had a horse, then another, and another."
Other probable Hirsch runners include Ace, English Channel, Meteor Storm, and Shakespeare. Trainer Christophe Clement is expected to run either Islero Noir or Revved Up.
Meteor Storm's confidence restored
Aimee Dollase hopes a solid second last time out will give Meteor Storm a confidence boost heading into the Hirsch.
The 6-year-old Meteor Storm is saddled with a seven-race losing streak. His last victory came at Belmont in the 2004 edition of the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap.
Dollase draws encouragement from Meteor Storm's second-place finish last time out in the Grade 2 Belmont Breeders' Cup Stakes on Sept. 11. The unbeaten Shakespeare won the race, as expected, at 1-2.
"Shakespeare was pretty tough to handle," said Dollase, who is training the New York-division for her father, Wally Dollase. "The race seemed to really lift his spirits. He ran well and he ran hard. The other horse was just too much for him that day. You could tell after that race, he was a lot happier."
Distance could be an edge for Meteor Storm in the rematch with Shakespeare. The Belmont Breeders' Cup was 1 1/8 miles; the Hirsch is 1 1/2 miles.
Meteor Storm has run well at the distance, including a 2004 victory in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita. Shakespeare has not run beyond nine furlongs.
"You would think it would be an advantage," Dollase said. "He is definitely a distance horse."
Meteor Storm had his final breeze Wednesday, going four furlongs in 49.10 seconds.
Beldame: Happy Ticket tries nine furlongs
Thus far, Happy Ticket has done virtually everything her connections have asked of her. She has won 10 of 11 starts from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. She has won on dirt and turf and in the slop.
Saturday, she will tackle the toughest test of her career when she tries 1 1/8 miles for the first time while facing five other Grade 1 winners in the $750,000 Beldame Stakes. Trainer Andrew Leggio said he has shipped Happy Ticket here from Louisiana to find out if she's worthy of running in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"If we could get the nine furlongs in this race then we would have a chance in the Breeders' Cup race at the end of the month,'' Leggio said. "If it works out we would be ticked to death; if it doesn't we will pack up and come back to Louisiana.''
Happy Ticket comes off a 5 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Ballerina in the slop at Saratoga last month. She returned to Shreveport, La., where she has worked twice at Louisiana Downs.
"I gave her 10 days off after the Ballerina,'' Leggio said. "She was a little tired. It took her three days to get back to herself. After the 10th day, she was playing and squealing.''
On Sept. 23, Happy Ticket worked six furlongs in 1:12.40, and according to Leggio she got her last quarter in 22.40 seconds.
"We were pleased with the move,'' Leggio said. "She's doing good. She has come out of all her works good. It didn't seem to take anything out of her.''
Despite her stellar record, Happy Ticket will have her sixth straight different rider. Victor Espinoza has the call, replacing John Velazquez, who rode her in the Ballerina. Velazquez is committed to ride Ashado.
Sundrop seeks trouble-free trip
Rick Mettee, assistant trainer for Godolphin Racing, hopes Sundrop gets a cleaner trip Saturday for her second U.S. start in Belmont's Grade 1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on the turf.
Sundrop, bred in Japan and raced primarily in England, wound up in tight quarters last time out in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park.
"She was in the third flight behind a pretty soft pace," Mettee said. "She really couldn't go anywhere when it was time to make a run. She got out way too late against one of the toughest bunch of fillies to run this year."
Sundrop lost by only 3 1/2 lengths despite the trouble.
"We think she's a really nice filly," Mettee said. "Hopefully, she gets a better trip and I think this will be a better turf course for her. They don't seem to get in as much trouble here going a-mile-and-a-quarter."
Sundrop needs a big effort Saturday to secure a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
"If we get in the Breeders' Cup, that would be a better run for her," Mettee said. "Over the next four weeks, I think she will continue to go the right way."
Also expected for the Flower Bowl are Angara, Film Maker, Lune d'Or, Melhor Ainda, Riskaverse, Sand Springs, Secret Charms, and Wonder Again.
Pomeroy sharpens for Vosburgh
Pomeroy, winner of the Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga in August, tuned up for Saturday's Grade 1 Vosburgh by working a solid four furlongs in 47.89 seconds Wednesday morning over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track. According to Saratoga clockers, Pomeroy got his last quarter in 23.75 seconds and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.80.
"We're very happy with him,'' trainer Patrick Biancone said. "He's coming up to this race in the same kind form he was for the Vanderbilt.''
Pomeroy will be reunited with Joe Bravo for the Vosburgh. Bravo is 2 for 2 aboard Pomeroy, but did not ride him in the Vanderbilt because he was recovering from a broken collarbone.
The Vosburgh could field as many as 12 horses. California shippers Taste of Paradise, Unfurl the Flag, Woke Up Dreamin, and Zanzibar were scheduled to arrive on Thursday. Woke Up Dreamin shipped here in June to win the True North Breeders' Cup Handicap. The horses he beat that day, Voodoo and Mass Media, are also expected to run in the Vosburgh.
Woke Up Dreamin has not run since taking the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder in July.
Trainer Mike Hushion said Uncle Camie, who won the Bold Ruler here in May, will make his return to the races in the Vosburgh. Uncle Camie comes off a sixth-place finish in an optional claiming turf race at Saratoga.
Hushion said it was a mistake to run him in the turf, but "there was nowhere else to run him,'' Hushion said. "He's very, very good right now.''
Also pointing to the Vosburgh are I'm the Tiger, Lion Tamer, Silver Wagon, Tiger Heart, and Voodoo.
* When Gently and She's Indy Money hit the wire together in Wednesday's second race, it marked the fourth dead heat here in the last five racing days. On Sept. 22, there was a dead heat for win in the second race and a dead heat for third in the ninth race. On Sunday, there was a dead heat for win in the third race.
- additional reporting by David Grening