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Aug 15, 2003

ATC Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            This past weekend at Saratoga and Del Mar (August 9th and 10th) we saw Graded stakes races at both tracks. Saratoga had a Grade I and a Grade II, while Del Mar had two Grade II’s. We saw the reigning Horse of The Year score another impressive victory over a very over matched field and the preview of  some of the major turf races along with some very solid sprinters.

On Saturday August 10th, Saratoga hosted the Grade I Sword Dancer which is run on the turf over 1 and ½ miles. Even more surprising than the winner was the fact that the race was actually run over the turf course. There has been so much rain so far at the meeting that many of the races scheduled for the turf had to be taken off. Many horses that don’t want to stay in the race are forced to, offering bad betting opportunities for the public who is not privy to that information.            

The Sword Dancer was contested over a good turf course and had 11 horses enter the gate. In the year of the New York bred, WHITMORE’S CONN held up his end of the bargain scoring with a powerful run in the stretch. After laying last early on, his jockey Jean-Luc Samyn, swung him out into the stretch and unleashed a very strong run to easily go by the leaders. He was sent off at 24-1 despite winning the Bowling Green in his previous race. WHITMORE’S CONN, who now has earnings of more than $700,000 seems to handle all kinds of turf courses and is very dangerous when he is able to just lay last early and unleash his run in the stretch. It will be interesting to see how far he can go because he did beat a solid field of horses in the Sword Dancer. DENON, the favorite in the race for the Bobby Frankel barn is considered one of the better turf horses in the country. The New York breds are continuing to get better each year and are starting to gain more recognition. This turfer can really fly so follow him this fall.           

On Sunday August 10th, Saratoga hosted the Grade II Alfred G. Vanderbilt stakes which is run at six furlongs for three year old and upward. With the field scratched down to five, SHAKE YOU DOWN, was sent off as the heavy favorite. He won five races off the Scott Lake claim including two Grade III’s and a Grade II. He was 5 for 6 in the mud so the wet track shouldn’t have been a problem. After making the lead early, he was pressured and folded up bad in the stretch finishing off the board. The winner was PRIVATE HORDE, a horse he defeated last out at Calder by more than eight lengths. SHAKE YOU DOWN may have bounced off his most recent effort or the Saratoga mud was not to his liking, it happens to the best of them. Give him another shot back on a dry surface if he runs here or back at Belmont.           

On Saturday August 9th at Del Mar they held the Grade II Sorrento stakes for two year old fillies going six and a half furlongs. The winner was TIZDUBAI, a full sister to Horse of the Year TIZNOW. She ran her record to 2 for 2 and after running down the favorite DIRTY DIANA to score by four lengths. Although she does have tactical speed it will be interesting to see how well she can stretch that speed considering her siblings. This horse is an interesting prospect from the West Coast.            

On the following day, Horse of the Year AZERI ran four other horses in the Grade II Clement Hirsch handicap. Without even breaking a sweat, AZERI went wire to wire scoring easily by more than three lengths. GOT KOKO, finished second as the only other graded stakes winner in the race. AZERI, for her to continue her reign on top of the filly and mare division and possibly Horse of the Year again she will have to face off against better fillies and mares before the year is up. Bobby Frankel has two very good fillies in WILD SPIRIT and SIGHTSEEK. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff right now is shaping up as one of the best one’s in years and may decide who wins the championship in that division.

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