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Aug 21, 2003

ATC Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            It is hard to believe that the Saratoga meeting is coming to an end. With the Travers

on August 23rd there is only one week left until the final day on Labor Day. The weekend of August

16th also had some major races up at the spa. The Alabama and the Saratoga Breeders’ Cup are

races that will have a major impact on the year end awards.

            On August 16th Saratoga hosted the Grade II Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap and the

Grade I Alabama stakes. The favorite in the Saratoga Breeders’ Cup was VOLPONI, last year’s

Breeders’ Cup Classic hero. However in four starts this year so far he had not posted a win but did

manage to finish second all four times. His losses did include seconds to MINESHAFT and most

recently MEDAGLIA D’ ORO. His trainer Phil Johnson made a rider change heading into the Saratoga

Breeders’ Cup race replacing Jose Santos with Jerry Bailey. Sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the race,

VOLPONI stalked the early leader, BLUE BOAT and took over heading into the stretch even though he

was floated wide by the leader. However, that lead was short lived as PUZZLEMENT, trained by

the “giant killer” Allen Jerkens shot through on the rail and drew off to an easy score by more than

three lengths. VOLPONI had to settle for second for the fifth time in five starts this year and plans for his

next race were not definite. On a sad note HARLAN’S HOLIDAY, the second choice in the race came

out of the race with an injury and will most likely be retired.

            Two races later on the same day the Alabama stakes for three year old fillies at 1 and ¼ miles

was run. The favorite in the race was Bobby Frankel’s trainee, SPOKEN FUR. With the new format the

Alabama was the final leg of the Triple Tiara, the Triple Crown for fillies. The first leg was the Mother

Goose and the second leg was the Coaching Club American Oaks. SPOKEN FUR, who won both of those

races with ease was up for the $2 million bonus that was offered to the filly that could sweep all three

races. She had moved into the Bobby Frankel barn and quickly turned into a graded stakes winner. She

was sent off as the 4-5 favorite, she would have been lower if not for the presence of BIRD TOWN, the

Kentucky Oaks, Acorn Stakes winner and runner-up in the Test stakes. This race was being looked at a

two horse race that was SPOKEN FUR’S to lose. However, a 3YO filly named ISLAND FASHION who was

coming off a huge win in the Delaware Oaks would have something to say about it. After that win at

Delaware she was switched into the barn of Barclay Tagg. The significance of that move was that Tagg was

going for the Triple Crown and the $5 million bonus in the Belmont with FUNNY CIDE. Frankel beat him that

day with EMPIRE MAKER. Now Frankel was going for the Triple Tiara and the $2 million bonus with

SPOKEN FUR and Tagg beats him with ISLAND FASHION.

            After stalking the early pace of 15-1 shot AWESOME HUMOR, ISLAND FASHION took over at the

¾ mark and increased her advantaged at every pole. SPOKEN FUR, who never really made any impact

did move into second only to lose the place spot to that same pacesetter she passed, AWESOME HUMOR.

She finished a very disappointing third. She had a tough few races in a few month period. The 1 and ½ mile

Coaching Club American Oaks may have taken a toll on her.

            BIRD TOWN, was a well beaten fifth and never made any type of winning move. It was found out

that she stepped on herself during the race and this may have hurt her chances, however trainer Nick Zito

is not offering that as an excuse. This leaves the 3YO filly division wide open and it will be a race to the wire

among SPOKEN FUR, ISLAND FASHION, BIRD TOWN and LADY TAK is even in the mix.

            Next week we will take a look the Travers and the Pacific Classic both races that will have an impact

on the Breeders’ Cup Classic. EMPIRE MAKER, who was expected to be the favorite may not run because of a

cough and mucus that was found a few days before the race. More on that next week.


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