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Aug 12, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


As is the norm with every weekend up at the Spa there are always big stakes races that will have an impact on the year end races and awards. On Saturday August 5th Saratoga hosted two Grade I races. The Grade I Darley Test Stakes and the Grade I Whitney Handicap.

In the Test Stakes for three year old fillies there was a large field of 13 horses. The slight favorite in the race was READY TO PLEASE who was sent off at 3-1 but didn’t beat a horse and finished last of 13. The winner of the race was SWAP FLIPAROO who hails from the Allen Jerkens barn who knows about winning stakes at Saratoga. He is called the "Giant Killer" for one reason only because he has been winning big stakes races with nice priced horses for the longest time. SWAP FLIPAROO was coming off a very good second in the Genuine Risk Stakes against older horses and she continued her improvement with a strong run up the inside to score going away at 5-1. She may make her next start in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga but according to her trainer she will probably make her next start in the Grade I Gazelle for three year olds at 1 and 1/8th miles at Belmont on September 9th. If she did go in the Alabama and win it that would be the third time that Allen Jerkens has pulled off the Test/Alabama double. He did it with SOCIETY SELECTION in 2004 and NOVEMBER SNOW in 1992. The second place finisher and surprise frontrunner in the race was ORIGINAL SPIN, who led until deep stretch while setting very quick fractions. She finished third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies and she may be returning to form of her two year old year.

In the Whitney Handicap one race later there weren’t as many horses but the field was just as competitive. With FLOWER ALLEY and INVASOR headlining the race, SUN KING and WANDERIN BOY was also part of the nine horse field. FLOWER ALLEY, last year’s Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes winner and undefeated over the track also has a second place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on his resume. However, the Whitney was only his second start of the year and it showed as he checked in a well beaten seventh. The winner of the race was the close second choice INVASOR, who ran his record to three for three since shipping to North America and he showed that he has some heart as he fought down to the wire with SUN KING to score the nose victory. SUN KING ran another huge race but again had to settle for a close-up second. Just like in the Met Mile back in May at Belmont SUN KING looked like he was going by but came up a neck short to SILVER TRAIN and now another nose short in the Grade I Whitney. With that being said he did prove that he belongs with the top handicap horses as he finished well clear of the third place finisher, WEST VIRGINIA. INVASOR, with that win in the Whitney has put himself on the top of the handicap division and with that loss FLOWER ALLEY has hurt his chances for his run towards year end Eclipse awards. However, I wouldn’t count out FLOWER ALLEY just yet as that was only his second start this year and he could have regressed in that second start.

At Monmouth Park on Sunday they hosted the Grade I Haskell Stakes for three year olds with a purse of $1 million dollars. In this race, BLUEGRASS CAT, second place finisher in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes really stepped out with a huge performance scoring seven lengths. This race will have him set-up perfectly for a match-up with BERNARDINI in the Travers. In what looked like a runaway in the Travers may have gotten a little tighter as BLUEGRASS CAT will be a force to reckon with in the Travers and this will be the race of the meeting if they both make it to the race in fine fettle.



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