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Sep 01, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


From early in the year the thought was that this three year old crop was going to be a good one and that might be the biggest understatement of the decade. After an impressive win in the Kentucky Derby BARBARO broke down in the Preakness and was in danger of losing his life. However, he seems to be progressing well and may soon have the cast removed from his leg. However, with that tragedy came another very exciting prospect. BERNARDINI, who entered the Preakness with only three career starts was an easy winner, scoring by more than five lengths in that marred race and put himself right at the top of the three year old list.

After that race BERNARDINI’s connections decided to give him some time off and point towards the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. As a prep race for the Travers BERNARDINI ran in the Jim Dandy Stakes on July 29th and turned it into a runaway scoring by the easiest nine lengths you will ever see. He was never asked to run at all throughout the race and was headed into the Travers as a heavy favorite. BERNARDINI would have another challenger in BLUEGRASS CAT, who was second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. BLUEGRASS CAT was coming off a huge win in the Haskell at Monmouth Park just three weeks prior and looked like an improving three year who was coming into his own and he had the best chance to beat BERNARDINI. With only six horses signed on for the race BERNARDINI was sent off 0.35-1 and BLUEGRASS CAT was sent off 5-2, with the other four horses all sent off at double digit odds. After the start, HIGH COTTON was sent for speed but couldn’t make the lead into the first turn as BERNARDINI took over and held that lead into the backstretch. BLUEGRASS CAT was quickly on the attack and never let him clear off as he was about ¾’s of a length behind. The fractions of the race weren’t very fast 23:2, 48, 1:12:3, 1:36:4 and the final time was 2:01:3. As they turned into the stretch BERNARDINI started to edge away and by midstretch had opened up his lead which was seven and half lengths at the finish in another impressive performance. BLUESGRASS CAT was clearly second best by another 6 ¼ lengths with DR. PLEASURE finishing third. HESANOLDSALT and HIGH COTTON were fourth and fifth with MINISTER’S BID, who was acting up in the paddock and the gate checking in sixth and last.

On Sunday the day after the Travers it was found that BLUESGRASS CAT came out of his second-place finish to BERNARDINI in the $1 million Travers Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga with a fractured right hind pastern bone and will be retired. This doesn’t take anything away from BERNARDINI who was very impressive but it makes you think that it may have been a better race had that not happened.

The race prior to the Travers we saw another top three year old in HENNY HUGHES. After breaking well from the inside, he took over the lead past the half mile pole through a half in 44:3, he drew away into the stretch and won going away by more than five lengths in a final time of 1:21:4 to score in the Grade I King’s Bishop Stakes. His connections are pointing him towards the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and after that performance he may have stamped himself as one of the favorites.

Another top three year old that was in action at Saratoga was DISCREET CAT, who won an allowance race in very impressive fashion on Friday August 25th. He stalked the pace while racing wide, took over and won with consummate ease, scoring by 11 lengths in a time of 1:21:2. That ran his record to four for four and that includes a win over top handicap horse INVASOR in Dubai in March. He will be pointed to two more races this year, the Jerome at Belmont at a mile and the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November. This three year old crop has proved that the talent is there and they can really show off the class at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on November 4th.



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