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Oct 13, 2006

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


On October 7th Belmont Park hosted five Grade I races that were all preps for the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on November 4th.

In the first of the Grade I races, the Beldame for fillies and mares for three years old and upward at 1 and 1/8th miles. FLEET INDIAN, who was the 4-5 favorite was coming into this race off of seven straight wins. This New York bred has been a different horse since moving into the Todd Pletcher barn who took over the training of this mare in 2006; he has trained her for the last six wins. With plenty of early speed signed on, jockey Jose Santos took her back off the lead and stalked from fourth early on. She made a big move to take over into the drive and dug in gamely to hold off BALLETTO who had a perfect trip but just couldn’t get by. Now with eight straight wins and seven straight for the Pletcher barn she will go into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff as the favorite.

The next race was the Flower Bowl Invitational on the turf at 1 and ¼ miles for fillies and mares, three years old and upward. With two late scratches there was only five horses left and a Todd Pletcher trainee got the job done again. HONEY RYDER raced in fourth early on behind her uncoupled stablemate JADE QUEEN and came with a powerful run late to score over FILM MAKER. JADE QUEEN stayed on well for third with ANGARA and ARGENTINA finishing fourth and fifth. Pletcher already has the leading distaff turfer in WAIT A WHILE and he just got stronger. FILM MAKER always puts in an honest effort and will be tough in the Breeders’ Cup if she makes it there.

The next race the Vosburgh for three years old and upward at six furlongs is a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. With another five horse field, HENNY HUGHES a three year old was sent off at 4-5 with SILVER TRAIN, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion was a close second choice. After breaking a step slow HENNY HUGHES moved outside the leader, ATTILA’S STORM (who was making his first start since January) stalked that runner into the stretch and took over for the easy win. WAR FRONT who made a move up to the leaders from the outside, wore down the frontrunner to finish second. ATTILA’S STORM held well for third with WHO’S THE COWBOY and SILVER TRAIN finishing fourth and fifth respectively. HENNY HUGHES will be one of the favorites in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and deservedly so but SILVER TRAIN on the other hand probably will not be back to defend his title, one of the main reasons being that the race is at Churchill Downs.

The next race was the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational where yet again it was a short field of only seven and the heavy favorite in the race was the 3-5 entry of ENGLISH CHANNEL and ICY ATLANTIC from the Todd Pletcher barn. ICY ATLANTIC was in the race as a rabbit for ENGLISH CHANNEL but it probably didn’t matter as ENGLISH CHANNEL stalked the leaders from third, took over into the drive and drew away for an easy score over the two fillies who shipped in from Europe; giving Pletcher another win. He will obviously go into the Breeders’ Cup Turf as one of the choices off this effort but the competition will definitely get tougher.

The final race of the day was the shortest field and the heaviest favorite in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a four horse race with BERNARDINI who was sent off at 1-5. WANDERIN BOY from the Nick Zito barn was sent to the lead with BERNARDINI sitting just off the pace. ANDROMEDA’S HERO another from the Nick Zito barn raced in third with DYLAN THOMAS who was sent off at 4-1 trying the turf for the first time was well back of the rest of the horses. As they passed the mile mark BERNARDINI took over with consummate ease and drew away for a 6 ¾ length score setting him up as the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and favorite for Horse of the Year.

With only a few weeks left to the Breeders’ Cup we will look at the final preps and what they mean for Breeders’ Cup day.



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