With the summer basically over we are now on the road to the Breeders’ Cup. With
races every weekend from now until early October that will impact the Breeders Cup we will try
to analyze each race and determine who are the contenders and who are the pretenders. Belmont
opened their first weekend with four Grade I races and each race had Breeders’ Cup implications.
On Saturday September 6th Belmont hosted three Grade I races. The Grade I Gazelle for three year old
fillies run over one and one eighth miles carried a purse of $250,000. The favorite in the race was LADY TAK, who
was coming off a huge win in the Test Stakes at Saratoga. Sent off at 9-5, LADY TAK, under Jerry Bailey
stalked the pace for ¾’s of a mile before taking over the lead and drawing off to a four length lead heading
into the stretch. As the 1/8th pole got closer LADY TAK began to show her distance limitations and was
tiring badly as she got rundown late by BUY THE SPORT, a 48-1, New York bred by the way of England.
Her only other dirt start produced a win against males over in England but it was a major upset to say the least.
SPOKEN FUR, who had put it all together at Belmont during the summer was in a perfect position
turning for home but could not go by LADY TAK or hold off BUY THE SPORT. It looks like she may have
tailed off her best form and would be a surprise in the Breeders’ Cup. LADY TAK showed that 1 and 1/8th is
too far and is highly unlikely in Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The connections of BUY THE SPORT had planned
not to run again this year so a start in the Breeders’ Cup is unlikely.
The next Grade I on the slate was the Man O’ War for three year old and upward run at 1 and 3/8th miles
on the turf. After a lot of rain early in the week the condition for the turf course was yielding. Although the
course was not firm the fractions set by BALTO STAR were very slow. LUNAR SOVEREIGN, who sat back
early in fifth made a huge move on the turn to sweep to the lead opening up three lengths and holding on
by 2 and ¾ lengths. His odds of 10-1 were the second longest on the board. The longest odds on the board
were on SLEW VALLEY who was sent off at 17-1. SLEW VALLEY finished a solid second after racing inside
early on. DENON, the 7-5 favorite made a move on the turn but never made any impact and was an even third.
He has not been very sharp this year and it he would really have to step it up in the Breeders’ Cup to get the
score. Other than those top three no one really did any running.
The next Grade I on Saturday was not the best betting race but it featured the best horse in the country.
MINESHAFT, who has been unbelievable since moving to the United States late last year, with seven wins and
two seconds from nine starts MINESHAFT has never run a poor race. With only four other horses entered to
oppose him and none with any of the credentials of MINESHAFT, the question became not if he was going to
win but by how much.
After sitting fourth early on MINESHAFT, jockey Robby Albarado made a quick move while racing
three wide and was the easiest kind of winner scoring by just over four lengths. His time of flat was only
three fifths off of SECRETARIAT’S 30 year old track record. It wouldn’t have been close if the jockey had asked
for his best.
Finally on Sunday September 7th the last Grade I of the weekend was the Garden City Breeders’ Cup
handicap for three year old fillies run at 1 and 1/8th miles on the turf carrying a purse of $250,000. The favorite
in the race was DIMITROVA who was sent off at 3-5. Trained by Dermot Weld this horse was going to be
pointed to the Breeders’ Cup after this race. She was a well beaten second and may need a better performance
next out to earn her trip to Santa Anita. The winner of the race was INDY FIVE HUNDRED, who sat back early and
came with a very strong late run to get up for the win by four lengths. Her connections are also looking ahead to
the Breeders’ Cup. Interestingly enough this was the second Grade I in two days for the owner of Georgica Stable.
They own both INDY FIVE HUNDRED and BUY THE SPORT, who they purchased privately.
As the prep races for the Breeders’ Cup are run each weekend we will keep you updated as to their progress.