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Sep 19, 2003

ATC Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Belmont and Turfway Park held some races over the September 13th weekend that

will have some impact on the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

            On Saturday September 13th Belmont hosted the Belmont Breeders’ Cup Handicap for

three year old and upward at 1 and 1/8th miles on the grass. This Grade II event drew a field of

seven and the favorite in the race was last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner VOLPONI who

was trying the turf after some failed efforts on the dirt. The second choice in the race was ROUVRES

who was coming off a poor performance in the Grade II FOURSTARDAVE at Saratoga. The rest of

the field lacked quality and were sent off at long odds.    

            After tracking the early pace VOLPONI took over the lead entering the stretch but could not finish

off his run as he checked in third. ROUVRES, who looked like a winner as he went by VOLPONI was

lucky to hold on to the second spot as longshot DELLA FRANCESCA ran by them both for the score. It would

be surprising to see any of these horses make it to the Breeders’ Cup Turf or have any say about the

outcome. VOLPONI will now be pointed to the Classic again and will most likely make his next start

in the Meadowlands Cup at the Meadowlands.

            The Grade I Ruffian Handicap for three year old and upward fillies and mares was run at

1 and 1/16th miles. The heavy favorite in the race was WILD SPIRIT who was coming off a defeat at

Saratoga at 1-5. The Bobby Frankel barn has not been hitting on all cylinders of late and there has been

a cough moving through his barn. However, WILD SPIRIT ran back to her form that she showed in her

first two races in this country when she won both starts easily. After breaking from the rail, Jerry Bailey

moved his mount to the outside for clear running and she easily went by the leaders to score by more

than three lengths. It could have been more if Bailey had asked her to run late. WILD SPIRIT who is not

eligible to the Breeders’ Cup would have to be supplemented but no decision has been made either

way. She is expected to make her next start in the Beldame on October 4th at Belmont.

            On Saturday September 13th at Turfway they held Kentucky Cup day which will have an impact

on Breeders’ Cup day. In the Kentucky Cup Juvenile for fillies we may have seen an up and coming

star in CLASS ABOVE who won the race by 16 lengths. She will be one of the favorites come Breeders’ Cup day if things as planned.

            In the Kentucky cup Juvenile for colts and geldings the winner was POMEROY, who crossed

the line first. However, after an inquiry he was taken down and placed third. The time of the race was

1:46:3 which was not very fast and POMEROY’s pedigree doesn’t suggest that a distance of ground

would suit him. The official winner was MR. JESTER who was placed first after the disqualification.

            The big race on the day was the Kentucky Cup Classic which saw a field of five go to the post.

The 1-2 favorite in the race was CONGAREE who was coming off a huge win in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

PERFECT DRIFT was the close second choice in the race and was coming off an 8th place finish in the

Arlington Million on the turf. PERFECT DRIFT, stalked the pace in third early and then made his move

toward the leader CONGAREE. He scored by a length with only mild urging but we may not see him

in the Breeders’ Cup. He is headed next to the Hawthorne Gold Cup on September 28th and his trainer

Murray Johnson said no Breeders’ Cup for PERFECT DRIFT.

            On Sunday at Belmont we saw the two year olds on display. The fillies in the Matron and the

colts in the Futurity, both run at one mile.

            In the Matron we saw a solid stretch drive between two Todd Pletcher trained

horses, MARYLEBONE and LOKOYA, with MARYLEBONE getting up for the nose victory. She ran her

record to two for two and both fillies are being pointed to the Breeders Cup. The time of 1:38 flat was slow

with the final quarter being run in 27:2.

            In the Futurity Stakes we saw the favorites run 1-2 with CUVEE dominating with and easy

8 and ¼ length win. VALUE PLUS who was a very impressive maiden winner was making the tough

move right into a Grade I stakes, ran a credible second despite getting off slowly. The final time of

1:35:3 was much faster than the filly division and the final quarter was an impressive 25:3. CUVEE has

now won four of five starts and will be one of the choices heading to the Breeders Cup. However, there

will be some question about his ability to get two turns based on his breeding being out of the sprinter CARSON CITY.       

            However it plays out, it looks like the Breeders’ Cup will be very competitive this year and should

make for some good betting opportunities.


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