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Jun 15, 2007

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            In the final leg of the Triple Crown the Belmont Stakes, the Test of Champions, didn’t have the Derby winner returning but did see Preakness hero CURLIN and HARD SPUN who was second in the Derby in this compact field of seven. When the field came up that short and there was no STREET SENSE that gave trainer Todd Pletcher the opportunity to enter his top three year old filly in the race, RAGS TO RICHES. After dominating her own sex this three year old filly by A. P. INDY would be given a shot against the boys.

            With a short field of seven going postward CURLIN was the even money favorite with the filly, RAGS TO RICHES going off as the second choice just slightly less than HARD SPUN who was the third choice in the race. With not much speed in the race HARD SPUN was expected to make the pace but if SLEW’S TIZZY, the longest shot in the race at 18-1 wanted to go to the front, HARD SPUN, who drew outside that rival could sit behind him until it was time to go. When the gates opened it seemed that no one wanted the lead and C P WEST was the surprise leader with SLEW’S TIZZY not that far behind in second and HARD SPUN surprisingly running in third. The fractions of this race were extremely slow especially for this caliber of horse, it would have been considered slow for $50k claimers. The fractional times were 24:3, 50, 1:15:1, 1:40:1, 2:04:4 and a final time of 2:28:3. The biggest surprise to most everyone including the trainer of the horse was the fact that with those very slow splits that HARD SPUN was sitting in third with the jockey grabbing a hold of the horse. His trainer Larry Jones was not very happy with the ride that Gomez gave his horse and ironically the reason Gomez was on the horse to begin with was the fact that the connections of HARD SPUN didn’t like the ride he got in the Preakness Stakes when Mario Pino moved too soon probably costing him a better result in that race. HARD SPUN is a free-running horse who is better when he’s on the lead and his advantage on CURLIN is that he is faster that that one early on and what Gomez did by taking a hold of HARD SPUN gave him no shot as he checked in fourth. He will be given a break after this race and we will see where he returns sans Gomez.

            Back to the race, after the two leaders stopped despite the slow fractions, RAGS TO RICHES, who stumbled at the start of the race made a quick move as they approached the top of the stretch to take the lead while racing wide with CURLIN right to her inside. HARD SPUN had given up at that point after his ride and the only other one that was running was TIAGO but he was well back and the pace of the race didn’t help his cause either. In midstretch, RAGS TO RICHES had fought her way to the lead and looked like a winner but CURLIN never gave up and battled right down to the wire with RAGS TO RICHES holding on by a head. CURLIN finished a clear second over five lengths ahead of TIAGO who was third and there was another five lengths back to HARD SPUN in fourth. C P WEST was fifth, IMAWILDANDCRAZYGUY was sixth and then there was a long way back to SLEW’S TIZZY who finished seventh and last.  

            This might not be the last time RAGS TO RICHES faces the boys this year, there was some talk that she may look at the Travers as one of her races this Summer. If her connections do attempt that race and win it they may be able to take the three year old championship away from STREET SENSE especially if she can end the year on a high note in the Breeders’ Cup whichever race she may run in. Also something may have gotten lost in all the excitement of the filly winning this race was that this was the first Triple Crown win for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez. The top trainer in the country over the last few years, Pletcher could not bust through in the classics but now that he did, expect that he can get on a roll next year and you know that his stable will be stacked.

            Another interesting note coming out of this race was the finish of HARD SPUN. This extremely talented son of DANZIG may get an opportunity now to possibly race on the turf. He is bred for it on the top and bottom and the fact that he has been soundly beaten in his last two may give his connections the chance to take a shot. He may be better on the turf than the dirt and the fact that his stallion duties have already been sold, winning a big race on the turf will add to his luster.

 



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