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Sep 06, 2007

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            Well I can’t believe I’m saying this but the Summer is coming to an end. Saratoga is in their final days and the Fall Championship meeting at Belmont is ready to get underway on September 7th. The Breeders Cup which will be held at Monmouth Park is less than two months away and the racing season is starting to get really exciting. Getting the second half of the season off to that exciting start was the Midsummer Derby, the Travers Stakes, hosted by Saratoga Race Course on August 25th.

            The Travers featured Kentucky Derby winner and two year old champion STREET SENSE who was coming off a comfortable win in the Jim Dandy four weeks earlier over the Saratoga track and there were six other challengers trying to dethrone the champion. The second choice in the race was the always overrated SIGHTSEEING who was third in the Jim Dandy and the third choice in the race was the Nick Zito trained C P WEST, who finished second in the Jim Dandy after contesting the pace. To give you and idea of the competition heading into the race, C P WEST was eligible for a NW2L allowance race with only one win coming in a maiden race at Saratoga last year and SIGHTSEEING was eligible for NW2X allowance race with his maiden win and the win in the weak Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont back in the middle of May. Certainly no CURLIN, HARD SPUN, ANY GIVEN SATURDAY or the great filly RAGS TO RICHES in here. It would seem that STREET SENSE would win this race with ease but he didn’t. It turned out to be a very good race and  we may have found another top three year old as we head into the teeth of the racing this fall.

            GRASSHOPPER who is trainer by Neil Howard and was coming off an impressive win in an allowance race against older horses one day after the Jim Dandy showed that he just keeps getting better. With Calvin Borel aboard STREET SENSE, GRASSHOPPER needed a new rider and Robby Albarado was called in for the mount. Albarado rode this horse in his first three starts so he knew him well and almost got the job done. After breaking well from the gate GRASSHOPPER seemed intent on the lead and forced C P WEST to take back and race in second. Setting reasonable fractions of 23:3, 48, 1:12:2, GRASSHOPPER had a tactical advantage and as STREET SENSE made his move on the turn to challenge the leader this was the beginning of a great stretch drive. Passing the mile mark in 1:36:4. both horses were battling hard as they raced head to head through the stretch with the two year old champion finally getting the better of GRASSHOPPER in the final strides to score by a half length with a final time of 2:02:3, not a great final time, as it was a second slower than last year’s winner, BERNARDINI but was slightly faster than the 2005 winner FLOWER ALLEY. There was a big break back, over 10 lengths to the third place finisher, 49-1 longshot HELSINKI who was third.

            STREET SENSE will obviously be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic after this race probably getting one prep before showing up at Monmouth Park while GRASSHOPPER has really put himself on the map with that race in the Travers. This late developing three year old I’m sure will be pointed towards some of the top races this fall with possibly another try at STREET SENSE in the Classic if things go well.

            One race earlier in the King’s Bishop Stakes also restricted to three year olds we saw another top three year old in HARD SPUN, who battled back in midstretch to score over FIRST DEFENCE in a solid time of 1:22:1. He will be pointed to a race that will be at a longer distance with the Breeders’ Cup Classic as his final goal for his career as he will be retired to stud after this season. Another top three year old ran on Travers day in the form of LA TRAVIATA, a three year old filly by JOHANNESBURG who remained undefeated with an extremely impressive performance scoring by a geared down 9 ¼ lengths in a time of 1:09:3. She will be pointed to one of the sprint races on Breeders’ Cup day probably racing in the newly formed Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.



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