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Oct 12, 2007

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The road to the Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth Park is coming to the end as the main prep races are finally over with and the horses ready for the big day. We had some races at Belmont on October 6th that should have a big impact on that day so let’s take a look.   

            In the Grade I Champagne Stakes, a $400,000 race for two year olds saw a very competitive field of eight horses. The favorite in the race was the Kinsman Stables MAJESTIC WARRIOR, an undefeated two year old by the great A. P. INDY out of the very nice dam DREAM SUPREME. Coming from off the pace in his first two starts to win going away, his most recent score coming in the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga, he was sent off at even money. The second choice in the race was the Hopeful runner-up READY’S IMAGE from the Todd Pletcher barn. With only two losses in a five race career he was sent off as a solid 5-2 second choice. When the gates opened however, it was WAR PASS, the 9-2 third choice who was also undefeated coming into the race after two starts who cleared off to the lead. He set some solid fractions of 22:4, 45:3, 1:10:1 and finished up well for the wire to wire score in 1:36 flat. PYRO, 32-1 longshot finished second with Z HUMOR, another longshot in the race at 35-1 checking in third. MAJESTIC WARRIOR, who was a bit closer than expected had no punch and finished a well beaten sixth with READY’S IMAGE, offering no response tiring to finish last of eight, stopping after a half mile. WAR PASS is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile off that effort and will be a very tough customer off his first three efforts.

            The next race, the Grade I Frizette for two year old fillies, also had a purse of $400,000. This race drew a field of nine two year old fillies with INDIAN BLESSING, a big winner in her debut for the Bob Baffert barn sent off as the odds-on 3-5 favorite. The second choice in the race was the maiden ARMONK who was sent off at 5-1, although she was a maiden she did have a second place finish in the Grade II Matron Stakes back on September 15th. The third and fourth choices in the race were two 8-1 shots, SUNDAY HOLIDAY, coming off a maiden win at the Meadowlands and BACKSEAT RHYTHM, coming off a maiden win over the turf earlier in the Belmont Fall meeting. Although there were some talented horses in this race they weren’t proven yet and only had potential in their corner.

            After stalking the early leader, INDIAN BLESSING made a quick move to take over the lead past the half in 45:2 after a quarter mile in 22:2, they went to the three quarter mark in 1:10:2 but came home in a slow final quarter mile in 27:1 as she was getting a bit tired, understandably considering it was only her second start. She will be one of the favorites in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies, but she will have to prove that she can handle more distance and the two turn set-up at Monmouth.

            The Grade II Jamaica Handicap on the turf for three year olds had a purse of $300,000 and featured NOBIZ LIKE SHOBIZ, a top three year old from earlier in the year who was on the Triple Crown trail but has made a solid transition to the turf with two wins from two tries over that surface. Although there were some talented turfers in this race all eyes were on NOBIZ LIKE SHOBIZ and he didn’t disappoint. After settling in nicely in sixth early on behind moderate splits, he moved up on the turn to get into contention and then swung out for the final run and run he did, exploding through the final 1/8th of a mile to score going away by four lengths in a very fast time of 1:46:4. After the race his trainer Barclay Tagg said that he would point to the Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park in November but a few days after that said that the Breeders’ Cup Mile may still be in his plans if he were to make it to the Breeders’ Cup.

            On the next day October 7th, Belmont hosted the Jerome Handicap, a Grade III for three year olds at the mile distance. There was a field of eight horses with MOST DISTINGUISHED going off as the 2-1 favorite. DAAHER, an impressive maiden winner back in May at Belmont, then lost two races in Canada, one for a $1 million dollar purse and the other a $500,000 purse. These were the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown. He came back with a big win in an allowance race at Saratoga after failing in the Stakes races but he came around in the Jerome, following up that allowance score with a pace pressing win in a solid final time of 1:34:1. He will point to the newly formed Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth and off that last win he will be one of the top contenders.



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