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Aug 15, 2008

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The weekend of August 2nd and 3rd was a big weekend in racing from the East Cost to the West Coast. Saratoga, Del Mar and Monmouth Park all hosted big races this weekend that will have an impact on the year end awards.

            At Saratoga on Saturday August 2nd, Saratoga hosted the Grade I Test Stakes for three year old fillies, with six horses going postward. INDIAN BLESSING, last year’s two year old filly champion was sent off as the 2-5 favorite and she didn’t disappoint taking over as they approached the top of the stretch and drew away to score by seven lengths in a solid time of 1:22:3. SWEET HOPE who was coming off a big win at Delaware Park was a clear second with longshot MS. MARGARET H. checking in a well beaten third. Bob Baffert, INDIAN BLESSING’s trainer said her next start might come in the 1 and 1/8th miles Gazelle at Belmont at their Fall Championship meeting but nothing has been set yet. 

            On Sunday August 3rd at Saratoga they hosted the Grade II Fourstardave Handicap named after the great New York Bred who won a race at Saratoga for nine straight years and ran some of his best races at the Spa. Owned by Richard Bomze this gelding always gave his best and ran some of the best turf horses of his era right to the wire. Anyway back to the race, there were nine horses that went postward with DANAK going off as the favorite. He was steadied early on in traffic and he gave way on the turn before pulling up near the wire. According to his trainer Kiaran McLaughlin he had a cut but returned well and will be fine. RED GIANT who was coming off an October layoff sat the inside trip while racing in fourth and closed strongly late to get up by a neck at 4-1, over STALINGRAD with second choice, THORN SONG finishing third. The time of the race was a little on the slow side but the course was labeled yielding.

            On Saturday at Del Mar they ran the Grade II Clement L. Hirsch Handicap for fillies and mares three year olds and upward at 1 and 1/16th miles that featured the undefeated four year old filly ZENYATTA. She didn’t disappoint despite carrying 124 pounds, she found room at the top of the lane and came through to win by a geared down length in a solid final time over the Polytrack at Del Mar. She has now run her record to 7 for 7 and is definitely atop the filly and mare division but depending on who goes where in the Breeders’ Cup she may be in line for a shot at Horse of the Year.

            On Sunday at Monmouth Park they hosted the $1 Million Haskell Invitational a Grade I race for three year olds that featured the return of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero, BIG BROWN, who was making his first start since being eased as the odds-on choice in the Belmont Stakes. With seven horses going postward and none of whom had any solid credentials he was sent off at 1-5. After stalking the early pacesetter COAL PLAY through the first mile BIG BROWN was all out at the top of the lane as he tried to catch the leader. As they got down to the 1/8th pole, despite drifting out BIG BROWN finally ran down the leader to score by almost two lengths. The time of the race wasn’t bad in 1:48:1 but the quality of the competition wasn’t very good. It will be interesting to see where BIG BROWN goes from here but there was some talk about running him in a grass race in September.

            As a side note it has been announced that reigning Horse of the Year CURLIN will race at Saratoga in the Woodward Stakes on August 30th.



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