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Oct 03, 2008

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            As the Breeders’ Cup approaches the prep races leading into the big day are coming fast and furious. On September 27th, 2008 at Belmont they hosted five Grade I races all for different divisions for Breeders’ Cup day.

            The first race was the Grade I Beldame for fillies and mares, three years old and upward with a purse of $600,000 to be run at 1 and 1/8th miles. There was only five horses in the race but with a scratch of UNBRIDLED BELLE there was a field of four with GINGER PUNCH going off as the heavy 1-2 favorite. After setting moderate early splits they picked up the pace at the top of the lane with GINGER PUNCH holding the lead but COCOA BEACH closing on the outside and finally nailing her on the wire. The four year old Godolphin filly now ran her record to 8 for 10 and you don’t know how good she could be, we will have to see on Breeders’ Cup day.

            The next race was another five horse field in the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes, a Grade I for fillies and mares on the turf going 1 and ¼ miles with a healthy purse of $600,000. MAURALAKANA was sent off as the 3-5 favorite but she would prove no match for DYNAFORCE who stole away to very slow fractions and had plenty left for the drive and scored going away by four lengths. MAURALAKANA held on for second by a neck over a fast closing COMMUNIQUE in a slow final time of 2:07:2. It will be interesting to see who goes out to California for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare turf all of the top three finishers would have a shot.

            The Grade I Vosburgh at six furlongs was next with a purse of $400,000 and saw seven horses go postward. There was an early battle for the lead among four horses, FABULOUS STRIKE, J BE K, FIRST DEFENCE and BLACK SEVENTEEN with two of them going to the wire to determine the winner. Rank outsider, BLACK SEVENTEEN, despite being caught very wide got up for the score by a head at 23-1 over FABULOUS STRIKE who had only one other start this year. The latter also had a shoe problem in the paddock which didn’t help his cause and he can be a threat if he makes it to the Breeders’ cup Sprint. The favorite in the race, LUCKY ISLAND was a very disappointing sixth.

            The next race was the 1 and ½ miles Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes for three year olds and upward over the turf with another $600,000 purse. There were eight horses that went postward with GRAND COUTURIER going off as the 5-2 favorite. PRESIOUS PASSION made the lead with a couple of pursuers through moderate splits but when it counted at the top of the stretch, GRAND COUTURIER exploded and drew off to the easiest kind of victory scoring by more than 10 lengths. INTERPATATION just got up for second by a nose over SUMMER PATRIOT with STRIKE A DEAL way back in fourth. GRAND COUTURIER will try to make amends for his loss in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf and if he can duplicate this performance he is well on his way.

            The final Grade I race of the day was the Jockey Club Gold Cup, for three year olds and upward at 1 and ¼ miles with a purse of $750,000. This was the big race of the day because reigning Horse of the Year CURLIN was trying to become the richest American horse and go over the $10 million mark in earnings. Despite some moderate early splits, CURLIN cruised up on the outside at the top of the stretch and easily ground down the leader, WANDERIN BOY for a ¾ length score. His jockey Robby Albarado went to the whip and his next stop may now be the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita over the synthetic Pro Ride surface and a possible meeting with BIG BROWN.



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