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Dec 05, 2008

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The final Grade I Stakes on the New York calendar was run over the Thanksgiving weekend along with three days of top quality racing but unfortunately it ended in tragedy with a breakdown of a very popular horse in the Grade I Cigar Mile and another breakdown in the Demoiselle but hopefully that story will finish with a happy ending. A takedown in Cigar Mile also brought some controversy to the race.

            Starting on Thanksgiving Day with the once very popular Fall Highweight handicap saw a field of eight horses go postward. At one time this race was a graded stakes but now it is not graded but does still carry a purse of $100,000. The 136lb highweight in the race was FABULOUS STRIKE who had finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint a month earlier at Santa Anita. He broke well from post 1 and never looked back scoring an easy wire to wire win in a sharp time of 1:09 flat while being eased up late. HE’S SO CHIC closed well to finish second with FEROCIOUS FIRES checking in third.

            On the next day Aqueduct hosted the Grade II Top Flight handicap for fillies and mares three year olds and up going one flat mile. The slight favorite in the race was LEAH’S SECRET, a five year old mare coming off a stakes win at Churchill Downs. SLEWFOUNDMONEY who has turned it around since moving into Martin Wolfson’s barn was a close second choice. The public was right in this affair as they battled it out to the wire with LEAH’S SECRET prevailing by ¾’s of a length; BOCA GRANDE closed well for third for the Phipps barn.

            On Saturday there were two Grade II races and the final Grade I in the Cigar Mile. In the Grade II Demoiselle there was a field of six that went postward with SKY DIVA going off as the 1-5 favorite. With second choice AIN’T LOVE GRAND setting the pace while SKY DIVA was tracking the eventual winner, SPRINGSIDE lagged behind in sixth. As they approached the top of the stretch, SKY DIVA was all out but couldn’t get by while SPRINGSIDE was unleashing a huge run to roll by them all and score going away by almost 10 lengths. Unfortunately she broke down after the wire and was vanned off. She was taken to New Bolton for surgery that as of this writing seemed to go well. Her trainer Josie Carroll said, “At this point, everything is kind of speculation". "We'll see how she comes out of the surgery, then we'll see what's going on. I don't want to project until it's all said and done." It was too soon to tell whether she would race again.    

            In the Grade II Remsen for two year olds we saw a very impressive winner in OLD FASHIONED who ran his record to three for three. After breaking well from post five he was sent right to the lead, set some leisurely fractions but took off under mild urging to score going away by more then seven lengths. The final 1/8th of a mile was a solid 12 1/5th and this two year old has plenty of room for improvement. Trained by Larry Jones and owned by Fox Hill Farms this UNBRIDLED’S SONG colt has a very bright future ahead of him. ATOMIC RAIN finished second with AMERICAN DANCE checking in third more then 10 lengths behind the winner.

            In the final graded race of the weekend and last Grade I in New York of 2008 was the Grade I Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile. A field of nine went postward with MONTEREY JAZZ going off as the lukewarm favorite at 3-1. He broke well from post six and set a pressured pace through a half mile in 45:1, STORM PLAY and WANDERIN BOY were just to his outside. As they hit the top of the lane, MONTEREY JAZZ began to tire as the closers moved in. Unfortunately, WANDERIN BOY the hard hitting seven year old broke down and had to be humanely destroyed. The Nick Zito trainee was coming off a good second to CURLIN at the end of September at Belmont.

            As they entered the stretch HARLEM ROCKER the longest shot in the race at 9-1 took over the lead but as he did in veered in and forced TALE OF EKATI to steady and come outside, TALE OF EKATI pulled alongside but couldn’t get by and lost by a nose with BRIBON and ARSON SQUAD flying late for third and fourth. After a long steward’s inquiry they disqualified HARLEM ROCKER from first to second and placed TALE OF EKATI first. Todd Pletcher, the trainer of HARLEM ROCKER was not happy and he and owner Frank Stronach were even contemplating an appeal but they decided not to but they did state that they don’t agree with the decision.

 



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