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Mar 12, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Unlike the next two weekends the weekend of March 6th was not very big on the Kentucky Derby Trail. The Sham Stakes at Santa Anita and the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct are the only two races that could conceivably have any impact on the first Saturday in May.

            The Sham Stakes had a field of 10 that went postward as Santa Anita’s seventh race on Saturday March 6th, it was run over 1 and 1/8th miles and carried a purse of $150,000 with a Grade III status. The slight favorite in the race was SETSUKO who to this point has a maiden win and his first try with winners was a good second but that was over the turf. As the race unfolded NEXTDOORNEIGHBOR who was an easy maiden winner last out set the pace from post 9 after battling with a longshot EL MIRAGE KING through the first quarter mile. He held that lead as they approached the top of the stretch but lost that lead to THE PROGRAM, a Bob Baffert trainee who was coming off a slow win over allowance foes and was trying stakes company for the second time. As THE PROGRAM started to tire late ALPHIE’S BET, a California bred who had 1 win in four starts and that win came over the turf, closed strongly in the lane for the score. SETSUKO did finish well for second in a reasonable final time of 1:48:3. That was a very big race from ALPHIE’S BET and it would be interesting to see where he goes from here if he can continue those type of performances, however it would be a bit of a surprise. Interestingly enough was the fact that ALPHIE’S BET’s trainer Alexis Barba had the winner of the race before with MAKE MUSIC FOR ME over the turf in the $60,000 Pasadena Stakes. The reason why this is an interesting note is that going into the Pasadena MAKE MUSIC FOR ME was a maiden but he was also part of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1 despite not even winning a race at that point. In six races prior to the Pasadena MAKE MUSIC FOR ME had earned $218,000 despite not winning a race and collected checks in four graded stakes races, three Grade I’s and one Grade II. He added blinkers for the Pasadena and the time off may have done him well, I think if anything he has a better shot of racing in the Derby over his stablemate ALPHIE’S BET.

            Moving on to Aqueduct for the Grade III Gotham Stakes run at 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $250,000. This race also had 10 horses go into the gate with the slight favorite being AWESOME ACT who was bet down to favoritism over the last few minutes of betting. With six races in his career leading up to the Gotham with five over the turf and one coming on synthetic he was trying the conventional dirt for the first time. However, he was bred by AWESOME AGAIN out of a MR. PROSPECTOR mare, Houdini’s Honey, so he definitely had the breeding to take to the dirt. With this not being a very strong Gotham at least on paper the second choice in the race was a New York bred who was undefeated in two starts both at six furlongs. As the gates opened WOW WOW WOW, a D. Wayne Lukas shipper from Oaklawn Park was able to clear despite racing from post 10; he set solid fractions getting the half mile in 46:3 while being tracked by PEPPI KNOWS and THREE DAY RUSH. As they passed the ¾ mark in the race the leaders began to tire from their early efforts as AWESOME ACT took over the lead, he drew clear by three lengths and held that New York bred YAWANNA TWIST safe by more than a length. NACHO FRIEND who finished a good third despite coming off a July layoff and was only making his third career start. Along with AWESOME ACT he is one to watch as they are both being pointed to a possible start in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3rd.

            In the long running saga of the “racino” at Aqueduct, the deal to open the casino is dead again. According to an article in the Daily Racing Form by Matt Hegarty, New York Gov. David Paterson said in a statement issued Thursday that the state's lottery "has concluded that it cannot issue a gaming license to Aqueduct Entertainment Group," the sprawling partnership whose selection in late January by state government leaders to operate the casino sparked criticism and controversy. As a result, the process of selecting the operator is going to be reopened, Paterson said, a development that will almost certainly add further delays to a process that has been ongoing for nearly nine years. It’s truly hard to believe that this has continued for nine years and they just cannot get it right. With Monmouth Park in New Jersey proposing three days a week of racing with a $1 million dollars in purses each day New York will find themselves in a tough spot. Hopefully this issue can be resolved before another nine years go by or the once powerful New York racing will no longer be.

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