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Jun 11, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            On June 5th Belmont hosted the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes, the “test of champions”. There were six graded races on the card and before we get to the Belmont let’s take a look at the other races.            

            The sixth race was the Grade II Woody Stephens run at seven furlongs with a field of five horses. D’FUNNYBONE was sent off as the favorite and it turned out to be the right call as he got a perfect trip off a two horse speed duel that saw a half mile in 44:4. Sitting six lengths off that duel he was able to roll by the leaders and win going away by more than three lengths. DISCREETLY MINE who was involved in the duel held very well for second while the other pacesetter, EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY tired badly to finish fifth and last. Should be an interesting crop of three year old sprinters going forward.   

            The next race was the Grade I Just a Game stakes for fillies and mares run over the turf at one mile. PROVISO went postward as the even money favorite and didn’t disappoint stalking the early leader, taking over into the lane and then holding on for a half length score over the fast closing PHOLA. PROVISO was trained by Bill Mott and ridden by jockey Mike Smith a harbinger of things to come.

            The next race was the Grade II True North Handicap for three year olds and upward run at six furlongs. The slight favorite in the race was CHECKLIST who was coming off a big win at Gulfstream back in April for trainer Todd Pletcher, the second choice in the race was another Todd Pletcher trainee, BRIBON who was turning back in distance from a mile. With CHECKLIST setting a pressured pace up front BRIBON trailed the field of eight into the turn, as the pace continued to stay fast BRIBON was moving into contention while wide and rolled by the leaders for a 1 and ½ length score over SNAPSHOT with CHECKLIST finishing third.

            The Grade I Acorn was next with a field of 12 going postward and the slight favorite at 2.45-1 was AMEN HALLELUJAH. Breaking from post 11 CHAMPAGNE D’ORO was sent right to the lead under jockey Martin Garcia, set reasonable fractions and had enough left to hold off the favorite by a half length at 39-1. TANDA, a California invader who had a rough trip finished well for third.

            The 10th race on the card was the Grade I Manhattan Handicap for three year olds and upward over the turf at 1 and ¼ miles. The favorite in the race was GIO PONTI who was returning from a trip to Dubai back in March. Sent off at even money favorite he was forced to steady on the turn which cost him lengths but he recovered to finish a solid second to WINCHESTER (21-1) another Christophe Clement trainee. EXPANSION a 33-1 longshot made a big move to get to the leaders in the lane but had to settle for third.

            The 11th race on the day was the Belmont Stakes for three year olds run at 1 and ½ miles with a purse of $1 million dollars. A field of 12 went to the gate with ICE BOX, a troubled and fast closing second in the Kentucky Derby being sent off as the 9-5 favorite with FLY DOWN a slight second choice at 5.20-1 while FIRST DUDE, who was second in the Preakness going off at 5.90-1. As the gates opened, FIRST DUDE, from post 11 was sent right to the lead with INTERACTIF sitting just off of him in second. As they ran around the turn and down the backstretch the pace of the race was not very fast as the fractions were 24, 49, 1:14:4 and the mile went in 1:40:1. As they moved around the turn and into the lane FIRST DUDE still held the lead with GAME ON DUDE making a run at him while DROSSELMEYER was not that far behind in third. As they hit the last eighth, DROSSELMEYER got to the front and held off a fast closing FLY DOWN by just ¾’s of a length, FIRST DUDE did hold on for third with GAME ON DUDE checking in fourth. ICE BOX didn’t get much of a pace to run at but never lifted a hoof and checked in a disappointing 9th. UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN, who was owned in partnership by the many owners of Fantasy Lane Stable and held the sentimental vote as his original trainer Alan Seewald passed on back in April, finished fifth. However, he was disqualified because one of the weights in his saddle ensuring he carried 126 lbs fell out down the backside; fortunately no horse or jockey was hurt but the horse had to be disqualified.

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