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Aug 06, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            The Saratoga meeting, save the first few days has been getting good weather, therefore bigger fields and the handle have been solid. Very competitive fields on the turf and dirt have given this meeting a good feel as they move forward toward the end of the third week.

            On Saturday July 31st, Saratoga hosted the Grade I Diana Stakes, run over the turf at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $500,000, a field of seven went postward. The slight favorite in the race was FOREVER TOGETHER with PROVISO a close second choice. The early pace was slow as DYNASLEW led from the start through moderate fractions and was still there at the top of the lane as PROVISO was making her move. PROVISO took over in deep stretch and dug in gamely to hold off the closing SHARED ACCOUNT by a head, with FOREVER TOGETHER another nose back and DYNASLEW another head back in fourth in a very exciting race. The older filly and mare turf division is very close this year and should produce some exciting finishes as the year moves on.

            The Grade II Jim Dandy was the next race, a prep for the “Midsummer Derby”, the Travers Stakes on 8/28. The Jim Dandy is run at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $500,000 for three year olds. There was a field of eight horses that went postward with FLY DOWN going off as the slight favorite over AFLEET EXPRESS. MINER’S RESERVE, another Nick Zito trainee, was sent right to the lead and set a very solid pace while A LITTLE WARM stalked that runner closely with FRIEND OR FOE tracking those two from third. As they hit the top of the lane the two leaders began to quicken up but no one could do much running from behind. A LITTLE WARM wore down MINER’S RESERVE just as he did a month earlier in the Delaware allowance race they both exited and scored by almost two lengths. AFLEET EXPRESS, still racing greenly got up for third over New York bred FRIEND OR FOE who also gained a lot of experience in that race, while FLY DOWN didn’t do any running checking in fifth. The Travers at this point looks to be very wide open.

            Another very exciting race is the jockey’s race through the early part of the meeting. John Velasquez currently holds a one race lead through the racing on August 5th. With 18 wins Velasquez is one in front of Javier Castellano who has 17 wins and Ramon Dominguez, the reigning champ and everyone’s favorite to repeat is back in third with just 10 wins. However, there is a long way to go and Dominguez will surely make his run at the leaders before all is said and done. Jose Lezcano, one jockey who was thought to have a shot to make an impact has been having a rough meeting so far with three wins from 51 starts through August 5th. Alex Solis and Mike Luzzi are a combined 0 for 31 while Cornelio Velasquez is only 2 for 44.

            In the trainer’s race we have another very exciting race with Todd Pletcher currently hold a one win lead, 10-9 over Chad Brown through August 5th. Pletcher has a solid win percentage at 27% but Chad Brown has been having an unbelievably meeting with a 45% winning percentage and an in the money % of 60. Last year’s winner Linda Rice is currently six wins back with 4 but she only has 15 starters and just like the jockey’s race there is a long way to go. Some trainers having a rough time of it right now, Gary Contessa, 2 for 30, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, 1 for 23 and trainer Wesley Ward is still waiting on his first win as he is 0 for 12 through August 5th.

            On Sunday August 1st, Monmouth Park hosted the Grade I Haskell Stakes, a race for three year olds, run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $1 million dollars. The 6-5 favorite in the race was LOOKIN AT LUCKY who was coming off a win in the Preakness Stakes back on May 15th while the second choice was the up and coming TRAPPE SHOT. Kentucky Derby winner SUPER SAVER was also returning as well as ICE BOX and FIRST DUDE. With FIRST DUDE making the pace SUPER SAVER was not that far off the leader racing in third while LOOKIN AT LUCKY set up shop in fourth. As they entered the stretch, SUPER SAVER had made a move to take a short lead from FIRST DUDE with LOOKIN AT LUCKY sitting right outside that rival while TRAPPE SHOT was gearing up in behind those runners. As they raced through the lane LOOKIN AT LUCKY was asked to run and he took off scoring by four lengths with TRAPPE SHOT getting up for second while FIRST DUDE battled back to nose out SUPER SAVER for third. LOOKIN AT LUCKY who spiked a fever after the race was not going to run in the Travers, however his trainer Bob Baffert left the door open for the Woodward Stakes a week later against older horses. Either way LOOKIN AT LUCKY is starting to separate himself from the division and this should set up for some very interesting races the rest of the year.

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