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Aug 27, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            On Saturday August 21st, Saratoga Race Course hosted the 130th running of the Alabama Stakes, a Grade I for three year old fillies, run over 1 and ¼ miles with a purse of $500,000. A field of six week went postward with DEVIL MAY CARE, the leading three year old filly candidate coming into the race went off as the 3-5 favorite with BLIND LUCK the California invader not that far behind at 9-5.

            When the gates opened the rail horse ACTING HAPPY was sent to the lead and was able to set the pace over fellow longshots, TIZAHIT and CONNIE AND MICHAEL while setting some very slow fractions, 24, 49:2, 1:14:4, as they entered the far turn. As TIZAHIT and CONNIE AND MICHAEL began to fade, the third choice in the race, HAVRE DE GRACE moved off the rail and began to make a move in tandem with the odds-on favorite DEVIL MAY CARE. As they hit the top of the lane, HAVRE DE GRACE had taken the lead from ACTING HAPPY. DEVIL MAY CARE didn’t have her kick and quickly flattened out tiring to finish fourth but at the same time BLIND LUCK was storming down the center of the track and got up to score by a neck in a solid final quarter mile in 24:3. She has clearly taken over the lead as the top three year old in the country with the Alabama, the Grade I Las Virgenes and the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. Obviously DEVIL MAY CARE would need to come back with a few more big efforts and defeat BLIND LUCK before the year is up to get her back to the top of the division.

            The Travers which will be run on August 28th at the same 1 and ¼ mile distance drew a field of 11 horses. The morning line favorite in the field is A LITTLE WARM who was the winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes earlier in the meeting; he is 7-2 on the morning line. The second choice in the race on the morning line is TRAPPE SHOT who is 4-1 off of his second place finish in the Haskell Stakes back on August 1st. Co-third choices are AFLEET ALEX, third in the Jim Dandy and Kentucky Derby winner SUPER SAVER who finished an improved fourth in the Haskell and has reportedly been working well for this race. Now the quality might not be there but the race is wide-open from a betting standpoint and it gives a three year old the opportunity to move forward as we approach the fall championship season.

            On Sunday August 29th, RACHEL ALEXANDRA returns to Saratoga the site of her big win in the Woodward last year when she defeated older colts while taking pressure the whole way. She was in my opinion the Horse of the Year last year because her body of work was clearly best. She has not returned to the same form this year. In March but was defeated at 1-9 finishing second, she was then beaten by a head in her next start in a Grade II at Churchill Downs. She came back at Churchill with a huge win in the Grade II Fleur De Lis Handicap scoring by more than 10 lengths. She moved onto Monmouth Park to score another easy win in the Ladys Secret Stakes at 1-9. In Sunday’s Personal Ensign there are five horses going postward. LIFE AT TEN a winner of six in a row heading into this race will be RACHEL’S main challenger and the 1 and ¼ miles distance could be the great equalizer. RACHEL ALEXANDRA will be trying this distance for the first time while LIFE AT TEN is coming off a win in the Delaware Handicap at the distance.

            We will take a look at both the Travers and Personal Ensign in this spot next week. NYRA is offering a daily double on these two races despite the fact that they are on two different days; although the Personal Ensign looks chalky the Travers can offer some value.

            I was reading yesterday on the Drf blog by Steven Crist where he listed his top 4 Travers Stakes. Even though I was only at the Travers live once in my life, in 1986 when WISE TIMES won in the slop I had a top Travers. It was the Summer of 1982 and I was 8 years old. I knew how to read the racing form and had come across a horse at Belmont who had just won an allowance race. I came home that night and told my father I saw the Travers winner. That horse was RUNAWAY GROOM. He ran in the Travers that year against the Kentucky Derby winner, GATO DEL SOL, the Preakness winner, ALOMA’S RULER and the Belmont Stakes winner CONQUISTADOR CIELO. He trailed the field of five until the far turn when he closed strongly off the sharp early pace and ran down ALOMA’S RULER for the win with CONQUISTADOR CIELO just behind those two in third. He was 13-1 in a field of five and my favorite jockey at the time was on him, Jeff Fell. I think I bet a $2 daily double but lost the last race that day but I did have the Travers winner two months before the race as an eight year old.

            If you get the chance get out to Saratoga for the Travers or before the meet closes on Labor Day, you can’t beat the experience, I know because I have gone for 33 straight years, save one year when I missed out. Good luck!

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