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Sep 10, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Saratoga and Del Mar both closed their doors this week and each held races that will impact the Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs.

            On September 4th, the final Saturday of the meeting, Saratoga hosted two Grade I races, each with a big impact on the Breeders’ Cup come November. The first race was the Grade I Forego Stakes, run over seven furlongs with a purse of $250,000. The entry of VINEYARD HAVEN and GIROLAMO were sent off as the even money favorite. WARRIOR’S REWARD was second choice at 9-2 and BIG DRAMA and BRIBON were both sent off at 5-1. As the gates opened, CHECKLIST, a 23-1 longshot from the Todd Pletcher barn was sent right to the lead and dropped over on the rail, BIG DRAMA raced in second and VINEYARD HAVEN was in behind both of those horses racing in third. The fractions of the race were solid, 22:2, 45:1, 1:09:2, as they entered the lane, as CHECKLIST began to fade, BIG DRAMA had taken over with VINEYARD HAVEN still in third. Coming down to the wire BIG DRAMA tired a bit from his early efforts and HERE COMES BEN flew home in between horses to get the win by ¾’s of a length. BIG DRAMA held for a clear second as VINEYARD HAVEN held on for third by just a neck never having made a run even when clear. WARRIOR’S REWARD made a move on the turn but flattened out and checked in fourth. GIROLAMO, who had not been seen since last year’s Breeders’ cup Classic ran a respectable fifth; BRIBON another Pletcher trainee never got going in a solid final time of 1:22:2.

            HERE COMES BEN, a four year old who has now won four races in a row loves the Churchill Downs racetrack and has a few options when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup, they could turn him back to the Sprint or go to the Dirt Mile. BIG DRAMA, who finished a solid second was shipped back down to Florida to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

            In the next race, the Grade I Woodward Stakes, run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $750,000, QUALITY ROAD was trying to redeem himself after a head loss in the Whitney earlier in the meeting to leading handicap horse, BLAME. With a win here and a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic QUALITY ROAD would be in line for a few year end championships, especially the Horse of the Year award. When the gates opened, longshot ARCODORO made the front with QUALITY ROAD stalking in second, the fractions of the race were not fast but they were not slow either, 24, 47:3, 1:11:2, 1:36:3 and the final time was an unimpressive 1:50 flat. Taking over from the leader on the turn QUALITY ROAD began to draw away through the lane scoring by almost five lengths in a workmanlike performance; MYTHICAL POWER held on for second over TRANQUIL MANNER and 2009 Kentucky Derby winner MINE THAT BIRD finished seventh and last. His connections hinted that a turnback in distance may be in the works.

            On closing day, Saratoga hosted the Grade I Hopeful Stakes for two year olds, going seven furlongs with a purse of $250,000. With only a field of four going postward BOYS AT TOSCONOVA was sent off as the 1-2 favorite, WINE POLICE was second choice at 2-1 and STAY THIRSTY was third choice at 9-2. STAY THIRSTY made the lead with WINE POLICE pressing that one, BOYS AT TOSCONOVA stalked in third. In the lane BOYS AT TOSCONOVA ran down the leaders and was geared down late in a solid win with a final time of 1:23:1. His connections said that they would train him up to the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs off that effort. STAY THIRSTY battled back for second and WINE POLICE was third almost 10 lengths in front of SETTLE FOR MEDAL who finished fourth.

            On closing day at Del Mar we may have seen another contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when J P’S GUSTO dominated the field of 11 in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity scoring an impressive 4 and ½ length victory in a sharp time of 1:22:4. That was his fourth win in five tries and his third in a row in graded stakes company. Even though he was down on the rail he was able to rate just a bit while under some pressure but as they entered the lane he drew away for the win and had plenty left in the tank. Even though his breeding suggests shorter distances his connections think he will stretchout and right now is the top contender in the two year old division on the West Coast.

            A few days earlier on September 5th, the Grade II Del Mar Derby was run, for three year olds over 1 and 1/8th miles over the turf course with a purse of $300,000. There was only really one horse to see in this race the undefeated TWIRLING CANDY. Three for three heading into this race and one for one over the turf he didn’t disappoint. He tried to get out down the backside and was a little difficult to handle on the turn but when he was asked to run through the lane he drew away at once, to score by over three lengths in a solid time of 1:46:4. Three year old by Candy Ride is still green with only four races under his belt but the talent is limitless. It will be interesting to see if he does find his way to the Breeders’ Cup but he will be one to reckon with if he does.


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