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Oct 08, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            On Saturday October 2nd, Belmont hosted one of their Breeders’ Cup Preview days when they hosted five Grade I races all leading into Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs.

            The first race was race number 6, the Grade I Vosburgh, run at six furlongs with a purse of $350,000. There was a field of nine with GIRALAMO going postward as the 2-1 favorite. For a Grade I race this was not a high quality field but it was competitive on paper. As the gates opened WALL STREET WONDER came out running and set the pace through a half in 45:1. As they hit the turn WALL STREET WONDER began to stop as GIROLAMO took over heading into the lane. GIROLAMO had a length advantage with RILEY TUCKER bearing down on the leader and WILDCAT BRIEF the only other one running through the lane. GIROLAMO dug in late to score by more than 2 ½ lengths with RILEY TUCKER holding on for second by a half length over WILDCAT BRIEF who finished third. If GIROLAMO moves on to the Sprint he will have a shot, anyone else from this field will really need to run their race of a lifetime to have shot.

            The next race was the Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes run over the turf with a purse of $500,000. A field of seven fillies and mares went postward with RED DESIRE, a shipper from Japan going off as the 9-5 favorite. She hadn’t raced since May and shipped here because of a bleeding problem in a workout back in June. The turf course was yielding and the fractions of the race were very slow seeing the ¾ mark go in 1:19 but the frontrunners stopped as the closers began to move in. RED DESIRE took a short lead in the drive but couldn’t hold on and tired late to finish third with AVE getting up at the wire by a head over CHANGING SKIES who was ¾’s of a length in front of RED DESIRE. These top two fillies would need to move forward off this race if they are to compete in the Breeders’ Cup.

            The next race was the Grade I Beldame Stakes for fillies and mares, run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $350,000 and a field of five went postward. UNRIVALED BELLE went to the gate as the slight 6-5 favorite over LIFE AT TEN who was sent off at 7-5, with PERSISTENTLY going off as the third choice at 5-2, with the two other horses both longshots. As the gate opened, longshot QUEEN MARTHA was sent to the lead and set decent fractions in 23:3, 47:4 with UNRIVALED BELLE stalking her from second while LIFE AT TEN raced a few lengths back in third. As they approached the top of the stretch UNRIVALED BELLE was taking over from the leader but LIFE AT TEN, who took off the pace on this day was getting closer with each and every stride. In the lane LIFE AT TEN put away UNRIVALED BELLE and was clear to the wire winning by two lengths over UNRIVALED BELLE who was second by almost seven lengths over PERSISTENTLY who was all out to nail down the show spot. The top two should move on to the Ladies Classic and can make their presence felt in that field.

            The Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes was next, run over the turf at 1 and ½ miles with a purse of $500,000. There was a field of nine that went postward and the 7-5 favorite in the race was PADDY O’PRADO, a three year old who was coming off a three race winning streak over the turf after trying the Preakness and Kentucky Derby before that. He finished third in the Kentucky Derby despite some trouble nearing the top of the lane but has definitely found a home on the turf. Again the fractions of the race over a yielding course were very slow with the ¾ mark going in 1:20:1. As they approached the top of the stretch PADDY O’PRADO made a big move to take over the lead but couldn’t finish it off and had to settle for second to a fast closing WINCHESTER with GRASSY another half length back in third. The top two finishers in the race will definitely have a big impact on Breeders’ Cup Turf in less than a month at Churchill Downs.

            The final Grade I of the day was the highlight of the meeting, the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup, run over 1 and ¼ miles with a purse of $750,000. There was a field of six that went postward with BLAME, the current leading handicap horse in the country being sent off at odds-on with three year old FLY DOWN going off as the 3-1 second choice and RAIL TRIP, the synthetic specialist shipping in from California going off at 7-2. Well in an upset, none of the top three won as fourth choice HAYNESFIELD was quickly clear, set moderate fractions early on and then dominated the field drawing away to score by a geared down four lengths over a closing BLAME who never really got going until very late. FLY DOWN who raced in fifth early on closed to finish a clear third while RAIL TRIP who stalked the leader never did any running and was done on the far turn tiring to finish well beaten fifth. Looks like probably at least the top two should move along to the Breeders’ Cup Classic in what should be an epic race on November 6th at Churchill Downs.

            On the same day at Hollywood Park the great ZENYATTA ran her record to a perfect 19 for 19 as she got up near the wire with her long stride to get the win. The plans are to move on to Churchill Downs and defend her title in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This should be one of the better Breeders’ Cup Classics in history if all the horses that are supposed to run do.


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