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Oct 15, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            The string of Grade I Breeders’ Cup prep races in New York continued on October 9th with the Jamaica Handicap for three year olds run over the turf at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $250,000, followed up by two races for two year olds. The Frizette Stakes for two year old fillies run over a mile with a purse of $300,000 and the Champagne Stakes, for two year olds, also run over a mile with a purse of $300,000.

            In the Jamaica Stakes, a field of 11 three year olds went postward with KRYPTON going off as the slight favorite at 2.35-1. As the race unfolded, longshot, CITRUS KID broke running from the inside and set the slow fractions while being tracked by another longshot TWO NOTCH ROAD. As they moved into the final turn CITRUS KID opened up the lead to three lengths as the other pacesetters began to tire and the closers started moving in. In midstretch CITRUS KID looked like he would pull off the upset but PRINCE WILL I AM who had trailed the field of 11 was flying down the center of the turf course and blew by the leader late to score by more than a length at odds of 9.80-1. CITRUS KID held on for second while BEAU CHOIX picked up third late. Michelle Nihei trains the horse and Jose Lezcano was the jockey. As far as moving on to the Breeders’ Cup, Nihei says it is an option with either the Breeders’ Cup Turf over 1 and ½ miles or the Breeders’ Cup Marathon over the dirt at 1 and ¾ miles as the two races they will look at.

            In the Frizette a field of eight two year old fillies went into the gate with R HEAT LIGHTNING going off as the 9-5 favorite. Coming off a big win in the Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga the Todd Pletcher trainee would try to stretch out to a mile in this prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. As the gates opened longshot, COAX LIBERTY came out of the gate running and set the pace while under pressure from third choice, A Z WARRIOR, who shipped in from California for trainer Bob Baffert. Into the far turn, A Z WARRIOR took over the lead and got some separation from the field holding a four length lead over second choice JOYFUL VICTORY who was not gaining ground as R HEAT LIGHTNING who ran into trouble at the start and down the backstretch was closing ground in the lane to get up for second. As they came to the wire, A Z WARRIOR held on by almost two lengths with R HEAT LIGHTNING a very unlucky second, both should have an impact on the Juvenile Fillies if they both run.

            Finally in the Champagne Stakes we had a field of six heading into the starting gate with UNCLE MO going off as the 1-5 favorite on the basis of his huge debut win at Saratoga that saw him score by more than 14 lengths. As they broke the gate, UNCLE MO went to the lead but was quickly engaged by longshot, I’M STEPPIN’ IT UP who battled with him through some solid fractions of 22:2, 45:4. As they moved towards the ¼  pole, UNCLE MO began to edge away while getting the ¾ mark in 1:10:2, with MOUNTAIN TOWN gaining ground to move into second. Down the stretch, while being asked for some run UNCLE MO was very impressive scoring by almost five lengths in a solid time of 1:34:2. MOUNTAIN TOWN who was making his second career start and his first for Richard Dutrow Jr. ran well for second almost 10 lengths clear of the show horse I’M STEPPIN’ IT UP.

            At Keeneland on Saturday they had five graded stakes races with three Grade I’s. In the Grade I First Lady Stakes, a prep possibly for the Filly and Mare Turf, PROVISO made it four Grade I wins in a row as she flew home late under jockey Mike Smith. Her connections have options because she also can run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

            In the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity for two year old colts J. B.’S THUNDER took the field wire to wire and ran his record to two for two but none on conventional dirt and may be better on the lawn. The filly version of the race was run on October 8th and went to WICKEDLY PERFECT but she was injured after the race and will not make the Breeders’ Cup.

 In the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile, GIO PONTI last year’s champion turf horse and second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic over synthetic to ZENYATTA looked very good getting the job done despite some traffic trouble in midstretch. It looks like his connections will move onto the Mile but they also have many options. This should make for a very competitive Breeders’ Cup card and one that I look forward to now that they are back on conventional dirt.

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