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Apr 29, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Essentially the last prep for the Kentucky Derby was run at Keeneland on Saturday April 23rd when they hosted the Lexington Stakes. The Derby Trial which is run a week before the Kentucky Derby doesn’t look like there will be anyone moving on to the Derby from that race.

            In the Lexington, a Grade III and the last chance for these three year olds to get the precious graded earnings had a field of six with SILVER MEDALLION going off as the 6-5 favorite. Coming off a fourth place finish as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby when he checked in fourth behind MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE, he was back on the Keeneland Polytrack where he didn’t perform well in the past. Getting away third behind the other two speeds, SILVER MEDALLION came up empty when called on and checked in an even fourth behind DERBY KITTEN who is so aptly named but still might need some help getting into the Kentucky Derby with only $120,000 in graded earnings. DERBY KITTEN was making his first start over the Polytrack but his other performance over conventional dirt was not very good finishing well up the track.

            The Jerome Stakes run on the same day at Aqueduct was not really a Derby prep but this race could serve as prep for other Triple Crown races, such as the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Eight horses went postward over a sloppy/sealed track with CAL NATION and ASTROLOGY going off as co-choices at 2-1. As the gates broke CAL NATION was sent to the lead from post 2 while under pressure from ADIOS CHARLIE who was just about a half length off the leader. As they moved into the far turn, ADIOS CHARLIE took over the lead from CAL NATION as JUSTIN PHILLIP made a three wide move to take over into the lane. As JUSTIN PHILLIP held a clear lead in midstretch, ADIOS CHARLIE continued to battle through the lane and kicked past that rival drawing away to score by more than two lengths. ASTROLOGY, an interesting three year old closed well late to get up for second. His plan was to prep for the Preakness off the race but nothing has been finalized. As far as the winner, a three year old by INDIAN CHARLIE with only three starts under his belt now might look at the Belmont as a race to point for with a possible prep coming in the Peter Pan in May, according to his trainer Stanley Hough.

            The Peter Pan will be run on May 14th at Belmont which gets its spring/summer meeting under way on Friday April 29th and runs through July 17th. The first stakes action comes on Saturday April 30th when they host the Grade III Westchester Handicap, a race that will serve as a prep for the Metropolitan Mile run on May 30th. HAYNESFIELD will be returning in this race after finishing a solid second in the Cigar Mile after an up the track effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. SOARING EMPIRE a solid runner at these middle distances will also be in the race along with up and comer CHRISTMAS FOR LIAM for the Todd Pletcher barn.

            The highlight of the Belmont meeting will come on June 11th when they host the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Test of Champions, the Belmont Stakes. The other Grade I’s and two more Grade II’s will also be run on that day. We can only hope that this year we will have a Triple Crown shot and it all starts on the first Saturday in May with the Kentucky Derby.

            Some other highlights for this meeting will be the change in the pick four wagering. Starting with Belmont the pick 4 will be offered in a 50 cent increment. This allows for more spreading, therefore a better chance to win and in turn more handle generated for NYRA. Three “Party at the Park” dates have been set for July 1, 8, 15, where post times are set at 3 p.m. There will be a concert after live racing concludes and they will start around 7:15 p.m.

            The stewards’ corner will include weekly recaps with more in-depth information to help the customer. Increases to the two year old maiden special weight purses should see an influx of barns shipping in. The purses for these races will be moved to $60,000.

            The Heritage Club Food Court also opens, it will be on the third floor, with a full service bar, televisions as well as many choices of food from burgers to tex-mex.

            It is an exciting time for the NYRA and with some of these customer friendly changes as well as the slot money that is soon to come, they will soon be back on top of the racing world.


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