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Aug 05, 2011

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


            The big hoopla at the beginning of the year is who will win the Kentucky Derby. Then the thought goes to can this Derby winner go on to win the elusive Triple Crown. However, this years’ crop of three year olds has left a lot to be desired with three different winners scoring in all three Triple Crown races. As it is in many years, the three year olds get a brief break before heading to the important three year old races that are contested in the Summer time.

            Our first stop is at Monmouth Park who hosted the Grade I Haskell Stakes for three year olds run over 1 and 1/8th miles and carried the a purse of $1 million dollars. The Haskell Stakes featured two out of the three winners of the Triple Crown. SHACKLEFORD, the winner of the Preakness stakes as a 12-1 longshot and RULER ON ICE, the Belmont winner who splashed home over a sloppy track to score at 24-1. Eight horses went postward in the Haskell with SHACKLEFORD going off as the 3-2 favorite over California shipper COIL. As the gates opened, COIL, a horse who was expected to be up near the lead found himself trailing the field into the first turn after getting off to a slow/awkward start as JOE VANN lead the way with SHACKLEFORD in close pursuit. Carving out reasonable splits of 23:1, 47, 1:10:3, SHACKLEFORD took over the lead into the far turn. As they entered the lane, SHACKLEFORD looked like he would get away and score this important victory on the road to top three year old but COIL and his jockey Martin Garcia were making a big five wide move to gain contention and eventually ran down SHACKLEFORD for the neck victory. SHACKLEFORD held on for a clear second over the Belmont winner RULER ON ICE. COIL, who was trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Mike Pegram was only making his sixth career start and showed a new dimension closing from last for the score. He is expected to try and test the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday August 27th. A win in that race puts him in the lead for the honor of top three year old.

            At Saratoga they hosted their traditional prep for the Travers stakes, the Jim Dandy, a Grade II, also for three year olds at 1 and 1/8th miles but this race carried a considerably less purse of $500,000. With a field of seven going postward, DOMINUS was sent off as the slight favorite at 9-5 after scoring a comfortable win the Grade II Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 2nd. However, this would be his first start around two turns and it seemed that may have done him in through the lane as he tired to finish third after leading at the top of the stretch. STAY THIRSTY, considered the second class citizen to his stablemate UNCLE MO has moved himself to the top of the three year old list with a big win in the Jim Dandy after a good second in the Belmont Stakes. STAY THIRSTY showed much promise early in his career but found UNCLE MO too tough in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He started the year with an easy win in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct but then faced tougher in the Florida Derby and didn’t do much running and followed up with a 12th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. After skipping the Preakness he came back with a solid effort in the Belmont finishing second to RULER ON ICE by ¾’s of a length. He was given over seven weeks off and he didn’t disappoint, taking over into the lane and drawing away nicely for a four length win in a solid time of 1:48:3. He should relish the 1 and ¼ in the Travers and it looks like he will be headed for a showdown with COIL.

            If one of those horses could add the Travers to their resume they would definitely jump to the head of the class, however, the way this three year old crop has been this year, expect someone else to pop up and score. Next week we will take a look at the Whitney and the Test Stakes, both to be contested at Saratoga on Saturday August 6th.



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