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Aug 12, 2011

American Turf Club Lead-WHITNEY-TEST-BREEDERS' CUP

By: Joe Girardi


            The Saratoga meeting is steeped in quality with the highlight of the 40-day race meet coming in the Travers Stakes, also known as the “Mid-Summers Derby”. Well if the Travers is the highlight the Whitney Stakes is not very far behind as the second most popular race. This year’s Whitney Handicap was run on Saturday August 6th and drew a large field of 11 solid horses. With such a big field and well matched runners the favorite in the race was sent off at 4-1.

            Breaking from post 5 and coming off a huge win in the Metropolitan Mile back on May 30th at Belmont, TIZWAY, was made the slight favorite going off at 4.10-1. Although he was only 1 for 8 at the 1 and 1/8th miles distance heading into the race, his trainer H. James Bond felt he was doing the best ever, he was physically doing well and was able to train without any interruptions. Well his feeling was right as TIZWAY stalked the early leaders from third, took over that lead into the lane and drew away smartly to score by three lengths over the second choice FLAT OUT. GIANT OAK closed from 11th and last to get up for third over FRIEND OR FOE who led the race from the start. The fractions of the race were 24:1, 49, 1:13:4, 1:39:1 and the final time was a slow 1:52:2. However, the track was playing on the slow side all day and I wouldn’t read that much into the time going forward. TIZWAY has clearly established himself as the top handicap horse on the East Coast and looks headed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

            On the same day as the Whitney, Saratoga also hosted the Grade I Test Stakes. For three year old fillies run over seven furlongs, the Test featured a field of eight fillies with TURBULENT DESCENT going off as the odds-on favorite. Coming off a defeat in the Grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont back in June, TURBULENT DESCENT got away in fourth early on racing behind some sharp early fractions. She started to move on the far turn, took over into the lane and drew away smartly to score by almost four lengths. POMEROYS PISTOL who chased the leaders from third was able to get up for second late over the early leader ROMAN TREASURE who checked in third. AMERICAN LADY, the second choice in the race from the Bob Baffert barn, stalked the early leader from second but came up completely empty in the drive tiring to finish 8th and last. TURBULENT DESCENT ran her record to 6 for 8 with two second place finishes and definitely showed that seven furlongs is her best distance. Look for her to stick to those one turn races and point for the filly and mare sprint come Breeders’ Cup time.

            On Sunday, August 7th, Saratoga hosted a Grade I and Grade II, two sprint races, one for fillies and mares and one for three years old and upward. The Grade II Honorable Miss for fillies and mares, three years old and upward carried a purse of $150,000 and drew a field of just five horses. The slight favorite in the race was TAR HEEL MOM, a hard hitting six year old mare who was coming off two straight second place finishes at 2-5 or less. However, she didn’t disappoint breaking well and going right to the lead, she set solid fractions and then blew it away in the lane scoring by almost six lengths in 1:10:2. She looks like she has turned it back around and looks headed in the right direction as we move towards the fall.

            In the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt there was a field of eight that went postward. The odds-on favorite in this race was TRAPPE SHOT, a dominating winner of the True North Handicap at Belmont on Belmont Stakes day. SEAN AVERY, a talented but fragile five year old gelding came out of the gate running, set the sharp early pace into the lane and then held on to score by a nose over the oncoming TRAPPE SHOT with CALIBRACHOA checking in third. The final time of the race was a solid 1:09:3 and keeps that sprint division on the east coast open as we head towards the fall races before the Breeders’ Cup.

            Speaking of the Breeders’ Cup it was very disappointing as they named Santa Anita as the 2012 host of the Breeders’ Cup. This would mark the third time in five years that Santa Anita has hosted the Breeders’ Cup as they went back to back in 2008-2009. However, New York, has not hosted the Breeders’ Cup since 2005. As the mecca of racing it was a big blow to not be named the Breeders’ Cup host but all you can do is hope that in 2013 Belmont will be named the rightful host. At least this time the races will be run over conventional dirt as Santa Anita has moved back to dirt after experimenting with a synthetic surface that obviously didn’t work out. Let’s hope the Breeders’ Cup gets it right the following year.

 



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