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Oct 14, 2011

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-CHAMPAGNE-FRIZETTE

By: JOE GIRARDI


               On Saturday October 8th at Belmont they hosted three more Grade I races, two of which should directly impact the Breeders’ At Churchill Downs on November 4th and 5th. However before the first Grade I got underway the first race optional claiming field played out as a Grade I on its own.

               BOYS AT TOSCONOVA, the winner of the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga  in 2010 and second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was returning off an 11 month layoff. TAPIZAR, a Grade III winner out at Santa Anita and a leading Triple Crown contender early in the year was also returning from an eight month layoff. Finally UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN, fifth in the Grade I Belmont Stakes in 2010 was making his four year old debut. As the gates opened TAPIZAR was sent right to the lead with UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN chasing the pace from second, with BOYS AT TOSCONOVA in fifth. As they turned into the stretch TAPIZAR was strong and held gamely to the wire to score by more than two lengths in a solid final time of 1:21:1, UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN held for a clear second while BOYS AT TOSCONOVA grinding it out for third as the 1-2 favorite. TAPIZAR always showed potential and his comeback race was solid, ridden by Corey Nakatani and trained by Steve Asmussen this would be a start of a big day for those connections. 

               The first Grade I race of the day came in race 7 in the Jamaica Handicap, run over 1 and 1/8th miles on the turf with a purse of $250,000. With seven horses going postward, BRILLIANT SPEED was sent off as the even money favorite on the strength of his win in the Saranac stakes at Saratoga in his previous start. WESTERN ARISTOCRAT, a shipper from England, took the early initiative and went right to the lead, set some very moderate splits and then had plenty left in the drive to hold off BRILLIANT SPEED who raced in second throughout. WILKINSON angled out and finished well for third at 22-1. The winner was ridden by Corey Nakatani, one of his record tying six winners on this card.

               The next race was the Grade I Frizette for two year old fillies going one mile with a purse of $300,000. The even money favorite in the race was STOPSHOPPINGMARIA for the Pletcher barn, she was coming off a huge maiden win by almost 10 lengths at Saratoga. The second choice in the race was MY MISS AURELIA, an undefeated two year old from the Steve Asmussen barn who defeated STOPSHOPPINGMARIA when those two met in their debut back on July 22nd at Saratoga. As the gates opened MY MISS AURELIA broke cleanly and was sent right to the lead while STOPSHOPPINGMARIA, who had gate problems in her debut, got off to an awkward start and giving the advantage to MY MISS AURELIA. After setting fractions of 22:3, 46, 1:10:1, MY MISS AURELIA opened up a clear lead in midstretch and won by 5 and ½ lengths in a final time of 1:35:1. STOPSHOPPINGMARIA was clearly second best after the problems at the gate and MISS NETTA, another who didn’t get off to the best of starts and then raced greenly while far back early closed well to finish third. I am looking forward to a third meeting between MY MISS AURELIA and STOPSHOPPINGMARIA in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies come November 4th.   MY MISS AURELIA was another winner for Nakatani and it was the fourth winner on the day for the Steve Asmussen barn.

               The final Grade I of the day was the Champagne, a Grade I for two year olds run over one mile with a purse of $300,000. The favorite in the race was UNION RAGS, an undefeated two year old from the Michael Matz barn who was coming off a big win in the Grade II Saratoga Special at Saratoga in the slop. Sent off at 6-5, UNION RAGS under jockey Javier Castellano got away in fifth early on racing behind a sharp half in 45:4. The early lead saw POWER WORLD and RIGHT TO VOTE battling for command with TAKES THE GOLD racing in behind in fourth, the second choice ALPHA racing greenly in seventh. As they entered the stretch, POWER WORLD faded, leaving RIGHT TO VOTE on the lead, with UNION RAGS looking for somewhere to run. He found that room, bursting through the hole and drew away smartly to score by more than five lengths in a final time of 1:35:2, .33 slower than the Frizette a race earlier but he was hand ridden late. ALPHA was green but did close well for second over a very game RIGHT TO VOTE, who held well after battling on the early lead. Looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in less than three weeks.



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