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Feb 02, 2012

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               With just about three months left until the first Saturday in May and the Kentucky Derby we will take a look the three prep races run so far this year as we get ready for the run for the roses.

               Back on January 7th at Santa Anita the Grade III Sham Stakes was run over a two turn mile. The field of five went postward for the race with the previously undefeated SECRET CIRCLE, from the Bob Baffert barn going off as the 1-2 favorite. He was coming off a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint back in November and was stretching out in distance for the first time. The longest shot in the race, LONGVIEW DRIVE, was sent right to the lead and set some solid fractions in the early running, 22:3, 45:4, 1;09:3, with SECRET CIRCLE right on his flank. As they moved into the far turn, SECRET CIRCLE moved to challenge the leader with second choice, HIERRO making a three wide move to get into contention. As they entered the stretch, SECRET CIRCLE had edged to the lead over LONGVIEW DRIVE as HIERRO had tired to finish last, however, OUT OF BOUNDS, the second choice in the race and a horse just coming off his maiden win, angled out in third and ran down the leaders to score by a half-length in a solid final time of 1:34:2. Royally bred by Discreet Cat out of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winning dam Unbridled Elaine this three year old has a bright future and can only get better and should have no problem with the distance.

               On January 21st at the Fair Grounds they ran the Lecomte Stakes, a Grade III run over one mile and 70 yards and carried a purse of $175,000. There was a large field of 13 horses that went postward with the lukewarm favorite the entry from Zayat stables., Z DAGER and DAN AND SHEILA. DAN AND SHEILA, a winner in his debut at Gulfstream Park at a one turn mile from an outside post had trouble into the first turn, was far back on the far turn and made up ground through the lane despite angling to the outside late. This runner from the Todd Pletcher barn has talent but being by More Than Ready the Derby distance might not be his ideal distance. Z DAGER, another one coming off the maiden win over the slop at the Fair Grounds, stalked the leaders from fourth, moved out into the lane and just missed by a head late. They both should move forward off that effort and must be respected going forward. The winner of the race was MR. BOWLING, he got a nice spot early on racing in sixth, started to move up on the far turn, took over the lead in midstretch and then gamed it out to the wire. He ran his record to three wins from five starts and he hails from the powerful Larry Jones barn. It will be interesting to see if he can get the Derby distance as well but he definitely got off to the right start.

               The Holy Bull Stakes was run at Gulfstream Park on January 29th, a Grade III run over a one turn mile with a solid purse of $400,000. Six horses went postward with the two year old champion, HANSEN making his three year old debut going off as the 4-5 favorite. Run over a sloppy/sealed track, HANSEN took a stumble at the start but quickly recovered to take a clear lead down the backside while setting some solid fractions of 23:3, 45:3, 1;10:1. As they moved towards the top of the lane, HANSEN still held the lead with ALGORITHMS tracking the pace. Into the lane, ALGORITHMS, a Todd Pletcher trainee who was two for two heading into the race, took over and drew away nicely to score by five lengths in a final time of 1:36 flat. HANSEN held on for second by a half-length over a fast closing MY ADONIS who didn’t get off to the best of starts either. ALGORITHMS ran his record to three for three and is one of the top prospects from the Todd Pletcher barn. He is bred to handle the distance but until they do it you just never know.

               There are three preps on Saturday February 4th, the Grade III Withers from Aqueduct, the Grade II Robert B. Lewis from Santa Anita and the Grade III Sam F. Davis from Tampa Bay Downs. We will take a look at those races next week as we just get started with a long list of prep races before the Kentucky Derby on May 5th at Churchill Downs. 



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