Over the weekend of September 11th and 12th Belmont Park hosted four Grade I races. On
Saturday the 11th Belmont hosted the Gazelle, Man O’ War, and the Woodward. On Sunday the 12th they
hosted the Garden City Breeders’ Cup Handicap.
In the Gazelle Handicap the odds-on choice in the race was STELLAR JAYNE. She was coming off
a second place finish in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and had two wins and two seconds in her last four
starts. This D. Wayne Lukas trainee has been much improved since early June and she didn’t disappoint her
backers in the Gazelle with a strong rally in the stretch to come back for the win. After being passed in the
stretch by DAYDREAMING, she battled back and drew away late for a length victory. This improving three
year old should be considered for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff but right now she is a step below the better
older fillies and mares.
In the Man O’ War Stakes the favorite was the entry of EPALO and KING’S DRAMA (2-1). EPALO
was coming off a fourth place finish in the Arlington Million as the lukewarm 4-1 favorite. After leading through
relatively moderate fractions EPALO got away at the top of the stretch before settling for second behind
MAGISTRETTI who got up for the win as the second choice in the race at 3-1. After lingering near the back
of the pack, was blocked as they approached the stretch, swung out wide and unleashed a huge late run to
get up for the length and a quarter win. EPALO easily held second over his entry mate with no other horse
making any kind of impact on the race. MAGISTRETTI will be one to watch if he makes it to the Breeders’
Cup Turf. EPALO, off his second place finish is another that will have a shot if he makes it to the race.
In the Woodward Stakes the odds-on choice in the race was GHOSTZAPPER, who was coming off
an easy win in the Iselin Stakes at Monmouth which he won by more than 10 lengths. He earned a Beyer Figure
for the race of 128, this was the highest figure for the year and definitely influenced the public. However he
would have to prove it against a slightly better group and again he was sent off at 2-5.
After breaking well from the gate GHOSTZAPPER, was right up on the pace that was set by
SAINT LIAM. The fractions after the first quarter were fast, 23:3. 45:3. 1:08:3, 1:33:1 with the final time
for the 1 and 1/8th miles 1:46:1, just four fifths off the great SECRETARIAT record. GHOSTZAPPER
and SAINT LIAM battled the whole way through those splits with GHOSTZAPPER getting the win
by a neck. The third place finisher was almost 10 lengths behind with another seven lengths to the fourth
place finisher. Off this performance both trainers Frankel (GHOSTZAPPER) and Dutrow Jr. (SAINT LIAM)
are both looking to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It seems that both trainers will train their horses right
up to the race. It would be difficult to see either one of them getting the job done at Lone Star Park.
GHOSTZAPPER will have a difficult time getting 1 and ¼ miles and SAINT LIAM, who drifted out the
whole stretch may have those recurring foot problems that plagued him in the past.
On Sunday, Belmont hosted the Grade I Garden City Breeders’ Cup Handicap, a 1 and 1/8th miles
race on the turf for three year olds. The winner of the race was LUCIFER’S STONE who was sent off
at 9-1. The favorite in the race was TORRESTRELLA, who was rank throughout and cost her a better
result. She had showed in her races in France that she had a tendency to be rank and it cost her again.
This race didn’t come up that strong and I would not expect to see anyone exit this race and run in the
Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf race. If they do they would have to run the race of their life to have
any shot in that race.
The weekend of September 18th and 19th will bring more Breeders’ Cup preps and more Grade I
races to follow.