Aug 26, 2005
AMERICAN TURF LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
As we draw closer to the Breeders’ Cup in October at Belmont we seem to get further away from naming a leading candidate for Horse of the Year. If the year were to end now AFLEET ALEX, SAINT LIAM, GHOSTZAPPER and even a top two year old can lay claim to this prize as it is this wide open. With the injury to AFLEET ALEX and the prospect of him coming back this year not looking as good there is a big opportunity for a horse to step up and put his/her hat in the ring.
SAINT LIAM who was one of the leading contenders heading into the Whitney at Saratoga hurt his chances when finishing second behind the speedy New York bred COMMENTATOR. He will have his chance at redemption in the Woodward at Belmont, where he is expected to show up next out. With a win there and then a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont he would hold a strong edge on his younger rivals and clearly be tops in the handicap division. However there are a lot of ifs there.
GHOSTZAPPER, last year’s Horse of the Year ran one race this year a very impressive win in the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont but came out of the race with an injury and was subsequently retired. Obviously it would be very very difficult to give the Horse of the Year to a horse that ran only once but he was the best horse last year and it looked like he may have come back even better this year. It would seem that every leader in every division would have to falter to even make this a possibility but it would have been fun to see him race for at least a few more months.
AFLEET ALEX was sidelined by an injury that kept him out of the Haskell at Monmouth and the Travers at Saratoga. His wins in the Preakness when he almost went down and his dominating win in the Belmont clearly pointed him out as the top three year old. He was expected to come back to the races before the year was out and possibly make the Breeders’ Cup but that doesn’t look as promising as it once did.
The other top three year olds will be on display on Travers Day at Saratoga. The most interesting three year old is not in the Travers stakes instead he is in the King’s Bishop stakes. LOST IN THE FOG was 1-5 morning line for that race and it looks like he should easily run his record to a perfect 9 for 9. He is expected to run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as long as everything goes according to plan. If he finishes out the year undefeated with a win against older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint he will have a strong case for the horse of the year as well as top three year old. This is also based on the fact that no other three year old steps it up and beats older horses in an important race.
The horse with the best chance of beating older horses will probably be BELLAMY ROAD, who was the Kentucky Derby favorite. He was injured in that race but was making his return in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. A win there and then a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic will really complicate things in and already clouded Horse of the Year race and especially the three year old divison. Bob Baffert’s ROMAN RULER is another that can step up and take hold of the race for Horse of the Year and three year old division with a win in the Travers, in addition to his Haskell and Dwyer wins and then a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This is all speculation however and these races will be determined on the racetrack but the many possibilities will make for a more exciting fall season.
Next week we will take a look at the result of the Travers Stakes which may help clear up the three year old divisions but the way this year is going don’t count on it.
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