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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Flying High in the Jerome?

- The Jerome Handicap, for 3 year olds at a mile, which will be run on Sunday at Belmont, was for many years the traditional Labor Day feature there with crowds of at least 40,000 guaranteed. A look at the list of past winners shows the prestige the race once enjoyed; it’s graced by names such as Coaltown, Hill Prince, Tom Fool, Bold Ruler (130 pounds), and Kelso; and more recently Craime Fraiche, Noble Nashua, Fit to Fight, Housebuster, and one of my all time favorites, Dance Spell.

Now it’s a Grade 2, and it’s buried on a menu of 7 mostly somewhat disappointing graded stakes at Belmont this weekend. High Fly (Atticus) makes his return for Nick Zito in this year’s edition, and I think he has a good chance to get back on a winning track. He’s never raced at Belmont, but his three most overpowering wins were his first three career races, and they were all around one turn, so I think he’ll appreciate it here. He’s been working steadily at Saratoga for his first race since the Preakness.

There seems to be a notion that Zito is expert at winning stakes races off of layoffs after doing so with Birdstone in the Travers last year. In fact, a look at Formulator shows that that’s the only time he’s pulled that off in the last five years. However, his competition all have potential flaws.

Twist Afleet took advantage of a very tiring muddy track at Saratoga on August 28 to close from way back and get back on the winning track; but he’s 2 for 2 in the slop, and his 440 Tomlinson mud number indicates he may prefer it that way. Sir Greeley is another who made a big comeback in his last, beating allowance company by 9 ½ with a Beyer of 108 that is higher than anything High Fly has ever run. But he had an awful field at his mercy that day, and failed miserably in the Peter Pan, his only stakes try on the dirt.

Better Than Bonds beat Twist Afleet on July 30, then ran third to Lost in the Fog in the King’s Bishop. That was just two weeks ago, and may have taken something out of him, but he may be the main threat here. Silver Train has nice sprint form but hasn’t won beyond 6/1/2 furlongs; and Naughty New Yorker races better with more time between races than the 17 days since his hard-earned win in the Albany at Saratoga.

- Bruce Levine took two races on opening day with a crowd so small on a beautiful opening day that I won’t even repeat it here. That gave him four in a row, as he’d won two on closing day at Saratoga. His streak ended in the finale though.

Former Zito assistant Reynaldo Abreu has a string for Marylou Whitney and yesterday, he pulled one over at 19-1 with International Cat (Cat Thief) in a 2 yo maiden turf sprint. He’s inbred 3x4 to Alydar, which I don't recall having seen before; and his dam, by Broad Brush, is a half to grass stakes winner Catinca (whose foal Ingot goes in the 4th today for Pletcher). His third dam is Inca Queen, also a stakes winner on the lawn.

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