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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Eight is Enough

Just a week after the epic Sunshine Millions program, Gulfstream and Santa Anita once again combine to present eight stakes races on Saturday. This time, they're independent affairs, and all but one are graded stakes, with Gulfstream featuring six of them on Spectacular Saturday. Let's take a look at three of those, all for three year olds.

THE OLD HAT - Grade 3. Only one of the 7 three year-old fillies in this 6 1/2 furlong sprint, TOLL TAKER (Bernstein) is a graded stakes winner, and she has by far the slowest Beyers in the race. She had improved to win three in a row by wide margins capped by the Gr 3 Astarita at Belmont before throwing jockey Carlos Marquez to the cold Hawthorne dirt. It was the only time he’s ever ridden her, so maybe she missed her regular rider Elbar Coa, who returns here. But MADDALENA should be the center of attention for Todd Pletcher, trying stakes company after a huge allowance win (102 Beyer) here last month. She must have been one good looking filly. Her sire, Good and Tough, stands in New York for $6,000, and her female family is mostly ordinary (except that her second dam foaled multiple stakes winner Foxie G), and yet she brought $425,000 at Calder last February. ASPEN TREE (Holy Bull) has run three dead game races for Carl Natzger, includng a nosed second to Punch Appeal, who came back to win a 250K stakes at Delta in her next start. She returns off a three month layoff.

THE HUTCHENSON - Grade 2. Only 6 three year old colts go the odd distance of 7 1/2 furlongs here, and though half of them were graded stakes winner at 2, it would take a huge win to put any of these on my short Derby list. PROUD ACCOLADE (Yes It’s True) took the one mile Gr1 Champagne with a 100 Beyer, tops in this field, scoring a half length win over Afleet Alex. The $450,000 sale juvenile was up the track in the two turn BC Juvenlies and Hollywood Futurity, but returns to one turn here. DEFER (Danzig) took the 1 1/16 G3 Laurel Futurity in his last in November with a 78 fig that ranks below others here. Cuts back to one turn and returns for Shug McGaughey, 25% in this layoff category. I’m rooting for VICARAGE (Vicar), because my pinhooking partnership has a 2 yo Vicar filly being primed for sale later in the spring. More on that another time. Stretches out off a 90 Beyer 6f allowance win in which she angled 6 wide on the turn and won going away with a nice 90 Beyer in her first race in 4 months for Pletcher. PARK AVENUE BALL (Citidancer) is the other graded stakes winner here, having taken the G2 Futurity at Belmont before faltering in the Champagne and finishing well behind Proud Accolade.

THE DAVONA DALE - Grade 2. 3 yo fillies go 9 furlongs here. SIS CITY (Slew City Slew) returns for Richard Dutrow after a dominating win in the G2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct on Nov 27. In the BC Juvenile Filly, she was carried four wide on the first turn but battled on gamely to gain the lead in the stretch before succumbing to Sweet Catomine and settling for 4th, less than 6 lengths behind the champ. DANCE AWAY CAPOTE (Capote) moved up dramatically when stretched out to two turns last fall, with a 12 length win in an overnight stakes at Delaware, followed by a 4th place finish, by only 3/4 length in the G2 Alcibiad, and a tough luck and more than respectable 5th in the BC Juvenile Filly, close behind Sis City. IN THE GOLD (Golden Missile), a $250,000 yearling purchase, edged Dance Away Capote in the Alcibiad, disappointed in her next try, but in her return at Gulfstream last month, she chased a quick pace 4 wide to prevail. Two nice 5 furlong breezes since then indicate the effort didn’t take too much out of her. But perhaps a one turn mile is her best game. JILL ROBIN L (Precocity) is improved and always tries.

- Also of interest is the 7th race on the card, in which the Fusaichi Pegasus 3 yo colt Bandini tries allowance company after an impressive 7 furlong win in 1:22:2 an 86 fig. He brought $500,000 as a yearling. His second dam, Hail Atlantis, won the 1990 Santa Anita Oaks, and produced stakes winners Stormy Atlantic and Mr. Katowice. His 4th dam is Moccasin, champion 2 year old filly of 1965, having won five stakes races that year.