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Monday, November 21, 2005

Weekend Stakes Random Rambling

- India (Hennessy) made one of the more impressive appearances of this year’s Saratoga meet when she got her maiden win by 12 lengths, finishing with aplomb, and attracting a bid of $2 million. But she’s been a disappointment since then. She had an excuse in the Matron at Belmont when she had troubles in the gate and got cooked in a quick pace. On Sunday, she made her first appearance since then in the G3 Valley Stream Stakes, and suffered a similar pace fate, though without a mishap in the gate.

Instead, it was Miraculous Miss (Mr. Greeley) who had gate problems, striking it at the start and breaking last. However, that was likely fortuitous, as she was able to rally for the win off of yet another blistering pace for India, who got hooked by Princess Sweet and tired for third. They went the first quarter in :21.3, and the last one in :26.1. As you know, that's not really that unusual for American thoroughbred racing, especially for these two year-olds, who are bred to fly out of the gate. Many races are won by the horse that is the least tired and slow coming home.

It was the second stakes win in just two weeks for Miraculous Miss, as she took the Fifth Avenue on Nov 7. She was 7-2 then, but returned a healthy $21.20 here, as her high Beyer of 62 was significantly below those of other contenders. Given the way she picked up the pieces in this spot, I imagine she’ll be more than fair odds in her next race too. She’s one of the two year olds that owner Jeff Puglisi and trainer Steve Klesaris spent mucho money on earlier this year; they paid $350,000 at Timonium in May.

Miraculous Miss is a half sister to Tiger Heart, who ran second as the 2-1 favorite in the DeFrancis Memorial at Laurel on Saturday. I’m The Tiger (Siphon) went wire-to –wire for Frankel. I find many of these sprint stakes to be totally ponderous. On paper, there seemed to be tons of speed, but as so often happens, one of them, in this case I’m The Tiger, got the jump on all of them and was never really challenged. In trying to pick my spots amongst hundreds of races each week, I will almost always pass on a Grade 1 sprint with 14 entries. You don’t have to bet on every race, even, or in some cases, especially if it’s a Grade 1 stakes.

- The Grand Canyon was an interesting little turf stakes for two year olds at Churchill on Sunday. For one thing, it was for some reason carded as the second race. I went to Keeneland a few years ago, and I remember that the track seemed empty on Sunday. When I inquired about that, I was told that it’s a late arriving crowd that day because people are at church. If that’s also the case in Louisville, there may have been some well-dressed, God-fearing people racing into Churchill to get their bets down on the even money favorite Wise River, an impressive winner of his two starts, both on turf. Wise River is a half-brother to Ruler’s Court (Doneraile Court), who made a big splash a couple of years ago when he won the Norfolk and was assigned co-high weight on the Experimental Freeweight thing. I believe he’s been pointing to Saturday’s Cigar Mile.

Lewis Michael rallied to win the race as the 7-2 second choice, as the favorite settled for third. He’s by Rahy (Blushing Groom – Glorious Song), the sire of grass stars such as Designed For Luck and Fantastic Light, out of Justenuffheart (Broad Brush) a turf stakes winning half sister to grass champion Kitten’s Joy, who will start his stud career for a $25,000 fee next year. He was well back in seventh through a slow half of :49 1/5, yet rallied wide to win, despite the fact that the pace quickened from that point. That would normally seem really impressive, but the other two turf races on the card were run in similar fashion, so I don’t know how much to put into it. In fact, in the G3 River City Handicap, America Alive (American Chance) closed for the win off a 50 second half, and despite a final three furlongs run in :36.44.