RSS Feed for this Blog

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sunday Belmont Stakes

- The Astoria is the first stakes race for two-year olds in New York this year. This race peaked in significance in 1974-75 when Ruffian and Dearly Precious took it in consecutive years, though since then, it’s been won by the likes of Grade 1 winners Twilight Ridge and Jersey Girl, as well as Adieu last year; she went on to take the Frizette.

Whether there are any Grade 1 winners in this year’s edition is really hard to say. This is basically an entry level allowance race with a $100,000 purse and black type. All of the seven entrants are coming out of maiden races, and six of them actually have graduated.

Every filly in this race has a shot, including the lone maiden, Cool the Economy (Mazel Trick). She broke poorly but recovered to pester the 1-2 Pletcher favorite Audacious Chloe throughout, settling for a hard fought second. I recall watching that race on TVG, and Vic Stauffer was quite animated in insisting that Cool the Economy was the better horse than the winner, who had impressed in her debut at Keeneland.

Her trainer, Richard Violette, is having a fine meeting at Belmont, with ten wins out of 44 starters. And he does very well with second-time out two-year olds, scoring at 27% over the last three years.

Shelby’s Memory (Forest Camp) won her debut for trainer Steve Klesaris, another guy who does well with juveniles in their second race (23%). She beat, by 2 ¾ lengths, Glacken’s Mark, who returned to win at 3-5 for Pletcher, earning a 72 Beyer.

Octave is the logical favorite for Pletcher. She won her debut at 6-5 stylishly with a four wide rally over After Curfew, who returned to run second at 4-5 at Churchill last week after a bad start. This filly was a $350,000 yearling purchase last fall; she’s by Unbridled’s Song, out of Belle Nuit, a stakes-winning Dr. Carter mare who is a half-sister to the Grade 1 winner and successful broodmare Ms. Eloise.

She’s Roughin It (Forest Camp) earned a big number trouncing an 80K maiden claimer in her last, despite a comment line which reads ‘gathered up late.’ The comment in the chart reads ‘gathered up very late,’ and in any event, it was a pretty weak field.

- The Grade 3 Poker Stakes is a grassy mile handicap for three and up, and it drew a field of seven.

Morning line favorite Remarkable News (Chayim) has five wins and two close losses for the rejuvenated Angel Penna Jr. in seven races, and rates the logical choice. He can win on the lead and rating behind it, and doesn’t really have anything to criticize, other than a short price.

Rebel Rebel (Revoque) returns to his favorite mile distance after an even 5th against Better Talk Now in that great Dixie Stakes on Preakness day. Prior to that, he rallied for second after a bad start in the one mile Lure at Gulfstream. In fact, his only win in this country is at this distance, a fast allowance win here at Belmont last year. And he ran second in the 2000 Guineas at a mile, earning a Timeform rating of 117.

T.D. Vance (Rahy) also shows his best effort at a mile, a win in a stakes at Keeneland last fall. After two subsequent disappointing efforts, he came back with a win in the Eight Thirty stakes at Delaware. But with Remarkable News and sprinter Around the Cape in here, he likely won’t again be able to lope on the lead in 50 1/5 seconds.

Vicarage may get some money. It's his first try on the turf, and as we've been discussing here, Vicar has not gotten many successful grass runners. In fact, Vicatage's 200 Tomlinson isn't much better than that of Christening.

- When I spoke to Kiaran McLaughlin on Friday, I asked him about Tuffertiger, who was a main track only scratch in the race that Museeb won that day. He told me that he would run in the first on Saturday, and that his last race, in which he ran second, was “huge. ” However, he was worried that the horse would react to that effort, pointing out that everyone else who came out of the race had bounced. When I got home, I looked at Forumlator and saw that the 1st, 3rd, and 4th place finishers had all returned and had run no better than a distant 4th, one of them at 5-2 against claimers.

Rounding the far turn on Saturday, it looked as if the trainer’s fears had been well-founded, as Tom Durkin noted that the even money favorite was far back, 11 lengths, to be precise, with 2 ½ furlongs left. But Garrett Gomez got him going as they swung into the stretch, and he closed resolutely to get the win. So I’m glad I didn’t get to post that conversation and possibly dissuade anyone who liked him. He’s a nice colt, a son of Tiger Ridge, the winless half brother to AP Indy standing in Florida for $7500. Tuffertiger now has two wins and three close seconds (a nose, neck, and ¾ lengths) in five starts.