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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Trio of Favorites

- Favorites won all three of the Grade 1's at Belmont on Saturday, and if you were inventive enough to add 11-1 Egyptian King as the final leg in the Pick Four, it was good for a generous $705.

Magnificent Song has flown under the radar in the Pletcher stable, quietly moving up the ranks from allowance to overnight stakes to a Grade 3 win in the Lake George, in which she wasn't even the favorite, as the trainer's Wait A While established herself as perhaps the top three-year old grass filly in the country. The daughter of Unbridled's Song was the 5-2 favorite in the Garden City, a race that screamed wide open, especially given all the improbable results we've seen over the last week here and at Saratoga. Her price was partly subsidized by all the money pouring onto Chaibia, coming off a Grade 3 win in France. 12-1 in the morning line, she was hammered to 4-1 in her U.S. debut.

As she did in the Lake George, Magnificent Song came from last to first. Garrett Gomez moved between horses on the final turn, saving as much ground as he could before he tipped out in the stretch, and they blew them all away; she really outclassed this field, kicking home to win through a final furlong of 11.93 seconds. It's the first Grade 1 winner of the year for her $150,000 sire Unbridled's Song.

- Pine Island won her second Grade 1 in three weeks when she completed the Alabama/Gazelle double, taking the latter in her usual closing manner. Javier Castellano said that this one was easier, despite the return of three-time Grade 1 winner Bushfire, who finished a disappointing fifth as the 9-5 second choice. "In the Alabama I had to work a little bit and she responded, but she's gotten better and better, and today at the three-eighths pole she went right behind the two speed horses, and when I asked her at the quarter pole and turning for home, voom she goes by [Teammate]." [DRF]

Sweeping the Alabama and the Gazelle is hardly new territory for Shug McGaughey and the Phipps stable. They won both races with Heavenly Prize in 1994 and Versailles Treaty in 1991. McGaughey also completed the double in 1986 with Classy Cathy for owner Edward Cox. The last filly to sweep the races was Silverbulletday in 1999.

Pine Island is a daughter of Arch (Kris S) out of Matalcha Pass (Seeking the Gold), a full sister to Pleasant Home, who won the Distaff for Shug last year. The trainer indicated that that may be Pine Island's next race. "I might be more inclined to wait for the Breeders' Cup (Nov. 4)." [Bloodhorse]

Arch is also the sire of Arravale, the French-bred three-year old filly who also won a Grade 1 stakes when she took the grassy Del Mar Oaks just three weeks ago. He has a third 2006 G1 winner in Les Arcs, winner of the Darley July Cup and the Golden Jubilee in the UK.

- And how about Cacique, who seems to have earned himself a shot at the Breeders Cup Turf with his awesome victory in the 1 3/8 mile Man O'War. Bobby Frankel had his doubts about his ability to handle longer distances, but no longer. Not after he cruised to a 1 3/4 length win in which he got the last furlong in 10.95 seconds! This five-year old son of Danehill has now run in six Grade 1's since coming over from France. The Man O'War was his second win, to go with three seconds, and he's never finished more than a length back.

But don't dismiss Showing Up just yet. He acquitted himself quite admirably taking a huge step up in class against older Grade 1 horses, I thought. He ran his race, moved to the lead, but was simply outrun and outclassed at scale weights by an extremely talented older rival. I'm not going to put too much into the fact that he lost the place spot to Go Deputy; he battled on gamely despite Cacique blowing by him. It's also quite possible that marathon distances are not his strongest point, and it will be interesting to see where Tagg goes with him from here. He had been mentioning the Turf, but perhaps the Mile would be more a suitable spot. And also don't forget that he's shown ample talent on the dirt as well, so it shouldn't be a shock if, depending on the circumstances, he turned up in the Classic, should it?