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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wednesday Morning Notes - Sept 20

- It rained here in NY a bit on Tuesday, so I don't know what the fate of Wednesday's grass races at Belmont are going to be. I suppose that the 2nd, a maiden mile for two-year olds, is a prime candidate to go on the main track. However if it doesn't, note that Pletcher has an entry of first-timers, and he won with four of these on the grass upstate.

One half of the entry is Top Cross (Gone West). This colt has trained steadily going back to July, and he's out of a grand distaff turf family. He's out of a three-quarter brother to the European sprint champ Mozart. And his third dam is the great turf filly (and equally grand broodmare) Glowing Tribute, the dam of graded turf winners Hero's Honor and Wild Applause, as well as the Derby winner Sea Hero.

- Two and a half weeks until the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but Bernardini has already been installed as the 13-8 favorite for the Breeders Cup Classic by one prominent UK bookie. As Walter would say, good grief! The paltry odds being offered around prompted Gary West to ask the other day, Is "Bernardini" Italian for "Secretariat?"

He wasn't questioning the horse's talent; but rather his point was that the low odds mean that bettors don't view the Classic as contentious. There's no doubt that there are going to be some very good older horses from here and abroad in the race, and at scale weights, I'm not sure if Bernardini is going to be much less than 13-8 come post time.

That partly depends of course on how he does in the Gold Cup, but he's going to be facing a lot better than Invasor on BC day. It's always an intriguing matchup - if I recall from memory anyway - when the top three-year old takes on a talented older horse, and Invasor has won three Grade 1 races here. But I for one question the true quality of what he's beaten, especially with Flower Alley having gone off form. He earned a 113 Beyer all out to beat Sun King, while Bernardini got ratings of 114 and 116 in the Jim Dandy and Travers while barely breaking a sweat.

Of course, Invasor's only loss was in the UAE Derby, where he lost to Discreet Cat by six lengths. That was in March, in a three-year old race in which Invasor was eligible due to being bred in the southern hemisphere. So Discreet Cat has already beaten a quality older horse, and though he got nine pounds, it seemed only fair at that stage of the year. Who will face that one in the Jerome, we can only guess. I suppose someone will jump in for a shot at second place money. I liked Walter's idea that should the race be a walkover, it could be a workout for the Gold Cup six days later. But the Sheikh seems determined to keep he and Bernardini apart, to the rest of the racing world's chagrin. C'mon Sheikh, man, throw us a bone here, you've already thrown us your oil money!