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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Looking for Thunder Out West

- With heavy rain expected here tomorrow, I took a peek at Sunday's races at Hollywood, and I see that Patrick Biancone is there to begin his annual winter campaign. Julien Leparoux will be in town to ride the two startes that Biancone has on the day. In the sixth, a maiden two-year old route race, he starts first-timer Got A Question, a Giant's Causeway half-brother to the G2 winner and router North East Bound. Biancone has been sharp with these juvenile debut runners of late; %if you look at his last 11 such starters, he has those two winners, along with three seconds and two thirds.

Biancone/Leparoux have Grande Melody (Grand Lodge), the morning line favorite in the feature on the day, the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes at nine furlongs on the grass for three-year old fillies. She's a French import who made her U.S. debut a winning one at Keeneland on 10/11. Bet down to even money, she won off by 4 1/2.

But two things about that race. For one thing, it was a weak entry-level allowance field that she beat. And secondly, as in a couple of other cases I've noted lately, the trip comment in the Form gives a faulty impression. It reads Sluggish start,5w,drvg. The fact is that Leparoux saved all the ground on the turn for home, and swung out 5 wide in the stretch while rallying home for the win. If you were thinking from that comment that she was five wide on the turn, you'd be giving her more credit than she deserves; and a look at Trakus shows that she fared pretty well as far as distance traveled went.

So I'd look to try and beat Grande Melody if she's the favorite. La Mottie (King's Best/Kingmambo) is another Euro import, but she had better lines over there than Biancone's filly, and a decent ground-saving sixth in her U.S. debut, the Grade 1 Garden City at Saratoga, won by Magnificent Song. She comes from some grass family. Out of a mare by Lyphard, her third dam is the grass champion Trillion, her second a full to the multiple Group 1 winner Triptych. This is also the family of Australia's recent Caulfield Cup winner Tawqeet, and that should get reader Stalusk excited. La Mottie seems to me like a superior filly to Grande Melody, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she is the favorite instead.

I should know better now than to bet against three-year olds from Europe, but my upset choice from the U.S. horses is 12-1 Ballado's Thunder. Here's a filly with just five starts who is clearly on the upswing for trainer Rafael Becerra. The barn is hot too, with two winners, and a second, third and 4th with its five starters at this meeting.

Ballado's Thunder changed tactics and rallied from well off the pace in her last, swinging three wide coming into the turn, and finishing up in 23.3. Her last two quarters were faster than the prior one; this is a filly with a nice late kick, and she could better her prior effort at this distance with rating tactics. Ballado's Thunder is by Saint Ballado, out of Instinct, a stakes winning Thunder Gulch mare who's a half-sister to the dam of the Grade 1 grass winner (Flower Bowl) Colstar.