by John Mucciolo
The feature race of the week took place on Saturday, where a
seemingly well-matched field of nine went postward in the $150,000
Noble Damsel H. (G3) over the lawn. Highweight and tepid 5-2
choice OCEAN DRIVE (Belong To Me) drew the widest post of all,
but it would not deter this Belmont-loving lass on this day.
Ridden confidently by John Velazquez, the four-year-old was
kept wide throughout, moved to the fore turning for home, and
dispatched of her rivals to earn another graded tally. The ultra-consistent,
underrated dark bay stopped the clock in 1:34 3/5, including a
closing final quarter of :23 1/5, and gave back $7.50 for the win.
The winner has hit the board in nine consecutive outings, and the
facile manner in which she handles this type leads us to believe
that she’s ready to tackle her more hyped counterparts for Todd
Earlier on Saturday, PROVINCETOWN (Crimson Guard) continued on
Patrick Biancone’s recent success in the Empire State with a
front running score in the $111,700 Ashley T. Cole H. The gelding
was well managed on the front end by Tony Farina, cruising
through fractions of :23 1/5, :47 3/5, 1:11 1/5 and 1:34 1/5
before completing 1 1/16 grassy miles in 1:46 2/5. The four-year-old,
who earned his initial stakes win, gave back $5.70 as the 9-5
On Sunday, the electric ARTIE SCHILLER (El Prado [Ire]) lived
up to his 1-5 odds when thrashing a field of six in the $200,000
Jamaica H. (G2) on the grass. Taking over turning for home, the
winner opened up daylight in the matter of jumps, showcasing a
remarkable turn of foot for trainer James Jerkens. The final time
of 1:45 2/5 was a track record over the inner surface, and it
appears that this colt is only getting better. Jerkens indicated
that the Breeders’ Cup is not a likelihood, but hinted at a
possible start in the October 9 Kelso S. (G2).
From a total of 47 races run over the past week, 14 favorites
(30 percent) crossed the finish line first, right around the par
at Belmont Park.
On the sod, 22 races were contested and an unusually high
percentage of favorites won (nine winners, 41 percent), reversing
the trend set last week.
HORSES TO WATCH
4th — NICK THE NOODGE (Atticus) traveled at least four-wide
throughout the entire backstretch, took over in the lane and
powered home a 1 1/4 length winner under Javier Castellano. The
three-year-old completed his final three-eighths in a solid :35 4/5.
5th — PREP SCHOOL (Polish Numbers) returns to the Watch List
after showing great heart between horses to win this one by a
neck. The gelding had been on the fringes since early summer, but
may be ready to start a win streak now.
4th — JAMING THE BLUES (Cure the Blues), an 18-time loser
leading up to this race, made a bold move turning for home and
dominated this bunch for Michael Sedlacek. The five-year-old
worked a sizzling half-mile in :47 2/5 over Aqueduct’s inner
track prior to the race, and we believe he may have turned the
8th — SNAKE MOUNTAIN (A.P. Indy) put in a good showing when
third versus this excellent group, and the well-managed gelding
should improve for his next outing.
2nd — COMMENTATOR (Distorted Humor) has yet to be challenged
from three starts (winning by a combined 27 1/4 lengths), and
looks the part of a superstar for Nick Zito. Speed was good on
this day, as four horses went wire-to-wire, but take nothing away
from the sophomore’s performance, who earned a 104 BRIS Speed
5th — GOING WILD (Golden Missile) dueled on or near the lead
before tiring late, and should improve drastically next out for D.
Wayne Lukas. The expensive two-year-old in training purchase held
well to garner the show over the 4-5 favorite.
6th — BANKRUPTCY COURT (Dixieland Band) showed a new
dimension when coming from off the pace in here, and closed well
to only miss by a neck. The well-bred three-year-old didn’t face
much in here but seems to be rid of his headstrong ways; kudos to
trainer Rick Violette Jr.
4th — INTER GALATIC (Incurable Optimist) circled the field in
going last-to-first for trainer Victor Cuadra. This filly has
improved dramatically since the addition of Lasix, and merits
some attention in her next venture.
6th — SHOW BOOT (Storm Boot) grabbed the lead and fought
valiantly to the end, finishing third behind a pair of talented
sprinters. The chestnut colt should be very tough to upend in his
return versus open company, or a state-bred stakes race.
A LOOK AHEAD
A quartet of Grade 1 races will take place this Saturday at
Belmont Park, commonly known as Breeders’ Cup preview weekend.
The $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational H. (G1) will pit fillies
and mares going 10 furlongs on the turf. Beverly D. S. (G1)
heroine Crimson Palace (Saf) (Elliodor) is expected, as is Diana
H. (G1) victress Wonder Again (Silver Hawk).
Kitten’s Joy (El Prado [Ire]) may make his initial start
versus older runners in the $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
Invitational H. (G1) over 12 furlongs on the lawn.
The Cliff’s Edge (Gulch) and Funny Cide (Distorted Humor) are
two of the top names rumored to be heading toward the $1 million
Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Others mentioned for the 10-furlong
main track event are Evening Attire (Black Tie Affair [Ire]) and
Peace Rules (Jules). Mineshaft (A. P. Indy) used this race as a
springboard to Horse of the Year honors in 2003.
Speightstown (Gone West), arguably the top sprinter on the
East Coast currently, is likely to go for the $500,000 Vosburgh S.
(G1). The red-hot sprinter will likely have to face multiple
Grade 1 victor Pico Central (Brz) (Spend A Buck), arguably the
top sprinter on the West Coast.