by Bernard T. Moore.
Week 3 drew to a close at Lone Star Park on Sunday and, as a
result, the Breeders’ Cup is inching closer and closer.
Many of the likely participants in these races are putting the
final touches on their serious preparation for the World
Thoroughbred Championships, as all the significant prep races for
this prestigious event have been concluded.
A sure sign that the Breeders’ Cup is on the horizon is the
fact that pre-entries for the eight Championship races were taken
on October 18. Those connections who have been straddling the
fence will now be forced to decide whether their runners will
join the casting call for “The Cup,” or merely assume
the role of onlooker for this extravagant event. Breeders’ Cup
hopefuls were scheduled to begin arriving at Lone Star Park on
Monday, and that should serve to heighten anticipation for the
The only stakes carded at Lone Star Park last weekend was
Saturday’s $50,000 Wild Flower. A five-furlong turf event for
fillies and mares, it drew a field of 12, including Arlington
Park invader NICOLE’S DREAM (Northern Trend), trained by Larry
Rivelli. His motto for the eventual winner, Nicole’s Dream, must
sound something like this, “Have five-furlong turf
specialist; will travel.”
That has been the case for Nicole’s Dream, who has literally crisscrossed the Midwest and East Coast in search of abbreviated
turf sprints. Her odyssey began at Tampa Bay Downs in February of
2003, and more recently she sought refuge at Lone Star Park. Nicole’s Dream quickly assumed a daylight
advantage on Saturday shortly after the gates opened. For all
intents and purposes, the race was over as this four-year-old Florida-bred simply does not like to yield on the lead.
Leslie’s Love (Combat Ready), the subsequent runner-up, tested
Nicole’s Dream in earnest entering the stretch, but the winner
was up to the task, reporting home three parts of a length to the
good. A gem of consistency for her connections, Nicole’s Dream
has been off the board on only two occasions in 2004, facing
males on September 19, and competing over a wet track at Tampa
Bay on March 16, her initial start off a substantial layoff.
Anna Em (Our Emblem), the 9-5 race favorite in the Wild
Flower, clearly did not fire, finishing 10th after flashing early
speed before retreating badly. It was the first time she has run
out of the money in four grass starts.
As week 3 began at Lone Star, the majority of winners on the
main track were coming from off the pace, especially in routes.
As the week wore on, the track began to even out. There was no
perceivable bias sprinting, while races run around two turns
began to favor early speed.
As far as paths were concerned, there did not appear to be any
perceivable biases. Speed on grass definitely played a lot better
than it had in the first two weeks of the meet.
Steve Asmussen has begun to lengthen his lead in the trainer
standings. Asmussen has done particularly well this meet with
maidens and claimers in sprints, with a good number of those
winners returning off a layoff. There is a real dogfight for the
second spot on the trainers list with no fewer than eight
trainers within a couple of victories of each another. Gamaliel
Vazquez is in the thick of that battle, training for the
controversial Mike Gill.
The race for leading jockey is a horse of a different color.
Donnie Meche holds a tenuous lead, with Roman Chapa and Larry
Taylor sharing second-place honors, as Casey Lambert, Monte Berry
and Eddie Martin follow to complete the top five spots. Meche
derives most of his winners from Asmussen, while Chapa has had
victories with as many as six different trainers.
HORSES TO WATCH
2ND — POLISH AFFAIR (Polish Numbers) offered a good-looking
debut victory for trainer Mike Stidham. Had the look of a winner
nearly every step of the way. Clearly never asked for his best.
Could handle the rise into a preliminary allowance contest if
5TH – FABORITO (Favorite Trick) was allowed to drop too far
behind when unhurried early. Weakly handled on the far turn and
into the stretch. Closed well along the rail in the stretch,
mostly on his own courage to just miss the place. Probably should
have been second, and with a stronger rider could possibly have
1ST — DESERT THIEF (Red Ransom) was an authoritative win in
Lone Star Park debut. Swept to the lead and widened thereafter in
first start for trainer Ronnie Morse. Certainly could handle NW2L
for 10K, and maybe a tad better if properly spotted.
2ND — SUBTLE MONEY (Raji) bobbled breaking from the gate.
Relegated to race at the back of the pack. Began to level off on
the turn and into the stretch, closing with good energy late
while facing a tough task off the shelf against an odds-on
winning favorite. Has shown speed on occasion, and Lone Star is
clearly not his preferred course. Also eligible for NW3L company.
3RD — DOBBINS HALO (Sunny’s Halo) was caught in traffic while
racing in and among horses down the backstretch. Had to steady
when caught in tight quarters on the far turn. Finished with
interest in the stretch when clear to be second best, but could
not overhaul a loose front-runner who raced freely on the lead.
7TH — BIGBADBUBBA (Caller I.D.) was bet down to 10-1 off a
morning odds line of 20-1 for his turf debut. Veered toward the
inside at the break and was unable to assume customary position
on or near the lead. Forced to race between runners, he angled to
the outside on the far turn and into the stretch, drifting a bit
under a five-pound apprentice rider. Finished evenly in the
stretch under weak handling to run third. Probably could have
gained the place with a stronger ride as second-place finisher
benefited from a ground saving trip.
6TH — LACEY DAWN (Manzotti) finished a good second dropping
down to 15K vs. straight three-year-olds. Finished with good
energy despite racing a bit wide. Fits well at this level and can
improve further in the right spot.