Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

No Ordinary Super Saturday

Posted by Brian Appleton on October 2, 2010

If ever a weekend of horse racing is to be labeled a Super Saturday it is beyond a doubt October 2nd, 2010. Not only is there a spectacular card of racing at Belmont Park that includes 5 Grade 1 races the action only begins there and spreads across the country from New York, to Pennsylvania, Indiana and finally California. You will find no less than seven divisional racing leaders taking to the track this weekend as the nation’s leading older female, older male, three-year-old male, three-year-old female, two-year-old male, two-year-old female and three-year-old turf male all seek to solidify their positions.

Even before she sets hoof on the track this Saturday to attempt an unprecedented 19th straight win to remain undefeated, Zenyatta will be stealing the show by reputation alone. By now almost every casual horse racing fan knows of the feats Zenyatta has accomplished and understands just what the fantastic mare is capable of. For the third year in a row the colossal race mare will enter the starting gate to contest the Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr.1) in what will be her final appearance at her home base of Hollywood Park. The field in the Lady’s Secret isn’t exactly weak but it isn’t what you would expect a race mare of Zenyatta’s quality to still be facing, especially this late in the year but trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss are obviously only concerned with keeping the grand mare in good physical condition as she aims for a repeat win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November. If she loses here suffice it to say this would rank right up there with Man ‘O’ War’s loss to Upset and Secretariat’s loss to Onion. But I don’t think too many people honestly expect her to even come close to losing races of this caliber anymore.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup was used as a successful springboard by Curlin in 2007 to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park and this year Blame will attempt the same feat. After wins in the Stephen Foster and Whitney Handicap’s, the latter win coming over Quality Road, Blame has firmly established himself as the frontrunner for the older male Eclipse Award as well as Horse of the Year. With only three starts this year so far, a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would go a long way in boosting the talented colt’s chances of winning an award as well as giving him a great prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This will be the 4-year-old colt’s first try at the 10 furlong distance but his come from behind running style suggests the distance should be a non-factor.

Facing Blame will be Grade 1 winner Rail Trip who enters the race off a three month layoff and will also be trying traditional dirt for the first time in his career. Rail Trip has won at the 10 furlong distance and also won 2 of his 3 starts this year before finishing runner-up in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr.1). He is a legitimate contender who could easily be competitive if he handles the dirt as well as he runs over synthetics and can handle the layoff well.

The talented 3-year-old colt Fly Down will be testing new waters when he faces older horses for the first time in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Winner of the Dwyer (gr.2) over the Belmont racing strip in May, Fly Down has been unable to find the winners circle since then despite some very impressive efforts this year including a fast closing second place finish in the Belmont Stakes and a second place finish to Afleet Express in the Travers (gr.1) last out, missing by a mere nose. He could very well be the second best runner in this field but seeing that he shares a similar running style with Blame his chances are severely compromised as the elder contender produces a devastating late kick.

Haynesfield, Hold Me Back, Dry Martini, Mythical Power and Tranquil Manner complete the field. Of the remaining entrants Hanesfield and Hold Me Back stand out as well as Dry Martini.

Paddy O’Prado would almost certainly be the front-runner for eclipse award as outstanding 3-year-old male this year if not for Lookin At Lucky and if he finishes out the year undefeated on the turf he could very well end up taking the trophy home provided Lookin At Lucky trips up at some point. Paddy O’Prado enters the gate for Belmont’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr.1) facing older male runners for the first time as well as testing the 1 ½ mile distance for the first time. Although he is facing several new and untested challenges in the Hirsch, Paddy O’Prado is already installed as the well deserving favorite after posting powerful victories in this year’s Secretariat Stakes (gr.1), Colonial Turf Cup (gr.2) and Virginia Derby (gr.2). Despite his age Paddy O’Prado is easily the class of this field.

Facing the young challenger are proven grade 1 winners Telling and Winchester as well as grade 2 winner Al Khali.

There is a newcomer on the block and he looks like he’s ready to start banging down the doors. Twirling Candy has been making waves every time he steps onto the track, and it isn’t just the fact that he is undefeated and already a graded stakes winner in just his fourth lifetime start after capturing the Del Mar Derby (gr.2) last out on the turf. It’s a certain presence and aura that radiates from the powerful colt like a brilliant flame in the dark. After watching his last race I was in awe of the sheer power and ease he displayed while running his opponents ragged on the front end. Now the sophomore talent is entered in Saturday’s Goodwood Stakes (gr.1) at Hollywood Park against such talented grade 1 winning older horses as Richard’s Kid and Awesome Gem.

While Twirling Candy will be facing a strong field that also includes Crown of Thorns, Dakota Phone, Informed and Crowded House it seems that this young, inexperienced athlete might just be special enough to win the Goodwood.

Blind Luck and Lookin At Lucky don’t just share a common “lucky” element in their names, they also happen to both be leaders of their respective age groups. This Saturday Blind Luck faces arch nemesis Havre de Grace for the third time in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr.2) while carrying 10 more pounds than her 4 rivals. The incredibly talented filly has proven herself over and over this year and last to be a tough-as-nails competitor and extremely unwilling to lose. While most of her wins have come by less than a length she always seems to know just when and how to get to the wire in time to steal the prize. I don’t see her losing here, but with the break in weights Havre de Grace, a very talented filly in her own right, gets a huge advantage.

Lookin At Lucky enters the Indiana Derby (gr.2) as heavy as a favorite can be. If the field for the Indiana Derby were likened to bodies of water Lookin at Lucky would be the Atlantic and the rest would be puddles. The Champion two-year-old Male of 2009, Lookin At Lucky has remained atop his division this year with impressive wins in the Rebel Stakes (gr.2), Preakness Stakes (gr.1) and Haskell Invitational (gr.1). Out for a short time with an illness that caused the son of Smart Strike to miss the Travers Stakes, Lookin At Lucky has since trained lights-out for his final race of the year before he tries his luck in Breeders’ Cup Classic. An upset here would be almost as big a shock as a loss from Zenyatta.

J. P. Gusto and Tell A Kelly are the pro tem West Coast juvenile divisional leaders and both young stars will try to solidify their standings this weekend. J. P. Gusto has been no less than sensational this year, winning four straight stakes races including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last out. In Saturday’s Norfolk Stakes (gr.1) the talented 2-year-old will try two-turns for the first time but is the heavy favorite in a field of 7. The Norfolk guarantees the winner a starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile this November at Churchill Downs.

Tell A Kelly enters Sunday’s Oak Leaf Stakes (gr.1) off an impressive victory in the Darley Debutante and would settle as one of the top juvenile fillies in the nation with a win.

Good luck to all this weekend and enjoy the spectacular lineup!

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2 Responses to “No Ordinary Super Saturday”

  1. Brian,

    Fantastic overview of the races. I haven’t checked out more than I posted on, methinks BLIND LUCK will be vulnerable to HAVRE DE GRACE, ,LOOKIN AT LUCKY doesn’t have to win but needs to have a useful prep, and I’m really interested to see how PADDY stacks up with the older turf runners.

    As you wrote, this is a fantastic weekend of racing!

    Enjoy.

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