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Back to Belmont: A Recap of My 145th Belmont Experience

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Palace Malice! The latest one of my Saratoga ponies to do awesome things (Photo by Gary Hershorn)

It wasn’t my first trip to Belmont Park, and it certainly won’t be my last— possibly this year alone. Last year, I delighted in the triumph of Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes and made the pilgrimage from western Massachusetts over the Throgs Neck Bridge to New York’s Long Island for the third jewel of the Triple Crown. The race has a pulse different from the other races whether you watch it in person or on TV, and many who have been to all 3 races have told me it is special in its own way and a race they just have to make it to. Read on for my personal journey, insights, and handicapping triumphs and woes (mostly woes) from the big day I’ve been looking forward to since the start of the crown.

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Stephanie’s Kitten makes her move between Stopshoppingmaria and Sweet Cat to win the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies (I) at Churchill Downs.

Stephanie’s Kitten makes her move between Stopshoppingmaria and Sweet Cat to win the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies (I) at Churchill Downs.

Big Race Weekend Ahead

Keeneland has its opening day today with the Transylvania Stakes (III) among others, then tomorrow it has the big Ashland (I) for sophomore fillies. Then you’ve got the Wood Memorial (I) and three other big stakes in New York, the Santa Anita Derby (I) with a nice $500k pick 4, and the loaded Illinois Derby (III). Recently I was personally able to deflate a little bit about not getting to go to the Wood Memorial because Hansen decided not to go, but oh man I’ll be missing Shackleford!

On the rail and with blinkers off, the connections of the favorite Creative Cause are taking some chances with their dazzling colt, who in my opinion is steeply disregarded as a horse who could win the Kentucky Derby. This race will show again how good he is while giving him a little extra running room at 1 1/8 miles. I have yet to seriously consider I’ll Have Another, who hasn’t raced since his major upset in the Robert B. Lewis (II), as well as Liasion who won the CashCall (I). One won sailing clear of a very messy stretch charge, the other’s took place long ago and I’m not certain his pedigree will win for him at this stage of the game. I do have some favorite underdogs in Midnight Transfer, who is to be ridden by Mike Smith, and Ahmed Zayat’s Paynter, a horse he’s been bullish about supporting in the harsh light of criticism via Twitter:

Calm down, bro. The Sadler colt in question is Holy Candy, a nice Candy Ride [ARG] colt who broke his maiden somewhat recently after a couple good tries. He owes me money at this point, but I think Paynter’s up to snuff more-so than he. Very interested in watching both, but at this level, I’ll cruise with some ponies I already like.

1) Creative Cause 2) Midnight Transfer 3) I’ll Have Another

Last year’s Illinois Derby winner was Joe Vann, a nothing-too-special Zayat horse. The race hasn’t been a huge factor in the Derby preps, but War Emblem did win it in 2002 along with some other nice contenders like Ten Most Wanted. But yeah, I’m not seeing anything really special this year with 14 entries packing the box with 3 also-eligibles waiting in the wings. Currency Swap did not make a case against Gemologist in their last outing at Gulfstream despite some promising works, and I’m not expecting him to bounce right back here, making this a very open race. Honestly I like Done Talking best; he was great last year and appears to be a slow developer with plenty of promise, but I’m not leaving out the spotty, but improving Our Entourage and Morgan’s Guerrilla. Saturday Launch, a McPeek trainee, is also worth a look in what will be a great betting race. This race is really just a wing-it-and-hope-for-the-best kind of fray.

1) Done Talking 2) Our Entourage 3) Morgan’s Guerrilla

I don’t normally go with horses fresh off their Breeders’ Cup wins and after such a long layoff, but given the short field lacking anything too serious, Stephanie’s Kitten looks posed to win Saturday’s Ashland against just 6 others in this Oaks prep. With the Ramseys and Julien Leparoux, she seems almost a no-brainer to use. Lotta Lovin's her biggest threat with 2 stake wins thus far in 2012.

1) Stephanie’s Kitten 2) Lotta Lovin 3) Karlovy Vary

"World’s Greatest" By R. Kelly - 2011 Breeders’ Cup Championships highlight reel

Fifteen Fillies Line Up for Alcibiades

Because there’s not a whole lot to say about every single juvenile filly in this grade I race, I won’t bother to do much handicapping apart from a few notes. Plus, THERE’S FIFTEEN OF THEM! That’s a whole lot of babies, hope there won’t be too many veer-outs and the myriad of other issues you can expect to see from a field of green racehorses. This is another “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race with a berth for the Juvenile Fillies race. Here’s the field for the Keeneland event:

$400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (I) - 2-Year-Old Fillies. 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack at Keeneland. Post Time: Friday, October 7 at 5:45pm

[Post Position, Horse (Pedigree) - Jockey, Trainer - Brief summary & opinion if any]

1) Putthebabiesdown (Closing Argument x Turtle Beach, by Out of Place) - Alan Garcia, Ken McPeek - Tough competitor for my favorite name. One win and a third from 3 career starts.

2) Flashy Lassie [pictured] (Flashy Bull x Lemon Pop Lassie, by Lemon Drop Kid) - Kent Desormeaux, Garry Sims - No doubt going to be one of the hot favorites after winning the Debutante (III) handily. She has two wins and a second in 3 total starts.

3) Venetian Sonata (Bernardini x Moonlight Sonata, by Carson City) - Jesus Castanon, Will Helmbrecht - Her full brother Wilburn scorched the field this past weekend in the Indiana Derby (II), so high hopes are abound.

4) Tu Endei Wei (Johar x Ms. Cornstalk, by Indian Charlie) - James McAleney, Reade Baker - Undefeated Canadian filly and a half sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Biofuel. This one is going to be a key favorite after winning the Ontario Debutante Stakes.

5) Sweet Cat (Kitten’s Joy x Claire’s Smile, Carson City) - John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher - A win and a second out of 2 career starts for the dangerous Velazquez-Pletcher combo. Perfect turf pedigree.

6) Egg Drop (Alphabet Soup x Rehocracy, by Adhocracy) - Joe Talamo, Mike Mitchell - One-for-one, gray filly in the field ridden by Joe Talamo.

7) Stephanie’s Kitten (Kitten’s Joy x Unfold the Rose, by Catienus) - Corey Lanerie, Wayne Catalano - Product of the Ramsey breeding operation, one win and two thirds out of 3 total starts. Another turf pedigree to Polytrack.

8) New Wave (Tale of the Cat x Ecology, by Unbridled’s Song) - Julien Leparoux, George Arnold - One win and a second out of 3 total starts for this striking gray filly.

9) And Why Not (Street Cry [IRE] x Alchemist, by A.P. Indy) - Garrett Gomez, Michael Matz - My favorite in the field who has all the makings and right connections to be really good. A maiden win and a third in the Spinaway (I) out of 2 total starts.

10) Frolic’s Revenge (Vindication x Stormy Frolic, by Summer Squall) - Juan Leyva, Milton Wolfson - Second-most experienced entry with 5 total starts, yielding two wins, a second, and two thirds.

11) Heart of Destiny (Lion Heart x Doc’s Destiny, by Doc’s Leader) - Edgar Prado, James Baker - Two starts yielding a win and a third for this chestnut filly.

12) Cheerleader (Flashy Bull x Destiny’s Yield, by High Yield) - Jamie Theriot, Bret Calhoun - One-for-one gray filly.

13) Tavern On the Bay (Offlee Wild x Terrified Ice, by Darn That Alarm) - Victory Lebron, Danny Turner - Most experienced entry with 6 total starts yielding a win, a second, and two thirds.

14) Ann of the Dance (English Channel x Dans La Ville, by Winning) - Rajiv Maragh, James DiVito - 3 total starts yielding two wins and a third.

15) On Fire Baby (Smoke Glacken x Ornate, by Gilded Time) - Joe Johnson, Gary Hartlage - One-for-one gray filly.

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