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Point of Entry Tough in BC Turf

Possessing enough G1-winning clout this year to make him a serious consideration for Horse of the Year, Dynaformer’s Point of Entry faces his biggest challenge yet as he ships west for the 12-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf (I) race. European horses have won 8 out of the last 10 Turfs, and this year’s invaders present a huge threat to America’s best bet. Contenders are:

  • Point of Entry* - Dynaformer colt holds down the fort as the favorite heading in with a 5-for-6 record this year, 3 of them being G1 victories. He won despite some challenges last out over yielding turf, but should be right as rain here.
  • Bourbon Bay - 2-for-4 this year at 1 3/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles, the Sligo Bay [IRE] gelding is a last-minute closer who serves consistent efforts each time out. He threw in a clunker to be 8th last out on this course in the John Henry (I), but that should only help boost his odds.
  • Kindergarden Kid - The Dynaformer gelding won his last prep over Ioya Bigtime in the Sycamore (III) after being beaten by Point of Entry and Treasure Beach [GB] in Belmont’s Turf Classic (I). He’s good for the distance but class is a question.
  • Optimizer - The English Channel colt found his calling on grass and looks to lead things along on the front end after back-to-back wins doing so and is hot off a great Kent Stakes (III) win by 4 1/4 lengths. He looks to stretch out here significantly from his most recent races at 9 furlongs.
  • Treasure Beach [GB] - A rough year early on for the Galileo [IRE] colt, he is recovering back to peak form for trainer O’Brien making a good 2nd to Point of Entry last out in the Turf Classic (I).
  • St. Nicholas Abbey [IRE] - Last year’s BC Turf champion, the Montjeu [IRE] son was never a factor finishing 11th in the Arc and hasn’t been good since the start of the year.
  • Cogito - The Giant’s Causeway three-year-old has won twice this year in 5 tries, but they were at the lower level and he’s been bested by horses less skilled than these.
  • Shareta [IRE] - The Sinnadar [IRE] filly finished out of the money just once this year, but it was in the Arc last out where she was a tiring 9th. A dual G1 winner this year overseas, it could be just a clunker or a sign she’s done for the year.
  • Turbo Compressor* - The wire-to-wire winner of the United Nations (I) and Colonial Turf Cup, the Halo’s Image ridgeling gave up the lead he usually has last out to try sitting off the pace, finishing 2nd behind Slim Shadey [GB]. This was likely a change in strategy following his dead-tired 9th he had after leading the way in the Sword Dancer (I), but his form is what makes him a longshot.
  • Slim Shadey [GB] - The Val Royal [FR] gelding won his American debut at Santa Anita earlier in the year and was beaten just a head by Bourbon Bay his last time at 12 furlongs. He wired his last race at Santa Anita over 10 furlongs with ease in the John Henry (II) and looks ready to roar.
  • Trailblazer [JPN] - Lightly-raced this year, the Zenno Rob Roy [JPN] import warmed up to California grass well in his 1-mile prep, beaten just a half length by Obviously and was well ahead of the rest. Form-wise, he’s a worthy gamble.
  • Late adds: Dullahan & Little Mike

I’ll give my top 3 picks and value pick for the Turf (I) next week.

Slim Shadey [GB] - California-based and European-bred, he won his last prep easy and looks game for another good effort.

Point of Entry - One to beat, he hasn’t been challenged.

Trailblazer [JPN] - Distance specialist was just getting warmed up in his last prep and should be poised for a big effort

Treasure Beach [GB] - Once-dominant colt looks to be returning to form

Optimizer - Super tough on the grass with a super distance turf pedigree, Lukas has this one figured out.

Euros Invade for Arlington Million

The competition washes ashore in Chicago for one of the biggest summertime race days, and certainly grass’s biggest day of the year in North American racing, the Arlington Million (I). Five European entries look to snatch the big bucks again, with no one from the U.S. really standing out. With a number of speed horses and good ones in wonky spots or off their form, it’s possible that this could be a good value race to wager on.

The turf should be golden for Saturday’s race with no rain forecasted for Friday and only a 10% chance for race day. Pace and form will make the difference in this lauded G1.

$1 million Arlington Million (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/4 miles on turf at Arlington Park. Post Time: Saturday, August 18 at 5:44pm CDT)

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Rahystrada - Julien Leparoux, Byron Hughes - A sterling older entry, the gelded son of Rahy is making his third Million try and second attempt from a glitchy spot on the rail. However, even being down on the inside doesn’t do much to stop him, and with intelligent riding from Leparoux he should squeeze into contention if he can avoid trouble with a third in the loaded Colonial Turf Cup (III) and a win last out in the Arlington Handicap (III) at the same distance at Arlington over favored Boisterous while setting the pace. Rahystrada returns to Leparoux and will likely hang off the known pacesetters. I wouldn’t completely toss him out of contention just because of the rail spot, but he’s apt to fight Boisterous again.

2) Boisterous - Jose Lezcano, Claude McGaughey - I was lucky enough to witness the Distorted Humor colt’s third in the Manhattan Handicap (I), and generally speaking, this is a very consistent horse who just endures a lot of traffic making his move. He had to fan 6 paths wide to just miss in the Arlington Handicap (III) to Rahystrada and deserves a look. I find it curious that McGaughey enlists Lezcano after all his judgey rides, but the horse has been looking really sharp leading up to the race.

3) Afsare [GB] - Kierran Fallon, Luca Cumani - Sheik Mohammed Maktoum sends in this Dubawi [IRE] gelding to the weaker American turf, shipping in to capitalize on  a decent year abroad where he won once in a Rome G1 and finished second twice in 4 starts. Even a decent horse at tough Euro circuits is dangerous around here. Afsare is a potentially dangerous shipper worth considering.

4) Little Mike - Ramon Dominguez, Dale Romans - A personal favorite and a Florida-bred, the Spanish Steps gelding looks to help make the pace while running the 1 1/4 mile distance for the first time. He’s been having a great year with a win in the G1 Woodford Reserve from May and still looked good while 3rd in the mile-long Shoemaker (III). Romans has been having a good year on the turf and Little Mike is one of the outstanding cases in American grass horses. He gets Dominguez for the first time and should do well despite insisting the pace.

5) Colombian [IRE] - William Buick, John Gosden - The princess-owned Azamour [IRE] colt is hit-or-miss in his career so far, winning two stakes this year overseas but bowed to an 8th place finish last out at Ascot. With just 3 starts this year and no starts since June, fitness is a question as well as how well he fits in this class scenario.

6) Treasure Beach [GB] - Jamie Spencer, Aidan O’Brien - Aidan O’Brien puts his invader back on track, and better odds are expected from the Galileo [IRE] colt who won last year’s Secretariat Stakes (I) here. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the same horse we’re all used to seeing with no board hits in 3 starts this year including a responseless race in the Man o’ War Stakes (I). Poor form could mean this top-class horse is a toss-out.

7) Willcox Inn - James Graham, Michael Stidham - A favorite three-year-old of mine from last year and probably the only Harlan’s Holiday colt I’ll ever like, he’s had an allowance prep for this race over a mile on the grass and is 4-for-5 at the track and winless at the distance. Love him, but gotta toss him despite some good works. Too steep a class step with not much to back him with.

8) Wigmore Hall [IRE] - Hayley Turner, Michael Bell - An ok horse overseas, the High Chaparral [IRE] gelding managed a third in 6 starts this year in Europe and was 4th in last year’s Arlington Million (I) while 2nd in the prior year’s Secretariat (I) with a G1 win to his credit at Woodbine, all indicating he’s a good shipper. I’m taking into consideration he’s not as good as he used to be, but shows well in North American company.

9) Crackerjack King [IRE] - Colm O’Donoghue, Marco Botti - The gray Sharmandal colt sports an impressive 7-for-9 career resume and is an ace-in-the-hole back in his home country of Italy. He was 5th in his last start, but is an obvious force to be reckoned with shipping into softer company here. A worthwhile horse to favor aggressively.

10) Cherokee Lord - Francisco Torres, Charles Livesay - The Sir Cherokee gelding is winless in 3 starts this year with just one career stakes win at Remington over 1 1/16 miles on grass and should be near the pace. A local force at Arlington, it’s a big step up for Cherokee Lord and probably an emotional fling at that.

11) Vertiformer - Jeffrey Sanchez, Wayne Catalano - An improbable starter cross-entered in the American St. Leger, the Dynaformer son sports a nice grass pedigree with career wins in Europe and an allowance victory at Arlington this year. He made a good move from last to 4th in the Arlington Handicap (III), but if anything we’re likely to see him in the easier St. Leger so I’m not going to seriously throw him into consideration here.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Afsare [GB]

2) Rahystrada

3) Little Mike

A hard race to figure out mainly because I know so little about many of its finer competitors, I likely won’t have anything on anyone in this uneventful Million. Little Mike and Cherokee Lord are the most likely to head to the front immediately, with horses like Boisterous and Rahystrada sitting off of them with the Euros lying in wait. In the stretch, fitness as well as class comes to light and a lot will drop off. I think the Americans will actually have an edge this year; I feel Little Mike will keep chugging on the front end to last while Rahystrada could be game to come up just short again. Crackerjack King has a great record and looks to be classy enough to come up with the win, but I switched Afsare in at the last minute… I just trust a good UK racer a bit more not to mention the Dubawi influence. I tabbed Wigmore Hall as the value pick because he does so well coming from overseas, despite not having as good a form as he did last year.

Value Pick: Wigmore Hall [IRE]

Treasure Beach Looms Large in Man O’ War

The Man o’ War Stakes (I) is the final G1 race of the big Belmont meet, shuttering shop with a field light on serious statistics, but heavy on suspicion and gut feelings. I have not done well handicapping past grass races at Belmont, so it is with great caution and intrigue that I stop to eyeball this field, where European runner Treasure Beach [GB] is without a doubt going to be the heavy favorite (I’m thinking 1-5).

Friday and Saturday look pretty safe from any potential rain that might soften up the course, so from that angle things are unaffected.

$600,000 Man o’ War Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 3/8 miles on turf at Belmont Park. Post Time: Saturday, July 14 at 4:34pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Tahoe Lake [BRZ] - Eddie Castro, 116 lbs, Ken McPeek - I believe I pegged this Know Heights [IRE] gelding for second or third in the Louisville Handicap (III), where he finished 3rd running between horses. He faded in his last start in an allowance to finish last, his first off-the-board finish since October 2011. He’s been looking good working over Keeneland’s Polytrack, zipping in 5 furlongs in :59 2/5 a couple weeks ago. European breeding, distance ability, and consistency make this McPeek entry a nice draw if you’re looking to attack some value.

2) Center Divider - Rosie Napravnik, 118 lbs, Chad Brown - The Giant’s Causeway colt is looking for that stakes score still, having won at allowance level but staying clear of the board in two tries this year. He took a bad step and lost his jockey last out in the Elkhorn Stakes (II), an excusable miss, and stayed strong to finish 4th in good company in the Mac Diarmida Stakes (II) over 1 3/8 miles. Breezing well enough at Saratoga, he’s a nice colt with great grass pedigree and Brown has an excellent record already at Belmont.

3) Point of Entry - Jose Lezcano, 118 lbs, Claude McGaughey - Winning 2 of 3 starts this year including a nice score in the Elkhorn (II) over Tahoe Lake [BRZ], the Dynaformer colt is consistent as can be, never finishing worse than 4th his entire career. Super grass horse with that dangerous Shug McGaughey-Phipps connection combo. Digs the distance, has been working AT Belmont on the course, and should not be ignored.

4) Newsdad - Junior Alvarado, 118 lbs, Bill Mott - Instant bias alert! Been a fan of this Arch colt since last year and it was earlier this year he showed some promise running on Gulfstream’s grass, winning the Pan-American Stakes (II) with relative ease over a small field. He made a poor move gunning to the lead in the Elkhorn (II) last out where he faded to 5th, so he may have a little leg room to be reconsidered. He gets a jockey switch from Leparoux to Alvarado, and should have some decent value from that poor Elkhorn showing.

5) Treasure Beach [GB] - Jamie Spencer, 120 lbs, Aiden P. O’Brien - The lone G1 winner in the field, the Galileo [IRE] colt is the one to beat here despite having no wins this year and not having run since Dubai in March. He pacestalked his way to victory last time he was Stateside winning the Secretariat (I), and has yet to be beaten by North American horses. Neither distance nor pace should bother Treasure Beach, and while there are no works available, I trust O’Brien’s abilities in preparing this one for a big score.

6) Game Ball - David Cohen, 116 lbs, Naipaul Chatterpaul - An intriguing, weird entry, the Sky Mesa son is no doubt the longshot of the field having a career best stakes finish of 7th in the 2010 Illinois Derby— his only stakes start— with many wins and places in starter allowances having been freshly claimed by Chatterpaul from Mark Casse. Working on the Belmont turf up to this race, he’s a successful closer among unimpressive fields. Going from a $50,000 claimer to a G1 is unheard of… let’s watch!

7) Hudson Steele - Joe Bravo, 118 lbs, Todd Pletcher - 4th in the Manhattan (I) after 2 stakes wins, the Johannesburg gelding is looking to try again here as a horse likely to try and sit off the pace where he has been most successful. Working on the Belmont turf, while he has ability he has not demonstrated skill at this particular type of distance. I’d like him more at a mile and an eighth or less.

8) Philly Ace - Irad Ortiz, 118 lbs, Christophe Clement - Another turf entry out of Clement, the Smart Strike gelding looks to step it up after 2 nice allowance scores, both at a mile on the grass and his only starts this year. Not a strong case, but that is often the case for Clement trainees. He may or may not be overbet due to Clement’s recent rampant success with turf horses such as Mystical Star, so check the tote.

Top Picks in Order:

1) Treasure Beach

2) Point of Entry

3) Newsdad

I went into this trying to beat the favorite, but honestly I think he’s sitting on a big one here in a field that reads more like a G2 than a G1. Point of Entry is an excellent closing machine, and Newsdad should recover back to the front end.

Value Pick: Tahoe Lake [BRZ]

Champions Day Highlights A Very Grassy Weekend

The turf racing world dominates the weekend of October 15 all around the world as dozens of champions compete for their last major win of the year while some still hope to nab a spot in the upcoming Breeders’ Cup. 

It’s England’s weekend to shine, so if you American kids want to catch the most action, you had better skip the Saturday morning cartoons. Undefeated Frankel [pictured] will greet Immortal Verse and a fistful of threatening Richard Hannon trainees in the mile-long Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (I). The colt is in tip-top condition and offers no apparent reason for a bad showing. The older horses Midday, Twice Over, So You Think, Snow Fairy, and more are set to clash in the Champions Stakes (I), a 1 1/4 mile event that is sure to settle the score among some of these champs, particularly those who did not show well in the Arc a couple weeks ago.

TVG coverage of the Ascot meet starts at 9am EST so don’t sleep in!

Over in Bacon Land aka Canada, Woodbine is hosting one of its familiar crown events in the Canadian International Stakes (I)— or as most know it, the last race Secretariat ever ran— with $1.5 million in Canadian bucks up for grabs. 2010 winner Joshua Tree [IRE] is gunning for a repeat win while popular invader Treasure Beach [GB] is out for blood.

Then in the United States, the beloved gray bullet known as Winter Memories is set to make her mama proud in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (I) at Keeneland, a race Memories of Silver won in her glory days. But she won’t have it easy: several old foes will walk to the post along with a serious new one in Graham Motion’s Summer Soiree. Memories will need to tweak her race strategy a bit if she expects to catch the front-running Summer Soiree in the stretch.

Gio Ponti To Try Again in Arlington Million

Gio PontiThis weekend officially belongs to the grass horses. Arlington Park is hosting its keynote events for turf horses this Saturday— the Secretariat Stakes (I) for three-year-olds and the Arlington Million (I) for older horses— while Saratoga takes a break from the dirt action with Saturday’s Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (I). Santa Anita also gets in on the grass with the classic La Jolla Handicap (II) for three-year-olds All races promise to be impeccable, and with two Breeders’ Cup invitations on the line, we’re sure to witness another great weekend of racing.

  • $1 million Arlington Million - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/4 miles on turf at Arlington Park, IL. Post Time: 5:15pm on Saturday August 13

The rich headliner of the Midwest for many years, the Arlington Million (I) has attracted some of horse racing’s finest, which it looks to continue doing with this year’s field. Hoping to become the first horse since John Henry to nab two Arlington Millions, Gio Ponti [pictured above] has to overcome a streak of misses and rivals such as Cape Blanco, who nudged past him in the Man o’ War more than a month ago, and Mission Improved, who tackled the grass titan in the Manhattan Handicap. If that weren’t enough, Arlington Handicap winner Tajaaweed and 6 others familiar with the Arlington course pose a serious challenge. Can Gio Ponti make a comeback? Let’s hope the turf is good come Saturday.

  • Secretariat Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/4 miles on turf at Arlington Park, IL. Post Time: 3:52pm on Saturday August 13

As much as I’m excited about the young WinStar entry Willcox Inn, the Secretariat Stakes favorite is the much deserved European invader Treasure Beach, who has been facing top grass competition across the pond while winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (IRE-I) and a narrow runner-up finish in the Investec Derby (ENG-I). Willcox Inn has been running with ease all year long, but will probably be in for a tough battle for the grass Triple Crown (American Derby, Arlington Classic, Secretariat) as this race is full of talent. Virginia Derby runners including Banned and Casino Host are also up to the challenge. 

Drosselmeyer

  • $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (I) - 3-Year-Olds & Up. 1 1/2 miles on turf at Saratoga Race Course, NY. Post Time: 5:50pm on Saturday August 13

For the horses who prefer the “marathoner” distance of 1 1/2 miles, the Sword Dancer Invitational (I) has yielded a fair field. Belmont winner Drosselmeyer [pictured left] looks to make a turf score here with trainer Bill Mott commenting the chestnut colt can win on any surface so long as it’s at his favorite length. It won’t be easy, should he succeed: topweight turf competitor Teaks North looks to notch another Grade I win following his United Nations (I) victory while favorite Winchester looks to record his fourth.

  • $150,000 La Jolla Handicap (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on turf at Del Mar, CA. Post Time: 5:30pm on Saturday August 13

The La Jolla is feeling lighter than expected this year, mostly due to the fact that the John Shirreffs entry Mr. Commons is out with a foot bruise. This gap leaves Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude the favorite to win here, as the eager dark bay colt comes off a close turf win in the ungraded Tsunami Slew Stakes. However, the Bob Baffert trainee won’t have it easy— the Oceanside runner-up Burns will likely rush in at the end and Jerry Hollendorfer’s Fort Hastings is expected to improve.

Filly Clinches Huge Queen’s Plate Win

  • The first filly in ten years conquered the huge field of 19 to take the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine Race Course. Inglorious passed tiring favorite Check Your Soul and others four-wide coming down the home lane, a tremendous cause for celebration. The filly toppled the field by 2 1/2 lengths over 1 1/4 mile on the Polytrack surface.
  • Watch for Misty for Me this fall, as the filly took the “win and you’re in” Pretty Polly Stakes (I) in Ireland by a clear-cut 6 lengths. The Pretty Polly is the mare’s sixth Group 1 win, hoping to keep improving in time for Breeders’ Cup Mare & Filly Turf (II) race.
  • Also in Ireland, the Irish Derby (I) fell to Treasure Beach, who rated behind the pace early before edging stablemate Seville in the final 100 yards to win by 3/4 length. Treasure Beach will now aim for slightly shorter distances than his victory in the 12-furlong Derby.
  • In Japan, a victorious underdog will now continue on to the Breeders’ Cup in November. Earnestly nabbed his first grade I event in the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-I), overtaking super-mare Buena Vista turning for home to win by 1 1/2 lengths. By winning, Earnestly has automatically earned his trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (II) this year.
Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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