Friday, September 28, 2012
BELMONT PARK NOTES: Thursday, September 27, 2012
ELMONT, N.Y. – After 36-1 long shot Poseidon’s Warrior won the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on August 5, surprising just about everyone but trainer Robert “Butch” Reid, a decision had to be made about his next start: Run next in the Grade 1 Forego at seven furlongs on September 1, or await the Grade 1, six-furlong Vosburgh Invitational 55 days later?
With sights set firmly on the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Reid chose to wait and run the 4-year-old son of Speightstown at his best distance, where he has won six of 12 starts.
After Saratoga, Reid took Poseidon’s Warrior back to his home base at Parx Racing, where the colt has sizzled in his workouts.
For the Vosburgh, which drew a field of 10, Poseidon’s Warrior will start from the inside post position.
“This horse has a tendency to bear out a little bit,” Reid said. “Normally, I wouldn’t like the rail, but this horse has decent speed, and this might help him getting around a little bit. I would have preferred maybe the [No. 3 post], but it will be fine.
“I think he’s going to be a little bit of a price. He needs to confirm that Vanderbilt win. It’s been like a year-long plan since last November when we started thinking about him for the Breeders’ Cup. One more step to go.”
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Nagging foot issues have limited Jersey Town’s schedule in recent years, but trainer Barclay Tagg said the 6-year-old is entering Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Handicap in the best shape since he won the 2010 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap.
“He has the right amount of breezes under his belt, and he’s coming off a race [a third in the Grade 1 Forego on September 1 at Saratoga Race Course] he well ran in,” said Tagg. “He has so many minor problems that it’s hard to bring him into a race step-by-step. Right now we’ve been able to do that, so hopefully he’ll run well. He looks good because he fills out like a monster.
Jersey Town returned from a four-month layoff to finish fifth in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on August 5, then made a bold inside rally in the Forego to lead turning for home before tiring to third, 4 ½ lengths behind winner Emcee and a neck behind runner-up Hamazing Destiny.
“He had an opening at the five-sixteenths pole [in the Forego], and he shot through it like the wire was 10 feet on,” said Tagg. “That’s a bad group to do that with. It turns out it stayed wide open anyway; nobody came back on the rail. He could have done it at the three-sixteenths pole and it would have been a lot better. He has about a good three-sixteenths of a mile where he’ll really explode. If you ask him for more than that, he’s probably going to come up short.”
Tagg was going to run Jersey Town in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational on Saturday as he believes the Charles Fipke homebred is best at the Vosburgh’s six-furlong distance, but called an audible on Wednesday and instead entered the chestnut in the Kelso.
“It looked like the Kelso was the better place than the Vosburgh,” said Tagg. “There are monsters in both races. There were monsters when he won the Cigar Mile, too. I don’t like either race in particular for him. If To Honor and Serve is on his game, he can be unbeatable, but he can be a little inconsistent. I think the mile has the chance to set up speed-wise for an explosive finish. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”
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Despite largely running a claiming outfit, it is not rare to see trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul pluck an old class horse out of the ranks and send him up to the ladder to a Grade 1 race.
Game Ball, his long-shot entrant in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup this Saturday, is just such a horse. Purchased for $47,500 out of a race at Woodbine, the son of Sky Mesa has run in the Grade 1 Man o’War (seventh) and Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational (eighth).
Now, Chatterpaul will switch Game Ball to the dirt, a surface on which he has won six of seven starts, albeit against less talented company than he will face on “Super Saturday.”
Chatterpaul, who won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in 2011 with $35,000 claimer Mission Approved, has no illusions about Game Ball winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but he is not afraid of the competition.
“Most of the horses, some of them are really good horses, but some of them are tailing off also if you look at the program,” he said. “This horse is doing well, a really nice horse, training well. He can run. It’s just that I’m looking for the right spot. I’m not crazy about this horse on the turf. Even the rider, [Jose] Espinoza, said he worked easy there on the dirt, easy in hand, a minute flat.
“It’s a really top-class horse, just like Mission Approved,” added the trainer. “I wouldn’t put the horse in if I didn’t see any quality in him. There are a few horses you’ll find that you can claim and if they’re decent enough, you can bring them back to their old class. And he seems like one who will get back there, eventually.”
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Pierrot Lunaire, the longest shot on the board at 48-1, took the lead over the final jump and held off a furious late charge from Spy in the Sky to win Thursday afternoon’s Grade 1, $150,000 Lonesome Glory steeplechase.
Trained by Blythe Miller Davies and saddled by her father, Bruce, the 8-year-old War Chant gelding stayed well back as Duc de Savoie led the field of 10 to the far turn of the 2 ½-mile race over national fences. Launching his run on the outside after the second-to-last fence, Pierrot Lunaire was the first to clear the final hurdle and denied the runner-up by a nose after a spirited stretch battle.
It was the first victory since taking the Grade 1 Iroquois in May, 2009 for Pierrot Lunaire, who is owned by Mrs. Calvin Houghland. Unraced in 2010, the gelding made three starts in 2011 and three this year prior to Thursday’s race, all in graded events. Most recently he was fifth in the Grade 3 Zeke Ferguson Memorial in June at Colonial Downs.
“He ran well in the Zeke Ferguson over a little shorter trip,” said winning jockey Bernard Dalton. “We were handy the whole way, and he was beaten only [13 ¾] lengths against faster horses. Bruce said he was training real well, otherwise he wouldn’t bother coming up being a long shot, and he took the blinkers off. The horse just traveled and jumped. [Bruce] said to me, ‘I want you to hold him up today. Just pop away, pop away, and don’t come with a run until after the second-to-last [fence].’”
Pierrot Lunaire returned $99.50 for a $2 win bet, and earned $90,000. For his career, he is 4-5-4 from 25 starts with a bankroll of $355,579.
“I was really nervous because he did not run that well this spring and had not run since [June],” said Bruce Miller, who in the 1990’s trained Lonesome Glory, the champion steeplechaser for whom the race was named. “We put a lot of work into him to get him this far and to be honest with you, I didn’t really think he would win. I thought he would run well, but I never expected him to win.”
Spy in the Sky was two lengths ahead of Charminster, with Left Unsaid, History Boy, Divine Fortune, Duc de Savoie, Tax Ruling and The Jigsaw Man completing the order of finish. All Together left the course before the final jump. Demonstrative was scratched.
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