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It would be quite the understatement to say that trainer Bob Baffert’s horses run well in Monmouth Park’s premier race, the Haskell Invitational (Grade 1). He has won it the last three years with Lookin At Lucky (Smart Strike), Coil (Point Given), and Paynter (Awesome Again).
Baffert’s latest Haskell winner was simply awesome (pardon the pun) on Sunday. Grade 1 Winner Gemologist (Tiznow) jumped out to an early lead, with Paynter sitting back in a stalking position. He pounced on the far turn and was in full command from there. He cruised home to win by almost 4 lengths. After this performance, Paynter is being hailed as the top three-year-old in training by many, including myself.
Paynter wasn’t the only three-year-old to run a big race this weekend. In the Jim Dandy Stakes (Grade 2) at Saratoga, it was Godolphin’s Alpha (Bernardini) who turned heads. He got off to an easy lead, and he repelled challenges from Teeth of the Dog (Bluegrass Cat) and Neck ‘n Neck (Flower Alley) on the turn and in the stretch to prevail by 2 lengths. The son of Bernardini will now try to duplicate his sire’s feat of winning the Jim Dandy and the Travers Stakes (Grade 1) on August 25.
On the West Coast, the San Diego Handicap (Grade 2) took center stage. Post time favorite John Scott (Bertrando) took the early lead with Rail Trip (Jump Start) glued just to his outside. Those two battled on the far turn and into the straight, with Rail Trip prevailing by 1/2 lengths. It was his first win since June 2010. He will most likely go on to face superstars Acclamation (Unusual Heat) and Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic (Grade 1), a race that is shaping up to be one of the year’s best.
This week brings about one of the most important races in the Breeders’ Cup Classic picture so far this year, the Whitney Invitational (Grade 1). The Whitney brings a loaded field, and the result will definitely have Classic implications. Ron the Greek (Full Mandate) is looking to gain his third Grade 1 this year, after the Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1) and the Stephen Foster (Grade 1).
Flat Out (Flatter) is looking to gain the form that he displayed last year that made him one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Hymn Book (Arch) has been winless in the three starts since his win in the Donn Handicap (Grade 1) back in February. He is looking to stamp himself as a top Classic contender with a win here.
The most intriguing horse in the field is Caixa Electronica (Arromanches). He is known as a sprinter, but people forget that he did win at the Whitney distance of 1 1/8 miles back in the April 14 Charles Town Classic (Grade 2).
Also this weekend is the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby. The field is highlighted by Champion Hansen (Tapit), who won the Iowa Derby (Grade 3) last time out. The field includes several horses that were on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year including the upset Louisiana Derby (Grade 2) Winner Hero of Order (Sharp Humor).
Be sure to check back on my website, Talk Racing To Me, for my race selections on Friday.
Top Ten Breeder’s Cup Classic Horses (Week 4)
1. Wise Dan
Working out on the Saratoga lawn in preparation for his start in the Fourstardave next week.
2. Game On Dude
The Pacific Classic will answer a lot of questions about who is the best on the West Coast.
3. Mucho Macho Man
Was listed as possible for the Whitney this weekend, but was not among the final entries.
He will try to extend his seven race win streak in the Pacific Classic, which he won last year.
He was very impressive with his easy victory in the Haskell, maybe the best 3yo in training.
What have you done for me lately? Hard to keep up with the stablemate if you’re not running.
7. Ron the Greek
He will be shooting for his third Grade 1 win of the year in the Whitney on Saturday.
The Distorted Humor colt is working at Remington for his start there next Saturday.
9. To Honor and Serve
Bill Mott still has not revealed the next target for him, one his of many Classic contenders.
10. Rail Trip
He found his winning form again last week, was it the real deal or just a flash in the pan?
Keep an eye on: Hymn Book, Successful Dan
Dropped from the list: Dullahan
8/4/12 – West Virginia Derby (G2) (1 1/8 miles, Mountaineer) $750,000
8/4/12 – Whitney Invitational (G1) (1 1/8 miles, Saratoga) $750,000
Last Week’s Races:
7/28/12 – Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) (1 1/8 miles, Saratoga Race Course) Winner: Alpha
7/28/12 – San Diego Handicap (G2) (1 1/16 miles, Del Mar) Winner: Rail Trip
7/29/12 – Haskell Invitational (G1) (1 1/8 miles, Monmouth Park) Winner: Paynter
Seth Kochera is a graduate of Georgetown College, working in the horse industry. He studies bloodlines and racing performance and shares his knowledge with KyForward readers. He’ll be following the road to the Triple Crown. His email is email@example.com.