July 18, 2010

Tiptoeing Through the Turf

No disrespect to impressive Delaware Handicap winner, Life at Ten, or upset Swaps Stakes winner Skipshot, but yesterday, July 17, 2010, was a day for the turf. Turf runners in Chicago, Virginia, and Delaware took center stage and did not disappoint.

Paddy O’Prado did not take it to a new level yesterday, but he did affirm his excellent recent form over the grass. Yesterday’s strong win in the Virginia Derby was similar to his win in the Colonial Turf Cup, and Palm Beach Stakes before that. He did however, flaunt a new winning style in which he relaxed and dropped much farther off the early lead, before uncoiling a decisive punch that quickly thrust him into the lead. Versatility is yet another quality in his corner, as Paddy O’Prado takes another step forward to becoming only the second American three-year-old to be named turf champion in the past twenty years.

Just before the Paddy show in Virginia, the colt who was beaten by him in the Turf Cup, was an impressive winner at Arlington Park. Without the specter of the big horse, Workin For Hops appeared to be out for little more than a Saturday stroll. Stalking the pacesetter until ready to pounce, the son of City Zip left little doubt of his superiority as he opened up an easy five length advantage in mid-stretch before coasting home an easy winner of the American Derby. It was a win that stamped as one of the best three-year-old turf horses in the nation, and should set him up well for a shot at the prestigious Secretariat Stakes in five weeks time. A race in which he might very well have to deal with Paddy O’Prado once again.

After the sophomore colts it was the older fillies who most impressed on the turfy Saturday. Tuscan Evening did it again. What more can you say? The five-year-old Irish import has now run six times in 2010 with six graded stakes scores. Barely more than halfway through the season, and she is dangerously close to clinching the Eclipse Award already. Yesterday was simple, too simple. Able to lope through an opening half mile in a pedestrian :51, Tuscan Evening was able to sprint home and hold off the challenge of Eclair de Lune in winning the Modesty Handicap. Things will get tougher for her in the future, but it is hard to fault her record no matter the early fractions the speedster is setting.

Treat Gently is admittedly a horse I knew little about before last month, but the beautifully bred Juddmonte mare, trained by Bill Mott, has opened my eyes quickly. Following a romping win in last month’s Sheepshead Bay, Treat Gently was one of the choices in yesterday’s Robert G. Dick Memorial, and she rewarded that support with a stylish victory. Sweeping by the leaders on the far turn, she never looked like anything but a winner as she edged away from her competition. The win was further prove that the daughter of Cape Cross relishes the distance which will be a factor in her favor this year in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Can he get the distance? That was the only big question facing Rahystrada before yesterday’s Arlington Handicap. The answer was a resounding yes. The six-year-old son of Rahy continued his upward ascent and fine turf form with a solid half length victory over the rallying Just as Well, who was gunning for a repeat in the Arlington Million prep. For Rahystrada, trainer Byron Hughes, and rider Inez Karlsson, the win was among the biggest in their respective careers, but would be nothing compared to what they could accomplish at the same course and distance on August 21. The competition will be tougher, but you can no longer take this improving gelding for granted.

Fans at Colonial Downs may have not only seen the best three-year-old turf horse in Paddy O’Prado, but they may have seen the best sophomore filly as well in Check the Label. The daughter of Stormin Fever, entered yesterday’s Virginia Oaks off an impressive win in the Sands Point Stakes. In winning for the fifth time on the grass, Check the Label was even more impressive yesterday. Stumbling at the start, she trailed early off a slow pace, and had her powerful rally stunted behind a wall of horses. She patiently waited, and when a hole opened the race was over, as she zoomed to an easy victory. It is hard to imagine any three-year-old filly that could have handled her yesterday.


william said...

couldnt agree more..looking forward to continued great racing culminating with the breeders cup..may they all be there!

LDP said...

Paddy looked AWESOME!!! Workin for Hops only made him look better.