September 5, 2010

Here Comes Ben & Lopresti

In a race full of top class sprinters and grade 1 winners, like Vineyard Haven, Big Drama, Warrior’s Reward, Bribon, and Girolamo, little attention was paid to a horse who had never before sniffed graded stakes racing and his trainer who was making his initial attempt at the highest level. Lack of experience against top competition would not matter yesterday though, as the unheralded Kentucky shipper made a strong move between horses at the three sixteenths pole, and then powered past multiple stakes winner Big Drama, to win the $250,000 Forego Handicap by three-quarters of a length. Here Comes Ben, sent off at nearly 10-1, finished the seven panels in a time of 1:22.50 over the fast Saratoga strip. The victory stamped Here Comes Ben's ticket straight to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in two months, as he earned a respectable 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Outside of Kentucky, Charles Lopresti was not a well known trainer.  Not only did yesterday represent his first starter and winner in a Grade 1 stakes, but it was also his first ever starter at the Spa. Admittedly, Lopresti was a little intimidated bringing up a horse for a big race at Saratoga, but he wanted to test his stable star, Here Comes Ben. Mission accomplished.  In nearly 17 years as a trainer, this is Lopresti's best horse yet, and he will be more at home back in Kentucky, when he saddles Here Comes Ben in the Breeders' Cup.  Rider Alex Solis has quickly become a fan of the dark bay colt, who he has ridden in each of last three impressive starts.

Owned by Brandon and Marianne Chase, Here Comes Ben is now perfect in four starts in 2010. In winning his first try against grade 1 horses, the four-year-old son of Street Cry has now never finished off the board in six tries on the dirt. It is interesting to note that after a non-descript three-year-old season, Here Comes Ben has now run all of his races this year at seven furlongs. The combination of the dirt and especially the fondness for the distance, made Here Comes Ben an attractive play at the odds yesterday, and one that I am pleased to say I did not miss out on. As the Breeders’ Cup approaches, he is clearly a horse on the improve. His best three lifetime races are his last three, with the previous two being run over the same Churchill Downs track that will host the BC.
Even after cashing a nice ticket with him yesterday, Here Comes Ben will not be my top pick come November.  Although the field was weakened with today's news of the injury to Majesticperfection, who may never race again, there is one horse who I like above all others.  His name is Discreetly Mine, and he is on a major, sprinting roll.  As for Here Comes Ben, you must respect a horse who has improved as much as he has this Summer, plus you already know he likes the Churchill surface.  If the BC Sprint was at seven furlongs, I would like him a whole lot more than I will at six, but with his performance in the Forego, we learned not to underestimate him or his trainer any longer.