Quality of fall races quite high

Sep 12, 2018 3:00 AM

With the close of America’s two best summer race meets – Saratoga in the East and Del Mar in the West – several recently created rich races, all on the grass, were run last Saturday at Kentucky Downs on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

Meanwhile, historic Belmont Park, about 40 miles east of downtown New York City, began its Fall season that often identifies national champions.

In the West, Los Alamitos has a temporary hold on center stage before Santa Anita begins its classy season that will run through next spring.

That said, the weather at this time of year sometimes plays a disappointing role in the above schedule. Specifically, heavy rains over the weekend in the North and East forced Kentucky Downs to postpone its Sunday, Sept. 9 racing card until Wednesday, Sept. 12. That fine card will precede the track’s scheduled closing day card on Sept. 13.

While it is rare for any track to cancel or postpone a scheduled card due to weather, Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager, felt he had no choice: “We didn’t think it would be safe for our riders and horses. And, safety is our No. 1 priority,” he said.

“We do have a good forecast for Wednesday and for closing day, Thursday,” he added.

Speaking of the high-quality turf races run at Kentucky Downs on Saturday, consider these results, along with their respective Beyer Speed Figures. As of this date, I can safely predict most of the horses who performed well in these races will deserve close inspection when and if they appear in Breeders’ Cup Turf races at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3.

The exception has to be Moonlight Romance, who only scored a 65 Beyer winning the $500,000 Kentucky Downs’ Juvenile Turf Sprint. I am quite certain we will see much faster 2-year-olds in turf races for juveniles during the next two months at Belmont Park.

Beyond that uninspiring performance, we should note the following horses who did turn in strong performances in their respective stakes Saturday.

Arklow, for instance, earned a lifetime best 100 Beyer winning the 1-1/2 mile, $750K Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup. This was the improving 4-year-old’s fifth win in 10 career turf starts and third stakes score. The son of Arch surely will be pointed for the $4 million BCup Turf that will be run at the same 1-1/2 mile distance at Churchill Downs.

Proforma earned his lifetime best 94 Speed Figure winning the 6-1/2 furlong Kentucky Downs’ Turf Sprint. This too, was this 4-year-old gelding’s lifetime best Figure, as well as his third stakes victory. His most logical BCup race would seem to be the 5-1/2 furlong, $1 million BC Turf Sprint.

Ruby Notion earned a 93 Beyer winning the 6-1/2 furlong, $450K Ladies Sprint and now might be pointed for the same 5-1/2 furlong BC Turf Sprint in which Proforma will be a likely starter.

Beyond the Kentucky Downs races on Saturday, there was one race at Belmont Park that same afternoon that deserves special mention:

I’m speaking of World of Trouble’s victory in the 6 furlong Allied Forces stakes in which he crossed the finish line in 1:09.71 to earn a sharp 103 Beyer on the rain-softened Belmont turf course. As a 3-year-old, World of Trouble has vast room for improvement and could prove a formidable contender in the sprint races on the grass mentioned above in the profiles for Proforma and Ruby Notion.

Bottom line, the results in those turf sprints at Kentucky Downs and Belmont Park suggest the quality of competition is gaining strength just at the time when most good trainers with good turf horses are taking dead aim at the options their horses will have in various Breeders’ Cup races. Those championship caliber races.

As suggested earlier, horses who may turn out to be tough to beat in the BCup races for 2-year-olds are likely to be involved in good (prep) races with good purses at Belmont and Santa Anita during the next month.

I strongly suggest players who hope to make good plays in any Breeders’ Cup race for 2-year-olds would be wise to handicap in advance and carefully watch and review the performances turned in by all of these colts and fillies in their respective prep races.

As I often say at my seminars, there really is no secret to winning at the track. The bottom line is players simply must pay attention!