Happy Joe Hirsch Turf Day – Take 2! 

The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was planned for last weekend but the record rainfall downstate meant the turf course at the Big A was not available, so the race has been redrawn for today.  As a result, we now have a “Super Saturday” card with six graded stakes including three Grade 1s.  

These are the last Grade 1 races in New York for the year. The next Grade 1 in New York will be the Carter Handicap run on Wood Memorial Day six months from now. But wait, what about the Cigar Mile that’s run in December?  That great race was inexplicably downgraded to a Grade II.  

Trivia Question: Today is the 152nd running of the Champagne Stakes.  What four tracks have hosted the Champagne?  

Race 4 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic – Grade I 

One Mile and One Half on the Turf for Three Year Olds and Upward 

  1. So High: Longshot runner for Naipaul Chatterpaul should set the pace but has not shown the ability to threaten at this level. Has not won a race in three years. Not today.
  2. War Like Goddess: Defending champion of this race takes on the colts again off a bit of a freshening after spiking a fever following the Glens Falls.  She looked a winner that day but was out finished by McKulick (95 Beyer) after being rank early.  She’s not been in the best form this year with one win in three starts. Gets her preferred distance where she is six wins from eight starts. Alvarado takes over the mount from Rosario. Look for a rebound. Win candidate.
  3. Grand Sonata: Won last out in a second off the layoff effort (91 Beyer) against optional claimers. Nimble run in tight between horses let him get into the clear. Will need a significant improvement to contend. Lasix comes OFF. Passing. 
  4. Rebel’s Romance: In his last effort he looked loaded in the Bowling Green, but as he started to move on the turn he clipped heels and lost the rider. That was his first try in four months after a disappointing effort at Meydan. Won the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2022 and if regains that form he’ll be very tough.  Five for six at today’s distance. William Buick ships in to ride for Appleby/Godolphin. The Pick.
  5. Pioneering Spirit: Linda Rice has worked miracles by moving him to the turf earning five wins from six starts since May as he progressed from maiden claimers to winning the Bernard Baruch (100 Beyer).  In the Baruch he was wheeled back in just nine days and was much the best.  Only blemish on his recent record was a distant third in the Sword Dancer on yielding surface. Will likely face similar soft going again and there are some monsters here. Exotics.
  6. Soldier Rising: Was a good second in the Sword Dancer (100 Beyer) over the yielding surface. Two back in the Bowling Green he had to check severely due to Rebel’s Romance clipping heels. Hasn’t won against graded stakes company, but has hit the board a number of times. Gets a piece.  
  7. Stone Age: Was the favorite in the Sword Dancer but didn’t show much when asked while finishing fifth. (92 Beyer). That was the first start since February and the first in the Chad Brown barn.  Last year he finished second for Aiden O’Brien in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Has danced the big dances, but hasn’t won in over a year. Irad takes over. Dangerous at a bit of a price.
  8. Astronaut: Has not raced since the Mac Diarmida in March where he was well positioned but was flat late. Two back he won the Red Smith (102 Beyer) over this course last Fall going eleven furlongs. Might try to take them all the way.  Live Longshot.

Picks 4-2-7-6 

 Race 5 The Frizette – Grade 1 

One Mile On The Dirt for Two Year Old Fillies 

  1. Irish Maxima: Undefeated in two starts she easily handled a N1X field last out at Pimlico three weeks ago (77 Beyer).  Stretches out to the flat mile in her third race in six weeks for John Servis. Should be sent from the one hole. Early speed.
  2. Life Talk: Won going a mile from the Wilson Chute at the Spa where she made a sustained drive on the far turn to sweep by the leaders (74 Beyer). Impressive filly who just missed in her first effort. Working bullets on the Oklahoma Track. Repole/Pletcher/Irad. The Pick. 
  3. Princess Indy: Won the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth going a two turn mile (55 Beyer) but it doesn’t look like she beat much.  That win followed a no impact fifth in the Adirondack at the Spa (58 Beyer). Too slow.
  4. Central Avenue: Broke her maiden at first asking at Colonial Downs going seven panels (56 Beyer). She broke slowly and was ten lengths off the leaders, but came with a rush in last furlong. Additional distance should suit. Castellano picks up the mount.  Has shown she can pass horses. Gets a piece.
  5. 5. Just F Y I: Who says Bill Mott doesn’t win first time out.  This Justify bred filly won making a long sustained drive to just get up in the shadow of the wire (70 Beyer). Certainly looked like he wanted a lot longer – likely headed to two turn events in his future.
  6. 6. Emery: Cross entered in the Alcibiades at Keeneland. Impressive maiden winner at the Spa on a muddy sealed track where he stalked the leaders and drew off in last sixteenth (75 Beyer). Has been working at Churchill for Brad Cox in advance of this. Logical contender.

Picks 2-5-6-4 

Race 8 The Champagne – Grade 1 

One Mile On The Dirt for Two Year Olds 

1.Air Cav: Won first time for Brad Cox while sprinting at Horseshoe Indianapolis (64 Beyer). Comes east to take on the big boys. Will need a huge improvement to contend. Passing. 

  1. Dancing Groom: Ran well in winning an off the turf affair going a mile from the Wilson Chute (72 Beyer). He sat mid-pack and made a sustained move on the turn to sweep by the leaders to win by five lengths. Only entrant to win at the mile distance. Possible at a price. 
  2. Timberlake: Cross entered in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Strong maiden winner at Ellis Park going seven furlongs (87 Beyer) where he wired the field on a speed favoring track. Then in the Hopeful and he stalked a hot pace and looked the winner at the eight pole, but was run down late posting a lackluster 69 Beyer.  Blinkers come OFF. Mixed signals.
  3. General Partner:  Broke his maiden in his second race for Chad Brown by going to the front and never looking back (92 Beyer) while going seven furlongs on closing weekend at Saratoga. Will need to handle a strong early pace. Win candidate.
  4. El Grande O: Buried the field in the state bred Bertram Bongard Stakes two weeks ago on a sloppy Big A surface (85 Beyer). That followed two good efforts at Saratoga in the off the turf Skidmore (second) and the state bred Funny Cide Stakes (third) where he lost the head bob after leading for most of the race. Moves to open company. Part of the pace. 
  5. Fierceness: City of Light colt broke his maiden at first asking over a muddy sealed strip at Saratoga winning by eleven lengths (95 Beyer).  Pletcher/Repole/Irad could have a serious runner here. Was that win surface aided, or is he is that good? Today we find out. Underlay.
  6. Gold Sweep: Won the Tremont by a pole (91 Beyer) and entered the Sanford as the favorite but he broke poorly, then stumbled, but finished second.  In the Hopeful he had another eventful start where he steadied and couldn’t find running room in the stretch. Blinkers go ON. Should stalk behind the early speed and outside post may assist in a cleaner trip. The Pick
  7. Sweet Soddy J: Ran two weeks ago at Presque Isle on the synthetic in stakes company finishing third (63 Beyer). That followed a win in the black type Timonium Juvenile Stakes in Maryland where he saved ground from the one hole (58 Beyer)  then got through on the far turn to get clear. Too slow.

Picks 7-2-4-6 

Trivia Answer: The Champagne Stakes has been contested at the long gone Jerome Park and Morris Park (both were in the Bronx) as well as Belmont and Aqueduct.