Horse racing: Groupie Doll may challenge males in Cigar Mile
Groupie Doll’s spectacular season may not be over.
Her connections are considering a start against males in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct next Saturday.
She’s scheduled to breeze a half-mile at Churchill Downs this morning, and the Cigar Mile weight assignments will be issued on Sunday.
If Groupie Doll wins the Cigar Mile, she would garner consideration for Horse of the Year, which is squarely in Wise Dan’s favor for the time being.
“The weights are a factor,” trainer Buff Bradley told the Churchill Downs press office. “The main thing is to see her work Saturday and to see how she comes out of it. It’s not just the weights.”
Since April, she’s won five straight — the Grade I Vinery Madison, Grade I Humana Distaff, Grade II Presque Isle Downs Masters, Grade II Throughbred Club of America and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
The Cigar Mile will be one of six graded stakes at Aqueduct next week.
Also under consideration for that race are 2010 Cigar Mile winner Jersey Town; Grade I winner Hymn Book; 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty; and Buffum and Associate, who were first and third, respectively, in the Grade III Bold Ruler Handicap on Oct. 27.
In addition, trainer Bob Baffert is expected to send either Coil or Capital Account, first and second in the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
Also possible are Shackleford and Ultimate Eagle,
Shackleford, winner of the Met Mile and last year’s Preakness, is also being considered for Friday’s Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.
He’s scheduled to breeze at Churchill this morning.
Jersey Town, who has a history of foot problems but is a dangerous miler when healthy, won the Grade II Kelso in September, then was fifth to Tapizar in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
“He has a multitude of little problems that you have to tweak all the time, but he’s great right now,” trainer Barclay Tagg told the New York Racing Association on Friday. “He had a mile-and-a-half gallop this morning with Robin [Smullen], and he was loving it.
“The whole Breeders’ Cup was weird. There were two horses picked over him [Emcee and Shackleford]. He beat both of them, and yet he didn’t get anything. I don’t think he liked the two turns particularly. They’re tight, little turns there, and maybe he didn’t like them.”
The Cigar Mile card also includes the Grade I Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade II Remsen for 2-year-olds and the Grade II, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies.
The Grade III, $150,000 Fall Highweight for sprinters will be run on Thanksgiving, and the Grade II, Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares is scheduled for Friday.
LET’S TRY THIS AGAIN
Team Valor and trainer Graham Motion have mapped out a gameplan that they hope will take Animal Kingdom to the Dubai World Cup in March, after an injury prevented the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner from running in the $10 million race this year.
Motion has decided to give Animal Kingdom some time off after his fast-closing second-place finish to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Animal Kingdom’s first start in 259 days.
He’ll prep for the March 30 Dubai World Cup in the Feb. 9 Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at nine furlongs.
“I like the timing, the spacing and the surface,” Motion said in a Team Valor release. “I like racing him on grass again, because it is kinder on horses, and he won over the Gulfstream Park course this year and showed a liking for it. He also raced on the grass a year earlier at 3. So he should feel at home.
“As for getting used to the track in Dubai, it is made of Tapeta, and while it may not be exactly the same as our course at home [Fair Hill] or the one at Presque Isle, it should be close enough, so that I am not worried about how he will handle it.”
Animal Kingdom won an allowance race on the Gulfstream turf on Feb. 18 as a steppingstone to the Dubai World Cup, but suffered an injury and was put on the shelf for most of the year.
The much-anticipated career
debut of Eblouissante, the half-sister to Zenyatta, was a big success in the mile-and-a-sixteenth fourth race at Hollywood Park on Friday.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani, the daughter of Bernardini out of Vertigineux waited toward the back of the eight-horse field, made a big move three-wide on the turn and cruised past Saturday Nite Ride at the sixteenth pole and won by 41⁄4 lengths over Chestnut Moon.
Eblouissante, owned by Eric Kronfeld, went off as the 7-5 favorite.
WILLY BEAMIN FAVORED
Willy Beamin, who won the Grade I King’s Bishop at Saratoga on three days’ rest, is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the Grade III Discovery at Aqueduct today.
Claimed for $25,000 in March by trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. for James Riccio, Willy Beamin beat New York-breds in the Albany, then took
the King’s Bishop on Travers Day as an 11-1 long shot.
Mechanicville native Chad Brown will saddle Guilt Trip for his stakes debut.
“He’s had some issues and got a little bit of a late start,” Brown said. “As a 2-year-old, he was one of our top prospects. It’s nice to see him get his career under way.”
Guilt Trip’s first start was an eighth in August at Saratoga, then he won two straight at Belmont this fall.
The field also includes Stephanoatsee, Shackleford’s half-brother who won the listed Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park on Oct. 20.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Finnegans Wake, owned in part by Ray Bryan of Saratoga Springs through Donegal Racing, is 8-1 in the Grade II Commonwealth for 3-year-olds on the Matt Winn turf course at Churchill Downs today.
King David, winner of the Grade I Jamaica at Belmont Park, is the 4-1 favorite in the well-balanced field.
Finnegans Wake has hit the board in two of his last three races, all top-quality turf stakes.
The 3-year-old was third in the Virginia Derby, second in the Secretariat and fourth against older horses in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, won by Point of Entry.
“It’s good that he’s getting away from those older horses,” trainer Dale Romans said. “Grade I’s against older horses are pretty tough races, but I think he held his own. That was over a [yielding] racetrack, and I don’t think that’s his best surface. He was also a victim of pace and needs some pace in front of him. He should get more pace than he did going a mile and a half [in the Joe Hirsch].”
The Churchill card also includes the Grade II Mrs. Revere for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.
Centre Court, winner of the Lake George at Saratoga and the Regret at Churchill, is the 5-2 favorite.
She was second to Dayatthespa in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland and second to Stephanie’s Kitten in the Lake Placid at Saratoga.
“It’s an extremely competitive race,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “It’s the last chance to face 3-year-old fillies, so everyone with a good 3-year-old is going to take a shot.”
The field also includes Somali Lemonade, fifth in the QEII in her last start. She was sixth in the Lake George and third in the Lake Placid. . . .
Favorites swept the New York Stallion Series stakes on Wednesday at Aqueduct, as Sportswriter took the $100,000 Thunder Rumble and Sunny Desert overcame a troubled start to win the $100,000 Staten Island for fillies and mares.
Sportswriter, who in August won a NYSS on the turf at Saratoga Race Course, was kept in the clear by Javier Castellano as he raced in fourth behind an opening quarter-mile in 23.36 seconds, made a four-wide run to engage the leaders through a half in 47.16, led into the stretch, and resisted a late challenge from Anaphylaxis to win by three-quarters of a length.
Sunny Desert, who won an allowance optional claiming race at Saratoga on July 30, ran her winning streak to five with a 23⁄4-length triumph in the Staten Island, also contested at seven furlongs. . . .
Soldat, making his first start since March, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the If Winter Comes today at Aqueduct. He won the With Anticipation at Saratoga as a 2-year-old and was 11th in the Kentucky Derby last year.