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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Looking Ahead to the PID Masters Stakes

A scant three years after its inaugural running, the now-G3 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes has become a crucial prep for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, not only because of its location on the calendar (September 12), but as a synthetic surface test. Moreover, noteworthy showings by previous runners at both Monmouth and Santa Anita have earned this race its graded status this year.

While 2007 Masters winner Miss Macy Sue got home third in the Monmouth slop, Masters fourth-place finisher Miraculous Miss narrowly missed victory, running a mere half length behind BC winner Maryfield. Last year, Wild Gams swapped her 2007 second-place finish for a victory, defeating her rival Miss Macy Sue in new track-record time, with Dream Rush in third. Neither Wild Gams nor Miss Macy Sue competed in the BC, while Dream Rush and also-ran Jazzy were no match for the brilliant Ventura and gutsy Indian Blessing.

In 2007, the race closed with 39 nominations; that jumped to 62 in 2008, while this year, nominations closed on Wednesday, with 72 horses. The race has also been lengthened, from 6 furlongs to 6.5 furlongs—the BC Filly & Mare Sprint is to be run at 7 furlongs.

Of those nominated, some imposing runners are considered likely at this point, including Todd Pletcher’s G1 Princess Rooney winner Game Face and G1 Just a Game victress Diamondrella. If Diamondrella goes, it seems unlikely that trainer Angel Penna, Jr. would also enter stablemate Elusive Heat who recently underwent (like Mine That Bird) surgery for an entrapped epiglottis. How exciting, though, would it be to see if the daughter of future Hall of Fame sprinter Xtra Heat could replicate her dam’s BC success?

Others possible: Al Stall, Jr.’s Bear Now who finished third behind Informed Decision and Ventura in the G1 Madison at Keeneland back in April, and fourth-place finisher Dubai Majesty who recently posted bullet works at Churchill. Keep the Peace has run second behind Game Face in her last two outings, the G1 Princess Rooney and G2 Honorable Miss, while G2 First Flight winner Porte Bonheur looks to rebound from her fourth-place effort in the latter. G2 Barbara Fritchie winner Royale Michele hasn’t been seen since running fifth in the Humana Distaff, but did post a bullet three-furlong work on August 22.

Those nominated that appear unlikely include: Bold Union who finished second to Sara Louise in the G3 Victory Ride at Saratoga last Saturday, G1 Humana Distaff winner Informed Decision who finished third behind Music Note and Indian Blessing in the G1 Ballerina, and G1 Test winner Flashing who is apparently being considered for the October 3 Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Philly Park going 8.5 furlongs.

Additionally, Josie Carroll-trained stablemates Authenicat and Foxy Danseur are scheduled to run at Woodbine on Saturday in the 7 furlong G3 Seaway Stakes, as is Verdana Bold, Simply Splendid, and Crown of Diamonds. We'll see if any of them scratch there. Last year’s Woodbine Oaks winner and Queen’s Plate runner-up Ginger Brew won the 8.5 furlong Belle Mahone last out, and is pointed to the G2 Canadian on September 20 at Woodbine.

Hooh Why unsuccessfully attempted turf last Sunday, finishing sixth behind Lady Shakespeare in the Ontario Colleen, while Livin Lovin, who finished within two lengths of Funny Moon in the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks, failed miserably when testing PID’s Tapeta surface in an allowance race on August 30. G2 Beaumont runner-up Selva finished way back in the Victory Ride.