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Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Ultimate Hunch Bet

Bravo to trainer Linda Rice and Karakorum Farm for continuing to buck the trend in America and run 6-year-old mare Karakorum Elektra in open company races against males. With Edgar Prado aboard, she won an optional claiming race on Wednesday at Belmont, a field of ten that included one-time G1-placed Desert Key making his first turf start for Jimmy Jerkens, as well as Affirmatif and Dubai Rainbow, both G3-placed on turf. Godolphin’s woes, at least in the U.S. this year, continued with eighth-place finisher Pulpit Point—a winner of three races in France last year, this 4-year-old is unplaced in three U.S. starts. His dam is a half-sister to champion Point Given.

On Thursday, race 2 at Belmont features maiden 2-year-olds going 6 furlongs on dirt for a $50k tag, conditions that don’t exactly inspire confidence in a number of runners here with strong turf breeding, including $115k Keeneland purchase Majestic Hope, a half-brother to G1-placed turf star Communique. Asmussen-trained No More Words also reeks of turf, with his dam Maitre Dee out of G1-turf placed Gastronomical who also produced turf stakes winner Hippogator; this is also the family of G2 turf marathoner Black Astor and grassy Oceanside Stakes winner Knockout Artist, not to mention English G3-placed true turf marathoner (2 miles) Spanish John. What is it about trainers and/or connections forcing dirt rather than naturally go with turf?

While Pretend and Extend finished well back in his first turf outing, this son of grass sprint stakes winner Conectis will surely take some money since the winner of that last race, Pluck, came back to win the G3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine last weekend—back on dirt, with blinkers added and for a tag, he may be tough to beat. Pletcher-trained Brahman will also get backing based on his form (as bad as it is) against G1 Hopeful victor Boys at Tosconova, but the one that really interests me here for a price is first-timer Pike Place whose dam Blues In Seattle won at first-asking at 2; he too could have a future on turf, being from the family of G3 Virginia Oaks-placed In The Rough, but Smarty Jones progeny hit pretty well first out.

For those who love the proverbial “dirty” hunch bet, your exacta box should be last out Monmouth claimer Wesley Major, who might like good ol' New York soil better—he’s a half-brother to NY-bred stakeswinner Stud Muffin —and Rick Dutrow-trained firster Labor Harmony, whose dam is a full sister to G2 stakes victress Bodacious Tatas.