East Coast Report
EAST COAST REPORT: CALDER TO AQUEDUCT
ARTHUR'S TALE SET FOR COUNT FLEET
Arthur's Tale has the pedigree, connections, and price tag to be a significant horse. A nonfactor in his first three starts, Arthur's Tale stepped up with a visually impressive maiden victory when stretched out around two turns for the first time in his last outing.
On Saturday, Arthur's Tale moves into stakes company for the first time when he meets six rivals in the $65,000 Count Fleet -- the first dirt stakes of the year for 3-year-olds -- at a mile and 70 yards over Aqueduct's inner track.
The winner of the Count Fleet automatically gets anointed New York's hopeful for the Kentucky Derby. Seven years ago, Smarty Jones kicked off his 3-year-old campaign by winning the Count Fleet. He went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Last year, Laus Deo won the Count Fleet. He is 1 for 4 since.
Arthur's Tale is owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable and trained by Tom Albertrani. Those connections won the 2006 Preakness with Bernardini, who is the sire of Arthur's Tale.
After losing his first three starts, Arthur's Tale won an off-the-turf, two-turn mile maiden race Dec. 2, after being carried out wide by a bolting horse entering the first turn and dueling with Dance City until the eighth pole. It was his first start with blinkers.
'I thought he ran a huge race, considering all things,' Albertrani said. 'I thought it was a good step up for him. I don't know if it was the two turns or the blinkers that helped him; maybe a combination of the two.'
While Arthur's Tale was a $750,000 auction purchase, J.J.'s Lucky Train cost one-tenth of that in two separate transactions. Purchased as a 2-year-old for $35,000, J.J.'s Lucky Train was claimed by trainer Bill Anderson for $40,000 out of a debut victory at Monmouth in July. He has won two of three starts since, including a first-level allowance at Parx Racing in which he set sharp fractions before pulling away.
'That was a huge race,' said Anderson, who also owns part of the Silver Train colt. 'I thought at anytime he was going to cave in, but he dug it out.'
Pants On Fire, who finished a game second in a first-level allowance here Dec. 19 after stumbling at the start, Rush Now, who won the Dover Stakes at Delaware before a non-effort in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot, and Tap Star, a recent maiden winner at Parx Racing, look to be the other significant players.
by David Grening
QUIET TEMPER TAKES ON ELDERS AT CALDER
The American Graded Stakes Committee stripped Calder's next renewal of the Stage Door Betty Handicap of its graded status last month. But from the looks of the field for this edition of the Stage Door Betty, to be run Saturday, the committee just might want to re-evaluate its decision.
The Stage Door Betty was moved from its original spot on Dec. 18 to New Year's Day, but because it had been scheduled to be run in 2010, the committee has allowed it to remain a Grade 3 for Saturday's running. It will be ungraded when it is run next.
The $100,000 Stage Door Betty is the best of three stakes events to be decided on Saturday's New Year's Day program at Calder, along with the $65,000 Tropical Park Oaks and the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby. The Stage Door Betty, a 1 1/16-mile filly and mare fixture, drew a field of 11 that includes Grade 1 winner Funny Moon, Grade 2 winners Quiet Temper and Striking Dancer, and the multiple graded stakes placed Joanie's Catch.
Quiet Temper and Funny Moon will share high weight of 119 pounds and are likely to vie for favoritism. The Stage Door Betty will mark the first time Quiet Temper has faced older horses in a 12-race career that features victories in the Grade 2 Fair Ground Oaks at 3 and the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess at 2, and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Acorn.
'She's an older horse herself beginning Saturday, and it's time to see if she can run with those types of horses,' said Dale Romans, who trains Quiet Temper for owner Mark Stanley. 'She ran well against some pretty good competition at 3. She's already a Grade 2 winner, and our goal this year is to try to win a Grade 1 with her.'
Romans stopped on Quiet Temper for five months midway through her 3-year-old campaign, bringing the daughter of Quiet American back to the races in Aqueduct's Grade 1 Gazelle on Nov. 27, where she forced the pace into the stretch before finishing a tiring fifth behind No Such Word.
'She might have come up a little short in her last start,' Romans said. 'I didn't think she would, but she might have gotten a little tired at the end. But that race should set her up well for this one on Saturday.'
Funny Moon captured the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at 3 for trainer Christophe Clement but has won just once in eight subsequent starts and not since rallying to a 2 3/4-length triumph in Belmont's Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap in mid-May. She closed out her 2010 campaign with a fourth-place finish in Aqueduct's one-mile Top Flight Handicap.
Striking Dancer will receive a two-pound concession from both Quiet Temper and Funny Moon. A 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, Striking Dancer has done her best on turf and synthetic surfaces, having registered the most important victory of her career to date over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita last winter in the Grade 2 La Canada. She closed out the year with a third-place finish over a sloppy track in Churchill Downs's Grade 2 Falls City Handicap.
Joanie's Catch tailed off after hitting the board in four straight graded stakes last winter at Gulfstream Park before bouncing back to win Calder's Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap on Nov. 13.
Toocleverforwords brings a two-race win streak into the Stage Door Betty that includes an easy win in the Cinnamon Girl overnight stakes on Oct. 16.
Dynamic Barbie, Pink Palace, Even Road, Girl Can Rock, Amazing, and Musical Romance complete the lineup.
The Tropical Park Derby also was stripped of its graded status by the American Graded Stakes Committee beginning with Saturday's renewal, but it still lured a full field of a dozen 3-year-olds, plus one also-eligible, to go nine furlongs on the turf.
Racing Aptitude, winner of the Appleton Juvenile Turf in his 2-year-old finale, and Swift Warrior, an impressive allowance winner on the grass three weeks earlier, top a local contingent that will take on such invaders as trainer Michael Matz's East of Danzig, Chad Brown's Beachcombing, John Terranova's unbeaten Tag V Eye, Ken McPeek's Private Prize, and Tom Albertrani's King Congie.
East of Danzig has won each of his last two starts for Matz, who used a victory in the then Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby as a stepping-stone on the road to winning the 2006 Kentucky Derby with Barbaro.
Trainer Todd Pletcher appears to hold the upper hand in the 1 1/16-mile Tropical Park Oaks with Lauren Byrd, a stakes-placed daughter of Arch who completed her promising 2-year-old season with a 4 3/4-length allowance victory over the Churchill Downs turf course. Her stiffest competition figures to come from among a quartet of other northern invaders led by Dynamic Holiday, Troune, A Brilliant Idea, and Lemons to Lemonade.
by Mike Welsch
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