After establishing himself as one of the leading sophomore turf runners in the nation last year, Kicken Kris drops out of grade I company Saturday in search of a much-needed win in the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park.
Kicken Kris, trained by Michael Matz, appears to have a class edge on his 10 older rivals in the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green. But that's not necessarily the case.
A grade I winner on grass last year, Kicken Kris had banked nearly $595,000 by the end of the year. But in three starts against grade I competition in 2004 – including a last-place finish in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont in his last start – very little has gone right.
He also finished sixth in Churchill Downs' Turf Classic (gr. IT), a race contested over a bog-like course.
Matz, who turned Kicken Kris from a failing dirt horse to a multiple stakes winner on turf last season, says he does not know what to expect from Kicken Kris.
"I don't know what the situation is. Things are a little up in the air," Matz said. "You can go down the line and come up with multiple excuses in the Turf Classic and Manhattan: he had outside posts, he didn't like the footing, he didn't get along with the rider. There are a lot of scenarios.
"I went over him closely after the Manhattan and couldn't find anything. He has trained well and he looks good."
Kicken Kris began the season with a third-place finish behind the Hard Buck in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT).
Winner of October's Lawrence Realization (gr. IIIT) over this Widener course, Kicken Kris is the 117-pound highweight. Jockey Edgar Prado has the ride.
L'Oiseau d'Argent was a gate scratch from the third race on June 27 after rearing up, but can threaten here if he minds his manners. A gelding by Silver Hawk, L'Oiseau d'Argent is two for four since shipping to the U.S. last autumn. Both his victories came over high quality turf fields for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
"He's a beautiful moving horse," said McLaughlin, who won the Bowling Green in 1999 with Elhayq. "The distance is a question mark but we feel because he's speed and seems to be able to go (an eighth of a mile) in twelve, twelve, twelve, maybe he can keep going and get the distance."
L'Oiseau d'Argent, who making his 11-furlong debut in the Bowling Green, will be ridden by jockey Richard Migliore.
B.A. Way has never competed in a stakes race, but is in search of his fourth consecutive victory and appears to be improving race by race. Trained by Richard Violette Jr., B.A. Way owns a pair of allowance victories on the turf during the meet, most recently defeating a good field at the distance of the Bowling Green on June 25th.
Better Talk Now, winner of Aqueduct's Knickerbocker last November, is erratic but good enough to run with this group if he is on his game. Better Talk Now most recently finished second in Monmouth's Battlefield, outgaming a tough veteran in Del Mar Show for the place. Graham Motion trains Better Talk Now.$150,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT), 3 & up, 1 3/8 miles on turf
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. L'Oiseau d'Argent, Kiaran McLaughlin, Richard Migliore, 114
2. B. A. Way, Richard Violette Jr., Shaun Bridgmohan, 113
3. Gigli, Bobby Frankel, Jorge Chavez, 113
4. Vanity Affair, Richard Stoklosa, Fernando Jara, 112
5. Better Talk Now, Graham Motion, Jose Santos, 115
6. In Hand, Philip Oliver, Aaron Gryder, 113
7. Kicken Kris, Michael Matz, Edgar Prado, 117
8. Thompson Rouge, Bill Mott, Mike Luzzi, 113
9. Host, John Kimmel, Heberto Castillo Jr., 113
10. A to the Z, Burl McBride, Jean-Luc Samyn, 113
11. Royal Affirmed, Faustino Ramos, Julio Pezua, 110