Only time will tell if debut maiden romper Top Tier Lass can prove up to her
ambitious name, but the Todd Pletcher pupil will try to take the next step in
Johnson Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile affair on the inner turf figures to yield a
contender or two for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita.
Top Tier Lass, a daughter of red-hot freshman sire Street Boss, spread-eagled the field in her unveiling at the Spa on July 30. After chasing the pace through the opening quarter-mile, the chestnut took over and widened her advantage to seven lengths, propelling herself onto the New York Watch list. Top Tier Lass stretches out from 5 1/2 grassy furlongs, but keeps John Velazquez in the irons as she breaks from post 1.
Pletcher will send out two other prime contenders in Tara from the Cape and Skyfall. Tara from the Cape won her first start over Woodbine's Polytrack for trainer Ricky Griffith, and after joining Pletcher, made it two in a row in the August 2 Thomas (Tuck) Greene Memorial on the Delaware turf. By turf champ Leroidesanimaux, she counts Grade 2-winning turf mare Irish Linnet as her second dam. Tara from the Cape, drawn in post 9, picks up the services of Ramon Dominguez.
Skyfall is likewise bred to excel on turf, but her intended debut was transferred to Saratoga's sloppy, sealed main track on August 5. While the More Than Ready filly handled the surface switch to score by three-quarters of a length, she's entitled to do better on the grass. Skyfall, who hails from the immediate family of European standouts Raven's Pass and Rainbow View, gets Julien Leparoux aboard.
Two fillies are already proven over the 1 1/16-mile distance -- Da Mi Basia Mille and Broken Spell, both maiden winners here on the Mellon Turf. Da Mi Basia Mille uncorked a powerful run from well back to prevail in her July 23 debut for Christophe Clement. The Wayne Lukas-trained Broken Spell, a troubled fifth to Da Mi Basia Mille, came back to score on August 19 and wheels back on 10 days' rest.
Irish import Watsdachances rates a threat in her premiere for Chad Brown. Last seen at Navan April 29, she slammed a useful rival in Lottie Dod by six lengths. Lottie Dod has yet to break her maiden, but she has finished second to Aidan O'Brien's George Vancouver, recently runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Morny, and she was herself third in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes in her latest. Watsdachances has lured Javier Castellano into the saddle.
Wesley Ward has a trio entered -- Go Kitten Go, Almost an Angel and the main-track-only Sweet Shirley Mae. Go Kitten Go, a Ramsey homebred by Kitten's Joy, overcame traffic woes to get up in time in her debut at Colonial Downs. Most recently a rallying fourth in the five-furlong Colleen at Monmouth August 12, she promises to relish the step up to two turns. Almost an Angel, a daughter of Artie Schiller, wired a June 29 turf maiden at Belmont Park in her third attempt. She is coupled in the wagering with Sweet Shirley Mae, who hopes for a chance to rebound from her fifth in the Grade 3 Schuylerville.
Wayne Catalano also fields a coupled entry in Incredible Journey and Oscar Party. Incredible Journey, a Lemon Drop Kid filly from the family of Mass Media, Sultry Song and Solar Splendor, closed stoutly to score at first asking going a mile on the Arlington Park turf. Oscar Party is still a maiden after two tries, but is a half-sister to Major Gain, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity in 2010.
Over the Counter, photo-finish winner of a $150,000 maiden claiming event at Saratoga August 6, joins Sweet Shirley Mae on the main-track-only list.
Earlier on Wednesday, New York-bred juvenile colts will contest the $100,000 David Stakes. The six-furlong dash on the main track features big-margin maiden winners Mr Rodriguez and Weekend Hideaway, who both flashed speed en route to their gaudy victories. Debut scorer Slot Play adds to the early heat from the rail, so the stalker Awesome Weekend could profit from a pace war.
Veterans will take to the inner turf for the $100,000 Win Stakes over a mile, restricted to horses who have not won an open sweepstakes on the turf in 2012. Right One, a Grade 3 winner who finished a close third in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last year, warrants plenty of respect. The Clement charge has raced only three times this campaign, placing in both the Grade 2 Commonwealth and Grade 3 Jaipur, before winding up fifth in a paceless renewal of the Grade 3 Poker.
His main rivals include Yield Bogey, third in the Jaipur and Poker; Paris Vegas and Beau Choix, the respective top two from a solid optional claimer at the Spa; Scotus, third in the Opening Verse in his only prior turf try; Swift Warrior, who returns from a five-month layoff; and the improving Nine O Wonderful.
The Rick Dutrow-trained Trickmeister is the most formidable of three main-track-only entrants. The multiple stakes hero exits a fifth in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap and would turn this into a procession if it's rained off the turf.