While Caesar is taking it easy on the West Coast, Rome continues to burn on the East Coast. There is no doubt that Burning Roma is one of the hottest 3-year-olds in the country, and although he hasn't won a graded event this year, he has rattled off three stakes victories at three different tracks. His latest conquest was a 1 1/4-length score July 15 in the $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth.
By defeating the promising This Fleet Is Due (conceding eight pounds) and Flamingo (gr. III) winner Thunder Blitz, Burning Roma now appears ready to take on racing's reigning monarch Point Given in the Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) on Aug. 5. That is if Point Given makes the journey. Monmouth officials have a big day planned, with the presence of New Jersey governor Donald DiFrancesco, and are keeping their fingers crossed the big chestnut makes the race.
Burning Roma, owned by Harold Queen, may not be in the same class as Point Given, but he is a grade I winner at Belmont and finished just two lengths behind Point Given in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). But more important than that, he's as honest as the day is long, and has never run a bad race. He's also changed his running style and is now comfortable as a stalker, as opposed to the stone closer he was last year.
"I have no visions of beating Point Given," trainer Tony Dutrow said after the 1 1/16-mile Long Branch. "He's such a special horse. But I do have a lot of admiration for my horse, because he comes to run every time. I can make a lot of money running in the Ohio Derby and West Virginia Derby, but $1.5 million is a lot of money. A lot of trainers won't want to run against Point Given in the Haskell, so that's definitely the first race we'll look at.
"I'm very fortunate, that from the little place in Maryland where I come from, a horse like this found me. But I'll tell you what, I haven't screwed him up. I've done a good job with him, and I haven't let anything obstruct my view when it comes to taking care of this horse. He's very serious about what he does and he runs hard every time. You have to be proud of a horse like this."LEGEND IN THE MAKING
When it comes to turf racing in New York, bet the rent on Clement. Sure, we've taken a little liberty with the pronunciation of trainer Christophe Clement's name, but the saying sure does fit. By now, one would expect to see grass growing on the walls of Clement's barn at Belmont Park.
The latest member of Clement's sod squad is England's Legend, a 4-year-old filly formerly trained by Andre Fabre in Chantilly. After poor efforts in the Prix Chloe (Fr-III) and Prix d'Astarte (Fr-II) last summer, the daughter of Lure was sent to Clement, as have so many French-based horses looking for a new lease on life. In just her third start in America, and first in four months, England's Legend captured the $250,000 New York Handicap (gr. II) on July 14, defeating 8-5 favorite Gaviola by 1 1/2 lengths.
Owned by Edouard de Rothschild, England's Legend tracked the pace-setting Gaviola in second throughout the 1 1/4-mile race over the inner turf course. Under right-handed whipping from jockey Corey Nakatani, she wore down Gaviola and drew clear in the final sixteenth. Her final time was a sharp 1:59.63. Spook Express closed from last in the seven-horse field to finish third.
"She is an improving filly, Clement said. "She ran really well during the winter. Then she had a splint problem and needed some time off. We'll see how she comes out of this race and then take a look at races like the Beverly D. (gr. IT) and Diana (gr. IIT). She's not Breeders' Cup eligible, so I'll have to talk to the owner about that."