Countdown to the Cup, Sept. 14, part 2

(continued from Part 1)

DISTAFF: We should find out Saturday if Riboletta is for real when she takes on Lu Ravi and several other hard-knocking fillies in the Ruffian Handicap. She didn't get the best of it in the weights at 125 pounds, giving eight pounds to Lu Ravi. This mare has had two distinct careers, and she shows no resemblance to the Riboletta of old. So, is it the competition she's been facing or is she the most improved horse in the nation? We love the way she moves and the power she has in those long, graceful strides. Now, we'll see if she can duplicate her form outside of California.

Alabama and CCA Oaks winner Jostle could show up next at her home track of Philadelphia Park in the Cotillion Stakes Oct. 7. Critical Eye, game winner of last week's Gazelle Handicap, will not point for the Distaff, going instead in easier spots, either at Belmont against state-breds or at Meadowlands. Secret Status, a disappointment in the Gazelle, will be given a rest.

Spain will take on Gold Streamer, winner of the Inside Information Stakes, in Saturday's Turfway BC Handicap. If you're looking for a longshot to emerge from the Ruffian, Houdini's Honey looked brilliant winning an allowance sprint last out for Bobby Frankel. A good race could put her on track for the Distaff. Surfside looked sharp working 5 furlongs in :59 at Churchill Downs.

MILE: Last Sunday's thrilling finish in the Atto Mile at Woodbine was another indication just how wide-open the Mile is this year. While Riviera and Arkadian Hero both ran super races, especially the latter, who was beaten a nose after getting left at the gate, we were extremely impressed with Affirmed Success, who was stuck down on the rail, then closed well to finish third. Most important, it showed this former sprinter can compete with the top grass horses in grade I company. Ladies Din also ran well to finish a close fourth and will be a force to reckon with at Churchill Downs. Honest Lady and Muhtathir were the disappointments.

Brahms looked very impressive winning an allowance race last week, and it'll be interesting to see if he points for the Mile or stretches out for the Turf.

SPRINT: Forest Camp burst back on the scene with a brilliant victory in the Pirate's Bounty Handicap at Del Mar, winning by 4 in 1:08 3/5 in his first start since January. Chilukki also looked good winning the CERF Handicap by 5 lengths. Both horses, however, will now have to step it up in class.

Caller One, who has proven he is one of the fastest horses in the country, will face Personal First, winner of the Amsterdam at Saratoga, in Saturday's Kentucky Cup Sprint. If Turfway is favoring speed as it often does on Cup Day, it could be a big day for Caller One.

The Sprint lost one of its top contenders with the retirement of Richter Scale. It'll be interesting to see in which direction Bob Baffert goes with El Corredor, who looked so good winning the Del Mar BC. The son of Mr. Greeley showed he was a colt of enormous ability when he won a top-class allowance race earlier in the year with incredible ease.

More Than Ready is still on course for the Vosburgh, Sept. 23. Trippi could go in the Jerome or Vosburgh, but we don't know if Todd Pletcher wants to run both colts against each other. Upcoming sprints are the Forest Hills at Belmont and Phoenix Gold Cup at Keeneland, both on Oct. 14.

JUVENILE: Flame Thrower showed a lot of guts fighting back to snatch victory from Godolphin's promising Street Cry in Wednesday's Del Mar Futurity, run in a snappy 1:22.

Sunday's Futurity Stakes should be a super race, with City Zip coming right back after his dead-heat victory in the Hopeful Stakes. Facing him will be the Lukas pair of Scorpion and Unbridled Time. Lukas said the latter is "special." Others to watch are the exciting Hero's Tribute and Onnedon, both impressive maiden winners at Saratoga, and the Sapling winner Shooter. John and Donna Ward have always felt Hero's Tribute was a colt destined for great things. It's amazing how much this colt reminds us of his sire Sea Hero in appearance. Lukas will hold a strong hand at Turfway in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile when he sends out Snow Ridge and Drumcliff.

Julio Canani unveiled a promising colt when Riyadh City, a son of Storm Cat out of an Alydar mare, broke his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:10 2/5 at Del Mar.

JUVENILE FILLIES: If Raging Fever, who has averaged 9 lengths a victory in her three starts, looks as dominant in Sunday's Matron as she has in past races, we could be seeing the big favorite for the Juvenile Fillies. She may get a good test from Ilusoria, whom John and Donna Ward purchased recently for John Oxley. The daughter of Maria's Mon has been working with the Ward's star 2-year-old Hero's Tribute and has been running with him every step of the way.

Serena's Tune, the first foal out of champion Serena's Song who looked so impressive breaking her maiden at first asking at Del Mar, breezed a strong half in :47 1/5 at Belmont Park. Wayne Lukas sent out the Gone West filly Pristine to break her maiden by a half-length at Del Mar for Bob and Beverly Lewis. Cindy's Hero and Notable Career, one-two in the Del Mar Debutante, will head the California contingent in the Juvenile Fillies.

FILLY & MARE TURF: Forget the Breeders' Cup for now. All anyone can hope for for the time being is a matchup in the Flower Bowl between the top older grass filly Perfect Sting and the exciting 3-year-old Gaviola. Throw in Snow Polina and you have one of the best races of the year. But Gaviola also has the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Keeneland as an option.

Bob Baffert looks to have a solid BC candicate in the hard-hitting Caffe Latte, who defeated Tout Charmant, whom Baffert used to train, in the grade I Ramona Handicap.