Diamond Stripes, Magna Graduate Duel in Meadowlands Cup

Diamond Stripes, Magna Graduate Duel in Meadowlands Cup
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Six-time graded stakes winner Magna Graduate takes on Diamond Stripes in the Meadowlands Cup.
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After futilely chasing Lawyer Ron in his past two starts at Saratoga, Diamond Stripes lands in a softer spot when he takes on six rivals as the expected favorite in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup (gr. II) on the night of Oct. 5 in New Jersey.

His opposition in the 1 1/8-mile main track test includes Magna Graduate, a six-time graded stakes winner from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, who was assigned top weight of 123 pounds. Both are candidates for the Breeders' Cup Classic-Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Monmouth Park later this month. In fact, all but one of the starters in the Meadowlands Cup are Breeder's Cup eligible.

Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. for Four Roses Thoroughbreds, Diamond Stripes has finished third in three consecutive grade I races since returning from a six-month layoff to begin the season -- the Stephen Foster, the Whitney and the Woodward. His last stakes win came in the Pegasus (gr. III) over the Meadowlands strip one year ago.

The 4-year-old Notebook gelding has won four of seven career starts and $442,461. The gray began his career with a string of four wins, including the Pegasus, and made a successful leap into grade I company in the Stephen Foster on June 16 at Churchill Downs. He finished third in that race, beaten just a half-length by winner Flashy Bull. Diamond Stripes was a distant third in the Whitney and Woodward, both won by Lawyer Ron at Saratoga.

The 2-1 morning line choice, Diamond Stripes will carry 119 pounds and be ridden for the first time by Cornelio Velasquez.

The field includes a second Pegasus winner in Magna Graduate. The 5-year-old Honor Grades horse ran in the same three grade I races that Diamond Stripes has this year. But after a powerful effort in the Foster Handicap when second by a head to Flashy Bull, the Elisabeth Alexander-owned Magna Graduate tailed off in the Whitney and Woodward. Following his sixth-place finish in the Whitney, the dark bay tired badly after six furlongs in the Woodward and wound up last of eight, 24 lengths behind Lawyer Ron.

Magna Graduate has won nine of 25 career starts and $2.2 million. In addition to the 2005 Pegasus, his accomplishments include winning the Clark Handicap (gr. II) and four other grade III events. Pletcher won last year's Meadowland's Cup with Master Command.

Godolphin Racing's Utopia is the lone Meadowlands entrant not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, but the 7-year-old Japanese-bred son of Forty Niner can be expected to take quite a bit of action. In his first U.S. start May 2 at Belmont Park, Utopia overcame a bumping incident in the stretch run to defeat Political Force by one length in the one-mile Westchester Handicap (gr. III). That was Utopia's only race since winning the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) in Dubai in March 2006 by four lengths. A group I winner in his native country, the chestnut horse has won nine of 32 lifetimes starts and has earned an astonishing $4,887,885.

Praying for Cash, a grade III winner trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, stretches out following his ninth-place showing last out in the seven-furlong Forego (gr. I) at Saratoga Sept. 1. In his only prior start at nine furlongs, Praying for Cash ran second to Bluegrass Cat in the 2006 Haskell Invitational (gr. I).

The 3-year-old Xchanger takes on older horses for the first time for trainer Mark Shuman. Winner of the Barbaro (gr. III) and Tesio stakes earlier this year, Xchanger is coming off a second-place effort in the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) to Timber Reserve, beaten by a neck Sept. 3.

Grade III winner Awfully Smart, winner of four of his last five starts for trainer Alan Goldberg in Delaware, tries tougher this time. Mr. Umphrey, also trained by Dutrow for Four Roses Thoroughbreds, comes off a narrow second-place finish in a Saratoga allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs Aug. 29.

$500,000 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup (gr. II, Race 9, 10:41 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Mr. Umphrey, 119, Rudy R. Rodriguez, 50-1
2. Utopia, 119, Michael J. Luzzi, 3-1
3. Praying for Cash, 119, Stewart Elliott, 9-2
4. Diamond Stripes, 119, Cornelio H. Velasquez, 2-1
5. Awfully Smart, 119, Ramon A. Dominguez, 6-1
6. Xchanger, 120, Luis Garcia, 8-1
7. Magna Graduate, 123, John R. Velazquez, 5-2

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