Handicapping

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Samitar surprises in Irish 1000 Guineas, eyes America

One day after Power rebounded in the Group 1 Irish Two Thousand Guineas, another smart two-year-old of 2011, Samitar, regained her top form in Sunday's Group 1 Irish One Thousand Guineas for fillies. Unlike that Aidan O'Brien colt, however, Samitar's success came as a bigger surprise. Dispatched at 12-1 on the heels of two unplaced efforts this season, the daughter of Rock of Gibraltar cruised past 11-8 favorite Homecoming Queen to hand trainer Mick Channon and young jockey Martin Harley their first-ever classic wins.

St. John's River breezes for Fleur de Lis

Dede McGehee's St. John's River, runner-up to Juanita in the Grade 2 La Troienne on Kentucky Oaks Day, breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:01 for trainer Andy Leggio Jr. in preparation for the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Stakes on June 16. The 37th running of the Fleur de Lis, sending distaffers 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs, will be run on the Stephen Foster Handicap Day undercard.

Wilkinson upsets American; Mr. Commons second

In his first California start for new trainer Jeff Mullins, Wilkinson scored a 44-1 upset in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 American Handicap at Hollywood Park. The four-year-old colt stalked a couple of lengths off the early leaders, advanced to challenge on the far turn and then surged to a clear lead in midstretch. Mr. Commons, the overwhelming 3-5 favorite, came charging late from far off the pace in the final furlongs to grab second while never seriously threatening the winner, who cruised to a comfortable 1 1/4-length decision under the wire.

Upperline scores in Arlington Matron

Stone Farm, John H. Adger, Oakcrest Farm and trainer Michael Stidham's Upperline was content to stalk the early pace set by Hooh Why in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Matron over the Polytrack at Arlington Park, but asserted her authority in the lane to take over and draw off for a four-length win. Jockey James Graham had piloting duties aboard the Maria's Mon mare, and the duo completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:51 3/5 to return $5.80, $3.80 and $2.60.

Simmard shows class in Louisville 'Cap

Mowed down after taking a lead in his prior two starts, the seven-year-old Simmard hit the front three furlongs from home in Saturday's Grade 3, $115,200 Louisville Handicap on the Churchill Downs turf, but did not relinquish control this time. Under Gabriel Saez, the veteran held off a late charge from Joinem to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 2:27, the fastest edition of the Louisville Handicap since the race was extended to 1 1/2 miles in 2007.

Grit and Grace has big shoes to fill

Trainer Gary Hartlage knew On Fire Baby was special from the moment last spring when she walked off the van into his Churchill Downs barn. The gray daughter of Smoke Glacken validated that early opinion later in the year with wins in the Pocahontas and Golden Rod, both Grade 2s, at Churchill Downs and a victory this spring in the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park.

Homecoming Queen looking for second Guineas crown

She may not have been an obvious leading lady a few weeks ago, but Homecoming Queen put herself firmly in the spotlight with a sensational victory at Newmarket in the Group 1 English One Thousand Guineas and is poised to complete the double in Sunday's Group 1 Irish One Thousand Guineas at The Curragh.

Kailani supplemented to Oaks

The Mahmood al Zarooni-trained Kailani was supplemented to the Group 1 Oaks at a cost of £20,000, making 14 three-year-old fillies still eligible to contest Friday's classic at Epsom Downs. Kailani is out of the 2002 Oaks heroine Kazzia and like her dam is owned by Godolphin, which has also enjoyed Oaks success with Balanchine (1994) and Moonshell (1995).

Bolger seeks first Irish 2000 Guineas against top-class field

Jim Bolger has one omission from his list of big-race successes and will be hoping that Parish Hall can put it right by providing a belated first victory in Saturday's Group 1 Irish Two Thousand Guineas at The Curragh. New Approach appeared poised to bring the trophy home to Coolcullen four years ago only to be denied by Henrythenavigator, while Parish Hall's sire, Teofilo, would have been a leading player had he the chance to flaunt his wares at three.

NTRA adds 'best bet' feature to NHC

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced Friday that the the 14th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) will again be contested over a two-day period and consist of 15 race selections each day -- eight from mandatory races and seven from races of the player's choosing among available contest tracks.

I'll Have Another 'hard to pull up'

It was the first gallop over Belmont's 1 1/2-mile track for I'll Have Another, who jogged the previous two days after arriving in New York Sunday. The Flower Alley colt, who is bidding to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years, was accompanied by his stable pony, Lava Man, as he made his way to the track shortly after the renovation break.

CHRB hands down 45-day suspension to O'Neill

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) met in closed session Thursday to consider the recommended decision of the Hearing Officer in the case involving Doug O'Neill, the trainer of Argenta, a filly that finished eighth in the 6TH race at Del Mar on August 25, 2010.

I'll Have Another jogs ahead of Belmont

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes hero I'll Have Another, who on June 9 will attempt to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner in the $1 million Belmont Stakes, had a second tour of Belmont Park's main track Thursday morning, jogging 1 1/2 miles in company with a pony.

Gosden discusses Epsom team

John Gosden, who won the Group 1 Derby with Benny the Dip (1997), worked three horses during Thursday morning's Breakfast with the Stars at Epsom. Last year's Group 1 St Leger winner Masked Marvel (William Buick) goes for the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup June 2, while Joviality (Robert Havlin) targets the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes on the Derby Festival's opening day, June 1. There was also a lead horse, partnered by Saleem Golam. Masked Marvel finished ahead of the lead horse with Joviality in third after none was pushed hard.

The Black Lillies featured in Paddock Concert Series

A Paddock Concert Series performance by The Black Lillies on Friday evening kicks off a festive four-day holiday weekend at Churchill Downs that includes a special Memorial Day racing program on Monday, infield fun Saturday-through-Monday with the first Bluegrass Art Experience, and another "Family Fun" Sunday Presented by Kroger.

Romans hoping to spoil Triple Crown bid with Dullahan

While Grade 1 winner Dullahan has never competed at Belmont Park and has yet to win on dirt, trainer Dale Romans believes the colt will deliver a top performance in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. If, in the process, the Even the Score colt manages to spoil I'll Have Another's Triple Crown bid, Romans won't feel any remorse.

I'll Have Another jogs at Big Sandy

Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another returned to the track for the first time since Saturday's Preakness Stakes victory, jogging around Belmont Park's 1 1/2-mile oval Wednesday morning shortly after the renovation break with exercise rider Hector Ramos aboard.

Mr. Commons tops American

After producing convincing wins this winter in the Grade 2 Arcadia and Grade 2 Sir Beaufort, Mr. Commons was upset at odds-on in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 3, finishing second by a neck. The John Shirreffs-trained colt will look to rebound when he squares off against 10 rivals in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 American Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Aruna faces distance specialists in Sheepshead Bay

A dull last of six in her season debut in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley last month, the five-year-old Aruna will attempt to rebound Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont Park. The 1 3/8-mile test is scheduled for the grass, but the threat of persistent rain through the weekend has enticed four main-track-only entrants into the field in addition to the 10 fillies and mares in the main body of the race.

Handle, attendance up at Pimlico

The Maryland Jockey Club concluded its spring meeting at Pimlico last weekend, posting average wagering figures which were 9 percent higher than the 2011 spring meet. The average daily handle went from $4.72 million to $5.17 million. The stand featured 29 live racing dates and 21 simulcast days.

I'll Have Another continues to settle nicely at Belmont

Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another was a "very happy horse" Tuesday morning as he continued to settle nicely into his new digs at Belmont Park, where on June 9 he will attempt to become the 12th horse to add the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Cuomo, New York leaders announces NYRA reorganization

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and the New York Racing Association (NYRA) on Tuesday announced an agreement to establish the NYRA Reorganization Board that will place NYRA under temporary public control in order to reform the association and transform oversight and management of horse racing in New York State.

I'll Have Another looking good at Belmont

Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another was reported to be doing well the morning after he arrived at Belmont Park by van and will soon begin training on the Belmont main track, according to Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill.

Ballydoyle responsible for roughly half of Irish Guineas field

Aidan O'Brien is going all out for an eighth win in Saturday's Group 1 Irish Two Thousand Guineas at the Curragh. The master of Ballydoyle, who has collected the one-mile classic with the likes of Rock Of Gibraltar (2002), Henrythenavigator (2008) and last year with Roderic O'Connor, is responsible for seven of the 15 confirmations.

$575,000 Scat Daddy colt tops F-T Midlantic

Mercedes Stables went to $575,000 to purchase a Scat Daddy colt, headlining Monday's opening session of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. Consigned by Kings Equine, agent, Hip No. 39 hails from the immediate family of juvenile Grade 1 winner and $811,760-earner J P's Gusto (Successful Appeal).

Frankel's rating raised to 138

British Horseracing Authority Handicapper Dominic Gardiner-Hill confirmed Frankel at a new rating of 138 Monday morning, two pounds higher than last year's mark of 136, following his brilliant, five-length victory over Excelebration in Saturday's Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Homesick Gutierrez almost left California

Mario Gutierrez's fairytale journey that has carried him to within one victory of the Triple Crown almost never happened. The 25-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico, who rode regularly at Hastings Park from 2006 to 2011, was so homesick for Vancouver, British Columbia, that he nearly left California despite having just won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby aboard I'll Have Another.

Alpha works for possible Belmont start

On Saturday morning at Belmont Park, Godolphin Racing's Alpha turned in his first timed workout since a 12th-place finish in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. The son of Bernardini, a two-time stakes winner at Aqueduct this winter, covered four furlongs over the main track in :49.

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