Master Command may have been at a level over his head when he ran a well-beaten sixth in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs June 16. If that was the case, the 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy looks to be on the opposite end of the spectrum for the $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Monmouth Park Aug. 18.
It's time to step up. The June retirement of Invasor, the defending Horse of the Year and 2006 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) winner, has left a giant void at the top of the handicap division.
Any number of horses -- Lava Man, Street Sense, Rags to Riches, Papi Chullo, Sun King, Any Given Saturday, and Curlin -- could fill the void left by the recent departures of some of racing's biggest stars.
All the superlatives and accolades have been written. The 139th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and the performance of Rags to Riches will forever be a part of Triple Crown lore, and will go down as one of the sport's greatest moments. But it was not all about one horse. There is another who deserves near-equal billing for his remarkable accomplishments.
One year after dominating Oaklawn Park's 3-year-old stakes program, Lawyer Ron returns with a new trainer and rider for Saturday's $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II).
Magna Graduate, sidelined for most of the year, took command of Saturday's $107,700 Queen's County Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct soon after the start en route to his first victory of 2006.
Greg Norman's unlucky Papi Chullo chases his first stakes win once again Saturday in the $100,000-added Queens County Handicap (gr. III) on Aqueduct's inner dirt track.
The first two finishers of last month's Longacres Mile (gr. III) head a wide open field of seven older handicap horses entered in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) to be contested over ten furlongs at Hawthorne Race on Saturday.
The fields for Saturday's Gold Cup Day program at Hawthorne are taking shape. The trio of stakes will be packaged in a $50,000 guaranteed "Golden Pick Three" wager. Saturday's entries will be drawn on Thursday.
Saratoga Race Course's first running of The Woodward (gr. I) produced what is believed to be the highest winning odds in the prestigious stake's 53-year history when 31-1 shot Premium Tap edged Second of June by a half-length Saturday.
The running of the $500,000 Woodward (gr. I) Saturday at Saratoga could turn out to be the most crucial start of the year for 2005 Travers (gr. I) champion Flower Alley. It will be the colt's first race since the death of his breeder, George Brunacini, one of 49 people who perished Sunday morning in the crash of Comair Flight 5191 in Lexington.
Grashopper Stable's favored Flamethrowintexan refused to cave in under a severe challenge from Papi Chullo to win Sunday's $250,000 Longacres Mile (gr. III), Emerald Down's signature race.
Southern California shipper Papi Chullo and local favorite Flamethrowintexan share top billing in Sunday's Longacres Mile (gr. III), which has attracted a full field of 12 runners to Emerald Downs.
Giacomo and Preachinatthebar, the 1-2 finishers in Del Mar's grade II San Diego Handicap, and allowance winner Top This and That put in their final workouts Monday in preparation for Sunday's grade I, $1-million Pacific Classic.
Lava Man and Super Frolic, first and third in July 8's Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) finished their work for Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) with solid six-furlong drills Sunday morning over Del Mar's main track.
Eleven horses have been nominated to Del Mar's $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 20. Lava Man, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) for trainer Doug O'Neill, is the probable favorite.
Giacomo tallied his first victory since capturing the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at odds of 50-1, closing from far back under regular rider Mike Smith to defeat Preachinatthebar by a head in a rousing finish to the $300,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar Saturday.
Multi-millionaire Giacomo, winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), takes the spotlight in Saturday's co-featured grade II, $300,000 San Diego Handicap in a field of older horses going 1 1/16 miles on the main track at Del Mar.
Trainer Bob Baffert firmly believes that Fog City Stable's Roman Ruler is one of the most gifted horses in the country. On Sunday, the colt will try to prove him right when he takes on seven opponents in Saturday's $1-million Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I).
A pair of New Jersey-bred runners continue to march toward Sunday's Haskell Invitational Handicap at Monmouth Park, with Park Avenue Ball getting his final work on Tuesday morning and Joey P. now confirmed for the race according to his trainer.
Trainer Patrick Biancone confirmed Monday that Chekhov, runner-up last out in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park, will return to the Jersey Shore Sunday for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I).
Graded stakes winners Sun King and High Limit highlight a tough, compact field of seven in Saturday's $300,000 Leonard Richards Stakes (gr. III) at Delaware Park. The 1 1/16-mile contest marks the first start for the duo since finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Trainer Nick Zito, who has failed to win the Florida Derby (gr. I) in 16 prior attempts, will saddle the top two morning-line favorites in Saturday's $1-million race.
Showing no ill effects from a bruised foot suffered earlier this month, Fountain of Youth (gr. II) fourth-place finisher Papi Chullo posted a bullet five-furlong workout Thursday in preparation for the April 2, $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I).
Live Oak Plantation's High Fly, early favorite for the Florida Derby (gr. I) - Gulfstream's showcase event for 3-year-olds with Kentucky Derby aspirations - breezed five furlongs in 1:02 at the Palm Meadows training center Saturday morning.
Making his first start for trainer Nick Zito, High Fly rebounded from a third-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) to win Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.
Going Wild led from start to finish and notched a one-length victory over Papa Chullo in the $100,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita Park Saturday.
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