The Hirsch Turf Classic (BC) (Grade 1)- $500.000 Purse
BEL- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile and One Half on the Turf
September 30, 2017
The great day of racing continues at BEL with the 15th running of the Hirsch Turf Classic, which will send its winner off to the BC Turf. Last year, there were two in the field that punched their ticket as the stewards could not declare a winner between Admirals Aces and Chrystal Pip. Chrystal Pip would go to the BC Turf, and not be a factor in that race. He has not won since that race, and he is back here today to try to do what he did before. He won’t see Admirals Aces, who performed much in the BC Turf, as he would win the race. It culminated a terrific season for that one, and I felt he was one of the top stories of the year, considering his progression throughout the season. Admirals Aces recently was seen in the auction, where he was picked up by Our Athletes. Having a lot success in this race lately is Mb Stables, who has had a share of the last three winners with the legendary Spanish Showboat, as well as War Scent, prior to being the owner of Chrystal Pip. To win this race four years ago is an impressive feat, even when considering the high level of accomplishments Mb Stables has already attained. He’ll have three going to the gate in what is a full field of twelve. Let’s take a look at them now!
#1- Playboy (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by J K Court)- Hey, look who’s on the rail again! The trainer is 3-for-3 in my covered races this weekend in drawing the rail, though this time he does not have the services of F Pennington. Now, if this were the real world, we’d be talking about how this would be fate, giving the passing of Hugh Hefner this week. Though maybe, a little virtual fate can go his way, too. He’ll probably need it, as although he’s raced very well in the spots in which he has been placed, he’s walking into the mansion of the elite here, though maybe he can impress with his stamina. He’s never gone this long before.
#2- Speeding Zeus (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by K J Desormeaux)- Purchased for the bargain price of $25.000 from Barcelona Farms, Speeding Zeus was still rather untested when he made the big jump into the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at SAR last month. It was the longest he had ever run, and while he did not win the race, his fourth place effort and steady performance was a worthwhile learning experience for this gelding. He proved he can race with this company, and Maxmillion has a knack for success on the grass, so there is plenty of reason to like him.
#3- Sabre For Kathology (Oval Express Farms, ridden by J R Leparoux)- This gelding is on the best form of his career right now, picking up wins in his last two starts. In June, he topped an 11-horse field, which included the likes of Sir Tom, in the Grade 2 Wise Dan at CD, then he would win the Read Stakes (Grade 2) at DMR a month later. In the wins, he recorded SRF’s of 102 and 101. He extends himself here a little more then he is used too, but he is well rested and ready to take on the challenge. Ever since this summer, this horse has taken off, and should be exciting to watch here.
#4- The Force Awakens (Diablo Diablo, ridden by R J Albarado)- The Condottieri colt spent the early part of the season chasing the TC dream, and would eventually end up running here for the BEL this June. It was the first time that he had races twelve furlongs, and he fared decently, finishing in the top half of the field. After another race, he took his long running skills to the grass up north, and would get a win at the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes, topping Admirals Aces and Mean Street. Next up, he would run second at the Sword Dancer, topped by horse who surprisingly is not here himself. The Force Awakens may be interested in going to the lead as well, so the field will need to be aware of that and not let him potentially get away.
#5- Chrystal Pip (Mb Stables, ridden by F Pennington)- He knows how to win this race, as he has done so before. If he were to win again, he would be the first horse to ever win the Hirsch Turf Classic twice. It’s hard, though, to be overly optimistic about him winning, given that he has not won since that race. But he likes it here, because his closest calls this season, were right here, coming in the Grade 1 Man O War and the Grade 1 Manhattan. Regular rider R Bejarano left him for a pirate, but F Pennington is one of the best jockeys out there for this type of race, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mb went with him over Bejarano to begin with. Don’t rule him out!
#6- Taniwha (Yahudi Stables, ridden by M Franco)- Still a rather lightly raced horse given this time of year, Taniwha is on his best form right now. After taking some time to break his maiden, he would be thrust immediately into the Grade 1 BEL Derby right here at the beginning of July. While he did not win, he represented himself well with a fifth place performance. He would be able to carry that momentum to AP, with a win in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. Perhaps we’ve seen better fields in Grade 1 events then that one, but a win is a win. Now, Taniwha heads back to where he impressed in July against similar company. It will be a challenge, for sure.
#7- Raj Action Packed (Night Rider Stables, ridden by R Maragh)- The four year old gelding hasn’t raced a ton this year, but did come off of a successful season last year. He has not won in any of his three starts this season, and has only hit the board one time, coming in the allowance race that was sandwiched between two graded events. Most recently, he was in the AP Million last month, and he picked up a fourth place check, so that’s not that bad. I’d like to have seen a little more from him this year in order to make him one of my picks, though.
#8- Romantic Pirate (Drabfantasy, ridden by R Bejarano)- This colt by Sneaky Little Pirate has been brought along patiently by his trainer over the year. He’s raced just six times, and picked up two wins. That second win was huge, coming in the beginning of the month at the Kentucky Cup Turf, a Grade 3 race with a $600.000 purse, which is also run at today’s distance. It attracted a solid crowd, and Romantic Pirate rose to the occasion. Even more noteworthy is the way he did it, going out to the front, and staying there. There are a couple in this field who might be looking to do that in this race, so it will be interesting right from the get-go.
#9- Mean Street (Nakamura Stables, ridden by L Saez)- The veteran seven year old gets set to make the 38th start of his career, and despite the lack of a victory in 2017, he’s turned triple digits SRF’s in three of his last four races, so he is still getting it done. He’s hit the board in three as well, and with just a little more luck, two of them may have been wins at the beginning of the year, including the 11-furlong Grade 2 Diarmida. He’s run in the BC Turf before, but that was back in 2014, and the trainer would love for a return trip here. Mean Street seems capable if he runs his best race, but there are others who appeal to me a little more here.
#10- Sean Hannity (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by E Maldonado)- Until recently, the equine Sean Hannity had been seen predominantly in allowance races out on the west coast, and performed well in them. The trainer moved him forward into stakes competition and he’s shown the ability to be in the mix, especially in his first trip to New York, in the Sword Dancer. He was third there, just like he was third in his other two stake tries. He’s been versatile in being to have success running on the lead, or coming from off the pace. Figures to be a contender here.
#11- Bring The Pain (Mb Stables, ridden J R Velazquez)- A very lightly raced horse with just four career starts. When there’s been a purse to run for, Bring The Pain is undefeated, going three-for-three, making him appealing for that ability to get the job done. He was last seen in the ungraded Johns Call at Saratoga, which is run at this distance. While he won that race, it’s going to take a better performance here to beat this crowd. He’s young, so he could do that if he his career is on the upswing. More then likely, Mb’s better chances are from his other two entries, but let’s not forget about Bring The Pain. Consider him if the odds climb.
#12- Clockwork Chai (Mb Stables, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- We’ve saved the best for last on this preview. Mb Stables has won this race the last three years, and he has a great chance to extend that streak with this monster. Win or lose, Clockwork Chai will be at the BC Turf. However, winning is just what he does, having ended 13 of his career races in the winners circle. I don’t care what level all those races were at, in our virtual world, that is a very impressive statistic. All six of his races this year are victories, and all seven of his races on the grass, are victories. He has put together four consecutive triple digit SRF’s, including a 104 in his last race, the Grade 1 AP Million. The credentials of Clockwork Chai go on and on, and there’s no reason to think that he’s not going to continue that form? Concerned about the outside post? No way. After all, “12″ is a perfect number for a horse that wins like clockwork.