Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Alienation fails as favorite, places third in G1 Prioress

Chef Bobby Flay's Her Smile out-dueled Pomeroys Pistol to win the Prioress S.-G1 at Belmont on Independence Day, as the pair took advantage of a hot pace that left my 2010 sales-tip Alienation once again settling for picking up the pieces in a graded sprint on dirt.

Alienation, who went off as the favorite at a shade over 8/5 odds, made a three-wide bid on the turn and briefly took the lead in the six-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies. But while she was able to hang on for third by a pair of necks over fellow front-end duelers Quantum Miss and Roman Treasure, she was four lengths short of being a match for the winner and runner-up. Final time for Flay's fleet filly (who paid $16.20 to win) was 1:09.44.

I tabbed Alienation among my top prospects from the 2010 Ocala April sale of 2-year-olds in training, where she sold for $60,000 as Hip 719. Owned by Natalie Baffert and George Bolton and trained by Bob Baffert, Alienation has earned $160,800 from two wins and three graded-placings in six starts.

I keep hoping that Baffert will send the filly back to the grass, where she broke her maiden at first asking at Hollywood last summer. Since that time, she has three starts on dirt -- second-place finishes in the G2 Adirondack Stakes and the G1 Spinaway, both at Saratoga at 2, and in the Prioress -- and two races on synthetic, an unplaced effort in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes at Hollywood (won by my sales-tip RIGOLETTA) and an easy allowance win first-out at age 3.

Dirt fields, particularly sprints, always seem to have more than one front-running type (whether or not those horses are good enough to last and win), leading to a speed duel that can be hard to survive for all but the classiest of horses. On Sunday at Belmont, the three favorites -- Alienation, Quantum Miss and Roman Treasure, in that order -- burned each other out in fractions of 21.78 and 44.55. Alienation proved the best of those three, but the winner (at 7/1) and place-horse (at essentially 6/1) stalked and closed into those blistering fractions to take the major shares in the outcome.

On turf, particularly going a route of ground, it is possible that Alienation's splendid speed could be used in a more tactical fashion among a field of horses typically less inclined to go all-out from the gate. Her early foot might be used to control a sensible pace, rather than get caught up in one that is suicidal.

We won't know, of course, unless Baffert lets her go back to grass.

In other Fourth of July action, $7,000 sales-tip Alstom (again) nearly cleared his NW2L hurdle in pretty good company, this time falling a neck short in a $75,000 optional-claimer at Churchill in which he was not entered for the tag. Alstom was four-wide on the turn for home, but as is his style closed willingly in the stretch. He led briefly, but just got out-gamed by $21 winner Goodtimehadbyall, with another long-shot, 16/1 Washington's Rules, in third. Alstom paid $13.40 to place and $8.20 to show.

Final time for a mile on fast dirt was 1:35.99.

I shortlisted the colt by Silver Train-Miss Special Salsa, by Mr. Greeley, for a bargain-minded client at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale in May. He sold for just $7,000 as Hip 242 and has gone on to earn $51,351 from seven starts by breaking maiden at first asking among special weights at Oaklawn, three times now finishing within a length or less of winning in allowance company, finishing third at Oaklawn and grabbing a third and now a second at Churchill. Alstom has also placed fifth in a pair of stakes races, including the recent G3 Matt Winn run under the Twin Spires.

I have hopes for a change of scenery on this colt's behalf, as well. Current conditioner D. Wayne Lukas takes a string each summer to Saratoga, and Alstom -- a New York-bred -- should be among them.

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