On Super Saturday at Belmont Park, Jersey Town gave his connections a SUPER performance in the grade II (win and your in) Kelso Handicap to stamp his ticket to the “Golden State” for the grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Lightly regarded in the Mile division the son of Speightstown came into the grade II Kelso with a lot to prove to even be in the conversation as a Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile contender.
The Barclay Tagg charge was making his 3rd start off a 6 month layoff after a disappointing performance in the grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt stakes at Saratoga followed up by a strong 3rd place performance in the grade I Forego Stakes where he actually led deep in the stretch at the “Spa” before being worn down by Emcee and Hamazing Destiny.
As expected, Ramon Dominguez guided Shackleford to the lead from the word go. Trickmeister hounded the white blaze of the Forestry colt through early fractions of 22.54 for the quarter and a half mile in nearly 45 flat. The Even Money favorite and grade I Woodward Victor To Honor and Serve broke last and was extremely flat through the early stages of the race. Shackleford led Trickmeister at the top of the stretch while Jersey Town made a daring move under Jockey Javier Castellano to split the pair and storm to the lead before running away deep in the stretch to score an impressive 3 ½ length victory over last year’s Dirt Mile runner-up, Shackleford. Trickmeister fought on to finish 3rd.
With the win in the Kelso, Jersey Town earned his 2nd graded stakes victory and boosted his career earnings to nearly $800,000. Only having 4 starts in 2012 the Charles E. Fipke owned son of Speightstown will be going into the Dirt Mile extremely fresh while hoping to repeat his Kelso dominance.
As good as Jersey Town was, the Kelso could easily be remembered as a race full of BAD performances.
To Honor and Serve has become one of those horses that is impossible to predict. Every time we think the Bill Mott trainee is ready to take over this division he gives us a lackluster performance like this one. To Honor and Serve was even regarded as a major threat in the Classic Division at the start of the year after his rousing performance in the grade III Westchester at Belmont Park. The son of Bernardini had a rough trip pinned down on the rail in the grade I Met Mile before fighting on to run 3rd behind two of the best horses in the country, Shackleford and Caleb’s Posse. To Honor and Serve was ready to dominant right? Sadly that was not the case, he followed the 3rd place Met Mile finish up with a very poor 7 ½ length defeat in the Suburban Handicap as the betting favorite while losing to Mucho Macho Man. So when he gamely turned the tables on Mucho Macho Man in the grade I Woodward, maybe we should have predicted this mediocre performance in the Kelso.
Much like To Honor And Serve, Tapizar has been a very frustrating horse to predict. The Tapit colt gives us dazzling performances like his wins in the 2011 grade III Sham Stakes, grade II 2012 San Fernando, and the $200,000 West Virginia Governors Cup. But then there’s those head scratching performances such as the grade II Strub stakes this past year where he was beaten 10 ½ lengths as the 80 cents on the dollar favorite. Should we have predicted another mediocre performance in the Kelso? Maybe so.
Shackleford has his excuses. The Dale Romans trainee had to fight through a grueling first quarter and a just as tiring half in the Kelso. He always shows his fight other than when he’s running at Saratoga which is a surface he’s become to loath. The problem with Shackleford regarding the Breeders’ Cup Dirt mile is his running style. In races such as the Dirt Mile, he’s never going to get an easy lead. Though the Santa Anita “Super Speedway” might enhance his staying power, the fact that the Dirt Mile has never been won by a horse on the lead is something you just can’t get past.
So as we get closer to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. We must pay attention to signs of inconsistency and horses that are rounding into form. Would I take a short price on horses like To Honor and Serve and Shackleford? Certainly not, but I sure would take a chance on a horse that will be a price and who just might repeat his last performance, like Jersey Town.