Kathmanblu has left no doubt as to whom America’s leading sophomore filly is in 2011, regardless of the surface. To start out the year she came from well off the pace to win the Sweetest Chant Stakes on the turf and on Saturday she took control of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr.3) at the head of the Fair Grounds stretch and rolled to a 1 ¼ length victory over a talented field of fillies on the dirt.
The Rachel Alexandra Stakes was easily the deepest 3-year-old filly race of the year. Breaking from the gates Gran Lioness seized the lead as expected and posted an easy opening quarter mile of :24.83 with Bouquet Booth about 1 ½ lengths back and Kathmanblu another length behind. Undefeated Inglorious took up the rear of the 6 horse field in her first start on dirt.
Running the half mile in a slow :49.27 Gran Lioness continued to lead the field as they entered the far turn. From behind Inglorious had moved up just one spot to be second last as the field came into the stretch. Up front it was Gran Lioness, Bouquet Booth and Kathmanblu who entered the homestretch on even terms with Kathmanblu being floated four wide. Within a matter of strides Bouquet Booth was finished and faded to finish fourth while Kathmanblu battled a determined Gran Lioness down the stretch as Inglorious mustered a rally from far back. Halfway down the stretch Kathmanblu finally got the better of Gran Lioness and began to edge away, crossing the line 1 ¼ lengths the best , holding off a fast closing Inglorious.
Kathmanblu was not at her best for the Rachel Alexandra according to trainer Kenny McPeek, “I think she is a lot better than she ran today. We were a little conservative with her with her workouts coming into the race.” He said. That would explain why she seemed to hang in the stretch when she came on even terms with Gran Lioness and then gradually drew away instead of producing the explosive kick we saw in the Golden Rod Stakes last year and Sweetest Chant this year. If she was able to defeat this classy field in the Rachel Alexandra so comfortably after not getting cranked all the way up, how much the best was she really, and how much the best will she be in her next start?
Now the pressure will be on Dancinginherdreams when she makes her second start of the year in the Davona Dale Stakes this coming weekend. If the word of her trainer and the results of her recent works mean anything at all then she is ready to absolutely demolish the Davona Dale field.
The Novel Nine:
1) Kathmanblu – She still remains in the number 1 spot with her third consecutive stakes win this past Saturday in the Rachel Alexandra. Her next start is undecided but expect her to be more fit and ready to run than she was in her winning Rachel Alexandra performance.
2) Dancinginherdreams – The Grade 2 Davona Dale on February 26th is Dancinginherdreams next target. She is coming into this race razor sharp and has trainer John T. Ward very confident that his star pupil will give her opponents quite a challenge.
3) Zazu – She turned in an easy 5 furlong work at Santa Anita in 1:01.40 and is still on target for a possible start in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr.1) on March 5th. Her Las Virgenes win over Turbulent Descent showed she is improving at the right time and if she can move forward going into the Santa Anita Oaks she will be well positioned to gain her second consecutive graded stakes win.
4) Turbulent Descent – Turbulent Descent turned in bullet 5 furlong move at Hollywood Park on Monday proving that Zazu will have her hands full to once again defeat this three time stakes winner.
5) Inglorious – The Rachel Alexandra was her first start on dirt and she took a huge step up in class. Considering that she was coming off a semi-layoff she ran a very good race to finish second to the much more experienced Kathmanblu. Her next start is undetermined as of now but look for her to turn in a much stronger effort.
6) Gran Lioness – She showed a lot of grit in the Rachel Alexandra, hanging tough in the stretch after setting all the fractions up front to finish just two lengths behind Kathmanblu in third. She may not like the longer distances but she sure does consistently run competitive races against the highest caliber fillies.
7) Alec’s Moon - The Portland Oaks winner turned in a very easy 6 furlong work in 1:17.20 on Friday. Her next start is currently undecided. I really liked the way she looked winning the Portland Oaks by more than 6 lengths but she still needs to come back and beat some quality fillies to prove her worth.
8) Royal Delta – Her 12 length romp at Belmont Park in last October continues to be one of the best juvenile performances of 2010. She recorded her fourth work of the year on Sunday and I noticed a pattern that has developed. Her first work of the year was a 3 furlong move in 39.60, her second was a 3 furlong move in 37.20, 2.4 seconds faster than the first. Next she registered a 4 furlong work, finishing in 51.80 and then came back one week later to run 4 furlongs in 49.40, exactly 2.4 seconds faster than her last 4 furlong move. There is still no word on her first start of the year and it’s getting pretty late in the year to start gunning for the Kentucky Oaks now, but I just feel she’s too good to leave off this list.
9) A Z Warrior – The Grade 1 Frizette Stakes winner was scratched from the La Habra Stakes at Santa Anita on Monday because of somewhat wet conditions so we will have to wait for another day to see if she can get back the form that saw her win the Frizette last year.
Holy Heavens, Delightful Mary and Pomeroy’s Pistol.