River City Handicap
Fall racing after the Breeders Cup is often about emerging talents especially in the older horse ranks. Many horses who get good and come through their conditions over the summer step up into stakes company and many of them go on winning streaks because they're improving faster than their connections willingness to step them up. We saw it last week with Criminologist and Hunting and I think this weeks fast improver is Thorn Song. Thorn Song was my favorite horse of the Saratoga meet. He achieved two game victories in allowance races at generous odds. Since leaving the Spa he's been beaten twice but both times he ran fantastically and his connections have to be loving his consistency. In his last race he was a bit further off the pace early and made a move for the lead around the turn. He was gunned down late by Fishy Advice but it was his first start over soft turf and his first try in stakes company. A different type of ride and a more firm course should see him return to winning ways. This race will not be without it's challenges though. Cosmonaut is the class of the field and he might be tough if Carlos Martin has figured him out. A classy and consistent non winner like Cosmonaut could easily turn into a dominant horse with either maturity or a key change. We saw it with Manduro this year and Aldebaran in the past. But until I know otherwise I'm opposing Cosmonaut. Ascertain is the scary horse in this race and I may use him just to hedge. Ascertain has put it all together this year and no one has been able to handle him on the grass. He's won going short and long and in his comeback he ran a pretty good race. He was a little too eager early on but he still had enough to hold off Remington Park specialist Red Rock Creek. He should improve off that race and that will make him extremely dangerous. If you're interested in a real bomb take a look at Skipped Bail. This Canadian should be a whopping price on the board but he is just starting to get good. His connections suspected he was good last year but he never put it together. This year he's been a different horse and he just missed winning a stakes race last time out against some very useful horses. He started to come hard in the lane but second place finisher Royal Challenger started getting out and while there was no contact Skipped Bail shied from him and it definitely cost him momentum. He may have gone right by had Royal Challenger held a straight course. He should be coming hard from the back and he just may surprise this field.
I think this is a three horse race between Crested, Independent George and Palace Episode. Crested is a horse I have had an eye on since last summer. He has always flirted with success and many times has run races that suggest he is a very capable horse but for the most part he has never arrived. I think one of the problems for him is that he is not a miler. He is 6-0-1-0 at a mile and is a perfect 2 for 2 at this distance as well as a useful 5-1-3-1 at 9f. Clearly this suits him better. Wally Dollase is a trainer I have the utmost respect for and he is quite good at getting results off of layoffs. He is also very good at shipping his horses to spots where they fit. Crested fired a bullet in his last work for this race and should be good to go. He should sit right in behind Silent Name and Willow O'Wisp and should get first run. Independent George is running in here for another savvy trainer, Graham Motion. Independent George is a late blooming consistent allowance type but Motion obviously feels that he is ready to take the next step up. over the summer he dealt defeat to Dirge, a horse who is 5-4-1-0 lifetime and in his last race he made a bit of a premature move. Nakatani was tracking Astronomer Royal and he moved when that one moved. Unfortunately for him Astronomer Royal was a fraud and Independent George ran out of gas ahead of schedule. He still held on for 4th and the field that day was far tougher than this one is. I seriously don't know why Cosmonaut is not in this race. He'd be a huge favorite. Independent George did not make the trip for nothing, he'll be in the mix at the finish. Palace Episode will try to rally from far back so he'll be hoping that Silent Name runs off in the first half. He is a fantastic horse on firm ground and a bad horse on soft ground. I toss his soft races completely. His good to firm ground record is actually very very good and if the crowd notices that he might be the favorite. Both in Europe and in America he has shown that he can run with real G-1 horses on firmish ground and there aren't many real G-1 horses in this race. He has the class edge. I'm going to use all three and just hope the prices don't evaporate.