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USA’s World Cup contenders met in the prestigious Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park in February.
Magna Graduate went off second choice, as the betting favored Suave, the horse he had beaten narrowly in the Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs in November. But Magna Graduate, like all others, took a real hammering behind a fast improving ‘rookie’ in the top league, namely Brass Hat. As the track came up sloppy, Brass Hat came up with his lifetime best performance. He finished strongly from off the pace to land the Donn by a widening 4 ¾ lengths, while Magna Graduate had to settle for fourth. He failed to get even close to his best form and was beaten more than nine lengths.
The Dubai World Cup (G1) offers Magna Graduate a chance of revenge, as he will be meeting Brass Hat again at Nad Al Sheba. The track is unlikely to be wet in Dubai, so Todd Pletcher’s 4-year-old should do a lot better than he did in the Donn. Is it possible that he can give Brass Hat a fight this time? And, how do these invaders compare to Godolphin’s big hope, the ex-Italian star Electrocutionist?
BRASS HAT (Prized) GF 122+
110+ (17Dec05) 114+ (7Jan) 122+ (4Feb)
Brass Hat improved to Globeform 122+ as he won the Donn Handicap (G1) in great style. He came from behind – in a strongly run race – to sweep by them all for an impressive win over the Nick Zito trained duo Pies Prospect and Andromeda’s Hero. Pies Prospect, who has produced GF 118 in his career, had prepped with a very solid come-back win at Tampa Bay Downs. Andromeda’s Hero was making his first start of 2006, but he had produced his lifetime best (GF 113+) as late as December 17 last year, when he won the Hooper Handicap (G3) at Calder Race Course. He has since finished a positive fourth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2).
The Donn form is very solid, albeit produced on a sloppy track. Sometimes, we see wide margin winner on wet tracks in North America. More often than not, the winning margin is deceptive. More often than not, the winner has been the lone speed – or close to the pace – while opponents are toiling in the muddy, wet, kick-back. Not so with Brass Hat’s win at Gulfstream. He was at the back early, but extremely well – and confidently – ridden by jockey Martinez, who took him wide all the way. Brass Hat raced four wide on the first turn (actually leaving a gap to his inside), he was well off the pace and he came three wide when making a big move on the last turn. While Magna Graduate had hooked up in a speed duel with Pies Prospect, Brass Hat was ridden completely differently. And he gained full momentum at the same point where Magna Graduate gave up his fight with Pies Prospect.
A few strides into the straight, Magna Graduate dropped back, and Brass Hat moved up to become Pies Prospect’s new rival. He soon went by, and won the race going away. In producing Globeform 122+, Brass Hat had suddenly jumped up from a “good G2 / G3 performer” to become one of the best horses in the US. It was his sixth win in 13 lifetime start and it was by far his best. It was also his first race over a wet track. He had won the New Orleans Handicap (G2) at Louisiana Downs in January, after taking the non-graded Prairie Bayouo at Turfway Park in December.
Brass Hat beat Dixie Meister readily in the New Orleans Handicap (G2), returning to Globeform 114+, his best form shown in 2004. He has improved rapidly since coming back after a long break, running to GF 110+, 114+ and 122+. He was sidelined for 13 months due to a condylar fracture in his right ankle, and injury he picked up in the Lone Star Derby (G3) in October 2004.
The World Cup distance will be new territory for Brass Hat, as he has yet to race over further than 9 furlongs. Stretching out to 10 furlongs is unlikely to be a problem though. Judged on his run in the Donn, he has plenty of stamina. He probably inherited most of it from his sire Prized, a top class son of Kris S. who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) over 12 furlongs after having beaten Sunday Silence in the Swaps Stakes (G2) over 10 furlongs on dirt. Brass Hat’s distaff side is not so strong on stamina, though his dam Brassy is a daughter of the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap (G1) winner Dixie Brass.
Globeform 122+ beats most of the contenders for this year’s Dubai World Cup, and Brass Hat looks the most serious threat to Electrocutionist, who will be flying the Godolphin flag after gaining an easy win in the Maktoum Challenge III (G2) over course and distance on March 2. He performed to Globeform 125 as he outclassed Chiquitin (last year’s winner of the race) by 7 lengths. It was Electrocutionist’s first race on dirt, so Brass Hat will have the advantage of more dirt track experience. Against that, Electrocutionist holds home advantage. It should be a good race and quite clearly, the North American has a winning chance. They always do in this race.
MAGNA GRADUATE (Honor Grades) GF 118
111+ (30Sep) 114+ (29Oct) 118 (25Nov) 105 (4Feb)
Can Magna Graduate bounce back and have winning chance too? If Brass Hat and Electrocutionist both run up to their best, it will be tough for him – but Todd Pletcher’s contender is also an improving type, and he has produced Globeform 118+, putting him high on the ranking.
He gained a battling win over Suave in the Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs. Perfect Drift finished third and it is well worth remembering that he had been third also in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) – where Suave was fifth. The Clark was well up to scratch last year, and the 3-year-old Magna Graduate won it like a tough performer ready to go places.
He closed his 3yo season very much as what we call a aprogressive type. Prior to the Clark, he the son of Honor Grades had won the Discovery Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park on Breeders’ Cup day. Finishing really well from off the pace, he got up to beat the Preakness (G1) runner-up Scrappy T by ¾ length that day. He was carrying 2lbs less than Scrappy T but he looked by far the best horse, and also looked like a horse who finds 1 1/16 miles on the sharp side. Now we know that 1 1/8 miles is his best trip. That was also the distance he tackled when winning the Pegasus Handicap (G3) at the Meadowlands last September. His prominent style will make him vulnerable over 10 furlongs – especially at Nad Al Sheba, where the pace is likely to be strong and the home stretch is demandingly long.
Last update: 2006-03-15 05:24:45 (First published: 2006-03-14 04:50:06 )
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