by Nick Hahn
It’s our third Turf Ten of 2014 — Nick’s picks for the top ten three year old horses with at least one North American start on the turf in 2014.
In previous years, the roster of the leading three year-old turf runners and the list of probables for the Virginia Derby have been one and the same. However, with the summer meet at Colonial Downs, along with its Virginia Derby, hanging by a thread, and with the introduction of the $1.25 million Belmont Derby in New York this July, the arena for the top turf three year old performers changes, providing more options for a division whose universe was once anchored in central Virginia.
Since the last turf ten, Global View won the $250,000 American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs, Wallyanna captured the $100,000 James Murphy at Pimlico and the filly Istanford won the $150,000 Arlington Classic (G3). Coming up quickly are the $500,000 Penn Mile this Saturday and the aforementioned Belmont Derby over Independence Day weekend.
- GALA AWARD – The high-priced $1.5 million Pletcher horse gave a sharp effort in winning $200,000 Pennine Ridge where the field of five lined up at the top of the stretch. His only recent setback was on the synthetic in the Bluegrass Stakes. Don’t be surprised if he ends up as the Belmont Derby favorite.
- GLOBAL VIEW – On Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs, this colt by Galileo delivered a hard fought win in the America Turf with Gary Stevens aboard. The only recent blemish for the three-time winner on turf was in the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, and that event came off the turf onto the synthetic. Tom Proctor’s horse is nominated to the $500,000 Penn Mile on May 31st.
- DANCE WITH FATE – The Belmont Derby awaits the 6th place finisher of the Kentucky Derby who has a win on the turf in addition to his Bluegrass win on the synthetic. Distance doesn’t appear to be a factor for a runner who may find better traffic after lining up against 18 others.
- FLAMBOYANT – Trainer Patrick Gallagher must be pleased with his “French Connection” who gave Gala Award all he could handle coming down the stretch in the Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park. The La Puente winner at Santa Anita has six starts in France, a Japanese sire, a French dam and is battle-tested.
- STORMING INTI – The American Turf winner Global View had to work plenty in the stretch to collect this Pennsylvania-bred — ranked the top Midlantic-bred three year-old — at the wire. Once a winner of four in a row, Storming Inti has yet to pin a graded stakes to his bulletin board, but he has been more than competitive in each of his three graded stakes starts. He could be the “due” horse in the Penn Mile.
- MEDAL COUNT – Dale Roman’s colt seems to be just a step behind Dance with Fate, running two positions behind him in the 19-horse Kentucky Derby on dirt (when he finished eighth) and second to him in the Bluegrass on synthetic. There is plenty to like about the Dynaformer bloodline of the Transylvania winner, who also has a win on the Gulfstream turf in early January.
- WALLYANNA – The former claimer was a clear winner of the James Murphy on the Pimlico turf by four lengths on Preakness day. Trainer Michael Pino and owner Tim E. O’Donohue’s claiming system is generating success and options for this colt by Langfuhr, who has now won three in a row.
- MR. SPEAKER – A previous #1 on the Turf Ten got first jump off the rail turning for home in the Pennine Ridge but wasn’t recognized at the wire, finishing last in the five-horse field. The Coolmore Lexington win was solid but now he has lost twice to Gala Award on turf.
- ISTANFORD – I’m not sure why but filly appearances are rare on this list. The $150,000 Arlington Classic winner (G3) bested a talented field on turf. I wouldn’t expect trainer Michael Stidham to leave northwest Chicagoland anytime soon; he is winning at around 40% at Arlington Park and his filly is perfect there on the turf.
- BOBBY’S KITTEN – I’m not going to look away from the Bluegrass outing for the Ramsey home-bred. I’m going turn completely around and sprint away to the parking lot from the 12th place finish on Keeneland’s synthetic surface. The three-time winner on turf who made the board in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile beat Global View on the turf earlier this year. Stay green.
(Featured image, of last summer’s Virginia Derby, by Laurie Asseo.)