29 June 2006

The Mountaineer minute

There's only time for a quick note before we set out for the flooded East Coast to celebrate Independence Day with the folks. Mountaineer will be dark on the holiday, but it offers two $75,000 stakes races on the 3rd: The Coca-Cola Independence Day Stakes and the Firecracker Stakes for fillies & mares.

Both look to be pretty good races. The Coca-Cola Independence Day features the top five finishers of Mountaineer's last 1 mile turf stakes, the Memorial Day Handicap: Solo Cat, Touched by Madness, Spruce Run, Parker Run and Cherokee Prince. (The sixth place finisher, First Spear, is also eligible, but may run in an allowance race today.) Though I suspect Solo Cat will go off as the favorite, based on his 99 Beyer last time out, don't count Spruce Run out. He's run in the money every time at the Mountain.

Here at the Castle, though, we are more interested in The Firecracker Stakes. Avid readers may recall that Lady Grace won this race last year at 12-1 odds, rewarding the Quinella Queen handsomely. She's hot off her victory in the Decoration Day Stakes - same track, same distance, same surface - but she'll have some stiff competion, most notably, Special Grayce,, trained by Helen Pitts, who came in second to Mirabilis in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G3) in May, and Stormina, a Todd Pletcher filly who raced last year in France and has posted some nice speed figures. Another one to watch: perennial show horse, Kaylan's Rose, who has got to have a grudge against Lady Grace; she was on a little winning streak of her own till she came up against Grace last August, and she hasn't won since.

Sadly, we'll again be far from the track when the race goes off; I'd love to throw some money at the "graceful" exacta of Lady Grace & Special Grayce.

Another quick note: She's That Cat, whose last appearance at Mountaineer merited a small write-up in the Daily Racing Form made it 5 wins in 5 tries at Mountaineer Friday with a win in the 9th, a $46,000 allowance, 5-1/2 furlongs, dirt. Hmmm, another horse for the Mountaineer course?