DECEMBER 22, 2006
by Dick Powell
STORMELLO (Stormy Atlantic) won the Norfolk Breeders' Cup S. (G2) at Santa Anita back on October 8 in his two-turn debut and earned a huge BRIS speed figure of 104. The Bill Currin trainee went on to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) in his next start but got caught up in a speed duel at Churchill Downs and wound up fifth, beaten more than 15 lengths.
Considering that the winner, STREET SENSE (Street Cry [Ire]), won the race by 10 lengths and that Stormello still beat nine other juveniles, it wasn't that bad a race. Stormello was out on the track two weeks later and since then has had a trio of solid workouts over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track.
But Saturday's Hollywood Futurity (G1) would be Stormello's seventh race of the year, and it was hard to gauge if he was maintaining his form or was on the downside of his form cycle. In his favor was plenty of time to recover from his giant speed figure 10 weeks ago, an inside post, tactical speed and the advantage of working over the Cushion Track since September.
Facing Stormello were nine other developing juveniles headed by Belgravia (Mr. Greeley), a $2 million purchase earlier this year and undefeated in two starts going one turn. Belgravia is a modern-day Thoroughbred that has spent his entire racetrack life training and racing over synthetic surfaces. Team Coolmore wants as many of its juveniles to be stabled at tracks with synthetic racing and training surfaces as possible, and with a $2 million investment in Belgravia, they were taking no chances by running him on dirt. At least, not yet.
The betting public went with the "now" horse and made Belgravia the 5-2 favorite despite breaking from post 10 in his two-turn debut. Stormello was sent off at 7-2 and Notional (In Excess [Ire]), Principle Secret (Sea of Secrets) and Whatsthescript (Ire) (Royal Applause [GB]) were the other single-digit entrants.
Like many races, this one was decided at the start when Kent Desormeaux on Stormello quickly went to the front going into the first turn, tracked by Liquidity (Tiznow) and David Flores. Those two dueled through a first quarter in a modest 23.57 and a half in 47.62. Belgravia would up four wide on the first turn and never was able to save any significant ground.
Even with a third quarter of 24.04, Stormello and Liquidity continued to separate themselves from the field and turning for home, Liquidity stuck a head in front. Off a solid effort last out in the Real Quiet S. going the same distance of 1 1/16 miles, Liquidity looked like he would pull away from Stormello while awaiting the late charges of Belgravia and Roman Commander (Deputy Commander).
But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line. Stormello battled back on the inside and Liquidity could not respond quickly enough. The outside closers flattened out after their making their menacing moves and with a last sixteenth of a mile in 6.36, Stormello was able to get the win by a neck over Liquidity. Roman Commander nosed out Belgravia for third.
Stormello's final time was 1:42.19, and his BRIS Speed figure was 95. The first foal out of a mare by Carson City (Mr. Prospector), I don't expect him to be a factor on the first Saturday in May, but he'll be a major player in the prep races leading up to it. If you notice BRIS' Post Bias of the races run at this distance over Cushion Track, inside horses had a decided advantage over outside horses at this meet -- especially as it went on -- so maybe Stormello's gallant finish was the result of being on the best part of the track.
Belgravia learned a lot in only his third lifetime start, but he also has a pedigree tilted toward speed. His sire, Mr. Greeley (Gone West), is not noted for siring classic distance horses, and the average winning distance of his foals is only 6.7 furlongs. Patrick Biancone has gotten him to learn to relax and he should be none the worse for wear from a season training on synthetic surfaces.
But, I'm not playing him in any future bets this spring even if he wins every prep race. He has the look of Lion Heart, another Biancone trainee that could get nine furlongs but no farther.
Notional broke poorly at the start and was shuffled back to ninth early. After pressing the pace in the Hollywood Prevue S. (G3) last out going seven furlongs, this was not what Corey Nakatani was expecting and from that point on he chased while down on the rail. He wasn't beaten by that much despite finishing sixth, and I wouldn't dismiss him yet for next year.
In the Hollywood Starlet S. (G1) on Sunday, 12 juvenile fillies took the track, including a few that had been running on turf but decided to try the turf-friendly Cushion Track. Mistical Plan (Game Plan) was the 5-2 favorite off a good second in the Pocahontas S. (G3) at Churchill Downs last out going a mile in fast time, and Down (Mr. Greeley) was sent off at 7-2 for Bobby Frankel off a second in her career debut at Belmont Park.
Tizthen (Tiznow) gunned to the front for Desormeaux, but unlike Stormello, who was allowed to set a modest pace, she covered her first quarter in a suicidal 22.43 and the half in 45.47. Super Freaky (Smart Strike) moved up to challenge heading down the backstretch and that was it for Tizthen. Super Freaky led through six furlongs in 1:10.30, but she was under heavy pressure from ROMANCE IS DIANE (In Excess [Ire]), who was stalking the pace on the rail.
The field was bunching up approaching the top of the stretch but suddenly Romance Is Diane was opening up daylight on her rivals under a heady ride from David Flores. The Cal-bred filly was one of only two fillies in the race that had won going two turns on the main track, and she had two lengths at the eighth pole before cruising home from there.
Quick Little Miss (Freud) rallied wide to get second and Down made up a ton of ground to get third after breaking poorly. Forget the rest.
Romance Is Diane is now three-for-three going two turns on the main track, and she should give trainer Mike Mitchell a lot of options next year. She has tactical speed and yet finishes her races very strongly. She's won now for three different riders so she must be easy to ride and her pedigree has a lot of stamina on her dam's side. With a career-best 93 BRIS Speed figure, she'll be real tough with any further improvement.
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