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Has a sire ever produced three Grade I winners in a single day? Let alone in a span of an hour and a half at the same track? Well, that’s what Smart Strike accomplished on Sunday when FABULOUS STRIKE, ENGLISH CHANNEL and CURLIN took home Grade I’s on Belmont’s “Win and Your’re In” Challenge day. Standing for $75,000 (raised from $50,000 last year and sure to jump again next year), Smart Strike sired horses that won at 6 furlongs, 1 1/2-miles on turf and 1 1/4-miles on dirt. Talk about versatility.

CURLIN and LAWYER RON turned in an epic battle in the JC Gold Cup, with CURLIN prevailing narrowly at the wire in 2:01.1. Depending on what happens in the BC Classic on Oct. 27, CURLIN has a chance to be Horse of the Year and/or top 3-year-old colt, or get shut out of year-end awards if he finishes behind Street Sense or Any Given Saturday. However, one indisputable fact: CURLIN has been involved in three of the most exciting races of the year (or any year) when winning the Preakness, narrowly being defeated in the Belmont, and taking a thriller in the JCGC.

In other weekend races from Belmont, FABULOUS STRIKE looks like a legitimate favorite in the BC Sprint after his impressive, front-running win in the Vosburgh; ENGLISH CHANNEL beat nothing but bravely squeezed through inside to outclass his foes in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic; and UNBRIDLED BELLE overcame all kinds of traffic trouble to narrowly defeat stablemate INDIAN VALE, with favorite GINGER PUNCH finishing a flat third in the Beldame. On Saturday, LAHUDOOD got a rail run to win the Flower Bowl, with odds-on WAIT A WHILE finishing a no-excuse third; and TRIPPI’S STORM defeated favored AFTER MARKET in the Kelso.

It also was a huge weekend at Santa Anita, with NASHOBA’S KEY running past soft-trip pacesetter CITRONNADE in the Yellow Ribbon to remain undefeated on her way to the BC Filly & Mare Turf; CRY AND CATCH ME stretching out from a 5 1/2-furlong maiden victory to become a Grade I winner in the Oak Leaf; and TIAGO returning from a layoff and facing older for the first time when gamely holding off AWESOME GEM (who doesn’t seem to want to run by horses) in the Goodwood. On Sunday, DIXIE CHATTER handled SALUTE THE SARGE and a bunch of patsies in a weak edition of the Norfolk. ‘SARGE is a nice colt that appears to have serious distance limitations but the winner might be okay going forward. He’s lightly-raced, improving and obviously likes the two-turn game.

NOTES: Big weekend for a resurgent Mike Smith, who was aboard both CRY AND CATCH ME and TIAGO in Satuday’s stakes wins…Jose Valdivia booted home three winners on that card, including longshots GABRIEL’S HILL ($86.80) and import WING FORWARD ($31.00), the second of trainer Mike Puype’s wins that day. Talk show host Jim Rome was in the winner’s circle following the victory…Victor Espinoza also scored a hat trick on Saturday…Tyler Baze took both halves of Sunday’s early double…both of Doug O’Neill’s winners paid over $30…top jocks Michael Baze and Joe Talamo will each receive an additional day’s suspension for riding in more than one designated race on Saturday. I’d say that worked out okay in Talamo’s case (Nashoba’s Key), not so well for Baze.

Reading Between the Lines Dept.: Oak Tree issued a statement on Sunday that the Microbrew Festival scheduled for Cal Cup Day (Nov. 3) has been postponed. According to Excecutive Vice President Sherwood Chillingworth, the demand for infield space and the desire to “ensure that all those in attendance continue to enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship” of the day were the reasons given. The decision probably had nothing to do with the fights or police helicopter flying over the infield after Saturday’s first microbrew day.

There is a Pick Six carryover of more than $121,000 into Wednesday’s card.

To View Free Samples of Saturday and Sunday Premium Plays, click on the links below: Premium Plays for Sept. 29Â Â Â Â Â Â Premium Plays for Sept. 30

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