Sky Classic a good fit for Messi

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 19th, 2016

The connections of Messi elected to scratch from last Saturday’s $300,000 American St Leger, a 1 11/16-mile race that was easily captured by long-distance turf specialist Da Big Hoss, in favor of Sunday’s $200,000 Sky Classic (G2) at Woodbine. It looks like a prudent move for the 6-year-old gelding.

Formerly based in Germany, Messi should find the Sky Classic’s 1 ¼-mile trip more to his liking. The chestnut proved best in a salty Belmont allowance event at the distance when making his North American debut last summer and he won three of his first four starts under the care of Graham Motion, including the Knickerbocker (G3) in October.

Messi has raced sparingly since the Knickerbocker, making only two starts so far in 2016, but has a couple of solid tighteners under his belt, rallying past horses to finish third in the May 7 Fort Marcy (G3) and July 9 Arlington H. (G3). He netted a 102 BRIS Late Pace rating in the latter and now stretches back out to 10 furlongs.

Up With the Birds is the early 8-5 favorite following a victory in the July 24 Nijinsky (G2), but the 6-year-old will be facing deeper company and is hardly consistent, dropping 12 straight prior to the last. Are You Kidding, who exits a narrow second in the Seagram Cup (G3), merits respect going Tapeta-to-turf for trainer Roger Attfield and the mare Button Down is eligible to hold her own versus male competition.

But I like the chances of Messi and hope to get a price in his 6-1 morning line vicinity.

The Sky Classic takes place two races prior to the main event, the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, which serves as the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Amis Gizmo will make his first turf attempt but given his affinity for synthetic tracks, it’s easy to envision the Josie Carroll-trained son of Giant Gizmo making a smooth transition.

And given the way Ami’s Gizmo overpowered foes in the Prince of Wales last time, I have to wonder how he lost the Queen’s Plate two back, finishing second as the favorite. The chestnut has captured 6-of-8 starts for owner Ivan Dalos and I’m expecting another winning performance.

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