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Top-ranked Vineyard Haven sips Champagne

Vineyard Haven, the top horse on our 2009 Triple Crown Rankings, lived up to his billing Saturday afternoon as he rolled to a 5 3/4 length victory in the $400,000 Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.

The winning effort --- in a 1:36.06 one-turn mile under Edgar Prado --- might have earned the once-beaten colt a trip to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. But trainer Bobby Frankel apparently has other plans for the speedy gray, partly owned by Los Angeles Dodger manager Joe Torre.

According to bloodhorse.com, Vineyard Haven is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup and would have to be supplemented for $180,000.

Frankel told the Web site reporter that he probably will run in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity instead.

Prado, who replaced Allan Garcia as Vineyard Haven's rider, said  "He broke nice and easy. I had pressure, but he kept pricking his ears and going so easily. I was moving along a little bit, but when I called on him, he just accelerated. How many horses do you know that can do that: go fast, relax on the turn and then find another gear? I had to ease up in the last part because he was opening up too much on the group.”

Vineyard Haven has won three of four races and earned $489,000.

Moving into the Triple Crown rankings for the first time is Square Eddie, the 4 3/4-length winner of the Grade 1, $500,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

With Rafael Bejarano aboard for trainer John Best, Square Eddie drew off in the stretch and finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.04.

It was the first American start for Canadian-bred Square Eddie, who began his career with four races in England. Owner J. Paul Reddam is transferring him to the barn of California trainer Doug O'Neill.

"The horse was very comfortable in the race, and he was very professional,” Bejarano said. “I was right next to the speed and when it came to the turn, I felt like I had a lot of speed. The horse gave me everything.”

With his Canadian breeding and success over the Polytrack at Keeneland, he could be the winter book favorite for the 2009 Queen's Plate at Toronto's Woodbine.

--- Bob Summers

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