Twinspires.com Weekend Stakes: Where To Watch
This weekend marks the end of the Spring/Summer Belmont meet, after which the circuit moves upstate to Saratoga Springs. There is one more graded stakes to be run, the Grade 3 Jaipur, a seven furlong turf test for 3-year-olds and up. Christophe Clemente has an uncoupled entry in the field of seven, Nordic Truce and Right One. Nordic Truce is a graded stakes winner, whose last race can be a throw-out, according to Clement. The trainer said that something on the turn spooked him, he took an awkward step, then didn’t make an impact after that. Right One exits the G3 Poker with a third-place finish behind Courageous Cat, who went on to win the G1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park, and Yield Bogey, also returning here.
Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, two of the best fillies racing, will clash for the sixth time in Saturday’s G2 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park. Neither has finished worse than third in 31 combined starts. The first of their five meetings took place about a year ago at this track in the G2 Delaware Oaks. In that event, as well as the next match-up, the G1 Alabama, Blind Luck was a narrow winner. Havre de Grace turned the tables and won the next duel, then it was Blind Luck, then it was Havre de Grace again in their most recent meeting which was the G3 Azeri at Oaklawn Park in March. Their paths diverged at that point, both going on to win two graded stakes in the intervening time before now. Under the handicap conditions, Havre de Grace has been assigned 124 lbs. including jockey Ramon Dominguez, and Blind Luck, ridden by Garrett Gomez, will carry 122 lbs.
More graded stakes are on Saturday’s agenda on both coasts, as Colonial Downs offers the Virginia Derby (G2) and the Virginia Oaks (G3) on their evening card, and Hollywood Park is host to the G1 American Oaks and G2 A Gleam Handicap; all of those races take place on the turf. The American Oaks will be the first of these four stakes, with six expected to start in this 1 ¼-mile test. Three of those entered, Star Billing, Cambina, and Entrustment, exit the G2 Honeymoon Handicap where they finished 2-3-4. John Shirreffs trains Star Billing, as well as the lightly-raced Nereid, who has a maiden and allowance win over the Hollywood turf. Trainer Ken McPeek is shipping in with Bizzy Caroline, winner of Churchill Downs’ G3 Regret.
Runner-up to Bizzy Caroline in the Regret was Excited, who leads the way in the 1 1/8-mile Virginia Oaks, the 7th race on Colonial’s 14-race card. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Excited is the slight morning line favorite over Augustin Stable homebred Dynamic Holiday, trained by Graham Motion. Dynamic Holiday has a four-race win streak on the line; her most recent victory was the March 13 G3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream Park.
The Virginia Derby follows and has attracted a bulky field of 12 going postward. Banned looks like the one to beat here; the Tom Proctor trainee had a dominant win in the G2 American Turf on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, and returned to the winner’s circle again in his next outing, the G3 Jefferson Cup. He’ll have competition from Street Game, owner of a 3-race win skein, and Crimson China, a Kentucky-bred who began his racing career in England, then was purchased by Team Valor International and brought back to the U.S. to be trained by Graham Motion.
Set to have a post time two minutes after the Virginia Derby is Hollywood’s A Gleam Handicap, where the winner from the expected field of nine will receive a fees-paid berth for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs in November. Ultra Blend deserves respect based on her recent three wins, including the May 21 G2 Milady Handicap where she finished second, but was placed first via the disqualification of St Trinians. Bob Baffert will challenge with three entries from his barn—Fund Raiser, American Story, and Irish Gypsy. The strongest of these is probably Irish Gypsy, making her graded stakes debut after capturing two stakes this season.
The Hollywood meet is also coming to a close on Sunday with the running of a pair of Grade 3 stakes, the Hollywood Juvenile Championships and the Sunset, a 1 ½-mile turf marathon. There haven’t been many opportunities for 2-year-olds to race, but when there’s $100,000 up for grabs along with graded status, there’s incentive to take a swing. Two-for-two is Majestic City; after breaking his maiden, the Pete Miller trainee won the Willard Proctor Memorial. His pedigree is all speed—by City Zip out of a Meadowlake mare. Open maiden winners are Brigand and Night Tide, both from Bob Baffert’s shedrow, and Pend Orielle, trained by Mike Harrington.
The penultimate race of the Hollywood meet, the Sunset, has nine expected starters led by Acclamation, going for his third straight win. Acclamation won the Charles Whittingham (G1) and Jim Murray (G2) Memorial handicaps on the turf, and bids to become the first horse to win the three distance grass stakes in the same year. High-weighted at 124 lbs., he’ll be spotting his rivals eight to 16 lbs. Opponents include Celtic New Year, Falcon Rock, and Restless Soul.
Racing resumes in California on Wednesday “where the turf meets the surf” in Del Mar.