Twinspires.com Weekend Stakes: Where To Watch
What a weekend to be in Kentucky as Keeneland packs in five graded stakes in addition to its marquee race of the spring meet, the Grade 1 Blue Grass, which is scheduled as Saturday’s 11th race. Kicking off the weekend is the Friday feature, the G1 Maker’s 46 Mile (like the Maker’s Mark Mile, only a little better), for older horses on the grass. The two standouts here are Turallure, making his 2012 bow, and last year’s winner of this race, Get Stormy. Turallure won back-to-back graded stakes last year and almost had a hat trick with the Breeders’ Cup Mile, losing to Court Vision by a nose. Get Stormy also ended his 2011 campaign in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, finishing far back after setting the pace to the half. He exits a win in the G1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, where he beat Hollinger and Big Blue Kitten, both returning here.
Also on Friday, Plum Pretty will face four others in the G1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. In the absence of 2011 winner and Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, the focus shifts to last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner, making her 2012 debut. Plum Pretty won the G2 Cotillion before her run in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, where she finished fifth. Her stiffest competition appears to be Tiz Miz Sue, winner last out in the G3 Azeri Stakes.
Saturday’s graded stakes action at Keeneland begins with the 8th race where older fillies and mares take the spotlight in the G1 Jenny Wiley. A field of a half-dozen was drawn for this 1 1/16-mile turf race, including Zagora, who comes in undefeated this year in two grade 3 stakes. Others to watch here include last year’s Spinster winner Aruna, and G2 Honey Fox heroine Tapitsfly.
Comedero and Right One lead a field of seven in the G2 Commonwealth. Comedero is exiting a win in Oaklawn’s Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes, while Right One, making his first start in 2012, hasn’t won since capturing the G3 Jaipur last July.
Next on the card is the G3 Shakertown, a 5 ½-furlong grass test, which drew a competitive field of 10, including Havelock, Perfect Officer, and Chamberlain Bridge. Making a foray into graded stakes company for the first time is the Todd Pletcher-trained Concorde’s Flight, winner of a pair of allowance optional claimers at Gulfstream this year.
A hefty field of 13 sophomores are expected to start in the centerpiece of Keeneland’s Saturday card, the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes. Tabbed at 6-5 on the morning line is Hansen, last year’s Juvenile champ. In his debut this year, the son of Tapit was a distant second in the G3 Holy Bull, then returned to soundly defeat a dozen foes in the Mar. 3 Gotham (G3). Among those that will face Hansen are Dullahan and Howe Great, one-two finishers in the G3 Palm Beach, run Mar. 11 over the turf at Gulfstream. All other entries are over 10-1.
The Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park concludes on Saturday, highlighted by the $1 million Arkansas Derby, the final Grade 1 prep for the Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert will saddle the two top choices, Secret Circle and Bodemeister. Southwest and Rebel winner Secret Circle will attempt to stretch out even farther to this 1 1/8-mile distance, while Bodemeister, the lightest-raced of this bunch, is in need of some serious earnings to get into the Derby. He was a game second to Creative Cause in the Mar. 10 G2 San Felipe at Santa Anita. Isn’t He Clever, the only starter in this 11-horse field that has gone 1 1/8 miles, finished a respectable second in the Sunland Derby. Optimizer, runner-up in the Rebel, returns here. The son of English Channel is trained by Wayne Lukas, whose one-time assistant, Todd Pletcher, has a pair entered—Stat and Raconteur.
The G3 Count Fleet and G2 Oaklawn handicaps are also on the card, running as the 8th and 10th races, respectively. Apriority, Izzy Rules, and Hamazing Destiny make up half the probable entries for the six-furlong Count Fleet, and Bob Baffert-trained Drill heads the 7-horse field in the one-mile Oaklawn. Drill most recently won the G2 San Vicente on Feb. 19.
Also on Saturday, Aqueduct hosts the G2 Distaff Handicap, attracting It’s Tricky, who’s won or placed in nine of ten lifetime starts. Her six opponents include Nicole H, C C’s Pal, and Her Smile. The G3 Las Cienegas, also for older females, will be run on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course at the about 6 ½-furlong distance. Mizdirection and Unzip Me are the co-highweights at 122 lbs.
Finally, the fourth running of the Charles Town Classic (G2) will have a 10:30 p.m. post-time Saturday, and with a full field of accomplished older horses expected, it gives Easterners a good reason to stay up. An overflow field of 13 was drawn, but only 10 are able to start, and a case can be made for each of those gunning for part of the $1 million purse. Duke of Mischief is back in an attempt to defend his title, though he’s winless since then. He faces Tres Borrachos, Tackleberry, Mister Marti Gras, Pants On Fire, Skipshot, Caixa Eletronica, Norvsky, Redding Colliery, and Uh Oh Bango.
Sacristy leads a field of six in Sunday’s G2 Beaumont at Keeneland. The daughter of Pulpit from Wayne Catalano’s barn, has run twice this year, taking down the G3 Old Hat and getting the show dough in the G2 Forward Gal, both at Gulfstream.