Twinspires.com Weekend Stakes: Where to Watch
With the Memorial Day holiday on Monday comes an avalanche of graded stakes, especially at Belmont Park, which will present three Grade 1 stakes and a Grade 2. First, let’s look at the four graded stakes on Saturday that will be taking place at four different tracks. First up is the G2 Sheepshead Bay at Belmont, a turf race for older fillies and mares with a field of ten and four also-eligibles that are main track only. The morning line favorite, Arena Elvira, is on the also list; she lost her last out after capturing five in a row. Hit It Rich and Aruna have both performed well at the graded stakes level.
After missing by just a neck in the G3 Doubledogdare in her only start this year, Kathmanblu returns in the G3 Arlington Matron against six others including Upperline, winner of the G3 Bewitch at Keeneland. La Gran Bailadora, third in the Doubledogdare, is also entered.
Tahoe Lake and Simmard clash again in the grassy G3 Louisville Handicap, the 10th race on the Saturday Churchill card. Last time they met was in Keeneland’s G2 Elkhorn where Tahoe Lake was the runner-up and Simmard finished in third, less than a length back. Cease, a son of War Chant, began his racing career on the turf, but has been on synthetic or dirt in his last seven starts.
Mr. Commons, assigned high weight of 122 lbs. in the G2 American Handicap, gives up three to nine pounds to his opponents going a mile over the grass at Betfair Hollywood Park. The stretch-running son of Artie Schiller exits a second-place effort as the odds-on favorite in the G1 Kilroe run at Santa Anita on Mar. 3. Previous to that, he won the G2 Arcadia. Third in the Kilroe was Compari, also entered here; since that race, he earned the show dough over Santa Anita’s downhill course in the G3 San Simeon. Neil Drysdale’s trainee, Liberian Freighter, fifth in this event last year, is back in action after a long hiatus.
Also on Saturday, Woodbine, in Toronto, Canada, has the G3 Eclipse, a 1 1/16-mile test for older horses on the all-weather surface. Sunday is a skip day for graded stakes in the U.S.; the G2 Connaught Cup, seven furlongs over grass, also for older horses, is on the Woodbine schedule.
The G2 Sands Point (7th race) kicks off the graded stakes action on Belmont’s holiday card. A field of eight was drawn, which includes Somali Lemonade, Regalo Mia, and Firehouse Red, the second, third, and fourth finishers, respectively, from Keeneland’s Apr. 19 G3 Appalachian Stakes. Of those, only Firehouse Red has raced since then, finishing second in the Edgewood at Churchill.
Awesome Maria looks to keep her six-race win streak in tact with a win in the G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap, a race she won last year. In fact, previous to that win, she also won the G3 Sabin and G3 Rampart, a feat that she repeated this year. She’ll get some tough competition, however, from the likes of Juanita, exiting a win in Churchill’s G2 La Troienne, It’s Tricky, a back-to-back Grade 2 winner, and She’s All In, coming off a victory in the G3 Sixty Sails Handicap. The other entrant in the Phipps is Cash for Clunkers, a winner by daylight in her last three outings, but never tested at this level.
Females are again in the spotlight for the G1 Acorn, which attracted a half-dozen sophomore fillies. On Fire Baby and Sacristy both come out of the Kentucky Oaks, where each finished off the board. Contested ran on the undercard in the G3 Eight Belles, winning by a comfortable margin of nearly five lengths.
The G1 Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the Met Mile, features a stellar cast of older horses, and though only six are entered, a case could be made for each one. The field includes (from the rail out) To Honor and Serve, three-for-three at the one-turn mile, Shackleford, recent winner of the G2 Churchill Downs, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb’s Posse, Saginaw, a winner of five in a row and making his graded stakes debut, and Charles Town Classic (G2) winner Caixa Eletronica. On the outside is Jackson Bend, the narrowest of winners over Caleb’s Posse in his most recent outing, the G1 Carter.
Nates Mineshaft will try to redeem himself in the G3 Lone Star Park Handicap against seven others. The son of Mineshaft had won four in a row before faltering badly in the G2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs. Another victim from the Alysheba returning here is Apart, looking for his first win in over a year. Other entries are Night Party, Marilyn’s Guy, Fog Alert, and Imco Spirit, all coming into this with back-to-back wins.
Elsewhere on Monday, Monmouth Park has holiday racing, and features the G3 Violet Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf. Golden Gate hosts the G3 Berkeley Handicap, and Betfair Hollywood Park has the G3 Los Angeles Handicap and G1 Gamely on tap.