Twinspires.com Weekend Stakes: Where to Watch
A week away from the highly-anticipated Belmont Stakes, the Long Island track will be hosting the Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap on Saturday. A field of seven fillies and mares were entered, but a coupling of Smart Stride and C C’s Pal will give the public just six betting interests. Of those two, C C’s Pal has the best chance here; she began this season with a win in the Ladies Handicap at Laurel, and since then, has been second or third in three stakes races, two of them Grade 2. Nicole H had a string of seven races where she was first or second until her last two in which she finished fourth, beaten by C C’s Pal in both. She’s Cheeky hasn’t won in a coon’s age, but has been running consistently well in graded company, exiting a runner-up finish in the G1 Madison.
Churchill Downs has three Grade 3 stakes, all with $100,000 purses, on the Saturday card, scheduled as the 6th, 7th, and 8th races. First up is the Winning Colors, a six-furlong dirt test for fillies and mares. Bret Calhoun trains a trio of the eight expected starters—Gleaming, Beat the Blues, and Speedacious. Beat the Blues and Gleaming are both returning from Oaklawn Park’s Carousel where they finishing first and third, respectively. Speedacious is looking to keep her five-race win skein in tact. Another to watch here is Good Deed. She was last seen finishing second, 4 ¾ lengths behind Contested in the Eight Belles (G3) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
Noble’s Promise looks to defend his title in the Aristides when he faces seven others going six furlongs over the main track. The Ken McPeek trainee hasn’t won in six outings since that victory a year ago. Among the challengers is Rothko, a well-traveled son of Arch, who won three in a row before stepping up into graded competition. He was beaten twice by The Factor at Santa Anita, and may find this bunch a little easier to handle. Steve Asmussen trains Rothko, as well as Riley Tucker, coming off a third-place effort in an optional claimer, beaten by a head for the place spot by Good Lord, also returning here.
Ravi’s Song and Tapitsfly, the second- and third-place finishers from last year’s Mint Julep Handicap are back again this year in an attempt to capture the 1 1/16-mile turf race. Assigned top weight is Tapitsfly, heroine of the G2 Honey Fox earlier in the year at Gulfstream Park. Since that win, she’s been on the board in two graded stakes in Kentucky. The Dale Romans pupil takes on eight others, including Bizzy Caroline, Artemus Kitten, and Snow Top Mountain.
Betfair Hollywood Park is preseting a pair of graded stakes this weekend—the G2 Californian is on Saturday and the G3 Affirmed will be run Sunday. Game On Dude, rested up from his travel to and from the UAE (he finished 12th of 13 in the Dubai World Cup), will face just four others in the Californian. In his only other start this year, the Bob Baffert-trained son of Awesome Again was an easy winner in the G2 San Antonio at Santa Anita. The top three from the May 5 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (G2) are returning—Morning Line, Prayer for Relief (also from the Baffert barn), and Kettle Corn. Morning Line, transferred from Nick Zito’s care to John Shirreffs’ some time after his poor showing in the Whitney last August, is now one-for-one in California. Uh Oh Bango is also in the Californian field.
Liaison and Gun Boat, both from Baffert’s shedrow, are entered in the Affirmed, along with five others. Liaison, carrying top weight, is winless in four starts this year, but drops into easier competition than that which he’s been up against. He’s proven over this track and distance, winning both the Real Quiet and the G1 CashCall Futurity here last season. Gun Boat was third to stablemate Drill in his last out, the G3 Laz Barrera; second in that race was American Act, also entered here. Holy Candy is back home in California after a rough trip in the Blue Grass at Keeneland, and Nonios ships in from Jerry Hollendorfer’s Northern California base.