Twinspires.com Weekend Stakes: Where to Watch
With the 2012 Triple Crown series in the books, the summer racing season shifts into high gear with graded stakes from east to west, and a key evening of racing at Churchill Downs that includes the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. In the east, Belmont, Delaware Park, and Virginia’s Colonial Downs all have carded graded stakes to be run on Saturday.
The G3 Hill Prince attracted a full field of 11 sophomores, in addition to three entrants who could draw in if the race comes off the turf. Howe Great was loving the turf course at Gulfstream Park, winning three in a row, including the G3 Palm Beach. After a fifth-place finish in the G1 Blue Grass, he returned to the grass on the Oaks undercard, taking third in the G2 American Turf. Also entered back from the American Turf is Star Channel, who, in that race, inexplicably swerved and unseated his rider, Javier Castellano. Castellano sustained superficial injuries and later rode favored Grace Hall in the Oaks. A throw-out of Summer Front’s last start, where he stumbled and was bumped, puts him in contention here.
Although Pachattack has been cross-entered in Delaware Park’s G3 Obeah and the All Along (G3) at Colonial Downs, it looks as if trainer Graham Motion will opt for the turf in the All Along. That leaves probable favoritism to Tiz Miz Sue in the Obeah against four others. The daughter of Tiznow is proven over this track winning four of her five starts, running second in her only loss, and that was in this race last year against eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.
Colonial and Churchill each have evening cards with a starting post of 6:00 p.m. Eastern. The All Along, with a post time of 8:10, is scheduled to go off between Churchill’s Matt Winn and Regret, both Grade 3. The ungraded Colonial Cup, with a purse of $500,000, quickly follows the Regret. Add to that mix, the G1 Vanity Handicap taking place in California, which also has a probable post of 8:10 Eastern. Do your handicapping and bet early so you can enjoy all the evening’s racing action!
Pachattack is 3-for-17 lifetime on the turf and her most recent grass effort was last August in the G1 Beverly D at Arlington Park. Over the dirt and synthetic strips, she’s been performing well against tough competition, and Motion seems to think turf is her preferred surface and the All Along fit the bill for her.
Not much separates the Matt Winn’s five starters in the 5th race on Churchill’s “Downs After Dark” card. All are looking for their first graded stakes win, but Right to Vote and Stealcase have come closest, each coming up less than two lengths short in graded efforts. Right to Vote exits a runner-up finish in the G2 Peter Pan; Stealcase was third in the G3 Derby Trial and returned to annex an optional claimer here on May 31. Also coming off wins are Macho Macho and Neck ‘n Neck. Master Rick was eliminated at the start in the Peter Pan; previous to that, he won back-to-back races.
Next, sophomore fillies line up in the Regret, a 1 1/16-mile turf test that attracted a large field of 11 probable starters. Entrants include Graham Motion’s Coup, winner of the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico, and recent winners Colonial Flag and Centre Court.
It’s hard to see past Royal Delta in the G2 Fleur de Lis Handicap, the 7th race in the Churchill line-up. She’s recovered from her trip to Dubai where she finished ninth of 13 in the Dubai World Cup, and the Bill Mott champ is showing three bullet works since her return, indicating her readiness. Royal Delta’s foes include G2 La Troienne runner-up St. John’s River and the top two from a recent optional claimer run here–Afleeting Lady and It’s Tea Time.
In the marquis race of the night, the G1 Stephen Foster has come up extremely competitive, with just one of the eight probable starters in double-digit odds on the morning line. Full brothers Wise Dan and Successful Dan are both entered, but trainer Charles Lopresti intends to run only Wise Dan, now a winner of four in a row, including his most recent, the G3 Ben Ali, where he crushed his opposition, breaking the track in the process. He’d be an overwhelming favorite in nearly any other race, but here he must face the likes of Nates Mineshaft, Fort Larned, Nehro, Mission Impazible, Ron the Greek, and Alternation. Nates Mineshaft was pounded in the G2 Alysheba, where Successful Dan and Fort Larned ran one-two. He got his confidence back in his next out, taking down the G3 Lone Star Park Handicap. Alternation, with a string of four straight wins, narrowly beat Nehro in the G3 Pimlico Special; previous to that, he bested Ron the Greek in the G2 Oaklawn Handicap. Mission Impazible, second in this race last season, hasn’t won in over a year, but continues to be a worthy opponent at this level. Rogue Romance, a recent optional claiming winner, is also entered.
Despite the news that Zazu would not be running in the Vanity Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park, the prestigious Grade 1 event is left with a quality field of distaffers. Include Me Out, trying for her fourth graded stakes win in a row, is the high weight here, carrying 122 lbs., up to nine pounds more than her six rivals. Ellafitz and Caelis, second and third to Include Me Out in the G2 Marje Everett, both return here, as well as Love theway Youare, who lost her rider at the start of that race. Atlantic Swing and Zafeen’s Pearl are making their U.S. debuts; Rock and Glory won her maiden and an allowance very convincingly, but seems over her head here.
The only graded stakes to be run on Sunday is the G3 Pegasus, the 11th race on Monmouth Park’s 12-race card. Easter Gift, trained by Nick Zito, is undefeated in two starts, and will be tested in stakes company for the first time. Unbridled’s Way, runner-up in his two initial maiden attempts, won in his third asking by 11 ½ lengths. Good Morning Diva, fourth in the G2 Peter Pan last out, is also expected to start.