If you canâ€™t get to the racetrack this weekend, count your blessings if youâ€™ve got TVG and/or HRTV on your satellite dish or local cable carrier. Racing fans with those viewing options are in store for a huge weekend. And if you're in and out throughout the weekend, set your DVR to record some of the exciting races listed below.
The headliner, of course, is Saturdayâ€™s $750,000 Woodward from Saratoga, where the 3-year-old filly sensation Rachel Alexandra takes on colts for the third time this year. The 1 1/8-mile Woodward, however, marks her first venture into the older male category, her two previous efforts in the Preakness and Haskell Invitational having come against 3-year-olds.
Readers of the Paulick Report arenâ€™t as bullish as the New York Racing Associationâ€™s morning line maker, who made the Medaglia dâ€™Oro filly the odds-on 1-to-2 program favorite as she guns for her eighth consecutive victory this year. As of late Friday afternoon, of those participating in the Daily Paulick Poll, 44% are predicting Rachel Alexandraâ€™s first defeat since last Nov. 1, despite the fact she catches an eight-point break due to the age and sex allowance. Another 44% think sheâ€™ll win by a margin of less than five lengths, and 12% feel sheâ€™ll dominate the field and win by more than five lengths. The race is not a walkover, by any stretch of the imagination. I look for Macho Again, winner of last yearâ€™s Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga and second most recently in the Whitney Handicap, to run a big race.
The outstanding 12-race program from Saratoga also includes a second Grade 1 race, the Forego for sprinters going seven furlongs, where a pair of 4-year-olds, Pyro and Kodiak Kowboy, are expected to vie for favoritism.
Post time for the Woodward is scheduled for 5:52 p.m. Eastern on both TVG and HRTV, with the Forego going approximatelyÂ 35 minutesÂ earlier.
Those with access to MSG Plus have the option of tuning in to that telecast, the last of the â€œSaturdays at Saratogaâ€ installments this year that have featured analysts Jason Blewitt, Eric Donovan and Andy Serling. The MSG Plus telecast starts at 5 p.m. Eastern.
Saratogaâ€™s 2009 season comes to an end on Monday with the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds, which is scheduled for 5:56 p.m.
Del Mar also has a blockbuster weekend of racing as that Southern California meet winds down to a close on Wednesday.Â
The Grade 1 stakes action begins with Saturday's Darley Debutante for 2-year-old fillies going seven furlongs, where trainer Doug O'Neill has a talented pair entered. Repo, a quick California-bred daughter of In Excess, has won three of her four starts, one against open company, while Necessary Evil has won two of three, including the Hollywood Juvenile Championship against colts. Her lone defeat came last out in Del Mar's Sorrento Stakes when the Eric Guillot-trained Mi Sueno posted an 8-1 upset. The Darley Debutante goes at 8:32 p.m. Eastern on TVG.
The big event is the $1-million Pacific Classic at 1 Â¼ miles on the Polytrack surface, where a field of 12 will go to the post. Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip will be going for his seventh win in nine starts, but horses like Colonel John, the 2008 Santa Anita Derby and Travers winner who made a stirring return to the races on Del Marâ€™s turf course in late July, will make him work for it. So will the 7-year-old old veteran Einstein, now carrying the colors of Frank Stronach as he goes for his 12th career win. Trainer Shug McGaughey and the Phipps Stable are making another run at a West Coast Grade 1 with Parading, who shipped to California for the Hollywood Gold Cup. The 6-year-old son of Pulpit demolished the field in the Ben Ali Handicap this spring on Keenelandâ€™s Polytrack and could be a sleeper if he takes to Del Marâ€™s synthetic surface as well as he did in Kentucky.
Del Marâ€™s big Sunday program also includes the Grade 1 Pat Oâ€™Brien at seven furlongs, where Zensational will be the heavy favorite, and the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, where Battle of Hastings guns for his third consecutive graded stakes victory and fourth of the year. Heâ€™ll face Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem, the fourth-place Kentucky Derby finisher making his debut on the grass.
Del Mar's racesÂ are shown exclusively on TVG (along with some Fox Sports affiliates). The Pacific Classic post time is 8 p.m. Eastern, while the O'Brien goes at 5:30 p.m. and the Del Mar Derby at 6:30 p.m.
Monday will showcase 2-year-old colts and geldings at Del Mar in the Del Mar Futurity, which has traditionally been held on the Wednesday closing day program. Del Mar officials bundled many of the seaside trackâ€™s major races for the final three-day weekend of the meeting this year. The Futurity goes at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
Finally, Arlington Park puts on its last big card of the year on Saturday, with 2-year-old colts going in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, 2-year-old fillies in the Arlington-Washington Lassie, and the Washington Park Handicap for 3-year-olds and upward. See the chart for post times for the Arlington Park races, which will be shown on HRTV.
Enjoy the last big summer blockbuster weekend of racing, as the year heads toward the far turn and gets ready for the autumnÂ stretch run toward the Breeders' Cup championships.
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