If you can't get to the track this weekend, there will be plenty of outstanding races to watch on television both Saturday and Sunday, headlined by a pair of important races for 3-year-olds: Saturday's West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park and Sunday's Haskell Invitational.
The Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, with its $1,250,000 purse, is the richest race of the weekend and the highlight of the big 14-race program at Monmouth Park. Rachel Alexandra will try to extend her winning streak to eight as she takes on colts and geldings for the second time in her last three starts. Though the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro comes off a 19 π-length victory in the Mother Goose at Belmont Park, the nine-furlong Haskell will not be a walk in the park for the Steve Asmussen-trained filly. She'll have Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird to contend with, along with Munnings, an impressive winner of the Tom Fool Handicap recently. For good measure, there are two other Derby winners in the race, Papa Clem, who won the Arkansas Derby, and Iowa Derby winner Duke of Mischief.
TVG will provide coverage of the Haskell, which has an estimated post time of 6:15 p.m. Eastern.
The Kentucky Derby winner, meanwhile, goes in Saturday's West Virginia Derby, which will be shown on Fox Sports Net, where Chris Lincoln, the former host of so many ESPN racing telecasts over the years, will make his return to the airwaves. TVG will also show the West Virginia Derby.
Mine That Word's trainer, Chip Woolley, chose the West Virginia Derby over the Haskell because he felt the Monmouth Park strip is a speed-favoring track that would be disadvantageous to the late-running gelded son of Birdstone. It is a shame that the three Triple Crown race winners—Mine That Bird, Rachel Alexandra and Summer Bird—aren't meeting at Monmouth, put perhaps they will hook up in the Travers at Saratoga later in August.
The appearance of a Kentucky Derby winner at Mountaineer Park is historic, but that won't keep the competition from trying to knock him off. Big Drama, the disqualified Swale Stakes winner who set the pace before finishing fifth in the Preakness, is the only other graded stakes winner in the field for the nine-furlong West Virginia Derby. Steve Asmussen sends the quick Soul Warrior to Mountaineer in hopes of pulling off an upset.
Post time Saturday for the West Virginia Derby is approximately 5:43 p.m. Eastern.
That's just a start of this weekend's major races. There's the Grade 1 Diana Handicap on TVG and HRTV at 5:14 p.m. Eastern Saturday featuring Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Forever Together and the hard-hitting Criticism, followed a half-hour later by the Grade 2 Jim Dandy for 3-year-olds. Kensei and Charitable Man headline that field. Sunday's Saratoga program includes the Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap. Cocoa Beach, second to champion Zenyatta in last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, tops that field, which goes to the post at 5:30 p.m., also on HRTV and TVG.
Out west on Saturday, the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar goes off at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on TVG. Sunday's Grade 2 San Diego Handicap features the return of Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed against 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track and a horse named Kelly Leak. Who is Kelly Leak, you might ask. That's the horse that won this year's Sunland Park Derby, a race where Mine That Bird finished fourth. This will be Kelly Leak's first start since that March 29 race Well Armed's win in Dubai was March 28. The 1 1/16-mile San Diego Handicap goes at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
UPDATE: TVG sent the following note regarding its coverage of the Haskell on Sunday: TVG's coverage of the Haskell will also be simulcast on FSN Prime, FSN Ohio, SUN Sports, Comcast Sports Illinois and Altitude Network, making the total reach of the race through SN Prime, FSN Ohio, SUN Sports, Comcast Sports Illinois and Altitute Network, making the total reach of TVG's coverage of the race to over 70 million homes across the U.S. This is made possible through the local affiliate relationships that TVG has made with various networks. This is often the case with many of the bigger races TVG covers as well as some regional tracks in areas where TVG is not offered.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2016 Paulick Report.