WEEKEND STAKES: WHERE TO WATCH brought to you by WEST POINT THOROUGHBREDS
From sprints to routes, Jersey Shore to where the Turf Meets the Surf, there is a wide offering of graded stakes this weekend. The Grade 2 Cougar II Handicap will be run at Del Mar on Friday with Richard’s Kid entered as a prep in defense of his Pacific Classic title. Trainer Bob Baffert has cross-entered the 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid in the San Diego Handicap (G2), but he’s also entered Mythical Power in the San Diego, so he’ll probably keep the two separated in able to use his go-to rider, Martin Garcia, on both horses. The Cougar is 1 ½ miles on the Polytrack surface, while the San Diego (Saturday) is 1 1/16 miles. Mythical Power is the only graded stakes winner this year entered in the San Diego; Baffert also has Sangaree in the line-up, a consistent sort who has been the runner-up in his previous three starts in graded stakes company.
Saturday’s Saratoga co-feature is the G1 Diana, a 1 1/8-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares which drew a field of seven, including Forever Together, winner of the past two editions of the Diana. Other entrants are three time G1 winner Proviso and Todd Pletcher’s Phola, runner-up to Proviso in the G1 Just a Game. Following the Diana will be the G2 Jim Dandy, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. Fly Down will get lots of support here based on his notable win in the Dwyer where he defeated Drosselmeyer, who came back to beat Fly Down by less than a length in the Belmont.
On Sunday, Monmouth Park presents its showcase day of the summer season, highlighted by the G1 Haskell Invitational, a race that usually attracts the top 3-year-olds in the country. This year is no exception—Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (post 6) will face off against Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky, who drew the rail. Among the other entries in the 1 1/8-mile fixture are Ice Box, First Dude and Trappe Shot. The Haskell will be race 12 of 14; it will be shown on ABC in a one-hour telecast beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern and that will also include the G3 Oceanport, a 1 1/16-mile turf contest for 3-year-olds and up. The other graded stakes of the day is the Matchmaker (G3), for fillies and mares taking place on the turf at 1 1/8 miles.
Sunday’s Del Mar feature is the G1 Bing Crosby, for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs. Coming off graded stakes wins are E Z’s Gentleman (G1 Triple Bend), Cost of Freedom (G3 Los Angeles H) and Smiling Tiger (G3 Laz Barrera Memorial). Saratoga will host the G1 Ruffian Invitational Handicap as well as the G2 Fourstardave Handicap. The Ruffian, 1 1/8 miles on dirt for fillies and mares has a field of six headed up by Unrivaled Belle. In her last outing, Unrivaled Belle finished second as the 3-5 favorite behind Life at Ten in the G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont. Previous to that, she had wins the Rampart and La Troienne. The Fourstardave (1 1/16 miles on grass) has a full field of 10 with two also-eligibles; expected starters include Nownownow, Get Stormy, Public Speaker and Pinckney Hill.
The G3 Ohio Derby will be run at Thistledown on Saturday, and Monday’s Saratoga feature is the G2 Amsterdam.