Belmont opens on Friday and gives everyone a lot to look forward to with 21 graded stakes scheduled during its 37-day meet; the first of those, the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap, will take place Saturday. Four out of five of the top finishers from the Aug. 5 John's Call, including the winner, Sanagas, are entered here. Graham Motion has trained the German-bred for his two U.S. starts. Previous to his win in the John's Call, Sanagas was seventh, beaten 3 ¼ lengths in the G3 Arlington Handicap. The public may go for Grassy, a Christophe Clement trainee with a pair of seconds and a pair of fourths this season.
The G2 Presque Isle Downs Masters has proven its popularity once again, attracting a full field of a dozen fillies and mares, with another two on the also-eligible list, hoping to draw into the $400,000 race. It's hard to separate Musical Romance and Beat the Blues; both have been performing well recently, in fact, nearly identical. Going back three races in both these fillies' past performances, they finished second by a neck in their respective races to multiple graded stakes winner Sassy Image. Both followed that tough loss up with wins in stakes, and then losses in their most recent tries. Shotgun Gulch hasn't matched her heroic effort from Keeneland's G1 Madison in April, but coming close to that win puts her in contention here.
Rahystrada, now a 7-year-old, is the expected favorite for the G3 Kentucky Cup Turf taking place Saturday in Franklin, Ky., on the undulating Kentucky Downs grass course. The veteran performer is a regular fixture in graded turf events, though his last win came on June 18 in the ungraded Colonial Turf Cup. Most recently, Rahystrada ran fifth in the G1 Arlington Million. He faces nine others.
Bob Baffert has had success shipping Prayer For Relief into Iowa and West Virginia to win a pair of graded stakes for 3-year-olds, so he's trying it again in the G2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. Another candidate to look at here is Alternation, hero of the G2 Peter Pan in May. After a 10 weeks off the track, the Donnie Von Hemel trainee ran into some tough customers in the G2 Jim Dandy, like the winner, Stay Thirsty, who went on to capture the G1 Travers. Meistersinger, with the Team Valor/Graham Motion connections, makes his graded stakes debut off a 10-length optional claimer win.
Last week the East and West coasts had races that focused on juveniles; this weekend, Arlington Park in the Midwest will run their signature contests for 2-year-olds, the Arlington-Washington Futurity and Arlington-Washington Lassie. Both are Grade 3 run at a mile on Polytrack. The Lassie is the eighth race (the Futurity follows) on the 11-race Saturday card and has attracted a field of nine led by Always Here Too, the lukewarm 3-1 favorite. A daughter of Include, the Tom Amoss pupil was an easy maiden winner in her second start, earning a 76 Beyer Speed Figure on the Ellis Park main dirt track. Essence of Bubbles has won three in a row, including her last out over this track; Strike It Lucky won her debut here on Aug. 21 for trainer Tom Proctor.
A full field of 14 is expected for the Futurity with the probable favorite, Twelve Hundred, breaking from the far outside post. Twelve Hundred, named for his auction price, is two-for-two—he won his maiden here, and followed up with a victory in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile by a margin of eight lengths. Among his opponents are impressive maiden winners Shared Property and Take Charge Indy.
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