Even with no Grade 1 races offered this weekend, there are still a number of competitive graded stakes to be run in Kentucky and New York. Keeneland closes its meet on Saturday with the running of the G3 Fayette, for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles over the Polytrack surface. Vying for favoritism will be Blame, coming off a second-place effort in Louisiana's G2 Super Derby, and the Shug McGaughey-trained Parading, who comes back to Kentucky after a California campaign that yielded off-the-board finishes in three Grade 1 events. Parading won the Ben Ali (G3) this year at Keeneland's spring meet. Medjool and Giant Oak have scratched.
Churchill Downs opens its doors on Sunday and the spotlight will be on juveniles in two Grade 3 stakes, the Pocahontas, for fillies, and the Iroquois, for colts and geldings. Both races are one-turn miles on the dirt. There are no stand-outs in the contentious Pocahontas field, but look for good showings from Sassy Image, Tiz Miz Sue and Happy Week. Running Bride is three-for-three at Hoosier Park which also makes her a factor here.
The Iroquois is also wide open; the morning line favorite at 4-1 is Dublin, trained by Wayne Lukas. Dublin won the Hopeful (G1) but ran fifth out of six starters as the odds-on favorite in the Champagne (G1). Uh Oh Bango and Three Day Rush are coming off minor stakes wins.
Racing changed venues in New York this week and the Aqueduct graded stakes schedule includes Sunday's G3 Long Island Handicap, for fillies and mares, three years old and up at 1 ½ miles on grass. In the field of seven, Tom Albertrani's trainee, Criticism, is the one to beat. The 5-year-old daughter of Machiavellian has three wins this year, all performed in wire-to-wire fashion. Most recently, she finished second to Pure Clan in the prestigious Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap. This is expected to be Criticism's final race before heading to the breeding shed.
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