If there has been a stronger and deeper field for a Grade 3 race than Saturday nightâ€™s Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes, please tell me what it was. The filly and mare sprint over 6 1/2 furlongs on the Tapeta synthetic surface has attract a field of 12, including four Grade 1 winners. The third running of the $400,000 contest will be shown on TVG at 8 p.m. (all times Eastern).
Two of the Grade 1 winners, Test Stakes winner Flashing and Princess Rooney Handicap winner Game Face, have never raced on a synthetic track. Neither has Diamondrella, who was won six consecutive races for trainer Angel Penna Jr., the most recent coming in the Grade 1 Just a Game on a yielding Belmont Park turf course in June.
The fourth filly in the quarter of Grade 1 winners is Informed Decision, who is four-for-four on synthetics, her biggest win coming this spring over Ventura in the Vinery Madison Stakes at Keeneland going seven furlongs. The daughter of Monarchos has won eight of 11 lifetime starts for the owner-trainer team of George Strawbridge and Jonathan Sheppard, and the gray filly figures to be favored over this tough bunch of distaff sprinters on Saturday night.
After the Labor Day weekendâ€™s bonanza of Grade 1 races from coast to coast and the exciting and historic victory by Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward at Saratoga, there has to something of a letdown this weekend. California racing has shifted to the bullring at the Los Angeles County Fair at Pomona, where you can get your fill of other racing breeds, and New York has moved to Big Sandy at Belmont Park, where the only Grade 1 races of the weekend are being held.
Those two Grade 1s are the Ruffian Handicap on the Belmont Park dirt track at 2:35 p.m. on TVG and HRTV and the Garden City Stakes on the Belmont turf at 4:43 p.m.
On Sunday, with a full slate of games from opening week of the NFL, things really slow down, with just one graded stakes scheduled: the Bowling Green Handicap from Belmont at 5:10 p.m.
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