Each week, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full previews when available can be found through the link for each race.
Though the focus of the racing community is rightfully on the sophomores getting set for the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, there is a smattering of graded stakes action featuring some Grade 1 winners trying to get their form back on track this weekend.
Friday April 26
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Gaining (GB) will make her North American debut in the field of 10 entered Friday's 58th running of the $150,000 Bewitch Stakes going 1½ miles on the turf. Now trained by Brad Cox, Gaining won the 2018 Group 3 Prix Fille de l'Air in France. Florent Geroux will ride the 5-year-old mare, who drew post eight.
Saturday April 27
A multiple Grade 1 winner at age 3, but winless since September, 2017, Paradise Woods, who will be making her third start for trainer John Shirreffs, heads a field of eight older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles in the Santa Margarita Stakes. Paradise Woods won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks by 11 3/4 lengths on April 8, 2017 and was subsequently made the 6-5 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks, a race in which she lead early and tired badly to finish 11th behind race winner and eventual divisional champion Abel Tasman.
Originally trained by Richard Mandella, Paradise Woods will be making her 14th career start and will be ridden for the first time by Mike Smith on Saturday.
8:10 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 San Francisco Mile Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on TVG
Grade 1 winner Bowies Hero aims to halt a three-race losing skid when he faces nine other challengers in the eight-furlong test on the turf. Trained by Phil D'Amato, Bowies Hero hit a high point last March when he captured the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita – besting a field that included champion World Approval. The son of Artie Schiller will be making his first start since finishing 11th in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap last August.
Sunday April 28
5:40 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile Stakes at Lone Star Park on TVG
Charles Fipke's Title Ready seeks his first career graded stakes win against a field of nine challengers going eight furlongs. The Steve Asmussen-trained son of More Than Ready has finished in the top three in ten of his 16 career starts including a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Discovery Stakes at Aqueduct last November.
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