Like the Bing Crosby song says, “I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places.”
This weekend closes out the fall Bing Crosby meeting at Del Mar, highlighted by a pair of Grade 1 stakes. A trio of East coast invaders trained by Chad Brown will line up against a full field in Saturday's Hollywood Derby, and on Sunday, Miss Temple City will try to take the Matriarch for trainer Graham Motion.
Also on Saturday, the opening weekend of Gulfstream Park features the Claiming Crown, a series of nine stakes races for horses that ran for a claiming tag sometime in the last two years. The smallest field in the series has drawn nine starters, and most of the races have 12 or more entries that should make for interesting betting events.
Kicking off the graded stakes action on Saturday is Aqueduct's G3 Go For Wand Stakes, for fillies and mares over a mile on the main track. A pair of New York-breds, Bar of Gold and Wonder Gal, are at the top of the seven-horse field. Bar of Gold has earned a trio of graded stakes placings this year, and most recently won the Empire Distaff Handicap. Wonder Gal has had an inconsistent season, most recently finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but the class drop makes her intriguing here.
Saturday's card at Del Mar has the G2 Bayakoa Handicap as its early feature. Contested over 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the races is restricted to fillies and mares. Bob Baffert trainee Vale Dori will be tough to beat; she finished third behind Stellar Wind and Beholder two starts back, and ran a solid prep race in her allowance win last out. However, Gloryzapper was impressive two starts back in the L.A. Woman, and while she was a bit overmatched in the Breeders' Cup last out, this spot could prove more friendly for the Phil D'Amato trainee. Worth noting is that Javier Castellano has picked up the mount on Richard Mandella trainee Wild At Heart, who returns to the dirt and stretches out to what may be a better distance after finishing poorly in a downhill turf sprint.
The highlight of Saturday's card at Del Mar is the G1 Hollywood Derby. Restricted to 3-year-olds, the nine-furlong turf event has drawn a full, competitive field of 12 starters. Leading the charge is a trio of Chad Brown trainees from the East coast: Camelot Kitten will be seeking his first G1 off a good win in the G3 Hill Prince last out; Beach Patrol won the G1 Secretariat two starts back, but finished behind the former stablemate last out; and the lightly-raced Annals of Time was third behind his two stablemates in the Hill Prince last out, but should improve off that effort. Free Rose should be a major threat from the local contingent over a turf course he seems to particularly relish, as should the French-bred Graham Motion trainee Hayabusa One, making his second start in the U.S. The latter won at Keeneland last out by an easy 3 3/4 lengths, and is by the hot French sire Siyouni.
On Sunday, Woodbine hosts the G3 Valedictory Stakes over 1 3/4 miles on the Tapeta. Distance specialist Melmich is heavily favored on the morning line, and rightfully so as he's had a fantastic season, most recently finishing a good fourth in the Marathon Stakes on Breeders' Cup weekend. His major challengers include the 7-year-old Aldous Snow, looking to regain the form that saw him win the 1 1/2 mile G3 Singspiel Stakes two years in a row, and Mutasaawy, seeking his first graded victory.
Sunday's card at Del Mar features the G1 Matriarch Stakes, for fillies and mares over a mile on the turf. Miss Temple City drew the outermost post in the 12-horse field, but an effort like her last two outs, in which she won the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile over males and finished fifth, beaten just 2 1/4 lengths in the Breeders' Cup Mile, should put her on top of this field. Lining up as that filly's major challengers are the Tapit daughter Time and Motion, winner of the 1 1/8 mile G1 QEII Challenge Cup last out at Keeneland, as well as another trio of Chad Brown runners in graded winners Roca Rojo and Zindaya and graded-placed Mexican Gold.
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