The Grade 1, $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes is a significant race on the Road to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, offering the winner an automatic entry into that race. Eight top sprinters signed on to run, with six having been first or second in the early stages of their last two races.
With so many wanting the lead from the opening bell, strategy and position will be essential to victory. In terms of top races at the level, Air Strike deserves first mention as he won the Grade 2 Triple Bend Stakes in his most recent race. However, Air Strike is racing the six furlong distance of the Bing Crosby for the first time since his debut 14 months ago in which he finished third as the heavy favorite.
Cistron missed by a head in the Triple Bend, winning the Grade 2 Kona Gold Stakes prior to that. Chief Cicatriz ships in from the base of trainer Shawn Davis at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, having just won the Dark Star Cup Stakes last month. Chief Cicatriz also won the Grade 3 Aristides Stakes in June, 2019. Line Judge posted the upset last month in the Kelly's Landing Stakes and appears to fit with these, as does Desert Law, winner of the Thor's Echo Stakes on June 15 at Santa Anita. Recruiting Ready is the top earner in the field, having banked over $650,000 in his career while winning seven of 21 races including the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes in March. Jalen Journey ships in from Florida after a private purchase and runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Stakes. Calexman rounds out the field. He's never won or placed in a stakes but has been first or second in eight of 18 career races.
Early pace analysis:
Calexman earned a career-best 108 Equibase Speed Figure when almost winning the Let It Ride Stakes last November and repeated the figure when winning an allowance sprint at Del Mar one month later. His best effort this year yielded at 102 figure in June. Although fast enough to compete with many in here based on last year's races, Calexman draws the rail and when combined with the fact that he has led or been within a head of the leader at the first and second calls in each of his last 11 races, jockey Geovanni Franco will have no choice but to send him to the lead from the start. Unfortunately for them, since Victor Espinoza took over riding Cistron in April, that horse has shown the exact same running style. I don't foresee changing tactics as they worked for victory in the Kona Gold Stakes with a 116 before a head defeat in the Triple Bend Stakes near the end of May.
Jalen Journey has demonstrated only a need-the-lead style as well in all four races this year and although the 112 career-best figure last month when coming up only three-quarters of a length short of victory in the Smile Sprint Stakes might be competitive if repeated, it would take a complete change in tactics for this horse to be able to relax further back than he ever has previously and then be able to forestall the stalkers and closers. Recruiting Ready would have a chance to win if able to repeat his Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes victory from March, which earned a 109 figure. However, in three races since then he has failed to show any kick in the last half-mile.
Main win contenders:
Desert Law ran the best race of his career last month in the Thor's Echo Stakes. He could run even better in the Bing Crosby Stakes because this start will be his third following 11 months off. In the Thor's Echo, Desert Law stalked in second in the early stages, then made a big move to be in front by three lengths with an eighth of a mile to go drawing off to win by six and one-quarter lengths at the end. The effort earned a career-best 116 Equibase Speed Figure which is tied with Line Judge for the best last race figure in the field. Since shipping to Del Mar from Santa Anita, Desert Law has shown he really likes the surface with two very strong half-mile drills, the most recent of which was timed in 47.2 and was the best of 59 at the distance on the day. In his last start before the layoff last June, Desert Law relaxed in third and rallied to win, and in his last two wins previous to that he was fourth and sixth, respectively, in the early stages. With up to five horses battling for the lead in the opening quarter mile of the Bing Crosby, Desert Law should be in a great spot to pass the tiring leaders and win his second stakes race in a row.
In order to be successful in the Bing Crosby, Chief Cicatriz must run back to his effort 13 months ago in the Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs. In that race Chief Cicatriz was third in the early stages, a length and one-half behind the leaders, before commencing a rally nearly identical to the one Desert Law put in last month. In the Aristides, Chief Cicatriz was in front by three lengths at the eighth pole and won by six and one-quarter lengths, earning a 121 figure which is the best in the field by any horse. Taking nine months off after that, he returned to win his first start of 2019 on March 10 before a poor fifth place finish 14 days later. Returning to top form in May, Chief Cicatriz missed by a head before easily winning the Dark Star Cup Stakes last month. That turned out to be a very productive race as the fifth, sixth and seventh place finishers all improved to win their next races. As such, with more improvement in his third start off a layoff, Chief Cicatriz can win for the 11th time in his 16th career start.
Line Judge posted the 12 to 1 upset winning the Kelly's Landing Stakes last month, earning a career-best 116 figure and tied for the best last race figure in the field with Desert Law. That win came off the $62,500 claim by Peter Miller one race prior and now Miller ships the horse back to his home base. Having won 12 of 23 starts on dirt in his career, Line Judge has the right running style to win his second stakes race in a row as he rallied from sixth of eight early to win the Kelly's Landing. As such, Line Judge rounds out a trio I think that have the bulk of the probability to win this year's Bing Crosby Stakes.
Honorable mention goes to Air Strike, winner of the Triple Bend Stakes at the end of May. The effort earned the colt a career-best 108 figure which is short of the 116 to 121 figures the top three win contenders have proven capable of earning. However, Air Strike is a four year old and may have more improving to do. The Triple Bend turned out to be a productive race as well, with the fourth and fifth finishers returning to win their next starts, the latter winning a stakes. The only issue with Air Strike running well enough to be competitive in the Bing Crosby is this six furlong trip may not be his best distance. He debuted at the distance in May, 2018, finishing third as the four-to-five favorite, and has only run longer distances since then.
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