Thoroughbred racing across North America has put together an extensive lineup of graded stakes races to celebrate the three-day weekend that ends with Independence Day on Monday, July 4th.
A pair of Grade 3's kick off the action on Friday afternoon, beginning with Woodbine's G3 Dominion Day Stakes. The 10-furlong contest over the Tapeta features a tight contest between the Ontario-bred Melmich, who possesses a stellar record at Woodbine, and Todd Pletcher's Red Rifle, winner of this race last year. War Dancer also looked to be in good form coming off a layoff to win a Gulfstream Park allowance in April.
In the $250,000, G3 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows, the very talented Texas Chrome, winner of multiple listed stakes and graded stakes-placed, will take on American Freedom, impressive winner of the Sir Barton Stakes in just his third lifetime start, over 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
To start Saturday's excitement, the G3 Carry Back Stakes at seven furlongs gets things underway for the sprint-laden Summit of Speed card at Gulfstream Park. The speedy Awesome Banner will make his second start for trainer Mark Casse, and is listed as the 4-5 morning-line choice in a field of seven.
Woodbine's G2 King Edward Stakes, at one mile on the turf, features Full Mast, a Group 1 winner overseas, making his second start in the US for trainer Graham Motion, He will face tough competition from Michael Maker's Smokem Kitten, gutsy winner of the Miami Mile in April. As a side note, Conor Murphy's Dimension can never be left out, as the 8-year-old gelding showed with a win in the Connaught Cup last out.
Gulfstream Park's G2 Smile Sprint Handicap is a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series “Win and You're In” event, covering six furlongs on the dirt. Limousine Liberal, most recently second in Churchill's Aristides, has drawn morning-line favoritism over the stakes-placed Delta Bluesman and Eighty Three.
The G1 Mother Goose, over 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park, features Rachel's Valentina, daughter of Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra, making her first start since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Oaks. She is up against the multiple graded stakes winner Lewis Bay, and recent Acorn second-place finisher Off the Tracks, along with a field of seven total sophomore fillies.
Prairie Meadows' G3, $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap showcases a competitive field of nine, including Shotgun Kowboy, S'maverlous, Cyrus Alexander, and Domain's Rap. The older colts and geldings will compete over nine furlongs on the main track.
In the G3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park, Florida-bred Mr. Jordan, a graded stakes winner, is the slight favorite over Todd Pletcher's Comfort, making his second start off a winter layoff, as a field of six contest a mile on the main track.
Gulfstream Park's G2 Princess Rooney Handicap is the Florida oval's second Breeders' Cup Challenge “Win and You're In” event on the card, featuring fillies and mares over seven furlongs on the main track. Birdatthewire is the morning-line favorite, but Spelling Again and the pregnant Cali Star also feature prominently in the $250,000 contest.
In Santa Anita's G3 Affirmed Stakes, Danzing Candy, the front-running contestant in this year's Kentucky Derby, will make his first start for trainer Bob Baffert as the heavy favorite in the 1 1/16-mile contest.
Finally, Saturday evening, the G3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs features juveniles over six furlongs, with Steve Asmussen's Tip Tap Tapizar as the slight morning-line favorite.
On Sunday, the action focuses on Woodbine with the Queen's Plate card. First up is the G2 Highlander Stakes, where turf sprint star Lady Shipman will look to get her first graded stakes victory in the six-furlong contest. Next is the G3 Singspiel Stakes, where Generous Kitten will look to last in the 12-furlong turf event. In the G2 Dance Smartly Stakes, Lexie Lou will hope to continue her recent success over nine furlongs on the turf against a field of 11.
The $1 million Queen's Plate for Canadian-bred sophomores goes off at 5:36 PM EST, with Amis Gizmo, the Plate Trial victor, the slight favorite in a field of 13 over 10 furlongs on the Tapeta. Mark Casse's Leavem in Malibu poses a threat, as does the front-running Shakhimat for eight-time Plate-winning trainer Roger Attfield. A single filly, Gamble's Ghost, lines up against the boys with morning-line odds of 6-1.
Closing out Sunday's action is the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, featuring the improving Wake Forest over 11 furlongs on the turf. He faces a field of 10, including Mr. Maybe, World Approval, and Triple Threat as the main contenders.
On Monday's July 4 holiday, Parx Racing offers the G3 Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Tammy the Torpedo and Tuttipaesi are the likely favorites in the nine-horse field of fillies and mares.
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