This weekend’s graded stakes action features a jam-packed Saturday full of interesting races across the country, highlighted by the high-dollar card at Belmont Park.
To get things underway, Arlington Park will host the G3 Modesty Handicap, for fillies and mares over 1 3/16 miles on the turf. The morning-line favorite is Graham Motion’s Faufiler, an Irish-bred daughter of Galileo seeking her first graded victory, who is dropping back down in class after finishing fifth in the G1 Just a Game. Marypop, a Group 3 winner in France, will make her first stateside start for Mike Stidham, whose trainees have been performing sharply in recent weeks.
The first graded stake at Belmont Park is the G3 Victory Ride, featuring sophomore fillies at 6 ½ furlongs. Florida-bred Coppa is the early favorite, with two victories from her two lifetime starts for Phil D’Amato, though she steps in graded company for the first time. Todd Pletcher’s Lost Raven will make her first start since winning the G3 Miss Preakness Stakes in May, and appears to have been working steadily for her return to the races.
Back in Chicago, the G3 Stars and Stripes Stakes features fan-favorite The Pizza Man over 12 furlongs on the turf. Though he finished fourth in the G2 Wise Dan last month, Arlington is one of the Roger Brueggemann trainee’s favorite courses and he is rated at even-money on the morning line. Trainer Tim Glyshaw sends out his recent GSW Bullards Alley, who is capable of laying just off the pace and springing an upset once again.
In New York, the $ 500,000 G3 Dwyer Stakes features sophomore colts and geldings over a flat mile on the main track. Chad Brown’s Economic Model is the early favorite with a listed win in the Easy Goer to his name, but Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Swipe is on the comeback trail and posted a late-running third in a six-furlong allowance last out. Another interesting entrant in the race is Eric Guillot’s Laoban, whose early speed may favor the cut back in distance.
Over at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, the G3 Parx Dash has another fan-favorite in the lineup with the veteran Ben’s Cat. The 10-year-old King Leatherbury trainee is posted at 9-2 on the morning line for the five-furlong turf contest, with a field of 10 to contend with. The morning-line choice is Brian Lynch’s Power Alert, most recently third in a G3 on Derby day at Churchill.
At Delaware Park, fillies and mares will contest the G3 Robert G. Dick Memorial Handicap over 11 furlongs on the turf. Todd Pletcher’s Photo Call is the 9-5 morning line choice despite a recent sixth-place effort in the G2 New York Stakes, but second-choice Suffused has yet to win a graded stakes event. Two starts back, Photo Call defeated Suffused by 3 3/4 lengths in Gulfstream’s G3 Orchid.
Up next is the G3 Arlington Handicap at the Chicago track over 1 3/16 miles on the turf. A well-matched field of 12 lines up for this contest, led by Bill Mott’s Go Around at 3-1. The colt most recently was beaten just 6 1/4 lengths by Wake Forest in the G1 Man o’War. Graham Motion’s Messi at 4-1 is a GSW who began his career in Germany; the 6-year-old enters the race off a third-place G3 Fort Marcy finish that was preceded by a six-month layoff. Kasaqui is the second choice at 9-2, following an impressive showing the the G2 Wise Dan when he just yielded at the very end to finish second for Ignacio Correas.
The $ 1.25 million, G1 Belmont Derby Invitational features an international field of sophomores at 10 furlongs on Belmont’s turf course. The Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Long Island Sound and Deauville lead the 13-horse field, both of whom have placed in Group stakes overseas and are making their first starts in the US. Chad Brown’s Camelot Kitten leads the local contingent off back-to-back wins in the G2 American Turf and G3 Pennine Ridge Stakes. Other interesting entries include Barclay Tagg’s Highland Sky, Mark Casse’s Airoforce, and Doug O’Neill’s Ralis.
Arlington’s G3 American Derby is up next, featuring 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on the turf. The GSP J R’s Holiday is the morning-line choice at 2-1 for Jose Garoffalo, but Bernie Flint’s One Mean Man should prove a tough challenger, having posted a second-place effort in a graded stake at Arlington followed by a recent allowance win at Churchill. Also in the field is G3 Spiral Stakes winner Oscar Nominated, who finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby.
Belmont’s $ 500,000 G2 Suburban Handicap is an exciting race for older horses at a mile and a quarter on the main track. Jimmy Jerkens’ Effinex leads the field, but he posted a mystifying sixth-place effort in the G1 Stephen Foster last out so he may yet be vulnerable in this spot. Mubtaahij starts for Kiaran McLaughlin off a second place finish in the Dubai World Cup, and he has been working steadily at Belmont Park since May. Mark Casse’s Noble Bird, while inconsistent, appears to be sitting on a big effort, and Neil Howard’s Eagle has been improving steadily, including a second-place finish in the Stephen Foster.
Delaware Park’s $ 300,000 G3 Delaware Oaks features 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, led by Todd Pletcher’s Kinsley Kisses seeking her first graded stakes victory following consecutive third-place finished in graded company. Arnaud Delacour’s Dark Nile steps in graded company for the first time off three consecutive victories, included a listed win at Delaware Park. Shug McGaughey’s Browse, second behind Dark Nile in the listed Our Mims at Delaware, also merits some interest.
The G1 Belmont Oaks Invitational, with a $ 1 million purse, features top sophomore turf fillies from around the world. Mark Casse’s turf star Catch A Glimpse holds early favoritism, but will likely be facing her toughest challenge yet as she lines up against a field of 12 other fillies. Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle is a Group 1 winner in France and boasts an impressive overall record, but she most recently finished sixth in the G1 at Chantilly. James Toner’s Time and Motion has put together three consecutive victories, including two listed stakes, but is taking a major step up in class here.
Closing out the graded stakes action Saturday is the G3 Belmont Sprint Championship. With a $ 400,000 purse, older horses will contest seven furlongs on the main track, led by Private Zone for trainer Brian Lynch. He hasn’t raced since November, but has been working steadily for his return and was scratched out of his initial comeback race due to his trainer’s positive marijuana test last month. The main competition should come from Todd Pletcher’s Anchor Down, second in the Met Mile last out, and Kiaran McLaughlin’s Marking, who, while fourth in the Met Mile, finished second behind Runhappy in last December’s Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.
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