Nyquist (red noseband), Exaggerator (outside), and Gun Runner (white cap, right) will face off once again in the Haskell Invitational
As if any showdown could top what California Chrome and Songbird displayed for racing fans last weekend, the racing secretaries have seen fit to try to do just that this weekend. A pair of Triple Crown rematches highlight the weekend on the east coast, along with the appearance of Flintshire at Saratoga, while on the west coast, Beholder will put in her final prep race for the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Saturday’s action kicks off with the G2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint on the dirt for 3-year-olds. King Kranz will look to get his first graded stakes victory; the talented colt has won a pair of listed stakes and come up just short in two graded stakes tries. His main competition should come from Counterforce, who was outclassed in the G2 Woody Stephens last out, but has found a softer group here.
Next up, the world-travelling Flintshire will enter the starting gate for the G2 Bowling Green Handicap at the Spa, held over 1 3/8 miles on the turf course. He took down the G1 Woodford Reserve last out in a striking display of talent and ability, and only four other horses are set to line up against him here. The one with the best shot appears to be Grand Tito, who stayed on gamely to hold fourth in the Woodford, but is the only horse in the Bowling Green with any early speed, so it’s possible that he grows bold on alone on the front end this Saturday.
In the G1 Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap, a field of eight will contest six furlongs over the Saratoga main track. They are led by Anchor Down, second in the G1 Met Mile last out behind runaway winner Frosted. Trainer Jorge Navarro has a three-pronged attack in this race, featuring G2 winners Catalina Red and Delta Bluesman, as well as listed stakes winner Chublicious.
The day’s feature race at Saratoga is the G2 Jim Dandy, in which sophomores will contest 1 1/8 miles over the main track. The race features a Belmont Stakes rematch of the top two finishers Creator and Destin, as well as the return of Mohaymen, unraced since the Kentucky Derby. Governor Malibu has been very impressive in his morning works, and enters the race with a chance to upset for Christophe Clement.
Over at Del Mar, a pair of Eclipse Award-winning champions will clash for the second time this year. Beholder and Stellar Wind will face off over 1 1/16 miles in the G1 Clement Hirsch Stakes, a match-up which saw Beholder win by 1 1/2 lengths the last time the pair met.
Earlier on the Del Mar card in race six, California Chrome’s full sister, a 2-year-old trained by Doug O’Neill, will make her first start. R Sunday Surprise has been posting solid works in preparation for her debut this weekend.
On Sunday, the action kicks off with the G3 Shuvee Handicap at Saratoga, in which Curalina and Carrumba will look to rebound from recent losses over 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Over to Monmouth Park, the G2 Monmouth Cup gets things started with older horses going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Recent G1 winner Bradester will take on G2 winner Blofeld in the field of six.
In the G3 Oceanport Stakes, the French-bred Blacktype will look to step back into graded stakes company for a more successful outcome. A field of eight will contest 1 1/16 miles over the turf at Monmouth.
In the G3 Molly Pitcher Stakes, fillies and mares will contest 1 1/16 miles over Monmouth’s turf. G1 winner Birdatthewire will look to return to top form in this spot, facing softer competition than she has been in recent starts.
A quick jaunt up to Woodbine takes us to the G3 Royal North Stakes, in which star turf sprinter Lady Shipman highlights a field of 10 fillies and mares over six furlongs on the turf.
Back to Monmouth Park, the G3 Matchmaker Stakes features a competitive field of 12 fillies and mares over nine furlongs on the turf. The prohibitive early favorite at 4-1 on the morning line is the Todd Pletcher-trained Itsonlyactingdad.
The highlight of Sunday’s card is the G1, $ 1 million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park. The nine-furlong dirt contest features a rematch of the top three finishers from this year’s Kentucky Derby: Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Gun Runner. Also in the field is the lightly-raced but talented Bob Baffert trainee American Freedom. Nyquist hasn’t race since the Preakness due to an elevated white-cell count, and Exaggerator hasn’t run since finishing far back in the Belmont. Gun Runner most recently won the G3 Matt Winn at Churchill Downs in impressive fashion, but that was arguably against lesser company and over a shorter distance.
Closing out the weekend is the G1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar, featuring older horses over six furlongs on the main track. Lord Nelson has won two races back-to-back and is designated the morning-line choice here, though Subtle Indian will be hoping to turn the tables on him and reverse their order of finish in the G1 Triple Bend. Alsvid also ships west to try to take on the California sprinters after an impressive meet at Churchill Downs.
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