This weekend’s top-class horse racing is highlighted by the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. Frosted, runaway winner of the Met Mile last out, leads a talented field of six on Saturday evening, but will he be the same horse this time out?
Kicking off the graded stakes action on Friday is the G2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (post time: 5:40 p.m. EST) at the Spa. Featuring sophomores over 1 1/16 miles on the turf, the Hall of Fame is led by the Chad Brown-trained Camelot Kitten. A multiple graded stakes winner who was most recently fourth in the Belmont Derby, Camelot Kitten is shortening up in distance to try to regain his top form. His main competition may come from Mark Casse’s Airoforce, tenth in the Belmont Derby but a good second behind Catch A Glimpse in the Penn Mile just before that.
On Saturday is Ellis Park’s G3 Groupie Doll Stakes (post time: 5:40 p.m. EST), a one-mile event for fillies and mares. Ahh Chocolate is the prohibitive morning-line choice in a competitive full field; though she has been racing very well this year, her most recent effort was a fifth in the G2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill, where she made the lead then faded badly in the stretch. The Dale Romans-trained Engaginglee was made the second choice on the morning line, and will be seeking her first graded stakes win. She was most recently third in the G2 Fleur de Lis, ahead of Ahh Chocolate.
Up at Saratoga, the G1 Test Stakes (post time: 5:02 p.m. EST) features sophomore fillies over the tricky seven-furlong distance. The Todd Pletcher-trained Off the Tracks is the top choice on the morning line based on her routing of the G1 Mother Goose field last out, though that was a 1 1/16 mile race in which she got away with slower front-end fractions than she is likely to see this Saturday. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has entered stakes-winner Kareena to take up second favoritism in the race. While lightly raced, the filly was impressive last out at Belmont, winning the six-furlong Jersey Girl Stakes by 6 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:07.87, just .21 off the track record. It is also worth noting that McLaughlin got off to a very hot start at the Saratoga meet, though his barn has slowed down over the past week.
Next up is Saratoga’s G3 Fasig-Tipton Waya Stakes (post time: 5:40 p.m. EST), for fillies and mares over 12 furlongs on the turf. Guapaza, trained by Chad Brown, marks the early favoritism in this spot off a listed stakes win at Belmont. She is still searching for her first graded win, but has been knocking at the door consistently in her last several starts. Bill Mott will be hoping to get Suffused her first graded win as well. That filly found herself a bit short in her first US start, perfectly positioned but fading down the lane. Since then, Suffused came back to run third in an allowance, then win the listed Belmont Invitational Coronation Stakes by 4 3/4 lengths over a distance of 1 15/16 miles.
The unquestioned highlight of the card is the $ 1.25 million G1 Whitney Stakes (post time: 6:18 p.m. EST). Frosted won the Met Mile by 14 1/4 lengths in one of the most impressive performances of 2016, but many handicappers are questioning whether he will bounce off of that effort. Jimmy Jerkens’ multiple graded winner Effinex will take up the challenge with regular rider Mike Smith in the irons, an important factor for the horse to run well, it seems. Effinex ran well to win the Suburban last out, but over his last several starts, he seems to be throwing a clunker between every good race. Hopefully Jerkens and Smith will have him ready for Saturday’s challenge. Todd Pletcher has entered the promising 4-year-old Comfort, a late-bloomer who enters the race with three straight victories, including the listed State Dinner Stakes by over 3 lengths under a hand ride. Comfort will be searching for his first graded victory. Also entered in the Whitney are Noble Bird, Upstart, and El Kabeir.
At Del Mar Saturday evening, juvenile fillies will tackle 6 1/2 furlongs in the G2 Sorrento Stakes (post time: 6:33 p.m. EST). Keith Desormeaux has entered Miss Southern Miss for early favoritism off a second-place listed stakes effort at Santa Anita. Auntjenn, a Kristin Mulhall-trained daughter of Uncle Mo, broke her maiden in her second start just two weeks ago at Del Mar.
The G3 La Jolla Handicap (post time: 9:03 p.m. EST) features sophomores over 1 1/16 miles on Del Mar’s turf Saturday night. Monster Bea leads the field for trainer Peter Miller, though he will be searching for his first graded stakes win. The son of Japanese stallion Hat Trick (Sunday Silence), Monster Bea enters the La Jolla off two straight wins, including a listed stake. His main competition appears to be the Bob Baffert-trained Moonlight Drive, who finished second to Monster Bea in his last start but draws the services of leading rider Flavien Prat.
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