You want preps? Are you ready for preps? Good thing, because this week’s edition of The Saratoga Special is loaded with prelims for next month’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Belmont Park, Keeneland and Santa Anita host 14 stakes with possible Breeders’ Cup implications, so we’ll start there.
Keeneland started its fall meet Friday and the Lexington track’s FallStars Weekend rolls along Saturday with three Grade 1s topped by the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile.
Belmont hosts its second straight serious weekend, this one dubbed the Joe Hirsh Turf Classic Racing Festival that includes two Grade 1s with the Champagne and Joe Hirsch Saturday and two more Sunday with the Flower Bowl and Frizette.
Santa Anita, site of the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 1-2, hosts the most anticipated race of the weekend when top 3-year-olds Shancelot and Omaha Beach tangle in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
Whew, that’s quite a bit of action. That’s not all, however, with stakes action from Parx Racing, Thistledown and Woodbine on tap. Time to dig in. Here’s your primer for Saturday, Oct. 5.
Belmont Park. Race 1. 12:20 p.m. Six-furlong starter allowance starts the card.
Keeneland Race Course. Race 1. 1:05. First Saturday of the fall meet starts with 6-furlong maiden for 2-year-old fillies.
Woodbine. Race 2. 1:35. Get Explicit, second and fourth in graded stakes tries on the turf in August at Saratoga, returns to allowance ranks for 1 1/16-mile event on the inner course.
Keeneland. Race 2. 1:39. Red Dane just missed in similar 1-mile optional late in the spring meet and always runs well at her home track. Gotham Gala should appreciate the class relief for Arnaud Delacour.
Belmont. Race 4. 1:59. Shug McGaughey said “time is her friend” when talking about Harlem Heights in his Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour that appeared Travers Day in The Saratoga Special. The added distance of 1-mile maiden won’t hurt Point Of Entry’s half sister either.
Keeneland. Race 3. 2:12. Solomini, part of the beaten cast in Justify’s Kentucky Derby victory, makes first start for Steve Asmussen in two-turn optional that also draws Kurilov, Guest Suite, Third Day and Altito.
Meadowlands. Race 5. 2:22. Mission Driven puts two-race win streak on line for $16,000 tag in 1-mile optional on the grass.
Belmont. Race 5. 2:32. The first three from Saratoga’s Lucky Coin are back for $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational – Shekky Shebaz, Final Frontier and Disco Partner – along with the comebacking Hawkish and shortening up Gidu.
Keeneland. Race 4. 2:46. Full field of 2-year-olds for two-turn maiden.
Belmont. Race 6. 3:05. Wesley Ward thought enough of Karak to bring her to Royal Ascot, where she finished well back in the Windsor Castle Stakes. Daughter of Karatontie is unbeaten in the U.S. and takes on small field led by flashy debut winner Alms in Grade 3 Matron for 2-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs on the grass.
Parx Racing. Race 6. 3:10. Busster Von Trappe goes back to the grass in search of maiden victory going 1 mile.
Laurel Park. Race 5. 3:10. Linda Rice ships Pagliacci from Belmont for 5 1/2-furlong turf optional. Pioneerof The Nile gelding ran four times at Saratoga, hitting the board each time and winning at this trip July 28.
Keeneland. Race 5. 3:20. South Bend closed well from last to just get up in debut. Son of Algorithms stretches out to extended 7-furlong trip and draws outside for Stan Hough.
Thistledown. Race 7. 3:20. Eight fillies and mares entered in the Diana. No, not that Diana; this one’s at 6 furlongs for Ohio-breds. Heavenhasmynikki, ambitiously placed in last year’s Kentucky Oaks, comes off back-to-back victories including the Grade 3 Vagrancy on the NYRA circuit for Ran Paolucci and trainer Bob Hess Jr.
Belmont. Race 7. 3:40. Malibu Edge makes second start for Shug McGaughey after running into Gouverneur Morris (see more on him below) in the slop Closing Day at Saratoga. Ontario-bred son of Malibu Moon merits another chance in 1-mile maiden that also draws $1.8 million Curlin yearling Vintage Print for Larry Best and trainer Chad Brown, Sonneman, Mo And Go, Cost Basis and Onward.
Thistledown. Race 8. 3:50. The $75,000 Emerald Necklace for Ohio-bred 2-year-old fillies looks like a maiden race with only one of the 12 boasting a victory. That honor falls to Edge Of Night, who placed in the Miss Ohio as a maiden then graduated two starts later going 6 furlongs.
Keeneland. Race 6. 3:54. Opening stakes on the card is Grade 2 Woodford at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Not a “Win And You’re In” but hard to believe the winner here won’t be in the field for Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Imprimis won here last spring in Grade 2 Shakertown and could be tough again facing Extravagant Kid, Smart Remark, Stubbins and Leinster.
Parx. Race 8. 4:04. Distance specialist Marconi, winner of the Grade 2 Brooklyn in June and Grand Prix American Jockey Club last time out at Belmont, stands out in Grade 3 Greenwood Cup going the same 12-furlong trip.
Belmont. Race 8. 4:15. Belmont Derby winner Henley’s Joy and Saratoga Derby winner A Thread Of Blue shorten up in Grade 2 Hill Prince after trying 12 furlongs last time in Jockey Club Derby. The 9-furlong trip also figures to suite Digital Age, Seismic Wave and Standard Deviation.
Keeneland. Race 7. 4:29. Automatic spot in Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on the line in Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America. Several usual suspects among the top contenders, including 2017 and 2018 runner-up Chalon, Grade 1 winners Mia Mischief and Spiced Perfection, Talk Veuve To Me and Ours To Run.
Delaware Park. Race 8. 4:45. Jonathan Thomas ships the Tapit filly Ever Changing from his Belmont base for 1-mile turf allowance.
Belmont. Race 9. 4:50. No automatic berth on the line for the Breeders’ Cup Turf here in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, but difficult to imagine a scenario where the winner doesn’t land in that spot next time out if the nominations are all set. Familiar foes dot the entries, including the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer in Sadler’s Joy, Channel Cat and Channel Maker. The latter won this race last year.
Woodbine. Race 8. 4:59. Mark Casse sends out three of the six entered in the Grade 3 Mazarine for 2-year-old fillies. The best of the trio? Skygaze most likely off 7-length victory last time out. She and her stablemates might be running for second against Curlin’s Voyage.
Keeneland. Race 8. 5:04. How about this race? The Grade 1 First Lady attracts field of 11 led by Rushing Fall, 4-for-4 on the course and coming off near three-month freshening. Chad Brown wasn’t satisfied with her training late in Saratoga meet, skipped a stakes there and sharpened the knife for this spot. No easy road for the daughter of More Than Ready with stablemate Uni in the field, along with California shippers Vasilika and Ms Bad Behavior, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Just Wonderful and longshot contenders Juliet Foxtrot, Indian Blessing and Mitchell Road.
Belmont. Race 10. 5:22. Potential stars of tomorrow line up for one of racing’s most prestigious juvenile stakes, the Grade 1 Champagne. Jimmy Jerkens passed on the Grade 1 Hopeful in favor of this spot for Green Light Go, Stronach Stables’ homebred Hard Spun colt who brings 2-for-2 mark to 1-mile stakes. Three Technique, Hopeful third Gozilla and debut maiden winners Tiz The Law and Alpha Sixty Six also in the field with automatic spot in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the line.
Keeneland. Race 9. 5:39. Gouverneur Morris, touted by Todd Pletcher during his appearance on Henry Street Taproom’s “Back on the Table” podcast with our crew from The Saratoga Special, is the one to beat in Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. Give a listen here. Meanwhile, the connections of By Your Side are throwing out his effort in Grade 1 Hopeful – a fifth on the sloppy track the same day Gouverneur Morris ran off and hid – and look to get back on track going two turns for the first time. Son of Constitution dazzled winning the Grade 3 Sanford and a return to that effort makes him tough here.
Santa Anita Park. Race 5. 5:50. Selcourt tries to get back to Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint from outside post in Grade 3 L.A. Woman at 6 1/2 furlongs. Same for Anonymity, who drew post 4 and comes off back-to-back seconds in graded stakes at Los Al and Del Mar.
Keeneland. Race 10. 6:15. Another extremely deep renewal of Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile with the last two winners Next Shares (2018) and Suedois (2017) back – and both 8-1 on the morning line – against the likes of unbeaten 3-year-old Valid Point, Bandua, Admission Office, March To The Arch and European imports Van Beethoven, Vintager and Robin Of Navan.
Keeneland. Race 11. 6:50. Stick around for the finale, there’s no Kentucky football game this week, and get out in second division of 2-year-old filly maiden going 6 furlongs.
Santa Anita. Race 8. 7:25. Big field of 11 for Grade 2 City of Hope Mile on the grass. Among the locals it feels like a case of ‘who’s turn is it?’ Synchrony ships from Fair Hill for Michael Stidham off close fifth in Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.
Santa Anita. Race 9. 7:55. All eyes on Omaha Beach and Shancelot in Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. Omaha Beach makes anticipated return after being forced out of Kentucky Derby with an illness. He’s never run 6 furlongs, but broke maiden by 9 lengths going 7 furlongs in early February. As for Shancelot, everyone knows he’s fast but can he withstand class pressure? He couldn’t last in Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens at Saratoga, finishing a close third, after blasting the field in Grade 2 Amsterdam at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Fresno. Race 8. 5:10. The Special doesn’t often venture to the Big Fresno Fair but here we are for the $100,000 Harris Farms Stakes for Cal-bred or Cal-sired 3-year-olds and up. Field of six led by Phil D’Amato’s Touching Rainbows and last-out Del Mar winner Fashionably Fast.
Santa Anita. Race 10. 8:25. The stakes aren’t finished yet. Here’s the restricted $75,000 Swingtime at 1 mile on the grass.