Halfway past the month that marks the halfway point of the year means it’s not too early to start dreaming about Saratoga.
Several of the winning connections from Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap Night were doing just that following impressive performances under the lights at Churchill Downs. Those with Saratoga dreams include the first two finishers from the Stephen Foster in Moonshine Mullin and Will Take Charge, and probably even the third- through seventh-place finishers in Departing, Mylute, Golden Ticket, Revolutionary and Long River.
Of course the water will be plenty deep in Saratoga’s two signature handicap events – the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational August 2 and Grade 1 Woodward August 30 – especially with a buzz saw named Palace Malice already gearing up for a start at the Spa.
Count Grade 2 Fleur de Lis winner Molly Morgan in that group, too. Her connections didn’t mention anything specific, but she’s got license to show up in the Grade 3 Shuvee July 27 or maybe the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Invitational August 22.
All those plans are subject to change, but the Saratoga season opens in less than five weeks so it’s all downhill until the Union Avenue gates swing open, the park here on my lawn signs start to pop up and lines start to form at Broadway and just off Broadway dining spots and watering holes.
Watch the 2014 Stephen Foster Handicap. …
Out on the West Coast it was Obviously who showed he hasn’t lost a step with a sharp victory in the Grade 1 Shoemaker at Santa Anita Park.
If that line sounds familiar it should, since the 6-year-old Irish-bred won the Shoemaker last year, when it was run at the since shuttered Hollywood Park. Obviously did what he does best, went to the front, set a fast pace and held on to win the 1-mile event in 1:32.66 with East Coast shipper Summer Front second.
Watch Obviously win the 2014 Shoemaker. …
The final countdown is on for Saratoga, as mentioned above, and it’s nearly over for the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting.
The five-day stand gets underway Tuesday with a six-race program that starts with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. That’s right, six races starting with a Group 1. Are American racing executives paying attention? Alright, enough editorializing, back the races.
If you though the Belmont Stakes card was good, take a look at the rest of the opener at Royal Ascot here, courtesy of Racing Post. It “only” features two more Group 1s – led by the featured St. James’s Palace – and a Group 2. Want wagering options? You’re in luck since fields for four of the heats feature 16, 17, 20 and 25 horses.
Six more races Wednesday and that card is highlighted by the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes, featuring a showdown between European Horse of the Year Treve, Dank and The Fugue. Big stuff. The last two races Wednesday feature 33 and 25 horses, respectively.
Check out Wednesday’s Royal Ascot card.
Sean will also serve up a day-by-day, race-by-race perview for each Royal Ascot fixture right here at This Is Horse Racing. …
Speaking of racing outside the U.S., Woodbine hosted the Plate Trial Stakes Sunday and a familiar name wound up in the winner’s circle.
We Miss Artie, 10th in the Kentucky Derby and training with Todd Pletcher’s string at Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track since, bounced back with a victory at odds-on to set up a run in the July 6 Queen’s Plate. We Miss Artie won the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes on Turfway Park’s Polytrack and was right at home on Woodbine’s Polytrack.
The Artie Schiller colt ran down Majestic Sunset in the stretch under Javier Castellano to win by three quarters of a length. He’ll most likely be back in the Queen’s Plate, where he will face Woodbine Oaks winner Lexie Lou and others in the opening jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.