Saturday Stakes Special

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We’re back, at least for this week in this format with a loaded slate of stakes action to preview and the countdown to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships now standing at five weeks to go.

The Saturday slate features about three-dozen stakes races in the U.S. and Ontario, including several critical Breeders’ Cup preps. The group is led by Grade 1-laden cards at Belmont Park and Santa Anita Park and there’s graded action at Churchill Downs, Class on the Grass at Laurel Park, Governor’s Cup Day at Delaware Park, the finals of the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park and more.

Here’s your stakes primer for Saturday, September 29. Take care and good luck.

Gulfstream Park. Race 2. FTBOA Florida Sire Wildcat Heir Stakes. 12:28 p.m. Opening stakes of the day is for Florida-bred and sire stakes eligible 3-year-olds and up going 1 mile. Mo Cash and Mr. Jordan renew rivalry after finishing 1-2 in similar stakes last month.

Gulfstream. Race 4. Hollywood Beach Stakes. 1:25. The day isn’t restricted to Florida-breds as this $75,000 stakes going 5 furlongs is for straight 2-year-olds. Todd Pletcher entered first-time starter Bulletin for ownership group that includes WinStar Farm. He’s by City Zip, cost $250,000 and shows steady string of works at Saratoga and Palm Beach Downs.

Laurel Park. Race 4. Find Stakes. 2:05. Rain, rain, stay away. No doubt the folks at the MJC will be at least thinking along those lines as the first of four turf stakes goes to the post.

Gulfstream. Race 6. Armed Forces Stakes. 2:24. Another open stakes, this worth $75,000 and at 1 mile on the grass. Field of 10 includes Seanow, maiden winner on the grass at Saratoga who came back to be fifth in the Grade 3 With Anticipation.

Laurel. Race 5. Shine Again Stakes. 2:36. It’s not all turf, with this 7-furlong event for non-winners of a stakes on the card. Cairenn found the water a bit deep in Grade 1 Ballerina last time and returns to more logical spot.

Delaware Park. Race 5. DTHA Governor’s Day Handicap. 3:07. The opening stakes of the day in Stanton is 1-mile and 70-yard test for horses who started at Delaware Park in 2018, a group that includes Finger Lakes shipper Dr Blarney for Karl Grusmark, Even Thunder for Jamie Ness and Grade 3 Dixie runner-up Unbridled Juan for Jose Corrales.

Laurel. Race 6. Challedon Stakes. 3:08. Similar conditions to the Shine Again, this $75,000 event is for 3-year-olds and up who haven’t won a stakes. Top Of Mind came close in last year’s Grade 2 Commonwealth Turf Cup and ran well enough in July on the main track to merit consideration.

Gulfstream. Race 8. Our Dear Peggy. 3:24. Open 2-year-old fillies take their turn going 1 mile on grass for $75,000. A Bit Special and Dangerous Curves, 2-3 in similar stakes Sept. 1, are back.

Laurel. Race 7. Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup Stakes. Grade 3. 3:42. Projected the deserving favorite off six straight solid stakes efforts, including a win in this $300,000 race last year. He’s winless since but second or third in five of five.

Finger Lakes. Race 7. New York Breeders’ Futurity. 3:52. Dugout, winner of the $194,000 Funny Cide on Saratoga Showcase Day, takes on the 1-2 finishers from the Aspirant Stakes in La Fuerza and Kadens Courage in $200,288 stakes for 2-year-old state-breds. Saratoga maiden winner True Gold also in the field for Charlie Baker.

Delaware. Race 7. First State Dash Stakes. 4:03. Full field of 14 Delaware certified 2-year-olds go 5 1/2 furlongs for $100,000. Sapphire Shilling returns from Presque Isle after close second in open stakes last month.

Belmont Park. Race 7. Vosburgh Stakes. Grade 1. 4:09. All eyes on Imperial Hint as he looks to make it three straight, including back-to-back Grade 1 victories, on route to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Laurel. Race 8. Bald Eagle Derby. 4:16. Tom Morley tried to run Queen Of Connaught twice at Saratoga, only to be rained off both times. Now he sends the filly out against group of males that includes Canadian classic winner Neepawa, stakes winner Channel Cat, Grade 2-placed Way Early and highly regarded Admission Office and Nakamura.

Woodbine. Race 7. Ontario Damsel. 4:21. Woodbine Oaks winner Dixie Moon makes second straight start on the grass in $125,000 stakes for 3-year-old Ontario-bred fillies. She made the lead and couldn’t last in the Wonder Where last time going 10 furlongs and shortens up to 1 mile here for Catherine Day-Phillips.

Gulfstream. Race 10. Mr. Steele Stakes. 4:26. Ten older entered for 1 mile turf stakes worth $75,000 and the race could go through One Of A Kind, first or second in eight of 10 starts at Gulfstream. Galleon Mist and Kroy figure to have plenty to say about that, too.

Delaware. Race 8. George Rosenberger Memorial Stakes. 4:31. Another full field of 14, plus three on the also-eligible list, for 1 1/16-mile turf event for fillies and mares. The Fair Hill contingent of Motion, Proctor, Delacour and Matz look tough but don’t count out Mike Dini and Dynatail.

Belmont. Race 8. Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes. Grade 1. 4:42. Arlington Million winner Robert Bruce takes on familiar foes Spring Quality, Sadler’s Joy, Hi Happy and Channel Maker. Those first three finished ahead of him in the Grade 1 Manhattan two starts back. Channel Maker finished two slots back but since rebounded to win the Grade 2 Bowling Green and finish second in Grade 1 Sword Dancer.

Laurel. Race 9. All Brandy Stakes. 4:51. Older Maryland-bred or Maryland-sired fillies and mares take to the grass here and we’ll lean toward Chubby Star and Irish Access.

Gulfstream. Race 11. FTBOA Florida Sire My Dear Girl Stakes. 4:58. Cookie Dough upset the field in the Susan’s Girl at 12-1 and looks to add another victory in this $400,000 event for 2-year-old fillies.

Delaware. Race 9. 4:59. Small Wonder Stakes. 4:59. Tough to find the winner among these 13 Delaware certified 2-year-old fillies. The cast includes fillies bred in Arkansas, California, Kentucky and of course Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Belmont. Race 9. Pilgrim Stakes. Grade 3. 5:16. Opry broke his maiden winning the Grade 3 With Anticipation and looks to punch ticket to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf against the likes of Somelikeithotbrown, Spirit Animal and Forty Under.

Delaware. Race 10. Tax Free Shopping Distaff Stakes. 5:27. Shimmering Aspen, a stakes winner at Timonium last time, takes on Delaware specialist Hailey’s Flip in $100,000 stakes for fillies and mares going 6 furlongs.

Gulfstream. Race 12. Monroe Stakes. 5:30. The stakes aren’t finished yet, not even close, with a dozen fillies and mares entered in this $75,000 stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Santa Anita Park. Race 6. American Pharoah Stakes. Grade 1. 5:38. Only five line up for the West Coast’s premier 2-year-old stakes on the main track, including Del Mar Futurity winner Game Winner for Bob Baffert and the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained duo of Rowayton and Gunmetal Gray.

Belmont. Race 10. Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes. Grade 1. 5:50. Diversify looks to stretch win streak to four in defense of title in race that remains important despite changes to the nationwide stakes schedule for older horses. He won on the lead last year and figures to try and do the same against the likes of Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn – who like it on the front – and closers Gronkowski, Discreet Lover and Patch.

Delaware. Race 11. New Castle Stakes. 5:55. Nico Bree N Teej won back-to-back starter allowance races this spring and summer before three straight defeats in Maryland. Three-year-old son of Freedom Child takes on older foes in $100,000 event at 6 furlongs.

Gulfstream. Race 13. FTBOA Florida Sire In Reality Stakes. 6:03. The day’s $400,000 feature – won way back in 1993 by the great Holy Bull – attracts field of 12 led by Affirmed division winner Garter And Tie, Dr. Fager division winner Cajun Firecracker and several beaten foes from those races.

Santa Anita. Race 9. Chandelier Stakes. Grade 1. 7:07. Bellafina topped some of these in Grade 2 Sorrento and Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante and is deserving favorite among six 2-year-old fillies entered. Bob Baffert counters with the pair of Der Lu and Mother Mother while Brill looks to bounce back from defeat in Debutante at odds on for Jerry Hollendorfer.

Santa Anita. Race 10. Rodeo Drive Stakes. Grade 1. 7:41. Vasilika, claimed for $32,000 last year and again for $40,000 early this year, is a different filly since the spring and puts six-race win streak on the line in 1 ¼-mile turf test.

Santa Anita. Race 11. Awesome Again Stakes. Grade 1. 8:12. Accelerate vs. West Coast. It’s that simple. Accelerate brings blowout victories in back-to-back Grade 1 stakes on the circuit while West Coast returns from lengthy freshening following back-to-back seconds in Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup and Grade 1 Dubai World Cup.

Santa Anita. Race 12. Unzip Me Stakes. 8:43. Don’t hit the exits just yet, 3-year-old fillies go 6 ½ furlongs on the hillside turf course in the finale. Too soon in many of their careers to find a specialist, although Ms Bad Behaviour fared well on the course last winter and spring.

Churchill Downs. Race 7. Jefferson Cup Stakes. 9:05 p.m. Neil Drysdale ships Majestic Eagle in from California for $100,000 turf stakes for 3-year-olds. Son of Medaglia d’Oro finished fourth in Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last time out and won two of his three turf starts prior to that effort. Captivating Moon, Hot Springs, Tigers Rule and Factor This also should contend.

Churchill. Race 8. Ack Ack Stakes. Grade 3. 9:39. Seeking The Soul cuts back to 1 mile after dull effort in Grade 1 Woodward and C Z Rocket stretches out a bit after solid fourth in Grade 1 Forego going 7 furlongs. They’ve both run well in Louisville in the past – two wins apiece – and stand out in field that also includes Giant Expectations, Awesome Slew and Warrior’s Club.

Churchill. Race 9. Lukas Classic Stakes. Grade 3. 10:11. Not a “Win And You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic but 9-furlong test should give Chad Summers good gauge where to go with heavy favorite Mind Your Biscuits. After his solid runner-up finish to Diversify in the Grade 1 Whitney it seemed like the Classic would be the direction but other options include the Dirt Mile and Sprint. Honorable Duty, Toast Of New York and Breaking Lucky among the seven who will try to muddy the waters.