HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 25, 2021 — Huge simulcast weekend will complete the first half of the racing year 2021 Saturday, which can mean only one thing: Saratoga Race Course opens three weeks from today.
I can’t believe it either.
Tomorrow will also mark the final day of racing at the Churchill Downs spring meet, which features a mandatory payout of the 20-Cent Derby City 6 pool, all stakes, including the older horses centerpiece of the meet, the G2 Stephen Foster Stakes.
The imposing Metfield is the 4-5 early line favorite for the Foster, which trainer Brendan Walsh hopes may give him a major share of the spring leading trainer title, presently a three-man race among Brad Cox, Mike Maker and Walsh. Cox is one win in front of his rivals as this is posted.
We will get into the massive Churchill card with future additions to this ongoing, live weekend column but we have taken a cursory early look at the features offered at Belmont Park and Thistledown.
UPDATE 1: Thoughts on Breeding to Breed
In these race-to-breed days as opposed to racing’s breed-to-race past, we’ve lamented that there are too many ways to earn graded black-type. If given the opportunity, horsemen will choose the path of least resistance in search of graded wins purse dollars. I would do the same if I were placed in that position.
HRI has had many philosophical differences year with the Graded Stakes Committee over the years. Armed with the latest past performances and results, the grading process is accompanied by a wet index figure held high so as to gauge which way the political winds blow. Why should racing be any different?
The quality of competition in any series of stakes runs in cycles, and some downturns last longer than others. Many stakes simply fall out of favor, for whatever reason, and are viewed somewhat anachronistically.
I bring this up because, while I knew it to be the case, I had for the moment forgotten about the downgrading of two major events that will be renewed this weekend, begging the question: How could the Stephen Foster and Mother Goose be Grade 2s?
I reasoned that, while not their intention, NYRA’s moving the Coaching Club American Oaks to Saratoga not only killed the synergy of those who recall the history of the old filly triple crown–the CCAO completing the Acorn-Mother Goose sequence–but took stature away from a historical context.
The CCAO now is widely viewed to be an Alabama Stakes prep. It’s bigger than that. So racetracks cannot always show slavish devotion to wagering handle. We understand most modern horsemen don’t want to race their three-year-old fillies a mile and a half. Hell, they feel the same way about the males.
Maybe the time has come for the power structure to think of things another way. How about breeding-to-breed, infusing stamina back into the equation? In that regard, the burgeoning popularity of turf racing could help here; grass simply is less taxing than dirt.
As for the Foster, the race has slumped in recent years and that simply must be a matter of too much competition from too many tracks. For instance, I assumed at winter’s end that the next time I would see Mystic Guide race would be at Churchill. Instead, he goes in next week’s Brooklyn at Belmont Park.
UPDATE 2: Two Deep, Competitive Routes at Thistledown
The Lady Jacqueline starts the stakes double on the banks of the Ohio, a listed event with a quarter million dollar purse, so it’s understandable that the entries got a boost from New York-based horsemen.
Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott have the two early line choices for this 9-furlong two-turner, respectively.
The Pletcher outfit will be represented by laudably consistent early favorite Spice Is Nice (3-1) while Mott saddles the older, faster Horologist (7-2), a graded stakes winner who has been the quintessential in-and-outer. The good news for her fans is that she’s sitting on an “in” race.
The G3 Ohio Derby is deep in number an talent. Also to be contested at a mile and an eighth, the 11-horse field has horses exiting the G3 Peter Pan [Promise Keeper, 7-2], G3 Lexington winner King Fury (9-2), fourth place finisher Proxy (5-1), Preakness fourth Keepmeinmind and Federico Tesio winner, The Reds (6-1).
UPDATE 3: Doubling Down on Doubling It Up
G2 MOTHER GOOSE Race 8
MOST PROBABLE: 3-Clairiere (9-5)
WIN VALUE LINE: 1-Make Mischief (4-1) to win at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box 3 // 1.2 Clairiere with 1 and 2-Always Carina (1-1)
WILD APPLAUSE STAKES Race 9
MOST PROBABLE: 2-Minaun (5-2)
WIN VALUE LINE: 1-Alda (6-1) to win at 5-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta and Trifecta Key-Box 2 // 18.104.22.168 Minaun with Nevisian Sunrise (5-1), (Bye Bye (9-2) and Sussex Garden (15-1).
LADY JACQUELINE STAKES Race 8
MOST PROBABLE: 9-Spice Is Nice (3-1)
WIN VALUE LINE: 1-Horologist (7-2) to win at 7-2 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Box 1-9
G3 OHIO DERBY Race 9
MOST PROBABLE: 8-Keepmeinmind (4-1)
WIN VALUE LINE: 9-Proxy (5-1) to win at 9-2 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Box 8-9. Exacta Key Box 8 // 22.214.171.124.10. Exacta Key Box 9 // 126.96.36.199.10
G2 FLEUR DE LIS Race 5
MOST PROBABLE: 6-Letruska (4-5)
WIN LINE VALUE: 4-Envoutante (2-1) to win at 2-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box 4 with 1-Point of Honor 6-1 and 6-Letruska. 4 // 1.6
G2 WISE DAN Race 10
MOST PROBABLE: 1-Set Piece (8-5)
WIN LINE VALUE: 9-Spooky Channel (15-1) to win at 10-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta and Trifecta Key Box: Set Piece 1st and second with 3-Somelikeithotbrown (2-1), 6-Kentucky Ghost (20-1), 7-Ride a Comet (5-1), 8-Field Pass (5-1) and 9-Spooky Channel (15-1). 1 // 188.8.131.52.9
G2 STEPHEN FOSTER Race 11
MOST PROBABLE: 8-Maxfield (4-5)
WIN LINE VALUE: 8-Maxfield at 4-5 or greater or 5-Silver Dust (6-1) at 6-1 or more
EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box 8 // 5.6.9 — Maxfield with 5-Silver Dust (6-1), 6-Warrior’s Charge (6-1) and 9-Visitant (6-1)
TEPIN STAKES Race 12
MOST PROBABLE: 1-Invincible Gal (9-2)
WIN LINE VALUE: 10-New Boss (10-1) to win at 10-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta and Trifecta Key Box 1 and 10 first and second with 1, 5-Navratilova (12-1), 8-Tobys Heart (4-1), 10, 12-Barista (8-1)
This is live content which will be upgraded with additional information and changes for the next 24 hours