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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

UPDATED FINAL: OHIO DERBY, MOTHER GOOSE, STEPHEN FOSTER AND MORE OPEN RACES

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

BELMONT PARK

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 // 1.4.7.8 Minaun with Nevisian Sunrise (5-1), (Bye Bye (9-2) and Sussex Garden (15-1).

THISTLEDOWN

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 // 1.4.7.9.10. Exacta Key Box 9 // 1.4.7.8.10

CHURCHILL DOWNS

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 // 3.6.7.8.9

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

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11 Responses

  1. Agree 100% on the CCAO – they turned it into a damn prep race and destroyed a wonderful series at Belmont.

    In terms of the stakes today, I think the most interesting race is the Wild Applause at Belmont. If you consider the 1,2,3,4,7 all contenders to some degree, then what do you do with the wildcard – #8 Sussex Garden? Delacour’s Shipper To US sample is small – 3/15 – but the ROI is so low that the winners had to be very chalky. But he’s also 31% as first time trainer (sample 26 horses). Showed nothing in her last race but that was last august as a 2yo in a graded event. I don’t know exactly what to do with her, but I’m not going to lose a multi race wager due to leaving her out. I see you include her above as well. Such a deep race

    1. Doc, trust me, there are races at CD just as difficult–“but momma, that’s where the fun is.” Seriously, however, agree with your assessment of Wild Applause and am using Sussex Garden in some fashion. Her win two back looked OK on video. As to her last, I’m chalking it up to the soft ground.

  2. One additional note – the euro shippers get such a nice weight break vs what they carry over there – so she’ll be carrying 8-10 less pounds than she did as a 2yo.

    1. Noticed… I’m old school enough to believe “weight will stop a freight train.”

      1. Yeah when a horse is running within a couple of pounds of what they usually run under, I don’t pay it much attention; but when they are picking up or dropping 8 or 10 lbs, it’s hard to pretend it doesn’t have some sort of effect – that just feels like a flat out denial of math and science. If Jerry Brown at TG has a weight adjustment, then that’s good enough for me.

        1. And if horsemen think it’s important then it is Doc because many times it affects their decision-making… although not back in the day when it was considered an honor…

  3. Saturday June 26,2021

    TDN9
    race 9-#4 King Fury. Box with #10 Masoqueparade.

    Belmont Park

    8th race- #2 Always Carina (stand alone in doubles)
    9th race-#7 Bye Bye 9/2, Could wire the field, #1 Alda(6-1), the one to fear, #2 Minaun (5/2 favorite) and #4Nevisian Sunrise (5-1) completes your doubles, Box Triples and super’s with the 1,7 the 2 I like the most.

    Churchill Downs

    5th race- Excellent betting race. IMO the first 2 favorite’s are vulnerable. #6 Letruska(4/5) This is her 3rd race in 10 weeks, 21 days away. She never raced at CD and out of her 14 lifetime wins she has only won once at this distance. Plenty of gas in this race to keep her occupied. Toss. #4 Envoutante (2-1). 3rd race in 8 weeks coming off a lifetime top and back in 28 day’s. Toss. #5 Spice is nice )8-1) is the play here. lightly raced in the third race of his form cycle for Pletcher/Velazquez. Value. Big upside.Play the 1,2,3 underneath to get the exotic cash.

    7th race- 3 horses are coming off good lines. Box the 1,5,6 and the #6(8-1) his the one we like the best.

    10th race-#3 Somelikeithotbrown (2-1) cashed a ticket last time. I don’t think will be overbet, likes the distance and is the controlling speed. Use the #1(3rd race in 8 weeks), #7 Ride a comet (5-1) and the #9 Spooky Channel (15-1) in all your exotics.

    11th race- In a closely matched impossible race we will attempt to beat a deserving favorite in Mayfield (4/5).Never bet a horse as the favorite to do something he’s never done before. He’s never won at a mile and an 1/8th. The opinion here is to try to dictate the pace, save the ground and wire the field. We’ll take #6 Warrior’s Charge (6-1)for Cox/Geroux. His last race he broke dead last where his previous 11 races he never broke worst then second. He was also 5 wide at the 1/4 pole. Better break, better result. Use with the 4,5,8.

    12th race- Full disclosure.#8 Toby’s Heart is on our horses to watch list BUT he is the favorite.The pick here is the #13 Arm Candy (12-1). Box with the #1 and the#8 in all your exotics.

    Enjoy your day, may the horses and jockey’s come home safely and as always “Let’s go get them bad guy’s)

    Vinny O’

    1. Bunch of tough, open races today everywhere, Vin. If we’re walking around lucky, we will get rewarded. As you say, a safe trip to all…

  4. As Lawrence Well always said “Tank you, tank you, tank you. Thank you all. Dr. Weight Off as well. Thinking he just might be related to Dentist, Dr. Yankem. The plan for today is to wager a mixed bag of numbers based on all of your selections and input. Riders Up as soon as I remember where I parked my horse Marshall.

  5. Very good races and performance yesterday, especially by Letruska and Maxfield. I hope both stay healthy for BC.

  6. Letruska simply outclassed her rivals; Maxfield finally delivered on the promises, and he was awesome!

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