HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, September 17, 2021 — The timing of the prep schedule could not be timed any better for the modern day horseman.
For those racing this weekend, it’s seven weeks to Breeders’ Cup which with a few exceptions will effectively conclude on October 9, leaving 27 or 28 days, depending on age, to the championships. The babies will be up first on Friday, November 5.
Speaking of babies, fillies and colts will be on display Saturday at Churchill Downs. The girls are up first in the G3 Pocahantas where brilliance will meet more brilliance and legitimate two-turn types. Part of that, as always, will pit precocity vs. experience.
In the filly event, the question is whether Hidden Connection is as good as her winning debut suggests–and just how does one equate 5-1/2 furlongs at Colonial Downs to 1-1/16 miles at Churchill, anyway?
Reylu Gutierrez had his filly stalking comfortably under his confident handling, drawing off as much the best, in hand at the post. Trainer Bret Calhoun is profitable first-time going long and her 47 1/5 blowout was third fastest of 110 juveniles to work the week of SEP 12.
The favorite for the G3 Iroquois Stakes is Stellar Tap, the colt who broke maiden impressively in Saratoga, giving all-time record setting Steve Asmussen career victory 9,446.
Stalking fast fractions throughout going 7 furlongs, he separated himself from the group when Ricardo Santana asked him soon after straightening away and the colt complied by 5-1/4 lengths, galloping out very well into the clubhouse turn. He’s worked purposefully four times since and owns a distance-meant, two-sided pedigree.
Our friends north of the border are giving lots of money away in a pair of Grade 1s, and don’t you know, a handful of Europeans are crossing the pond in search of black type and the money.
Walton Street is the 8-5 Canadian International favorite, trained by Charlie Appleby and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. Not all Grade 1s are equal, of course, and the 7-year-old marathoner faced much better in both recent starts: Dubai’s Sheema Classic, won by highly rated Mishriff, was followed up by the Grosser Preis von Berlin, a German Group 1.
Prior to those two efforts he won three straight going a mile and a half, today’s trip. The Grade is not the incentive for the gelded import; it’s the $600,000. First-time Lasix comes with this classy package.
The big attraction in Toronto is the storied Woodbine Mile. Per usual, this renewal is an interesting, open scramble. Canadian and American Hall of Famer Mark Casse has three in here but Chad Brown’s Raging Bull is the 2-1 early line choice followed closely by Set Piece (5-2), a much improved gelding at 5.
In the Big Apple, the Jockey Club Oaks and Jockey Club Derby are on the docket. Appleby and Andre Fabre will saddle two of the seven ladies, while Appleby, Satoshi Kobayashi and Aidan O’Brien will have three of eight Derby entrants.
Yibir won a Group 2 at this trip at York recently and should appreciate the firmer American ground, looming a worthy favorite.
JOCKEY CLUB OAKS INVITATIONAL
A: 7-Harajuka (4-1), 2-Higher Truth (3-1), 1-Creative Flair (7-2)
C: 6-Shantisara (7-2), 3-Baby Blythe (9-2)
JOCKEY CLUB DERBY INVITATIONAL
A: 2-Yibir (2-1), 8-Bolshoi Ballet (5-2), 4-Soldier Ring (5-2)
B: 3-Tokyo Gold (8-1)
C: 6-Experienced (15-1)
G3 POCAHONTAS STAKES
A: 9-Hidden Connection (9-2), 5-Magestic d’Oro (8-1), 8-Miss Chamita (30-1)
C: 1-Code for Success (20-1), 3-Mama Rina (12-1), 4-Ontheonesandtwos (5-2)
G3 IROQUOIS STAKES
A: 6-Stellar Tap (3-1), 5-Midnight Magnolia (12-1)
B: 9-Guntown (9-2), 8-Major General (4-1)
C: 4-Strike Hard (10-1), 3-Roger McQueen (10-1)
WOODBINE RACE COURSE
G1 CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL
A: 2-Walton Street (8-5)
B: 6-Fantasioso (8-1), 3-Desert Encounter (3-1)
C: 1-Corelli (4-1), 8-English Conqueror (15-1)
G1 WOODBINE MILE
A: 5-Set Piece (5-2), 3-March to the Arch (8-1)
B: 4-Ride a Comet (5-1), 7-Raging Bull (2-1)
C: 2-Olympic Runner (10-1)
This is a live column that will be upgraded regularly, and will include A-B-C betting grids for all six races.
All plays derived from these gradings should be at minimums available, notwithstanding win wagers at $2 level. When multiple horses are listed in any category, preferences read left to right. Churchill Downs and Woodbine will be posted shortly. Handicappers can adjust grades up or down, but not to exceed one level