After this weekend, it will really be on, only four weeks remain to Breeders’ Cup weekend, November 6-7.
Whether any or all who race well over the weekend make it into the Keeneland starting gate is the same as it ever was; everything needs to go right between now and then.
Another glut of graded stakes on tap Saturday. Monmouth gets into the act with the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes, part of the NYRA’s Cross-Country Pick 5 series. Keeneland offers the G2 Hagyard-Fayette and the prestigious G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.
But it’s Belmont Park that offers graded races that need no introduction: For the babies there’s the storied G1 Champagne and G2 Frizette for fillies, both at a flat mile.
Later in the card, there’s a graded stakes Pick 3 starting with a pair of Grade 1s, the G1 Flower Bowl for older fillies and mares on turf and the race the Kelso won give consecutive times, the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The sequence ends with the G2 Sands Point.
The G3 Monmouth Stakes lacks star power but offers horses on the come, possible turf stars of tomorrow, that looks a lot like a Saratoga redux; two from Chad Brown vs. one from Christophe Clement, turf mavens that have developed a formidable rivalry.
At Keeneland, the Hagyard-Fayette has drawn a field of 10 in which it’s not a stretch to make a case for six of them, one of them possibly providing extraordinary value. More on that from HRI Select Simulcast Saturdays.
The “QE II” always features many of the best three-year-old turf fillies in the land and 2020 is no exception. Is Magic Attitude as good as her winning U.S. debut, coming back in three weeks at a shorter trip?
Either way, Harvey’s Lil Goil, Micheline and Sweet Melania rate to make an impact.
The bright lights may be dark on Broadway but the New York spotlight will shines brightly to the east at Belmont Park on Saturday. Among the questions to be answered are these:
Now that Reinvestment Risk has a bit more experience, can he turn the tables on undefeated Jackie’s Warrior who dusted him off in the G1 Hopeful with an added furlong to work with?
And just how do handicappers separate Frizette fillies Vequist, Cantata and Dayoutoftheoffice; we’re really looking forward to deciphering that one.
Seven fillies have entered the G1 Flower Bowl, which Chad Brown will try to win for the seventh time and he’s taking aim with three of the seven, saddling the favorite, co-second choice and third choice on the early line.
If Tacitus finally wins Grade 1 gold, what better event than the Jockey Club Gold Cup? A pair of three-year-olds, Happy Saver and Mystic Guide will try to take advantage of a three-pound weight pull.
The Brown-Clement rivalry referenced above comes home to roost with a Chad pair, favorite and second-favorite, Selflessly and Tamahere, vs. Clement’s Miss McKay, who will try to extend her late kick another three-sixteenths of a mile.
Great Karma Today at Belmont Park
Johnny Velazquez reached the 2,000-win plateau at Belmont astride the million-dollar yearling filly Malathaat, a daughter of Curlin from the mare Dreaming of Julia who clearly passed on some of her juvenile precosity to Curlin’s bay filly.
The fact that Johnny reached the milestone with Todd Pletcher, not the semi-exclusive team they once were, what with agent changes and the like, got together for an epic moment for both in an association that has a 22-year history.
And, by the way, Malathaat and runnerup Caramel Swirl, a Godolphin homebred, spread-eagled the competition with daylight separating them from the third horse; this has been a stable mail advisory.