Contrary to popular belief, Thoroughbred racing is not done this year and horseplayers and fans need not await opening day at Santa Anita DEC 26 to have some fun.
This is one loaded holiday weekend. There are graded stakes all over the map. plus one of my favorite programs of the year, officially known as Future Stars II but, simply stated, all-two-year-olds-all-the-time Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The prime time event is, of course, the Grade 1 Clark Stakes on Friday but beyond there are a pair of ungraded turf stakes at Aqueduct Saturday that are both great betting races and also a possible glimpse into graded-stakes future. And future is the buy-word this weekend.
The first parimutuel Derby Futures Pool features certain to be juvenile champion Essential Quality and the Slew-like debut winner Life Is Good. Each will be highly fancied but most likely “All Other Three-Year-Olds” will be the public’s choice when betting stops at 6 pm Sunday.
On Friday, Code of Honor (3-1), who has had a start and stop season, is supposed to win his first Grade 1 of 2020. After winning the G3 Westchester, he was a good third to Vekoma in the highly graded G1 Met Mile before finishing a one-paced fourth to Improbable in the G1 Whitney.
But his last points him out, a strong rally placing to brilliant Complexity in the G2 Kelso. Johnny Velazquez got off him and told Shug McGaughey “he really wants to go two turns.”
Code of Honor will get that chance in the Clark, the nine furlongs will hit him squarely between the eyes and, lest we forget, he was an excellent, troubled third last year in “Maximum Security’s Derby.”
The stoutest competition looks to be Brad Cox-trained Owendale (5-1) and Bret Calhoun’s By My Standards (4-1), providing you draw a line through his Breeders’ Cup Classic, easy to do since he’s back home at Churchill Downs. On Grade 1 lines, however, Code of Honor appears to be any price.
The Aqueduct turf races referenced earlier are graded level events masquerading as listed stakes. In between, the G3 Comely will feature Miss Marissa, who will be hell to pay as the likely favorite. She has speed, stamina, the pole and already has won beneath hot-riding Dylan Davis.
The Gio Ponti goes as the fifth race at 1-1/16th mile on the Big A grass and, on first pass; Basquiat, Fighting Seabees and Reconvene immediately catch the eye. And keep in mind that Ajourneytofreedom goes third time off Mike Maker’s $80,000 claim.
Thirteen fillies and mares entered the Forever Together, including one main-track-only. and six raced on a different surface last out. It’s wide open but favoritism likely will come down to two graded-tested females; Christophe Clement’s Feel Glorious and Chad Brown’s Tapit Today.
We’re back Friday with a closer look and a betting grid. Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving. Stay safe; wear a mask.