Weekend Stakes Preview 9/24

Santa Anita opens Saturday with huge Breeders’ Cup prep card

Santa Anita will get underway with the fall meet on Saturday and it’s loaded with Grade 1 action as the best runners on the West Coast turn in their final preps before the Breeders’ Cup. The Grade 1 Awesome Again is the feature for the older runners heading to the Classic and Bayern will look to get his year going in this event. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Bayern hasn’t even sniffed a win this year and last time out was crushed by over twenty lengths in the Pacific Classic. He’ll return to Santa Anita where he’s a perfect 3 for 3 and his connections are obviously hoping a return to the Great Race Place is what gets him going. Hoppertunity hasn’t won in his last five starts but he’s been keeping very strong company and at least has been competitive. As this race came up a bit light on talent, he very well could sneak back into the picture. Many runners entered in the Awesome Again are coming out of the Brubaker Stakes, a race Point Piper won at 30/1. It was the second start for the horse in the Jerry Hollendorfer barn and he seems to have gotten the most out of the runner.

Hard Not To Like will face a very tough cast of older filly and mare turf runners in the Rodeo Drive. She’s won two straight Grade 1 races and trainer Christophe Clement has her going better than she ever has. Among her challengers, Elektrum and Fanticola seem like two of the more obvious choices. Elektrum won the Grade 2 John C. Mabee last time out and Fanticola has been right there in her last four starts, all graded events. Two year old fillies will go in the Chandelier Stakes including the immensely talented Songbird. She’s a perfect 2 for 2 and last time out beat several of these by more than five lengths in the Del Mar Debutante. Pretty N Cool was second that day and might be the main challenger.

Beholder is one of the biggest standouts on the card as she’ll be a very short priced favorite in the Zenyatta Stakes. Coming off her assault on the boys in the Pacific Classic, she returns in this filly event and is greeted by 8 rivals, many of whom she’s trounced before. Wild In the Saddle could be a good include underneath as she’s done well at Santa Anita before and should be close up early. Two year old boys will run in the Grade 1 Frontrunner Stakes and undefeated Nyquist will certainly have the most eyes on him as he looks to extend his win streak to four. He’s won two straight graded stakes events including winning the Del Mar Futurity by three and a half lengths. Hollywood Don is another with an impressive resume thus far as he’s won two straight including the Del Mar Juvenile Turf last time out. For him the surface will obviously be the question but trainer Peter Miller is clearly high on him to try him in this spot. Selections for the Awesome Again

  1. Hoppertunity
  2. Hard Aces
  3. Global View

Longshot: Point Piper Selections for the Rodeo Drive

  1. Elektrum
  2. Hard Not To Like
  3. Queen of the Sand

Longshot: Stormy Lucy Selections for the Chandelier

  1. Songbird
  2. Pretty N Cool
  3. Land over Sea

Longshot: Right There Selections for the Zenyatta

  1. Beholder
  2. Wild in the Saddle
  3. Warren’s Veneda

Longshot: Big Book Selections for the Frontrunner

  1. Nyquist
  2. Hollywood Don
  3. Blameitonthelaw

Longshot: Swipe

A big Stakes Saturday at Belmont Park

Belmont Park will feature a series of Breeders’ Cup prep races on Saturday as there are five graded events on the program. The Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic goes off as race 10 and drew a field of seven turfers. Big Blue Kitten has had great success at Belmont Park and figures to be the favorite. He just missed last time out in the Grade 1 Arlington Million and prior to that won the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth. He likes to roll from off the pace so as always whether he gets some pace to run into could dictate whether or not he contends at the end. Slumber was 8th in the Arlington Million but prior to that had been a big contender in top races, including a win over Big Blue Kitten in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day. Chad Brown will also send out Shining Copper who has worked as a rabbit of sorts for Big Blue Kitten. But he’s been close in his last two starts, including finishing third just three quarters of a length behind Big Blue Kitten in the Arlington Million.

The Grade 1 Vosburgh drew seven runners including the red-hot Rock Fall who comes into the race on a 6 race winning streak. He overcame a wide trip last time and still got up to win the Alfred Vanderbilt Stakes. He’s proving to be the most dominant sprinter in the land and he’ll have to best Palace and Salutos Amigos among others. Two year olds will be on the grass in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes. The race is loaded with impressive maiden breakers, but maybe none more impressive than Forever in Love who drew off when beating maidens by eight and a quarter lengths at Saratoga. Azar won the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes last time out and by virtue of that win will get some serious attention at the windows.

La Verdad looks to make it five in a row as she heads the cast in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap. She was dominant last out winning the Grade 2 Honorable Miss by four lengths and it doesn’t appear there’s anyone in here that can go with her early on. Dame Dorothy is drawn on the rail and while she’s a Grade 1 winner, she’ll have to step up her game to contend with La Verdad. Wedding Toast is the one to beat in the Beldame Stakes. She’s crushed her rivals in two straight graded stakes events, both at Belmont Park, including the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes last time out. Curalina is drawn to her inside and while she’s a Grade 1 winner she’ll be taking on older fillies and mares for the first time in this spot. Selections for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic

  1. Big Blue Kitten
  2. Slumber
  3. Red Rifle

Longshot: Shining Copper Selections for the Vosburgh

  1. Rock Fall
  2. Stallwalkin Dude
  3. Salutos Amigos

Longshot: Weekend Hideaway Selections for the Pilgrim Stakes

  1. Azar
  2. Forever in Love
  3. Dissident

Longshot: Next Shares Selections for the Gallant Bloom

  1. La Verdad
  2. Dame Dorothy
  3. Street Story

Longshot: Wavell Avenue Selections for the Beldame

  1. Wedding Toast
  2. Hot Stones
  3. Curalina

Longshot: Catch My Drift

Trio of Stakes at Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs’ September meet rolls on Saturday with a trifecta of stakes action on the card. The $175,000 Lukas Classic Stakes is a new event and drew a field of eight runners. Departing returns to the main track at Churchill Downs even though the last time he was in Louisville he was winning a Grade 2 on grass. He has a class edge but he just hasn’t had the same killer instinct in his races in recent efforts. Irish You Well is intriguing because he hasn’t been competing in stakes events recently but his last two efforts at Monmouth Park have both been very strong. Mylute is another who is getting some class relief as last time out he was 5th in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. He is 0 for 4 though at Churchill Downs but this will be the lowest stakes he’s competed under the Twin Spires for.

The Grade 3 Jefferson Cup drew eleven three year olds including recent Mystic Lake Derby winner Nun The Less. Nun The Less was third in the American Derby before that effort so he’s clearly in the best form of his career. Wesley Ward sends out an intriguing runner in Wayward Kitten. While he’s just a maiden winner, his last three efforts have all been strong. Both career efforts at Churchill Downs have been very good as well. Older runners will go in the Ack Ack Handicap including Viva Majorca who was recently third in the Grade 1 Forego. He’s 3 for 6 at Churchill Downs including a stakes win in the Kelly’s Landing. Hanshin Cup winner Midnight Cielo shows up here and his speed ratings put him right in the mix. His only start at Churchill was a dull 7th place finish but it was in a Grade 2 at two turns. Now he cuts back to a mile, a distance he’s 7 for 9 in the exacta at. Selections for the Lukas Classic

  1. Irish You Well
  2. Mylute
  3. Abraham

Longshot: Smack Smack Selections for the Jefferson Cup

  1. Wayward Kitten
  2. Saham
  3. Nun The Less

Longshot: Sylven Park Selections for the Ack Ack

  1. Midnight Cielo
  2. Agent Dinozzo
  3. Viva Majorca

Longshot: Hat of Jacks

Saturday Stakes Action at

Arlington Park

Race 6                  Melanie Frances Stakes                       4:54pm EST

Race 7                  Teleprompter Stakes                         5:25pm EST

Belmont Park

Race 5                  Beldame Stakes                                 3:06pm EST

Race 7                  Gallant Bloom Handicap                       4:16pm EST

Race 8                  Pilgrim Stakes                                    4:51pm EST

Race 9                  Vosburgh Stakes                               5:26pm EST

Race 10               Joe Hirsch Turf Classic                        6:01pm EST

Churchill Downs

Race 8                  Ack Ack Handicap                              4:18pm EST

Race 9                  Jefferson Cup Stakes                         4:49pm EST

Race 10                Lukas Classic                                     5:20pm EST

Gulfstream Park

Race 3                  Panama City Stakes                            2:21pm EST

Race 10               Groomstick Stakes                             6:16pm EST

Laurel Park

Race 4                  Brookmeade Stakes                            2:42pm EST

Race 6                  Jamestown Stakes                             3:39pm EST

Race 7                  Bert Allen Stakes                               4:10pm EST

Race 8                  Oakley Stakes                                   4:41pm EST

Race 9                  Punch Line Stakes                             5:11pm EST

Race 10              Commonwealth Oaks                         5:41pm EST


Race 8                  Hall of Fame Stakes                            4:04pm EST

Santa Anita

Race 3                  Unzip Me Stakes                                4:30pm EST

Race 5                  Frontrunner Stakes                            5:30pm EST

Race 7                  Zenyatta Stakes                                6:30pm EST

Race 8                  Chandelier Stakes                              7:00pm EST

Race 9                  Rodeo Drive Stakes                            7:30pm EST

Race 10                Awesome Again Stakes                      8:00pm EST


Race 8                  La Prevoyante Stakes                         4:41pm EST







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