Thursday, September 29, 2016
The stars come out to play . . .
Excluding the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup weekends, which provide enough excitement to last racing fans for weeks, before and during, it's possible that what the nation's tracks are providing on Saturday could be the biggest stakes day in the history of the sport. Actually, I just made that up, because I have no idea if it's true - but it very well could be. It's difficult to digest the number of stakes on tap, so many of them graded, and with a myriad of the upper echelon equines scheduled to participate.
Let's start with New York. Belmont Park will feature three Gr. I's, the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (with Flintshire), the $400,000 Beldame and the $350,000 Vosburgh (with sensational Florida-bred X Y Jet). Add to that the Gr. II, $300,000 Gallant Bloom, and the Gr. III, $200,000 Pilgrim on the grass, and we have $1,750,000 worth of races featuring horses who will wind up contesting the Breeders' Cup.
In California, we have five Gr. I's, all with $300,000 on the line - the Frontrunner for 2-year-olds, the Awesome Again (California Chrome and Dortmund return), the Rodeo Drive on the grass, the Zenyatta (Beholder and Stellar Wind face off again), and the Chandelier for 2-year-old fillies (Demigoddess, by First Dude, has drawn post 12). Add to that the ungraded Unzip Me for 3-year-old fillies. There's also the Oak Tree Juvenile being run at Pleasanton.
At Churchill Downs, the spectacular sprint champ Runhappy returns in the Gr. III, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap at a flat mile, supported by the $175,000 Lukas Classic and the $100,000 Jefferson Cup on the grass.
Laurel Park has a pair of $75,000 sprints, the Politely and the Challedon. Leaving from post 7 in the Challedon is Mylute, owned by Ocala's Gold Mark Farm in partnership with Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm. In Canada, the $125,000 South Ocean is for 2-year-old fillies; Ocala's Gary Boulanger goes from No. 7 with Nineteen Sixteen. The features at Hastings Park in British Columbia are the Gr. III, $100,000 BC Premier's Handicap, the Gr. III, $100,000 Ballerina, and the $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes, one for colts and geldings and one for fillies.
Last, but far from least, the stage is set at Gulfstream Park for unbeaten sensation Three Rules, the colt by red-hot Gone Astray who will be looking to add his name to the elite list of colts who have swept the Florida Sire Stakes. Three Rules is 4-for-4 with three stakes victories and he's been all by himself while cruising down the stretch in each race. He'll be a very short price in the $500,000 In Reality at 1 1/16 miles.
The festivities in Hallandale Beach begin in race 2 with the $150,000 Florida Sire Meadow Star for 3-year-old fillies, followed by the $75,000 Armed Forces Stakes for 2-year-olds at a mile on the grass in race 3.
Race 5 is the $75,000 Mr. Steele for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the grass, and race 6 is the $150,000 Foolish Pleasure at a mile on the main track for 3-year-old colts and geldings. It features most of the best of Ocala's young stallions - Gone Astray, Big Drama (2), High Cotton (2), Hear No Evil, Kantharos (who has left for Kentucky) and Awesome of Course. The seventh is the $75,000 Our Dear Peggy for 2-year-old fillies at a mile over the turf course.
The My Dear Girl is race No. 10 and among those shooting for the major shares of the $500,000 purse will be Ocalans Shadybrook Farm, Don Dizney, Bill Rainbow, Sandra Trotter and Curtis Mikkelsen. Curtis, of course, has the unbeaten filly star, Cajun Delta Dawn, the daughter of Kantharos who is also 4-for-4 and looking for a Florida Sire sweep. (Losing Kantharos to Kentucky will be felt for quite a while in Florida). That will be followed by the $75,000 Panama City at a mile on the grass and then the big one, the In Reality.
All around, a magical day for those who wager via TV, computer, phone, tablet and whatever else they have invented for the purpose. What more could anyone ask, other than a having a nearby TV airing the Ryder Cup?