Good morning everyone and welcome to this weekend’s review of the major stakes races taking place in the USA. Regular readers will know that we normally focus on the Saturday races but, because there is such quality fare on offer on Sunday, we are including the two grade one races taking place on that day, namely the Haskell and the Bing Crosby.
Indeed we start with Monmouth Park’s Haskell Invitational Stakes, sponsored by Betfair, who will no doubt be taking the country by storm in the years to come. The race is for 3 year olds only over a mile and an eighth and is worth a mouthwatering $1m.
The race has drawn a small but select field of six runners, including the first three in the Kentucky Derby in Nyquist, Exaggerator and Gun Runner. Then there is the “arriviste” American Freedom, who is on the upgrade having won the grade 3 Iowa Derby. The remaining 2 runners, Awesome Slew and Sunny Ridge are no mugs either!
Nyquist is 6/5 Morning Line favorite and justifiably so on all known form, particularly over this trip. The big unknown is how the major contenders have moved on from their Triple Crown campaign both physically and mentally. Alongside that, they are three year olds and they are still growing and developing so this adds another unknown. Just sit back, watch and enjoy a supremely educational race.
The other Grade 1 on the Sunday is the Bing Crosby, a sprint over 6 furlongs for 3 year olds and above worth $300,000. Just to add extra spice to the race, the winner gets and expenses paid entry to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
This looks another really difficult puzzle to solve with plenty of horses bringing good form and Beyers to the table. There looks to be loads of pace in this race so I am looking at taking a chance with Lord Nelson. He really needs 7 furlongs but he should be finishing when others have cried enough.
Now we move back to Saturday’s fare and the big race of the day is the Saratoga’s Jim Dandy, a Grade 2 race with Grade 1 ($600,000) prize money. As with the Haskell, the race is for three year olds only and is over a mile and an eighth of the dirt track. We know that the first three in the Kentucky Derby are in the Haskell but the race is still a real cracker with horses like Mohaymen, Destin and Creator in the six runner field.
Mohaymen was the young pretender early in the year but was blown away by Nyquist and he has come up short at the highest level. This race could work out well for him as he has decisions against the principals in this race. In the Kentucky Derby he finished in front of Destin but he got the run of the race that day and it wouldn’t surprise me if the tables were turned today. However, at the Morning Line odds of 2/1 (Mohaymen 9/5), he doesn’t represent a whole heap of value.
Saratoga has put on a stunning card and this includes, in the race before the Jim Dandy, the Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap, a Grade 1 sprint over 6 furlongs for three year olds and above worth $350,000. This is a seriously hot race with six of the 8 runners having recorded a Beyer of 100+ in their last race.
Trainer Jorge Navarro is triple handed in this race and they all have chances but Delta Bluesman looks the call. He is Mr Consistency, recording Beyers of 103, 101 and 103 in his last three races and who can forget his superb win in the Smile Stakes where he saw off the extremely talented Limousine Liberal. Anchor Down would provide solid opposition but he may well not run having been drawn in the one box.
We move to beautiful Del Mar for the last race of this week’s review and it’s another Grade 1 in the form of the $300,000 Clement L Hirsch Stakes for 3 year old and above fillies and mares over a mile and a sixteenth of the dirt track.
Just the five runners face the starter for this race, presumably scared off by the presence of the mighty six year old Beholder. She is the 1/5 Morning Line favorite and it is not difficult to see why. She won this race last year before beating the boys in the Pacific Classic last August. She has Stellar Wind (receiving 2 pounds) to beat.