US Racing - Preview of This Saturday's Grade Stakes Action
Some high quality racing but, if it’s grade one racing you want, then all roads lead to Woodbine for the Woodbine Mile and the Northern Dancer Turf. And without any further hesitation, that is where we will start today’s preview.
The Northern Dancer Turf is grade 1 event worth $300,000 and is run over a mile and a half of Woodbine’s wide turf track, which unusually is outside their all-weather course. The Arlington Million provides a significant amount of form lines with the likes of Danish Dynaformer, Wake Forest, World Approval and The Pizza man all having contested this race last time out.
On a strict interpretation of that form, Danish Dynaformer has a fine chance. He bobbled badly at the start and from then on found it difficult to get into the race before finishing well to be a close fifth, ahead of all the others reopposing today.
In addition, he loves this track and trip and has been working well. You have to say that, if his Morning Line price of 6/1 holds up, he looks a good price for an across the board wager.
If you were to overlook the Arlington Million form then, of course, World Approval must come into the reckoning as he had run well in two hot grade one events prior to the Million. The English raider, Majeed, is useful but is really only listed stakes class in the UK and it would be disappointing if he was able to make his presence felt at this level.
Now to the highlight of the Woodbine card, the grade 1 Woodbine Mile worth a cool $1m. This looks a fascinating race and, as expected for a turf race of this nature, there is a fair smattering of European raiders with 2 from England and one from France. However, assuming she is in rude health after her trip to Royal Ascot, Tepin will be incredibly hard to beat here.
She is effective on any type of track and going from firm to soft seems to be equally acceptable. She has also won after a significant break as when winning the Churchill Distaff Mile after a five month lay-off so it is Tepin’s race to lose and is naturally price accordingly, with the Morning Line quoting 1/2.
Of the European opposition, Mutakayyef looks the most likely. He is a consistent performer at the top grade and his recent third can be excused as he did not get home in a hot group 1 (equivalent to US grade 1) at York over a mile and a quarter.
However, a word or two must be given to the French entry, Mr Owen. Unraced at 2 or 3, his first (and only) run was in a group 3 event at Maisons-Laffitte and he acquitted himself well in third place. This is another step up in class but the trainer is running hot and connections would not have sent him over for the good of their health!
Next we head to the East Coast and new York’s Belmont Park and the $500,000 grade 2 Sands Point Stakes, for three year old fillies run over a mile and an eighth of the inner turf track.
7 runners face the starter and it looks a tough race to call and the Morning Line agrees, making it 5/2 the field. The race looks to be in the too tough category. There is no pace in this race and it is difficult to even envisage how this race will pan out. A number of these appear to need a strong pace to run and would likely look slow if the race is run at a gentle trot so how will their jockeys play it? Go out and make the pace and risk setting it up for one of your rivals or sit back and wait and get out-speeded?
If pushed, I might suggest a small wager on the Irish runner, Diamond Fields, who has been running in the States this summer. She had the speed to be competitive over sprint trips in Ireland but has improved for the step up in trip and she ran a fine race last time out to be third in the Lake Placid behind Time and motion and Catch A Glimpse.
Finally we pay a rare visit to Charles Town for the Charles town Oaks over the very un-Oaks like trip of 7 furlongs. There’s $350,000 up for grabs in this grade 3 contest for three year old fillies but sadly it has only attracted a turnout of just six runners.
It is difficult to get away from the Morning Line favourite (evens), Sophia’s Song from the Todd Pletcher barn. In fact, I cannot see this filly going off at anything other than a long odds-on favourite.
She has plenty of speed and the trip should suit her along with the bull-ring track. Covey Trace did run well last time out and earned a Beyer of 86 but was probably favoured by a ground saving rails trip over the fastest part of the track.