We have a spectacular day’s racing today with no less than 8 grade 1s for us to enjoy. In fact there is so much top flight racing that I am going to have to cherry-pick the races that will form this weekend’s preview.
We will start at Belmont Park, which has a superb card with prize money well in excess of $2m and includes 3 grade 1s plus a grade 2 and a grade 3. The first grade 1 on the card is the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes run over a mile and a half and worth $500,000.
Only four runners face the starter for this valuable event (named after one of the great DRF columnists) and this is no doubt due to the presence of Flintshire installed, as usual, as the Morning Line favourite at 1/5.
The prohibitively short price is fully deserved as he has looked head and shoulders above all the US based long distance turf horses and none of his three opponents would appear to have anything in their armoury that can hurt him.
The one possible fly in the ointment is the ground. Flintshire was sent to the USA so that he would encounter the fast ground that he loves. He has some form on European good to soft but his only unplaced finishes have been on soft ground.
The possibility of this ground looks quite high with rain forecast. If the ground came up very soft or heavy, it may be worth risking a small win and place bet on Todd Pletcher’s Ectot. He has not been seen at his best so far in his US career but he is a grade 1 winner in France on soft and, if he can settle, may be the one to upset the apple-cart.
The next grade 1 is one for the sprinters. The Vosburgh Stakes is a race for 3 year olds and above over 6 furlongs worth $350,000. The complexion of this race looks likely to change significantly as it has been announced that the Morning Line evens favourite, AP Indian, will not run. Trainer Arnaud Delacour is treating this race as a prep race for the Breeders’ Cup and is not prepared to run AP Indian on a sloppy track.
This will likely mean that favouritism goes to the excellent XY Jet, whose unbeaten run was halted by Muarrab in a titanic duel in the Golden Shaheen. After this race, the horse underwent a knee operation to remove a small flake of bone hence the long lay-off.
Trainer Jorge Navarro is very bullish about the horse and is not concerned about the lay-off. He says the horse is in the best shape ever and is so fit and bouncing, he will have to be ponied down to the start. It will be great to see XY Jet back to winning form although Holy Boss will be no pushover.
The final grade 1 of the card is the Beldame, a $400,000 race for 3 year old and above fillies and mares over a mile and an eighth.
Forever Unbridled is the Morning Line evens favorite and her presence is interesting given connections said they were never going to run over this trip at Belmont after her defeat in the Ogden Phipps back in June.
In truth, this doesn’t look the strongest of races with none of Forever Unbridled’s six opponents being out of the top drawer and you can understand why connections are so keen to run. Her Beyers are well ahead of the opposition and it will be disappointing if she cannot take this grade 1.
We head to Santa Anita where their card includes 5 grade 1 races on the bounce although some are for 2 year olds and I am not a huge fan of these big ticket races for juveniles as there is significant potential for rewarding precocity rather than raw talent.
Anyway, after my rant, let’s get on to the Awesome Again Stakes, a $300,000 race for 3 year olds and up over mile and an eighth. This is an ideal prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic even before you throw in the bonus of a free entry to the big race to the winner.
The mighty California Chrome, rated the best horse in the world, has won all his five races this year and comes into this race the Morning Line 2/5. There are some very decent horses up against him in the form of Dortmund and Hoppertunity but it would be a major surprise if California Chrome didn’t keep the winning run going and continue on the trail for the $1m bonus for winning the Pacific Classic, Awesome Again and Breeders’ Cup Classic treble.