Opening weekend at Saratoga and Del Mar. A great weekend card at Monmouth that includes Rachel Alexandra. And let's not forget about the Claiming Crown at Canterbury. This is the weekend we've been waiting for. Let's make some money.
Eddie Read Handicap
Only seven entered but four of them are group or grade I winners. All four of the G1 winners have questions marks, however. Victor's Cry stretches out to nine furlongs for the first time, Crowded House hasn't won since 2008, Acclamation tired badly last out in the United Nations, and The Usual Q. T. has lost two of three his last three since winning sixth straight. There are a lot of ways to go here.
The Usual Q. T. should be very tough and I have to lean toward him even though he will not be a very attractive price. He ran a very respectable fourth in the Dubai Duty Free in March and then returned impressively with an allowance win June 27 at Hollywood. It's very tough to win in your first start returning from Dubai, but the 4-year-old gelding was up to the task. Now he returns to Del Mar where he is 2-for-2 and he should get a nice stalking trip behind a pretty decent pace. He will be tough.
I'll use Loup Breton and Hyades with him. Loup Breton has not been quite as good as many thought he would be since coming over from Europe last fall. He just hasn't put it all together. But what he does like to do is hit the board, which he has done in four of five turf starts, including a win in the grade II San Marcos in January. He got going a bit too late in the Charles Whittingham last out in his first start under Bejarano. I think he will be a little closer to the pace on Saturday.
Hyades will not be near the front and will need a strong pace if he is to factor. But the Tapit colt seems to be getting better, as evidenced by his strong efforts in the Whittingham and American Handicap. He also likes to hit the board and will be a nice price.
Exacta box The Usual Q. T., Loup Breton, Hyades
Evening Jewel and Crisp each make their second starts on turf. Both grade I winners have finished ahead of each other once-Crisp winning the San Ysabel in January and Evening Jewel crushing her rival in the Kentucky Oaks when missing by a nose. One mile is probably not the best distance for either though, and so I'll try to beat both with It Tiz.
It Tiz is 2-for-2 since Mark Glatt switched her to turf in June, winning an optional claimer and a minor stakes-both at one mile. In fact, she is perfect in three tries at that distance, having won an allowance race on the Pro-Ride as a juvenile. David Flores stays aboard the filly, who should get a nice, stalking trip and be right in the mix at the end.
It Tiz across the board.
Coaching Club American Oaks
The top three from the Mother Goose return for this, but it is far from a three-horse race. The other five starters enter of wins, including Acting Happy and Seeking the Title who won graded events. Finger Lakes shipper Lisa's Booby Trap is also intriguing.
Devil May Care is a beast and won fairly easily in the Mother Goose in her first start after the Derby. She is going to be tough again, but might be the odds-on choice. Connie and Michael and especially Biofuel, who was closing strongly, need to improve turn the tables. Biofuel might have the best chance at doing that in her second start on dirt.
I'm going to go with a filly that might have the most upside and that is Acting Happy. Unraced as a 2YO, the Empire Maker filly has never been worse than runner-up in four starts, including her strong stakes debut May 14 when she won the G2 Black-Eyed Susan. Acting happy shows a strong work for Dutrow July 16 and keeps Lezcano. She has a similar stalking style to Devil May Care and I expect those two to have a showdown at the top of the lane. Is she good enough? We'll find out.
Exacta box Acting Happy, Biofuel, Devil May Care.
The first major 2YO race of the meet drew a field of eight with just the one stakes winner, Lou Brissie, who was destroyed by Kantharos last out. Interestingly, Kantharos was not entered by Steve Asmussen, who will save him for the Saratoga Special and instead run another impressive maiden winner, Chipshop. By Peace Rules, Chipshot went wire-to-wire at Monmouth last out after having troubled trips in his first two starts. He should take a lot of money.
The morning-line choice is Bail Out the Cat, who broke his maiden at first asking June 10 under a hand ride on the Belmont mud. Richard Violette trains the son of Tale of the Cat.
I'll go with Commonwealth Rush, who also broke his maiden first out at Belmont on June 18. The Afleet Alex colt dueled the entire way around the track while racing along the rail. He put away his rival with a determined effort in the stretch and held off another strong closer. All this while running very fast splits. Now he draws the outside post and switches to Rajiv Maragh. If he can harness his speed a bit early, he should be right in the mix.
Lou Brissie will probably be coming late in a race that looks like it will have plenty of speed.
Good for Monmouth to get the Horse of the Year, but let's be honest, this is a weak spot for her. The track did a nice job of actually getting six horses to show up, but they are all severely overmatched. Only two of them are stakes winners and both of them accomplished that last year.
There is a lot of speed in the race, which could make things interesting for Rachel. Will she be forced to rate? She probably will, which shouldn't be a problem. I'm sorry, but I just can't get excited about this race. Unless you are there to see it live, you probably feel the same way.
Who do you like this weekend? Good luck!
Also, another reminder that I will be on vacation from Aug. 1-10. If you are interested in doing a guest blog please let me know. Thanks!