Saratoga will be the focus of much of my attention this weekend, but the grade I Eddie Read Stakes from Del Mar figures to be a key race in a distance turf division that, quite frankly, is as soft as it has been in many years.
Acclamation has put together two consecutive impressive wins including the grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap last month, and if he should win the Eddie Read on Saturday he probably jumps to the top of the division. Acclamation won the same two races last year at Hollywood (grade II Jim Murray Handicap and Charles Whittingham) that he did this year, but before now I've never thought of him as a leading turf horse. Based on his current form and the lack of a true standout in the division, I may have to revisit my opinion.
The main competition for Acclamation in the Eddie Read appears to be Caracortado and Smart Bid, both nice horses but certainly not stars. If Acclamation, who is probably better the longer he goes, can beat them at 1 1/8 miles that would give him three wins at three different distances this year. What other U.S.-based Breeders' Cup Turf candidates would you put over him?
The only other horse would be Teaks North, who has won two grade I races this year and punched his ticket to the Breeders' Cup when winning the United Nations. He could go in either the Sword Dancer Invitational or Arlington Million next.
Other turf horses worth mentioning are Cape Blanco, who certainly was impressive in the Man o' War in his U.S. debut but that was his first win since September and I need to see him do it again. I think it is clear by now that reigning champion Gio Ponti has lost a step and is no longer the division leader. Courageous Cat is brilliant when healthy but he is a turf miler. Get Stormy is also a nice horse but is probably best suited at a mile as well. Sidney's Candy is as talented as anyone but Todd Pletcher is going to run him on dirt for now. Paddy O'Prado was destined to be a star until being retired with an injury.
Am I missing anyone? Obviously, there are the European standouts Goldikova, Canford Cliffs, and Frankel but they won't touch U.S. soil until November and are milers anyway.
Given the lack of depth or standout in the division, if Acclamation wins the Eddie Read I think he jumps to the head of the class. Let's see how it turns out. For the record, I'll go with Smart Bid, who has had some tough losses this year but has remained in good form for a couple of years now. Thoughts?