By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
An exciting weekend of
racing awaits! High-class action is slated to take place across North America,
with major stakes scheduled at Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Woodbine.
I don't think there's any
trainer poised to enjoy more success in North America this week than Charlie
Appleby, which is impressive when you consider Appleby isn't even based on this
continent. Conditioning horses on behalf of international powerhouse Godolphin,
Appleby only saddles a handful of horses in North America each year, yet his
resume on this side of the pond is nothing short of stellar.
Let's crunch some numbers.
Since 2013, Appleby has compiled a 30-7-6-1 record in North America, good for a
30% win rate and a 61% in-the-money rate. All seven of Appleby's wins have come
in Grade 1 stakes, including three Breeders' Cup events. In 2021, Appleby has saddled
the top two finishers in both the Just a Game S. (G1) and the Diana S. (G1).
Appleby has five horses
entered to race in North American this weekend, and I won't be surprised if
three, four, or maybe all five visit the winner's circle. Let's take a quick
look at the Appleby entries:
Jockey Club Oaks at Belmont Park: #1 Creative Flair
Placed against Group 3
company in France, Creative Flair hasn't missed the trifecta in her last six
starts, including a foray to North America for the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Oaks
(G3) last month. On that occasion, Creative Flair closed gamely into a
decidedly slow early/fast late race shape to finish third, beaten only two
lengths by a gate-to-wire winner.
Considering the final
three-sixteenths of a mile elapsed in the blazing time of :16.67 seconds,
Creative Flair never had a realistic chance to catch up. If she gets a fairer
pace to work with while stretching out over 1 3/8 miles in the Jockey Club
Oaks, she can vie for victory at a fair price.
Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park: #2 Yibir
The improving Yibir has
already won multiple times against group stakes company in England, cruising by
2 1/2 lengths in the 1 5/8-mile Bahrain Trophy (G3) before battling home by 1
1/4 lengths in the 1 1/2-mile Great Voltigeur S. (G2). It's clear racing long
distances on turf is a strong suit for the gelded son of Dubawi.
Yibir will have to reckon
with some accomplished rivals while racing 1 1/2 miles again in the Jockey Club
Derby. Belmont Derby (G1) winner Bolshoi Ballet, for example, is another talented
contender who figures to enjoy the extended journey. But Yibir is favored on
the morning line and figures to save ground from post two, so big things will
be expected from this chestnut sophomore.
Canadian International (G1) at Woodbine: #2 Walton Street
The most likely Appleby
trainee to visit the winner's circle this week might be Walton Street, the
favorite to win the 1 1/2-mile Canadian International. The seven-year-old
gelding displayed sharp form in Dubai during the winter, winning the Dubai City
of Gold (G2) before running fourth in a strong renewal of the Dubai Sheema
Classic (G1). In the latter race, Walton Street was only beaten 3 1/2 lengths
by Mishriff, Chrono Genesis, and Loves Only You—all victorious multiple times
at the Group 1 level.
Walton Street recently
returned to action with a third-place effort in the Grosser Preis von Berlin
(G1), a perfect prep run for the Canadian International. With internationally
acclaimed jockey Frankie Dettori aboard, Walton Street looks very tough to
Natalma S. (G1) at Woodbine: #4 Wild Beauty
In 2018, Appleby won the
Natalma with La Pelosa, who entered off a runner-up effort in England's Sweet
Solera S. (G3) at Newmarket. The same strategy may work again with Wild Beauty,
who was beaten only a length when second in the 2021 Sweet Solera last month.
Wild Beauty previously ran
second in the Star S. at Sandown, beaten only by the undefeated next-out Group
2 winner Inspiral. With these form lines (and jockey Frankie Dettori) in her
corner, Wild Beauty looms as a formidable threat to secure a stakes win of her
own in the Natalma.
Summer S. (G1) at Woodbine: #4 Albahr
Four starts, three
victories. Since finishing third in his debut at York, Albahr has been
unstoppable, rattling off a trio of wins. Stepping up in class for the one-mile
Stonehenge S. at Salisbury last month proved to be no obstacle, as Albahr
employed pace-tracking tactics to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
A son of Dubawi out of a Group
3-winning Street Cry mare, Albahr has the pedigree to be something special and is
regaining the services of Frankie Dettori, who guided the chestnut gelding to a
4 3/4-length romp in a Haydock Park novice stakes two starts back. There are
some promising horses entered in the Summer, but Albahr's stakes-winning form
and proven ability to handle one mile may win the day.
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like this week?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.