By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Racing fans bid farewell to
Arlington Park following the 2021 race meet, but Arlington's most prestigious
races—the Arlington Million (G1) and the Beverly D. S. (G1)—are living on at
Churchill Downs doesn't
typically race in August, but a rare (maybe unprecedented?) exception will be
made on Saturday to accommodate the running of the Arlington Million and
Beverly D. The Million has drawn the larger field, but we'll focus our
attention on the Beverly D., which is shaping up to be one of the most
intriguing races of the weekend.
The Beverly D. has
historically been contested over 1 3/16 miles, but since the Churchill Downs
turf course can't accommodate that distance, the first renewal over
Louisville's famous oval has been shortened to 1 1/8 miles.
The result is a small but
competitive field of five. Many bettors figure to favor #4 Rougir (2-1), and understandably so. The four-year-old filly won
the prestigious Prix de l'Opera (G1) over 1 1/4 miles in France last fall and
kicked off her 2022 season on a high note, dominating the 1 1/16-mile Beaugay
S. (G3) at Belmont Park in her first start for trainer Chad Brown.
Brown has won the Beverly D.
half a dozen times, including five editions in a row from 2015 through 2019.
But Rougir isn't necessarily as formidable as some of Brown's past winners. She
was beaten to fifth place when heavily favored to win the 1 1/4-mile New York
S. (G1) two starts back, and while a slow pace probably compromised her
chances, Rougir subsequently faltered to fourth place even with a faster tempo
to chase in the 1 1/8-mile Diana S. (G1) at Saratoga.
Rougir met tough company in
both the New York and Diana and is facing a somewhat easier group of rivals in
the Beverly D. But after two straight starts in which she failed to bring her
A-game, Rougir doesn't look like an unbeatable favorite at Churchill Downs.
#2 Family Way (3-1) is a logical alternative after placing
second in the New York, beaten only half a length by the talented Bleecker
Street. This effort followed a victory in the 1 1/2-mile Orchid S. (G3) and a
runner-up finish behind top-notch turf router War Like Goddess in the 1
1/2-mile Bewitch S. (G3).
But Family Way isn't without
chinks in her armor. She benefited from tracking the pedestrian pace in the New
York and still got outkicked by the deep-closing Bleecker Street. And while she
won a 1 1/8-mile allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs during the
spring of 2021, Family Way has done by far her best work running 1 1/4 miles or
father, so cutting back in distance for the Beverly D. is a question mark.
Instead, the European raider
#5 Lily Pond (5-2) offers appeal. The three-year-old
daughter of Galileo is trained by the internationally renowned Aidan O'Brien,
who saddled the sophomore filly Santa Barbara to win the 2021 Beverly D.
After winning her debut over
the synthetic track at Dundalk during the spring, Lily Pond showed promise in a
couple of starts against group stakes company, running second in the 1 1/4-mile
Blue Wind S. (G3) and third in the 1 1/2-mile Munster Oaks (G3). An attempt to
stretch out over 1 3/4 miles for the Stanerra S. (G3) produced a misfire as
Lily Pond finished a distant sixth, but cutting back in trip for the 1 1/8-mile
Kilboy Estate S. (G2) at the Curragh last month proved most suitable.
Indeed, Lily Pond rebounded nicely
on the cutback, racing forwardly throughout to win by half a length. Her
performance was all the more impressive when you consider how Lily Pond was
running back just 10 days after the Stanerra.
Following the Kilboy Estate,
Aidan O'Brien spoke highly of Lily Pond in an interview with Racing TV,
mentioning a variety of major tracks and races where Lily Pond might turn up
next. In the end, he's opted to send her stateside for the Beverly D., a
meaningful assignment when you consider O'Brien didn't enter any other runners
to race at Churchill this week. Lily Pond is O'Brien's lone representative on a
big weekend, and with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez aboard, I expect the
improving filly to deliver a winning performance.
1st: Lily Pond
3rd: Family Way
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in the Beverly D.?
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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.