Summer stakes action begins to heat up as we head into the first weekend of June. Last weekend we were presented with a smorgasbord of turf races. This weekend every graded race will take place on the main track. Additionally, the Epsom Derby will takes place in England on Saturday morning.
Below is a summary of some of the top stakes action around the country this weekend. All post times are Eastern.
|Day / Post Time||Race||Track||Age/Sex||Dist.||Surf.|
|Sat / 8:35a||G3-Prix Du Palais-Royal||Longchamp||3up||7.0||Turf|
|Sat / 9:40a||G3-Diomed Stakes||Epsom Downs||3up||8.0||Turf|
|Sat / 11:00a||G1-Epsom Derby||Epsom Downs||3yo||12.0||Turf|
|Sat / 12:340a||G3-Bellmondo-Pokal||Baden-Baden||3up||6.0||Turf|
|Sat / 4:50p||G3-Dogwood||CD||3yo, f||8.0||Dirt|
|Sat / 5:17p||G2-Vagrancy||BEL||3up, f&m||6.5||Dirt|
|Sat / 5:29p||G3-Aristides||CD||3up||6.0||Dirt|
|Sat / 5:50p||G3-Ohio Derby||TDN||3yo||8.5||Dirt|
|Sat / 7:38p||G2-Californian||HOL||3up||9.0||Synth.|
|Sun / 4:41p||Woodbine Oaks||WO||3yo, f||9.0||Synth.|
|Sun / 5:16p||Plate Trial||WO||3yo||9.0||Synth.|
Some thoughts on this weekend's action:
- Hilda's Passion returns after her disappointment on the Kentucky Derby undercard to run in the Grade 2 - Vagrancy at Belmont Park. She is an overwhelming favorite on the morning line at 3/5.
Twirling Candy will try to make amends after his disappointing effort in the Big Cap last time out and will take on seven other rivals in the Grade 2 - Californian Stakes at Hollywood on Saturday. Among those in the field to challenge Twirling Candy are Aggie Engineer, Soul Candy, Gladding, and Setsuko.
I wrote the other day about the lack of depth and excitement in the older horse division this season but I think Twirling Candy is a colt that could, if he's able to take a step forward in his development this summer, find himself at the top of the Classic division list. He's shown an ability to run a big race on dirt (G1-Malibu and G2-Strub at Santa Anita).
The Californian find Twirling Candy back on the synthetic surface of Hollywood for the first time since his N1X over a year ago, but that shouldn't be a problem at all given he's a perfect 2-for-2 on the surface. Trainer John Sadler might be looking for a Twirling Candy to relax a bit more in the early stages, something he didn't do in the Big Cap, and will remove the blinkers for Californian.
As for some of the others in the Californian:
-Aggie Engineer flopped badly in the Big Cap (9th, beaten 12 lengths), but he loves it at Hollywood (6-3-1-1).
-Soul Candy (not a son of Candy Ride (ARG)), ran well in the Big Cap when he finished 4th when you consider he was trying to close into the speed bias that existed almost the entire meet. He tried the 12 furlong Tokyo City later in March and finished 4th again.
-Setsuko, still only a maiden winner, just missed his first Grade 1 triumph when he when Game On Dude beat him by a nose in the Big Cap. That effort is by far the best of his career.
-Gladding is on good form but has seen his best performances come over the dirt at Lone Star and Santa Anita. This will be his first try on synthetics, though he has run well on turf in the past.
- Thistledown gets into the graded stakes action on Saturday with the Grade 3 - Ohio Derby and a field of ten three-year-old colts. Caleb's Posse (winner of the listed Smarty Jones at Oaklawn; 2nd in the Rebel) and Wilkinson (winner of the G3-LeComte at the Fair Grounds), lead the field of contenders.
A lightly raced colt to keep an eye on in the Ohio Derby is the 10-Global Power (7/2). The Chad Brown trainee has just two starts under his belt and recently broke his maiden at Belmont Park back on April 30th. This will be Global Power's first try going two-turn and, pedigree-wise, he should be up for the task. His dam, Hidden Cast (Storm Cat) was 2-for-2 while routing during her career, and his half-brother, Pegasusbystorm (Fusaichi Pegasus), also won a couple of dirt routes.
- With the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs again this fall, I always like to pay a little extra attention to any graded races occurring at the track during the spring/summer meet to see if there are any horses that take a particular liking to the surface. We've got two graded races at Churchill on Saturday: the G3-Dogwood for three-year-old fillies at one mile, and the G3-Aristides for the older males at six furlongs.
1-Might (2/1), a very impressive winner of an N1X on Kentucky Oaks day, will face seven rivals in the Dogwood. Keep an eye on the 4-Fantasy of Flight (4/1) a second-time starter for John Terranova that jumps up into stakes company after winning her debut on the last race of the Oaks day card, a Maiden Special Weight at six furlong. Additionally, 8-Grand Lioness (4/1) has tried routing, turf, and synthetic, but has had her best success going one turn on dirt 4-3-0-0), something she'll get to do in this spot.
In the Aristides, a local favorite from here in the Pacific Northwest, 7-Atta Boy Roy (6/1), will return to the race that he finished 2nd in last June. Atta Boy Roy suffered an injury during last fall's Breeders' Cup Sprint, but has returned this spring to run at Santa Anita and Turf Paradise. I'm not sure if he's back to his top form from last summer, but here's hoping that the Washington-bred has a nice showing at Churchill.