We're just a stones throw away from the opening of the meets at Saratoga and Del Mar but there is a little unfinished business at Belmont and Hollywood Park in the form of a couple of Grade 1 events. In Chicago, Arlington Park sets the local stage for the 2013 Arlington Million with a quartet of graded stakes races on the lawn.
I'm heading out to Emerald Downs on both Saturday and Sunday for what should be a picture perfect weekend for enjoying racing in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. For those locally-based readers, I'll be on the Win Place Show Saturday morning on SportsRadio 950AM KJR, and on ComcastSports Net Northwest from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to talk handicapping with Joe Withee from Emerald Downs. Hopefully I can get lucky and pick a winner or two.
Sunday's feature race at Emerald is the Seattle Slew Handicap with Finallygotabentley, a three-year-old colt by Benardini out of champion Emerald Downs juvenile Smarty Deb, as one of the prime contenders. Finallygotabentley won the Auburn Handicap earlier this spring and finished second to Music of My Soul (the likely favorite in Sunday's race) in the Gottstein Futurity last September. The Northwest Farms home-bred is trained by Tom Wenzel, one of the best stakes trainers at the track, and ridden by top pilot Juan Gutierrez.
- Million Day at Arlington Park is one of my favorite days of racing during the year; it's hard not to love a card with three Grade 1 races, all on the lawn, and usually featuring some shippers from across the Atlantic. Last year, Arlington added a new wrinkle to the Million Day card, the Arlington St. Leger, a mile and 11/16ths race on the lawn modeled after the English and Irish St. Leger races in Europe. (Why a mile an 11/16ths? Cause that distance provides for a less-awful gate position.)
While the Million is still a month away, this Saturday's Arlington card features four graded stakes on Million Preview Day:
G3-American Derby, 3yo, 1 3/16 Miles
G3-Arlington Handicap, 3up, 1 1/4 Miles
G3-Modesty Handicap, 3up, f&m, 1 3/16 Miles
G3-Stars and Stripes, 3up, 1 1/2 Miles
- La Tia is one of the more intriguing entries in the Modesty, the local prep for the Beverly D., as she's got one running style in her arsenal: Speed. The last time this filly didn't get the lead right out of the staring gate, she finished 11th, beaten 13 lengths in the G2-Ravens Run at Keeneland. She's got the need for speed.
- Turning to the Arlington Handicap, Pacific Classic winner Dullahan returns to North America after a Little Mike-like performance in Dubai this winter. He finished 11th in the G3-Burj Nahaar and 11th in the G1-Dubai World Cup during his time in the UAE and never ran so much as a lick in either race. Like Little Mike, he'll probably appreciate returning to home to North America but I need to see something from this colt before I go placing any of my money on him. Additionally, he's yet to prove his class on anything but synthetics so, yeah, I'll be looking elsewhere in the American Handicap.
Does anybody want the lead in the Arlington Handicap? Coalport and Beer Garden should be in the mix but I get the feeling that Rahystrada might find himself with a really nice trip around the Arlington Park turf course.
- The G1-Man o'War is another great summer time turf event and this year's edition drew a decent field of eight, led by two colts that are sure to take a lot of action at the windows: Boisterous (9/5) and Optimizer (2/1).
- The Delaware Oaks features a field of nine fillies, and many of those would love to be up on the lead in the early stages. Go For Wand winner Tell a Great Story should be able to track the early leaders just like she did when she beat Ile St. Molly by a nose back on June 15.
- A nice card at Colonial Downs for Virginia Derby day. There are Kitten's everywhere as Ken & Sarah Ramsey has shipped a plethora of Kitten's Joy offspring into the state looking for some additional cash for the old bankroll. The Virginia Derby features three sons of Kitten's Joy (two owned by the Ramseys) in the 10 horse field: Redwood Kitten, Charming Kitten, and Fear the Kitten. There are also two sons of War Front in the field (Jack Milton and War Dancer) and two sons of Shakespeare (Readyshakego and Gefest).
- The final Grade 1 American Oaks drew a field of eight at Betfair Hollywood Park featuring a nice looking field featuring Emollient (winner of the G1-Ashland at Keeneland) , Sarach (winner of the G2-Honeymoon at Hollywood, and ta da!, a Kitten's Joy runner from the Ramsey Farm: Emotional Kitten.
That's my early thoughts on some of the stakes races on tap this weekend. What races are you looking at?