The Keeneland fall meet is just a fortnight away (thank goodness), which means we're entering a two to three week stretch of prime Breeders' Cup preparations across the country; just take a quick look at the stakes races on the horizon over the next three weeks:
|21-Sep-2013||BEL||G2-Gallant Bloom||6.5||Dirt||3up, f&m|
|28-Sep-2013||BEL||G1-Flower Bowl||10.0||Turf||3up, f&m|
|28-Sep-2013||BEL||G1-JC Gold Cup||10.0||Dirt||3up|
|28-Sep-2013||SA||G1-Rodeo Drive||12.0||Turf||3up, f&m|
|29-Sep-2013||SA||G2-John Henry Turf||10.0||Turf||3up|
|5-Oct-2013||KEE||G1-First Lady||8.0||Poly||3up, f&m|
|5-Oct-2013||SA||G1-Santa Anita Sprint||6.0||Dirt||3up|
|5-Oct-2013||KEE||G1-Shadwell Turf Mile||8.0||Turf||3up|
|5-Oct-2013||SA||G2-City of Hope Mile||8.0||Turf||3up|
|6-Oct-2013||BEL||G3-Miss Grillo||8.5||Turf||2yo, f|
Whew! That's some serious stakes action on the menu over the next few weeks. Forty-three, to be exact. And that's not even counting the many ungraded events also taking place at tracks across the continent. September 28th - "Super Saturday" - will feature ten Grade 1 races in total. Niiiice.
The stakes extravaganza kicks off this weekend with three graded stakes events at Parx, including the G1-Cotillion and the G2-Pennsylvania Derby, featuring Travers winner Will Take Charge. All three of the Parx races are limited to three-year-olds (or three-year-old fillies), so we'll still have wait to see this group of sophomores jump up to face older for the first time.
The G1-Cotillion features G1-Mother Goose winner Close Hatches (5/2) and G1-Test winner Sweet Lulu(7/2) in what should be a great battle between a couple of very nice looking fillies. Sweet Lulu is undefeated in four starts for trainer Jerry Holendorefer but will try nine furlongs for the first time on Saturday. She won her first three races on synthetics in SoCal before finding her way east in grab a Grade 1 score at Saratoga.
Close Hatches has been on the bench since her excellent effort against Dreaming of Julia in late June. Mike Smith takes over for Joel Rosario for the filly's first rider change in seven lifetime starts.
Neither of the two favorites are going to get the race handed to them in the first half mile (at least it doesn't appear that way on paper) as Asiya, a stretch-out sprinter, and My Happy Face could probably contest the early pace should their riders decide to get in the mix early.
Will Take Charge is your 2/1 morning line favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby but the connections have got to be hoping somebody, anybody, goes out to challenge Moreno in the first half-mile of the race or the late-running Will Take Charge will likely have a lot of work to do in the final quarter mile.
I think it's unlikely the winner is not one of the top two betting interests in this race but if I had to take a flyer on a price play, I'd might be willing to take a shot with the entry of Transparent and Romansh (8/1); TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!
The best betting race of the Parx stakes trifecta is te 14-horse Gallant Bob - not to be confused with the Gallant Bloom at Belmont on the same day. Rainbow Heir is the tepid morning line favorite at odds of 3/1, but there are certainly plenty of horses that can challenge him in this field. That being said, if Rainbow Heir can brush off that poor performance in the Amsterdam where he was jostled around at the break, he's the one to catch. With all of the legitimate speed to his inside, Mike Smith should be able to negotiate the perfect trip from the 11-hole.
Although I don't care for the fact that he's pinned on the rail in a 14-horse field, Res Judicata (12/1) has run well at Parx in the past (4-2-1-0), albeit against less-than-stellar competition. Still, outside of Rainbow Heir, this field isn't really overflowing with proved graded stakes talent and this colt should be available at a price by the time they load into the starting gate.
Distinctiv Passion (8/1) is the wild-card in the Gallant Bob and a very interesting one at that. He's never race outside of his native California until now but he's displayed a ton of speed in each and every one of his races. He's won on synthetics, dirt and turf, and done it all from the lead in all five of his career victories. The question, however, is whether he or any other speedster in this race can grab the lead uncontestested and avoid fractions that could set things up for the late runners. Parx tends to favor speed, especially at six panels where almost 40% of the races at this distance are won from the front, so there's no guarantee a hot pace will really play to a closer.