Stay Lucky Guide: Breeders’ Cup Prep Season Shifts into High Gear


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The action really heats up this weeks with only five weeks remaining before the Breeders' Cup World Championships and five Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races at Santa Anita Park as well as two at Belmont Park, plus many other graded stakes races that qualified for this week’s Stay Lucky slate. Television coverage of the two Belmont preps will be provided by Belmont Live on Fox Sports Network as well as TVG. The five Santa Anita “Win and You’re In” races will be part of TVG’s on-site coverage. For more information, click here.

Friday, Sept. 29

Eddie D Stakes (8 p.m. ET): I’m firmly on the Om (#4) bandwagon here. He’s lost eight straight, but he’s been running exclusively in graded stakes during the drought and has finished in the top three in seven of those eight defeats. He’s only raced once on this downhill turf course and finished second by a nose last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Guns Loaded (#7) also really likes this course and Tribalist (#2) is in terrific form, but I think it’s a perfect spot for Om to regain his winning form.

Saturday, Sept. 30

Commonwealth Oaks Presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance and the Virginia HBPA (3:30 p.m. ET): My first instinct was to push my chips in on Rymska (#3), who is coming off a long layoff since winning her 2017 debut in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February. I still think she’s the most likely winner but Proud Reunion (#1) comes off a nice win for the always-dangerous Tom Proctor; Rymska’s stablemate Taperge (#7) won her last start impressively; Flower Fashion (#9) is interesting in her U.S. debut for trainer Christophe Clement; and In the Lee (#10) is 2-for-2 on the Laurel turf and her owner has won each of the last two editions of this race.

Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup Stakes (4 p.m. ET): This race drew a number of horses capable of monster races on their best day who have not been at their best of late. I’ll try Blacktype (#7) in his bid for a repeat win following a nice confidence-building allowance victory in his last start, but I’m not brimming with confidence.

Vosburgh Stakes (4:04 p.m. ET): There are a number of races this week where on paper there appears to be a pretty clear standout, but I’m having trouble buying stock. El Deal (#2) is the fastest horse in the race and has won three straight by a combined margin of 18 ¾ lengths, but he’s almost certainly going to be pressured from the start by Green Gratto (#3), Takaful (#4), Mr. Crow (#5) or all three. I think that pace scenario sets up the Vosburgh perfectly for Stallwalkin’ Dude (#1), who loves Belmont and ran second in this race in 2016

Pilgrim Stakes (4:37 p.m. ET): There isn’t a stakes winner in this field of 2-year-olds and the probable favorites enter off maiden victories. I like Desert Stone (#1) to turn the tables on one of the likely favorites, Maraud (#6), who beat him by two lengths on Sept. 2 at Saratoga, but not enough to risk a nice winning streak on it.

Lukas Classic Stakes (4:49 p.m. ET): With three wins and two seconds — one of which was to Gun Runner in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap — in his last five races and multiple graded stakes wins to his credit, Honorable Duty (#7) is both in great form and the class of this field. He looks like a solid play this week.

Beldame Stakes (5:11 p.m. ET): Asking a 3-year-old to step up and face older horses for the first time is a big test, but I think Grade 1 Alabama Stakes winner Elate (#1) is up to the challenge. Alabama runner-up It Tiz Well came back and beat three-time Grade 1 winner Abel Tasman last weekend in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes. Elate has gotten really good very quickly and the competition she’ll be facing doesn’t scare me. I expect her to win fairly easily.

Ack Ack Handicap (5:20 p.m. ET): My three top contenders are stakes winner Conquest Big E (#2), multiple graded stakes winner Awesome Slew (#4), and Grade 2-placed winner The Player (#7), who is 3-for-3 at one mile and has won twice in four starts at Churchill Downs. My hunch is Awesome Slew’s class carries him to victory here, but he won’t be a top play this week.

Commonwealth Derby Presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance and the Virginia HBPA (5:30 p.m. ET): The temptation here is to quickly lock in Voodoo Song (#4) after he won four straight races at Saratoga this summer. He also is the controlling speed in the race, which makes him especially dangerous. But I loved what I saw from Profiteer (#5) in his most recent start, when he closed powerfully at Saratoga for an allowance win, and he’s my pick for a mild upset win.

Zenyatta Stakes (5:30 p.m. ET): Before the entries came out, I promised myself I wouldn’t get lured into taking Paradise Woods (#4) again. Guess what? I’m taking Paradise Woods. Despite back-to-back duds, I love Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella at Santa Anita Park, Paradise Woods last three workouts are eye-popping, and she’s facing a mediocre bunch.

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (5:45 p.m. ET): I love this race from a gambling perspective with a deep, talented field and plenty of betting angles, but for Stay Lucky purposes I’ll steer clear. For what it’s worth, I’ll take a shot on a horse I expect to be a very appealing price, Mekhtaal (#8), making his second start in the U.S. after finishing 10th in the Arlington Million.

Chandelier Stakes (6:30 p.m. ET): Looks like a three-filly race to me between Alluring Star (#2), Moonshine Memories (#3), and Piedi Bianchi (#7). Moonshine Memories got the better of Piedi Bianchi in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, but I think the Debutante runner-up turns the tables on her familiar rival here.

FrontRunner Stakes (7 p.m. ET): I love Bolt d’Oro’s (#4) chances to excel as his races get longer. He’s my pick for the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, so it goes without saying I’m on board here. This bay Medaglia d’Oro colt looked like he could have done another lap after winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity at seven-eighths of a mile on Sept. 4. His middle move to rally into contention into a torrid half-mile in :44.54 was eye-catching. My top play.

Rodeo Drive Stakes (7:30 p.m. ET): Overall, this feels like a pass for me … a deep, talented field of turf females that have been beating up on each other all year. But I have to admit, I like Goodyearforroses (#10) chances after finishing second to a pair of elite runners in her last two.

Awesome Again Stakes (8 p.m. ET): Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has dominated the dirt older male division all year and I expect that to continue on Saturday with Cupid (#8). Don’t sweat the outside post position. Cupid will place himself in perfect stalking position early and be poised to strike at the top of the stretch on a racetrack where he’s got two wins and a second in three starts.

Sunday, Oct. 1

Grey Stakes (4:57 p.m. ET): I landed on Archaggelos (#6) in the Grey Stakes. I’ve always been a fan of his trainer, Michael Dickinson, and he’s won at this 1 1/16-mile distance, albeit on turf. If anyone would know whether or not he’ll handle the switch to the synthetic Tapeta Footings main track at Woodbine it’s Dickinson, who created the surface and has a Tapeta training track at his Tapeta Farm, where Archaggelos is stabled.

Miss Grillo Stakes (5:13 p.m. ET): I think any one of the four outside horses could win this race, which is to say it’s a tough one for Stay Lucky purposes.

John Henry Turf Championship Stakes (6:30 p.m. ET): On paper this probably looks to most like a coin flip between Itsinthepost (#1) and Hunt (#8). The latter defeated Itisinthepost by three-quarters of a length to win the 1 3/8-mile Del Mar Handicap, but many believed with a better trip Itsinthepost would have won. Cutting back an eighth of a mile for this race might dull the better-trip angle, and I actually prefer Chicago Style (#4) to both of them, but it’s a tough call. I’m staying away.

Top 5 Stay Lucky Plays

(Top plays – 28 winners/64 picks)

1. Bolt d’Oro (FrontRunner Stakes)

2. Honorable Duty (Lukas Classic Stakes)

3. Elate (Beldame Stakes)

4. Om (Eddie D Stakes)

5. Cupid (Awesome Again Stakes)

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