2023 Kentucky Derby Hopeful Snapshots: Two Phil’s
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This weekend’s graded stakes schedule is comparatively light – the calm before the storm as both Del Mar and Saratoga will be up and running next weekend, with the anticipated return of Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap on July 22 topping the marquee. This Saturday, July 15, will feature another superstar, however, and she’s a logical choice for all Stay Lucky players as they seek to build a winning streak. Songbird’s start in the Delaware Handicap will be part of a broadcast package on Fox Sports Network Saturday afternoon from Delaware Park. Later that evening, Indiana Grand will host its two signature races for 3-year-olds, the Grade 3 Indiana Derby and Indiana Oaks.
Saturday, July 15
Kent Stakes (4:55 p.m. ET): Frostmourne (#6) was very impressive in winning the Penn Mile Stakes last month, and both he and Master Plan (#5) have a class edge on the other five entrants. I am intrigued by Lunaire (#2), a horse on the upswing who has Mike Smith tabbed to ride, but overall I think there’s enough pace in this 1 1/8-mile turf race to set up Frostmourne’s closing kick.
Delaware Handicap (5:30 p.m. ET): Songbird (#5) is set as the 1-5 morning-line favorite in a field of six fillies and mares, and by post time she should be 1-9. As Ellis Star notes in his analysis of this race for America’s Best Racing, there are two other Del ‘Cap starters who have good career winning percentages in Martini Glass (#2) and Line of Best Fit (#4), but neither have raced at 1 ¼ miles before nor do they have Songbird’s high cruising speed. The only other graded stakes winner in the race is Weep No More (#3), who upset the Central Bank Ashland Stakes last year but then finished a combined 26 ¼ lengths behind Songbird in two starts later that summer. Something totally unexpected would have to happen for this champion filly to lose on Saturday.
Los Alamitos Derby (7:58 p.m. ET): West Coast (#5) stands out in this eight-horse field in terms of recent form, as he emerged a bit too late for Bob Baffert to contest the Triple Crown but now appears ready to tackle some of the top divisional races this summer. He also has a good stalk-and-pounce running style for the Los Al Derby, as several other starters are speed horses. He’s by no means a lock, however, as I think Kimbear (#1) has room to improve, Cistron (#2) may prefer turf but is very consistent, and Colonist (#3) has a lot of untapped potential and elite connections. This race also signals the return of Klimt (#6), who won two graded stakes for juveniles at Del Mar last fall but has not raced since the Breeders’ Cup. All that said, West Coast is my pick.
Indiana Oaks (9:21 p.m. ET): Two fillies ship in from California to southeast Indiana to contest this race after running well in last month’s Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita: Majestic Quality (#4) and Mopotism (#8). Bill Mott also brings maiden winner Overture (#1) in from Belmont Park, and Stonetacular (#6) has shown good form at Churchill Downs. But my pick is Awestruck (#5), who disappointed as the favorite in a seven-furlong allowance at Churchill back in May but romped by seven lengths to break her maiden at Keeneland in her previous race and should appreciate stretching out to two turns as she’s by Tapit and out of 1 1/8-mile graded stakes winner Tizfiz, by Tiznow. Plus, Joe Bravo, who was aboard for that Keeneland win, is flying in from the Jersey shore to pick up the mount – a very good sign.
Indiana Derby (9:49 p.m. ET): The Indiana Derby is shaping up to be a very competitive race, with 11 3-year-olds entered, led by recent Ohio Derby winner Irap (#2), who upset the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes back in April for J. Paul Reddam and Doug O’Neill. Fellow Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands starter Untrapped (#9) finished third in the Ohio Derby and also shows up in this race on a quick turnaround. There are at least four or five other horses in the Indiana Derby that lack similar big-race experience but have shown enough potential to eventually become stakes winners, however, making this a wide-open affair and a race I’ll pass on for Stay Lucky purposes.
Sunday, July 16
Vigil Stakes (4:58 p.m. ET): Pink Lloyd (#3) is 6 for 8 lifetime, all races held on Woodbine’s synthetic main track, and shows trouble lines in his two losses as well as in three of his wins. The 5-year-old gelding has won all three of his starts this year – all in stakes – and can win either on the lead or by stalking the pace. He’s a worthy favorite, but other races hold more appeal this weekend for Stay Lucky.
4. West Coast