Stay Lucky Weekly Guide: Drefong’s Return and a Wide-Open Haskell

Champion sprinter Drefong, shown winning the King’s Bishop Stakes last year, makes his first start of 2017 Saturday in the Bing Crosby Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

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Stay Lucky offers participants the opportunity to win great prizes by stringing together winners in Thoroughbred races. Unbroken streaks of five, seven, nine, 14, 17 and 20 reward the players with a prize or choice of prizes. Terms and conditions apply.

The object is simple: pick winners from North American graded stakes races that draw at least six entrants. Races will be scored in real time but streaks will be updated only once daily to make sure they are scored in the correct order.

Pick as many races each weekend as you like, but be sure to play at least one race every weekend or your streak will be reset.

This weekend there are three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races in the U.S. (plus one in Europe), highlighted by the $1 million Haskell Invitational Stakes on Sunday at Monmouth Park. NBC will provide live television coverage of the Haskell from 5-6 p.m. ET Sunday. There are plenty of contest races from coast to coast on both Saturday and Sunday, so let’s dig into this weekend’s races.

Saturday, July 29

Amsterdam Stakes (3:15 p.m. ET): The temptation here is to jump on the unbeaten colt from Todd Pletcher’s barn, Coal Front (#2), and he does, in fact, look like a serious racehorse who was purchased at auction for $575,000. But there are a couple of others in here who look dangerous: Singing Bullet (#1) is 2-for-2 sprinting for Dale Romans and was a $650,000 purchase at auction; Mo Cash (#3) has three wins and two seconds in five starts and comes off a hard-fought runner-up finish in a Grade 3; and Toga Challenger (#6) also totes a record of three wins and two seconds in five starts and enters off a career-best race. Tough call.

Royal North Stakes (4:47 p.m. ET): Skylander Girl (#10) looks tough in here off back-to-back wins and I’ve donated my fair share of cash to Miss Gossip’s (#1) cause in the last year, but I like Nobody’s Fault (#4) to run a big one shipping in from Churchill.

Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (5:02 p.m. ET): A. P. Indian (#4) has not been quite as good this year as he was in 2016 with two seconds in as many races, but he really likes Saratoga and he’s 5-for-9 at this distance. I think he’s a strong play unless the track comes up muddy/sloppy.

Bowling Green Stakes (5:40 p.m. ET): I did not have Ascend (#7) at 27.50-to-1 in the Manhattan Stakes, so I’m late to the party and his odds will be a fraction of that Saturday. Good thing we’re not concerned about odds in Stay Lucky, just winners, and I think Ascend is the most likely winner here.

Bing Crosby Stakes (9:10 p.m. ET): It’s going to be tough to resist pushing all of your chips in on champion sprinter Drefong (#2) this week. There’s a very good chance he’s your Bing Crosby winner, but there are a few points of caution. It’s his first start off an 8 ½-month layoff. He’s facing a tough bunch that includes another front-running, legit contender in St. Joe Bay (#3), who is 2-for-2 at Del Mar with his best Equibase Speed Figure to date and should pressure Drefong early. Roy H (#8) ran a hole in the wind at Belmont when winning the True North Stakes in June  earning a 127 Equibase Speed Figure that is six points higher than anyone in the field has ever recorded — and he is on a three-race winning streak. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is a master of bringing horses back off a layoff, but this appears to be a formidable challenge, even for a champion.

Sunday, July 30

Monmouth Stakes (2:56 p.m. ET): Give Money Multiplier (#2) a fairly significant edge on class in this race and he finished second in the Grade 1 United Nations in 2016 on this turf course, but he’s making his first start in 8 ½ months and I think Irish Strait (#4) might be dangerous. Tough call.

Molly Pitcher Stakes (4:38 p.m. ET): Carrumba (#2) has faced some of the best older fillies and mare over the last two years and held her own. She’s lost seven straight but has finished in the top three five times in that stretch. She has a great chance to halt the winless stretch here, but I’m not willing to risk a significant Stay Lucky streak on that.

Miss Temple City

Winstar Matchmaker Stakes (5:12 p.m. ET): Miss Temple City (#2) missed a couple of planned starts this spring because of rain and soft turf conditions. She then shipped to Royal Ascot to face some of the best milers in the world in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes and never fired, finishing 13th in a 16-horse field. I think she probably needed a race and expect a much sharper effort here. Plus, she get significant class relief dropping to a Grade 3 at Monmouth. She’s much the best here if she’s back on her game. Haskell Invitational Stakes (5:47 p.m. ET): For a seven-horse field, this is a great race. I like 5-2 morning-line favorite Irish War Cry (#1), but with six horses between 5-2 and 6-1 it’s anyone’s race. A pass for me for Stay Lucky purposes, but a must-watch race on NBC.

Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (8:40 p.m. ET): This race looks like a true coin-flip race to me between Vale Dori (#2), who had won six straight before losing by a neck in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile, and champion Stellar Wind (#3), the mare who defeated Vale Dori in that one-mile race. This race is a little longer at 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar. Stellar Wind is 2-for-2 at Del Mar and 6-for-6 at this distance. Vale Dori is 2-for-3 at Del Mar and has won five of six at this distance. Give Stellar Wind the edge, but expect Vale Dori to give her a real challenge.

Top 4 Stay Lucky Plays

(Top plays – 18 winners/35 starters)

1. A. P. Indian (Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap)

2. Miss Temple City (Winstar Matchmaker Stakes)

3. Ascend (Bowling Green Stakes)

4. Stellar Wind (Clement L. Hirsch Stakes)

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