Forte Continues to Lead Triple Crown Poll Ahead of Major Prep Weekend
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This weekend the focus is on Arlington International Racecourse, which will host the International Festival of Racing on Saturday. The festival features five graded stakes highlighted by a pair of Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races on the Road to the Breeders’ Cup: the Arlington Million, a 1 1/4-mile turf race, and the Beverly D. Stakes for turf females at 1 3/16 miles. The winners of the Million and the Beverly D. receive berths to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf and the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, respectively.
The Arlington Million and Beverly D. will be featured in an hour-long broadcast by NBC Sports as part of the network’s “Win and You’re In” series of telecasts presented by Lane’s End and America’s Best Racing. The broadcast will air on NBCSN from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. ET.
Saturday, Aug. 12
Adirondack Stakes (2:44 p.m. ET): I believe I’ve mentioned before that I have difficulty handicapping 2-year-old fillies in the summer. Things clear up a bit for me once fall comes around and there is a little more substance in the past performances. But for now, I’ll stay away, although unbeaten stakes winner Pure Silver (#1) does look especially strong in here for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Secretariat Stakes (4:50 p.m. ET): This race only drew six entrants, but multiple Grade 1 winner Oscar Performance (#4) is in career-best form and European invaders Afandem (#1), Permian (#3) and Taj Mahal (#6) all look dangerous. If Sonic Boom (#2) or perhaps one of the Euros challenges Oscar Performance for the early lead, it could be an interesting race; if they let him set the tempo uncontested … it might be over by the first turn.
Monmouth Oaks (5:20 p.m. ET): Trainer Larry Jones has always had a way with quality fillies and I think he has a really nice one in Proud and Fearless (#8). She won two straight before a close runner-up finish to the talented It Tiz Well in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 8. She’s got early speed, too, which is especially dangerous on the main track at Monmouth.
American St. Leger Stakes (5:58 p.m. ET): This race will be a pretty significant class test for Keystoneforvictory (#1). Even though he won a Grade 3 at Arlington in his most recent race, this looks like a much tougher group. He seemed to like this turf course in his first attempt on it and he’s 3-for-3 in the U.S. this year with a third in the Barbados Gold Cup.
Fourstardave Handicap (6:28 p.m. ET): On paper, this looks like an evenly matched field, and you could probably make a case for any of the six horses entered (not including the main-track-only contender Weekend Hideaway). But I really like Time Test (#3) in his third start off the layoff for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown. He was an elite miler in Europe and there’s no reason he can’t emerge as one in the U.S. He takes the first step on Saturday.
Beverly D. Stakes (6:35 p.m. ET): Aidan O’Brien ships in Darley Irish Oaks runner-up Rain Goddess (#10) for the Beverly D., and she certainly look like a classy Irish invader. But I’ve been blown away by Dona Bruja (#4) in her two starts in the U.S. She was smashing in the local prep for this — the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap on July 8 at the Beverly D. distance — and overall she's won 10 of 12 career starts with a pair of seconds. She’ll be my top pick this week.
Arlington Million XXXV Stakes (7:19 p.m. ET): This looks like a great betting race to me. I expect Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville (#5) to go off as the favorite and rightfully so as he’s raced in elite company in England and Ireland this year with a win, two seconds and two thirds in five starts. I think fellow European invaders Scottish (#9) and Mekhtaal (#13) are very dangerous as are a number of Americans, so I’ll look for an easier Stay Lucky spot and enjoy this one.
Pucker Up Stakes (8:02 p.m. ET): The top two contenders in this 12-horse field look like Lipstick City (#3) and Journey Home (#4). I lean slightly toward the latter, but I’m nowhere near confident enough to risk a Stay Lucky streak on it.
Best Pal Stakes (9 p.m. ET): I expect Run Away (#1) to be the favorite, but I’ll take my chances with Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and Serengeti (#5). After running second in his debut, he won his second career start by 11 lengths and has been training lights out.
Sunday, Aug. 13
Seagram Cup Stakes(4:47 p.m. ET): Melmich (#3) enters off a Grade 3 win and is 2-for-2 this year. He looks like a solid favorite, but both Unbridled Juan (#6) and Are You Kidding Me (#7) are dangerous.
Saratoga Special Stakes (5:02 p.m. ET):Copper Bullet (#9) ran a strong second in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes on June 30 despite finding trouble at the quarter-pole. I like his chances to win here, but it’s a tough race.
Groupie Doll Stakes(5:10 p.m. ET): I look at the Groupie Doll and see 5-6 horses that could win. That’s not ideal for a Stay Lucky play, but I’m leaning toward Put Da Blame On Me (#1) who is in very good form.
Longacres Mile Handicap (8:39 p.m. ET):Point Piper (#2) is winless in three starts this year for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, but his running line doesn't look much different than a year ago, he seems to be rounding into form and I think he can handle these. Mach One Rules (#9) in in career-best form and has a record of six wins, five seconds and one third in 13 races at Emeral Downs. He's dangerous, too, and should be right there at the end.
Top Stay Lucky Plays
(Top plays – 20 winners/41 starters)
1. Dona Bruja (Beverly D. Stakes)
2. Time Test (Fourstardave Handicap)
3. Proud and Fearless (Monmouth Oaks)