Stay Lucky Weekly Guide: Many Options on Hand in a Big Weekend

Fans pack the track apron at Belmont Park. (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.

Both Belmont Park and Arlington Park host powerful cards on Saturday with multiple graded stakes, while Prairie Meadows hosts its big weekend with marquee races on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. NBC will telecast three graded stakes from Belmont's Stars and Stripes Festival from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, highlighted by the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifying race for the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Thursday, July 6

Iowa Oaks (10:50 p.m. ET): There are five fillies between 7-2 and 6-1 on the morning line, and favored Ever So Clever (#5) is a deep closer who might be dependent upon pace. Find an easier spot elsewhere.

Friday, July 7

Iowa Derby (10:50 p.m. ET): This is another field that looks balanced on paper with six of the nine entrants between 7-2 and 8-1 odds. My guess is that Sunland Derby winner Hence (#6) will drop from 5-1 to be the favorite, but it’s tough to feel great about his chances after he was beaten by 18 ½ lengths in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and 14 ¾ lengths in the Preakness. The reality is there are at least four horses here capable of winning, so I’ll test the waters elsewhere.

Saturday, July 8

Parx Dash Stakes (4:31 p.m. ET): I typically stay away from turf sprints because with so little real estate a poor start or just a touch of trouble can lead to a defeat, but I do think Pure Sensation (#10) is the class of this field and he’s 2-for-2 on the grass at Parx. That said, there’s a ton of speed in this race and there are others I prefer this week.

American Derby (4:33 p.m. ET): This one looks like a two-horse race between Gorgeous Kitten (#1) and Sonic Boom (#2), with a slight edge to the latter.

Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes (4:50 p.m. ET): Zipessa (#4) has a fairly significant class and speed edge in this race and I’ll bet she goes off at less than her 2-1 morning-line odds. I wouldn’t fault you at all for locking her in as a pick this week, but I’m passing on the race because I plan to try and beat her with Guilty Twelve (#6).

Modesty Handicap (5:06 p.m. ET): It would be easy to look at Time and Motion (#3) and think this Grade 1 winner has a big edge on the field, and for the most part, she does. But Dona Bruja (#1) was incredibly impressive in her U.S. debut in the Grade 3 Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap on June 10 after a stellar career in her native Argentina. She has nine wins and two seconds in 11 lifetime starts, so don’t discount her chances. It would be a shock if the winner wasn’t one of these two.

Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (5:13 p.m. ET): A Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, this race drew a deep field that includes elite sprinters Stallwalkin’ Dude (#1), Mind Your Biscuits (#2), Awesome Slew (#5), Green Gratto (#6) and Unified (#7) with multiple graded stakes winner Tommy Macho (#4) cutting back in distance for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. I’ll take a shot with Mind Your Biscuits in his first starts since winning the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, but I have to admit Stallwalkin’ Dude and Unified scare me in this spot off the long layoff.

Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (5:46 p.m. ET): This is an intriguing race with several top U.S.-based 3-year-old fillies and a trio of interesting international invaders competing for $1 million. It was from the European contingent that I landed on my top pick, Sistercharlie (#12), who is making her first start in the U.S. for new trainer Chad Brown. She enters the race off a second in the French Oaks and looks like a filly who could really excel in the U.S.

Stars and Stripes Stakes (6:10 p.m. ET): There is no question The Pizza Man (#5), at his best, is clearly the most talented horse in this field. But he’s 8 years old now and finished fourth in his season debut. He was beaten by only two lengths in that race and is eligible to improve in his second start off a 6 ½-month layoff, but if he’s lost a step there are 4-5 horses capable of stepping up and beating him here.

Suburban Handicap (6:18 p.m. ET): Shaman Ghost (#6) is just so good right now, it’s just tough to look anywhere else for the top play of the week.

Delaware Oaks (6:35 p.m. ET): I look at 8-5 morning-line favorite It Tiz Well (#3) shipping across the country from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, and I think he’s bringing her to Delaware Park for a reason other than the outstanding paddock. I expect her to regain her winning form in the Delaware Oaks.

Arlington Handicap (6:40 p.m. ET): Kasaqui (#5) won this race last year and enters this race off a dominant win in the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes on June 17 at Churchill Downs. If he runs his “A” race, I think the rest of the field is running for second.

Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (6:50 p.m. ET): With three international invaders plus four of the top five finishers from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, you’d think this race would be a handicapping nightmare. Not so fast. Japanese-bred Yoshida (#7) has won his last two races by four lengths each and I think he could be blossoming into a superstar for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. He overcame a brutal start in his last race when he dropped 23 lengths back and still had the turn of foot to win easily. There is so much talent in this race that he won’t be my top play, but he’ll definitely be one of my picks this week.

Great Lady M Stakes (8:28 p.m. ET): The top three runners in here — Constellation (#2), Pretty N Cool (#4) and Finest City (#7) — look evenly matched. I give a slight edge to 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Finest City, but there are more appealing races to choose from for Stay Lucky purposes.

Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (8:50 p.m. ET): Dolphus (#3) ran a huge race to finish second by a neck to multiple Grade 1 winner Shaman Ghost in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special Handicap in his most recent race on May 19. He’s an improving 4-year-old who’s very likely to be alone on the lead in this race. This half-brother to Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra looks like a strong play this week.

Top 5 Stay Lucky Plays

(Top plays – 15 winners/25 starters)

1. Shaman Ghost (Suburban Handicap)

2. Kasaqui (Arlington Handicap)

3. Dolphus (Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap)

4. It Tiz Well (Delaware Oaks)

5. Yoshida (Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes)

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