Stay Lucky Picks: Del Mar, Saratoga Headline Challenging Weekend Slate

Fans check out the horses in the paddock at Del Mar in this file photo. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

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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’s Stay Lucky slate is highlighted by a terrific card Aug. 17 at Del Mar headlined by the the $1 million, Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic, a key qualifying prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Saturday, Aug. 17

Lake Placid Stakes (5:26 p.m. ET): At first glance the one-two finishers from the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes, both from the barn of trainer Chad Brown, look like the most likely winners from this group. Regal Glory (#5) rallied to beat stablemate Blowout (#4) by a half-length in that race, which only had three runners, after Blowout was allowed to set an uncontested pace and I think Regal Glory is the better horse. But I think trainer Graham Motion’s Varenka (#1) could be dangerous here coming off a nice win from off the pace at this course and distance on July 14. According to Trakus data, she completed the final quarter-mile in an eye-catching 22.51 seconds to win that day and I’ve been waiting for her to return. Motion and jockey Javier Castellano have clicked at 25% and I like her chances for a mild upset.

Alabama Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (5:59 p.m. ET): I’ve been on the Dunbar Road (#1) bandwagon from the start and I’m not jumping off now, but she faces a far tougher task here then she did when winning the Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes at 3-10 odds. The Alabama also drew multiple graded stakes winner Lady Apple (#2) off a win in the Iowa Oaks; Champagne Anyone (#4), who defeated Dunbar Road in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in March; multiple graded stakes winner Street Band (#5) off a runaway win in the Indiana Oaks; and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes winner Point of Honor (#7) coming off a runner-up finish to highly regarded Guarana in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. I’m steering clear of this race for Stay Lucky purposes.

Green Flash Handicap (6 p.m. ET): Champion and two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal (#2) returns for his first start since running third in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai. He’s winless in three starts as a 7-year-old and faces familiar rival Eddie Haskell (#5) who beat him by a head that this distance in February and has won three straight. Eddie Haskell also is 6-for-7 at Del Mar with his lone defeat a runner-up finish by less than a length back in 2016 in which he earned his career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure. This looks like a classic coin-flip race but I’m siding with the in-form Eddie Haskell knowing that the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint most likely is the main target for Stormy Liberal. If either horse scratches, take the other as your best bet of the week. Otherwise, this looks like a tepid play at best.

Del Mar Handicap Presented by The Japan Racing Association (8 p.m. ET): I landed on United (#5) for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella coming off a win on this turf course July 17. He ran a good second to fellow Del Mar Handicap entrant Marckie’s Water (#4) in a Grade 2 race in May and took a nice step forward in his last start. But there are quite a few who should be flying late, including The Great Day (#6), who skipped the Arlington Million in favor of this spot.

Torrey Pines Stakes (8:30 p.m. ET): I’m not sure what to make of this race. Sneaking Out (#6) looks like the fastest horse in the Torrey Pines, but she should have plenty of company up front and she faded late in her two previous starts when failing as the odds-on favorite in both races. I’m looking for a closer and I think Into Chocolate (#1) has room to improve in her third start and should save a ton of ground from the inside post under Mike Smith while rating just behind the early leaders.

Del Mar Oaks Presented by The Jockey Club (9 p.m. ET): Tough race – Chad Brown ships a pair of talented fillies west for the Del Mar Oaks, which also drew Hard Legacy (#4), Mucho Unusual (#10), and Lady Prancealot (#11) all coming off graded stakes wins on turf as well as Hidden Message (#14) making her first start in the U.S. after winning two of five races in Europe. I like Hidden Message’s chances but I hate that post, so I’m skipping the race for Stay Lucky.

TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (9:30 p.m. ET): I think there are a few horses in her who might not want to go 1 ¼ miles, but I think Tenfold (#7) should enjoy the trip. It’s hard to look past his most recent start, a ninth-place finish, beaten by 17 lengths, but he does seem to race well in every other start and I think we’ll get a square price on him. For Stay Lucky purposes, this is a tough call as none of the top three on the morning line has won at 1 ¼ miles and there’s no clear standout. I think you have to pass.

Sunday, Aug. 18

Del Mar Mile Handicap (8 p.m. ET): This race drew most of the capable West Coast milers plus one out of town shipper. It’s a well-matched group that, for the most part, has been beating up on each other over the last couple of years. Bowies Hero (#5) halted a five-race winless stretch in his most recent start when winning the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes on this turf course and he figures to get some pace to close into but he’s a lukewarm play at best in a very tough race.

Canadian Derby (8:45 p.m. ET): I usually avoid races at track that I’m unfamiliar with and Century Mile in Edmonton certainly falls into that category as I’ve never watched a single race at the Canada track, which opened in April 2019. The Canadian Derby was previously held at Northlands Park. I usually give the edge to local horses in the Canadian Derby, but this year there looks like a solid group of invaders. Final Jeopardy (#8) ran second for Jason Servis in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes July 6 and makes his first start for trainer Philip Hall. He picks up a top local rider in Rigo Sarmiento. Journeyman (#7) has won two straight and ships up from Arlington International for trainer Eoin Harty. He, too, gets a boost from jockey Dane Nelson, who currently is battling with Sarmiento for leading jockey of the meet. Ranger Up (#4) was previously trained by Todd Pletcher and has the highest Equibase Speed Figure in the 12-horse field, but he is winless in six starts with four seconds. The best of the local horses probably is Explode (#6), a two-time stakes winner coming in off a victory at 1 1/8 miles at Century Mile. He’s the tepid pick.

Mike’s Top Stay Lucky Play

(16 winners from 22 top plays in 2019)

1. United (Del Mar Handicap Presented by The Japan Racing Association)

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