Stay Lucky Picks: Options Abound on Labor Day Weekend

Fans enjoy a day at the races at Saratoga Race Course earlier during the 2019 meet. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Welcome to the 2019 Stay Lucky season with new presenting sponsor Breeders' Cup! We have several exciting new prizes plus a smoother, faster app for the new season!

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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 features races over three days for the Labor Day holiday weekend. While the $750,000 Grade 1 Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets is the feature race of the weekend, there also are key races for both 2-year-old males and fillies on both coasts. The Del Mar Debutante on Saturday at Del Mar and the Spinaway Stakes on Sunday at Saratoga serve as key prep races for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Runhappy Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and Runhappy Del Mar Futurity, both on Monday, serve as preps for the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Saturday, Aug. 31

Prioress Stakes (1:36 p.m. ET): Break Even (#3) is undefeated in six start with victories on sloppy, muddy, and fast dirt tracks and, most recently, a win on firm turf. She is my pick in the race, but I do think she could get a challenge early for the lead from Break Curfew (#4) and the race also drew another unbeaten filly in Risky Mandate (#2, who's 2-for-2) and graded stakes winner Royal Charlotte (#5).

Saranac Stakes (3:15 p.m. ET): I think there is a good chance Good Governance (#2) will be favored for trainer Chad Brown coming off a nice debut win, but I’m always cautious with runners making the step up to graded stakes competition for the first time. In this case, it’s tough to judge the quality of competition Good Governance faced in a maiden race for 3-year-olds and older in August. I prefer Global Access (#4) coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes. He finished his final quarter-mile in 22.30 seconds on this inner turf course despite being rank early and I expect Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to push the right buttons in his second start on this Giant’s Causeway colt.

Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (6 p.m. ET): I’ve long been a fan of Tom’s d’Etat (#9) and I think this is the ideal spot for this multiple stakes winner to earn his first graded stakes victory. He’s got tactical speed, which will be valuable from his outside post position, he’s 3-for-5 at the 1 1/8-mile distance, and he's unbeaten in three starts at Saratoga.

John C. Mabee Stakes (8 p.m. ET): Vasilika (#1) had a four-race winning streak halted on this turf course Aug. 3 in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Stakes. There is a very good chance she’ll get back on track here, but the race drew a tough group of challengers. Juddmonte Farms homebred Juliet Foxtrot (#7) is unbeaten in three starts in the U.S. and Toinette (#4) enters on a two-race winning streak. I’d pass on this race for Stay Lucky purposes if I had a streak of significance.

New Kent County Virginia Derby (9 p.m. ET): It’s great to see live racing return to Colonial Downs and the Virginia Derby back where it belongs. I love English Bee’s (#8) chances in this race. He’s been facing tougher competition for trainer Graham Motion and I think there’s a good chance he gets an ideal stalking trip in a race with little early speed.

Del Mar Debutante Stakes (9 p.m. ET): After a disappointing, troubled start in her career debut, Leucothea (#4) looked effortless in a 14 ½-length runaway win Aug. 15 on this Del Mar main track. She faces a nice group of 2-year-olds, but I think she’s the fastest in the field and a solid Stay Lucky play.

Sunday, Sept. 1

Red Bank Stakes (5:26 p.m. ET): I’m guessing Divisidero (#1) will be the favorite based on back class — he ran fourth, beaten by three-quarters of a length in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile — but he’s tough to endorse given he’s lost eight in a row, he’s 0-for-2 at Monmouth and has yet to win in six starts at one mile. I’m leaning toward Firey Speech (#3), who has won two straight since he was gelded and is stepping up in class here. I think he’ll be a nice price, too.

Spinaway Stakes (5:50 p.m. ET): On paper, it simply looks like Perfect Alibi (#3) simply outfinished Frank’s Rockette (#2) to win the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes Aug. 4. But Frank’s Rockette had an opening collapse on her and showed serious tenacity to fight on depite the trouble when second by a half-length. I think there is a good chance she would have won with a better trip and I’m hoping she gets it today.

Del Mar Derby (9 p.m. ET): This year’s Del Mar Derby drew a solid if unspectacular group of 3-year-olds headlined by the top-two finishers of the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap on this turf course Aug. 4, Kingly (#10) and runner-up Neptune’s Storm (#5). I think Kingly snuck up on the field in the La Jolla in his first try on turf for a trainer, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, whose known for his dirt runners. I don’t expect that element of surprise this time and I think there are at least three or four others who could win in this spot, so I’m staying away for Stay Lucky.

Monday, Sept. 2 (Note: Monday races count for next week — Sept. 2-8  for one-pick minimum requirement)

Monday, Sept. 2

Bernard Baruch Handicap (5:04 p.m. ET): I think all three of Chad Brown’s runners have a shot in this race and I’m a big fan of March to the Arch (#1), who always finishes fast. I landed on Brown’s Sacred Life (#6) coming off a runner-up finish by a nose at Saratoga in his U.S. debut, a race in which he completed his final quarter-mile in 22.45 seconds according to Trakus data. I expect a solid pace to set up the closers in this one.

Turf Monster Handicap (5:05 p.m. ET): Pure Sensation (#11) is very tough at Parx Racing, where he has won six of seven career starts including this race in 2015, 2017, and 2018. He is 8 years old now but is 3-for-4 in 2019 and showing no signs of slowing down. A solid Stay Lucky play.

Runhappy Hopeful Stakes (5:39 p.m. ET): I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Green Light Go (#3) in two starts, the most recent of which was a 3 ¾-length runaway in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes. But this is a nice field that also features a few impressive recent maiden winners and Grade 3 Sanford Stakes winner By Your Side (#5). I’ll play Green Light Go, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable risking a big streak on him.

Smarty Jones Stakes (5:45 p.m. ET): Gray Magician (#4) has been very good in two starts since running 19th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. If he continues to race at that level, he should beat this group.          

Del Mar Futurity (9 p.m. ET): Eight Rings (#2) should be a heavy favorite coming off a debut 6 ¼-length romp that earned a 106 Equibase Speed Figure. The runner-up from that race, Express Train, came back and won his second start by 14 ¼ lengths. This race drew a nice group of 2-year-olds, so this is no cakewalk, but I do believe Eight Rings has star potential.

Mike’s Top Stay Lucky Plays

(17 winners from 24 top plays in 2019)

1. Eight Rings (Del Mar Futurity)

2. Global Access (Saranac Stakes)

3. Tom’s d’Etat (Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets)

4. Pure Sensation (Turf Monster Handicap)

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