Songbird wins the Coaching Club American Oaks in July at the Spa. Photo Credit: NYRA
Whether one looks to the North, East or West, there is plenty of top-notch racing action in store for the weekend warrior.
In the East, Songbird will try a mile-and-a-quarter for the first time in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
To the West, a battle royale is shaping up in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar between last year’s winner Beholder and two of her male counterparts, California Chrome and Dortmund.
On Saturday at Woodbine to the North, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown will be run in the Breeders’ Stakes on the turf course in Toronto.
At Saratoga, last week’s canceled Fourstardave will also be contested on the Alabama undercard, but surely the star of the show is the 2-year-old filly champion, Songbird (1-5). She’ll put her 9-race win streak on the line against six other fillies in Saturday’s feature at the Spa.
She was tested earlier in the meet by Carina Mia in the Coaching Club American Oaks (at 9-furlongs), but repelled her on her way to a 5 ¼-length victory. She stretches out to 10 furlongs in the Alabama, her class should carry her through this field.
Upset hopefuls at the track known as the Graveyard of Champions include Ashland winner Weep No More (15-1), Black-Eyed Susan winner Go Maggie Go (8-1) and Indiana and Iowa Oaks winner Family Tree (10-1). Post time for the $600,000 Alabama (Race 10) is set for 6:18 p.m.
In suburban San Diego, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic is certainly be the race of the day. Pairing California Chrome (8-5) and Beholder (3-1), the top two older horses in their respective classes should make for an intriguing race. Add in Dortmund (5-2), a stalwart in last year’s Derby trail, who gave Chrome all he could handle in the San Diego Handicap in July, makes for dramatic theater.
With everyone focused on the top three, and each a horse that doesn’t mind being on the front end, poses an interesting pace scenario. Is this race ripe for a major upset? If the pace falls apart, it sets up for a closer such as Hoppertunity (8-1) or Imperative (20-1).
The Pacific Classic is scheduled for 9:15 p.m. on the east coast as Race 9 on Del Mar’s signature race day.
On Sunday afternoon, the Canadian Triple Crown will wrap up with the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes to be run on the Woodbine turf course at 1 ½ miles. The Canadian Triple Crown is different from the American version in that all three legs are contested on a different racing surface. The race distances are the same.
The Breeders’ includes several horses that contested the first two legs including Plate winner Sir Dudley Digges and Prince of Wales winner Amis Gizmo.
Niigon’s Edge, third-place finisher at Fort Erie, and the Mark Casse-trained Leavem in Malibu, the Wales runner-up, are both entered on Sunday. Niigon’s Edge will run with lasix for the first time and Leavem in Malibu will have his first attempt on the turf.
Casse will also send out Conquest Daddyo with Patrick Husbands aboard, who won the Toronto Cup Stakes in late July and finished third in the Charley Barley on the Plate undercard, both turf races.
West Point Thoroughbreds returns Scholar Athlete, fourth-place finisher in the Plate, back for the first time since the first leg of the Triple Crown series. The son of Einstein has had some success on the turf with a win in an allowance race at Belmont. Edgar Prado will ride for trainer Graham Motion.
Post time for the Breeders' is 5:13 p.m. on Sunday in Race 9 at Woodbine.
Post Time top picks for this weekend’s Big Three races are Songbird (Alabama), Dortmund (Pacific Classic) and Conquest Daddyo (Breeders’).
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.