The summer racing season is upon us as the Del Mar and Saratoga meetings will get underway over the next week. Del Mar gets underway this afternoon and Saratoga’s 148th meeting kicks off a week from this afternoon at the Spa.
Our area’s signature race, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run at Fort Erie Race Track on July 26. The second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown will feature Queen’s Plate winner Sir Dudley Digges. He will be looking to become the first Ontario-bred to sweep the first two legs since Triple Crown winner Wando in 2003.
Prince of Wales Stakes
Queen’s Plate third-place finisher All on Red is also confirmed for the Prince of Wales. The son of Hard Spun has a win on dirt at Aqueduct on his resume. The rest of the field should be drawn next weekend. Be sure to check back here at the Sports, Ink blog for the results of the draw.
Saratoga’s opening weekend will be anchored by Sunday’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and the return of 2-year-old champion Songbird, who missed the Kentucky Oaks due to missed training as a result of a fever. She’ll start her run towards the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in Saratoga where she’ll likely run again in the Alabama on Aug. 20 if all goes well in the CCAO.
I miss when the CCAO was the feature race on the meet’s first Saturday, it is now run on Sunday when most out-of-towners are heading home. The Grade 1 Diana on the turf will highlight next Saturday’s card.
Once again I will be the feature handicapper for the Saratoga Tracksider website with daily top three selections and a daily Best Bet.
Saratoga and Woodbine appear to be the likely landing spots for the fabulous race mare Tepin. Speaking with Mark Casse at the Plate draw, he favors a race in Saratoga before heading up north for the Woodbine Mile in September. After winning on Derby day and at Royal Ascot, she’ll attempt to avenge her last two losses, both suffered last year at Saratoga. Since then she’s rattled off seven straight wins, including several against open company.
Derby winner Nyquist is headed to the Haskell at Monmouth Park and Exaggerator to the Jim Dandy, so a rematch is on hold for now. There is still hope that the Travers will be the site for a possible matchup of all three classic winners. Both Belmont winner Creator and Derby runner-up Gun Runner are stabled at Saratoga for the summer for trainer Steve Asmussen. On Tuesday, both horses recorded their initial Spa workouts. Creator went four furlongs in 49.44 and Gun Runner breezed five furlongs in 1:01.77.
California Chrome’s first race since returning with a Dubai World Cup victory in tow will be next Saturday July 23 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap. The 2014 Horse of the Year chestnut will be wearing special pink silks in the San Diego for breast cancer awareness. The silks will be auctioned off subsequent to the race in the annual Barretts Paddock Sale of horses in training, the proceeds to benefit the cancer charity. Chrome will be looking for his fourth straight win in 2016.
Bob Baffert has a couple special horses in his Del Mar barn. Arrogate, a 3-year-old $560,000 purchase by Juddmonte Farms, is currently the buzz on the west coast. He is probable to ship east for the Jim Dandy. The Baffert barn also includes Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s full sister, 2-year-old filly American Cleopatra. She has been lighting up the track in morning workouts. No word on where or when her first start will be.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.