The summer racing season is underway with a big closing weekend at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course opening Thursday and Del Mar opening July 17. The big summer races will have a big say in determining many divisional championships.
Prince of Wales
Our area’s signature race, the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run at Fort Erie Race Track on July 23. The second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown will be contested for the 84th time and has been run at the border oval since 1959.
Post time for the twilight card for the Prince of Wales is 4:10 p.m., and if you’ve never been, it is the best night of racing in our area. A packed house, tiki bar, a post-race band and some top-notch Canadian-bred talent. Post time for the Prince of Wales race is usually around 7:30 p.m.
The biggest news leading up to the middle leg is that Queen’s Plate winner One Bad Boy, a California-based Ontario bred, has stayed at Woodine and will run in the Prince of Wales. With a $500,000 bonus for the winner of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown providing enough enticement, the decision to stay on the trail was made Monday by the ridgling's connections.
One Bad Boy, a son of Twirling Candy, has the best chance in years to sweep the races, as he has run on all three surfaces that the Triple Crown is contested. He has two dirt starts and a turf start at Santa Anita. Fort Erie’s race is 1 3/16 miles on dirt and the Breeders’ Stakes, the final leg, is run on the Woodbine outer turf course at 1 1/2 miles.
He has experience on the same synthetic surface the Plate is run over at Woodbine, having raced on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields.
A few horses that spent time in the U.S. could run in the Prince of Wales, such as Skywire. He won the Grade 3 Transylvania S. at Keeneland and was compromised by Tone Broke at the start of the Plate.
Turf series begins
Saturday marks the start of the inaugural $5.25 million Turf Triple Series, featuring the Turf Trinity and Turf Tiara for sophomores. The Belmont Derby Invitational and Belmont Oaks Invitational headline the Stars & Stripes Festival to be broadcast live nationwide on NBC from 4 to 6 p.m. EDT.
The Turf Trinity for 3-year-old males opens with the $1 million Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational to be contested over 1 1/4 miles as Race 9 (5:44 p.m. post time).
Plus Que Parfait, the eighth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, will switch to turf and is the featured colt in the Belmont Derby. The race also has attracted a pair of international contenders in Irish-bred shippers for trainer Aiden O'Brien in Blenheim Palace and Cape of Good Hope.
The Trinity follows with the $1 million Grade 1 Saratoga Derby on Aug. 4 at the Spa and concludes with the $1 million Grade 1 Jockey Club Derby on Sept. 7 at Belmont.
The Turf Tiara opens with the $750,000 Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational, over a 1 1/4 miles, featuring Newspaperofrecord and Concrete Rose, two talented 3-year-old fillies. Concrete Rose handed Newspaperofrecord her first career defeat on the Kentucky Oaks undercard on May 3. Post time for Race 7 is 4:30. p.m.
The Turf Tiara will continue Aug. 2 at Saratoga with the inaugural $750,000 Saratoga Oaks, held at 1 3/16 miles on the Saratoga turf, kicking off Whitney weekend festivities.
The final jewel will be the first $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks slated for Sept. 7 at Belmont. The race will be contested at 1 3/8 miles on the turf as part of the Belmont fall meet.
Saturday’s Belmont card will also include the return of Catholic Boy to the dirt in the $700,000 Grade 2 Suburban and Code of Honor in the Grade 3 Dwyer S.
Coming off a win in the Dixie at Pimlico in the prelude to the Preakness, Catholic Boy will look to use a race won by past Eclipse Award winners Lemon Drop Kid (2000), Mineshaft (2003) and Invasor (2006), as a possible key prep for the Whitney on Aug 3.
Code of Honor, who finished third in the Derby and placed second via the disqualification of Maximum Security, runs his first race since the first Saturday in May in the 103rd running of the Dwyer. He’ll cut back in distance with a one-turn mile. Two-time Dwyer winner John Velazquez will once again have the mount on Code of Honor.
Zayat Stables' Majid, a son of Shackleford, will go for another stakes victory in the Dwyer after a win in the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day.
Opening weekend at the Spa will feature six stakes, including the $150,000 Grade 3 Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies on Opening Day. Saratoga's first Grade 1 of the season will be contested on July 13 — the $500,000 Diana for turf fillies and mares.
For the fifth consecutive year, yours truly will be the feature handicapper for Saratoga Tracksider, with daily top three selections and a Best Bet. The app designed by founder Dave Catalfamo was featured in 2017 in the Albany Times-Union.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.