First, some nice workouts of note on Saturday, including Invasor working five furlongs in :59 2/5 at Belmont, bested only by Funny Cide’s :59 1/5. The latter is being pointed towards the July 4 Wadsworth Memorial Handicap at Finger Lakes. What a thrill to see the seasoned gelding still going strong!
Street Sense and Curlin are not the only dueling duo this summer. The “other” Street Cry-Smart Strike three-year-old offspring—Summer Doldrums and Strike a Deal—finished one-two in the G3 Colonial Turf Cup, the first race in the Grand Slam of Grass. Three weeks ago in the Straight Deal Stakes at Belmont (Summer Doldrums’ first appearance on grass) yielded the opposite result, as Strike a Deal won by a nose. Both appear likely for the second leg of the series, the G2 Virginia Derby on July 21 at Colonial Downs. The other two races in the series (worth a $2 million+ bonus for sweeping all four legs) are the August 11 G1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington and October 27’s G1 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf at Monmouth.
Another three year old pair—Chelokee and Zanjero—put in an impressive performance finishing one-two in the Northern Dancer Breeders’ Cup at Churchill. Now if we could just see Ravel, Great Hunter, and Any Given Saturday rebound and strengthen before late summer.
How about some more juvenile races for Sunday?
Race 2 at Belmont is for two-year-old maiden fillies going six furlongs on the inner turf. Sea Chanter (War Chant-Smooth Charmer, by Easy Goer) is the morning line favorite, with the potent Pletcher-Velazquez connection. She does not impress me, but then again, neither do any of the other horses in this less-than-adequate field. What’s up, Belmont? Blah…The most interesting horse, Bet The Diva (Posse-Twin Bet, by Bet Twice) is listed as MTO for Gary Contessa, which is odd as her dam has two turf winners among six starters, including turf stakes winner Rahy’s Chance. The other likely candidates here are Our Dreamette (El Corredor-Apache Wildcat, by Forest Wildcat) who has a nice 4 furlong work June 10 (:47 Hg 2/28), and Saber Jet Reprized (Reprized-Jet Trade, by Tri Jet) who posted a :47.4 breeze on turf on June 6. Even with limited work, the latter may throw a surprise win. David Donk sends Queen of Protocol (Housebuster-Getsa, by Theatrical) who certainly seems to have the potential for turf, and has been working regularly since early April.
Far more interesting, the fifth race at Churchill is for fillies going five furlongs. Steve Asmussen has a pair going out here. Blitzing (Montbrook-We Are Strike NG, by Twilight Agenda) had an excellent four furlong work last out (:47.4), and regular gate works. Her dam (a Grade 3 winner) has already produced a two-year-old winner, so lots of promising signs there. Asmussen’s alternate runner is Possible, by the current leading juvenile sire Posse, who has 7 winners out of 12 starters this year, most trained by Asmussen. Another Posse filly, Miss Triss (trained by George Arnold) also is a first time starter with nice workouts leading to this start. Cow Creek Cat has two second place finishes already this year (and three starts), and appears likely to win sooner or later. She is a half-sister to Mystery Girl, G1 placed as a two-year-old, so early success in her family, and a rider change to Rafael Bejarano might help get her over the hump. Freshman sire Mineshaft’s second starter, Minewander is also entered here, with a good work from the gate six days ago, but I am ambivalent about her. Winning Idea (Hold That Tiger-Nasty Affair, by Nasty And Bold) is a 15-1 longshot, but has a productive dam, Nasty Affair, who produced several two-year-old stakes-placed winners including Hell Cat, Mountain Affair, and Donna Doo. My leading pick, though, is Got Bling (Langfuhr-Rose Colored Lady, by Formal Dinner), who is a half-sister to Too Much Bling, who showed in the G1 Hopeful as a two-year-old, and a full-sister to Barnsy, another successful two-year-old runner. She has one race under her belt (after a series of bullet workouts), threw another bullet work from the gate on June 11 (4f ft :46.4 Bg) and switches to Robby Albarado.
Finally, in race 4 at Hollywood, two-year-old fillies go 5-1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track. Mission Viejo Halo (Luhuk-Dance Alexa, by Southern Halo) is the 7-2 morning line favorite after a very nice second place finish here on May 17; however, her three works since then have been poor so I will pass. The third place finisher in that race, the unfortunately named The Golden Noodle (D’wildcat-Golden Genie, by Beau Genuis), seems to have come out stronger, and has the advantage of breaking from the rail again. Set Play, who has a string of solid workouts, is out of Storm Cat’s freshman sire Van Nistelrooy who is number 10 on the Juvenile sire list this year, with three winners among nine starters, and one stakes winner. Another successful freshman sire, Zavata (25% wins with first-time starters) is represented by Sayit (out of Tiff, by Diesis), who goes for Vladimir Cerin, with Joe Talamo up. Good works from this one, including from the gate. We also can’t ignore Jeannie’s Benji (El Corredor-Majestic Ruckus, by Bold Ruckus) who goes for Jerry Hollendorfer, a high percentage trainer with maidens. This one comes from a highly productive mare (five winner from 5 starters, and 100% with two-year-old runners), and has been working extremely regularly (and well) since early spring. Finally, I like the Dan Hendricks-trained Touch Luck (Touch Gold-Mister Crafty, by Mister Frisky), mostly for the trainer-jockey combo (with Alexis Solis).