All in all, I quite enjoyed Friday’s races, although I still got too fancy and only cashed one winning ticket—a PS on Mushka in the Distaff (I’ve decided to stop toeing the party line in calling it the “Ladies’ Classic”).
In the Marathon, Rags to Riches’ 1/2 brother Man of Iron bested Cloudy’s Knight by the smallest of margins—what a heart-breaker! Still, that performance, along with Informed Decision’s surprisingly-easy victory in the F&M Sprint and Forever Together’s third in the F&M Turf, put trainer Jonathan Sheppard tops in my eyes. What is it with gray Tapit fillies? Tapitsfly impressed in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, battling wire-to-wire with Todd Pletcher’s Rose Catherine—and the much-ballyhooed Euro Lillie Langtry was a complete non-factor, well back in eighth. I wasn’t as convinced as others on Twitter that the impeded Biofuel would have caught either She Be Wild or Beautician in the Juvenile Fillies.
Midday chalked one up for the Euros in the F&M Turf, with Forever Together disappointingly third. Probably the biggest surprise placing of the day was 35-1 Free Flying Soul’s third-place finish in the F&M Sprint, but that early speed and rail really aided her. And, by the by, she is a damline descendent of Foolish Pleasure, being out of the Farma Way mare Ruby Surprise who won the G2 Humana Distaff as a 5-year-old. And, boy, didn’t Life Is Sweet prove much-the-best? I liked Mushka coming off that Keeneland win, and Rajiv Maragh (who otherwise had a tough day) made a nice inside move on Music Note to get up for third. Careless Jewel is a filly with (hopefully) an amazing future—she just ran too greenly against these.
For whatever it's worth, here are my picks for Saturday. Good luck!
Juvenile Turf (1:45 p.m. Eastern)
Interactif cuts back in distance off two G3 wins on turf. Becky’s Kitten was runner-up to Bridgetown in the G3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. The best of the Euros on paper is Pounced, runner-up in the G1 Grand Criterium one month ago; with Lasix, he’ll attempt a route for the first time. Runner-up in the G2 Champagne at Doncaster last out, Viscount Nelson is bred to run all day and has regular rider John Murtagh aboard—but no Lasix.
For a longshot chance, I like the Irish-raced maiden winner King Ledley. In his last race at The Curragh, he beat Beethoven who subsequently won the ENG-G1 Dewhurst; he’s also been working well in advance of this, first at Keeneland, and then Santa Anita. Local leading jockey Rafael Bejarano takes the ride, as he runs with Lasix for the first time. Oh, and did I mention his dam Mt. Kobla is a half-sister to Quality Road?
$1 Trifecta box: Viscount Nelson, Becky’s Kitten, Interactif (2, 10, 11)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: King Ledley (8)
Turf Sprint (2:23 p.m. Eastern)
What a hot mess this field is, with more contenders than toss-outs. I’ll just root for the fillies and mares, with Diamondrella coming in off a victory in the G1 First Lady over Forever Together, G1-placed Gotta Have Her enjoying a terrific year for trainer Jenine Sahadi, and front-running Canadian Ballet for Linda Rice. Former Rice trainee Silver Timber (claimed for $25k back in April) comes in off two G3 victories and a narrow loss to ENG-G1 Golden Jubilee runner-up Cannonball. California Flag is undefeated in three starts since failing in last year’s BC Turf Sprint—tossed exercise rider and ran back to barn earlier this week.
$1 Trifecta box: Cannonball, Gotta Have Her, Diamondrella (6, 7, 10)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: Canadian Ballet (10)
Sprint (3:10 p.m. Eastern)
Instead of returning in the Turf Sprint, Fleeting Spirit attempts the shorter Sprint, and should be a handful for these boys to handle. She’s won or placed in 4 G1 events this year, including a win in the G1 July Cup and a close second to international sprint champion Scenic Blast in the G1 King’s Stand at Royal Ascot—100% quality. With Fatal Bullet and Zensational likely to set a speedy pace (possibly with Join In The Dance), it sets up well for both her and G1 Ancient Title victor Gayego. While he doesn’t have the big speed figures of Zensational, the pace scenario could set up more favorably for Capt. Candyman Can.
$1 Trifecta box: Fatal Bullet, Gayego, Fleeting Spirit (3, 5, 9)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: Capt. Candyman Can (8)
Juvenile (3:49 p.m Eastern)
Without all-weather or turf experience, I just can’t back D’Funnybone at his short price, but G1 Norfolk victor Lookin At Lucky comes in looking strong—only the far outside (13) post is bothersome. From the East, G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner Noble’s Promise won at this distance last out and held off the nicely-closing Aikenite. Of the Europeans, Beethoven is the best tried—a positive (experience) but also a possible negative (tired from a long campaign).
$1 Trifecta box: Noble’s Promise, Aikenite, Lookin At Lucky (4, 9, 13)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: Beethoven (3)
Turf Mile (4:28 p.m. Eastern)
Defending champion Goldikova won 3 G1 races in July and August, but surprisingly failed in her last effort before this—vulnerable? I like the form line of Zacinto, who looks to continue Juddmonte’s BC success this year, and Cowboy Cal has early speed which bodes well for his chances.
No horse in this field is better bred to be a Breeders’ Cup winner than Justenuffhumor. Not only is he a half-brother to 2006 BC Juvenile Fillies champion Dreaming of Anna, but his dam Justenuffheart is also a half-sister to 2004 BC Turf runner-up Kitten’s Joy and multiple-G1 victress Precious Kitten. If only he can get enough speed to run at, an upset possibility. Ditto for Ferneley who has excellent form behind Ventura last out in the G1 Woodbine Mile.
$1 Trifecta box: Cowboy Cal, Zacinto, Goldikova (3, 8, 11)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: Justenuffhumor (10) or Ferneley (7)
Dirt Mile (5:12 p.m. Eastern)
It’s impossible to look beyond the form line of Mastercraftsman, especially behind Arc winner Sea the Stars, and his facile victory over all-weather surface at Dundalk last out. Plus, this field is just weak. After prolonged contemplation (mostly negative), I just can’t put Pyro in the final three, even after his G1 Forego win—not convinced he likes all-weather surfaces (that horrific G1 Bluegrass still haunts me). Bullsbay also has strong form—but did nothing in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup. Last year’s G1 BC Juvenile champ Midshipman has only 1 race since then (an AOC at Belmont) so not sure how ready he is. I’m tempted to toss in Furthest Land off his G2 Kentucky Cup Classic win at Turfway last out, and even Mr. Sidney off his turf form. Chocolate Candy has just broken my heart too many times and Calvin Borel on Ready’s Echo isn’t a positive. For a bomber, why not turfster Mambo Meister?
$1 Trifecta box: Mastercraftsman, Furthest Land, Mr. Sidney (1, 2, 8)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: Mambo Meister (6)
Turf (5:57 p.m. Eastern)
All talk is about the Euros Conduit and Dar Re Mi, but I believe Presious Passion can steal this. He loves the rock-hard turf, and has a good record over this track—just firing on all cylinders in advance of this. If he doesn’t freak in the post parade, Spanish Moon has a very good chance.
$1 Trifecta box: Conduit, Spanish Moon, Presious Passion (2, 6, 7)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: Telling (1)
Classic (6:45 p.m. Eastern)
Zenyatta, Zenyatta, Zenyatta—she’s going to get a ton of money, but enough speed to run at? I think it will be Einstein who takes this, probably with Zenyatta within a half-length, followed by either Richard’s Kid or Twice Over. I absolutely love Summer Bird, but the surface is a huge question mark. If he does win, it would be very tough—regardless of how their one-on-one match-up ended—to not seriously consider him for Horse of the Year. Sorry, I’m not willing to concede this to the Euros this year.
$1 Trifecta box: Zenyatta, Richard’s Kid, Einstein (4, 6, 8)
$2 WPS longshot flyer: Twice Over (5)