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Nijinsky, Eddie Read, Claiming Crown Jewel, Coaching Club
Rachel Alexandra headlines this weekend's stakes action in the ungraded Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park. On paper, she's 1-20. Then again, she's been 1-20 on paper in all of her races this year. The reigning Horse of the Year is 1-3 in 2010.
Let's take a look at some of the other major races to be held on Saturday afternoon:
Nijinsky - Woodbine - Race 8:
As usual, Woodbine puts on a good show for one of their graded turf events. This looks like a competitive race on paper with SPICE ROUTE (three-time graded winner), RAHY'S ATTORNEY(millionaire), and GRAND ADVENTURE (two graded wins in a row) showing major credentials.
I'll take a slight stand against them with UTTERLY COOL, a speedball stretching out to 1 1/8 miles after blitzing the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes in 1:19.58 for seven furlongs. Utterly Cool got away with an easy opening quarter of 23.56 that afternoon, but was under pressure for the first half-mile before putting his opponents away in early stretch. His connections wanted to test him in longer races earlier in his career, but he fractured a pastern after winning the Cup and Saucer at 1 1/16 miles as a two-year-old and missed all of 2009. Utterly Cool returns on only 13 days rest and the distance is a question mark, but he could be dangerous if allowed to dictate an easy lead up front.
Grand Adventure became my sneaky Woodbine Mile horse after he won the Grade 3 Connaught Cup at seven furlongs on May 30 and he continued his good form with a win in the Grade 2 King Edward at a mile on June 27. Nine furlongs may be pushing it, but he should be just off Utterly Cool entering the turn and figures to get first crack on the top pick.
Selections: Utterly Cool, Grand Adventure, Rahy's Attorney
Eddie Read - Del Mar - Race 8:
THE USUAL Q.T., one of the top turf horses in the country, ran a nice race in Dubai as the 4-year-old was only beaten five lengths in the Group 1 Duty Free. He seemingly wasn't affected by the long journey as he returned to the races in style, winning a money allowance at Hollywood Park on June 27 with a final quarter in 22.54. The last-place finisher of that allowance race, Marlang, returned to win the Grade 3 Sunset last weekend with a 94 Beyer.
The Usual Q. T. is going to be tough at Del Mar on Saturday, but I'm going to give VICTOR'S CRY another chance. If you appreciate good race-riding, take a look at Corey Nakatani's wonderful ride on Victor's Cry when winning the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on May 31. Nakatani saved ground with Victor's Cry toward the rear of the field, crept up along the rail on the final turn, and eased out for clear running room in upper stretch. After that, it was up to Victor's Cry, who ran down a tough Karelian to prevail by a head. Victor's Cry galloped out well after the Shoemaker and that may indicate that he has another furlong in him. Note that Global Hunter, sixth in the Shoemaker, returned to win the Grade 2 American on July 4 with a 100 Beyer.
I usually try to avoid big-figure, good-trip horses when they return, but Victor's Cry should offer appealing odds, has winning experience at Del Mar, and may work out another good ground-saving trip.
There doesn't appear to be a ton of speed in the Eddie Read and that may make ACCLAMATION dangerous. The gate-to-wire winner of both the Jim Murray and Charles Whittingham, Acclamation couldn't make the lead in the United Nations at Monmouth last time out and paid the price. If ENRICHED leaves him alone early, Acclamation has a chance to steal another.
It's probably folly to select The Usual Q.T. off the board, but one of my trifectas will reflect my top three picks.
Selections: Victor's Cry, Acclamation, Enriched
Claiming Crown Jewel - Canterbury - Race 9:
RACING BRAN, the winner of the $100,000 Essex Handicap on February 6 and runner-up in the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap last time out, seems to hold a class edge, but he likes to race near the front and SMARTEN DESTINY could try to make things difficult for him early.
I like FOR ALL WHO CONGA, one of two Jamie Ness-trained runners in the Jewel. For All Who Conga went gate-to-wire in a tough money allowance race over Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs three back, but has also won from off the pace. That race at Presque Isle Downs featured three next-out winners including uncoupled stablemate MY FRIEND NEV (100 Beyer in the Wild N Wonder Stakes at Charles Town), Cryptolight (stakes-winner that earned an 89 Beyer in a similar allowance at Presque Isle), and Cherokee Artist (stakes-winner earned 99 Beyer in winning a optional claimer on turf at Belmont).
Two back, For All Who Conga broke slowly and rushed up to track a lone pacesetting winner in the Memorial Day Handicap at Mountaineer, run during a torrential thunderstorm. He finished an even second that day before running fifth on grass last time out. The last time he went turf to main track, For All Who Conga won so I'm hoping the pattern works out again.
I was really trying to make a case for HEADACHE on top, but he carries his head so awkwardly during the stretch run of his races and he doesn't seem to win often. I'll use him in multi-race wagers.
Selections: For All Who Conga, Headache, My Friend Nev
Coaching Club American Oaks - Saratoga - Race 9:
DEVIL MAY CARE looms as a very deserving favorite in the Oaks and she is arguably the most explosive member of this field. She made a big mid-race bid in the Kentucky Derby before understandably tiring late over that sealed, sloppy track and she returned to her best form with a win in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 26. I can't really put a finger on why, but I didn't think the Mother Goose looked all that impressive so I'll pass on the three horses coming out of the race on the win end (now, watch them complete the trifecta!)
ACTING HAPPY, a lightly-raced daughter of Empire Maker, is bred to run all day and has already won twice at this distance. Last time out, in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, she was engaged by Tidal Pool with over two furlongs to race. Acting Happy was headed turning for home, but gamely re-rallied along the inside to win going away. The runner-up, No Such Word, came back to take the Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware with an 88 Beyer while also-ran C. C.'s Pal also came back to score ('n2x' at Monmouth with 81).
Acting Happy, obviously, needs continued improvement, but she has been given plenty of time to recover from the Black-Eyed Susan by Richard Dutrow Jr.
Selections: Acting Happy, Devil May Care, Connie and Michael
More importantly, who do you like this weekend? I want to know.
Best of luck to all.