Updated on 09/18/2011 12:21AM

No holiday for horseplayers

Email
Bill Vassar
Carthage is among the leading contenders for Sunday's Triple Bend Handicap.

For Eastern- and Western-based horseplayers, July means we are only weeks away from Saratoga and Del Mar. But, if we should open our eyes, we will see that we already are getting a heavy dose of high-class racing at many tracks. Consider Hollywood Park and Belmont.

On the four-day July 4 holiday weekend, there will be 15 stakes at Belmont and Hollywood Park worth an aggregate $3.65 million.

At Belmont, the richest of six stakes will be the $400,000 Suburban Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on July 1, while Hollywood will card eight stakes over the weekend, including a pair of $750,000 turf races on July 1 and 2.

The historically important Suburban figures to be a relatively evenly matched race at a demanding distance - a good betting race, as they say - with several high-profile trainers choosing from two, three, or four familiar nominees.

Mentioned as possible starters are the Nick Zito-trained Andromeda's Hero and Noble Causeway; Bandini, Master Command, Colita, and West Virginia from Todd Pletcher; Shug McGaughey runners Good Reward and Survivalist; and either Wilko or Tap Day from Mark Hennig's barn. But if Kiaran McLaughlin gets permission from owners Shadwell Stable to run Invasor, we may see the emergence of a new divisional contender.

Invasor is a Southern Hemisphere 3-year-old who is considered a 4-year-old in North America. More to the point, Invasor displayed Grade 1 talent finishing fourth to high-class Discreet Cat in the $2 million UAE Derby and made a positive visual impression winning his North American debut against 4-year-olds and up last month.

At Hollywood, the $750,000 CashCall Mile on July 1 and the $750,000 American Oaks on July 2 should have strong international fields, having attracted European and Japanese invaders, plus shippers from Canada and the East Coast.

In the CashCall Mile for older fillies and mares on the grass, Maryland-based Sweet Talker should be among the favorites, but competition runs deep.

Sweet Talker's best credential is her victory last fall over high-class Karen's Caper and Gorella in the QE II stakes at Keeneland. In the CashCall Mile, she is expected to face: Dance in the Mood, a Japanese invader with a $4.4 million bankroll who was second in the American Oaks on this course two years ago; Kentucky-based stakes winner Flying Glitter, who recently won a one-mile allowance race on the turf at Churchill Downs; plus the most consistent female turf sprinter in the country, Cambiocorsa, who is seeking her eighth straight victory. The speedy Dancing Edie also is considered probable, which could lead to a wickedly contested pace.

Also possible for the CashCall are Shining Energy, who beat Dancing Edie in the Gamely Handicap last month, and the versatile Hollywood Story, unless trainer John Sherriffs opts to run that Grade 1 winner in the $300,000 Vanity on the dirt on July 2.

Sunday, in the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on grass, the Japanese invader Asahi Rising will attempt to emulate the success of the Japanese-based Cesario, an awesome winner of this race last summer in her only American start. Although Asahi Rising has respectable distance form, she was only third in the Japanese Oaks in her most recent outing and must improve to defeat a closely matched, slightly above-average field.

Primary contenders include Foxysox and Proxenia, the second- and third-place finishers behind Attima in the Honeymoon Handicap over the course; Arravale, a Canadian shipper who has won all three of her previous grass outings; and Todd Pletcher's New York shipper Wait a While, who is 4 for 9 in her developing career, including the recent Sands Point Stakes on dirt at Belmont.

"She won a maiden race on grass last fall," Pletcher said. "We've been trying to get her back on grass all year."

At Belmont, in addition to the Suburban on July 1, the weekend stakes menu features:

* Saturday, $250,000 Mother Goose, a Grade 1 at 1 1/8 miles around one turn for 3-year-old fillies, with Bushfire seeking to repeat her victory in the one-mile Acorn and Pine Island looming as an interesting upset threat.

* Sunday, $100,000 Poker, at one mile on the turf for 3-year-olds and up, with a wide-open field perhaps headed by Art Master or Sir Halory, both trained by Bobby Frankel.

* Also on Sunday, $100,000 Astoria, at 5 1/2 furlongs for 2-year-old fillies, with several first-out winners trained by Todd Pletcher to be reckoned with, pending the trainer's decision on which ones will compete. These include Alotofappeal, Chagall, Octave, and One Tough Belle, to name just half his nominees to the race. The only stakes winner on the list of nominees is Richwoman, unbeaten in two starts for Steve Asmussen.

* Monday, $150,000 Genuine Risk Breeders' Cup, at six furlongs, for fillies and mares, in which the consistent and very speedy Smokey Glacken might meet the emerging sprint star Dubai Escapade, a Godolphin filly sprinter with Breeders' Cup potential. If neither is entered, we probably will be looking at a mad scramble.

* Tuesday, $150,000 Dwyer at 1 1/16 miles around one turn for 3-year-olds. Discreet Cat was going to run here, but a training setback now puts the spotlight on Strong Contender, trained by John Ward; Keyed Entry, and High Cotton, trained by Todd Pletcher; Da Stoops; and Like Now. All of these have good overall speed at the distance - maybe too much speed, if they all gang up on each other.

At Hollywood, there will be two stakes to complement the CashCall Mile on July 1 and four to complement the American Oaks on July 2, plus another graded stakes on July 4.

* Saturday, $150,000 A Gleam Handi-cap, a Grade 2, at seven furlongs for fillies and mares in which Bob Baffert's high-class Behaving Badly will be favored to successfully carry 123 pounds.

* Also on Saturday, $100,000 Landaluce, at six furlongs for 2-year-old fillies. This figures to be an open race, with promising Maria's Quest taking on her stablemate Hello Irish, along with Swiss Rose, Sharoana, Pinata, and/or Holly Torque Tango.

* Sunday, $300,000 Vanity Handicap, a Grade 1 at 1 1/8 miles, for fillies and mares, which matches Healthy Addiction, winner of the Santa Margarita Handicap against Proposed, winner of four races at Hollywood, including the Milady Breeders' Cup.

Also on Sunday:

* $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap, a Grade 1 at seven furlongs, for 3-year-olds and up, looks like a great race, with the high -quality European sprinter Vortex in the mix with last year's winner, Unfurl the Flag; northern California shipper Carthage, who defeated Lost in the Fog earlier this year; plus the 2003 Triple Bend runner-up Publication, who is making strides in his comeback.

* $250,000 American Handicap, a Grade 2, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds and up, should be a forum for Neil Drysdale's strong-finishing Fourty Niner's Son and possibly Becrux against the venerable 8-year-old gelding The Tin Man, who won this race in 2002, and front -running Willow O Wisp.

* $100,000 Flawlessly, at one mile on the turf for 3-year-old fillies, in which repeat winner Charming N Loveable takes a slight jump in class seeking her third straight for Paddy Gallagher against Fun Logic, Cascade Rain, and Star Serenade, all of whom have credible form for the distance and surface.

Finally, on July 4, E Z Warrior figures to be hard to beat in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship, a Grade 3 at six furlongs for 2-year-olds in which we will get an early preview of several juvenile stakes scheduled for Del Mar. Indeed, dozens of other stakes on the weekend menu in Illinois, Kentucky, Florida, Texas, and all points in between will be setting a high tone for the premier summer meets we all tell time by each year.