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Weekend Warrior for July 14: Sky Blazer surprise package at Arlington
Some Saturdays there are so many graded stakes that you could almost trip over them. Other Saturdays you have to search high and low to find even just one or two. This is one of those busy Saturdays, with 12 graded events on the schedule.
For sheer volume, Arlington leads the way with four Grade 3 races – the American Derby, the Arlington Handicap, and the Modesty Handicap, which are each worth $200,000, and the $150,000 Stars and Stripes. But Betfair Hollywood Park offers three graded stakes, led by the Grade 1, $400,000 American Oaks. Supporting the American Oaks at Hollywood is the Grade 2, $200,000 A Gleam Handicap and the Grade 3, $200,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship, as well as the ungraded, $200,000 Landaluce Stakes.
There is one other Grade 1 race Saturday, and it also happens to be the richest race of the day, the $600,000 Man o’ War at Belmont Park.
Boisterous is definitely the one to beat. He won the Fort Marcy two starts back, beating subsequent Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap winner Desert Blanc, and was a rallying third in the Manhattan last time out. And while the strength of this year’s Manhattan is open to debate – former claimer Papaw Bodie was beaten only a nose in it – Boisterous still ran creditably to be beaten only 1 1/2 lengths considering there was little pace to set up his late run.
Moreover, Boisterous represents a rare shipper to Arlington from trainer Shug McGaughey. According to DRF ’s Formulator, McGaughey has had only three shippers to Arlington in the last five years, and two of them won. Both of the winners were in stakes in 2009 at odds of 6-5 and 7-2. So it is clear that when McGaughey ships to Arlington, he means business.
Although Boisterous looks formidable, there is a lot of depth here. Rahystrada won this race in 2010, finished third to subsequent United Nations winner Turbo Compressor (101 Beyer) last time out in the Colonial Turf Cup, and should be set for a peak effort third start off a layoff. Mister Marti Gras has run into buzz saws in all of his recent starts on dirt – Hunters Bay at Woodbine, Caixa Eletronica at Charles Town, Nates Mineshaft when he was terrorizing Fair Grounds, and Wise Dan at Churchill Downs. And even though I think he is at his best on the main track, Mister Marti Gras was second in this race last year.
As tough as this race is, I’m going with the relatively unaccomplished Sky Blazer. Sky Blazer has been on my radar since he turned in a fairly remarkable performance in the Saranac Stakes last summer. After spotting the field five to six lengths with a bad start, Sky Blazer was still last of 10 turning for home. He then steadied, angled out for racing room, and finished with an explosive burst of speed into a fast final fraction to be a gaining fourth.
Sky Blazer showed that his Saranac effort was no fluke when he won a good allowance race off a layoff at Gulfstream in his first start this year – Point of Entry, who will be no worse than second choice in the Man o’ War, finished fourth in that race – and was most impressive winning another overnight race most recently at Belmont. Granted, Sky Blazer got a good trip in that last out win, but he drew off late with a powerful kick, and he earned a 96 Beyer that makes him very competitive here.
Man o’ War Stakes
You have to be either brave or foolish to go against the Aidan O’Brien-trained Treasure Beach here considering how O’Brien did last year in our big turf races with his shippers from Ireland. He sent Cape Blanco over three times to win three Grade 1 races, including this race, which made him champion turf male of 2011, and he sent St Nicholas Abbey over to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf last fall. In addition, O’Brien shippers Wrote, Together, and this colt, Treasure Beach, won Grade 1 turf races on these shores last year.
Well, call me brave (not foolish!), because I am going to try and beat Treasure Beach. Although Treasure Beach was in extremely tough spots in Dubai and Hong Kong in his first two starts this year, I just don’t want to take a short price on a horse who hasn’t won since his narrow decision in the Secretariat at Arlington 11 months ago.
Point of Entry comes into this off two wins at Keeneland, the most recent coming in the Elkhorn Stakes. Keeneland’s turf course is unique in that it is sandier than most, and not every horse who runs well on it does as well on other turf courses. While Point of Entry has run well on a couple of other turf courses, he didn’t do as well as he did at Keeneland. So he must show me he can successfully transfer his Keeneland form.
Newsdad is my play. Newsdad finished fifth as the favorite in the Elkhorn last time out, but that was his first start on Keeneland turf and it is possible he didn’t like it. It’s also possible he didn’t care for being the pacesetter, which isn’t his optimum running style at the stakes level. However, Newsdad was a revelation earlier this year at Gulfstream in extended-distance turf races, and a duplicate of his decisive score in the Pan American just two starts back would make him a handful.
A Gleam Handicap
With Turbulent Descent having been sold and shipped east, and with Switch being out of form, if not past her prime, there are openings at the top of the California female sprint division. This is a good spot for Teddy’s Promise to make her case as one to fill that void.
Teddy’s Promise was an uncharacteristically dull fifth last time out in the Desert Stormer. But she was hustled early, was wrapped up late when obviously beaten, and she might have bounced a bit off a narrow win two starts back off a layoff in which she earned a career-best Beyer. Teddy’s Promise has worked well since, and now stretches back out to the seven-furlong distance at which she emphatically won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes four starts back.
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