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Weekend Warrior for July 6: Picks for Smile Sprint, United Nations, Arlington Sprint
Although there are stakes on every day of this long Fourth of July weekend, the big stakes day is Saturday, with three Grade 1 races to be decided. The Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup is the main event at Betfair Hollywood Park, supported by the Grade 2, $150,000 Royal Heroine Stakes. The Grade 1, $500,000 United Nations Stakes is the feature at Monmouth Park, backed up by the Grade 3, $150,000 Salvator Mile. And the Grade 1, $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap, along with the Grade 2, $350,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, tops the Summit of Speed card at Calder Race Course.
Also worthy of note is the Grade 2 stakes doubleheader at Belmont Park consisting of the $350,000 Suburban Handicap and the $200,000 Dwyer Stakes.
Smile Sprint Handicap
This race will prove irresistible to any true handicappers because there are many different but legitimate directions to go in, ensuring value, and the favorites certainly do not have to win. Trinniberg, last year’s champion male sprinter on the strength of his speed bias-aided win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, will be trying to regain respectable form after two dismal outings this year. I can forgive Trinniberg’s 11th in the Dubai Golden Shaheen because it was his first start of the year, and any horse can throw in a dud after traveling to the other side of the world. But Trinniberg’s surrender last time out in the Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard, in which he finished a tired seventh after disputing the early pace with eventual winner Delaunay, was alarming. If Trinniberg rebounds, and he will have to break from the outside to do so, it will be without me.
Jackson Bend is a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner who has a license to improve on his recent return from a nine-month absence. But his form before he went on hiatus was uninspiring, and having to break from almost as far outside as Trinniberg is not good for this horse.
Justin Phillip is absolutely the horse to beat here. Once a horse who saved his best performances for wet tracks and Belmont Park, Justin Phillip now runs well everywhere and under varying conditions. His fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last fall was commendable considering he was bucking a speed bias, and his two victories at this year’s meet at Oaklawn Park, one in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, were solid. And his game second most recently in the True North Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard to his brilliant entrymate Fast Bullet was very good in light of the fact that Fast Bullet shook loose on an uncontested early lead. The main issue with Justin Phillip is price. He won’t be much of one, and I don’t want to take low odds in a spot like this.
I’m going with Swagger Jack. Swagger Jack’s seventh in the Met Mile last time out is a throw-out as he was stopped in traffic late on the far turn and had to check, and I like the cut back to a sprint with him here. Over the winter in Florida, Swagger Jack was compromised by an inside speed bias when a narrowly beaten second in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, and by a lack of pace when second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. But he followed those efforts with a strong upset score in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, beating subsequent Met Mile winner Sahara Sky. A duplicate of Swagger Jack’s Carter would be good enough here.
I think Fort Loudon has a shot, too. I can also overlook his loss last time out in the Met Mile, and in his close fourth in the Carter two starts back, he was forced to check on the rail at several points. And Fort Loudon did beat Swagger Jack in the Gulfstream Sprint Championship, albeit with the grain of the track.
United Nations Stakes
If the 2012 version of Little Mike shows up in this race – the one who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Grade 1 Arlington Million, and the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic – then everyone else in this race is running for second money. But it is fair to wonder what kind of Little Mike we will see. His two races this year in Dubai weren’t good, and he now must show he has recovered from his long trip. There’s just too much doubt here with Little Mike to stand alone with him at a short price.
Big Blue Kitten is my play. Big Blue Kitten was a very good second last time out in the Monmouth Stakes, the local prep for this. He finished strongly (he went his final three furlongs in an excellent 34.93 seconds) despite getting no pace to rally into, and he should get more honest fractions to set him up this time. It is true that Big Blue Kitten has never beaten this kind. But for the first time in his career in this country, this son of Kitten’s Joy and an Unaccounted For mare is getting the chance to do something Saturday that he was born to do, which is go an extended distance on the turf.
Arlington Sprint Stakes
Saint Leon and Chamberlain Bridge finished 1-2 in this race last year, and Saint Leon returned earlier this Arlington meet to be a decisive winner in very fast time. But those taking a literal approach to the past performances should know that Chamberlain Bridge was so much better than Saint Leon in the 2012 edition of this race, it wasn’t even funny.
Chamberlain Bridge broke poorly in this event last summer and spotted the field a head start of around six lengths. Yet despite such a disadvantage, he came up only a half-length short of catching Saint Leon. Chamberlain Bridge also had terrible luck last time out in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, getting wiped out on the far turn by an opponent who was bearing out badly. Chamberlain Bridge, who won this race in 2010, the same year he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, is 9 now. But he showed he can still be very effective only two starts back when he fell an unlucky nose shy of winning the Turf Sprint Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
A significant reason to back Big Blue Kitten is the jockey. Joe Bravo, the king of Monmouth Park. Kind of similar to the angle that some used on London Lane last week at Colonial with Karamanos riding. When there is a big stakes race with riders from NY coming in, many people dumbly assume that the NY jockey colony is superior. Maybe in 1998, not anymore.
Fort Loudon won 3 in a row at Calder last year including the stakes where he ran down Trinniberg! That was a shocking win. I'm sending it in across the board!!!
UN- G1 # 8 Hangover Kid off his 22.8 inside and 23.5 outside....Bombs away from Gabriel.
Swagger Jack Willcox Inn
Still slinging mud at Trinniberg eh, Mike? Safe trips to all...
Mike, I bet most of your choices every time you post them . I am far ahead for the 2 years I've been following you. I'll buy you 4 drinks at Saratoga this summer , if I can find you. Thanks !! Bob Darling