Best Horse Racing Picks this Weekend: Keeneland, Belmont & Santa Anita
While the racing world braces for the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, stakes races at Keeneland, Belmont Park and Santa Anita offer a solid appetizer before next week’s main course. Beginning on Friday, and running through Sunday, the three tracks will host a number of interesting races.
Closing weekend at Keeneland leads the way with five stakes races on Friday and Saturday. Headlining the weekend at the Lexington, Kentucky oval will be Code of Honor making his final career start against a deep group in the Fayette Stakes, and a wide-open field of turf fillies in the Valley View Stakes.
This week we will also check in on Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park and young turf horses out at Santa Anita, as we handicap a half-dozen stakes races from coast to coast.
Valley View Stakes (G3), Keeneland, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 3-year-old fillies
Crazy Beautiful, a three-time graded stakes winner on the dirt this year, and the undefeated Canadian, Lady Speightspeare, headline a wide-open field of 14 turf fillies entered in Friday’s Grade 3 Valley View Stakes at Keeneland. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Crazy Beautiful has won five stakes overall, highlighted by wins in the graded Gulfstream Park Oaks, Summertime Oaks, and the Delaware Oaks. The morning line favorite is also a winner of her only start on the turf, which came in her career debut last summer at Ellis Park.
Meanwhile, Lady Speightspeare has won all three of her starts on the turf at Woodbine. As a 2-year-old, the regally bred daughter of Speightstown won the Grade 1 Natalma in her second career start. After a lengthy layoff, the chestnut filly trained by Roger Attfield made a winning return to the races in an allowance race in early September at her home base north of the border.
Our Pick: Breaker of Chains (8/1) – The lightly raced filly, who began her career in Ireland, looked like the real deal winning in her US debut.
Fayette Stakes (G2), Keeneland, 1 1/8 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds, and up
Code of Honor, who will be making the final start of a successful career, headlines a field of nine entered in the 64th running of the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes on Saturday, the closing day of the fall meets at Keeneland. A two-time Grade 1 winner, the 5-year-old millionaire is trained by Shug McGaughey and earned his two biggest victories back in 2019, when he won the Travers and was put up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Overall, the son of Noble Mission has won six stakes races, including the Grade 3 Philip Iselin Stakes two starts back at Monmouth Park.
Code of Honor will face a solid group in his finale, though, as there are four other graded stakes winners in the field for the $200,000 affair. His biggest threat could come from the only 3-year-old in the field. King Fury comes into the Fayette off a 13-length runaway in the Bourbon Trail last month at Churchill Downs for trainer Kenny McPeek. The son of Curlin also won the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland earlier this year.
Our Pick: Sleepy Eyes Todd (6/1) – Classy veteran won last fall at Keeneland and looks to be the controlling speed in this field.
Bowman Mill Stakes, Keeneland, 6 furlongs (dirt), 2-year-olds
My Prankster, from the barn of Todd Pletcher, heads a field of eight 2-year-olds entered in Saturday’s $150,000 Bowman Mill at Keeneland. Contested at 6 furlongs on the main track, the Bowman Mill will offer all but one of the juveniles the opportunity at an initial stakes victory. A 10-length winner of his debut at Saratoga, My Prankster will be making his third career start on Saturday. Most recently, the Into Mischief colt finished fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.
The lone stakes winner in the field is Roger McQueen. Trained by Larry Rivelli, he won the Ellis Park Juvenile two starts back, but faded badly last time in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, going one mile. Others who should be supported on Saturday include the top three finishers from a fast, recent allowance race at Churchill Downs, Chattalot, Nakatomi, and Freelancer
Our Pick: My Prankster (5/2) – Impressive debut winner drops back down in distance after running against Jack Christopher in the Champagne.
Empire Classic, Belmont Park, 1 1/8 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up
Led by the veteran, Mr. Buff, and the young upstart, Americanrevolution, a field of nine is set to go postward for the 40th running of the $300,000 Empire Classic on Saturday at Belmont Park. Mr. Buff is a 7-year-old son of Friend Or Foe who has made 47-lifetime starts and has won the last two editions of the Empire Classic. The millionaire chestnut added two more stakes wins to his impressive total to begin 2021 but will need to regain his best form as he looks for the three-peat, having finished fifth in his last two starts.
On the other hand, Americanrevolution has just begun its career with five-lifetime starts. A son of Constitution, he impressively won both the New York Derby at Finger Lakes and the Albany Stakes at Saratoga this summer. Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, he had his three-race winning streak broken last time out when he finished third behind two of the best 3-year-olds in the nation in Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon.
Our Pick: Americanrevolution (8/5) – He showed his class with a strong run last time in the million-dollar Pennsylvania Derby.
Empire Distaff, Belmont Park, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up fillies and mares
Make Mischief will bring to the table the most graded stakes experience, but she will face a competitive field of 10 in Saturday’s $250,000 Empire Distaff at Belmont Park. A daughter of Into Mischief trained by Mark Casse, she earned her first stakes victory earlier this year in the Maddie May at Aqueduct. In the money in four graded stakes races in her career, she most recently finished second by a neck in the nine-furlong Fleet Indian at Saratoga.
Chief among her competitors in the 8 ½ furlong race on the main track is Trinni Luck. The 4-year-old daughter of Trinniberg has rattled off three straight victories, including a romp at Belmont Park in her latest. Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, she went wire to wire to win by 5 1/2-lengths, going the same distance as Saturday’s test, while defeating open company. The Empire Distaff will be her stakes debut.
Our Pick: Ice Princess (5/1) – The late running daughter of Palace Malice is rounding into career best form and should get plenty of speed run at here.
Twilight Derby (G2), Santa Anita, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3-year-olds
Rock Your World, a Grade 1 winner on the dirt earlier this year, returns to the turf on Sunday when he tops a competitive field of 11 set for the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita. A winner of his first two career starts, which both came on the Santa Anita turf, Rock Your World moved to dirt in his third start and was an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. After off the board finishes in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, he returned to be a solid second to his old rival Medina Spirit last time in the Shared Belief Stakes.
There are numerous interesting alternatives to the favorite in the 9-furlong turf test, with the most accomplished being None Above the Law. A gray, gelded son of Karakontie, the California-bred has won four stakes races this year, two of them coming on the turf. Most recently, he scored his biggest victory to date when he rode the rail to victory over 12 other 3-year-olds in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.
Our Pick: Rock Your World (5/2) – The class of the race, he has a great shot to get back to his winning ways in his return to the turf.
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
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