Best Horse Racing Picks This Weekend: Prairie Meadows, Belmont and Delaware Park
Headlined by a rematch of last fall’s Jockey Club Gold Cup between Mystic Guide and Happy Saver in Saturday’s Grade 2 Suburban and Belmont Park, the July 4th holiday weekend is full of graded stakes around the country.
This week, we’ll take a look at interesting stakes races from four different racetracks, including a pair of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races in New York’s Suburban and Princess Rooney from Gulfstream Park and add in graded stakes from Delaware and Iowa.
Here is a look at the six races, beginning with three races from Friday evening’s big card at Prairie Meadows.
Cornhusker Handicap (G3), Prairie Meadows, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up
The smashing winner of both the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in successive races in November and January, Knicks Go will attempt to return to his winning ways as he faces six other older males in the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap on Friday. From the barn of Brad Cox, the speedy son of Paynter yielded to the pressure most recently, fading to fourth in the Grade 1 Met Mile.
Of the rest, Last Judgment could offer the most competition. An experienced son of Congrats, he has already won three stakes races this year, and comes into the Cornhusker off a smart score in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special on Preakness weekend.
Our Pick: Knicks Go (1/1) – Gets a big class break and should be ready to roll in Iowa.
Bet on Knicks Go!
Iowa Oaks (G3), Prairie Meadows 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-old fillies
Graded stakes winners Pauline’s Pearl and Army Wife headline a field of seven 3-year-old fillies set for Friday’s Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows. A beautifully bred daughter of Tapit, Pauline’s Pearl became a graded stakes winner two starts back for trainer Steve Asmussen when she won the Grade 3 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. Most recently, she faded to eighth against the best in the division in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
Chief among her rivals in the 1 1/16-mile test is the Mike Maker trained Army Wife. No worse than third in five career starts on the dirt, the daughter of Declaration of War scored her first career stakes win in her most recent start, impressively winning the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on Preakness weekend.
Our Pick: Army Wife (5/2) – If she can run back to her last effort, I believe she adds another graded stakes victory.
Bet on Army Wife!
Iowa Derby, Prairie Meadows, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds
With the scratch of Proxy, A field of eight are left to battle it out for the top prize in Friday evening’s $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. The 1 1/16-mile test is topped by the hero of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, Super Stock. Since his big win at Oaklawn Park, the two-time stakes winner had no luck in either the Kentucky Derby or the Texas Derby. In the latter, he did not enjoy a clean trip on an off track.
Chief among his competition will be Nova Rags, a stakes-winning colt from the barn of Bill Mott. Third behind Drain the Clock and Jackie’s Warrior in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens last out, The son of Union Rags won the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs to begin the year and since finished second in both the Grade 3 Peter Pan and the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.
Our Pick: Nova Rags (7/2) – This one should enjoy the class drop after running against good ones in New York.
Bet on Nova Rags!
Suburban (G2), Belmont Park, 1 1/4 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up
Mystic Guide, making his first start since a triumphant trip overseas for the $12,000,000 Dubai World Cup, figures to be the top choice against a group of five other older males assembled for the Grade 2 Suburban. A “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Saturday feature at Belmont Park has also attracted a familiar foe to Mystic Guide in the Todd Pletcher trained Happy Saver.
Unbeaten in five career starts, Happy Saver recently began his 4-year-old season with a workmanlike allowance victory. The two-time stakes-winning son of Super Saver finished off last season with a determined win over Mystic Guide in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at the same track and distance as Saturday’s test.
Our Pick: Happy Saver (9/5) – He has a tough rival, but I don’t see any reason why he can’t repeat his Jockey Club Gold Cup success.
Bet on Happy Saver!
Princess Rooney (G2), Gulfstream Park, 7 furlongs (dirt), fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up
Multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Ce Ce looms a tepid favorite in Saturday’s Grade 2 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park. Last year, the Michael McCathy trainee counted the Beholder Mile and the Apple Blossom among her wins. The 5-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality has raced twice this year, starting with an easy win in a seven-furlong allowance race, before a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Santa Maria last time.
Chief among her rivals will be Estilo Talentoso, who captured the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont Park last time out. The Juan Arriagada-trained 4-year-old daughter of Maclean’s Music had finished second and third in a pair of Grade 1 sprints in Kentucky prior to her initial graded-stakes win.
Our Pick: Estilo Talentoso (3/1) – Her recent form, all at 7 furlongs, points her out as the mare to beat in this Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event.
Bet on Estilo Talentoso!
Delaware Oaks (G3), Delaware Park, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-old fillies
Fresh off a successful trip out west, Crazy Beautiful headlines a field of nine for the $300,000, Grade 3 Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park on Saturday. The Kenny McPeek trained daughter of Liam’s Map was an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita in her first start since finishing off the board in the Kentucky Oaks. Before that she was a stylish winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Chief among her challengers will be the John Servis trained Midnight Obsession. The Pennsylvania-bred filly has only started three times. After two nice wins to begin her career, the 3-year-old daughter of Overanalyze finished a stubborn runner-up in the Lyphard Stakes at Penn National last time.
Our Pick: Crazy Beautiful (6/5) – The pretty gray filly should add to her growing credentials as she stands over this field from a class perspective
Bet on Crazy Beautiful!
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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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