Best Horse Racing Picks This Weekend: Monmouth Park, Saratoga and Del Mar
Headlined by their signature race, the million-dollar Haskell, Monmouth Park will be front and center this weekend with a huge day of racing on Saturday. We’ll focus on the excellent card, featuring four graded stakes from the New Jersey oval.
Of course, there is plenty of big summertime racing outside the Jersey Shore, as fan favorites Saratoga and Del Mar both open this week. The Grade 1 Diana in New York and the Grade 2 San Diego in California will lead the way.
Here is a look at the six races, beginning with four consecutive graded stakes from the loaded card on Saturday at Monmouth Park.
Haskell Stakes (G1), Monmouth Park, 1 1/8 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds
Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon, and Hot Rod Charlie, who respectively finished second in each leg of this year’s Triple Crown series, top a field of seven entered in Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. A “Win & You’re In” race for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar, the Haskell will also include the impressive winner of two straight, Following Sea
Off his win over Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, and his strong performance last time in the Belmont, Hot Rod Charlie is the likely favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race. Flavien Prat will be aboard the son of Oxbow as he looks for his second million-dollar win of the season.
Our Pick: Hot Rod Charlie (6/5) – His performance last time in the Belmont points him out as one of the top two sophomores in the nation.
United Nations (G1), Monmouth Park, 1 3/8 miles (turf), 3-year-olds and up
Grade 1 winner Arklow will likely be favored over nine younger turf rivals in the Grade 1 United Nations on Saturday at Monmouth Park. Inching nearer the $3 million mark in career earnings, the 7-year-old son of Arch exits a measured win in the Grade 3 Louisville at Churchill Downs last time in his seasonal debut. Trained by Brad Cox, the classy veteran was the beaten favorite when fourth in this race last year.
His biggest challenge could come from the speedy Tribhuvan, who set all the pace before succumbing to the late charge of his stablemate and division leader Domestic Spending in the Grade 1 Manhattan last time at Belmont Park. Before that, the gelded French import was a decisive winner of the Grade 2 Fort Marcy for trainer Chad Brown.
Our Pick: Glynn County (15/1) – The longshot pick likes the distance and is starting to put it together for trainer Mike Maker.
Bet on Glynn County!
Monmouth Cup (G3), Monmouth Park, 1 1/8 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up
Second and third in last year’s Grade 1 Haskell, Ny Traffic and Dr Post return to Monmouth Park on Haskell day to headline the $300,000 Monmouth Cup. Saturday’s 9 furlong test has also attracted the graded stakes winner Night Ops from the powerful barn of trainer Brad Cox.
Ny Traffic and Dr Post both won their 4-year-old debuts in impressive style before losing in their second start of the season. Ny Traffic finished second in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile last time, while Dr Post could do no better than fifth in the Grade 1 Met Mile. Night Ops, meanwhile, exits a heartbreaking loss in the Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Our Pick: Bankit (6/1) – The veteran New York-bred has never been better and should find plenty of speed in here to set the table for his late run.
Bet on Bankit!
Molly Pitcher (G3), Monmouth Park, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up fillies and mares
Vault, Water White, and Our Super Freak, the 1-2-3 finishers in the Grade 2 Ruffian at Belmont Park in May, will renew acquaintances when they lead a competitive field of nine older dirt mares set for Saturday’s $250,000 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.
Vault, the winner of the Ruffian, was outrun last time by division leader Letruska in the Grade 1 Fleur de Lis, but looks to be the likely favorite dropping into a more fitting field. Her main competition could be the third-place finisher Our Super Freak, who was carried well wide in the Ruffian.The consistent daughter of Mineshaft finished second in the Molly Pitcher last year.
Our Pick: Our Super Freak (7/2) – She should sit a good stalking trip on the inside and was an unlucky third last time.
Bet on Our Super Freak!
Diana Stakes (G1), Saratoga, 1 1/8 miles (turf), 3-year-olds and up fillies and mares
A sharp winner of the Grade 1 Just A Game last month in her American debut, Althiqa tops a competitive field of eight older turf females entered for Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana. Trained by Charlie Appleby, she will be meeting her stablemate Summer Romance for the fourth consecutive time. The pair ran 1-2 in the Just A Game after exchanging wins in a pair of Group 2 races over in Dubai earlier this year.
Chief among their challengers will be the top two finishers from the Grade 3 Beaugay. Harvey’s Lil Goil won that day, in what was the Grade 1 winner’s first start of the season, while Lemista ran a strong second in her American debut for trainer Chad Brown.
Our Pick: Harvey’s Lil Goil (4/1) – The classy daughter of American Pharoah should enjoy the firmer turf and cut back in distance on Saturday.
Bet on Harvey’s Lil Goil!
San Diego (G2), Del Mar, 1 1/16 miles (dirt), 3-year-olds and up
Imported from Brazil, the Richard Mandella trained Royal Ship has found his best stride of late, winning the Grade 2 Californian in April, before being beaten just ahead in the Grade 1 Gold Cup last time. Off those two performances, the 5-year-son of Midshipman looks to be the one to beat in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap on Saturday at Del Mar.
Chief among his competition will be a pair that finished behind him in the Gold Cup. Third and fourth respectively, graded stakes winners Express Train and Rushie both should appreciate the cut back in distance from 10 furlongs of the Gold Cup to the 8 ½ furlongs of the San Diego.
Our Pick: Royal Ship (8/5) – The South American’s recent form is too good to deny, but it will likely not be easy.
Bet on Royal Ship!
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]