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Headlined by a pair of Grade 1 races on the turf on closing weekend at Belmont Park, there’s plenty of good stakes racing around the nation, as well as north of the border.
On Saturday, we’ll focus on the New York oval, but also visit Delaware Park for a pair of graded stakes, which includes the historic Delaware Handicap. Finally, we will head up to Canada for a look at 3-year-olds in the Marine Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday.
Here is a look at the six races, beginning with three graded stakes from a stacked card on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Top trainer Aiden O’Brien will be well represented in both big turf races on Saturday as he sends over a strong pair in Bolshoi Ballet for the Belmont Derby and Santa Barbara for the Belmont Oaks. A strong winner of his first two starts of the year, both Group 3 stakes races in Ireland, the son of Galileo was favored in the historic Group 1 English Derby but succumbed on the wet turf in his most recent start.
Among his American challengers will be Hard Love and Du Jour. The former has won two straight in New York for trainer Jonathan Thomas, while the latter is on a three-race winning streak, including the Grade 2 American Turf last time. Du Jour will be saddled by Bill Mott for the first time, having been previously trained by Bob Baffert.
Our Pick: Bolshoi Ballet (5/2) – The classy European should bounce back after not appreciating the give in the turf last time in the English Derby.
It will be a battle of Europeans against Americans as a field of eight 3-year-old fillies are set to battle in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Oaks. The likely favorite in the 1 ¼-mile test on the grass will be the Aiden O’Brien-trained invader, Santa Barbara. The regally bred daughter of Camelot comes in off a strong second in the Group 1 Pretty Polly at the Curragh in Ireland just two weeks ago.
Of the Americans, multiple stakes winners Con Lima and Plum Ali look to offer the strongest challenge to the favored European. The pair finished a strong 1-2 in Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Wonder Again on June 3.
The Pick: Con Lima (4/1) – It’s a tough spot, but this very consistent filly could have things her own way in the early stages.
Bet on Souper Sensational
Australasia, Bella Sophia and Miss Brazil, the top three finishers from last month’s Jersey Girl,will renew acquaintances when they top a deep and talented field of eight 3-year-old fillies sprinting 6 ½ furlongs in Saturday’s Grade 2 Victory Ride.
The winner of the Jersey Girl, Australasia, is unbeaten in six starts and should vie for favoritism with the beaten 9/10 choice last time, Miss Brazil. The former is a Louisiana-bred, where she won her first four races before traveling to Kentucky and New York. Miss Brazil, meanwhile, is a stakes winning daughter of Palace Malice, who has never lost two races in a row.
Our Pick: Souper Sensational (8/1) – The upset selection ran a sneaky good race last time against tough competition and should appreciate all the speed in front of her.
Trained by Brad Cox, the multiple graded stakes winner Bonny South is the one they will all have to beat as a field of seven older females will contest the 84th edition of the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on Saturday at Delaware Park. The Juddmonte homebred won her first start this year in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland, before coming back with a strong second-place finish behind Letruska in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps last time.
Chief among her rivals will be Queen Nekia, who is a five-time winner at Delaware Park. In her seasonal debut, the 6-year-old daughter of Harlington scored a smart victory in the Grade 3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream Park. Last time she finished behind Letruska and Bonny South when fourth in the Ogden Phipps.
Our Pick: Bonny South (6/5) – The class of the race is proven at the distance and has looked very good in her first two starts of the year.
A stakes winner in each of her three seasons on the track, Micheline will look to return to her winning ways as she headlines a field of nine older females entered in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park on Saturday. The Michael Stidham trained daughter of Bernardini has lost two in a row, but began her season with a determined victory in the Grade 2 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Chief among her challengers will be the Graham Motion trained Blame Debbie. A developing filly who broke through with a victory in the Grade 3 Dowager Stakes at Keeneland last fall, she began her career as an older horse with a solid victory in the Searching Stakes at Pimlico four weeks ago.
Our Pick: Blame Debbie (9/2) – Trainer Graham Motion has won this race eight times already, and in Blame Debbie, I like his chances to win another.
Tidal Forces will put his unbeaten record on the line against a field of five other 3-year-olds entered in Sunday’s Grade 3 Marine Stakes at Woodbine. A winner on the Gulfstream Park turf, as well as the all-weather main track at Woodbine, the son of Malibu Moon only began his career in April, but has looked good finishing off the competition in his first two starts for trainer Gail Cox.
Chief among his competition will be a pair from the barn of Mark Casse. Easy Time was an impressive winner in his career debut at Woodbine in 2020 and comes in off a solid second-place finish last time at Gulfstream Park. Meanwhile, Frosted Over did not do much in his two starts as a juvenile, but looked very good in winning his seasonal debut three weeks ago at Woodbine.
Our Pick: Easy Time (2/1) – This son of Not This Time was unlucky not to win last time at Gulfstream and should enjoy his return to Woodbine.
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.
Email: [email protected]
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