Eight graded stakes will occur this weekend across the United States and Ontario with three in Grade 1 company. Several star horses will make appearances including five time graded stakes winner Game on Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap at BetFair Hollywood Park on Saturday afternoon. As part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, the winner gets an automatic bid for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.
The five year old Awesome Again gelding has won 7 of 17 career starts with the latest in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on June 2. After an unsuccessful trip to Dubai with a 12th place finish in the Dubai World Cup, trainer Bob Baffert gave his prized horse a couple of months off. It certainly benefitted the horse as he destroyed the small field by 7 1/4 lengths. If you remove the effort in Dubai, he has won 3 of his last 4 races with the other a 2nd place result in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The field in the Hollywood Gold Cup is slightly larger as he will face 6 other horses. On paper, this should be another cake walk. His closet rival will most likely be Kettle Corn, who finished 2nd to Game on Dude in the Californian. After spending most of his career in claiming and allowance company, he made the jump to graded company two starts ago in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (G2). He finished 3rd beaten 4 1/4 lengths. Also in the field is the seven year old Richard’s Kid. After an unsuccessful season in Dubai that included three races in 2011 and two this year, he came back to win the Prove It Stakes less than a month ago. The four time graded stakes winner will have his work cut out for him if he wants to defeat Game on Dude.
On the other side of the country, it’s a Grade 2 race that will provide the star power. The Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park sports eight horses including multiple graded stakes winners in To Honor and Serve, Mucho Macho Man, Caixa Eletronica and Stay Thirsty. To Honor and Serve is the 9/5 morning line favorite. He comes into this race after finishing 3rd in the Met Mile last month. Prior to that, he won the Westchester Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park in April. This will only be his 3rd career race at the 1 1/8 miles distance. He won the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) last September and finished 3rd in the Florida Derby (G1) in March of 2011. The majority of his races have been at one mile or 1 1/16 miles. He’s won 7 of 13 career races and has only been out of the top 3 twice. He finished 7th in last year’s Breeder’s Cup Classic and 6th in the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) last summer. That going 6 1/2 furlongs. Even though he has limited experience at 1 1/8 miles, this could be his best distance. The mile races were too rushed and he didn’t seem comfortable against top milers in Shackleford and Caleb’s Posse in the Met. He will be able to relax early on, sit off the pace then make his strong move as the straighten down the stretch. He will be tough on Saturday.
The Todd Pletcher trained entry of Caixa Eletronica and Stay Thirsty is an interesting one. Stay Thirsty, last summer’s Travers Stakes winner missed 6 months after his 11th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His return to the track was a 2nd in the Vanlandingham Stakes (Trickmeister) on May 17. Caixa Eletronica is the jack of all trades. He can sprint, run middle distance and go long. He won the 1 1/8 miles Charles Town Classic and most recently took the True North Handicap going 6 furlongs. Sandwiched between those two wins was a 4th place in the Met Mile. This field of seven is competitive, but he has shown he can compete with the best of them this year. In 54 career starts, he’s won 18 times and finished in the top three 36 times.
Mucho Macho Man had his three race winning streak snapped as he finished 3rd in the Alysheba Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on May 4. In 2012, he has won the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes in January and the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in March. Others in this race include Trickmeister, winner of 6 in 7 races but his only effort in graded company was 6th in the Donn Handicap (G1) in February, as well as, Hymn Book, who won the Donn.
IN OTHER ACTION
Calder Race Course will be the headline track for speedsters. The Princess Rooney Handicap (G1) will feature Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mare Sprint winner Musical Romance and a field of 11. She is just 1 for 4 in 2012 as she won the Inside Information Stales (G2) at Gulfstream Park in March. The Bill Kaplan trained mare comes into the race off a runner-up performance in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs. She lost by 7 1/4 lengths to Groupie Doll.
The Sprint Smile Handicap (G2) has a field of 10 horses including Trinniberg, the only three year old in the field. If you remove his 17th place finish in the Kentucky Derby he is unbeaten in sprints in 2012. With wins in the Swale (G3), Bay Shore (G3) and Woody Stephens (G2), the Teuflesberg colt has established himself as the top three year old sprinter in the country. His main rival looks to be Ontario invader Field Commission. The seven year old ran his first 28 races at Woodbine winning 7 times including two graded stakes races. His last race was a win in the Ponche Handicap on June 9 at Calder.
Turbo Compressor and Brilliant Speed head a field of eight in the $500,000 United Nations Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. The race goes 1 3/8 miles on the turf. Last year, this race was part of the BC Challenge series but was removed for 2012.
Rule and Flat Out take on four others in the Monmouth Stakes (G2) at Monmouth Park. A race that goes one mile on the dirt.
The Royal Heroine Mile Stakes (G2) at BetFair Hollywood Park sports a field of eight older fillies and mares including City to City (Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap), All Star Heart (Grade 2 Las Palmas Stakes) and Quiet Oasis (Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap).
Marketing Mix goes for her 4th win in 5 races when she takes to the Woodbine race rack in the Dance Smartly Stakes (G2). She takes on 6 others including 2011 Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious. She has yet to win since.