The big dozen of horse racing events
August 15, 2017 3:00 AM
by Steve Davidowitz
There is a lot of ground to cover this week, so I will share the most important dozen events and pressing issues individually as spelled out below:
• First, the 35th Arlington Million run in Chicago this past Saturday was won narrowly by the Chad Brown trained Beach Patrol at nearly 5-1 odds, with extreme longshot Fanciful Angel finishing second over favored Divisidero, who turned in a good effort to finish a close third. As compelling as this race was, the winner only earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. By comparison, the one mile, $500K Fourstardave on the Saratoga turf course, was won by World Approval, with a solid 107 Beyer.
• Brown, a rising star of the highest magnitude, had a big Arlington Million Day, also winning the $500K Beverly D. Stakes with 6-1 shot Dacita, who earned a 101 Beyer. Aside from Brown’s victories at Arlington, it is indisputable that his reputation took a major leap forward last year when he defeated Todd Pletcher for the Saratoga training title.
• This year, Brown and Pletcher have been neck and neck since Saratoga’s opening on July 21. While each trainer did win two Saratoga races this past weekend, Pletcher’s Pure Silver took Saturday’s Grade-2 Adirondak for Juvenile fillies by 9-1/2 lengths to earn an 84 Figure, among the best to date for her age group.
• Speaking of Saratoga, there is shocking news to report, as 11 horses have died during the first few weeks of the current season with no causes yet uncovered by state investigators. This high casualty rate is quite disturbing and I will be following up as we move through the meet.
• That troubling news notwithstanding, Saratoga continues to offer a stakes race every day, including two rich events for 3-year-old fillies to be run this Saturday – the $600K Alabama at 1-1/4 miles on the main track and the $300K Lake Placid at one mile on the turf.
• Even though both of the above stakes will command national attention, they will only serve as appetizers for the incredible program scheduled for the following Saturday, Aug. 26. That is when Saratoga will present seven stakes worth $4.9 million, including the 148th running of the historic Travers, worth $1.25 million.
• Right now, Pletcher is likely to start two high-profile horses in the 1-1/4 mile Travers, Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Belmont stakes winner Tapwrit. Not to be outdone, Chad Brown is set to put his Preakness winner Cloud Computing in the field. Beyond those two, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert seems likely to ship his late developing West Coast from Del Mar for the race. Of course, I will have much more on this big race in next week’s column.
• In the meantime at Del Mar, Saturday’s $200K Best Pal for 2-year-olds at 6-1/2 furlongs was won by undefeated Run Away, who scored at $1.50-1 odds with a modest 75 Beyer. To the surprise of many, the Baffert trained Serengeti finished a weak sixth as the $1.30-1 betting favorite.
• Just as Saratoga is loaded with stakes, Del Mar will be offering six stakes from Wednesday, Aug. 16 through next Sunday, the 20th. Among them will be one of Del Mar’s most important races in several years, the $1 million Pacific Classic this Saturday. That’s the 1-1/4 mile race in which the Baffert trained Arrogate will be seeking to recover his top form against a small, but strong field.
• Two of the horses Arrogate is expected to face are Accelerate and Donworth, the 1-2 finishers in the San Diego Handicap over this track on Saturday, July 22. Lest we forget, Arrogate struggled home fourth in that race at 1-20 odds! Two other 2017 stakes winners – Collected and Curlin Road – also are expected to be in the Pacific Classic field.
• While Baffert says Arrogate “has trained very well,” since his shocking San Diego performance, the only way Arrogate can prove he really is back to being the dominating horse we saw from August 2016 through Mach 2017 is for him to win the Classic. For my two cents, I certainly would love to see this exciting horse return to top form; but, it is against my gambling religion to bet any horse at the relatively low odds he will go to the post.
• Beyond the Pacific Classic, Del Mar fans also will be treated to two rich grass stakes on Saturday, the $250K Del Mar Handicap at 1-3/8 miles for older horses and the $300K Del Mar Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Both races seem exceedingly wide open.
At the bottom line – and as we move forward toward the best races of the summer – I personally hope the disturbing issues that have led to 11 horse deaths at Saratoga will be resolved quickly. Otherwise, I do remain optimistic that the great competition we have been following at America’s premier summer racetracks will continue through their closing day cards on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4.