This past Saturday’s big races in New York and California were both run at 1-1/4 miles and respectfully won by Eskimo Kisses and Accelerate.
Eskimo Kisses rallied into a very fast pace to score an important victory at 9-1 odds in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. Meanwhile, 2-5 favorite Accelerate dominated the $1 million Pacific Classic, scoring by 12-1/2 lengths in fast time to re-affirm his status as the best older horse in training on the West Coast.
At the bottom line, Eskimo Kisses earned a moderate 100 Beyer Speed Figure for her stretch-running winning effort as Accelerate put up a terrific 115 for his impressive win.
Justify, who had to retire due to injury, probably clinched the 2018 Horse of the Year when he swept this year’s American Triple Crown. Nevertheless, there have been several top-notch horses who seem likely to be legit contenders for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, Nov. 3.
Specifically, Gun Runner earned a 120 Beyer in a Jan. 27 race at Gulfstream Park, while West Coast got a 117 in that same event.
Moving forward, several other contenders are likely to demonstrate BCup potential in the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga this coming Saturday. The Travers, of course, is the 1-1/4 mile race for 3-year-olds that has been run since 1864 and remains the annual mid-summer centerpiece for one of America’s most prestigious race meets.
This year’s Travers will match the current meet leader – Good Magic – against a deep field expected to include the terrific filly Wonder Gadot as well as some of the country’s leading 3-year-olds who have won or placed in important stakes throughout the year. Among those worth keeping in focus are the following top Travers’ contenders: Vino Rosso, Mendelssohn, Catholic Boy and Gronkowski.
Good Magic has earned his status via his victory in the rich Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park and his previous second to Justify in the Kentucky Derby. Wonder Gadot, trained by the aggressive Mark Casse, not only finished second to the highly ranked filly Monomy Girl, she previously defeated males in the Queen’s Plate stakes in Canada.
Vino Rosso, trained by the ever-present Todd Pletcher, was third in the recent Jim Dandy Stakes over the Saratoga racing surface and previously had won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
As for Mendelssohn, who has not been in top form this season, we should remember he was a strong 2-year-old performer last year. Among his credentials is his victory in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race. In addition, Mendelssohn’s recent workouts suggest he may be ready to recover his best form on Saturday. The same seems true for Catholic Boy whose recent workouts give him a chance to wake-up in the Travers.
Finally, Gronkowski comes to the Travers after having run well in June’s Belmont Stakes after good efforts in four races in England. Beyond the above horses named here who will deserve close evaluations in the Travers, we should all keep our eyes open for how strongly West Coast performs through the rest of the summer. After all, West Coast won the Travers in 2017 and is strong enough to put in a good bid in this fall’s BC Classic.
Added Notes: Beyond the Travers and the excellent races that are being run at Del Mar and Saratoga, it is useful to point out that both meets are attracting considerable play this year. Del Mar in particular has been enjoying record betting handles.
For instance, the aforementioned Saturday card set a new single day betting record of more $25,969,128. Going forward the trend continued into Sunday’s Del Mar card, as Del Mar added a new betting record for its Pick 5 that approached $5 million.
In addition, jockey Drayden Van Dyke has exploded at Del Mar this season. For just one example, Van Dyke scored seven victories (with one second) from eight mounts on the Sunday, Aug. 19 card! That seventh win put Van Dyke into an all-time high tie with Victor Espinoza for most wins on a single Del Mar card. Espinoza, by the way, scored his seven victories from 10 mounts more than a decade ago.
Beyond all of the above facts, it remains stunningly clear that both Saratoga and Del Mar continue to produce exceptional performances while maintaining their prestigious high rankings on the national racing calendar. More seems likely to come during the next few weeks.