This week, Picks and Ponderings goes back to Turfway — albeit only virtually, this time. Turfway’s card on Saturday features a pair of three-year-old points races, the $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) (previously the Spiral Stakes) for open company and the $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) for fillies. Both races offer 20-8-4-2 points to its top four finishers, good for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks respectively. As recently as last year, the races had been 50-point preps, though their points were lowered in light of the fact that the Polytrack has not in recent years tended to attract horses who made a major splash come the first weekend in May. Still, that didn’t hurt field size one bit: both races drew large, competitive fields.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s pair of three-year-old preps at Turfway, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Oaklawn’s spur of the Derby trail continues this Saturday with the Rebel Stakes. The race offers a purse of $900,000, in addition to Road to the Kentucky Derby points (50-20-10-5) for its top four finishers.
Inaugurated in 1961, the Rebel Stakes currently serves as the third of four steps on Oaklawn’s road to the Kentucky Derby. The race has constantly featured top-class horses. American Pharoah (2015) began his sophomore campaign in the race — a year that continued with a Triple Crown win, a Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) win, and both Champion Three Year Old Male and Horse of the Year honours. Though he is the only Triple Crown winner to have won the Rebel Stakes, a host of other three-year-old champions have won this race, including Temperence Hill (1980), Smarty Jones (2004), Curlin (2007), Lookin at Lucky (2010), and Will Take Charge (2013).
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Rebel Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
The San Felipe Stakes (G2) will be run for the 81st time this year. It is a Road to the Kentucky Derby race, with not only a $400,000 purse up for grabs but also 50, 20, 10, and 5 Kentucky Derby points available to the top four finishers. Originally inaugurated in 1935 for colts and geldings aged three and up, the race was restricted to three-year-olds starting in 1941, and opened up to fillies as well starting in 1952. Run at distances as short at six furlongs during its history, it has held steady at its current 1 1/16 mile distance since 1952. Over the history of the San Felipe Stakes, five winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby later that year: Determine (1954), Affirmed (1978), Sunday Silence (1989), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and California Chrome (2014). Bob Baffert has been the most successful trainer of all time in the San Felipe. He has won the race six times, most recently with Mastery (2017).
Keep reading at Picks and Ponderings, and let me know your thoughts on the San Felipe (G2) in the comments!
This year marks the 30th running of the Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park. It has always been a 1 1/16 mile race for three-year-old fillies. It first earned a grade 3 rating in 1990, and has carried that status every year except for 2003-2007, during which it was once again ungraded. This year’s renewal offers a $200,000 purse, as well as Road to the Kentucky Oaks points (50-20-10-5) for fillies in the top four places.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s Honeybee Stakes (G3), and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
This Saturday features four different three-year-old preps at three different tracks: three Kentucky Oaks prep, and a Kentucky Derby prep as well.
Over at Picks and Ponderings, I preview all four of the points races: the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream, the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct, and the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita.
Read my previews, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Good luck this weekend!
It’s that time of the year again — time to look back over the year that was, and to recognise the best Illinois-bred Thoroughbreds.
Over at Picks and Ponderings, I share my Illinois Champions ballot, and discuss my rationale for why I voted how I did in each category. Give it a read, revisit the best Illinois horses of 2017, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Picks and Ponderings has kept a close eye trained on the three-year-old points races, but there are none this week. Far be it from us to go on hiatus, though: especially since we’re hitting the road this weekend! We’re off to Florence, Kentucky, making our maiden voyage to Turfway Park, so follow along with @picksponderings for photos, notes, and updates!
We are keeping up with the three-year-old theme, of course. The feature of the race week is the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, the local prep for next month’s Grade 3 Jack Ruby Steaks (née Spiral Stakes).
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Friday’s John Battaglia Memorial, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
With synthetic tracks going out of fashion in the United States over the last few years, options for amassing Kentucky Derby points over anything but dirt have become few and far between. One of those rare remaining opportunities comes this Saturday over the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields, in the El Camino Real Derby.
The El Camino Real Derby, named after the so-called “Royal Road” that connects the Spanish missions from the San Francisco Bay south to San Diego, began its life in 1982. It was run at the late Bay Meadows Racetrack in San Mateo from 1982 through 2000, and again from 2005-2008. Golden Gate Fields hosted the race from 2001-2004, and again from 2009 through the present day. The race was run at 1 1/16 miles for most of its history, but stretched out to its current 1 1/8 mile distance in 2009. The race gained a Grade 3 designation in 1986, but was downgraded to listed status this year. Its purse was also cut in half, $100,000 this year versus $200,000 last year. Even so, it still offers its customary 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby points to its top four finishers.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the El Camino Real Derby, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Saturday’s card at Oaklawn features the second stakes of the season for three-year-old fillies: the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes. Opening day featured the six-furlong Dixie Belle, but the Martha Washington’s one-mile distance begins to bring out those fillies who may be able to stretch out for later preps, or even the nine-furlong Oaks itself. In addition to the purse money, the top four finishers of the Martha Washington receive Road to the Kentucky Oaks points (10-4-2-1). It is the first of three Oaks points races in Hot Springs. The series continues with the Honeybee (G3) on March 10, and concludes with the Fantasy (G3) on April 13.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of this Saturday’s Martha Washington Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
For the first time in a couple years, Picks and Ponderings won’t be at the Sam F. Davis Stakes — our foray south will instead happen a little later this winter, for the Tampa Bay Derby. However, being in Chicago won’t stop us from previewing Saturday’s pair of sophomore dirt stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) for open company and the Suncoast Stakes, the newest-minted Oaks points prep.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s pair of three-year-old preps at Tampa Bay Downs, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
(My preview of the Sam F. Davis Stakes is published at ThoroFan Handicapper’s Corner, as well! It’s not the only race at ThoroFan this week; Michael Amo also tackles the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf.)