Royal Ascot, five days of world-class turf racing, draws to a close on Saturday. This piece takes a look at the closing day feature, the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, a six-furlong turf sprint for older horses.
In a competitive, 19-horse renewal of the Diamond Jubilee…
On a humid and (at times) rainy day at Arlington Park, Illinois-bred older grass horses took centre stage for a pair of 1 1/16 mile stakes races. The Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap, named after the late turf writer for the Daily Herald, featured a field of six fillies and mares, including graded stakes performers LOVELY LOYREE and PRADO’S SWEET RIDE. The open-company complement, the Black Tie Affair Handicap, was the long-awaited eight-year-old debut of multiple Grade 1 winner THE PIZZA MAN — but he had four other foes to face, and they would not let him have it easy.
One race saw a well-backed victor. In the other, a longshot prevailed. But, in both, speed held over the rain-soaked grass.
This Saturday’s card at Arlington features a pair of state-bred turf stakes: the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap and the Black Tie Affair Handicap.
Though both drew short fields, they both drew fields as classy as you’ll ever see in a state-bred stakes race. The Black Tie Affair, for open company, not only drew multiple Grade 1 winner The Pizza Man, but also defending champion Cammack and dependable old warrior Super Soldier. The Spellman drew Grade 3 winner Prado’s Sweet Ride, multiple graded stakes placed Lovely Loyree, and defending champion Stormin Elle. One thing is certain: whoever wins these races will have fought for it, and will have beaten good horses to do it.
In today’s Isaac Murphy Handicap at Arlington, Puntsville was vying to become only the second horse ever to win the Isaac Murphy Handicap twice. However, it was a prodigal daughter of the Land of Lincoln — One Liz — who proved her polytrack prowess and ran on late for the win.
Belmont isn’t the only place with racing action going on this weekend! At Arlington on Saturday, Illinois-bred filly and mare sprinters take centre stage in the Isaac Murphy Handicap!
The race drew a competitive field of eight, including the top three finishers from last year’s Isaac Murphy (Puntsville, Dandy Gal, and Church Road). The race also drew the top two finishers from the Third Chance Handicap at Hawthorne this spring (My Mertie and Go Lady Jay).
We’ve reached my favourite leg of the Triple Crown: the Belmont Stakes.
Perhaps the most consistent part of this year’s Triple Crown season has been Classic Empire’s path being so star-crossed. Unfortunately, he is not one of the entrants into this year’s Belmont, as he came up with a foot abscess this morning. However, twelve horses did pass the entry box. Lookin at Lee will be the only horse to contest all three legs of the Triple Crown. Irish War Cry takes one more Triple Crown before going back to Jersey for the Haskell. A couple horses we saw at Hawthorne a month and a half ago, Multiplier and Hollywood Handsome, will try Big Sandy.
Who do Paul Mazur and I like?
Friday’s card at Belmont features the fourth edition one of my favourite races of the year: the Belmont Gold Cup (G3).
It’s graded for the first time this year, and it drew a deep field of 13: seven Americans, and six international horses. It’s exciting to see how far this race has come in just four years. The race has more proven stayers than ever before, and classier contestants as well.
In addition to a full preview of the Belmont Gold Cup, I also share my picks for all of Friday’s stakes races.
Today, the three-year-old Illinois-breds took the spotlight at Arlington Park, with the Purple Violet Stakes and the Springfield Stakes.
In the fillies’ division, it was a familiar face: Babybluesbdancing, the runaway top two-year-old in the state last year, won the Purple Violet in a runaway. Among open company, it was a horse testing his mettle in stakes company for the first time: Smoke ‘N’ Gloat, despite pace pressure, held a heavy favourite at bay.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and take a look back at the top three-year-olds in Illinois!
This Saturday at Arlington, Illinois-bred three-year-olds take the spotlight.
As usual, the Purple Violet Stakes — a one-turn polytrack mile for Illinois-bred sophomore fillies — will be contested. However, for the first time since 2014, the open-company complement will be run. With the Illinois-bred colts’ and geldings’ division wide open (especially since Devileye has not yet returned to the worktab for his three-year-old debut), the Springfield Stakes drew eight entrants ready to stake their claim for a place in the picture.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s pair of three-year-old stakes at Arlington, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Today, Arlington’s turf stakes season got underway with the Arlington Classic (G3). It is the first of three grass stakes, culminating in the Secretariat (G1) in August.
One of the questions leading into today’s race was whether Cowboy Culture would grow into graded stakes company. Today, the son of Quality Road answered that question with a resounding yes, marking himself as another young turf star in the shedrow of Brad Cox.