The Brock Talk

Friday, July 3, 2009

Weekend Watch

Just as every July 4 weekend since before the date became a national celebration, this summer holiday weekend is packed full of good horse races throughout the USA from Calder Race Couse in Miami to Emerald Downs near Seattle and from Belmont Park in New York to Hollywood Park in Southern California.

Perhaps the most intriguing race will be the $200,000 Dwyer Handicap Saturday at Belmont Park. The grade 2 race for 3-year-olds will feature Warrior's Reward and jockey Calvin Borel. What makes this interesting is that this is the horse to which Borel commited over Mine That Bird.

Warrior's Reward is trained by Churchill Downs based trainer Ian Wilkes whose stable has won 19 races and more than $1.3 million this year through July 2 and is among Borel's top regular clients. Following Saturday's Dwyer, Warrior's Reward is scheduled to race in the grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 1, which would be in conflict with Mine That Bird's scheduled West Virginia Derby appearance that same day.

Belmont will also feature the $400,000 Suburban Handicap where It's A Bird will be looking for his third consecutive graded stakes victory. The Marty Wolfson trainee won the grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas in April and the grade 3 Lone Star Handicap in Texas in May. It's A Bird has become a force in graded stakes company since arriving at Wolfson's barn last year when he was running in the $40,000 - $50,000 claiming ranks and losing.

Remember that tiny three-horse field last week in the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes that Rachel Alexandra dominated? Well one of the fillies she frightened out of that race runs Saturday at Belmont in the grade 1, $300,000 Prioress Stakes at 6 furlongs.

Gabby's Golden Gal won the grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont at 1-1/8 miles and would have naturally progress to the 1-1/8 Mother Goose. Instead trainer Bob Baffert elected to send the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro to the Prioress with the grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga as the next target. Last year Baffert took the Prioress-Test staeks double with Indian Blessing.

One of the more fun races to watch will be the $750,000 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park in New Jersey Saturday. The 1-3/8 mile UN has a long history of tradition as one of the top turf races in North America and is one of the key springboards toward the Breeders' Cup Championships in November at Santa Anita, especially recently with it's "Win and You're In" status.

Defending champion Presious Passion heads a field on nine that include 10-year-old Better Talk Now and 9-year-old Brass Hat, who won the grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs in his last race. Last year's grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner Court Vision is also a top contender.

At Hollywood Park an international field of 3-year-old fillies has assembled for the grade 1, $700,000 American Oaks at 1-1/4 miles on the turf.

New York invader Gozzip Girl comes to Hollywood off a victory in the grade 2 Sands Point Stakes on the grass while Well Mistress will defend the home turf after winning the grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park. International invaders include New Zealands group 2 winner Puttanesca, and Europeans Apple Charlotte, Afternoon Stroll and Magical Affair.

In other racing news this week, Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird arrived at Monmouth Park in preperation for the $1 million Haskell Invitational. Also commited to the Haskell this week is grade 2 Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem who also finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

The late Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro reportedly has a sister on the way. According to Headley Bell, an adviser to owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson who also owned Barbaro, La Ville Rouge was checked June 29 and the test showed she was carrying a healthy fetus believed to be a filly. The mare was bred to Dynaformer, the sire of Barbaro, on April 26.

Barbaro's 3-year-old full brother Nicanor is undefeated on the turf in winning his last two races and his 2-year-old brother Letenor is in training at Fair Hill Training Center with trainer Michael Matz in preperation for his first race.

Florida Derby winner Quality Road, sidelined with foot problems in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby, is nearing his first serious morning work according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Quality Road is scheduled to run in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga in early August.

Friend and Quarter Horse journalist Michael Cusortelli has a new blog Handicapping the Speedhorse that can be found at Excellent coverage of the $625,000 Rainbow Futurity trials in one of his early posts.

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