The Brock Talk

Monday, August 22, 2011

Must See Horse Racing This Weekend

The purpose of today’s blog is to give notice. I want everyone to have plenty of time to clear their calendars this weekend. If it’s too late to clear your calendar and you have something planned for either Saturday or Sunday, (and it is not going to the track or your favorite simulcast center), set the DVR to record. If you don’t know how to set the DVR , you have four days to figure it. If you don’t have a DVR, you have four days to get one.

Because it is going to be a very good weekend of thoroughbred horse racing.

Saratoga on the East coast and Del Mar in the West, both feature their marquee races. Saturday, Saratoga hosts the mid-summer Derby in the grade 1 Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1-1/4 miles on the main track. Sunday, Del Mar presents the 21st running of the $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, also at 10 furlongs on the main track but open to older horses.

The Saturday card at Saratoga also includes the grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop Stakes, which looks to see the return of last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male and one-time Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo. The seven furlong King’s Bishop Stakes should be no easy walz for Uncle Mo, however with Jersey Shore Stakes (gr. 2) winner Flashpoint a confirmed foe.

Another one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful after winning the grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February, Flashpoint was fourth in the Florida Derby (gr. 1) and 14th in the Preakness (gr. 1) in his only two races around two turns. Winning the six furlong Jersey Shore makes him undefeated in sprint races the subject of much positive talk since trainer Wesley Ward confirmed Flashpoint for the King’s Bishop from his Aqueduct base 12 days ago.

As recent as last week, trainer Bob Baffert was considering the King’s Bishop for his one-time Derby hopeful, The Factor. Instead, Baffert has said he will run The Factor in the $300,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. 1) at Del Mar Sunday. The seven furlong Pat O’Brien will be The Factor’s first start since undergoing throat surgery last Spring and his first start against older horses. Baffert has won the O’Brien a record four times including the last two with Brujo last year and Zensational the year before.

Still the spotlight will be on the $1,000,000 Travers Stakes Saturday. First run in 1864, the Travers is the last chance for these top 3-year-old colts and geldings to make an impression against their age group before graduating to face older horses in the Fall. Even a impressive effort in the Travers is generally accompanied by some level of success against older horses on the resumes of most sophomore champions.

Stay Thirsty has the home course advantage in the Travers after winning the grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga in his last start. Jim Dandy runner-up Moonshine Mill is also headed to the Travers as is Preakness winner Shackleford, Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) winner Ruler on Ice and Resorts Casino Haskell Invitational winner Coil (photo).

The Pacific Classic has two of the first three finishers from last month’s Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. 1) at Hollywood Park in winner Game on Dude and third-place finisher Twirling Candy. The 1-1/4-mile Pacific Classic will also help clarify who might represent the West coast in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November but more importantly, may also have historical implications.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has not announced if his champion filly Blind Luck will take on older males in the Pacific Classic, but has the race under consideration. With the lack of any consistent standout horses, colts or geldings this year, Blind Luck could make significant strides toward becoming the third consecutive female Horse of the Year with a grade 1 win over males in the Classic. There has never been three consecutive female Horse of the Year winners and no filly or mare has ever won the Pacific Classic.

There will be much more to come in the final days leading up to these major races as the horses train, trainers decide and entry boxes open and close. After this weekend, a 3-year-old colt may emerge a likely champion and more will be known about older horses on the West coast. The sprint division will clarify with the Pat O’Brien in southern California and the King’s Bishop in New York and we neglected to metion the grade 1 Ballerina at the Spa or grade 2 Del Mar Handicap.

We just want do not want you to miss it.

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