Making the headlines in Standardbred Racing this week is the return to live racing at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York. Closed due to COVID 19 since the end of March, the half mile track opened this past week and wasted little time putting together an action packed week of races.
Last Monday featured two elimination races for the first two-year-old stakes of the season, the MGM Springfield Stakes.
In the first elimination, 1/5 betting favorite American Courage was an easy 7-1/4 length winner in 1:55.2 over Town Gossip with Crystal Beach third.
In the second elimination, Carrythetorchman led wire to wire in 1:55.4. Coalition Hanover was a length a half back in second with Victory Move third.
Until further notice, Yonkers will be limited to Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, with a post time of 7:05 p.m. A spokesperson for Empire Casino, a group who purchased the track two years ago said, “As always, the health and safety of our customers and employees is our top priority.”
Moving over to the New Jersey Meadowlands, only 12 horses having dropped into the entry box, so there will only be one Meadowlands Pace elimination necessary on this Saturday night’s program.
The elimination has a field of 10, with the first eight in official order of finish advancing to the $631,650 final. The elimination winner will get a major perk as that horse will draw a post position from one through six.
The field for Saturday night’s Meadowlands Pace elimination in post position order: Major Betts (Dexter Dunn), Captain Barbossa (Andrew McCarthy), Tall Dark Stranger (Yannick Gingras), Manticore (Jordan Stratton), Captain Kirk (Dexter Dunn), Roll With Jr (Tim Tetrick), Mocha On The Rocks (Scott Zeron), Catch The Fire (Mike Wilder), Capt Midnight (Andrew McCarthy), Papi Rob Hanover (David Miller).
Tall Dark Stranger (Post 3), whose only start this year and resulted in a national season best equaling mile of 1:47.4, figures as the one to beat.
Also on Saturday’s program are a pair of $250,000 Graduate finals. The open events for 4-year-olds, one for pacers and one on the trot, both have full fields of 10.
The trot has impressive Breeders Crown and New York Sire Stakes winner Gimpanzee as the one to beat.
The field for the Graduate final for trotters in post position order, with horse (and driver): Chin Chin Hall (Dexter Dunn), Kings County (David Miller), Gimpanzee (Brian Sears), Winnerup (Trond Smedshammer), Explosivebreakaway (Tim Tetrick), Southwind Avenger (Andrew McCarthy), Goes Down Smooth (No Driver), Pure Chance (No Driver), Grand Swan (Tim Tetrick), Reign Of Honor (David Miller).
Bettor’s Wish was the top money-earning horse in harness racing a year ago with more than $1.6 million in the bank, will likely be the post-time favorite in the Graduate for pacers off his 1:48.2 off-the-pace win a week ago at The Meadowlands in the series’ final leg.
The field for the Graduate final for pacers in post-position order, with horse (and driver): Century Farroh (David Miller), Shamwow (Jordan Stratton), Workin Ona Mystery (Tim Tetrick), Dancin Lou (Brian Sears), Hurrikane Emperor (Mark MacDonald), Aflame Hanover (David Miller), Captain Victorious (Yannick Gingras), Brassy Hanover (Scott Zeron), Bllack Hole (Tim Tetrick), Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn).
Elsewhere this weekend, Hawthorne Race Track in Illinois will feature the Violet Pace for two year old fillies. Ryan’s Secret, a three time winner in 2020, will square off against Connie On the Go, the leading money winner in the field for 2020.
Scioto Downs in Ohio has no less than 15 races on tap for Saturday including an eye popping 11 being different divisions of the Ohio Sire Series, while The Meadows in Pennsylvania has a similar card (16 races) with every single race on the card being either a Stakes race or a Penn. Sire Series race.
Thoroughbred Racing focus this weekend will be on Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. Although the meet is just five days long, the pinnacle card will be on Saturday where the one time training track will host six Stakes races highlight by the Bluegrass Stakes for three year olds, with Kentucky Derby aspirations, going nine furlongs.
The action kicks off in the 4th race, the Appalachian Stakes for three year old fillies on the grass.
Race fifth in the Grade: 1 Madison Stakes for three year old and up fillies and mare sprinting seven furlongs. A contentious field of nine drew with two time Grade:1 winner Guarana spearheading the field.
Race sixth is the Shakertown Stakes, a six furlong dash for three year olds and up on the grass. A full field of 15 (14 with one AE) has been draw for this wide-open affair.
Race seven is another Grade: 1 contest in the form of the Ashland Stakes for three year old fillies going a mile and a sixteenth. The speedy Venetian Harbor, coming off a shocking defeat last time out, should be your post time favorite in that one.
Race eight is the third Grade: 1 race in a row in the Jenny Wiley Stakes for four year olds and up on the turf. This one matches the super fast Jolie Olmipica vs. the mega talented Rushing Fall.
Race nine is the featured Bluegrass Stakes. A field of 13 has been entered in still another wide open contest. Interesting to note probable pro-tem three year old filly division leader Swiss Skydiver has been entered.
Elsewhere around the country, 2018 champion filly Monomoy Girl will be a heavy favorite in the Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park in race four. The chestnut now five year old has been so dominant through her career (12 starts 10 wins and a pair of second place finishes), that only four showed up to face her in the $150,000, one mile contest.
After 18 months off for various issues, the daughter of Tapizar finally made it back to the races May 16 at Churchill Downs, winning an allowance optional claiming race.
“She’s doing great. It’s a good spot. This will be a good test. It’s the second start off the layoff against some good horses, and we’ll find out if she’s really back,” said Sol Kumin, who owns a share of the mare through his Monomoy Stables. “We didn’t want to rush her back. Obviously, we thought long and hard about the (June 13) Ogden Phipps, but this was the right spot. We’ll see how it goes and plot out the rest of the year.”
Over at Delaware Park, Dunbar Road will lead a field of eight in the $300,000 Delaware Handicap for tour year old and up fillies and mares. The good looking, bay filly by Quality Road will be the one to beat in that one.
Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** Champion Maximum Security will make his first start since February in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 18.
Bob Baffert, who took over training Maximum Security following the arrest for former trainer Jason Servis for charges related to doping Maximum Security and others, said the horse “looks fantastic.”
The colt is scheduled to work this weekend (7/18) in preparation for the race.
***** Zulu Alpha, one of the leading grass horses in the country, will make his next start in the Grade 2, $175,000 Elkhorn, a 1 1/2-mile turf race on July 12, closing day at Keeneland meet.
Zulu Alpha, an earner of more than $2 million, has raced three times this year, all at Gulfstream Park. He won the Pegasus World Cup Turf and the Mac Diarmida before being upset by his Mike Maker-trained stablemate, Bemma’s Boy, in the March 28 Pan American.
**** Multiple Stake winning three year old filly Finite recorded her first workout since finishing fourth in the March 21 Fair Grounds Oaks, going a half-mile in :50 1/5 last Friday at Churchill Downs.
The daughter of Munnings, trained by Steve Asmussen, underwent ankle surgery this spring, following her disappointing effort Fair Grounds Oaks.
Prior to that loss, she had rattled off five consecutive victories, including the Feb. 15 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
While in the Asmussen barn, Basin, winner of last year’s Hopeful Stakes, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 June 29 at Keeneland.
“He went well over the racetrack,” said Asmussen. “He’s done well with his little freshening since the Arkansas Derby.”
Two of Asmussen’s other top horses recently left Churchill Downs for Saratoga, including champion Midnight Bisou and the super sonic sprinter Volatile.
Midnight Bisou is being pointed toward the Personal Ensign Stakes there Aug. 1 while Volatile is aimed toward the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap July 25.
**** Spendthrift Farm has acquired the breeding rights to multiple Grade: 1 winner millionaire Vekoma
“We are extremely excited about Vekoma and his future as a stallion. It’s not often you see an elite racehorse that is by a Grade: 1 winner and out of a Grade: winner,” said Ned Toffey, Spendthrift general manager. “Vekoma is a terrific blend of his sire Candy Ride and his Speightstown dam Mona de Momma, showing brilliance from six furlongs to a mile and an eighth and from ages two to four. There’s sire power throughout the pedigree, with Vekoma’s second dam being a sister to Mr. Greeley. You just will not find a better-bred son of Candy Ride. Vekoma proved he is one of the best horses in training with wins over good fields in the Carter and Met Mile, which have been two of the best performances we have seen this year. The combination of brilliance and pedigree is special.”