Life Is Good, shown winning the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January, is favored in Saturday's Grade I Whitney at Saratoga. Photo courtesy of Katsumi Saito
Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Life is Good and Olympiad square off in the heavyweight match that is Saturday's Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, just one race after an international Group I rematch on the Saratoga turf as summertime racing hits high gear.
Sprints are featured from coast to coast with the likes of Golden Pal and Matareya likely to figure prominently. Shedaresthedevil takes on Private Mission in the Distaff Division with a Breeders' Cup spot on the line.
On the world stage, we have action in Germany, France, England and Ireland.
Without further ado ...
The $1 million Grade I Whitney Stakes is Saratoga's marquee race for older horses and a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic. The six-horse field set for Saturday's renewal is worthy.
Life Is Good and Olympiad are the big names but Hot Rod Charlie, Happy Saver and American Revolution also enter with stellar resumes and excellent form.
Life Is Good and American Revolution are owned by WinStar Farms and China Horse Club and trained by Todd Pletcher.
Life Is Good, a 4-year-old Into Mischief colt, has seven wins from nine starts. He finished a fading fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March and was second by a neck to the fabulous Jackie's Warrior last summer at the Spa when coming off a nearly six-month layoff.
American Revolution, a 4-year-old Constitution colt, is 5-for-9 and continuously looks poised for a breakout race that hasn't happened.
Life Is Good's game is his ability carry tremendous speed, leaving rivals a choice of burning out in pursuit or conceding an insurmountable margin.
Olympiad, a 4-year-old Speightstown colt trained by Bill Mott, has won five straight races by pressing the pace and drawing off in the stretch, but he hasn't faced anything like the relentless, "catch me if you can" challenge posted by Life Is Good.
Hot Rod Charlie and Happy Saver employ similar tactics to Olympiad but have lots more second-place finishes to show for the efforts.
And the sixth entry? We'll go out on a limb and eliminate Zoomer, claimed seven times in the last 18 months for as little as $40,000, even though he now is owned by Gary Barber and trained by Mark Casse -- no dummies they.
Saturday's $500,000 Grade III West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer got a field of seven, including some refugees from the Triple Crown trail and a few progressive rivals.
We the People is the 2-1 morning-line favorite after finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes although he again faces Skippylongstocking, who was third in the Belmont.
Simplification was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness.
Home Brew is on the way up with victories in the Oaklawn Stakes and the Pegasus at Monmouth Park in his last two.
Ten names showed up in the entry box for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III West Virginia Governor's Stakes, a 1 1/16-miles test.
Brad Cox brings Fulsome from Churchill Downs with victories earlier this year in the Grade III Oaklawn Mile and a valuable optional claimer in Louisville -- enough to get the favorite's role at 3-1 on the morning line.
Already in the books: Art Collector defended his title in Thursday's $135,000 Alydar Stakes at Saratoga, leading from the early strides and edging clear late to win by 2 lengths from Masqueparade. It was another 7 1/2 lengths to Chess Chief in third.
Art Collector, a 5-year-old son of Bernardini, got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.84 with Luis Saez at the controls.
Art Collector used the 2021 Alydar win as a springboard to victories in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic and Grade 1 Woodward and trainer
Bill Mott said he's likely to follow the same schedule the remainder of this summer. He finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic to finish last year's efforts and 12th in the Group 1 Saudi Cup in his only previous start this year.
Shedaresthedevil flies in from Churchill Downs to defend her title against six rivals in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff.
The 5-year-old Daredevil mare has won half her 20 career starts, including the 2020 Kentucky Oaks. Brad Cox trains the consistent mare, who has missed a top-three finish only twice in 20 starts.
One of those misses was a sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff over the track. The other was a fourth in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Private Mission is the main rival. The 4-year-old Into Mischief filly won four of her first five starts last year, but then could only manage 11th in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
She has improved in each of three starts this year, winning the Grade II Santa Maria at Santa Anita in June in her most recent. Sean McCarthy was subbing in that race for trainer Bob Baffert, who now is back in charge.
Turf / Turf Mile
Three international contenders and the American long shot who beat them all last time out are matched again in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational.
Classic Causeway, making his turf debut at odds of more than 26-1, led all the way in the Grade I Belmont Derby and won that first leg of NYRA's rich turf series by 3/4 length.
Nation's Pride, a Godolphin homebred trained by Charlie Appleby, was second in that race. Stone Age, an Aidan O'Brien charge from Ireland, finished third and Royal Patronage, in from England, was fifth.
All of those return although Royal Patronage now is trained by Graham Motion, John Velazquez subs for Ryan Moore on Stone Age and William Buick returns aboard Nation's Pride, who was partnered by Frankie Dettori at Belmont.
There are some long prices on the morning line, but it's tough to toss any of them, especially in light of Classic Causeway's sudden awakening when put on the grass.
Todd Pletcher saddles three, any of whom could figure in the outcome. This race is run right after the Whitney -- as good a 1-2 punch as anyone could ask.
Tiz the Bomb gets another chance to live up to his 2021 reputation when he faces eight rivals going 1 mile in Friday's $200,000 Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga.
The Hit It a Bomb colt won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile and the Grade II Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland before finishing second in the infamous Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
This year, he was put on the Kentucky Derby trail, running well on the Turfway Park all-weather course, but finished ninth in the Run for the Roses.
Back on the turf, he was ninth in his last start, the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational and it's instructive he's not in Saturday's second leg of that series. If he's not the one, this race looks to be a right tossup.
Sumter looks like the one to beat in a field of six for Sunday's $150,000 Grade III La Jolla for 3-year-olds at Del Mar. The War Front filly took four tries to get her initial win but then reeled off consecutive victories in the Pasadena Stakes and Singletary Stakes.
Cabo Spirit was on the Derby trail for a while but has only two wins from 12 starts while running on dirt and all-weather surfaces. Bob Baffert runs out Armagnac, fourth in the Santa Anita Derby and seventh in the Preakness.
Twelve plus two also-eligibles are entered for Sunday's $100,000 Evan Williams Turf Mile at Ellis Park. It's a handicapping challenge with Mr Dumas, Tut's Revenge, Gray's Fable and Penalty all at single-digit odds on the morning line.
Somelikeithotbrown has a history of leading and fading, but nonetheless has been good enough to earn more than $1.2 million so far.
The 6-year-old son of Big Brown doesn't look to have too much pace pressure in Saturday's $100,000 Lure Stakes at Saratoga, but will have to hold off the 2-1 morning-line favorite, Public Sector, at the end of the 1 1/16 miles. It's complicated by the draw: Public Sector No. 1, Somelikeithotbrown outside in the No. 8 stall.
Filly & Mare Turf / Turf Mile
McKulick, winner of the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational in her last start, heads a three-filly Chad Brown assault on Sunday's $700,000 Grade III Saratoga Oaks Invitational.
The field also includes the runner-up from the Belmont heat, With the Moonlight, representing Godolphin with Charlie Appleby and William Buick in her corner.
McKulick, a Frankel filly, finished second in the Grade III Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs before stepping up at Belmont and faces the Regret winner, Walkathon, again. McKulick is joined by a pair of promising young fillies from the Brown barn -- Contemporary Art and Oakhurst.
With the Moonlight, also by Frankel, won the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket before finishing well up the track in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom. She has been training rather leisurely at Saratoga since her runner-up finish at Belmont.
Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Glens Falls Stakes at Saratoga features last year's winner, War Like Goddess, as the odds-on favorite.
Her trainer, Bill Mott, has dominated this race in recent years and looks to have the other at his mercy again. It's not a complete slam-dunk, though, with Chad Brown saddling the very capable German-bred Virginia Joy and Key Biscayne coming off two straight wins.
Ten 3-year-old fillies are lined up for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Colleen Stakes at Woodbine. The morning-line favorites are Ladywearsthering, a recent 5-lengths winner in her first start, and Souper Hoity Toity, who captured the Grade III Selene Stakes in her last outing for her third victory.
Turnerloose and Take Charge Ro are the early favorite in a field of 10 entered for Sunday's $100,000 Centennial Distaff Turf Mile at Ellis Park.
Turnerloose started her career on the turf but then won the Grade II Rachel Alexandra in February on the dirt at Fair Grounds, and then was fourth in the Fair Grounds Oaks and seventh in the Kentucky Oaks before getting a break.
Take Charge Ro is chasing her first stakes win and was fourth in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff on the turf in her last.
Golden Pal makes his first start back from Royal Ascot facing six rivals in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Troy Stakes at Saratoga. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt blew the sart badly in the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes and finished 16th after being hustled into contention.
Other than that, he's the two-time Breeder's Cup winner and, overall, has six wins and two seconds from 10 starts. Trainer Wesley Ward says he's ready and so does the oddsmaker, who has him as the 1-2 favorite on the morning line. Caratori and Arzak could make him work for the win.
Sunday's $100,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Ellis Park is a wide-open affair with Thanks Mr. Eidson the morning-line favorite at 7-2. A field of 10 is set for 5 1/2 furlongs on the lawn.
Sunday's $100,000 Laguna Distaff Turf Sprint at Ellis Park attracted 10 fillies and mares to try the same 5 1/2 furlongs. Toby's Heart is the 2-1 favorite despite drawing the outside gate.
Filly & Mare Sprint
It's tough to look past Matareya in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Longines Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga.
The Godolphin homebred daughter of Pioneerof the Nile has won all four starts this year including the Grade I Acorn at Belmont Park in her last -- by 6 1/4 lengths. The others all have something to prove, but Hot Peppers and perhaps Wish You Well deserve a glance.
Saturday's $100,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Sire Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds at Gulfstream Park is the first leg of a three-race series that will take a bit of sorting out. Ten are set to contest 6 furlongs and things get longer as time goes by.
All of the above also is true for the 2-year-old fillies set for Saturday's $100,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Sire Stakes except there are only nine of them.
Around the ovals
Latigo pressed the pace in Wednesday's $250,000 Governor's Stakes for Indiana-bred 3-year-olds, surged to a daylight lead in the stretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths from Mr Chaos. It was another 3 1/2 lengths to Cibolo in third with the favorite, fading to finish a dull seventh.
Latigo, a Jimmy Creed gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.26 with Joe Ramos up.
Climber started last of 10 in Wednesday's $200,000 Indiana First Lady Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, improved position quickly and dominated in the stretch, winning by 5 1/4 lengths.
The favorite, Louder Than Words, beat the other eight with Habuih another 9 3/4 lengths back in third. Climber, a daughter of Divining Rod, reported in 1:38.20 under Emmanuel Esquivel.
Conagher, the odds-on favorite, led from gate to wire in Monday's $100,000 Housebuster Handicap for 3-year-olds, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. Old Homestead was second, 3 1/2 lengths better than No Sabe Nada in third.
Conagher, a Jimmy Creed colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.42 with Joe Rocco Jr. in the irons.
Around the world, around the clock
Saturday's Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh is a 6-furlongs challenge for 2-year-olds with a field of six. The antepost favorites are Bradsel, a Tasleet colt from Archie Watson's yard who is 2-for-2, and Little Big Bear, a No Nay Never colt from the Coolmore connections who has won three straight.
A note here: Should Little Big Bear run well, turn to the first race on Saratoga's Saturday program and look for the No. 2 horse, Alexis Zorba, who finished second to Little Big Bear in a maiden race at Naas in Ireland on Kentucky Derby Day and second to Blackbeard, another Phoenix contender, in his career debut a month before that.
Saffron Beach took the early lead and refused to be caught in Tuesday's Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville. Pushed along confidently by William Buick, the 4-year-old daughter of New Bay found another gear when challenged inside the final 200 meters and drew off to score by 2 1/2 lengths from Tenebrism.
Goldistyle, a daughter of Goldikova, found a late burst of energy to edge Malavath.
Saffron Beach started her year finishing fourth in the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night at Meydan, then won the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Trainer Jane Chappel-Hyam said Saffron Beach ultimately is headed for the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland in November, either for the Filly & Mare Turf or for the Mile on the grass, before retiring to the breeding shed.
Sunday's Group 1 Arc Prix Maurice du Gheest at Deauville was awaiting finalization at press time. Godolphin's Naval Crown is a likely favorite after winning the Group 1 Platinum Jubilee at Royal Ascot and finishing second in the Group 1 Darley July Cup in his last outing.
Sunday's Group 1 Henkel Preis der Diana or German Oaks at Dusseldorf has a field of 14. The Coolmore lads are the international factor with Toy, a Galileo filly last seen finishing second in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks. Ryan Moore is set to ride for trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Saturday's Shergar Cup at Ascot has four teams -- Ireland and Great Britain, Europe, The Rest of the World and The Ladies, competing for prize money and prestige. There are some big names and we'll let you know how it turned out.