Horse-racing weekend preview: July Festival, the Oaks

By ROBERT KIECKHEFER, UPI Racing Writer  |  July 14, 2017 at 8:48 AM
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Two of Thoroughbred's rising stars will be in action on opposite sides of the Atlantic this weekend -- Songbird at Delaware Park and Caravaggio at Newmarket.

A relatively lean weekend also includes the Los Alamitos Derby, Indiana Derby and Oaks and, for the sprinters, the Vigil Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course.

The only major U.S. turf race is Saturday's Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park.

The European slate includes Group 1 events at Newmarket -- including Caravaggio's race -- and the Irish Oaks at the Curragh where Enable seeks the Oaks double.

And we're off.


Songbird flies again in Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Delaware Handicap. The two-time champion's only career loss was in the dramatic 2016 Breeders' Cup Distaff as Beholder prevailed by a nose. The Medaglia d'Oro filly rebounded nicely from that, winning her only previous start this year, the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, going 1 1/16 miles. The Delaware Handicap is 1 1/4 miles. "Songbird is training really well right now," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "We are hopeful she can come in there and have a good start." The oddsmaker has her the 1-5 favorite on the morning line against five less-distinguished rivals.

Mopotism was fourth in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks and second in the Grade II Summertime Oaks and that record might be enough to make her the favorite in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Indiana Oaks. Majestic Quality was second in the Grade II Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds and third in the Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. Both ship in from California. Among the other seven, look to Wicked Lick, second in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks but 13th in the Kentucky Oaks.


Frostmourne and Master Plan headline a cast of seven set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park. Frostmourne, a Speightstown colt from Christophe Clement's barn, has won three of five starts, most recently the Grade II Pilgrim at Belmont Park. Master Plan, by Twirling Candy, finished third behind Thunder Snow and Epicharis in the Grade II UAE Derby on World Cup night in Dubai, returned quickly to finish fifth in the Grade III Peter Pan at Belmont and then won the Stanton Stakes over the Delaware strip in preparation for this.


Irap, who sandwiched victories in the Grade I Blue Grass and Grade III Ohio Derby with an 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, returns Saturday in the $500,000 Grade III Indiana Derby. The Run for the Roses was the only bad result in the young Tiznow colt's career and he faces lesser foes after shipping back from his California base with a stop at Prairie Meadows for a July 7 work. There are, however, some others in this field. Wild Shot won the Grade III Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs. Untrapped could get untracked and Colonelsdarktemper looks poised for a good effort. And a few of us are still expecting a breakout performance by Han Sense.

A field of eight for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Los Alamitos Derby includes some promising sorts. West Coast returns from a visit to the east coast where he won the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park in his last outing. The Flatter colt, trained by Bob Baffert, has not been worse than second in five career outings and missed winning the Grade II Lexington at Keeneland by a head. Klimt, a Quality Road colt, won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity 10 months ago but has not raced since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Art Sherman of California Chrome fame takes over training Klimt, formerly with Baffert. B Squared comes off a second-place finish to Battle of Midway in the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita.

While we're in this division, any guesses who retains the No. 1 spot in the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings released Thursday? No bonus for naming Arrogate. Australia's super mare, Winx, holds down the No. 2 spot and Gun Runner, on the strength of his victory in last month's Stephen Foster, moves to No. 3.


Six are in for Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Vigil Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course. Pink Lloyd, a 5-year-old Old Forester gelding, has won all three starts so far this year, all stakes and all at the Vigil's conditions -- 6 furlongs on the artificial surface. Michael Trombetta ships We Deer You, who visited and won earlier in the year.



Friday's Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket has five 3-year-old fillies, headed by Roly Poly, Sea of Grace and Wuheida, going against a pair of 4-year-olds. Roly Poly, a War Front filly, has been running in the wake of her Ballydoyle stablemate, Winter, finishing second to that one in two straight Group 1 events. Winter is not coming for this race and Roly Poly is the general favorite. Godolphin fields two -- Wuheida and Arabian Hope. Wuheida, a Dubawi filly, is 2-for-2 with a Group 1 victory but has not run since October. Arabian Hope has won three straight but steps up in company here. Sea of Grace was second in the Group 1 French 1,000 Guineas. The other 3-year-old, Delectation, last ran in Germany. The 4-year-olds seem overmatched to begin with and add a 10-pound weight penalty.

Saturday, the Newmarket July Festival continues with the Group 1 July Cup, a 6-furlongs sprint that's part of both the Global Sprint Challenge and the British Champions Series. The favorite here is Caravaggio, a dramatic winner at Royal Ascot over Harry Angel in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup. Harry Angel is back for another try, too. This is an early test of the 3-year-olds against their elders. That group includes the 1-2-3 finishers from the other Group 1sprint at Royal Ascot, the Diamond Jubilee. Caravaggio, representing the Coolmore partners, is a candidate for the Aus$10 million Everest Stakes in October, should the American-bred Scat Daddy colt continue his unbeaten streak.


Enable shoots for the Oaks Double when she lines up for Saturday's Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh. The Juddmonte Farms homebred daughter of Nathanial was an easy winner in the Investec Oaks at Epsom in her last start. There are some very promising new contenders in this field, though, and the double will be no easy task. Irish master Aidan O'Brien, who has won this race five times, has two starters headed by Rain Goddess.

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