On the East Coast, Saratoga is the August place to be. On the West Coast, it's Del Mar. Both these destination meets serve as the focus of weekend coverage for the last weekend of July at Picks and Ponderings. They may each be the August Places to Be, but to horseplayers they are the one and one-a of summer racing. Saturday coverage is brought to you by Nicolle Neulist, who examines the G1 Diana and G3 Sanford from Saratoga. Sunday coverage of both of their features - the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks from Saratoga and the G1 Bing Crosby Stakes from Del Mar follows below.
Originally, Picks and Ponderings had also planned to provide full preview and recap coverage of the Springfield Stakes at Arlington Park, for three-year-old Illinois-breds. However, the race was cancelled due to lack of nominees. Our coverage of stakes racing at Arlington will resume on August 1, with the Isaac Murphy Handicap and the Addison Cammack Handicap, both for Illinois-bred sprinters.
As with all NYRA racing at Saratoga, Belmont, and Aqueduct, audio of these races is streamed on the NYRA website, and HD video is available to anyone with a free NYRA account. Del Mar - like all California tracks - has a free live video stream at calracing.com.
Morning lines were not available at publish time. All races are scheduled for Sunday July 26.
Updated on July 25 to include pre-scratch morning lines. Revised on July 25 due to the anticipated scratch of APPEALING TALE in the G1 Crosby.
Saratoga -- Race 10 -- G1 Coaching Club American Oaks -- One and one-eighth miles on dirt -- post time 6:07 pm ET
For many years, the G1 Coaching Club American (CCA) Oaks functioned as the final leg of New York's Triple Tiara - led by the Acorn and the Mother Goose - and giving three-year-old fillies a chance at honor comparable to the boys and their Derby-Preakness-Belmont three pack. Run fron nine to twelve furlongs, the race has been at Belmont Park (where it was for many years), Aqueduct (while Belmont got renovations in the 1960s), and moved to Saratoga in 2010. In its present form it serves as the second leg of the Triple Tiara, the progression now going Acorn-CCA Oaks-Alabama. As such, the CCA Oaks is nowadays a prep to the G1 Alabama later in August at Saratoga. Hall of Famers Shuvee (1969), Ruffian (1975), Davona Dale (1979) and Open Mind (1989) all swept the old-school Triple Tiara with CCA Oaks wins. Ashado (2004) won the CCA Oaks and the Breeders' Cup Distaff in the same year. In its Saratoga years, Questing (2012) is perhaps the most notable winner as she would later win the Alabama and nail down Champion Sophomore Filly honors that year.
QUESTING takes down the 2012 G1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Whose turn is it? The three-year-old fillies have been a competitive but not star-powered group. Perhaps CURALINA can establish some order as she tries two turns for the first time. Winner last time at a one-turn mile of the G1 Acorn, CURALINA was mid-pack off a quick pace on Belmont Day and made a four-wide run to get past By The Moon in the shadow of the wire. She goes back to two turns in the G1 CCA Oaks and parlayed a pressing trip into an eight-length victory in a first-level allowance on the First of May. Back at two turns, CURALINA could get the lead no one wants (which is how KEEN PAULINE won the G2 Black-Eyed Susan) or press just off it and grind on to a score. This Pletcher trainee shows the usual strong statistics across the board. CURALINA does have a workout over the Saratoga dirt - not the Oklahoma training track - that is strong with respect to the clock. And she did, at first asking last year, finish second in a maiden race at the Spa. The stretchout to nine furlongs should suit this daughter of Curlin fine. I'M A CHATTERBOX returns for this first time since a third in the Kentucky Oaks and lures Florent Geroux away from a day at Arlington. That third in the Kentucky Oaks does come with a caution flag, as Kentucky Oaks heroine Lovely Maria stunk up the joint in the Delaware Oaks. Whether or not she's stagnated since is the issue, but she did well taking back at nine furlongs after being forward in her early-year starts. Going off the layoff might have her keen and close to the lead, and that could make sense in a race lacking a genuine front runner. Worth noting she was the leader of the strongest contingent of early-season sophomore fillies in New Orleans. I'M A CHATTERBOX goes out for Larry Jones, well known for his work with sophomore fillies but never a winner in this race. Last time out INCLUDE BETTY got the upfront pace meltdown she's been crying out for after paceless efforts in the Florida Oaks and the Black-Eyed Susan. While she ran admirably in Baltimore, she also got a trouble line in the Kentucky Oaks. As such INCLUDE BETTY has evolved into the group's honest hard tryer, who does her best when there's someone up front to be a target. That may not come to fruition here, but she did run a credible second trying to reel in KEEN PAULINE who walked the dog on slow sprints in the Black-Eyed Susan. And with CURALINA on the stretch to two turns, there may be enough pace to create pace for the sake of honesty. But it may not be enough to get INCUDE BETTY a chance to show her rally.
#3 CURALINA (3/1)
#8 I'M A CHATTERBOX (5/2)
#5 INCLUDE BETTY (7/2)
Longshot: No, Nicolle has not been brainwashing this author. No, there are no underhanded motives. The choice for this spot, as well as the top selection, is a #curlinbabies. Perhaps after getting her head beat in so much early in her three-year-old season #1 DANETTE (20/1) got the confidence boost she needed when going to maiden company. Oh sure, it took three starts but one of them was a turf start, but she did flash back on figures to the form that saw her in the same zip code at two as Take Charge Brandi. Like CURALINA, the nine furlongs will be fine for her. If the light bulb went on, or if she took time to develop then she could come to hand in this event. She's got a chance in a division with no clear-cut leader and not much separation among the upper tier.
Del Mar - Race 6 -- G1 Bing Crosby Stakes -- Six furlongs on dirt -- post time 4:40 pm PT (7:40 pm ET)
The G1 Bing Crosby Stakes carries a purse of three hundred thousand dollars and sees older males go six furlongs. To the winner, a majority of the purse and also a spot in the gate for the Breeders' Cup Sprint as the Crosby is a BC Challenge race - a "win and you're in", in other words. As a feeder to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, the Crosby has been quite productive as Thirty Slews (1992), Lit de Justice (1996), and Kona Gold (2000) both swept the Crosby and the BC Sprint that year. Kona Gold - a stakes namesake at Santa Anita - is a two-time winner (2000-01) of this race, as well. Other notable victors of the Bing Crosby include champion sprinter Chinook Pass (1983) and Santa Anita Cal-bred stakes nameplate Sensational Star (1990). As you'd expect, the namesake of the race is Bing Crosby. While known for his work on record, on television and on film, Crosby was a fan of thoroughbreds as well as he was an owner, breeder, and a founding father of Del Mar. It's often his recording of "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" that is revived each summer as a reminder of Del Mar's meet in earnest.
Kona Gold reels in a runaway leader to earn back-to-back victories in the 2001 G1 Bing Crosby.
A short field of five see the starter for the Crosby. With APPEALING TALE having run one day before in the G2 San Diego and earning a second to Catch a Flight, he'll defect from this field. That leaves two speed runners, a mid-pack plodding type, and two dead closers left in the field. The crux of this selection is the idea that DISTINCTIV PASSION and MASOCHISTIC have a barbeque on the front end, setting it up for an off the pace type. It certainly makes sense, but this is a short field and a deep closer like KOBE'S BACK is behind the eight ball in this event - not to mention racing outside his best distance of seven-eighths. We'll look to CAMINETTO to pull an upset. From the team behind Dortmund - rider Martin Garcia, trainer Bob Baffert, and owner Kaleem Shah, CAMINETTO won a twice other allowance at Santa Anita with a five wide rally off crazy fast fractions. Yet he was closer to the the pace three back under slow fractions. Perhaps he's a one-geared plodding type, and that's okay in this race where the front speed could melt down and he picks up the pieces. It's hard to fault the humans that have a 71% in the money in the last two months, and they try a horse with slightly ascending figures in the G1 Crosby. The water gets deeper, but he may be up to the task. Like the retention of Garcia here as he can stalk if need be as well and not be as pace dependent. MASOCHISTIC certainly didn't hurt his reputation when he won the G1 Triple Bend without the benefit of a free-and-easy lead. Since moving to the Ron Ellis barn , he rattled off a pair of high-figure wins in the G2 Kona Gold before going into mothballs and later winning the G1 Triple Bend. Both wins came at beyond six furlongs, so how he does at six panels may be an issue. While he did win at Churchill going six before, their chute position and run-up makes it more like a six-and-a-half furlong race. Perhaps MASCOCHISTIC isn't a true six-furlong type. He's worth using defensively as he'll run off with this race if DISTINCTIV PASSION doesn't pressure him on the front end, but he is worth taking a swing against as a top selection. If DISTINCTIV PASSION and MASOCHISTIC do go too fast on the front, that sets it up for a closer. The field's two deep closers are WILD DUDE and KOBE'S BACK. Six furlongs is a better fit for WILD DUDE, who got two podium finishes in graded events upstate at Santa Anita at six panels - the G2 Palos Verdes and G3 Los Angeles Handicap. With two additional wins (one of them the 2014 G2 Palos Verdes) to go with those thirds in his four lifetime tries at six furlongs, WILD DUDE might get the pace set up he needs to run back to his Santa Anita form.
#3 CAMINETTO (8/1)
#5 MASOCHISTIC (6/5)
#4 WILD DUDE (10/1)
Longshot: This seems like a good time to jump in the pool and cool off, so nothing to see here....except for a Cannonball!!
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