LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 26, 2019) – Each week, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full previews when available can be found through the link for each race.
After capturing the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown in her anticipated seasonal bow on June 6, champion Enable (GB) looks to turn back another salty group of contenders in Saturday’s Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. From there, Saratoga takes center stage with three graded stakes including a showdown between Grade 1 winners Mitole – the No. 2 ranked horse on the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll – and Imperial Hint in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt. The sophomore males are also back in the spotlight with the Grade 2 Jim Dandy featuring Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus.
NYRA’s “Saratoga Live” programing, which began on July 11 and runs through Labor Day, airs each day of the Saratoga meet on FS2. In addition to the broadcasts on FS2, all Saratoga races will air on TVG as part of their coast-to-coast racing coverage. The Bing Crosby Stakes and Clement L. Hirsch Stakes will both be televised exclusively on TVG as part of their comprehensive, meet-long coverage live from Del Mar.
HRRN will be on-site at the “Spa” every Saturday throughout the 2019 season to provide exclusive radio coverage of the meet’s premier stakes races. This weekend’s broadcast live from Saratoga will feature coverage of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Bowling Green and Jim Dandy from 5:30 -7 p.m. on Sirius 138/XM 201 and streaming live on horseracingradio.net.
Friday July 26
5:51 p.m.— $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS2 and TVG
A field of nine sophomores will seek their first stakes victory of the year in the Curlin Stakes going 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Chad Brown will saddle recent maiden winner Highest Honors and allowance winner Looking At Bikinis. Highest Honors broke his maiden at second asking in his most recent start when besting next out winner Meet Me in L.A. over the Belmont Park main track on June 1 going 1 1/16 miles. His stablemate, Looking At Bikinis, is unbeaten in two career starts. After defeating eventual graded stakes-winner and Kentucky Derby contender Cutting Humor in his career debut over a sloppy main track at Belmont Park in September, he received some time off but came back in winning fashion, defeating graded stakes-placed Not That Brady.
Saturday July 27
10:40 a.m.— £1.25 million Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on TVG
The most anticipated race thus far in the European racing season will take place at Ascot when champion mare Enable faces off against a bevy of Group 1 winners including Crystal Ocean (GB), Dafoe (IRE), Anthony Van Dyck (IRE), Waldgeist (GB) and Cheval Grand (JPN) among 11 starters in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Saturday’s winner will receive an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge. Enable, the two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner and last year’s heroine of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, has won 11 of her 12 starts, the last nine being Group 1 triumphs – all with jockey Frankie Dettori aboard. Her most recent victory was the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, defeating Magical (IRE) by three-quarters of a length on June 6, which was her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs last November.
5:44 p.m.— $350,000 Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga Race Course on FS2 and TVG
Two of the country’s finest sprinters will square off in the 35th running of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap when Mitole, winner of seven straight, faces defending Vanderbilt-winner Imperial Hint. Mitole enters Saturday’s test from a pair of Grade 1 victories including his most recent score in the Metropolitan Handicap, where he defeated five Grade/Group 1-winners and tied for a career best 108 Beyer Speed Figure. Never worse than third in 11 career starts, Mitole has not lost since a runner-up finish in the Gazebo last February at Oaklawn. Imperial Hint will make his first start since a third-place effort in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30 at Meydan Racecourse. Following an effortless victory in last year’s Vanderbilt, he returned to the winner’s circle once more in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park before eventually finishing third as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
6:18 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes at Belmont Park on FS2 and TVG
Woodslane Farm’s $2-million earner Sadler’s Joy makes his seasonal debut in a contentious renewal of the Bowling Green, a 1 3/8-mile test for 4-year-olds and up on the inner turf. Trained by Tom Albertrani, Sadler’s Joy rallied last-of-13 to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last out on November 3. The 6-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy will make his third appearance in the Bowling Green, having finished third, defeated a half-length, the past two years.
6:51 p.m.—$600,000 Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS2 and TVG
After running in all three legs of the Triple Crown, Preakness Stakes winner War of Will will again face top-level talent as part of a six-horse field in the Jim Dandy. War of Will, who earned a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby by winning the Grade 3 Lecomte and the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes earlier in the campaign at Fair Grounds, was placed seventh in the “Run for the Roses” on May 4 at Churchill. He roared back to best a 13-horse Preakness field, giving trainer Mark Casse his first career win in a Classic by virtue of his 1 ¼-length score. Juddmonte Farms’ Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus is also back in action for the first time since the “Test of the Champion”. Tacitus finished in the top-three in both of his Classic appearances for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, placing third in the Kentucky Derby following Maximum Security’s disqualification before running second by a length to Sir Winston in the Belmont Stakes last month.
8:30 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on TVG
A field of eight was for the Bing Crosby including Air Strike and Cistron, the 1-2 finishers from the Grade 2 Triple Bend at Santa Anita in May. Cistron, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred owned by Hronis Racing, won the Grade 2 Kona Gold at Santa Anita by 5 ½ lengths in April and was tagged near the wire by Air Strike in the Triple Bend there on May 25. The last two starts, over the main track, were a change in surface from what the son of The Factor had experienced for most of his career.
Sunday July 28
4:51 p.m.—$175,000 Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine on TVG
Defending race winner Tiz a Slam brings momentum from consecutive graded stakes victories into this year’s edition of the Nijinsky Stakes, where he will face seven challengers in the 1 ½-miles test on the turf. Trained by Roger Attfield, Tiz a Slam has rebounded after dropping his first two starts of 2019. The 5-year-old son of Tiznow halted a five-race losing skid by capturing the Grade 3 Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 18 and followed that up with another gate-to-wire victory in the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine June 22.
6:38 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on TVG
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables’ Nitrous will look to add graded stakes-winner to his accomplishments after coming within a neck of earning that status last out, headlining a talented 12-horse field in the Amsterdam for 3-year-olds going 6 ½ furlongs on the main track. Nitrous ran second by a neck to Hog Creek Hustle in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on June 8. The Tapit colt, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, has finished first or second in three of his last four starts, all against stakes company.
8 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on TVG
Poised to top the $1 million mark in earnings, Grade 1 winner Paradise Woods tops a field of seven for the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff. A 5-year-old daughter of Union Rags owned by HS Stable and Pam and Marty Wygod, Paradise Woods enters the 1 1/16-mile main track event for older fillies and mares with $985,890 in earnings from four wins and 10 on-the-board finishes in 15 career starts. Trained by John Sherriffs, Paradise Woods has one win in four 2019 starts, that coming when she prevailed by an impressive 10 ½ lengths in the Grade 2 Santa Margarita Stakes in April at Santa Anita.