LEXINGTON, Ky. (September 27, 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.
Belmont and Santa Anita Park hold the spotlight with five graded stakes taking place at Big Sandy this weekend and seven graded contests set for the Sept. 27-29 opening weekend at Santa Anita, the site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup on November 1-2. Two of Santa Anita’s Challenge Series races – the Awesome Again Stakes, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the Rodeo Drive Stakes, a qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – are scheduled for September 28, and will be televised by NBC Sports. The broadcast airs on NBCSN from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
America’s Day at the Races will present live national coverage of Jockey Club Gold Cup Day at Belmont Park from 2:30 – 6:30 p.m. on FS2 with regional coverage airing on MSG Networks from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
HRRN will cover the Breeders’ Cup Challenge races from Belmont and Santa Anita Park with live coverage at 5 p.m. from Belmont Park on Sirius/XM 156 and streaming live on horseracingradio.net.
Friday September 27
6:10 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Bob Baffert’s Bast looms a standout among six juvenile fillies the Chandelier Stakes, to be contested at 1 1/16 miles. A bay daughter of Uncle Mo, Bast was second in her debut before romping by 8 3/4 lengths in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes on August 31. A “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier, the Chandelier winner will earn a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
6:40 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Eddie D Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Trainer Brian Koriner’s upstart Mr Vargas and champion Stormy Liberal head a field of eight going five furlongs on turf in the Eddie D Stakes at Santa Anita. Trained by Peter Miller, Stormy Liberal has won the last two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint but hasn’t found the winner’s circle in his last five starts. The Stormy Atlantic gelding was fifth last time out in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs on September 7.
7:40 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Well-regarded Eight Rings head a strong field of nine juveniles in the American Pharoah Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. A 6 1/4-length, first-out maiden winner on August 4 at Del Mar, Eight Rings was off as the prohibitive 1-2 favorite in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on September 2, but ducked in at the break, unseating jockey Drayden Van Dyke. With Van Dyke’s status uncertain until recently, trainer Bob Baffert has opted to bring Hall of Famer John Velazquez in to ride on Friday.
Saturday September 28
2:14 p.m.—$125,000 Grade 3 Durham Cup Stakes at Woodbine on TVG
Thor’s Rocket, a 6-year-old son of Old Forester, and jockey Justin Stein will take on four other rivals in the Durham Cup. Bred and trained by Paul Buttigieg, who co-owns with Gus Vlahos, Thor’s Rocket is a five-time winner – with a total of 15 top-three finishes – from 24 starts.
2:35 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park on FS2 and TVG
Raymond Mamone’s Imperial Hint will look to defend his title in the six-furlong Vosburgh, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Imperial Hint, trained by Luis Carvajal, Jr., is set to make his first start since a track record-setting performance in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on July 27 at Saratoga Race Course, where he returned off a three-month layoff to win by four lengths in a blistering 1:07.92.
4:43 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 2 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on FS2 and TVG
Midnight Bisou will look to improve to 7-for-7 in her 4-year-old campaign when she headlines the field in Saturday’s Beldame at 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou will return to Belmont for the first time since winning the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 8. Owned by Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing, the Midnight Lute filly enters on a six-race winning streak, all against graded stakes company, and earned a personal-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure for her nose victory over Elate in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign last out on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
5:16 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park on FS2 and TVG
August Dawn Farm’s Tuggle will hope for a smooth trip in the Pilgrim, a 1 1/16-mile turf test for juveniles. Tuggle graduated impressively at first asking on June 21 in an off-the-turf maiden sprint, splashing home to a 1 3/4-length score over next-out winner Montauk Daddy. The son of Point of Entry was part of a rapid pace next out in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, but stayed on strong to finish third in the 6 1/2-furlong main-track sprint.
5:26 p.m.—$125,000 Grade 3 Ontario Derby at Woodbine on TVG
Roaring Forties roars into the Ontario Derby on a two-race win streak. Trained by Daniel Vella, the Borders Racing Stable Ltd.-owned chestnut arrives at the 1 1/8-mile main track Ontario Derby off a strong performance last month. On August 25, Roaring Forties notched a 2 ½-length victory over 1 1/16 miles on the Woodbine Tapeta.
5:49 p.m.—$750,000 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Belmont Park on FS2 and TVG
Grade 1 winner Code of Honor will look for a second top-level score when he takes on older horses in the 101st running of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The chestnut son of Noble Mission (GB) was a three-length winner of the Travers Stakes on August 24 and a victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would put Code of Honor on even terms with Maximum Security, who captured the Florida Derby and Haskell Invitational, in terms of Grade 1 victories this year. Still questing for a Grade 1 victory, Travers runner-up Tacitus placed in two of the three legs of the Triple Crown and seeks a breakthrough win when emerging from post 1.
6:38 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella’s highly regarded United and a pair of Phil D’Amato trainees, Acclimate and Cleopatra’s Strike, rate big chances in the John Henry Turf Championship, which has attracted a field of eight. Idle since rallying from off the pace for a win in an allowance at Del Mar on July 17, United was a troubled second two starts back in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita on May 25.
7:10 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 Ballerina Stakes at Hastings on TVG
Multiple stakes winner Here’s Hannah looks to get back in the win column in the nine-furlong Ballerina. The daughter of Numaany had won seven straight before finishing second last time out in the Delta Colleen Handicap on September 7.
7:41 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita Park on NBCSN and TVG
Never better at age five, Beau Recall (IRE) heads a field of six in the Rodeo Drive Stakes, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. With three wins and two seconds from five starts this year, Beau Recall overcame trouble around the far turn and unleashed a big stretch rally to take Del Mar’s Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap by a nose on August 3. Although winless in her last seven starts, trainer Michael McCarthy’s Paved comes off a much improved fourth-place finish in her most recent start.
8:13 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park on NBCSN and TVG
Multiple Grade 1 winner McKinzie and rising star Higher Power are set to square off in the Awesome Again Stakes, which has attracted a field of six and is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A recent winner of the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga August 3, McKinzie, who is trained by Bob Baffert, has never been better and looms a short priced favorite. Trained by John Sadler, Higher Power exits the best race of his career, a 5 ¼ length win in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 17.
9:05 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs on TVG
Madaket Stables, Slam Dunk Racing and Michael Nentwig’s graded stakes-winning Air Strike will invade Churchill Downs from California and headline a field of nine older horses in the 27th running of the one-mile Ack Ack, one of three stakes events scheduled on the penultimate racing program of the track’s 11-day September Meet. Trained by Phil D’Amato, Air Strike defeated seven rivals in the Grade 2 Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita in May. The Street Sense colt most recently finished fourth in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga.
10:11 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs on TVG
Multiple graded stakes winner Quip will take on Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Tenfold and eight other rivals under the lights in the seventh running of the Lukas Classic going 1 1/8-miles. Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, Quip was the runner-up finisher behind Seeking the Soul in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in June prior to his nonplused ninth in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Joining Quip in the starting gate is multiple graded stakes-winning Tenfold for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old son of Curlin most recently finished fourth in the Pacific Classic and hopes to secure his first victory since winning the Grade 3 Pimlico Special in May.
Sunday September 29
4:43 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park on TVG
Sparkling Sky will look to springboard off an impressive maiden-breaking win as she competes in her first stakes as part of an eight-horse field of juvenile fillies in the Miss Grillo at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf. Owned by Barry Schwartz, Sparkling Sky was placed second in her debut going 1 1/16 miles on August 16 at Saratoga Race Course in a race won by fellow Miss Grillo contender Crystalle. The Todd Pletcher trainee stayed at the distance for her second start, where she was forwardly placed and surged home ahead of Our Little Jewel on September 1.
5:30 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
With the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff looming on the horizon, Ollie’s Candy, Secret Spice and Paradise Woods head a field of six in the Zenyatta Stakes, which will be contested at 1 1/16 miles. Although she was multiple Grade 1-placed on turf, trainer John Sadler opted to run Ollie’s Candy on dirt in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar July 28 and she responded with a gutty head victory, accomplished in gate to wire fashion. Originally trained by William Morey, this 4-year-old filly comes back at the same 1 1/16 miles distance in what will be her fourth start for Sadler.
5:46 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 British Columbia Premier’s Handicap at Hastings on TVG
Multiple stakes winner He’s the Reason is the 8-5 morning line choice in the field of five for the British Columbia Premier’s Handicap going 1 3/8-miles. The gelded son of The Factor has won three of his last four starts including the S. W. Randall Plate Handicap at Hastings on September 7.
7:50 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks at Remington Park on TVG
Trainer Steve Asmussen is looking for Lady Apple to rebound with a win in the Remington Park Oaks going 1 1/16-miles. Lady Apple, the 8-5 morning line favorite, won three in a row at Oaklawn Park this spring, including the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes. Those races landed Lady Apple in Louisville, Ky. where she finished third in the Kentucky Oaks. After two months off, Lady Apple returned to win the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows in July. She then had a poor showing over a sloppy track in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in her last start.
9:24 p.m.—$400,000 Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park on TVG
Mucho Gusto has been made the 8-5 morning-line favorite and comes into the Oklahoma Derby off a third-place finish behind Code of Honor in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 24. Trained by Bob Baffert, Mucho Gusto won both the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Stakes and the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita this spring. He then ran second to Maximum Security in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Owendale, a closing third in the Preakness Stakes, is at 3-1 odds and is the second-choice in the morning line. Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale won the Grade 3 Ohio Derby in June at Thistledown.