LEXINGTON, Ky. (September 6, 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.
Turf runners take back the spotlight this weekend as Kentucky Downs hosts five stakes races on its showcase card, four of which are graded, and Belmont Park returns with a pair of lucrative tests in the $1 million Jockey Club Derby and $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks.
NBC will broadcast both the Jockey Club Derby and the Grade 3 Turf Sprint from Kentucky Downs from 4:30 to 6 p.m. ET and also will include a live broadcast of the Jockey Club Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.
Belmont Park begins its fall meet on Sept. 6, and most of its races through the end of September will air on the “America’s Day at the Races” broadcast. That show is produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports and is presented by America’s Best Racing, Runhappy, and Claiborne Farm. “America’s Day at the Races” airs on FS2 and on various regional channels.
Races from Belmont Park and Kentucky Downs will also be broadcast live on TVG as part of their comprehensive coast-to-coast racing coverage.
Saturday September 7
4:05 p.m.—$500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Sprint at Kentucky Downs on TVG
Trainer Wesley Ward won last year’s inaugural running of this race when Moonlight Romance beat the boys, and will aim to duplicate that feat this year with Stonestreet Stables’ filly Cambria. Mark Casse, who won two stakes on last Saturday’s opening card, goes in the full field of 12 with Ellis Park debut winners Prince of Thieves and Souper Dormy. Axiomo, who won his first start on grass at Churchill Downs at 45-1 odds and then won an allowance race on dirt, returns to the turf after finishing fifth in the Ellis Park Juvenile.
4:53 p.m.—$700,000 Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs on NBC and TVG
Kentucky Downs’ first Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race drew a field of 10, with the winner getting an entry fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on November 2 at Santa Anita Park. Stormy Liberal, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner and reigning champion male turf horse, is winless in four starts this year, with a pair of seconds and thirds, but shows strong works at Del Mar. Stormy Liberal’s half-brother Leinster, winner of the Grade 3 Troy Stakes at Saratoga, faces his sibling for the first time. Leinster is trained by Rusty Arnold, who also is running Totally Boss, winner of the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint at Ellis Park.
5:15 p.m.—$750,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park on NBC and TVG
Three European sophomore fillies led by Stella Thayer’s Group 1-winner Wonderment (IRE) ship in for the inaugural running of the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational over the inner turf. Wonderment seeks her first win since the Group 1 Criterium de Saint Cloud last October in France. Trained by Nicolas Clement, the Irish-bred daughter of Camelot enters the Jockey Club Oaks off of a sixth-place finish in the Group 3 Prix Minerve on August 11 at Deauville. Also shipping to Belmont is Love So Deep (JPN), who enters the race off of a close second in the Group 2 Darley Prix de Pomone at Deauville, while the Aga Khan’s Edisa rounds out the European contingent.
5:28 p.m.—$500,000 Grade 3 Ladies Turf Stakes at Kentucky Downs on TVG
The Bill Mott-trained Mitchell Road, a half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner Country House, won four straight races until she ran into female turf champion Sistercharlie (IRE) in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Diana Stakes. The daughter of English Channel will try to get back in the win column against a field of nine in the one-mile Ladies Turf Stakes. Simply Breathless, Storm the Hill, Lynne’s Legacy and Ms Bad Behavior come in from California for a race in which every horse in the field of nine is a stakes winner, including Grade 3 winner Coachwhip, Kallio, Sensitive and Viva Vegas.
5:47 p.m.—$1,000,000 Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park on NBC and TVG
Leonard C. Green’s A Thread of Blue and Bloom Racing Stable’s Henley’s Joy square off in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational, the third and final leg of the Turf Trinity at Belmont Park. Henley’s Joy, who kicked off the Turf Trinity in July with a 20-1 upset of the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational for trainer Mike Maker, will be joined by Digital Age in the 1 ½-mile Jockey Club Derby as the only two horses to contest all three legs. A Thread of Blue, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, made every pole a winning one in the second leg of the Turf Trinity, the inaugural edition of the $1 million Saratoga Derby.
6:01 p.m.—$500,000 Grade 3 Ladies Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs on TVG
Ruby Notion heads into the 6 1/2 furlong test seeking her first victory since she won this race last year, after which she was fourth against boys in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Fan favorite Morticia, who has nine wins and never runs a bad race, was third in this race two years ago. May Lily won the 5 1/2-furlong prep at Ellis Park to get a free roll in this stakes and her camp thinks she’ll relish a little extra distance.
6:07 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 3 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on TVG
Knicks Go seeks his first victory since upsetting the field in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last October when he breaks from post 8 in a field of 10 for the 1 1/16-miles Super Derby. Trained by Ben Colebrook, Knicks Go has lost his last seven races but enters the Super Derby off a runner-up finish in the Ellis Park Derby on August 11.
6:35 p.m.—$1,000,000 Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes at Kentucky Downs on TVG
Multiple graded stakes-winners Arklow and Bigger Picture, last year’s 1-2 finishers, are back for another try in the 1 ½-miles test, the most lucrative race of the Kentucky Downs meet. Arklow, the 5-2 favorite on the morning line, has run well against Grade 1 company but seeks his first victory of 2019. Bigger Picture’s Mike Maker-trained stablemate Zulu Alpha, a multiple graded-stakes winner who was claimed 11 1/2 months ago at Churchill Downs partly with this race in mind, is the 9-2 second choice. The top three finishers of Ellis Park’s $100,000 prep race — victorious Factor This, Botswana and My Boy Jack, with a total of a neck separating them — all entered in Kentucky Downs’ first $1 million race as did beaten favorite Hello Don Julio.
7:35 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 3 British Columbia Derby at Hastings Racecourse on TVG
Ole Nielsen’s Canadian Derby winner Explode puts his four-race win streak on the line against a field of eight challengers in the 1 1/8-miles British Columbia Derby. Explode began his current run of success with a victory in the River Rock Casino Handicap at Hastings on June 2 and earned his first graded score via disqualification in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby on August 18. One of his biggest challengers this Saturday figures to be Five Star General, winner of the British Columbia Cup Sir Winston Churchill Derby Trial Handicap at Hastings on August 5.