LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 21, 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.
This weekend features the conclusion of the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting as well as top-level action stateside at Monmouth Park with the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes. Though not a graded stakes, the 120,000-added Roxelana Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs boasts a field overflowing in quality as Grade 1 winner Mia Mischief faces off against fan favorite Covfefe, brilliant winner last time out at Pimlico Race Course.
Royal Ascot coverage culminates on NBC on Saturday June 22, starting at 9 a.m. ET
Saturday June 22
10:40 a.m.— Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on NBC and TVG
Last year’s Investec Derby winner Masar (IRE) returns to action in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday. Not seen in action since his finest hour at Epsom last June, the Charlie Appleby-trained colt runs in this 12-furlong Group 2 in preference to the Prince of Wales’s Stakes earlier in the week. He faces eight rivals, including Roger Varian’s Coronation Cup winner Defoe (IRE), who took his form to a new level when winning at Epsom.
11:20 a.m.— Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on NBC and TVG
Tuesday’s King’s Stand hero Blue Point (IRE) is one of 18 horses declared for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday. Charlie Appleby’s speedball successfully defended his King’s Stand crown with a tremendous performance on the opening day of the showpiece meeting. The five-year-old will now bid to become the first horse since Australian raider Choisir (AUS) in 2003 to win both major sprints in the same week.
3:33 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park on TVG
Graded stakes winner Valedictorian looks to rebound from an eighth-place finish last time out in the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile when she faces five challengers in the 1 1/16-miles Eatontown. Among the top threats are stakes winner Dynatail, who has won three of her last four starts including the Susquehanna Stakes on June 1.
4:55 p.m.—$125,000 Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine on TVG
Millionaire and fan favorite Melmich looks to add another chapter to his accomplished career, when he goes postward in Saturday’s Singspiel Stakes. Claimed for $20,000 on September 26, 2014, the gelded son of Wilko is a graded stakes star for owners Stephen Chesney and Cory Hoffman, and trainer Kevin Attard. His list of victories includes a pair of Grade 3 Dominion Day triumphs, a Seagram Cup crown in 2017 and a Valedictory score in 2015.
5 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park on TVG
Following back-to-back runner-up efforts in his last two outings, Diamond King aims to get back into the winner’s circle when he heads a field of seven for the 1 1/16-miles Iselin. Trained by John Servis, Diamond King was most recently second in the Salvator Mile Stakes at Monmouth on May 25.
5:10 p.m.—$500,000 Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on TVG
Saturday’s Ohio Derby features a competitive field of seven, including Grade 3 winner Owendale and the undefeated stakes winner Bethlehem Road. Winner of the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and then third in the Preakness Stakes, Owendale is the 9-5 morning line favorite in the Ohio Derby. While Owendale has won racing on the front end, his ability to close with power even into moderate fractions may give him an advantage Saturday.
5:26 p.m.—$120,000 Roxelana Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs on TVG
Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes winner Covfefe is set to clash with Grade 1 Humana Distaff hero Mia Mischief in a bang up edition of the $120,000-added Roxelana. The six-furlong Roxelana, named for the crack female sprinter who won seven of 11 starts, boasts a top-level quality lineup as graded stakes winner Honey Bunny is also among the entries. Covfefe smashed Pimlico Race Course’s six-furlong track record in the $150,000 Miss Preakness with a final time of 1:07.70 while Mia Mischief scored an 11-1 upset in the Humana Distaff when she defeated favorite Marley’s Freedom by 1 ¾ lengths.
5:28 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park on TVG
Trainers Chad Brown and Michael Maker, who have accounted for the last two winners of the United Nations Stakes, have each entered a pair of runners for Saturday’s 66th edition of the race. Brown, who has won the Eclipse Award as the sport’s top trainer the past three years, scored an upset with 23-1 shot Funtastic in last year’s United Nations as part of a 1-2 finish for his barn. Maker’s Bigger Picture, who won the United Nations Stakes in 2017, finished third last year. Brown will try for his fourth United Nations victory overall with Arrocha and Focus Group. Maker has Bigger Picture in the United Nations for the fourth straight year, with the hard-hitting 8-year-old gelding joined by stablemate Zulu Alpha this time around.
7:36 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 Wilshire Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
A winner of five out of seven of her starts on the Santa Anita turf but idle since November 3, trainer Phil D’Amato’s Storm the Hill returns to action on Saturday as she defends her title versus 11 fillies and mares three and up in the Wilshire Stakes at one mile on the grass. Also figuring prominently are the John Sadler-conditioned Ollie’s Candy, who comes off a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes, and Neil Drysdale’s English-bred Simply Breathless, who was most impressive in taking her U.S. debut by one length, the $75,000 Golden Poppy Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on April 27.
Sunday June 23
6 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 American Stakes at Santa Anita Park on TVG
Two of Southern California’s most consistent turf performers, Sharp Samurai and River Boyne, head up the American Stakes going one mile on turf. In addition to the top two, who are both owned by Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal, Richard Mandella’s comebacking Bombard, who has been in the money in nine out of his 10 starts, would appear to have a big look as he makes his first graded stakes appearance at age six.
7:30 p.m.—$100,000 Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita Park on TVG
In what appears to be a wide-open fray at a mile and three quarters over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, trainer Eric Kruljac’s long fused 5-year-old mare Causeforcommotion would appear to rate a big chance versus seven male rivals in the San Juan Capistrano Stakes. Prominent amongst her competition in Santa Anita’s traditional closing day fixture are the Phil D’Amato-trained Ya Gotta Wanna and Acclimate, along with Irish-bred Oscar Dominguez, who is trained by Richard Baltas.