By Gene Kershner
With Super Saturday upon us at Belmont Park this weekend and some key races at Santa Anita, including the Norfolk and the Goodwood Stakes, many divisional championship scenarios are soon to be uncovered. Of course, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships ultimately will have a big determination on who will surface as the champions in each of the key categories to be awarded next January at the annual Eclipse Awards.
So what are some of the questions going into this weekend a month out from the Breeders’ Cup World Championships?
1. Will Stay Thirsty surface as the leader in the clubhouse of the 3-year old colt division with a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup? The winner of back to back stakes during the Saratoga meeting after finishing a game second in the Belmont Stakes, Stay Thirsty is poised to seize the 3-year old division with a victory. With Derby champion Animal Kingdom shelved since the Belmont and no other colt winning more than one key race, a third consecutive victory could seal the deal for Mike Repole’s colt.
2. Can Royal Delta defeat Havre de Grace in the Beldame and corral the 3-year old filly division? After capturing the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, Bill Mott’s filly has control over the 3-year old filly division, but faces a tough test in Horse of the Year contender Havre de Grace on Saturday. She will most likely go on to the Ladies’ Classic from here. Interesting Mott chose this spot over the $750,000 Cotillion Stakes at Parx where Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty and Acorn/CCAO winner It’s Tricky are headed this weekend.
3. Is Havre de Grace’s next step to go on to the Classic if she wins this weekend’s Beldame? After defeating males in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga, she returns to face fillies and mares this weekend, but has bigger things on the horizon should she continue her winning ways. She became only the second female to win the Woodward in its storied history.
4. Will Drill dominate the Norfolk Stakes and move into the favorite role in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile? Drill tries the dirt for the first time in his rematch with Creative Cause. He looks to be the real deal and a horse to be dealt with in the Juvenile.
5. Is Acclamation a threat to capture the Breeders’ Cup Classic? A horse not well known on the East Coast, he has had great success over the current year. He goes in this weekend’s Goodwood and has already qualified for the Classic with his win in the Pacific Classic last month at Del Mar. He’s only run on dirt in two of his 27 career races, so his effort over the Santa Anita strip will be a key to watch. Coil and Game On Dude will try and unseat him as the west coast threat in the Classic.
6. Will Uncle Mo move forward in the Kelso off the King’s Bishop? Mike Repole has stated that he is taking Mo to the Classic and not the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He and trainer Todd Pletcher have chosen the one-turn Kelso mile at Belmont over the Jockey Club Gold Cup as his prep for the Classic. He is working lights out, but the classic distance could be his ultimate downfall. Repole will take the chance though, and I’m looking forward to Mo running big this weekend.
It should be an exciting weekend of racing on both coasts, so stay tuned as the divisional leaders emerge.