By Gene Kershner
Now that the Triple Crown season has subsided, it’s time to focus on the Canadian Triple Crown, the older handicap division and the summer racing series for 3-year-olds. Saratoga is a mere three weeks away and Del Mar opens up a week earlier. If the second half of the season is anything like the first six months, buckle your seat belts we have some great racing on the horizon.
The 3-year-olds really brought it during the spring and several of this talented group including Bodemeister, Paynter, Union Rags should continue to chip away at the hold that I’ll Have Another has on the 3-year-old divisional year end laurels. Last year, Stay Thirsty really established himself at Saratoga after a noble second place finish in the Belmont and with a key victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Breeders’ Cup Classic would have catapulted him into consideration for year end honors. Is there a horse that meets this description that can challenge the handicap division horses for Horse of the Year honors or has I’ll Have Another locked it up with his four straight graded stake victories (including three Grade 1’s)?
This weekend’s big race is the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park, where some colts who competed in the Triple Crown series will attack Big Sandy over 1 1/16 miles. I favor Belmont runner Unstoppable U for trainer Kenny McPeek over the talented Teeth of the Dog who was impressive on Belmont day.
It’s still quiet on the Canadian front whether or not the Queen’s Plate victor, Strait of Dover, will head down the QEW to the Fort for the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Ron Turcotte, the jockey on Secretariat for the majority of his career, will serve as the honorary draw master on Wednesday July 11 at the border oval. I still have a sneaking suspicion that he will skip the second leg based on his difficulties with a dirt track, evidenced by his first two career races at Hastings.
The handicap division has some talented horses vying for possible year end hardware, with Ron The Greek pulling off the Santa Anita Handicap/Stephen Foster double for the first time in history. Game On Dude is still a potential contender along with Wise Dan and Successful Dan, all with opportunities in the second half of the year to make noise in the older division.
The 3-year-old filly division is still up in the air with Zo Impressive’s big win in at Belmont this past weekend in the Mother Goose over Kentucky Oaks champion Believe You Can and the highly talented Contested. Things will start to heat up at Saratoga on opening weekend with the Coaching Club American Oaks and culminating with the Alabama later in the meet. This division should start to sort itself over the next two months.
We’re looking forward to the next few weeks of racing, featuring the Prince of Wales and Saratoga opening weekend in addition to the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. We’ll be making the trek to the Jersey Shore for the Haskell for the first time since 2006 when Bluegrass Cat romped home with the victory. The race is shaping up to have some top contenders including Bodemeister and Union Rags, so we’ll keep you posted as the race unfolds over the next few weeks.