Favorites Featured in the Duncan F. Kenner at Fair Grounds

Holy Boss and Yockey’s Warrior Lead Duncan F. Kenner Stakes

A big day of racing at the Fair Grounds Saturday features six stakes races. It starts in race 5 with the 64th running of the Duncan F. Kenner and the two favorites are featured in the 6 furlong sprint with a $75,000 purse. Just six runners will be in the gate and the ‘Boss’ will be the most bet come post time.

Yockeys’s Warrior (9/5) has won his last two races including the Thanksgiving Handicap here when he made early work of the field. He let the front runner blast out and set all the pace as he just tracked them in 3rd and when the real running started down the lane he roasted them closing the final 1/8th in .12 seconds flat. What makes this effort more impressive, the son of Warriors Reward was making his stakes debut in that Nov. 24 race. His trainer Al Stall Jr. had high hopes for him as a 3-year-old as he broke his maiden at the Fairgrounds like a good thing, but couldn’t

Holy Boss winning the Chick Lang Stakes

repeat that effort and went on a 4 race losing streak. But as a 4-year-old his 2016 racing season was much more impressive as he won 3-of-5 races and is also training well off that win leading into his 2017 debut. His last two races have been his best efforts to date as he’s no longer a run off type as he’s matured to listen to his jock and take back and settle in a very nice breathing pattern. He’s running with his ears pricked, instead of pinning them down and exerting all his energy during the early stages of the race.  This is the saltiest field he’s faced in his career and he will have to repeat his last two efforts or better to get the win this afternoon. But Yockey’s Warrior likes the Fair Grounds surface having won twice along with a show in three starts, and he’s also won 3 of 4 starts at this distance.

Holy Boss (7/5) is the deserving favorite off his resume alone. This son of Street Boss has faced the cream of the crop over the past two years. He ran off four straight wins in early 2015 including a win at Pimlico in the Chick Lang Stakes. But he’s failed to win in nine starts since with a pair of places and shows in six starts in 2016. But a big effort is expected right from the gate in his first run at the Fair Grounds. One thing to note is jockey Ricardo Santana was the last jockey to win aboard Holy Boss and trainer Steve Asmussen will instruct him to break quickly and we expect a solid run to the half mile marker before a strong stretch finish in front.

Kenny Schmitt contributed to this article. Follow him on Twitter @FBWinners

Smarty Jones Preview: Uncontested Has Unrelenting Speed

Uncontested Will Wire Monday’s Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn

The Smarty Jones Stakes is set for Monday at Oaklawn Park, and the MLK holiday race has drawn a field of 8 for $150,000 purse. Uncontested is the 2-1 favorite and looks uncatchable, while the top 2 challengers on the morning line break from the inside with Petrov (5/2) on the rail and Warriors Club (7/2) on his outside. Rowdy the Warrior (6/1) and Unbridled Eagle (8/1) are additional challengers who will need a fast pace to have any chance to catch the favorite.

Uncontested is the favorite in the Smarty Jones Stakes

The 10th running of the Smarty Jones is a 1 mile prep race for the Arkansas Derby April 15 at Oaklawn, with winners expected to move on to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Uncontested is one of three runners from the Nov. 26 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and he led that race through a blistering quarter and into the far turn before fading to fourth. He broke from the far outside post that day, and jockey Channing Hill should be able to ration his speed and energy better out front this time. Uncontested possesses a great deal of natural speed, and will be the one to catch again. Warriors Club chased the early pace and finished a head in front of Uncontested in the Kentucky Jockey Club, while Romeo O Romeo (12-1 finished last in the 12 horse field.

Petrov comes out of the weaker 3-year-old sprint division in New York. Like the favorite Uncontested, Petrov is 1-for-2 and now stretches out. He did work a strong 4 furlongs Jan. 11 at Oaklawn breezing in 48.20 which was fourth fastest of 121 runners that day.

Warriors Club is a D. Wayne Lukas trainee who has made 7 starts with a 1-1-3 record. He’s continued to improve and showed more in his first stakes try in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He won a minor stakes at Churchill to break his maiden, and the horse he beat was well regarded Cool Arrow, who came back to win while beating Rowdy the Warrior and Cu Rahy, who is in here at 15-1. That race was very slow, and Rowdy the Warrior would benefit from a very fast pace.

Unfortunately for all challengers, Uncontested is not likely to give up the lead in this race. He looks primed to carry out his speed and utilize Oaklawn’s short stretch in this 1-mile race. Jockey Channing Hill should be able to ration out his speed and carry it through to the finish with expected improvement.

The Smarty Jones Stakes is Race 8 at Oaklawn Park on Monday, Jan. 16. The 1 mile race is set for post at 4:38 pm ET.

La Canada Stakes preview

La Canada Stakes Led By Vale Dori

Despite some rough weather hitting California over this week, Santa Anita looks on track to present the 2017 La Canada Stakes this coming weekend. The $200,000 race will feature much of the same field that competed at the Bayakoa Handicap in early December 2016. Only one of the entrants in this weekend’s tilt was not included in that race.

That standalone is Enduring Erin, a seven-year-old veteran who has a record of just 7-3-7 in 32 starts. Enduring Erin has no notable finishes in any stakes race, so she’s likely to be the longshot. Santa Anita is simply her home track.

Vale Dori is the anticipated favorite after winning the aforementioned Bayakoa Handicap over Wild At Heart, who came second. With a record of 4-1-1 in seven starts, Vale Dori is undoubtedly the most accomplished competitor in the La Canada Stakes field.

Not to be outdone, Wild At Heart has shown the type of consistency that handicappers appreciate. A strong record of 2-2-4 in 9 starts shows that she’s a more than apt show bet, and the daring play here is for her to place behind Vale Dori for a second time. Of any play, an exacta box on the two is the most logical wager at the La Canada Stakes this Saturday.

Rounding out the field are Autumn Flower and Show Stealer, who finished 6th and 4th respectively at the Bayakoa Handicap.

La Canada Stakes – Santa Anita Park on Saturday, January 14th (5:30pm EST)
1 1/16th Miles – 4+ Year Old Fillies & Mares – $200,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Vale Dori (ARG) Mike E. Smith 125 Bob Baffert
2 Show Stealer (KY) Tyler Baze 120 Art Sherman
3 Wild At Heart (KY) Flavien Prat 120 Richard E. Mandella
4  Enduring Erin (KY) Corey S. Nakatani 120  Richard Baltas
5 Autumn Flower (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 120  Dan L. Hendricks

Pago Hop Stakes Handicapping Preview

Pago Hop Stakes Starts Late Pick 4 at Fair Grounds

The $75,000 Pago Hop stakes is restricted to 3-year old fillies and this year’s edition has drawn a full filed of 14 to be run on New Year’s Eve at the Fair Grounds Race Course.  The about one-mile event over the Stall-Wilson turf course attracted seven stakes winners, topped by a pair of improving types with excellent back-class in Most Beautiful (GB, 5-1) and Mom’s On Strike (8-1) breaking from the far outside post. Those two will have their hooves full in their first starts at the New Orleans oval, as they take on a quartet of stakes-winning local course lovers in Princess Erindelle (20-1), Inconclusive (20-1), Pancake (30-1) and the race favorite Believe in Bertie (3-1).

Believe in Bertie is a homebred from the Klein’s. She’s a deserving favorite but faces many pressers as that’s her running style as well. She’ll have to break clean from the No. 12 post, but it will still be tough to get towards the lead with many others showing front-running speed. She likes the turf course at the Fairgrounds as she won like a wild thing Nov. 26 by nearly 6 lengths under a hand ride. But one thing to note, she’s never broke this wide and in her past several races she drew the inside and went to the front at the break.

Gianna’s Dream (4/1) is a filly from Twirling Candy. She runs like her father breaking like a rocket and running many competitors into the ground. She has six straight in the money finishes since the summer including four front-running wins. Gianna’s Dream has won on four different turf courses this year and tries to take her picture at the Fair Grounds for the first time with Florent Geroux aboard. Geroux won his 1,000th career race here Thursday. Gianna’s Dream is 2-for-2 at this 8 furlong distance, and running next to her is Frozen Hannah (12-1), who she beat in a stretch duel at Saratoga this summer. Frozen Hannah was 3-1 that day while Gianna’s Dream was 9-1, and Frozen Hannah has come back with another runner-up finish plus a win last time out Sept. 29 in a $50,000 claimer at Belmont.

Mom’s On Strike (8/1) nearly pulled the shocker at 51-1 last time out Oct. 15 at Belmont. She closed hard and was flying down the lane. She’ll find her way to the back again breaking from the far outside, but with a blistering pace she could benefit most if she can get clear coming home.

Princess Erindelle (20/1) may be sitting on a career effort at a huge price. She’ll be overlooked at the betting windows, but not by us. This one is regally bred for the weeds and has given good account of herself as well. She just needs the perfect pace setup to unleash that big move she has shown in the past including her stakes win here March 5. In a field filled with lots of speed, Princess Erindelle is one to watch in her seventh race at the Fair Grounds, but she’ll need to reverse her current form.

The remainder of the field for the 33rd running of the Pago Hop, which goes as the eighth of 11 races and first leg of the $0.50 late Pick-4, is comprised of multiple restricted stakes winner School Board Prez (20-1), Ready for Chianti (12-1), Nobody’s Fault (12-1), Always Right (12-1, La Peregrina (12-1), Motown Lady (12-1) and Pageant Material (20-1) is the also eligible.

Horse Racing Calendar Starts New Year at Santa Anita

1 Million Guarantee All-Stakes Pick 4 Highlights Opening Day at Santa Anita

Merry Christmas to all, including the horse racing fans who enjoyed their only day off of the year Christmas Day. Horse racing runs 364 days a year in the United States, and the New Year for horse racing fans begins Dec. 26 with the opening of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita.

Nine races with full fields including four graded stakes should make for another strong start at Santa Anita. The all-stakes late pick 4 starting with race 6 has a guaranteed prize pool of $1 million, which will make for plenty of betting opportunities.

Here are some horses to consider on your pick 4 card opening day Dec. 26. Use this racing calculator when figuring the amount for your pick 4 betting combinations.

Race 6 $100,000 San Simeon (G3). A wide open 6 ½ furlong race on the turf with many contenders to consider, and we’ll point to five as our biggest selection of the four races. Look for horses that have had success down this unique course, which is shaped like a mark before the horses straighten out for the stretch run.

  • Holy Lute (9-2), Richard’s Boy (5-1), He Will (6-1), Stormy Liberal (8-1), Tough Sunday (20-1).

Race 7 $300,000 La Brea Stakes (G1). This 7 furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies has a trio of fine fillies that we’ll include.

  • Lightstream (2-1), Finley’sluckycharm (5-2), Enola Gray (9-2).

Finley’sluckycharm is the fastest horse in the race and has won her last three at Churchill Downs by a combined 21 lengths. Lightstream is more battle tested with 3 wins in four starts at 7 furlongs.

Race 8 $300,000 Malibu Stakes (G1). Kentucky Derby runner Mor Spirit returns from a long layoff, but we’ll leave him out and go with a pair of top contenders.

  • Mind Your Biscuits (5-2), Sharp Azteca (3-1)

Mind Your Biscuits can close and was 3rd last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and speed horse Sharp Azteca could wire these as he did last time out in a minor stakes, and he’s working well over the track and also won the Pat Day Mile on Kentucky Derby Day.

Race 9 concludes the pick 4 in the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile on the turf.  We’ll single out a horse with Flavien Prat aboard as he returns to riding following an injury suffered in a spill. Super feed trainer Phil D’Amato has this 3-time winner at Woodbine training well over this course including a 5 furlong bullet in 59 flat Dec. 19.

  • Conquest Enforcer (7-2)

A .50 cent Pick 4 with these combinations costs $15. Adding a second horse in the final race 9 makes it a $30 ticket.

During the winter-spring meet from Dec. 26 to April 9, Santa Anita is running a free contest called ShowVivor. There are five ways to win with five different cash prizes totaling $5,000. Pick one horse from one live race each day. Rules and additional details are here.

2016 La Brea preview

Tough Crowd in 2016 La Brea Stakes

The 2016 La Brea Stakes will fall on the day after Christmas and poses some interesting money making opportunities depending on your flavor. This race is for three-year-old fillies and has a lot of talent involved, but the value might be somewhere in the middle. That is, of course, you prefer the outright favorite.

At 4-1-1 in six starts, Lightstream is entering the 2016 La Brea Stakes with a 2/1 number that pegs her as the favorite. Her performance at the Raven Run, where she went from 8th to 1st like a bullet, is more so indicative of where she is now compared to up-and-down outings in previous races this year.

“We’ve tried to space her races and we don’t run her unless she’s doing good, so fortunately enough she’s been pretty consistent all year,” said trainer Brian Lynch. “The ankle chip could have been a blessing. Sometimes it gives them a chance to mature. Sometimes everything happens for a reason.”

“Ultimately tracks vary from coast to coast,” Lynch continued while acknowledging the strength of the field in the 2016 La Brea. “A lot of time speed doesn’t come back, but there’s plenty of speed in the race. A few could get to banging heads and the race could set up for her or could not.”

One of the biggest threats in the field is Enola Gray, one of the top three-year olds at the lower tiers up until recently. Losing out at the Betty Grable Stakes did a lot to put a dent in her otherwise sparkling reputation. She was a heavy 1/9 favorite in that race but will be a more reasonable 9/2 third choice at the 2016 La Brea Stakes. There are those – such as me – who firmly believe that she is a worthy standalone play. With a record of 4-2-0 in six starts, you’re looking at one of the most consistent performers at this race.

Chao Chom, who upset Enola Gray at the Betty Grable, will be an 8/1 longshot alongside Perfect Pic (6/1), Lunar Empress (20/1) and Coniah (15/1).

The more probably entries include second cohie Finley’sluckycharm who is pretty much being excused for her 7th place finish at her last stakes outing. There’s nothing on her resumé to suggest that the W. Bret Calhoun trainee is worth the gamble.

Same goes for Jerry Hollendorfer’s Constellation who was last out placing 4th at the Cicada Stakes. She had previously won the Ruthless Stakes but there’s little in her body of work to say that Constellation is actually a contender at the next level.

The wisest choice is a pairing of Lightstream and Enola Gray, but standalone’s on either to win is a fine strategy at this post-Christmas race.

2016 La Brea Stakes – Monday, December 26th at Santa Anita
7 Furlongs – 3 Year Old Fillies – $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Lunar Empress (KY) Norberto Arroyo, Jr. 119 Richard Baltas 20/1
2 Lightstream (KY) Julien R. Leparoux 121 Brian A. Lynch 2/1
3 Finley’sluckycharm (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 119 W. Bret Calhoun 5/2
4 Constellation (KY) David Romero Flores 119 Jerry Hollendorfer 6/1
5 Coniah (CA) Tyler Baze 119 Carla Gaines 15/1
6 Chao Chom (CA) Kent J. Desormeaux 119 Gary Stute 8/1
7 Enola Gray (CA) Mike E. Smith 119 Philip D’Amato 9/2
8 Perfect Pic (ON) Santiago Gonzalez 119 James M. Cassidy 6/1
2016 Hollywood Derby preview

Camelot Kitten Takes On Hollywood Derby

Chad Brown’s Camelot Kitten has been a profitable, under-the-radar bet for horse players all year long. The three-year-old colt has won the American Turf Stakes, Pennine Ridge, National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes and the Hill Prince most recently on a spellbinding tour of the lower tiers. He next takes on the Hollywood Derby and is expected to be the favorite.

Joining him will be stablemates Beach Patrol and Annals of Time who finished second and third at the Hill Prince in August. Both are also trained by Chad Brown and will try to avenge a defeat to Camelot Kitten, who has remained at the top of his game when pointed at the appropriate level.

Crashing the Hollywood Derby party is Revved Up, who is highly rated across the board despite his 5th place finish at the Commonwealth Derby in late September. The Claude McGaughey trainee has also had a flurry of strange results from multiple allowances, going just 2-1-0 in seven other non-stakes starts. Revved Up certainly remains a bit of a dark horse and could be worth a standalone play if you happen to have some misplaced faith in him.

A flurry of hopefuls from the Twilight Derby will also take part in this weekend’s challenge. That group is topped by Frank Conversation, who won the Twilight and was followed by Free Rose and Blackjackcat. Diplodocus came 5th while Path of David came 7th. I would rank Frank Conversation highly, but I also love Free Rose as an upstart in the upcoming Hollywood Derby. The Twilight was the gelding’s first loss at a stakes race.

Defiantly (1st at the Let It Ride), Isotherm (8th at the English Channel) and Hayabusa One (1st Allowance) round out the field.

However, this remains a race for Camelot Kitten to lose. I’m not sure that his compatriots can pace him like they did at the Hill Prince, so my money’s on Free Rose to spoil the race. An exacta on the pair wouldn’t be ill informed. Camelot Kitten has made it a habit to outdo himself against strong competition in general.

2016 Hollywood Derby – Saturday, December 3rd at Del Mar (6:30pm EST)
1 1/8th Miles — 3 Year Olds — $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Beach Patrol (KY) Florent Geroux 122 Chad C. Brown
2 Camelot Kitten (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 122 Chad C. Brown
3 Frank Conversation (KY) Mario Gutierrez 122 Doug F. O’Neill
4 Diplodocus (KY) Kent J. Desormeaux 122 Richard Baltas
5 Free Rose (KY) Norberto Arroyo, Jr. 122 Richard Baltas
6 Isotherm (KY) John R. Velazquez 122 George Weaver
7 Blackjackcat (KY) Mike E. Smith 122 Mark Glatt
8 Hayabusa One (FR) Victor Espinoza 122 H. Graham Motion
9 Revved Up (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 122 Claude R. McGaughey III
10 Defiantly (KY) Gary L. Stevens 122 Craig Dollase
11 Annals of Time (KY) Javier Castellano 122 Chad C. Brown
12 Path of David (KY) Joseph Talamo 122 Kristin Mulhall

Shadwell Turf Mile Betting Preview

$1 Million Shadwell Turf Mile Highlights 5 Saturday Stakes at Keeneland

Last year’s winner, Grand Arch, will seek a repeat against 10 rivals in Saturday’s $1 million Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, a “Win and You’re In” offering for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile.

shadwell-turf-mileGrand Arch is 10-1 on the morning line, and the 7-year-old gelding is in tough here. A pair of 3rd place finishes since May including last time out in the
FourstarDave Handicap (G1) behind winner Tourist (3-1) shows he must improve to make the money. Tourist faces more familiar rivals but is a tough Tiznow cold who has three in the money finishes in Grade 1 races since April including the victory in the Fourstardave. He’ll be running near the lead while Miss Temple City (8-1) tries to come from off the pace while battling the boys. She romped in the Maker’s Mile but will need a very fast pace to get a piece. She passed on the First Lady Stakes where Tepin is expected to win as the heavy 2-5 favorite. Miss Temple City has a win and two seconds in three starts at Keeneland, where she posted her career-best Equibase and Beyer Speed Figures in the Maker’s 46 Mile.

keeneland-pick-5Ironicus (4-1) can certainly win this and is one to include in your exotics. The 5-year-old from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey is consistent and honest making him a worthy inclusion. He’s won six of 13 career starts and finished in the top two in each of his last nine races. In those nine races, he won or finished within a half-length of the leader eight times. Ironicus prefers to come from off the pace, which works very well as a tactic on the Keeneland turf, and his trainer and jockey (Jose Ortiz) have won at a 23 percent clip on the year when joining forces. Ironicus has been a favorite in four of his last five starts, and offers a nice payoff in a most competitive Turf Mile.

Other worthy contenders include Arlington Million winner Mondialiste (IRE) at 6-1, Ring Weekend (5-1) and What a View (6-1), who faces his toughest challenge and field from the far outside. Tower of Texas (20-1) is a longshot but was second to Tepin in the Woodbine Mile.

Here is Saturday’s stakes schedule at Keeneland, all part of the Pick 4 and Pick 5 betting action on a big day of racing at Keeneland. The Shadwell Turf Mile is the last stakes race and has an accomplished list of runners with a handful suggested as part of the Pick 5.

Race 5 – Woodford Stakes (G3). 5 ½ furlongs, Turf. 3-year-olds and up. Purse $150,000

Race 6 – Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2). 6 furlongs, Fillies and Mares 3-year-olds and up. Purse $250,000

Race 7 – First Lady Stakes (G1). 1 mile, Turf. Fillies and Mares 3-year-old and up. Purse $400,000

Race 8 – Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1). 1 1/16 miles, 2-year-olds. Purse $500,000

Race 9 – Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). 1 mile, Turf. 3-year-olds and up. Purse $1,000,000

Post time for Race 1 at Keeneland on Saturday, Oct. 8 is 1:05 p.m. ET, with Race 9 Shadwell Turf Mile scheduled for 5:45 p.m. ET

Shadwell Turf Mile 2016 preview

2016 Shadwell Turf Mile Preview

The 2016 Shadwell Turf Mile has a bonafide field of contenders seeking a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. It’s truly a star studded cast worth of the hefty million dollar purse, and one that promises to be the premier event at Keeneland this weekend.

To me, the most promising choice at the Shadwell Turf Mile is Tourist, who is coming off a win at the Fourstardave and has been cresting upwards all season. He’s got to show that he’s a worthy bet in a grade-I stakes race, but I still like a standalone win bet on him. Call me crazy, but sometimes I like to get in on a horse before the curve spikes.

Also competing at the Shadwell Turf Mile out of the Fourstardave is Grand Arch who finished third in that race.

Tower of Texas last finished as a convincing runner-up to Tepin at the Woodbine Mile, a fate he’s achieved in three straight races. He’s as good of a bet as any in a dense field at the Shadwell Turf Mile.

Heading the class is Mondialiste who took the Arlington Million in mid-August. While his earlier performances in the year weren’t anything to speak of, he’s certainly positioned himself as a threat amongst milers. Kasoqui, who came second at the Arlington Million, is also featured in this race.

Muddying the betting waters even further at the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes is Ironicus, who has finished on the proverbial podium in his last 12 starts. I love him as a box packer in this one for those of you that like the exotics. He’s either due for a win, or due for a top finish at this race.

Miss Temple City will battle the boys, but it’s hard to imagine the four-year old filly cracking the top three. She’s coming off a 5th place finish at the Ballston Spa, after a pair of 4th place finishes in two races before that. Her win at the Maker’s 46 Mile was more of a fluke it seems.

Rounding out the Shadwell Turf Mile field are Triple ThreatPleuvenWhat A View and Ring Weekend.

My preferences remain Tourist and Ironicus with either Tower of Texas or Mondialiste coming in third.

2016 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes – Saturday, October 8th at Keeneland (5:45pm EST)
1 Mile Turf — 3+ Year Olds — $1,000,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Triple Threat (FR) Paco Lopez 126 William I. Mott 15/1
2 Pleuven (FR) Corey J. Lanerie 126 Philip A. Sims 20/1
3 Tower of Texas (ON) Julien R. Leparoux 126 Roger L. Attfield 20/1
4 Mondialiste (IRE) Daniel Alexander Tudhope 126 David O’Meara 6/1
5 Grand Arch (KY) Luis Saez 126 Brian A. Lynch 10/1
6 Kasaqui (ARG) Robby Albarado 126 Ignacio Correas, IV 20/1
7 Miss Temple City (KY) Edgar S. Prado 126 H. Graham Motion 8/1
8  Ironicus (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 126 Claude R. McGaughey III 4/1
9 Ring Weekend (KY) Junior Alvarado 126 H. Graham Motion 5/1
10 Tourist (KY) Jose Lezcano 126 William I. Mott 3/1
11 What a View (CA) Kent J. Desormeaux 126123 Kenneth D. Black 6/1
Santa Anita Saturday Preview 10/1

Star Studded Saturday at Santa Anita

Santa Anita Park will host an incredible card this coming Saturday. It’s highlighted by the Awesome Again Stakes and the Zenyatta Stakes, which feature four of the most talented horses in the sport. Both events offer places in the Breeders’ Cup events as part of the challenge series prep race circuit. Heading to Santa Anita for their final warm-ups prior to the world championships are California Chrome, Dortmund, Stellar Wind and Beholder making this a must-see weekend at the California based track.

The main event of Santa Anita’s busy Saturday is undoubtedly the Awesome Again Stakes. The field of seven boasts three absolute studs in the form of California Chrome, Dortmund and Hoppertunity who are the no-brainer choices to finish in the top-three. But the draw has yielded some unexpected drama.

California Chrome will rifle out of the inside rail in hopes of getting past Dortmund, who will start right next to him in the second post. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but the 1 1/8 mile distance offers little room for error. Dortmund is also an imposing figure who could attempt to box California Chrome in or discourage him with some physical contact. The intensity out of the gates at Santa Anita this weekend will be sky high.

Trainer Art Sherman remained confident in his incredible horse. “I think I’ve got the best horse in the country,” Sherman said. “I might be a little prejudiced about it, but, you know, he’s done about everything a horse could do. We’ve travelled all over the country, abroad, and we’ve never ducked anybody, and it’s been a hard journey. He really can’t prove anything more to me. I think right now you’re going to wind up seeing him the rest of the year at his peak.”

California Chrome has beaten Dortmund in back-to-back efforts at the Pacific Classic and the San Diego Handicap. The oddsmakers are suggesting that it will be three consecutive victories. I’m sure that Baffert and Dortmund are expecting a different result this time.

Both are pointed towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita towards the end of the season.

2016 Awesome Again Stakes – Saturday, October 1st at Santa Anita (6:30pm EST)
1 1/8 Miles — 3+ Year Olds — $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 California Chrome (CA) Victor Espinoza 125 Art Sherman
2 Dortmund (KY) Rafael Bejarano 121 Bob Baffert
3 Hoppertunity (KY) Flavien Prat 121 Bob Baffert
4 Win the Space (KY) Gary L. Stevens 121 George Papaprodromou
5 Soi Phet (CA) Kent J. Desormeaux 121 Leonard Powell
6 El Huerfano (CA) Martin A. Pedroza 121 Peter Miller
7 Hard Aces (KY) Santiago Gonzalez 121 John W. Sadler

One of the final races of the big card at Santa Anita will see Beholder trying to fend off Stellar wind in the Zenyatta Stakes. The two have faced off before, with the latter beating the former at the Clement Hirsch in an upset. However, Stellar Wind’s trainer was adamant that that victory was no fluke and is beyond excited to see what his emerging four-year old filly has to offer in the rematch.

“It looks like it’s going to be another epic race,” John Sadler quipped. “Stellar Wind has trained really well and hasn’t missed a day or an oat, or anything since her last race, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Beholder lost back-to-back races for the first time in her career over the summer. She also lost to California Chrome at the Pacific Classic. A return to the female-only side of racing might be the confidence booster she needs, but she needs to vanquish her rival to prove she has the competitive spirit to go for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in just over a month’s time.

Stellar Wind will be opting for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at the world championships. This will be the final tune-up for both stars.

The main dark horse in the group is Tara’s Tango, who has gone 3-0-1 this season in four starts.

2016 Zenyatta Stakes – Saturday, October 1st at Santa Anita Park (7:30pm EST)
1 1/16th Miles — 3+ Year Old Fillies & Mares — $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Off the Road (BRZ) Tiago Josue Pereira 121 Richard E. Mandella
2 Beholder (KY) Gary L. Stevens 125 Richard E. Mandella
3 Vale Dori (ARG) Rafael Bejarano 121 Bob Baffert
4 Tara’s Tango (KY) Martin Garcia 123 Jerry Hollendorfer
5 Stellar Wind (VA) Victor Espinoza 125 John W. Sadler