By Richard Rosenblatt
The last time these two champions met, it was no contest in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Preakness (G1) winner Swiss Skydiver stumbled at the start, and lost all chance of victory, while two-time champion Monomoy Girl made a sweeping move around the second turn and won the race easily.
Tune in on Saturday, when these two meet again in the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park. A field of five is entered, but this shapes up as a two-horse race.
Post time is 7:09 p.m. (ET), with FX2 televising live racing from 5-8 p.m.
Swiss Skydiver, trained by Ken McPeek, will be ridden by Robby Albarado and is the 2-1 second betting choice. The 3-year-old female champion opened her 4-year-old campaign with a win in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita to run her career record to 13-7-3-1 and more than $2 million in earnings.
Monomoy Girl, trained by Brad Cox, is the even-money favorite. She kicked off her 6-year-old campaign with a victory in the Bayakoa Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn to run her amazing career record to 16-14-2-0 and more than $4.5 million in earnings.
“Anytime you get two champions, it’s exciting,’’ McPeek said earlier this week. “It’s going to be exciting. The timing is good. It’s great for the sport.”
A trio of other stakes are on tap as well Saturday – the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) – which precedes the Apple Blossom — the $200,000 Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland, and the $200,000 Californian (G2) at Santa Anita.
Weather outlook for Saturday
At Oaklawn, the weather report late in the day is calling for cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 60s and a 24% chance of precipitation.
At Keeneland, there’s a slight chance of rain late in the afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-50s.
At Santa Anita, it should be sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s.
A rundown of the races:
$1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1)
Post time: 7:09 p.m. (race 11)
A field of six is entered the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom, but this sure looks like a showdown between champions Swiss Skydiver and Monomoy Girl.
Florent Geroux will be aboard Monomoy Girl leaving from the 6 post; Albarado leads Swiss Skydiver out of the 2 post.
$1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2)
Post time: 5:49 p.m. (race 9)
Silver State (4-1) goes for his fifth straight win in a field of eight older horses going 1 1/8 miles. Express Train is the morning-line favorite at 5-2 for trainer John Shirreffs; Fearless, trained by Todd Pletcher, is at 7-2.
$200,000 Elkhorn Stakes (G2)
Post time: 5:30 p.m. (race 9)
A field of 10 contests the 1½-mile marathon on turf for 4-year-olds and up. Many of these horses have faced each other in these longer turf races over the year. 2020 Sycamore winner Red Knight is 3-1 in this one, with Say the Word at 7-2.
$200,000 Californian (G2)
Post time: 7:51 p.m. (race 8)
A competitive field of five is entered, with Independence Hall the 8-5 favorite in this 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up. Trainer Bob Baffert as a pair of entries, Magic on Tap and Country Grammar, both at 5-2.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.