By Richard Rosenblatt
With the Triple Crown behind us and the summer season upon us, handful of graded stakes races is on tap over the weekend at Monmouth Park, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita and in Japan.
As usual, FS2 will have live coverage of racing around the country, including Belmont Park and Churchill Downs – Saturday from 5-8 p.m. ET and Sunday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. TVG also will have live coverage all weekend.
We’re including Sunday’s schedule since possible Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mandaloun (if Medina Spirit is disqualified after testing positive for a prohibitive medication on race day) returns in the $150,000 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Mandaloun, trained by Brad Cox, makes his first start since finishing second in the Derby on May 1. The 1 1/16-mile Pegasus drew a field of 5 3-year-olds. Mandaloun, who will be ridden by Florent Geroux, is the 6-5 favorite over Gotham (G3) winner Weyburn and Remsen (G2) winner Brooklyn Strong, who finished 15th in the Derby.
The Pegasus will serve as a prep for the $1 million Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth on July 17
“I want him to get some experience at Monmouth and I’m looking to use the race as a fitness tool, as a prep from the Haskell,” said Cox, who, by the way, won the Belmont Stakes (G1) with Essential Quality last weekend. “I didn’t want to go 11 weeks without a race. This was the race we thought made the most sense on the calendar.”
The graded stakes on Saturday are the $150,000 Old Forester Mint Julep (G3), for 4-year-old fillies and mares on the turf at Churchill Downs, and the $150,000 Salvator Mile (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at Monmouth.
On Sunday, there’s a pair of Grade 3 turf races in Japan, and the $100,000 Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita.
Before looking deeper into the weekend – and beyond to Royal Ascot from June 15-19 – let’s look back at the week after the Belmont.
A few days before the race, top jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., was in a scary fall during a race at Belmont and will be sidelined several weeks. In a race just after the Belmont Stakes, jockey Kendrick Carmouche was injured in a spill and will be out at least a month.
The Bob Baffert-Derby kerfuffle continues. Lawyers for the trainer and the owners of Medina Spirit filed a lawsuit early in the week against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission as the KHRC completes its investigation of a positive post-race drug test that could disqualify Medina Spirit.
Finally, Rick Porter, who operated Fox Hill Farm and owned champions Havre de Grace and Songbird, and Eight Belles, died on June 6 at the age of 80 after years of battling cancer.
$150,000 Old Forester Mint Julep (G3), 1 1/16 miles, turf, 4 and up fillies and mares
Post time: 10:11 p.m. (race 9)
This could be the start of another big weekend for trainer Brad Cox as he sends out 6-5 favorite Juliet Foxtrot in 11-horse field.
The 6-year-old mare won the Jenny Wiley (GI) at Keeneland in her previous start. Since she arrived in the U.S., she is 5-2-3 in 12 starts.
Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard in the Jenny Wiley, has the call again leaving from post 2. Hendy Woods and Crystal Ball as the co-second choice at 6-1.
$150,000 Salvator Mile (G3), 1 mile, 3 and up
Post time: 4:18 p.m. (race 10)
Ny Traffic, a winner in his only start as a 4-year-old in an allowance optional claimer, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 10.
After running eighth in the 2020 Derby (Sept. 5) and ninth in the Preakness (Oct. 3), he returned last month and won at Belmont at 7 furlongs by 6 3/4 lengths.
He is looking for his first graded stakes win, although he has a record of 3-3-2 in 12 starts for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., and earnings of more than $600,000.
His claim to fame is running second by a nose to Authentic in the 2020 Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth, a race run on July 18.
“He came close,’’ said Joseph. “He definitely has a graded stakes win in him. Hopefully, it’s this year – and maybe this weekend.”
Pirate’s Punch is the 5-1 second choice.
$100,000 Affirmed Stakes (G3), 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds
Post time 8:56 p.m. (race 10)
The Chosen Vron is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in a field of five. The Cal-bred gelding is looking for his third win in a row. Bob Baffert, still permitted to run horses at Santa Anita pending a final ruling on the Kentucky Derby outcome, has the second choice in 2-1 Classier. He also entered Defunded.
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.