Another wave of Breeders’ Cup prep races will take place this weekend from Belmont Park and Keeneland.
Last Saturday, we saw the likes of Beholder, Nyquist, Rock Fall, Smooth Roller, Songbird and Wedding Toast stamp their Breeders’ Cup ticket to Keeneland on Oct. 30 and 31.
It will be more of the same this weekend.
Keeneland opens today, and it is among the premier race meets in the world. The fact that it is hosting a Breeders’ Cup for the first time will make it more special.
The Saturday stakes at Keeneland will include the Woodford, Thoroughbred Club of America, First Lady, Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile.
Also on Saturday, Belmont Park will host the Kelso, Flower Bowl, Frizette, Champagne, Hill Prince and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
I’ll focus on six Grade 1 stakes for analysis.
The First Lady appears to have a wide-open field of 11 grass routers. I would lean toward the three European invaders in Crowley’s Law (5-1), Easter (4-1) and Outstanding (6-1). The Euro style of liking soft ground and quickening late should fit well over Keeneland turf.
The Breeders’ Futurity came up strong, as five of the 12 2-year-olds entrants last ran at either Saratoga or Belmont Park.
The reason for running at Keeneland instead of the Champagne at Belmont Park is to get a race over the track where the Breeders’ Cup will take place, plus it is a two-turn race instead of one turn.
Exaggerator (7-2) exits the best last race, as he won the Saratoga Special like a seasoned pro. He was stuck behind horses in the stretch until jockey Junior Alvarado decided to bull through a narrow opening.
Seven of the 12 starters exit a maiden special weight race, so I would watch the tote board to see who is getting bet.
In the Shadwell Turf Mile, I like The Pizza Man (8-1) coming off his win in the Arlington Million. He was flattered when the runner-up horse, Big Blue Kitten, won the Turf Classic at Belmont last week.
Three Euro invaders — War Envoy (8-1), Kelinni (15-1) and Dutch Connection (4-1) — look like potential spoilers.
At Belmont Park, rain this week should soften the grass course in favor of the Euro shippers.
In the Flower Bowl, I like Euros Mutatis Mutandis (12-1) and Curvy (2-1). Curvy has the stronger resume, but sometimes running for the first time on Lasix can be a great equalizer.
The Frizette drew a disappointing field of seven 2-year-old fillies, including four that just broke their maiden. They must catch the rail horse, She’s All Ready (3-1), who has won both of her starts.
In the Champagne, Ralis (3-1) was an easy winner of the Hopeful at Saratoga for Southern California trainer Doug O’Neill. His challenge will come from six untested 2-year-olds that exit a maiden special weight race.
Finally, the Jockey Club Gold Cup is headed by Tonalist (6-5) in what is a weak edition of this historic stakes. There is no early speed in the field other than Constitution (3-1). Remember that lone early speed is still the best bet in horse racing.
• FALL CLASSIC AT THE ORLEANS — The Fall Classic at The Orleans will be Thursday through Oct. 10. The entry fee is $500. It’s a key prelude to the 2016 Horseplayer World Series at The Orleans.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick