Weekend Watch: Travers Stakes leads these can't-miss races

August 23, 2019 08:09pm

Each weekend, Horse Racing Nation previews the top races to tune into coast to coast and runs down the main contenders. All times are Eastern.

Saturday

Saratoga, Race 5: 1:48 p.m.

Mitole
seeks to rebound smartly as the heavy 4-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes after failing as the odds-on top choice last out in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1). That was the colt’s first loss in over a year, but he also took an inside trip on a dead rail. He will meet John A. Nerud (G2) winner Promises Fulfilled in what should be a battle on the front end from start to finish. Also in the field is Vanderbilt and Met Mile also-ran Firenze Fire, who won the Runhappy Stakes earlier in the year and has some nice back class.

Saratoga, Race 6: 2:23 p.m.

Ogden Phipps (G1) runner-up
Come Dancing will avoid Midnight Bisou and instead cut back to the distance at which she has been fastest this season, seven furlongs, in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes. Prior to running into the imposing filly in their last outing, Come Dancing won the Distaff Handicap (G3) and the Ruffian (G2). She will face Separationofpowers, who got back to her winning ways in the Bed O’ Roses (G3) last out. Humana Distaff (G1) winner Mia Mischief will attempt to upset the top two, but she has her work cut out entering off a defeat over this course.

Saratoga, Race 7: 2:59 p.m.

Undefeated 
Shancelot will break from the rail as the 1-2 favorite in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes. No one has even been near him in his last two starts, with this a potential superstar. Depending on how fast Shacelot goes early, I like Hog Creek Hustle for the upset. The Overanalyze colt does his best running late and will be trying to catch the heavy favorite at the wire. Nitrous finished second behind the aforementioned two, getting nipped by a neck by Hog Creek Hustle in the Woody Stephens (G1) before running far behind Shacelot in the Amsterdam (G2).

Saratoga, Race 8: 3:35 p.m.

The Grade 2 
Ballston Spa Stakes lost its star power with the defection of Rushing Fall. In turn, we get quite a good betting race. Despite one of his top fillies missing this event, Chad Brown will still saddle one-third of the field, including third and fourth morning line choices Mascha, who won her U.S. debut last month, and Fifty Five, who is graded stakes-placed. Graham Motion sends out favorite Secret Message, winner of the Nassau (G2) at Woodbine and most recently fourth in the Diana (G1) behind some division leaders. Starship Jubilee has been in good recent form, but it’s Fifty Five who stands out to me due to her affinity for the Ballston Spa's 1 1/16-mile distance.

Saratoga, Race 9: 4:12 p.m.

It’s a match race in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign as the two top distaff ladies Midnight Bisou, who is 5-for-5 for the year, and Elate, who is 4: 2-1-1 in 2019, face off. If you want to try to beat the two heavy favorites, your best bet is Wow Cat, a Grade 1 winner in two countries and second off the layoff. Going back to last season, she was closest to Monomoy Girl in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Don’t count out Golden Award either. She's a half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, and it seems the 4-year old filly is rounding into career form.

Saratoga, Race 10: 4:49 p.m.

Annals of Time, who won a Grade 1 race in 2017 at age 3, dives back into the deep end in the 1 ½-mile Grade 1 Sword Dancer. The 6-year old Chad Brown trainee has had quite the abbreviated career. He debuted a winner at 2, but did not make his second start until nearly a year later. He made three starts in the second half of his 3-year old season, culminating with a victory in the Hollywood Derby (G1). He was then absent for nearly two years, just getting back in the gate this past June. With two starts off the layoff, this son of Temple City should be ready to fire his best shot. It will be a tall task, however, as will face a trio of Grade 1 winners: Ya Primo, Channel Maker, and Sadler’s Joy, who won this very event two years ago.

Saratoga, Race 11: 5:44 p.m.

Tax
will try to make it a Jim Dandy (G2)/Grade 1 Travers Stakes double despite not being one of the top morning line choices. That distinction goes to Belmont and Jim Dandy runner-up Tacitus, who should appreciate the 10-furlong distance of the Mid-Summer Derby. Not the equipment change to blinkers on for the hard-luck horse. Dwyer (G3) winner Code of Honor, Ohio Derby (G3) winner Owendale and Haskell (G1) runner-up Mucho Gusto will take on those two, with seven others filling out the field of 12. A win here would be a major plus toward challenging Maximum Security for the 3-year-old championship.

Del Mar, Race 9: 9:00 p.m.

Catalina Cruiser
is looking to make it 3-for-3 in 2019 as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes, a race he won last season. Again, trainer John Sadler is using this spot as a springboard to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Giant Expectations won this event two years ago and is looking for his first victory since December of 2017. Also in the field is Grade 1-placed American Anthem, who most recently won an optional claimer.

Sunday

Saratoga, Race 8, 4:46 p.m.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Bulletin makes his first start since his only career defeat in the Better Talk Now, stretching out to a mile in the process. In to challenge is Bourbon War, who ran in two legs of the Triple Crown series and switches to the green for the first time. He's second on the morning line behind Bulletin, who's also a stakes winner at age 3.  Out Braintrust is one to watch, as trainer Mark Casse was high on the Maryland-bred on the Derby trail before injury prevented him from trying a final prep.

Del Mar, Race 8: 8:30 p.m.

The one-mile
Shared Belief Stakes attracted a short field of six topped by even money favorite Improbable. Undefeated as a 2-year old, Improbable is still looking for his first win in 2019, with this the first start since he went favored in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His primary rival here is undefeated King Jack, who is back in the care of Jerry Hollendorfer after making his last start for assistant trainer Dan Ward. There’s nothing to gain here, but a win for Improbable would be an encouraging sign in what has otherwise been a disappointing year. 

 

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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