Saudi Cup/Jane Barrell
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The holiday weekend's graded-stakes calendar brings interesting storylines. How will Mandaloun do in his first start since returning from the Mideast – and facing Olympiad? Will Life Is Good return to his winning ways? And can Shedaresthedevil beat Pauline's Pearl this time?
Here is an early look at the likely fields for this weekend's graded stakes.
One factor to consider: the turf course at Churchill Downs, which said it would halt racing on the surface on June 11. Turf racing is slated to return in time for this weekend's stakes, but some trainers were skeptical about whether that would happen. Read more here.
Stephen Foster (G2), Churchill Downs, 1 1/8 miles, 4-year-olds and up
Mandaloun would make his first start since finishing ninth in the Saudi Cup (G1), which followed four straight wins, including his promotion to winner of last year’s Kentucky Derby. Olympiad is 4-for-4 this year, with three of those wins in graded stakes. Last Samurai would make his first start here for D.Wayne Lukas after being transferred from Dallas Stewart’s barn.
Fleur de Lis (G2), Churchill Downs, 1 1/8 miles, fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up
Shedaresthedevil finished behind Pauline’s Pearl when finishing third in the Azeri (G2, won by Ce Ce) and second in the La Troienne (G1). She’s All Wolfe – fourth in the Azeri and fifth in the La Troienne – beat Ava’s Grace and Pauline’s Pearl last out in the Shawnee at Churchill Downs.
Wise Dan (G2), Churchill Downs, 1 1/16 miles (turf), 4-year-olds and up
Somelikeithotbrown’s fifth-place finish in the Kingston Stakes was his first start in nearly seven months. Atone gave way in the stretch to finish third in the Dinner Party (G2) last out and continues to pursue his first graded-stakes win. Cavalry Charge won the Fair Grounds (G3) in February but is 0-for-3 since. Set Piece, who won this race last year, is probable for Saturday's renewal, according to Garrett O'Rourke of Juddmonte Farms.
John A. Nerud (G2), Belmont Park, 7 furlongs, 4-year-olds and up
Before his fourth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup (G1), Life Is Good was 6-for-7, with his only other loss coming by a neck to Jackie’s Warrior in last year’s Allen Jerkens (G1). Speaker's Corner started the year with wins in the Fred W. Hooper (G3), Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) and Carter (G1) before finishing third in the Met Mile (G1). (More about Speaker's Corner here.) Harvard, winless in his last four starts, tries graded company for the first time. Officiating won the Tom Fool (G3) before his fourth-place finish in the Sprint Stakes at Tampa Bay and third place in the Runhappy (G3).
Dwyer (G3), Belmont Park, 1 mile, 3-year-olds
Charge It, who generated buzz in the spring, cuts back in distance in his first start since finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby. Nabokov gave way in his debut to finish second at 6 1/2 furlongs and then broke his maiden last out at 1 1/16 miles. Unbridled Bomber is 0-for-5 since breaking his maiden in November.
Princess Rooney (G2), Gulfstream Park, 7 furlongs, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up
Ce Ce, winner of the Azeri, looks to bounce back from her tough loss to Letruska and Clairiere in the Apple Blossom. Allworthy would return to graded stakes after winning a Churchill Downs allowance last out. Make Mischief has won two of three starts this year, with a fifth-place finish in the Ruffian (G2) in between.
Smile Sprint (G3), Gulfstream Park, 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up
Drain the Clock would return here after finishing seventh in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1). Before that, he was second in the Gulfstream Park Sprint. Absolute Grit would make his first graded-stakes start after four wins and a second in his last five starts. Willy Boi is 2-for-2 this year, including a win over Gatsby last out in the Big Drama at Gulfstream.
Probables were not available for the July 4 Great Lady M (G2), 6 1/2 furlongs at Los Alamitos for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up.
Probables also were not available for five weekend graded stakes at Woodbine: the Nassau (G2) 1 mile on turf for fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up; the Dominion Day (G3), 1 1/8 miles on synthetic for 4-year-olds and up; the Marine (G3), 1 1/16 miles on synthetic for 3-year-old males; the Selene (G3), 1 1/16 miles on synthetic for 3-year-old fillies; and the Highlander (G2), six furlongs on turf for 4-year-olds and up.
And probables were not available for two weekend graded stakes at Delaware Park: the Kent (G3), 1 1/8 miles on turf for 3-year-olds, and the Delaware Oaks (G3), 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies.