Part of Saratoga’s allure is the presence of a stakes race each day of the meet, something the New York Racing Association has duplicated as Belmont Park begins an abbreviated season Wednesday, resuming racing for the first time since March.
While the added-money features will offer spots for a number of stakes-caliber horses in need of a race, the undercards at Belmont and Churchill Downs continue to be packed with well-known names as racing hits top gear again.
Here are six races we’ll be watching through Friday outside of stakes company.
Wednesday’s third race at Belmont Park (2:23 p.m. ET)
Fauci, a 2-year-old from the Wesley Ward barn, will make his much-anticipated debut going five furlongs on the dirt in a proving ground for the Royal Ascot meet later this month. The Malibu Moon colt is campaigned by Lindy Farms and Ice Win Stable, the latter known for its Ascot conquest with No Nay Never. Fauci, of course, is named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, a guiding force on the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force. Ward said of the equine Fauci heading into this race: “All of his works on the dirt at Keeneland have been eye-openers.”
Wednesday’s eighth race at Belmont Park (5:04 p.m. ET)
The experimentation with Hidden Scroll continues when the 4-year-old Juddmonte Farms homebred takes his first spin over the turf in this allowance optional claiming test at a mile. Hidden Scroll debuted a winner, then returned with another 100-plus Beyer Speed Figure to open 2020. But once advanced to higher class levels on dirt, he has faltered. Being by Hard Spun and out of an Empire Maker mare, he’ll attempt a surface switch that could open a new career path for a Bill Mott trainee who has at times exhibited superior talent.
Thursday’s eighth race at Churchill Downs (4:46 p.m. ET)
Twice a Grade 1 winner at age 3, Chad Brown-trained Guarana begins her 4-year-old season in this seven-furlong allowance optional claiming sprint in which eight older fillies and mares showed up to challenge. The Three Chimneys Farm homebred began her career 3-for-3, blasting off in Belmont Park’s Acorn (G1) and having enough to win going a bit longer in Saratoga’s Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). Second most recently in Parx’s Cotillion (G1), she’ll use this spot as a tuneup for Keeneland’s Madison (G1) also going 7/8 of a mile on July 11.
Thursday’s eighth race at Belmont Park (5:04 p.m. ET)
Mystic Guide scratched from the recent Matt Winn Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds to avoid a meeting with fellow Godolphin homebred Maxfield, who went on to win that Kentucky Derby prep at Churchill Downs. The Michael Stidham trainee has resurfaced in a deep allowance fit for non-winners of two. By Ghostzapper, Mystic Guide stretched out with aplomb in a March 21 maiden special weight race at Fair Grounds and will make his encore against, among others, recent Gulfstream winner Tap It to Win and Basquiat, who struck on debut for Chad Brown and Peter Brant, also in Florida.
Friday’s sixth race at Belmont Park (3:59 p.m. ET)
Instagrand, who routed his competition in two starts as a 2-year-old, will start anew in this 3/4-mile sprint over the main track, now in the Chad Brown barn after stints with Jerry Hollendorfer and Don Chatlos primarily in California. The 4-year-old OXO Equine charge is 0-for-6 since annexing Del Mar’s Best Pal (G2) in August of 2018. As a $1.2 million purchase, he managed to hit the board in multiple stakes at age 3 before surgery put him on the shelf until December. Having failed to fire out west, most recently finishing sixth in Santa Anita’s San Pasqual (G2), Instagrand will get another chance with the reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer.
Friday’s seventh race at Churchill Downs (4:14 p.m. ET)
As Swiss Skydiver heads into Saturday’s Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Venetian Harbor prepares for Belmont’s Acorn (G1), some of the best of the rest behind their Fantasy Stakes (G3) duel last month at Oaklawn Park have landed here. Third-place Shedaresthedevil is prominent in this 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claimer for sophomore fillies, with the Brad Cox-trained daughter of Daredevil the Honeybee (G3) winner two starts back. Lazy Daisy, sixth off the shelf in the Fantasy, won the Pocahontas (G2) last fall over this course and distance.