Dickey: 5 can't-miss graded stakes left to watch in 2019

November 06, 2019 11:20am
Dickey: 5 can't-miss graded stakes left to watch in 2019
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA
The Breeders’ Cup has come and gone, but meaningful stakes races are still left to run in 2019.

For instance, 
Maximum Security, who has a choice of two upcoming Grade 1 events, still stands to improve his case for best 3-year-old male, and Tiz the Law may be able to state his case in an open race for top 2-year-old colt.

With that in mind, here are five races you won't want to miss finishing off the calendar year:

Clark (G1): Nov. 29
1 1/8 miles, 3-years old and up at Churchill Downs

One of the two races where Maximum Security could run next, the Clark isn’t known for pushing its winners to year-end awards. But it has jumpstarted a number of great campaigns the following season.

Gun Runner won the 2016 edition of the Clark, then took home Horse of the Year and Older Dirt Male championships in 2017. Wise Dan won the Clark in 2011 and took home three Eclipse Awards in 2012 and 2013, winning Horse of the Year, Older Dirt Male as well as Champion Male Turf Horse both years. In 2009, Blame won the Clark then followed it up by winning Older Dirt Male in 2010.

Will Take Charge did take the 2013 Clark en route to capturing the championship for top 3-year-old male. That victory followed a second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, plus wins in the Travers Stakes (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1).

Bob Baffert said he may send Roadster to the Clark (or the Cigar Mile, too). That matchup with last spring's Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner would certainly raise the ceiling of what Maximum Security could accomplish in his return to Churchill Downs, site of last spring's controversial Kentucky Derby disqualification.

1 1/16 miles, 2-years old at Churchill Downs

Recent winners of the Kentucky Jockey Club include McCraken, Tapiture, Uncaptured and Gemologist. All four are currently standing at stud, so consider this race a steppingstone to even more than next year's Kentucky Derby.

Chance It, the Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Currency Swap colt owned by Shooting Star Thoroughbreds, has won two state-bred restricted stakes races so far this year and will run somewhere other than Gulfstream Park,, where he has notched a trio of 91 Beyer Speed Figures, for the first time.

However, Chance It will be facing quite a jump in class should he meet Champagne Stakes (G1) winner Tiz the Law. While the Barclay Tagg-trained Constitution colt is also a state-bred, hailing from New York, he has already defeated better foes than Chance It, and connections are dreaming of the Derby.

Remsen (G2): Dec. 7
1 1/8 miles, 2-years old at Aqueduct

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has had a profound negative effect on the Remsen in recent years. Between 1959 and 1994, five eventual Kentucky Derby winners ended their freshman seasons winning this  route. Carry Back, Northern Dancer, Pleasant Colony, Go For Gin and Thunder Gulch won the Derby, while Damascus (Preakness and Belmont) and Pine Bluff (Preakness) went on to win Classics in their 3-year old seasons.

Since the advent of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the best freshman colts and geldings have opted to run for the bigger prize at a shorter distance rather than show up at Aqueduct in early December. Now, Independence Hall and Enforceable both missed out on the Breeders’ Cup this year but headline possible Remsen contenders.

Independence Hall romped over the course in Sunday's Nashua (G3), winning by 12 1/4 lengths with a 101 Beyer, the first triple-digit number for this crop. The Constitution colt is trained by Michael Trombetta, who had the colt ready to win at first asking in a maiden special weight race at Parx on Sept. 21.

Enforceable finished third in his most recent start behind Maxfield and Gouverneur Morris in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland for trainer Mark Casse. The Tapit colt already sports a win at nine furlongs having broken his maiden in an especially long event at Saratoga and could use this spot as a springboard to more serious placings on the Derby trail.

Cigar Mile (G2): Dec. 7
1 mile, 3-years old and up at Aqueduct

The Cigar Mile is another possible landing spot for both Maximum Security and Roadster to face older competition. Not only is it a shorter spot than the Clark, but it runs around one turn.

It would be no surprise to see those star colts go their separate ways, as Maximum Security could make the short ship over from Belmont Park, while Baffert tends to send a 3-year-old on the upswing to Churchill for the Clark.

The Cigar Mile shows a list of recent winners fit for this configuration. Some are sprinters stretching out a bit, and others routers shortening up for one of the year's final top races. Last year's Cigar Mile runner-up, True Timber, and the Todd Pletcher-trained graded winner Prince Lucky are among the other possible runners here.

Malibu (G1): Dec. 26
7 furlongs, 3-years old at Santa Anita

This spot should mark the penultimate race in Omaha Beach's career, unless owner Rick Porter and Spendthrift Farm work out a deal to keep him in training beyond the 2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1) the following month.

Following throat surgery that prevented him from running in the Kentucky Derby, the Richard Mandella trainee returned in impressive fashion, winning the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) before running second to the front-running Spun to Run in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

The Malibu, run traditionally the day after Christmas, is the final restricted Grade 1 event of the year for 3-year-old males and runs at seven furlongs. Its last two winners were an established star, as McKinzie made it his second Grade 1 win, and an up-and-coming City of Light in 2017.

One other race of note: 
Uni may give Del Mar's Dec. 1 Matriarch (G1) another whirl, looking to win the race in back-to-back years. But more importantly, another impressive win following her Breeders’ Cup Mile victory could sway Eclipse Award votes away from Chad Brown stablemate Sistercharlie in the hunt to be named top turf female for 2019.


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