Stakes Saturday: Whitney, Personal Ensign in spotlight

Stakes Saturday: Whitney, Personal Ensign in spotlight
Photo: Derbe Glass/NYRA
Throughout the year, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full previews when available can be found through the link for each race. Saturday Aug. 1
3:28 p.m.—$500,000 Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS2 Reigning champion older dirt female Midnight Bisou, the No. 1-ranked horse on the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, will seek a 14th graded stakes victory when she aims to defend her title in the Personal Ensign. Midnight Bisou, a dark bay 5-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute, has put together a sensational record of 21-13-5-3 with purse earnings of $7,371,520. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou will attempt to be the first horse to score back-to-back Personal Ensign triumphs since John C. Oxley's champion Beautiful Pleasure did so in 1999-2000. This year, Midnight Bisou has sustained her winning form, displaying an inside-closing effort in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup in February and last out won the Fleur de Lis (G2) at Churchill Downs by 8 ¼ lengths. 5:30 p.m.—$100,000 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on TVG In a season of unusual happenings, Saturday’s Shared Belief Stakes fits right in. The 3-year-old feature – which has drawn six runners – breaks new ground in that it is the first time a Kentucky Derby prep race has been conducted at the seaside oval in its 81-year history. Heading the lineup is Honor A.P., the No. 2 ranked horse on the NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll, who comes into the race off a tally in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on June 6. Honor A.P. was second in the San Felipe at Santa Anita in his race prior to that and has been training forwardly at Del Mar for his prep. Mike Smith, who has handled Honor A.P. in all four of his starts so far, once again has the call Saturday.
5:31 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park on TVG With the top six finishers back from the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 4, as well as fourth-place Acorn Stakes finisher Lucrezia, the Monmouth Oaks field has several accomplished fillies. Dream Marie, off her second-place finish to Project Whiskey in the Delaware Oaks, where she was beaten a half-length, certainly fits. Dream Marie signaled her arrival as a potential stakes winner after winning a $50,000 starter allowance at Gulfstream Park in December, following that up with a win in a $75,000 optional claimer on Jan. 20 and a second on May 15 in the Hollywood Wildcat. 5:42 p.m.—$750,000 Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS1 A field comprised of five millionaires - including three horses in the top 10 of the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll - will make up a talented group of older horses assembled for the 93rd running of Saturday's Whitney going 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Al Stall, Jr. saddled subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic winner and champion Blame to victory in the 2010 Whitney off a four-race win streak. This year, the conditioner sends out red-hot Tom's d'Etat, who also arrives at the race off similar form with four straight wins. Owned by Gayle Benson's G M B Racing, the 7-year-old son of Smart Strike enters the Whitney off graded stakes triumphs in the Fayette (G2) on Oct. 26 at Keeneland, the Clark (G1) on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs and the Stephen Foster (G2) on June 27 at Churchill Downs. Tom's d'Etat also leads all Whitney entrants with three victories at the Spa. As a 3-year-old, he broke his maiden at third asking by four lengths and won an allowance optional claiming event by nine lengths the following year. Last season, he was a one-length winner of the Alydar.
6:18 p.m.—$300,000 Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS2 A rematch featuring the superfecta of last month's Woody Stephens (G1) will highlight another high-caliber contest, with No Parole looking to propel his 3 ¾-length victory into more glory in Saturday's H. Allen Jerkens Memorial. No Parole, owned by Maggi Moss and Greg Tramontin, is unbeaten going one turn, registering a perfect 4-for-4 ledger in sprints. Overall, the Tom Amoss trainee has won 5-of-6 starts, including his gate-to-wire win in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens on June 20.
6:50 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on FS2 Grade 1-winning veterans Channel Maker and Sadler's Joy, who together have combined to earn more than $4.7 million in purses during their lengthy careers, will attempt to put the brakes on frustrating losing streaks Saturday in the Bowling Green on the inner turf. Channel Maker has gone winless in nine starts since his neck victory in the Man o' War (G1) in May 2019 at Belmont Park, also contested at the Bowling Green distance. Most recently, he finished fourth by a length after pressing the pace into the stretch of the 1 ¼-mile Manhattan on July 4 at Belmont. Sadler's Joy earned his lone career Grade 1 victory in the 2018 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. The 7-year-old gelding capped his 2019 campaign by winning the Red Smith (G3) last November at Aqueduct, but has gone winless in four tries this year.
9:30 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on NBCSN and TVG The Bing Crosby appears likely to have nine starters Saturday when the venerable sprint stakes will be run for the 75th time. Multi-millionaire McKinzie was slated to head up the Crosby field for this go-round, but trainer Bob Baffert has called an audible and indicated he’d rather run him later in the meet at seven furlongs in the Pat O’Brien Stakes on Aug. 29. Stepping up to fill the role of favorite in the Crosby is Fashionably Fast, a 5-year-old gelding who is just what his name indicates. The son of the late Lucky Pulpit has won six of his last seven starts, each time using his exceptional speed to make or stalk the pace. His last outing – the Triple Bend Stakes (G2) over seven panels at Santa Anita on June 7 – saw him run a sharp second to McKinzie. Sunday August 2 9:30 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 1
Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on TVG Three Grade 1 winners are slated to start in the six-horse field of fillies and mares assembled for the Clement L. Hirsch. Ce Ce, winner of the Beholder Mile (G1) and Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) this year, comes in off a third-place finish behind fellow Hirsch entrant Fighting Mad in the Santa Maria Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on May 31. Hard Not to Love, who took the La Brea Stakes (G1) last December, was second in the Santa Maria while Ollie’s Candy seeks her first victory since taking last year’s edition of the Clement L. Hirsch.

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