Weekend Watch: Smarty Jones amid can't-miss Labor Day races

September 01, 2019 10:39am
Weekend Watch: Smarty Jones amid can't-miss Labor Day races
Photo: Courtesy of Dubai Racing Club
Each weekend, Horse Racing Nation runs down top stakes of note, with this a special edition previewing Labor Day’s can’t-miss races. All times are in Eastern.

Saratoga, Race 9: 5:04 p.m.

Qurbaan, hero of last year’s Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, will seek his first victory since then in the 2019 running on closing day at Saratoga. In seven subsequent starts, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee has finished out of the money just once but hasn’t returned to the winner’s circle. He’s the third morning line choice behind a pair of well-connected rivals. Chad Brown-trained Sacred Life was second in the Lure Stakes in his first U.S. start, while Mark Casse’s March to the Arch may not merit his 3-1 billing given finishes of fifth and fourth in stakes tries at the Saratoga meet. Sticking with turf, the 2018 Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Noble Indy’s also in this field of seven.

Parx, Race 10: 5:05 p.m.

The Grade 3, $300,000 Turf Monster is all about Pure Sensation in terms of story lines. The Florida-bred has won this five-furlong sprint on the lawn three of the last four years but doesn’t seem to have chased off any competition with 11 in to challenge him. That’s despite winning three times already this season, including in the July 6 Parx Dash (G3). Just to his outside in post 12 is Cove Blue, who at 20-1 on the morning as a last out Saratoga winner for the Dale Romans barn looks like an absolute steal if you can get anything close to that price.

Saratoga, Race 10: 5:39 p.m.

The Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful Stakes attracted all the 2-year-olds you’d hope would meet up at the end of Saratoga’s summer meet. Saratoga Special (G2) winner Green Light Go is the favorite, and the consensus thought is, trainer Jimmy Jerkens wouldn’t bring him back so quickly if he wasn’t extremely confident. The Sanford Stakes (G3) winner By Your Side returns here, and at 6-1, he’s a forgotten horse of sorts who figures to like some added distance. Good luck differentiating Steve Asmussen’s trio here, as each of Gozilla, Shoplifted and Basin are maiden winners, and only Basin has run more than once.

Parx, Race 11: 5:45 p.m.

The Grade 3, $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes serves as a proving ground for the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Gray Magician, a Kentucky Derby runner who won the Aug. 11 Ellis Park Derby, wheels back as the one to beat going 1/16th of a mile farther this time. Majid, a stakes winner who knocked heads with Code of Honor last time in the Dwyer (G3), is next on the morning line. But I’d side against both. Spun to Run certainly deserves a look at 5-1. He was third in the Haskell Invitational (G1), and horses are bouncing out of a sultry day at Monmouth Park surprisingly well. Grade 3 winner Cairo Cat also has every reason to improve second off the bench having missed most of this season due to injury.

Del Mar, Race 6: 7:38 p.m.

The $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf is, outside of a big favorite, a wide-open affair going a mile on the lawn with 13 signed on. Simon Callaghan trains the top choice, Shedaresthedevil, who debuted a winner on the dirt for Norm Casse back at Churchill Downs, then transferred west to finish third on the main track in the Sorrento Stakes (G2). This will mark the Daredevil filly’s first try on turf, and there are plenty of challengers to consider, including U.S. first-timer Croughavouke for the formidable combination of trainer Jeff Mullins and Red Barron’s barn.

Del Mar, Race 9: 9:08 p.m.

Aspiring 2-year-olds will take their next step toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and perhaps the Triple Crown trail in the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity led by Eight Rings, whose 94 Beyer Speed Figure on debut ranks second-best in the crop so far. Bob Baffert trains him looking for a 15th Futurity win and second in the row after Game Winner, the “other” runner from his barn, upset Roadster in 2018. This time the maiden Garth will try to similarly play spoiler. Hyped on debut, the Godolphin homebred settled for a runner-up. It’s Peter Miller-trained Wrecking Crew, second in the Best Pal (G2), who’s also second on the Futurity’s morning line.


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