The countdown has started to the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland at the end of the month, but there are still a few races worth watching this weekend. Here is the best from Santa Anita & Belmont Park.
Santa Anita – Zuma Beach Stakes
The Zuma Beach Stakes is a non-graded race for two-year-old horses over a mile, and it is run on turf. It brings a purse of $100,000 to the table and Luck of the Kitten used a win here last year to head to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he finished second to Hootenanny. There are about 17 horses listed in the preliminary field and many of them don't have much experience as two-year-olds, so many are still in the maiden-race phase. Bob Baffert has six horses that could be entered in this field, and a horse trained by Bob Baffert is usually a good place to start, so take a look at Mighty Moses and his betting odds. He finished second in his lone maiden start so far.
Horse Pick: Mighty Moses at Pinnacle
Belmont Park – Knickerbocker Stakes
The Knickerbocker is a Grade-3 race for horses three years and older, and it is another turf race that is run over 1 1/8 miles, with a purse of $200,000 for the field. Legendary is the defending champion in this race, while Za Approval won in 2013 and then used that to go to the Breeders' Cup Mile, where he lost to Wise Dan. Legendary is back to try and win this again, this time as a six-year-old, but he hasn't won a race since the Knickerbocker last year. A better pick might be V.E. Day, a four-year-old with some good results on the resume, starting with a win at the Grade-1 Travers last year, which he followed with a fifth at the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He finished 11th at the Breeders' Cup Classic, but that generally has the best field you'll see all year.
The rest of the field is a mixed bag, starting with Middleburg, who ran a string of allowance races last year and did very well, then stepped up when moving to the graded-stakes events this year. Blingo has plenty of experience in graded-stakes events and won the Grade-2 San Antonio Handicap last year; however, he hasn't raced since March 2014, so that is going to be a concern. War Dancer is another experienced horse with plenty of miles, but he is inconsistent. Mr. Speaker won the Grade-1 Belmont Derby last year (this is different from the Belmont Stakes, the Triple Crown race) and is coming off a graded-stakes win, but again, this horse is inconsistent. Cage Fighter is another horse that has made the step up from allowance races to graded-stakes events, which he has yet to win, and his last victory was a non-graded race.
You can throw a blanket over this field and come up with a different winner each time, but V.E. Day is the sports pick to go with.
Horse Pick: V.E. Day at Bovada