The summer horse racing season in July got off to a bang with a couple of major graded events at Belmont Park the first Saturday of the month. The $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational and the $750,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 6 were two of the biggest turf events for three-year-old thoroughbreds this summer.
This past Saturday at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, Maximum Security won the $1 million Haskell Invitational ahead of Mucho Gusto by 1¼ lengths. Turning bettor’s attention to this week’s slate, Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on the West Coast fill the schedule.
Saratoga Race Course Weekly Major Graded Events
Major graded racing this week at Saratoga gets an early start with the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap on Wednesday’s card. The six-furlong sprint on dirt is open to three-year-old and up fillies and mares. The total prize purse is $200,000. Thursday’s card features the $150,000 Grade 1 AP Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Handicap for four-year-old thoroughbreds across the 16 ½-furlong run on dirt.
The main event this week at Saratoga is Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes. Open to three-year-old thoroughbreds, it will be contested on the dirt track at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. The actual field continues to take shape with eight entries listed as probable at Horse Racing Nation.
The three-year-old colt at the top of the list is trainer William Mott’s Tacitus. This is expected to be his first competitive run since taking second place in this year’s Belmont Stakes on June 8 as the final jewel in the Triple Crown racing series. He also ran in the 2019 Kentucky Derby; finishing third in the official running order behind Country House and Code of Honor.
Code of Honor is also on the list as probable for this year’s Jim Dandy. Trained by Shug McGaughey, this three-year-old sire of Noble Mission went on the win the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 6 at a distance of one mile. He has placed in the money in six of his seven career events.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Weekly Major Graded Events
The summer meet is off and running at Del Mar. This week’s schedule gets things started on Wednesday with the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap for thoroughbreds three and older. It will be contested on the dirt track at an extended 1 ½ miles with a total prize purse of $100,000. There are seven competitors listed as entered.
Saturday’s race card features the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes with a total prize purse of $300,000. The six-furlong sprint on dirt is open to three-year-old and up thoroughbreds. The early entry list at HRN has 10 horses listed as probable for this event.
The Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsh Stakes is the featured event of Sunday’s card at Del Mar. Open to fillies and mares three and older, it will be contested on dirt over a distance of 1¼ miles with a $300,000 prize purse up for grabs. The early entry list is headed up by trainer Patrick Gallagher’s La Force with a 7.37 HRN rating. This five-year-old German-bred mare is coming off a victory in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita Park on June 1st. She covered the 1 1/16 miles on dirt in 1:45.91 past Paradise Woods and Just A Smidge.
Trainer Bob Baffert is looking to run Just A Smidge in this event as well. This four-year-old filly went on to finish sixth her last time out at Los Alamitos on July 6 in the Grade 2 Great Lady Stakes.