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 Belmont Park & Woodbine.
Leading up to this year’s Breeders’ Cup are a couple of major graded stakes races to wet bettor’s appetite for the sports richest payday. This Saturday at Belmont Park, some of the top up-and-coming two-year olds will compete in the Futurity Stakes and Sunday at Woodbine is the running of this year’s Patterson Canadian International Stakes. The following is a look at a few of my top sports picks for each of these graded events.
Futurity Stakes- Belmont Park
The Futurity is a Grade 2 stakes race for two-year old thoroughbreds with a total prize purse of $200,000. It is contested on dirt over a distance of six furlongs.
Right now the field for Saturday’s race stands at six and the horse that stands-out from the crowd in my book is Ready Dancer. This two-year old colt has the highest ranking in this race at 6.34 according to Horse Racing Nation despite a disappointing eighth-place run in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 3. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, he will be dropping down in class in this event to try and reestablish the momentum he created with a trio of Top 3 finishes in three previous Maiden Special Weight races.
A good horse to put in the mix for Saturday’s Futurity would be Full Salute. Trained by Edward Plesa Jr. and bred in Kentucky, this two-year old colt turned some heads with back-to-back second-place finishes at Monmouth Park in the Tyro Stakes on Aug. 19 and the Sapling Stakes on Sept. 6. He has been busy as a juvenile with three additional Maiden Special Weight runs on his early resume and he has finished first or second in all five races.
Patterson Canadian International Stakes- Woodbine Racetrack
The Patterson Canadian Stakes is a Grade 1 event for three-year old thoroughbreds and up and it is contested on turf over a distance of 1 ½ miles. The total prize purse for this year’s event has been set at $1 million.
While the field for this race is still coming together, there is a long list of potential entries from all over the world lining up for a shot to claim this year’s title. Going through the current grocery list of potential contenders, the one horse that stood out the most was Up With the Birds. This is a veteran racer at five years old and he is coming off a pair of strong runs at Arlington Park with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap on July 11 and a fourth-place finish against a very talented field in this year’s Grade 1 Arlington Million on Aug. 15. Trained by Graham Motion, he comes into this race with six victories in major graded stakes races over the course of a very successful career.
Another horse that caught my eye for Sunday’s race is Da Big Hoss. If trainer Michael Maker does decide to run this four-year old colt in the Canadian International, I can almost guarantee that he will not be one of the favorites in what is shaping-up to be a very crowded field. However if he does run, I am going to keep him in my mix on the strength of a victory in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 14. Going back to his win in a claiming race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 21 of last year, he has finished in the money in nine straight races including wins in his last four events.