Graded stakes spot plays Oct. 18

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

October 17th, 2020

This weekend is one of the rare ones during the year when the graded stakes action in North America is heaviest on Sunday rather than Saturday. With pickings available at Woodbine, Belmont, Keeneland, and Santa Anita, here are a couple horses of interest.

Woodbine Race 9 -- Nearctic (G2) -- 5:45 p.m. ET

Former English handicapper #7 VANBRUGH (12-1) turned in a promising North American debut in a Churchill Downs allowance in June, finishing a clear second to Ivar, impressive winner of the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) earlier this month. He proved less effective when unable to keep pace in a shorter dash at Ellis Park last time, likely the first time he had ever run so fast, so early.

Such a derisory performance is difficult to take at face value given his fine U.S. debut, and if allowed to settle into a more ideal stalk-and-pounce trip, this Juddmonte homebred could fare much better at a decent price for trainer Brad Cox.

Santa Anita Race 9 -- Twilight Derby (G2) -- 8:15 p.m. ET

#6 SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT (5-2) was unable to keep his perfect record at Churchill Downs intact when a fading fourth as the favorite in the American Turf (G2) last time, a race that went faster early than in the War Chant S. several months before.

Rispoli, who rode him to victory two back in the La Jolla (G3), climbs back aboard for this, and the colt might have only to deal with #3 Margot's Boy in the early stages. Might get the first jump on these and prove too tough to catch.