Scully's stakes picks for July 17

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 16th, 2021

Saturday’s stakes action includes Grade 1 events at Monmouth Park and Saratoga. I lack a strong opinion in the Haskell (G1), but will preview a few other horses of interest.

Matchmaker (G3), Monmouth Park – Race 5 (1:52 p.m. ET)

After coughing up a clear lead at odds-on in the June 12 Mint Julep (G3), Juliet Foxtrot will try to stretch her speed to 1 1/8 miles as a short-priced favorite. She arguably prefers a mile or 1 1/16 miles, and there’s speed to her immediate inside in the starting gate. No thanks.

#6 Nay Lady Nay has opened 2021 with a pair of unplaced efforts against graded foes, but the five-year-old mare looks poised to run well in her third start off the layoff for Chad Brown. She was too close in the last two, but the added ground (2-for-2 at 1 1/8-mile distance) and projected pace scenario will benefit her. Paco Lopez, who was last up for Nay Lady Nay’s win in last year’s Matchmaker, retakes the mount, and Nay Lady Nay can finish fastest of all.

Diana (G1), Saratoga – Race 10 (6:16 p.m. ET)

The 1 1/8-mile turf affair came up competitive, but I’m surprised #6 Summer Romance is listed as the 4-1 fourth choice on the morning line. Who is going to run with her early?

A Group 3 scorer last summer, the Godolphin-owned filly targeted a couple of premier races for three-year-old fillies without much success before heading to the sidelines in September. She’s progressed this season, posting a sharp Group 2 win in Dubai two starts back, and the Irish-bred exits a commendable second in her U.S. debut, the June 5 Just a Game (G1) at Belmont Park.

Leading until the final strides, Summer Romance was caught late by stablemate Althiqa, who also returns for the Diana, and both Charlie Appleby-trained distaffers merit respect. However, Summer Romance figures to have the tactical advantage dictating the pace – she should get away with slow fractions up front – and Saratoga’s inner turf can play favorably toward speed. I’m tabbing Summer Romance wire-to-wire.

San Diego (G2), Del Mar – Race 10 (9:30 p.m. ET)

#5 Express Train loves Del Mar (3-2-1-0) and has run well off the freshening for John Shirreffs, returning from a layoff with a sharp allowance win at Del Mar last year. His Brisnet Speed ratings are among the best in the field.

A convincing winner of the San Pasqual (G2) in late January, Express Train earned some time off following a couple of disappointing efforts in the spring, finishing third in the Oaklawn H. (G2) and Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at short odds. The four-year-old kept excellent company in those races, and the cutback to 1 1/16 miles looks favorable on Saturday. The bay colt should be in position to strike turning for home.