Second off layoff types intriguing in Saturday graded stakes
As much as it may be a proving ground for reigning titlists north of the border, I'll be siding with Stormy Victoria (#1, 2-1) in the one-mile grass test. The aforementioned fillies both have plenty of speed, enough it seems to ensure an honest pace for the Christophe Clement-trained invader.
The 7-5 favorite in last year's Nassau, Stormy Victoria dropped too far off the pace and could only manage to finish fifth, two lengths behind Lexie Lou. I think she's capable of rating closer this time, and figures to improve off a comeback second last month in the $100,000 Powder Break at Gulfstream, which she only lost by a neck.
In other stakes action Saturday:
Red Bank (G3) (Race 9, Monmouth Park): My hunch is that Can'thelpbelieving (#4, 9-2) was not a fan of the course conditions at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, which was playing much softer than the official "good" designation. It was also a tough field that included Divisidero and Beach Patrol, both of whom had done very well over that course in the past.
While a mile might be a touch shorter than ideal, the six-year-old comfortably scored over this course in the Cliff Hanger (G3) last August before hitting the sidelines. With that recent race under his belt and, hopefully, more likeable footing underneath, I'm expecting the Graham Motion trainee to produce a more representative effort.
Arlington Classic (G3) (Race 8, Arlington): His career got off to a strong start with three straight wins, but Cowboy Culture (#8, 4-1) has been flat in his last couple of starts. After turning back eventual Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Girvin in the Keith Gee Memorial at Fair Grounds, Cowboy Culture didn't appear to be in the running mood in the Palm Beach (G3) at Gulfstream given his pre-race behavior at the gate. Next out, in the Transylvania (G3) at Keeneland, he lacked much in the way of a stretch punch, but wasn't highly fancied against a tougher field and over ground that have some give to it.
With seven weeks of rest and in a seemingly easier spot, Cowboy Culture has a chance to return to his best form for the high-percentage Brad Cox barn.
Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) (Race 8): He'd run well in the slop in the past, but American Freedom (#1, 4-1) simply couldn't buck the prevailing bias on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs, which generally favored inside speed including the Alysheba (G2) winner Bird Song.
The four-year-old's form is pretty solid, otherwise, and that distant second to stablemate Arrogate in last year's Travers (G1), where he out-finished Gun Runner and other top-flight three-year-olds, was solid stuff. The blinkers go back on today (he's done best wearing them) and he's yet another on our list here that figures to move forward off his season debut.
(American Freedom photo: Coady Photography)