Month Ahead: August 2012
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Summer racing is now in full swing. Del Mar on the ocean in California and Saratoga among the mountains of upstate New York have their opening days behind them and will share the racing spotlight for the majority of the month.

The month of August brings over 30 graded stakes from coast to coast. The month will also have back-to-back weekends with a total of 12 Grade 1 races at Saratoga, Del Mar, and Arlington Park.

This month has races of major significance, including the Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, the Pacific Classic for older horses at Del Mar, and the Arlington Million for the turf racers at Arlington Park near Chicago. The filly and mare division will have the Alabama Stakes and Personal Ensign in New York. Big races for the female turf division include the Beverly D in Chicago and the Del Mar Oaks in California. The 2-year-old division also heats up with graded stakes for racing’s future stars at Saratoga and Del Mar.

Owners and trainers aspiring for an Eclipse Award at season’s end will likely race their best steeds in a graded stakes this month. A race in August, followed by a race in the Fall, and finishing the season in the Breeders’ Cup in November has been a typical schedule for championship seasons in recent years. If race fans want to get an idea about the contenders for the Breeders’ Cup races in November, now is the time to start paying attention. August is (as it always has been) a great month for racing!

Here is what’s on tap this month in Thoroughbred racing…

Week 1

August 2
The first graded stake of the month comes on a Thursday at Saratoga with the Grade 2 Honorable Miss for filly and mare sprinters.

August 4
The Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar is one of two Breeders’ Cup Challenge races scheduled for the first Saturday of August. The winner of the Hirsch will get a spot in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. The other BC Challenge race will be in New York. The winner of the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga will earn a place in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In addition to the featured Whitney, Saratoga will have another Grade 1 on the card, the Prioress for 3-year-old filly sprinters at 6-furlong.

The Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack in Chester, West Virginia will be the highlight among nine stakes races on the card. Fan favorite Hansen is scheduled to race in the West Virginia Derby with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle.

August 5
Del Mar will have the Grade 2 Best Pal for 2-year-olds. The reigning Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another finished second in last year’s Best Pal.

The sprinters will have a Grade 1 for the taking in the 6-furlong Vanderbilt at Saratoga. Preakness and Met Mile winner Shackleford is expected to start in the Grade 1 sprint.

Week 2

August 11
The only weekend of the month without a Grade 1 race will have three Grade 2 races for the turf division. Del Mar has the La Jolla for 3-year-olds on Saturday and the Grade 2 John Mabee for the fillies and mares on Saturday. Saratoga will have the Fourstardave for older turf runners on Saturday.

August 12
On Sunday, the 2-year-old fillies and colts will take center stage at Saratoga in the Grade 2 Adirondack and the historic Grade 2 Saratoga Special. Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags won last year’s Saratoga Special in the first graded stakes win of his career.

Week 3

August 18
Arlington Park, north of Chicago, has its marquee event of the year, dubbed the International Festival of Racing, headlined by the Grade 1 Arlington Million on the turf. Also on the card are the Grade 1 Beverly D for the turf fillies and mares and the Grade 1 Secretariat on the grass for 3-year-old colts.

Saratoga hosts a double-header of Grade 1 stakes with the Alabama for 3-year-old fillies and the Sword Dancer for turf horses.

Del Mar hosts the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks for 3-year-old fillies over the turf in California.

Week 4

August 24
Friday starts the biggest weekend of the month with the first of six Grade 1 races and four Breeders’ Cup Challenge races. The Grade 1 Ballerina for filly and mare sprinters gets things started at Saratoga. The winner will earn a berth in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint in November.

August 25
The biggest day in New York summer racing brings the Grade 1 Travers Stakes for 3-year-old colts at Saratoga. While the race lost its potential star power with the retirements of I’ll Have Another and Union Rags, this year’s Travers is expected to draw a contentious field that could include Haskell winner Paynter and Jim Dandy winner Alpha. The Travers undercard will have three additional graded stakes: the Grade 1 King’s Bishop for 3-year-old sprinters, the Grade 1 Test for 3-year-old filly sprinters, and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa for filly and mare turf runners.

August 26
The big day in New York is followed by a big day in California. Del Mar hosts the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, one of the big three races for older horses held in California, along with the Hollywood Gold Cup and Santa Anita Handicap. The winner of this year’s Pacific Classic will secure a place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November. Two Grade 2 stakes will be on the Pacific Classic undercard with sprinters running in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien and turf horses in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile.

Saratoga will run its fifth Grade 1 of the weekend with the Personal Ensign Stakes for the fillies and mares. The Personal Ensign is a BC Challenge race for entry into the Ladies’ Classic.

August is here and the dog days of summer bring the best of American thoroughbred racing. Enjoy and good luck!

Full Schedule of August Stakes Races

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