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

The Triple Crown season ended in disappointment with the scratch of I’ll Have Another the day before the Belmont Stakes. While some lamented the lack of a Triple Crown, the dedicated race fans rolled with the figurative punch. The longer you follow racing, the quicker such disappointments become a distant memory. The racing crowd likes to look ahead. There is always another race to bet or another great day on the racing calendar to eagerly anticipate.

As the calendar turns to July, fans will find high-class racing every weekend and the two most anticipated opening days of the year. The stakes races in July will attract the best horses in training from all divisions. If owners and trainers have a horse and hopes for an Eclipse Award at year’s end, a win in one of July’s nine Grade 1 races is a prerequisite. This month will likely see the return of Triple Crown stars Bodemeister and Union Rags, along with other familiar names expected to return to the track for the Jim Dandy in New York or the Haskell in New Jersey.

And, of course, July brings opening day at Del Mar in California and Saratoga in New York, two of the most well-attended and popular race meets in North America.

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

Week 1

July 1
Closing day for the Churchill Downs spring meet will feature the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap run at one mile over the turf.

July 4
Three days after the closing of Churchill, racing in Kentucky continues into the summer with opening day at Ellis Park.

July 7
Horse of the Year candidate Game On Dude is expected to start in the prestigious Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

July 7
The Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race for the BC Turf, will feature some of the best turf horses in the country competing in one of the premier races on the grass in the U.S.

The Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park will attract older dirt runners. The Suburban is one of the oldest stakes races in the country for the “handicap division.” It has been a mainstay on the New York racing calendar since 1884.

Calder will have its Summit of Speed, a popular card of sprint races at Calder Race Course in Florida. The day will feature six stakes sprints, including four graded stakes capped by the Grade 1 Princess Rooney for older fillies and mares. The Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race for the BC Sprint.

Week 2

July 11
The Sacramento Fair in California will have its first day of racing of the year. The meet will run until July 22.

July 14
A week after the running of the United Nations, another Grade 1 for the turf horses, the Man o’ War, will be run at Belmont Park. It’s the final graded stakes of the spring meet at Belmont Park.

The 3-year-old fillies will have a Grade 1 in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park. The Oaks is run over the turf at the demanding distance of 1 ¼ miles. Last year’s edition ended in a dead heat, the first in a Grade 1 race at Hollywood Park in over 20 years.

The Grade 2 Delaware Oaks, which has featured the eventual 3-year-old filly champion two of the last four years, will be held at Delaware Park.

July 15
Portland Meadows in Oregon will have its opening day of racing for 2012.

Week 3

July 18
Del Mar Racetrack, where the “turf meets the surf,” opens its summer meet. A opening day record crowd of 46,588 fans attended last year.

July 20
The most anticipated opening day in East Coast racing as Saratoga Race Course in New York opens for business. Two Grade 3 races, the Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies and the James Marvin for older horses, will highlight the first day of racing at the Spa.

July 21
Del Mar will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a unique promotion. Every 75th person through the gate will receive $75. The Grade 1 Eddie Read on the turf will be on the card for Del Mar’s first Saturday racing of the meet.

July 21
Saratoga will have the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks for its first Saturday of racing. The race for 3-year-old fillies will likely draw a few of the best of this year’s division. Zo Impressive, winner of the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont, is expected to run.

July 21
The Grade 2 Delaware Handicap will be run at Delaware Park. Horse of the Year Havre de Grace finished second to Blind Luck in last year’s “Del Cap.” The 2011 Eclipse winner in the 3-year-old filly division, Royal Delta, is expected to start in this year’s edition. The Delaware Handicap is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.

July 21
The 3-year-old turf colts will have the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs in New Kent County, Virginia. Turf champions Kitten’s Joy, English Channel, and Gio Ponti count the Virginia Derby among their career wins.

Week 4

July 25
The Santa Rosa State Fair in California will hold its opening day of racing. The meet will run until August 12th.

July 28
The Grade 2 San Diego Handicap for older horses at Del Mar will serve as prep race for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic to be run over the same surface in August.

July 28
Saratoga will have the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Jim Dandy will attract some familiar names from the Triple Crown trail who will likely use this race as a prep for the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, the “Midsummer Derby,” in August.

July 29
The Grade 1 Bing Crosby will attract a strong and deep field of sprinters at Del Mar. The race is named for the singing and acting legend who was part of the partnership that built the track in 1937.

July 29
The Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park is New Jersey’s biggest day of racing and will attract a big crowd to the beautiful track in Oceanport. Six supporting stakes are also scheduled, including three graded stakes.

July is a great month to be a racing fan….enjoy and good luck!

Full Schedule of July Stakes Races

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