The Month Ahead: June 2013
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
The racing season rolls into June without a Triple Crown on the line, but it’s still packed with plenty of high-class racing to look forward to.
After Kentucky Derby winner Orb’s disappointing performance in the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes lacks the buzz that comes with a Triple Crown try, but it’s still shaping up to be a solid race with a deep and competitive field of 3-year-olds. Belmont Park will host an outstanding two days of racing leading up to the final leg of the Triple Crown series on June 8th.
This month, Penn National, a small track in Pennsylvania, will host its first-ever $1 million day of racing topped by the $500,000 Penn Mile. Churchill Downs and Golden Gate Fields will host their final days of racing for the spring. Colonial Downs in Virginia and Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts will open for their summer meets.
June brings the first U.S.-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup with the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Hollywood Park will host two more BC qualifiers on the last Saturday of the month.
By the end of the June, the Triple Crown series will be behind us and the summer racing season will be in full swing with the opening of the crown jewels of American racetracks, Saratoga and Del Mar, right around the corner.
The first of the month will showcase New York-breds at Belmont Park with seven stakes for horses bred in the Empire State. The day will be headlined by the $150,000 Commentator Stakes for older horses at 1 1/16 miles over the Belmont Park dirt. The race is named for the two-time New York Horse of the Year.
Penn National, a track near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will host the richest day in its 40-year history, topped by the $500,000 Penn Mile for 3-year-olds over the turf.
Hollywood Park celebrates the first of the month with the Grade 2 Californian for older horses at 1 1/8 miles over the dirt. The legendary Dr. Fager won the Californian in 1968, his only career start west of the Mississippi.
Churchill Downs opens the final month of its spring meet with the Grade 3 Aristides for older sprinters at 6 furlongs.
Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Massachusetts opens for its summer meet.
Hollywood Park has the lone graded stakes on the day’s racing calendar with the Grade 3 Affirmed for 3-year-olds at 1 /16 miles.
Belmont Park kicks off one of the biggest weekends in New York racing with a double-header of Friday graded stakes. The Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap, run for the first time in 1887, is a 1 1/2 miles race for older horses. The Grade 3 Jaipur is a 7-furlong turf race for horses 3-years-old and up.
Belmont Stakes day will include a total of five graded stakes topped by the final leg of the Triple Crown series. The 1 1/2 miles Belmont Stakes is expected to draw a strong field of 3-year-olds and could stage a re-match between the Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness winner Oxbow. The card also includes a pair of Grade 1 races for turf runners: the Manhattan for older horses and the Just A Game for fillies and mares. The sprinters have the Grade 2 True North, open to older horses at 6 furlongs, and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, for 3-year-olds going 7 furlongs. The 2012 sprint champion Trinniberg won last year’s Woody Stephens.
Hollywood Park has a pair of Grade 2 turf races with the Charles Whittingham Memorial at 1 1/2 miles for older horses and the Honeymoon for 3-year-old fillies.
Churchill Downs will have the Grade 3 Mint Julep for older fillies and mares on the turf.
Colonial Downs in New Kent County, Virginia, east of Richmond, opens for its summer meet. Colonial cards about 80 percent of its races over their turf course during a six-week meeting highlighted by the Grade 2 Virginia Derby over the grass for 3-year-olds.
Monmouth Park will have its first graded stakes of the month with the sixth running of the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes for turf horses. Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown won the inaugural edition of this race in 2008 in what turned out to be the final race of his brief career.
The Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs is the first U.S.-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race race for earning entry into this year’s Breeders’ Cup. The winner of the 1 1/8 miles dirt race will qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park in November. Last year’s BC Classic winner, Fort Larned, is among the probables for this year’s Stephen Foster. The undercard will include two other graded stakes: the Grade 3 Regret Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies and the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles over the dirt.
The Grade 1 Vanity Handicap, run for the first time in 1940, will have its final running at Hollywood Park, which will close for good at the end of the year. The Vanity has been won by some of the best fillies and mares in racing history including Busher, Bewitch, Princess Rooney, Azeri, and Zenyatta.
Saturday at Belmont Park will be headlined by a pair of Grade 3 stakes, the Grade 3 Bed O’Roses for filly and mare sprinters at 7 furlongs and the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-old turf runners.
Delaware Park cards its first graded stakes of the season in the Grade 3 Obeah Stakes for fillies and mares.
Monmouth Park will have a Sunday stakes race with the Grade 3 Pegasus for 3-year-olds.
Golden Gate Fields in California has its closing day for the 2013 racing season.
The Grade 1 Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies tops the card at Belmont Park. Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra set the stakes record time for 1 1/8 miles while winning the Mother Goose by 19 1/4 lengths in 2009.
The Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks for 3-year-old filly turf runners headlines the race day at Hollywood Park.
The Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup and the Grade 3 All Along will be the first graded stakes of the meet at Colonial Downs in Virginia.
Hollywood Park hosts a doubleheader of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races. The winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on the turf will qualify for entry into the BC Mile. A place in the gate for the BC Sprint will go to the winner of the 7-furlong Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap.
Belmont Park has its final graded stakes of the month with the Grade 2 New York Stakes for older turf fillies and mares and the Grade 3 Victory Ride for 3-year-old filly sprinters.
Filly and mare turf sprinters will have an opportunity for graded earnings with the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park.
The final Saturday of the Churchill Downs spring meet will include two graded stakes and the first graded race of the year for 2-year-olds with the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at 6 furlongs. The Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at 1 mile over the turf is open to horses 3-years-old and up.
Monmouth Park continues its solid program of graded stakes for turf runners with the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for older horses.
The biggest day in Iowa racing comes to Prairie Meadows with three graded stakes topped by the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap for older horses at 1 1/8 miles. The 3-year-olds have the Grade 3 Iowa Derby and the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks for fillies.
The spring meeting comes to an end at Churchill Downs. The track will re-open again in September for its fall meet.