The Month Ahead: September 2013
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
September means the end of summer racing and the beginning of the countdown to the Breeders’ Cup. This month will include 17 opportunities at North American tracks for horses to qualify for Breeders’ Cup races. The final Saturday of the month will have a whopping 11 Breeders’ Cup qualifiers spread between New York and California and is expected to draw a few of the potential favorites for the big races in November.
September brings the bittersweet end to the meetings at Del Mar and Saratoga but the opening of fall meetings at Belmont Park in New York, Churchill Downs in Kentucky, and Santa Anita Park in California, this year’s Breeders’ Cup host. Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar, the current leaders in their respective female divisions, are scheduled to make a start this month. We can also look forward to the possibility of the reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, returning to Canada to defend his title in the Woodbine Mile.
Here is a closer look at the upcoming month of thoroughbred racing…
The first day of September falls on a Sunday during the final weekends of the Del Mar and Saratoga summer meetings. Saratoga will close with three graded stakes on Sunday, headlined by the Grade 1 Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies. The final Sunday at Del Mar will have the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby over the turf for 3-year-olds.
Labor Day Monday will have the traditional closing-day running of the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds at Saratoga. Last year’s winner of the Hopeful, Shanghai Bobby, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was voted the Eclipse champion for his division.
Del Mar’s Labor Day feature will be the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Stakes for filly and mare turf runners.
Parx will host a tripleheader of Grade 3 stakes races: The Greenwood Cup Stakes at 1 1/2 miles over the turf, the Turf Monster for turf sprinters, and the Smarty Jones for 3-year-olds.
Wednesday’s closing day at Del Mar brings the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds on the synthetic surface.
Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky opens for a three-week meeting. It’s first all September meeting in over 100 years at Churchill.
Opening day for the Belmont Park fall meeting is headlined by the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes for older horses.
The first Breeders’ Cup Challenges of the month will be a pair of races for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs, the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes and the Grade 2 Pocahontas, which is restricted to fillies. The Iroquois and Pocahontas are also the first scoring races for the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Oaks. The Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap for older horses over the dirt at one mile is also on the card for the first Saturday of the meet.
Arlington Park has the Arlington-Washington Futurity, a Grade 3 stakes for 2-year-olds over the synthetic surface. In 2006, Street Sense finished third in the race and went on to dominate the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and win the 2007 Kentucky Derby. He became the first colt to sweep those two prestigious races.
The $500,000 Grade 2 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs is one of two races this month restricted to 3-year-olds and that have significant purses. The other is the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on September 21.
Delaware Park has the Grade 3 Kent Stakes for 3-year-old turf runners.
The Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes will be run on Monday evening at the racetrack near Erie, Pennsylvania. Last year’s winner, Groupie Doll, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and later earned the Eclipse Award for female sprinter.
The Garden City Stakes for turf fillies is the first Grade 1 of the Belmont fall meeting. Also on the card is the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Stakes for older filly and mare turf runners.
The lone graded stakes on the calendar at Kentucky Downs, the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup, will be for older horses at 1 1/2 miles over the unique turf course in Franklin, Kentucky. Kentucky Downs does not have a dirt track and the turf course is kidney-shaped as opposed to the ovals found in nearly every other race track in America.
Woodbine Race Course in Toronto, Canada has two of four races on the weekend that will earn their winners a berth in this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Both of Saturday’s qualifiers are for juvenile turf runners. The winner of the Grade 2 Summer Stakes will earn a place in the gate for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The winner of the Grade 2 Natalma Stakes will earn a berth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Woodbine has the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, which is expected to draw reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan. He won last year’s edition on his way to winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The winner of the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes, also on the card, will qualify for the BC Filly and Mare Turf. In 2011, Perfect Shirl finished second in the Canadian before winning the BC Filly and Mare Turf at odds of 27-1.
Golden Gate Fields in northern California closes for the season.
Maryland racing commences for the fall with the opening of Laurel Park.
Parx will host a trio of graded stakes – two with $1 million purses. The Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby is for 3-year-olds and should attract some familiar names from the Triple Crown races. The race could also see the Will Take Charge and Moreno, the top two from the Travers, face off. The Grade 2 Cotillion Stakes is restricted to 3-year-old fillies. Among the possible starters for the Cotillion is the leader of the filly division, Princess of Sylmar. The Grade 3 Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters is also on the card. Last year’s eventual Eclipse Sprint champion, Trinniberg, finished second in the Gallant Bob before winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
The Grade 2 Gallant Bloom for filly and mare sprinters headlines Saturday racing at Belmont Park.
At Churchill Downs, the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes will be for 3-year-old filly sprinters at 7 furlongs.
Santa Anita Park opens for a meeting that will host the Breeders’ Cup during the first weekend of November. The opening day feature is the Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes, a sprint on the downhill turf course.
One of the biggest racing days on the racing calendar includes 11 graded stakes split between Belmont Park and Santa Anita Park. All winners of the stakes races in New York and California will qualify for the Breeders’ Cup in November.
Belmont Park tops its big day with the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The Whitney winner Cross Traffic is expected to start and could face one or more of the 3-year-old stars of 2013 with Palace Malice and Will Take Charge among the possible starters. The two-time Eclipse winner Royal Delta is among the probables for the Grade 1 Beldame, where she could face filly superstar Princess of Sylmar. Princess of Sylmar’s owner indicated after her Alabama win that he preferred taking on the reigning champ for her next start, but the Cotillion against 3-year-olds is also named as a possible start for her this month. Also on the card are two Grade 1 races for turf runners: the Joe Hirsch Classic and the Flower Bowl. The field for the Flower Bowl for fillies and mares might include the front-running Laughing, who won two Grade 1 turf races at Saratoga this summer. The Grade 1 Vosburgh for sprinters and the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at one mile over the dirt round out a great day of racing at Belmont Park.
At Santa Anita Park, five Grade 1 races will serve as a preview for the Breeders’ Cup, scheduled over the same track in November. The headliner on the day will be the Awesome Again Stakes for older horses with an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup Classic going to the winner. A doubleheader of 2-year-old races will serve as important BC preps for the juveniles with the Rodeo Drive Stakes and the Chandelier Stakes for fillies, both at 1 1/16th miles. The older fillies and mares will run in the Zenyatta Stakes, named for the 2011 winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, also run at Santa Anita. The filly and mare turf runners will have the the Rodeo Drive Stakes. Last year’s winner, Marketing Mix, is among the probable starters. She finished second to Zagora in the 2012 BC Filly and Mare Turf.
Belmont Park has two graded stakes for juveniles, the Grade 2 Futurity and the Grade 2 Matron for fillies.
Remington Park hosts the lone graded stakes run in the state of Oklahoma, the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby for 3-year-olds.
The Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship will be the feature at Santa Anita.
Arlington Park near Chicago has its closing day for the 2013 meet.
Good luck and enjoy the outstanding racing on the schedule for September!