Many big races were ran and big events occurred last weekend, and the same will happen this weekend. Last weekend, the horse racing world was turned to Belmont Park as Drosselmeyer ground his way to a victory in the Belmont, Winchester shocked in the Manhattan and the chalk prevailed in the Just a Game and Woody Stephens, with Proviso and D'funnybone prevailing, respectively. This weekend, both of last year's Horse of the Year finalists run in separate races. The winner, Rachel Alexandra, tries to get back on the winning trail in the Grade 2 Fleur De Lis. Out west, the runner-up Zenyatta tries to keep her unblemished record spotless in the Vanity. But this blog has two favorites that we shall be discussing. First, we will recap the Acorn, with this blog's favorite filly Tanda. Then we shall preview the Stephen Foster Handicap, with this blog's choice to win the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic Blame in the field.
The Acorn was a strangely run race, as the expected speed duel did not materialize. Instead, Champagne D'oro was able to cross and clear from the outside. She set a good, but not taxing, pace and was able to go gate to wire. Amen Hallelujah sat behind horses swung out turning for home but could not get by the winner and finished second. Our girl Tanda finished a gutsy third, considering all she had go against her. First, before the race even started, jockey Alex Solis was forced to the hospital due to high blood pressure. He turned out to be fine, and he rode the following day, guiding his mount Mandurah to a new world record for a mile on the grass at Monmouth Park. Mike Smith took over on Tanda, which this blog took as a harbinger of things to come.
The race itself was an ordeal as well. When the gate opened, Tanda broke a touch slow, though she had the chance to stay on the rail and move up to about 4th, the trip that #3 Dances with Ashley got. Instead, Mike decides to drop her back to last. This ends up costing her valuable ground the rest of the way, as she end up going 8-wide by the top of the lane. She valiantly tries to get be the leaders, but just cannot overcome her trip. Now, is Smith at fault? At first i thought so, but i will not hold a snap-decision over him when he had at most an hour to get to know Tanda. This blog just chalks it up to bad racing luck and will move on. We will celebrate that Tanda is now Grade 1 placed, which is a plus to her connections when it comes time to breed her.
Now we leave the past and look to the future, this Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster. This well-matched field of 11 will be going a mile and eighth on the main track. Battle Plan was installed as the 5/2 morning line favorite. This royally bred son of Belmont winner Empire Maker out of the great mare Flanders. A lightly raced 5-year-old, he has quickly risen through the ranks, topping out a successful winter by winning the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. He comes in off a brief freshening and will be winging on the front end. He looks to be the main threat to Blame.
But of course, this blog's pick is Blame. This son of Arch facilely disposed of his competition in his last start 4 weeks ago, the Donald Schaefer. He has had 2 good works in the interim, with a bullet 5 furlong drill on Sunday. Garrett Gomez stays on him, forgoing mounts at the rich Monmouth meet for this race. Blame did get a little bit of a bad break by drawing the outside post #11 for the race. But this blog feels that will not be much of a hindrance. While he was installed as the 3-1 2nd choice on the morning line, many believe he will go off favored. With his partiality toward the Churchill Downs main track, his nice works since the win and the fear of a "bounce" lessened by the lack of effort it took him to win last time out, the blog backs with him confidence.
Others who could contend in this race are (in no particular order) Duke of Mischief, who won the Oaklawn Handicap last out but has been known to throw in a clunker now and then. General Quarters, who won the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve last time out and is looking to join Lava Man as the only horse to win a Grade 1 on all three surfaces (dirt, turf, synthetic). Arson Squad won the Alysheba on the Kentucky Oaks undercard here and looks for his third straight victory. Macho Again will all but forgotten in this race tomorrow, but he is the defending champion and will valiantly try to defend the title.
With all the great racing across the country, and with most of the sport's stars running this weekend, you have zero excuse not to watch, wager and (hopefully) win!