Sumptuous Saturday Stakes

The Triple Crown may be over but there are still a number of terrific races week in and week out across the country.  The centerpoint of today’s action is the $700,000 Stephen Foster (G1) for older horses at Churchill Downs.  The Ogden Phipps at Belmont and Californian at Hollywood both feature a number of major players in every major division and the Monmouth Stakes has a nice lineup of older turfers.

STEPHEN FOSTER

#4 ARSON SQUAD has had two very unlucky trips in his two starts in 2009 as he raced against the grain of a strong track bias in the Donn.  He then endured a horrendous trip in the Dubai World Cup as he was checked sharply down the backstretch and nearly fell over the rail.  He has generally needed a race off the bench in the past but he’s going to get a great pace setup today and it’s awfully encouraging that the best jockey in the country is taking the mount on this son of Brahms.  #5 RESEARCHER is making his first start off a short layoff having recently scored in the inaugural Charles Town Classic.  He has been at his bst over the Chuck Town bull-ring but he’s getting a great rider on board today and his running style makes him a good fit in this spot.  #6 BULLSBAY has been sensational in three tries over the CD main track and he exits a sharp win in the Alysheba on Ky Oaks day.  He will get the jump on a horse like Arson Squad and will also benefit from the pace scenario.
PICKS: 4-5-6

OGDEN PHIPPS

The three-headed monster of #1 SEVENTH STREET, #1A MUSIC NOTE, and #1A SEA CHANTER will be very, very tough as Sheikh Mohammed’s operation seeks another Grade I score.  Music Note is undoubtedly the most well-known part of the entry as she won multiple Grade I races in NY last year.  Her stablemate Seventh Street is an up and comer as she recently scored in the Apple Blossom, which was her first stakes win in only her 2nd try.  They will be a tough combination, even if Sea Chanter doesn’t fire.  #3 SEATTLE SMOOTH earned another graded stakes win last time out, her third in a row, as she scored with a nifty late move once clear.  She is going 3rd off a layoff today and should get a decent pace setup.  Consider her a major player for the win.  #4 COLOR ME UP is a cut below the entry and the 2nd pick but she deserves some consideration given that she ran from start to finish in her last outing.  She should be within striking distance throughout but will need some luck to visit the winner’s circle.
PICKS: 1/1A/1X-3-4

MONMOUTH STAKES

#5 STRIKE A DEAL looks like he was in need of a race when he went postward in the Dixie (G2) last time out on the Preakness undercard.  A wide trip in mid-pack behind a slow pace left him a tad short in the stretch drive but he certainly gained a great deal from that outing.  He ran the best race of his 2008 campaign with CC Lopez aboard and his running style seems to make him a very good fit in this affair.  #1 PROUDINSKY excels on turf that’s less than firm and the rating on the Monmouth oval at present time is ‘good.’  He came up short in the Turf Classic on the Derby undercard but that probably had a lot to do with the quality of competition.  He’s another who likes to stalk from mid-pack and make one late run, so the expected steady pace should help his cause.  #7 PRESIOUS PASSION will have to deal with #6 BUDDY’S HUMOR in the early stages but he showed the ability to stalk the pace and fire when ready in the Sunshine Millions Turf back in January.  Similar tactics today would make him quite tough, especially given that he’ll be wound tighter off the short layoff.
PICKS: 5-1-7

CALIFORNIAN

The connections of probable heavy favorite #3 RAIL TRIP made their intentions clear in this spot the other day and they’re planning to go right to the top from the starting gate.  He chased the wire-to-wire winner in the Mervyn LeRoy, #8 BALL FOUR, last time out but if he hooks that one in here the beneficiaries will be those at the back of the pack early.  #11 DAKOTA PHONE finished a game third in the LeRoy, only a half-length behind Rail Trip and the moderate pace that day certainly worked against this son of Zavata.  He should be wound tighter for this, his 3rd start off a layoff and given the large amount of speed in here, he’ll be on the move late.  #7 INFORMED is going 2nd off the Dubai trip and returns to the synthetic Cushion Track today.  He seems to be better on the synthetics than on dirt and that will help him this afternoon, as will the projected hot pace. 
PICKS: 11-7-4-3

I’ll be back later with periodic live updates throughout the Belmont card.  Note that Races 7 and 10 have been taken off the turf.  With today being the 2nd annual Monmouth Stakes, here’s a look at last year’s edition, which was won by Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown:

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