Your Love can stalk to Safely Kept win
A trio of Grade 3 stakes highlight Saturday’s Veteran’s Day racing – the $200,000 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct, the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs, and the $100,000 Bob Hope at Del Mar.
Also of note are the six stakes at Laurel Park, where it is Ben’s Cat Day in celebration of that late Mid-Atlantic racing legend.
Safely Kept Stakes
The approach for me here is to bet against the three fillies coming out of the Charles Town Oaks – Shimmering Aspen, Berned, and A stroll in the park.
Shimmering Aspen wound up a distant sixth in the Charles Town Oaks as the favorite, and she might be favored again Saturday as she is returning to Laurel, where she is 5 for 6 in her career, including two romping stakes wins. Berned was a price at Charles Town, but she’ll have supporters in this spot because she finished fourth, well ahead of Shimmering Aspen, and the chart says she gained 15 1/2 lengths during the running to be beaten just 1 1/2 lengths. And A stroll in the park, who was fifth at Charles Town, may appeal to some, considering she disputed an early pace that completely fell apart.
But I question how strong the Charles Town Oaks really was. A case can be made that runner-up Yorkiepoo Princess was best since she was involved in that destructive pace and still beat all but one that night. The problem is, Yorkiepoo Princess was 75-1 in the Charles Town Oaks, and for very good reason. Her five previous efforts were downright dismal, and even many of her better back efforts were only so-so. I take Yorkiepoo Princess’s big try in the Charles Town Oaks as evidence that that race wasn’t all that strong.
I almost went with Ms Locust Point, who was so impressive winning the Gin Talking Stakes over the Laurel track last New Year’s Eve that I took her next time in Gulfstream’s Forward Gal Stakes. Ms Locust Point was cruising on an early lead on the inside in the Forward Gal, but suddenly gave way in midstretch, finishing fifth. That she was subsequently out of action nine months suggests something went amiss and compromised her performance, and there was also a suspicion that the rail was not good at Gulfstream that day.
Your Love, whose only dull effort in five outings was a sixth three starts back against much better in the Grade 1 Test, is whom I like best. Your Love was probably too close to a strong pace when narrowly beaten two starts back, but rebounded with a solid score at Belmont most recently, and will sit the sort of outside stalking trip you would prefer most days on Laurel’s main track.
Red Smith Handicap
Money Multiplier and Hunter O’Riley are the horses to beat off their Saratoga form. Money Multiplier just missed in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, while Hunter O’Riley upset the Bowling Green. But Money Multiplier is hard to love off a poor effort in the more recent Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and Hunter O’Riley failed to validate his Bowling Green win in the Sword Dancer.
I like Oscar Nominated, who has been a bit camera shy, but who comes into this off perhaps the two best races of his career. He won the Kentucky Turf Cup two starts back, and though he was a soundly beaten second in the Canadian International most recently, Bullards Alley simply freaked on that soft course, while Oscar Nominated was actually quite game holding on to second.
Richard W. Small Stakes
Page McKenney and Watershed are logical contenders. Page McKenney just won his second straight stakes and 20th race overall, while Watershed drops out of events such as the Suburban and Pimlico Special and won the Grade 3 Ben Ali three starts back. But even though Page McKenney won this race in 2015, before an injury that seems to have knocked his Beyer Speed Figure ceiling down by a few significant points, I’m not sure this 1 1/8-mile distance is his favorite. Watershed makes his first start in four months and seems the type who needs a start before he shows his best.
Afleet Willy is worth a shot against the top two. Afleet Willy ran big when second in the roughly run Harrison Johnson Memorial earlier this year at this distance over the track, narrowly missing to the talented Matt King Coal, who was in peak form at that time. And Afleet Willy ran his best race since most recently, running away with the Governor’s Day Handicap at Delaware Park.