Jones has strong duo for Delaware Oaks
Trainer Larry Jones will have the home-field advantage when he sends out two of the eight runners in the $300,000 Delaware Oaks on Saturday.
Jones, who is based at Delaware Park during the summer, plans to run both Lovely Maria, the winner of the Kentucky Oaks in her last start, and White Clover, the winner of the Our Mims, the local Delaware Oaks prep.
Lovely Maria, who comes into the Delaware Oaks off two straight Grade 1 wins – she won the Ashland at Keeneland two starts ago – will be a heavy favorite. Jones is using this race to get her to the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 22 at Saratoga. Jones and owner Brereton Jones followed a similar but slightly different schedule in 2008 with Proud Spell.
“This path worked for us in the past, and we are hoping we can get the same results,” Larry Jones said.
Following her Kentucky Oaks win, Proud Spell had a nightmare trip in the Mother Goose in late June and was disqualified from second to third. She then won the Delaware Oaks and Alabama and was named champion 3-year-old filly.
Kerwin Clark will be aboard Lovely Maria when she starts from post 5 as the 122-pound highweight. She will concede four to six pounds to her seven rivals.
White Clover is 2 for 2 at Delaware. She won an allowance in May and then turned back Grade 1 winner Peace and War in the Our Mims.
“White Clover is a pretty good horse,” Jones said. “She’s come to hand late, but I’m hoping she’s the horse Lovely Maria needs to beat.”
Jones has given the mount to Michael Ritvo.
Peace and War will be making her second start for trainer Graham Motion. She showed improved tactical speed in the Our Mims, moved boldly to take the lead from White Clover entering the stretch, but finished second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Peace and War shipped in from Britain last fall to win the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland.
The field also includes the fourth-, sixth-, and eighth-place finishers from the roughly run Acorn Stakes – Danzatrice, Bar of Gold, and Calamity Kate; the 2-for-2 Hip Hop N Jazz; and Milaya, who finished fifth in the Our Mims and has won a maiden race.
Par x Racing: Rivalr y in Dash
The Grade 3, $200,000 Parx Dash on Saturday is a must-see race – it’s Round 3 of the Ben’s Cat–bold Thunder–amelia’s Wild Ride rivalry.
In the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn National on May 30, Amelia’s Wild Ride beat Ben’s Cat by a nose. It was a neck back to the lightning-quick Bold Thunder. In the Jim Mckay Turf Sprint at Pimlico on May 15, Ben’s Cat beat Bold Thunder by a neck. It was 3 3/4 lengths back to Amelia’s Wild Ride in third.
For good measure, Bold Thunder beat Ben’s Cat by three lengths when he shook loose on the lead in a Pimlico allowance race April 17.
Factor in that Ben’s Cat, 9, has won the Parx Dash the last three years and finished second, beaten a head, in 2011.
There are some new players in the 11-horse field. Power Alert is 3 for 5 in the United States since being imported from Australia. He won the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day. Stormofthecentury always hits hard at this level. He tuned up for this with a sevenfurlong allowance victory at Mountaineer.
Belmont: Wicked Strong on turf
Wicked Strong did not find a soft spot in which to make his turf debut in Saturday’s $150,000 Forbidden Apple Stakes at Belmont Park.
Among his seven rivals in the one-mile overnight stakes are King Kreesa, a two-time Grade 3 Poker Stakes winner; Reload, undefeated in three turf
tries; Grand Arch, a Grade 2 winner; Aztec Brave, a listed stakes winner at Aqueduct; and Vyjack, a respectable second in his turf debut in the Poker. Howe Great and Choctaw Chuck complete the field.
Wicked Strong, the winner of the 2014 Wood Memorial and Jim Dandy Stakes, is seeking to change his fortunes, having not won a race in nearly a year. He is winless in three starts this year, including a fifthplace finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on June 6.
“I know he got creamed leaving there, but he didn’t really look like he was getting into it after that,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said about the Met Mile. “I don’t really know what that was about.”
Jerkens said this turf race is “something we’re trying to get him going.”
“It doesn’t seem like he has quite the competitive spirit he had last year, for some reason,” Jerkens said.
Wicked Strong was beaten only a length in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in March to begin his year. He broke out in skin disease just prior to his third-place finish to stablemate Effinex in the Grade 3 Excelsior in April.
Wicked Strong, who drew post 6 in the eight-horse field for the Forbidden Apple, is reuniting with Rajiv Maragh, who was his regular rider before being replaced by Joel Rosario for the Met Mile.
Arlington: Million Preview Day
The year has started somewhat slowly for Work All Week, one of two graded stakes performers for the sprawling Midwest Thoroughbreds operation of Rich and Karen Papiese. But the other Midwest star of 2014, The Pizza Man, popped back into action this season in excellent form, winning the May 30 Opening Verse Stakes here by 2 1/2 lengths. Off that performance and last year’s form, he is one of the favorites Saturday in the Arlington Handicap.
The Arlington Handicap is one of four turf stakes on Million Preview Day, along with the Modesty, the American Derby, and the Stars and Stripes. All are Grade 3 races and carry a purse of $100,000. For the money, at least three of the stakes, excluding the American Derby, came up pretty tough and fairly deep. The first, second, and third finishers in the stakes have entry fees waived for corresponding Million Day races – the Million, Beverly D., Secretariat, and American St. Leger. The Arlington turf course, which is in great shape, could be wet Saturday, with rain possible Friday and into Saturday.
The Pizza Man won the American St. Leger over about 1 11/16 miles on the Million Day card last year, but his connections have designs this year on the Million, according to Rich Papiese. The Pizza Man was crossentered in the Arlington Handicap over 10 furlongs and the Stars and Stripes over 12 but is more likely for the Handicap.
“The Handicap is more likely, but either way, it’s probably a prep for the Million,” said Papiese.
Third behind The Pizza Man in the Opening Verse was Departing, who returned to win the Firecracker at Churchill, flattering The Pizza Man.
The others in the Handicap are Coco Mon, Dramedy, Looks to Spare, Middleburg, Quiet Force, R Great Adventure, Triple Threat, Up With the Birds, and Yankee Dealer. Dramedy is cross-entered in the Stars and Stripes and is expected to run there. Yankee Dealer also has an entry in the Stars and Stripes. Up With the Birds, fourth in the 2014 Million, was third in the Dixie at Pimlico in his 2015 debut and should be well supported.
The entrants in the Modesty, for fillies and mares over 1 3/16 miles, are Gaga A, Honey Lake, Lots o Lex, Mango Diva, Notte d’oro, Overheard, Riposte, Rock Me Mama, Seeking Treasure, and Walk Close. Riposte would have swamped this bunch in her top 2014 form, but she’s been a shadow of her best this season. Gaga A, a Uruguayan-bred imported from France, won her North American debut in listed-stakes company last out in California for trainer Neil Drysdale.
There’s an overabundance of stakes races in the 3-year-old turf division, and the American Derby suffers accordingly. A field of seven, headed by Crittenden, Nun the Less, and World Approval, was entered in the nine-furlong race.
The Stars and Stripes drew Afortable, Calvados, Castlederg, Dramedy, For Greater Glory, Mister Marti Gras, Roman Approval, The Pizza Man, Three Hearts, Xtra Luck, and Yankee Dealer. Dramedy won the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland last out, while Xtra Luck captured the Grade 3 Louisville at Churchill in his last race.
The stakes go as races 5-8 on the Saturday card, and all are included in a 50-cent pick four wager.
Los Alamitos: Great Lady M. Stakes
Five stakes winners this year are among the eight fillies and mares projected to start in Saturday’s $200,000 Great Lady M. Stakes at Los Alamitos. The Grade 2 race at 6 1/2 furlongs is led by Warren’s Veneda, the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational at Santa Anita in March, and Sunday Rules, who is unbeaten in five starts.
The other runners are Amaranth, Fantastic Style, Harlington’s Rose, Legacy, Living the Life, and Ramona’s Wildcat.
Amaranth, trained by O.J. Jauregui, scored a 43-1 upset win in the Desert Stormer Stakes at six furlongs June 14 at Santa Anita. Fantastic Style won her first stakes by 3 1/4 lengths May 16 in the seven-furlong Angels Flight at Santa Anita. Trained by Bob Baffert, Fantastic Style is the lone 3-year-old among the expected starters in the Great Lady M.
Peace and War, who won the Grade 1 Alcibiades last year, will face Lovely Maria and White Clover in the Delaware Oaks.