The Saratoga and Del Mar summer meetings wind down this weekend and we will start to point towards the Breeders' Cup world championships at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. This weekend's Spa action is fast and furious with big races in many of the divisions, including both juvenile divisions.
Let's take a run around the track to see what's been happening and what to expect this weekend….
- Moreno will look to add to his Grade 1 (G1) Whitney victory in tomorrow's $600,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) at the Spa. The race will include Itsmyluckyday and Micromanage, two who should challenge the front-running gelding in the 1 1/8-mile contest.
- Saturday also marks the return of two-time defending Horse of the Year, Wise Dan in the G2 Bernard Baruch. This means the defending champ will be skipping the Woodbine Mile this year and will probably prep for the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. Optimizer, Boisterous and Five Iron will all try and knock off the champ. His rival of late, Kaigun, is skipping the race and will likely race at his home track at Woodbine in the Mile.
- The two traditional meet-ending juvenile races will be held at the Spa this weekend also. The G1 Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies will be held on Sunday and the G1 Hopeful for 2-year-old colts will be held on closing day on Monday.
- The other big Grade 1 on Saturday is the Forego, a 7-furlong open sprint race featuring Clearly Now who comes off a big 6-length win in the Belmont Sprint and Palace, the winner of the G2 Vanderbilt earlier in the meet at six furlongs.
- Hoppertunity, the G2 Rebel winner and late scratch in the Kentucky Derby (full disclosure: he was going to be my top pick) is back on the workout tab breezing three furlongs in 0:37.40 at Los Alamitosyesterday.
- The fourth annual Bob Summers Memorial Cup was run at Fort Erie Race Track on Tuesday evening and was won by Tom Joy ($6.30).
- It was Fort Erie's last twilight Tuesday card of the meet, post times will return to 2 p.m. next week. Tuesday's charts for "Cup Day" were quite unusual as no winner on the 8-race card paid more than $10. Yes It's Red ($6.10) won the Molson Cup S. and Sandys Hurricane ($8.30) won the Andy Passero Memorial Cup S.
- Shared Belief showed that he is going to be a late influence on the 3-year-old male division with his late closing win in the Pacific Classic against older horses. Spectacular Bid, Chief’s Crown, Easy Goer, and Shared Belief are the only 2-year-old champions in the last 40 years to return as 3-year-olds and beat older horses in a Grade 1 going a mile and a quarter. (h/t @ErnieMunick).
- The 3-year-old male division may come down to the Breeders' Cup Classic as the next race for dual-classic winner California Chrome appears to be the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 20 at Parx, and Shared Belief most likely will stay out on the west coast. The Breeders' Cup marketing machine is already hyping the race as #Chromies versus #Clones, as the nationally syndicated sports personality Jim Rome is part of the ownership group of Shared Belief.
- Don't discount Game On Dude's Pac Classic after being softened up by front runner Midnight Train. He still finished third under brutal early fractions. The old gelding still has some hop in his step and could be a nice price in the Classic on his favorite track.
- Goldencents looked to be in top form winning the Pat O'Brien H. sprint at Del Mar on the Pac Classic undercard holding off defending winner Fed Biz. He should be a major factor at the Breeders' Cup on his hometown surface.
- Tom Durkin will call his final race on Sunday Aug. 31 at Saratoga; keep a hanky nearby, you'll likely need it.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.