1 American Pharoah
His latest six-furlong workout at Del Mar was nothing short of amazing. Not only was his time of 1:11 flat the bullet of the morning by an impossible three seconds, his five-furlong fraction of :58 4/5 was substantially faster than the official bullet of 1:00 1/5 and his gallop-out times of 1:24 for seven furlongs and 1:38 2/5 for a mile would have been bullets as well. Unbelievable! He’s scheduled to breeze once more before the Haskell Invitational, and by the looks of things, he’s going to be virtually impossible to beat in that race.
He’s expected to run in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) on August 8th, but hasn’t posted a workout since the Suburban nearly three weeks ago. This isn’t much of a surprise given that there’s not a lot of time between the two races, but hopefully we’ll see him back on the work tab this weekend.
As the Whitney draws closer and closer, Lea’s training is starting to get more serious, and on July 21st, her breezed five furlongs in a solid 1:01.78 over the training track at Saratoga. The time might not seem very quick at first glance, but it was actually the second-fastest of 18 morning works at that distance, which suggests that Lea is maintaining his good form and should be ready for a sharp performance on August 8th.
4 Noble Bird
He arrived at Saratoga recently and his first work over the track was an impressive one, as he clocked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.09 on July 19th. The Whitney will mark his first start at Saratoga, but given that his four victories have come at four different tracks (Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Oaklawn Park, and Del Mar), I don’t think he’ll have any trouble handling Saratoga.
This list could look a lot different after Saturday considering that three of the horses I’ve included here are entered in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, including Bayern, who drew post position four. In his final pre-race workout, he breezed six furlongs in a bullet 1:13 1/5 at Del Mar, which–given how fast Bayern is capable of breezing at Santa Anita–says something about how slow and tiring the new track at Del Mar is. The question is, will Bayern like the track?
With the August 1st Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) as his next scheduled start, the Belmont Stakes runner-up took a step forward in his training on July 17th, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.77 at Saratoga. That was his longest work since the Belmont, and with little more than a week remaining until the Jim Dandy, I would expect to see him post another solid workout on Friday or Saturday.
He’s been mentioned as a possible starter for the Whitney, but is also under consideration for the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) a month later at Saratoga, and which race he targets will likely be determined by his next workout, which should come this weekend.
He drew post three in the San Diego Handicap, where he will be cutting back in distance by three-sixteenths of a mile after finishing second by a nose in the ten-furlong Gold Cup at Santa Anita (gr. I). The San Diego could prove to be a pivotal race for Hoppertunity, as he did take advantage of a very fast pace in the Gold Cup, and it will be interesting to see if he can be as effective if a more modest pace unfolds on Saturday.
9 Palace Malice
Sixteen days after his first breeze of the year at Saratoga, Palace Malice got back on track with a half-mile work in :49.78 over the training track at Saratoga on July 20th. I was starting to get a little concerned after his absence, so it’s great to see him back in action.
10 Catch a Flight
He’ll start from post six in the San Diego, in which he’ll get a rematch with Hoppertunity after being beaten by that colt in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. In the Gold Cup, Catch a Flight might have moved too soon into a fast pace, and with a better setup in the San Diego, he should have a great chance to turn the tables on his rival.