Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for 9-12-15

Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for 9-12-15

Another great day of racing awaits on September 12th, highlighted by a large number of graded stakes races across the U.S. and Europe. Here are some brief thoughts on four of the best races!

Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II)
8.5 furlongs at Churchill Downs

On paper, Just Wicked looks like a standout, and beating her could be a major challenge. She impressed me when she rallied through a tight opening on the rail to break her maiden sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, and she followed up that effort with an impressive late-running win in the 6 1/2-furlong Adirondack Stakes (gr. II). The distance of the Pocahontas is a question mark, but it’s also a question mark for almost every other filly in the race, and Just Wicked has a pedigree that suggests she’ll be fine stretching out around two turns. She’s likely to be a heavy favorite, but I think she deserves that status and will win impressively. For second, I’ll take Put Da Blame On Me, who broke her maiden by 4 3/4 lengths sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Indiana Grand. Trained by Dale Romans, this daughter of Arch is bred to excel on the stretch-out and should be right in the mix at a decent price.

Iroquois Stakes (gr. III)
8.5 furlongs at Churchill Downs

My full analysis of the Iroquois can be found on the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners (click here to read), but in essence, I like Star Hill as a longshot to improve while stretching out in distance and racing on Lasix for the first time. Conquest Windycity and Condominium are my other top choices.

Natalma Stakes (Can-II)
8 furlongs on turf at Woodbine

I’m going to take a shot here with a big longshot, that being the 20-1 Paddy Point. She finished an even third sprinting seven furlongs in her debut on the Polytrack at Woodbine, and notably, that race had been scheduled to be run on turf before being transferred to the main track. As a daughter of Paddy O’Prado, Paddy Point is bred to relish the turf, and her trainer–Ashlee Brnjas–has excelled with horses making their first start on turf, as well as with maidens making their second start. Call it a hunch, but I think we’re going to see a lot of improvement from Paddy Point this Saturday, and with none of her rivals looking overly hard to beat, I think she can pull off an upset at giant odds.

St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I)
About 14.5 furlongs at Doncaster

Storm the Stars is likely to be favored in the last leg of the English Triple Crown after scoring a hard-fought half-length win in the 12-furlong Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II) last time out. But while he’s thoroughly proven himself to be among the best in his crop, running third in the Investec Derby (Eng-I) and second in the Irish Derby (Ire-I), the distance of the St. Leger is a bit of a question mark and could leave him vulnerable to an upset. In contrast, Aidan O’Brien’s up-and-coming colt Bondi Beach was second in the Great Voltigeur, but had previously won the 14-furlong Curragh Cup (Ire-III) by a head over his talented stablemate Order of St George, who will be facing older horses this week in the Irish St. Leger (Ire-I). Given Bondi Beach’s proven affinity for long-distance races, as well as his strong pedigree and light racing schedule, I think he has a strong chance to keep improving this Saturday and turn the tables on Storm the Stars over this extended distance.

Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the graded stakes races on Saturday?

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin’s quest to become North America’s richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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