Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for August 15, 2015

Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for August 15, 2015

Breeders’ Cup Photo ©

Another spectacular Saturday of racing awaits tomorrow afternoon, led by a great card at Arlington Park that includes five graded stakes races. Let’s take a look at the four that comprise the late Pick 4!

Arlington St Leger Stakes (gr. III)

In this 13.5-furlong turf race, one of the most intriguing runners is Lucky Speed, an Irish-bred with a strong German pedigree. Lucky Speed showed plenty of talent in Germany, winning the twelve-furlong Deutsches Derby (Ger-I) in 2013 and running third in the Grosser Peris von Berlin (Ger-I) at the same distance the following year. He returned from a long layoff to finish a respectable fourth in the nine-furlong Nijinsky Stakes (Can-II) at Woodbine in July, and is now stretching out to a more ideal distance while making his second start of the season. Best of all, he’s slightly overlooked on the morning line at 5-1, and I have the feeling that he will remain a good price on Saturday. For an even longer shot, Highball might be worth a look, as he has been running well in stakes and allowance company at shorter distances, but has a pedigree that suggests he could enjoy the longer distance of the St. Leger.

Secretariat Stakes (gr. I)

Force the Pass was simply spectacular while winning the Belmont Derby (gr. I) last time out with a tremendous burst of acceleration, and he’s been a picture of consistency with four wins and two seconds from six starts. Anything near a replication of his last two starts would put him right in the mix for victory, and he’s a must-use for the multi-race wagers. However, he will be facing some very talented rivals, including Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel, winner of the twelve-furlong Gordon Stakes (Eng-III) at Goodwood and runner-up in the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I) at Chantilly. He’s kept good company in Europe and figures to be a major contender if he takes to the course, but beating Force the Pass could be a difficult task. War Dispatch, third in the Prix du Jockey Club and runner-up in the Grand Prix de Maisons-Laffitte, is another logical contender, while Belmont Derby fourth-place finish Closing Bell could be a live longshot to round out the exotics.

Beverly D Stakes (gr. I)

The 1-2 finishers from this race last year, Euro Charline and Stephanie’s Kitten, are back for a rematch and are the two favorites to win. The former returned from a layoff to finish second in the one-mile Falmouth Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket last time out, beaten a length by the three-time group I winner Amazing Maria, and figures to be difficult to beat in her second start back while returning to a course that she clearly enjoys. Stephanie’s Kitten hasn’t had the best of luck lately, finishing fourth in the New York Stakes (gr. II) and fifth in the Diana (gr. I), but she produced a terrific turn-of-foot in the final three furlongs of the Diana to finish just 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner after trailing by 17 lengths, and with her pacemaker removed from the mix, expect to see Stephanie’s Kitten rate closer to the early pace, which could help her chances. For multi-race wagers, I would use both of these fillies along with Aidan O’Brien’s Wedding Vow, runner-up in the prestigious ten-furlong Nassau Stakes (Eng-I) at Goodwood last time out, and the U.S.-based Watsdachances, a 10-1 shot trained by Chad Brown that won the Gallorette Handicap (gr. III) two starts back and was beaten a head in the Dance Smartly Stakes (gr. II) last time out. For the purposes of making an official selection to win, I’ll side with Watsdachances, who seems to have improved a lot this year while producing sharp late runs from off-the-pace. She should appreciate the extra distance and might get a reasonably good pace setup today.

Arlington Million

My complete analysis of the Arlington Million can be viewed on the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners (click here to read), but in essence, I believe that the pacemaker Shining Copper has a tremendous chance to steal the race in gate-to-wire fashion, with Slumber and Big Blue Kitten the most likely to catch him in the homestretch.

Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the major 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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