Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for August 22, 2015

Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for August 22, 2015

Breeders’ Cup Photo ©

Another great Saturday of racing awaits tomorrow afternoon, led by a pair of grade I races at Saratoga and Del Mar. Bayern, Beholder, Curalina, and Lovely Maria are among the talented horses that will be in action, so without further ado, let’s start handicapping!

Alabama Stakes (gr. I)
10 furlongs on dirt

The ten-furlong distance of this race could have a huge impact on the outcome, as none of the seven 3yo fillies that comprise the field have ever run farther than nine furlongs. Todd Pletcher’s Curalina will likely be favored off of consecutive victories in the grade I Acorn Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks (the latter via disqualification of I’m a Chatterbox), and as a daughter of Curlin, she shouldn’t have any trouble with the distance. However, my selection is a different daughter of Curlin, that being Keith Desormeaux’s Danette. She showed promise last year to finish fifth by just 1 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), and after finally breaking her maiden two starts back, she rallied well to finish fourth by 2 1/4 lengths in the Coaching Club American Oaks. She should relish the extra furlong of the Alabama, and her morning line odds of 12-1 are much more appealing than Curalina’s 7-5. For the exotics, the Larry Jones-trained pair of Lovely Maria and I’m a Chatterbox are definitely worth a look, although with Lovely Maria coming off a disappointing run in the Delaware Oaks (gr. III), it might be worth playing against her at a relatively short price, at least in regard to the trifecta or superfecta.

Del Mar Handicap (gr. II)
11 furlongs on turf

Finnegans Wake was on quite a roll last winter and spring, winning four graded stakes races and placing second in another, and after a trio of so-so efforts over wet turf and dirt, he should relish the return to firm turf at Del Mar. He looks tough to beat, but for a longshot, you might want to take a look at Danas Best, who compiled an admirable record in Australian handicap races. In his U.S. debut, he unleashed a sharp late run to finish fifth in an 8.5-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Del Mar, beaten just three-quarters of a length. He could definitely take a step forward in his second start off the layoff, and he will also carry seven pounds less than Finnegans Wake. If he stays near his morning line price of 10-1, I think he might be worth a win bet.

Pacific Classic (gr. I)
10 furlongs on dirt

My full analysis of the race can be found on the blog Unlocking Winners (click here to read), but in essence, I believe that Bayern has a strong chance to rebound now that the main track at Del Mar has quickened considerably. Beholder and Catch a Flight are other major contenders, while Red Vine could be a very live longshot after finishing a deceptively good second in the Salvator Mile (gr. III) at Monmouth.

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 blog Unlocking Winners.

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