Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for July 18, 2015

Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for July 18, 2015

Another great Saturday of racing awaits on July 18th, highlighted by six graded stakes races at tracks across the country. Leading the way are a pair of grade Is at Delaware Park and Del Mar, as well as a couple of intriguing grade II races for 3yos at Indiana Grand Race Course. So without further ado, let’s start handicapping!

Delaware Handicap (gr. I)
10 furlongs at Delaware Park

My complete analysis of the Delaware Handicap can be found on the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners (click here to read), but in essence, I believe that morning line favorite Sheer Drama could be vulnerable going ten furlongs, so I’ll take a shot with Flashy American, who finished a good third in this race last year and returned from a 3 1/2-month layoff to run second in the Iowa Distaff Stakes last month.

Indiana Derby (gr. II)
8.5 furlongs at Indiana Grand Race Course

Mr. Z is the 2-1 morning line favorite after winning the $500,000 Ohio Derby in gate-to-wire fashion, but his record of 2 wins from 15 starts (with eight placings) suggests he’s a better candidate for second or third than the top spot. Divining Rod (5-2) finished a neck behind Mr. Z in the Ohio Derby after a wide trip and early rally, and is eligible to turn the tables on his rival with a better trip. However, the colt that really intrigues me is Bold Conquest (12-1). The son of Curlin ran very well to finish second in the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico two starts back, both the winner and the third-place finisher have come back to run very well. In his most recent start, Bold Conquest was compromised by a speed bias when fourth in the Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, but with a fairer track and a better pace setup, I think he has a strong chance to rebound. After all, he will be carrying seven pounds less than Mr. Z and Divining Rod, and he demonstrated this winter and last fall that he’s roughly on par with Mr. Z. If he stays near his 12-1 morning line odds, I think that’s a terrific price on a talented colt.

Indiana Oaks (gr. II)
8.5 furlongs at Indiana Grand Race Course

I have been waiting for Oceanwave to win a stakes race for a while, and she should have a great chance at getting the job done in this spot. After rallying to finish second in both the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) and Fantasy Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park, she finished a respectable seventh in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) after rallying very wide into the homestretch and was fifth after a similarly wide trip in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) last time out. The two-turn nature of the Indiana Oaks should help her chances, as should the slight drop in class, and having drawn the rail, I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to save some ground early on and not race quite as wide this time around. She’s 3-1 on the morning line, and I think that’s a fair price. Anything higher would be a bonus.

Eddie Read Stakes (gr.I)
8 furlongs on turf at Del Mar

In a race that doesn’t appear to have much early speed, Midnight Storm looks like a standout. The speedy son of Pioneerof the Nile is 3-for-4 on turf, and his lone defeat came when beaten a half-length in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. I) after tracking a sharp pace. He’s also 2-for-2 over the Del Mar turf, having won an allowance race and the Del Mar Derby (gr. II) here last summer, and he should be able to work out a great trip on Saturday either setting the pace or stalking Big Cazanova. From there, I think we’re going to see him draw off and score impressively. For second, I’ll take Gabriel Charles, who won the 2013 Del Mar Derby and finished a good third in the one-mile American Handicap (gr. III) last time out. He’s cracked the trifecta in all six of his starts on turf, and will be making his third start off a long layoff on Saturday. He should be right in the mix at a solid price, and will have the services of jockey Mike Smith, who will hopefully be able to work out a ground-saving trip from post position two.

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

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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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