Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for June 27, 2015

Keeler Johnson’s Graded Stakes Preview for June 27, 2015

A terrific Saturday of racing awaits on June 27th, highlighted by 11 graded stakes races across the U.S. and the prestigious Irish Derby (Ire-I) across the waters in Ireland. There’s plenty to cover, so without further ado, let’s get started!

Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I)
8.5 furlongs at Belmont Park

In terms of Beyer speed figures, the fastest filly in this race by a fairly wide margin is Embellish the Lace, who won an 8.5-furlong allowance race at Pimlico on June 4th by 13 3/4 lengths. For that effort, she was awarded a Beyer speed figure of 95, the highest in the field by five points. Trained by Anthony Dutrow, the daughter of Super Saver possesses plenty of tactical speed and should be able to save plenty of ground while starting from post one. If she can repeat that 95 Beyer, she might be long gone at a nice price.

However, in the event that Embellish the Lace is challenged hard from the start by the other front-runners, it could set the race up for a stretch-runner such as Include Betty. The daughter of Include demonstrated a great turn-of-foot when winning the Fantasy Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn three starts back and when finishing second in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) last time out. I believe the one-turn nature of the Mother Goose will help sharpen her late kick, and like Embellish the Lace, she should be able to save some ground early on while starting from post two. She is my selection to pull off the upset.

Wonder Gal also warrants respect off a close third-place finish in the one-mile Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont past time out, but she got a perfect trip that day saving ground while rallying into a fast pace, and she could be in for a less ideal trip today while starting from post ten.

Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Ire-I)
12 furlongs on turf at the Curragh

Jack Hobbs is a very heavy favorite after finishing second in the Investec Derby (Eng-I) at Epsom, and while he looms as the most likely winner of the race, trainer Aidan O’Brien has won eight of the last nine renewals of this race, so it might be worth trying to beat Jack Hobbs with one of O’Brien’s three runners. Highland Reel is the most proven of the trio, having run second in the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I) last time out, but he’s never run beyond 10.5 furlongs and is likely to be the second choice on the wagering. For those looking for a longer-priced alternative, Qualify showed huge improvement when winning the Investec Oaks (Eng-I) going twelve furlongs last time out, and the distance and course conditions of the Irish Derby should prove well-suited to her stamina. If she goes off at 8-1 or higher, I think she’s worth a win wager.

Gold Cup at Santa Anita (gr. I)
10 furlongs at Santa Anita

My full analysis of the Gold Cup can be viewed on the blog Unlocking Winners (click here to read), but in essence, I believe that the pace scenario will enable the up-and-coming Catch a Flight to rally and win a third consecutive graded stakes race. My choices to round out the exotics are MorenoHoppertunity, and Hard Aces.

Triple Bend Stakes (gr. I)
7 furlong at Santa Anita

Masochistic is favored after winning two straight races at Santa Anita, including the 6 1/2-furlong Kona Gold Stakes (gr. II) last time out, but takes on a talented field that includes several other capable front-runners, and the seven-furlong distance might be a little far for him.

My choice to pull off the upset is the stretch-running Sahara Sky. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained runner returned from a long layoff to finish a close third in the Kona Gold, and since then, he’s turned in a long series of impressive workouts that should have him ready for a sharp performance. He’s one colt that should relish the distance of the Kona Gold, and if a fast pace does unfold, I hope to see him rally past the field to score an impressive victory.

Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III)
9 furlongs at Prairie Meadows

This race has drawn a deep field of 11 led by Carve, who ran second in both the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) and Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) in his last two starts. He won this race last year by a neck, but I think nine furlongs is probably a bit beyond his best distance, so I’ll try to beat him with Golden Lad. He could only finish fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap, but had previously won the 8.5-furlong Essex Handicap impressively with a Beyer of 102, and he most recently cruised to victory in the nine-furlong Mountainview Handicap at Penn National, earning a Beyer of 99. If he stays near his morning line odds of 9-2, I think that’s excellent value.

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

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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