Quick Graded Stakes Picks for September 16, 2017

Quick Graded Stakes Picks for September 16, 2017

On an exciting day of graded stakes throughout North America, here are a few quick handicapping thoughts on some of the best races…

Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs

Hollywood Star and Ten City are deserving favorites based off their performances in graded stakes company, and Ten City in particular could be tough considering that he lost a shoe when third in the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes last time out. But I’m intrigued by The Tabulator, who is 2-for-2 and won the Prairie Gold Juvenile Stakes at Prairie Meadows by 2 1/4 lengths while earning a solid 88 BRIS speed figure. Trainer Larry Rivelli won this race two years ago with Cocked and Loaded, and The Tabulator is bred to stretch out in distance, being by Dialed In out of a Giant’s Causeway mare. At 6-1 on the morning line, The Tabulator looks like a mid-priced runner with a big chance to win, especially while racing on Lasix for the first time.

For more thoughts on handicapping races for two-year-old, including the Iroquois Stakes, check out the free Two-Year-Old Betting Guide available from TwinSpires.com.

Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. I) at Woodbine

Hawkbill brings terrific Group 1 form from Europe and should win this 1 1/2-mile turf race with ease if he runs his best, but the son of Kitten’s Joy is shipping a long way and has had a fairly busy season. In the event that Hawkbill doesn’t fire his best shot (like many other European shippers this summer, including Idaho in Saratoga’s Sword Dancer Stakes last month), Messi could be poised to take advantage. The German-bred gelding ran third in an allowance race at Saratoga last time out, but was compromised by a very slow pace and was beaten just a neck by the next-out winners Muqtaser and Infinite Wisdom. Notably, he ran the final three furlongs in about :34 1/5 and earned a 105 BRIS Late Pace figure. Messi has shown a preference for the larger turf courses at Woodbine and Belmont, and if he gets a better setup in the Northern Dancer, I think he has a shot to post the upset.

Sands Point Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park

She hasn’t won since March, but although Fifty Five‘s overall form isn’t as flashy as some of her rivals in the Sands Point, 12-1 seems like far too large a price on a talented Chad Brown-trained filly. After winning the Florida Oaks (gr. III) with a sharp late rally earlier this year, Fifty Five has found herself in a few slow-paced races that haven’t favored her late-running style, but she nevertheless did quite well to finish second behind Breeders’ Cup champion New Money Honey in the Wonder Again Stakes (gr. III) (earning a sharp 95 BRIS speed figure) and third in the Lake George Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga. There’s a chance she’ll get another poor pace setup again (Empress of the Nile and Defiant Honor seem likely to set slow fractions and could also be live contenders), but at anywhere near her morning line price, I think Fifty Five is worth a play.

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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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