It's the gap week between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but that doesn't mean the weekend is devoid of BIG races. There are 10 stakes races, including six of the Graded variety on Saturday's schedule with at least $100,000 in prize money.
Arlington Park Race 7 - $100,000 HANSHIN CUP STAKES - GRADE III
Belmont Park Race 1 - $200,000 VAGRANCY HANDICAP - GRADE III
Belmont Park Race 4 - $300,000 PETER PAN STAKES - GRADE III
Belmont Park Race 7 - $200,000 BEAUGAY STAKES - GRADE III
Belmont Park Race 9 - $150,000 RUNHAPPY STAKES
Belmont Park Race 10 - $700,000 MAN O' WAR STAKES - GRADE I
Gulfstream Park Race 10 - $100,000 BIG DRAMA STAKES
Santa Anita Race 5 - $100,000 SANTA BARBARA STAKES - GRADE III
Woodbine Race 8 - $100,000 BALLADE STAKES
As you can see, Belmont hosts the bulk of the show-me-the-money runs. Saturday's Belmont card starts with the Grade III, $200,000 VAGRANCY HANDICAP. The race is named in honor of the 1942 champion three-year-old filly and champion handicap mare VAGRANCY. The filly was born in 1939 and is the offspring of Valkyr by Man o' War. The race dates all the way back to 1948 but was put on hold from 1949-1951.
This year's version of the VAGRANCY HANDICAP is a skinny field of five fillies and mares that will run 6 1/2 furlongs on Belmont's main track. SEPARATIONOFPOWERS is the 7/5 morning-line favorite. She finished a distance fourth by 11 lengths in her last at PARX; the Grade I COTILLION STAKES. The four-year-old took the early lead and held in until the 1/2 mile-marker, but drifted out and faded late.
Although she finished out-of-the-money in her last effort, SEPARATIONOFPOWERS lost to a trio of quality horses - MONOMOY GIRL, MIDNIGHT BISOU and WONDER GADOT. We don't see any horse of that class in the VAGRANCY HANDICAP. As such, our handicapper sees SEPARATIONOFPOWERS as the one to beat in our Pro-Subscribers' bonus commentary.
"SEPARATIONSOFPOWERS has won the most money per race by far for this group. HOLIDAY DISGUISE has won three of seven with two thirds in seven Belmont races. DAWN THE DESTROYER's jockey Javier Castellano has been hot lately, winning six of his last 10. PACIFIC GALE posted the highest, last race speed rating by a wide margin."
Belmont's Saturdays starts with a celebration of VAGRANCY with the stakes racing ends in honor of her lineage, "The most outstanding horse of the 20th Century," MAN O' WAR. Captain Obviously, the race is named after the legendary horse. TUDOR ERA took home the crown in the 1959 inaugural run. The race was upgraded to a Grade I stakes race in 1973 when another legendary horse made its way into the winners' circle. Perhaps you've seen or heard of the movie SECRETARIAT?
There isn't another all-time great like MAN O' WAR or SECRETARIAT in the group of nine that will race 1 3/8 miles on Belmont's Inner Turf course, but that's good. The race looks wide-open without a monster horse in the starting gates.
FOCUS GROUP is the bath-water warm morning-line favorite at 5/2. He is making his second start after a five-and-a-half-month racing hiatus. The five-year-old won by a nose as the chalk in his first start off the sidelines, posting his second highest, lifetime speed figure.
The Chad Brown trainee has hit the board in six of his last seven races and should continue to be formidable today, but we have our eye on a longshot.
"EPICAL came off the sidelines to run his best speed figure and by far the highest for this group. FOCUS GROUP is making his second start after a six-month break, Trainer Chad Brown wins round two at 25%. ZULU ALPHA is also making start number two off the bench. He's a neck away from winning his last pair of second outings. CHANNEL MAKER has a win at the distance on Saratoga' inner-turf course and is due for another trip to the winners' circle."