By Brian Monzo
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The Triple Crown season has come and gone, with three separate winners in all three races. But the summer of races is only starting, and we have plenty of graded races to break down throughout the summer. My two favorite meets, Saratoga and Del Mar, both start next month, but this week we go down to Kentucky and look at two big ones at Churchill and the Grade-3 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.
We start at Churchill Downs with the G1 Stephen Foster Handicap and the G3 Regret Stakes on Saturday night.
Race 8: The G1 Stephen Foster Handicap, 500K purse for 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt:
Ron the Greek won this race last year with a killer closing move to nose out the field. This horse gets older and still runs well, and is 1-for-2 at Churchill. He nearly beat Game On Dude in the CT Classic in April, and I expect him to run a big one here. Successful Dan is 8-for-12 in his career and has three wins on this track. He returned from a long layoff with a solid win in April. He could be on or just off the lead and gets Julien Leparoux on the mount. This horse could be the best of the bunch. Golden Ticket ran a big one in the Travers last year and could be finding that form again after a big run at this track a month ago. He will need a career effort, but with only a six-horse field, I wouldn’t be shocked if this horse lands in the trifecta. I am throwing out Fort Larned, the winner of last year’s Breeders Cup Classic. His two races since that win have resulted in him throwing his jockey off of him at the gate and a dud in the Oaklawn Handicap.
Race 9: The G3 Regret Stakes, 100K purse for 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/8 miles on the turf:
Intelyhente is taking a huge step up in class after breaking her maiden in her second try, but her closing move was so impressive that I think she has a huge shot here. I would expect Corey Lanerie to keep this filly five to six lengths from the lead and let her go down the stretch. If she runs like she did in her last race, she could catch the speed late. Kitten’s Dumplings has the best connections in the race with Joel Rosario/Michael Maker and is riding high after a dominating win in the Edgewood Stakes last month. Rosario should have her closer to the leaders this time, but ready to run down the stretch. Eden Prairie is the speed of this race and has fought gamely in each race. She is 2-for-5 in her career and will be trying to hold off the closers. A must on the exotic bets.
On Sunday we head to beautiful Monmouth Park for G3 Pegasus Stakes featuring two Triple Crown runners.
Race 11: The G3 Pegasus Stakes, $150K purse for 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles on the dirt:
Verrazano runs for the first time since a bad trip in the Kentucky Derby. I am throwing that race away. It was in the slop and the pace was ridiculously fast. Before the Derby he was 4-for-4, and his talent alone makes him a threat. I don’t mind drawing the rail in this spot. This is only a seven-horse field and this is a speed track, and it doesn’t appear that there is much early speed in this race. I expect Verrazano to shoot to the lead and run at his pace. I think the distance is fine and I expect him to win this one before heading the Haskell later in the summer. Itsmyluckyday is the other big one here. Some people think that this is a great horse, but I think he is only a good horse. Getting Mike Smith in the mount is tremendous, and I certainly think this will be chasing down Verrazano down the stretch, but I just haven’t seen the winning instinct enough here. He couldn’t chase down Oxbow in the Preakness and was outclassed by Orb in the Florida Derby. I think that he is the second best in this race. Edge of Reality won’t beat either Verrazano or Itsmyluckyday, but looks to be the third best in the field. He is adding some distance to his best runs, but it could help him if the pace is slow. His best races have come at Parx, which is not too far from Monmouth. He might get over-bet, but I will leave him on my trifecta tickets.
The countdown to Saratoga and Del Mar has started for me, but the races continue to get better throughout the summer. I will be live-tweeting from Monmouth Park all day on Sunday.
Follow Monzo on Twitter for last-minute thoughts and his picks leading up to the race @BMonzoWFAN.
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