By Brian Monzo
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This weekend is one of the better weekends for finding big races in the East, both on the turf and on the dirt. We also get to see some solid runners, including Preakness winner Oxbow and Belmont Stakes winner Palice Malice.
The four races we will makes picks for are the G1 Diana on the turf and the G2 Jim Dandy on the dirt, both Saturday and Saratoga. We head down the Jersey Shore Sunday and pick the G3 Oceanport on the turf and G1 Haskell on the dirt.
We start on Saturday up at the Spa.
Race 9: The G1 Diana, $600K, 1 1/8 miles on the turf:
Centre Court had a brutal late trip in the Just a Game last month. The turf was yielding, but she got boxed and the jockey couldn’t figure out what to do and allowed Stephanie’s Kitten right by. She likes the turf at the Spa and I expect a nice rebound race. Stephanie’s Kitten may be the best turf filly in the country right now. She is a career 7-for-12, which is amazing, but is prone to a bad trip here and there. Will go off as the favorite. Dayatthespa just missed in the G3 Eatontown last month, when she couldn’t hold off Laughing (also in this race). She will set the pace and gets Javier Castellano back on the mount. Could hit the board at a good price.
Race 10: The G2 Jim Dandy, $600k, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt:
Moreno is coming off a dominant performance in the G2 Dwyer on July 6, winning by seven lengths. He grabbed the lead and the other horses were merely a rumor. He certainly steps up to some solid competition here, but could give them all they can handle. Will have a very playable price, too. Mylute has run three solid races in a row, despite not winning. His Kentucky Derby and Preakness runs were good enough for me to think he can make some noise here. Has a nice closing kick and will be coming late. Palice Malice ran one of the best races I’ve seen in a long time in the Belmont Stakes. He got a favorable pace as the second runner and was able to capitalize around the turn. His best bet here is if Moreno guns it quickly, allowing him to catch up around the turn. The talent is there, the jockey is there, it’s just a matter of the effort being there.
Now we head down the Shore to Monmouth on Sunday for their feature day of the year.
Race 12: The G3 Oceanport, $150K 1 1/6 miles on the turf:
Change of Command steps up to graded races after his best career effort in the Elkwood last month. I like getting Joe Bravo on the turf and I like that he’s raced against some of the competition. The added distance should help, too. Being close to the rail, but not on the rail will help him get a shorter trip. Odds should be playable. Top pick here. Hudson Steele ran a gutty one in his return after nearly a year off and comes back to graded races. Is 7-for-13 in his career and gets John Velazquez on board. Very appealing, and will get bet with Todd Pletcher being his trainer. Hobbs found his winning form in a claiming race last out here at Monmouth. Struggled in his previous graded tries, but I think the last win was impressive enough to take a clip here.
Race 13: The G1 Haskell Invitational, $1,000,000, 1 1/8 miles on the dirt:
Verrazano is coming off a dominating performance in the G3 Pegasus, and minus the Kentucky Derby (in the slop), this horse is a perfect 5-for-5. This is a speed favoring track, and this is a fast horse. If he can manage to not get drawn out by Oxbow, this race should set up perfectly for the win. Oxbow could be argued as the best three-year-old in the country right now. His performance in the Triple Crown series, including a Preakness win, was as good as it gets. This horse can run forever, and will have to hold off Verrazano and the closers. Micromanage is the wild card for me. He seems to finding his best form right now and if the pace is too much for the speed, this could be the one coming late and shocking everyone. His gutsy performance in the Long Branch, after a brutal start, was an eye opener. He may not have the stats and the wins that some of these horses do, but it could be his time.
I will be at Monmouth Park on Sunday tweeting out picks. Hope everyone hits some winners.
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