With the Triple Crown in the rearview its now time for my favorite part of the racing calendar! Summer racing is second to none as two of our most historic tracks, Del Mar and Saratoga, dominate the picture. Big time racing happens daily at these two tracks, but they aren’t the only tracks where big races will occur this summer. Here are the five races that have me excited for what lies ahead of us.
1. Del Mar: Pacific Classic August 20th
It’s always a toss up between this race and the Travers Stakes, but this year I have to give the edge to the Pacific Classic because of the possibility of a Beholder vs. California Chrome match up. If this were to happen it would be the biggest race of the racing season other than another potential clash between the two again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, if we don’t get that match up the race could fall behind the Travers Stakes. The attraction of Beholder against the boys again will still be fun, but she’ll need better rivals than last year to push this race over the top.
2. Saratoga: Travers Stakes August 27th
Last year the Travers Stakes was unbelievable because a Triple Crown winner ran in the race…this year a division title could be on the line! Each of those things are great in their own way, but there is extra urgency added to the Travers this year with things within the three year old division very unsettled. We know horses like Creator, Exaggerator, and Mohaymen will all be pointing towards this race as well as many others. Perhaps Nyquist will also target the race which would make this one comparable to the Kentucky Derby.
3. Arlington Park: Arlington Million August 13th
If you like turf racing with an international flavor this is your day! The Arlington Million always brings horses in from overseas, as well as many of the best American turf horses in the country. The entire event can sometimes give us a preview of the what international horses could run in the Breeders’ Cup in November as many of those horses use this day as a prep. The Arlington Million is one of the biggest days on the Chicago sports scene, and is always well attended by the locals.
4. Saratoga: Whitney Handicap August 6th
This has become a bigger event than ever because of the purse increase a couple of years back. Last year the field was about as good as you will see, and it ended up deciding who won Older Male of the Year as Honor Code nosed out Liam’s Map in incredible late running fashion. If Liam’s Map holds on to win that race the voting for the previously mentioned award would have been much different. This year the big name pointing to this race is Frosted, who set the track on fire in the Met Mile at Belmont Park in his last race.
5. Monmouth Park: Haskell Stakes July 31st
Yet another race last year where a Triple Crown winner was present last year…and yet another race that will help decide who wins three year old horse of the year honors this year. The Haskell doesn’t hold quite the historical clout as the Travers stakes, but over the last few years the Haskell winner has actually went on to accomplish bigger things than the Travers winner. It’s uncertain past Gun Runner who will be pointing towards this race at the moment, but it always draws a great field.