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Mike previews the 2023 American Stakes (G3) from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. The Bob Baffert-trained Du Jour and Phil D’Amato’s Earls Rock renew their rivalry on familiar ground, but could a new shooter upset them both? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Fresh off what appeared to be the best race of his career, Bob Baffert’s Du Jour retains the services of European legend Frankie Dettori and heads a field of six older horses going one mile on turf in Sunday’s Grade III, $100,000 American Stakes at Santa Anita.
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A 5-year-old gelding by Temple City, Du Jour took the Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs in his fifth start at age three on May 1, 2021 and was subsequently transferred to Bill Mott, running in three turf stakes–finishing a close fourth in the Grade I Belmont Derby, third in the Grade I Saratoga Derby Invitational, and eighth in an ungraded stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 5, 2021.
Back with Baffert for his final start at age three, Du Jour was a distant fifth at 5-2 in Santa Anita’s Grade II Mathis Mile on Dec. 26, 2021. Idle for all of 2022, Du Jour came back running here on Feb. 4, finishing second by a nose to Earls Rock going one mile on turf in the Grade III Thunder Road Stakes while earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
Ridden for the first time by Frankie Dettori in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile (turf) March 4, Du Jour put in a furious rally but finished second by a neck to yet another Phil D’Amato-trained Irish-bred, Gold Phoenix, earning a career-best 98 Beyer.
Owned by Natalie Baffert and Debbie Lanni, Du Jour would be best served by a fast pace, but given the race shape, he may have to lay a bit closer to the pace in the American than he did in the Kilroe, a race in which he was eighth and last at the half mile pole. With an overall mark of 11-3-3-2, Du Jour has earnings of $671,720.
Owned by Anthony Fanticola, 5-year-old Irish-bred gelding Earls Rock is also at the top of his game. A game head allowance winner going a mile and one sixteenth on turf at Del Mar two starts back on Dec. 4, he prevailed by a nose over Du Jour in the Grade III Thunder Road Feb. 4 while earning a career-top 94 Beyer. A fresh commodity as his connections opted to skip the Kilroe Mile March 4, Earls Rock will be ridden for the first time by Umberto Rispoli as regular rider Flavien Prat will be out of town on Sunday.
In what will be his first Grade I assignment, Earls Rock bids for his third win in a row and his fifth victory from eight overall starts—seven of which have been stateside with D’Amato.
C R K Stable’s Exaulted, who will be making his first turf stakes appearance, is also bidding for his third consecutive turf win, as he comes off a pair of very impressive one mile allowance scores on Jan. 2 and Feb. 5 and will be ridden for the third consecutive time by leading man Juan Hernandez.
Trained by Peter Eurton, Exaulted, a 6-year-old full horse by Twirling Candy out of the Guilded Time mare Gilded Miracle, took both of his allowance races by 1 ¾ lengths and certainly appears to have found new life on the grass. Earning a solid 93 Beyer on Feb. 5, Exaulted, unbeaten in two turf tries, has an overall mark of 13-3-3-4 as he approaches his first graded assignment on turf.
An ungraded stakes winner going one mile on turf six starts back on July 24, Argentine-bred Irideo is a deep closer who will have to hope for a fast pace with Hector Berrios back aboard on Sunday. A 7-year-old gelding trained by Marcelo Polanco, Irideo flew late to be fourth, beaten three quarters of a length by Earls Rock and Du Jour in the Grade III Thunder Road Feb. 4 and again merits serious consideration in a longshot role.
Owned by Pozo de Luna, Inc., all but one of Irideo’s 15 starts have been on turf, as have four out of his five career wins.
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