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Summer racing is now close to being in full swing with Saratoga and Del Mar only one week away! The Triple Crown always dominates the first half of the racing season, but you can bet this summer will have it’s fair share of headlines. It is always hard to predict who will end up facing each other down the road, but here are five potential match-ups that could drive the horse racing community wild!
The Battle for California…and perhaps three year old of the year! I don’t think anyone is questioning that these two are the most talented horses in the group, but will they face off before the Breeders Cup? We know Shared Belief is pointing towards the Pacific Classic, but there has been no word from the camp of California Chrome just yet. These two giants have never faced each other even though they both have been based in California their entire careers, but it certainly seems like they are on a collision course now. The outcome of any head to head match up they have could mean everything. If Shared Belief could win the Pacific Classic and then beat California Chrome in a head to head match up…the eclipse voting for three year old horse of the year becomes extremely interesting!
Two giants of the game…and they are pointed towards the same races to round out their careers! For the second year in a row Palace Malice comes to Saratoga as the leader in his division, but lets not forget what happened last year. Will Take Charge was merely an afterthought at this point, before finishing second in the Jim Dandy and then winning the Travers. By the time the Breeders Cup rolled around both these horses were on even terms, and Will Take Charge over took him by finishing second in The Classic. Will he find his form once again at the Spa? We’ll begin to find out on August 2nd in the Whitney, and then they should match up once against in the Woodward on closing weekend. These two have ran against each other five times so far, with Will Take Charge holding a 3-2 advantage.
Once again Saratoga could find itself hosting a huge match up of two heavy weights! Close Hatches has improved greatly from an already strong foundation in 2014, and is considered to be the top older female at this time. However, Princess of Sylmar has come back strong in 2o14 as well, and came within a neck of defeating Close Hatches in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps last time out. Last year Princess of Sylmar grabbed all the headlines on the east coast, but it’s interesting to point out that her record against Close Hatches is now just 1-3. However her lone win over her did come in the Kentucky Oaks, and a head to head win at Saratoga would probably boost her up again over Close Hatches. Of course this match up could be spoiled by Beholder, the 3 year old filly of the year, but she is unlikely to ship to the east coast again after a disappointing run at Belmont last time out.
It’s going to happen at some point…perhaps as soon as the Haskell Invitational on July 27th. It’s painfully clear that nobody in the filly division is close to her, and several believe she can beat most of the boys as well. The Haskell would set up perfectly for her from a timing stand point, and that race usually comes up easier than a race like the Travers which would be her other option. It’s hard to get a read on what path her connections are thinking about taking. They’ve been very careful with her placement this year, and have yet to give in to the temptations to be aggressive. However, this summer could prove differently.
Are there any east coasters left that can challenge the Belmont winner? At this point there doesn’t look to be much, but you’d have to think at least one challenger will emerge in the Jim Dandy or Travers Stakes. The top candidate is probably Wicked Strong who won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, and finished respectable in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Samraat is another who will most likely eye races like the Jim Dandy and Travers, as well as the Dale Romans trained Medal Count and Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve. Still, nobody has shown the talent of a horse like Tonalist yet so there is no questioning each of those horses will have to step their game up to unseat him.
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