By Bill Cloutier
This weekend's race: Sunday, May 11
The Ruffian & Man o' War Stakes, Belmont Park
A field of six will head to the post in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes kicking off our look at the two biggest races at Belmont on Sunday. Grace Hall, a multiple stakes winner will make her return to racing after a year on the sidelines. The mare suffered a broken coffin bone in her right foot prompting her extended layoff. Training extremely well, however, Grace Hall appears to be fit and will be our choice to win the tight affair in her first race for trainer Bill Mott. We'll go with My Wandy's Girl, who blistered a bullet workout of 46.89 seconds on Monday and was a star in Puerto Rico, for second place. We'll take Fiftyshadesofhay to round out the trifecta. The 4-year-old faded to sixth in her last start after carrying her good early speed for just about a mile in an extended duel in the Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita. Six Queens rounds out the top four in a race that you could frankly make a case for any of the six starters.
The grueling Man o' War Stakes attracted a field of seven for the 1 ⅜ miles turf event. With the entire field hoping for dry weather, British invader Grandeur enters the race with a grand resume but we're going to go with the hometown hero, Imagining, who has four victories over the strip to his credit. Imagining has won two of his past three races and finished second last time out enduring a wide trip. Imagining is trained by Claude McGaughey, who has won the past two runnings of the Man o' War. The aforementioned Grandeur, who has two wins in four starts in the U.S., is our choice for second place. Amira's Prince is our choice for third place. The Mott charge has enjoyed his stay in the U.S. and the distance certainly isn't an issue. Real Solution rounds out the superfecta. Real Solution was awarded the win in the Arlington Million after The Apache was disqualified. He was an even fourth last time out getting caught on the outside of both turns.
Last weekend's race
140th Kentucky Derby
Every year since 1978 one horse has captured the hearts of racing fans but has failed in his quest to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed. California Chrome takes his place on center stage after a dominant, but not fast, victory in the Kentucky Derby. The Cal-bred breezed to a 1 ¾-length victory in the 19-horse field ridden by Victor Espinoza. The only caveat of Chrome's performance was the pedestrian time of 2:03.66. History may prove that California Chrome is indeed a super horse or just the best of a mediocre batch of 3-year-olds. Then again, perhaps Chrome could have gone faster as the Art Sherman-trainee hurried to the lead from the start of the Derby and ran on the outside throughout the race. As the horses turned for home, jockey Victor Espinoza asked California Chrome to go and he responded nicely putting five lengths on the field in the final furlong. Longshot Commanding Curve mounted a strong rally to finish second and Danza was third.
California Chrome paid $7 to his backers winning for the fifth straight time and earning Sherman, the 77-year-old trainer, his first Kentucky Derby win. California Chrome earned a Hot List grade of "A" for his performance and is expected to be a heavy favorite in the Preakness at Pimlico on May 17. Candy Boy earned a grade of "D" taking a peculiar large hit at the windows. The Gary Stevens mount went down from 16-1 to 9-1 in the late stages of wagering, reportedly resulting from a bet of $1 million which was dumped into the pool hailing from an offshore account in the Isle of Man. On the track Candy Boy encountered quite a bit of trouble and Stevens said his mount had "a horrible trip" and the jockey was lucky he didn't fall. The solid late run by Commanding Curve will certainly pique some interest if he, as expected, enters the Belmont Stakes. Wicked Strong earned a Hot List grade of "B" encountering traffic and finishing fourth.
Hot List Letters
A: California Chrome
B: Wicked Strong
D: Candy Boy
For daily Hot List selections, click here.
Hot List Key
A List: A preferred horse to watch
B List: Secondary horse to watch
*C List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 1st through 3rd
*D List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 4th or worse
* - 4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.
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