All Eyes On The California Grass For Saturday's Graded Action

Balnikhov | Benoit

In the calm before the storm that will be next weekend's GI Kentucky Derby, a lone pair of graded turf races offer opportunities for older horses on the West Coast Saturday.

Golden Gate Fields, whose closure was announced last year, cards their final GIII San Francisco Mile S. A full field of 12 lines up for the one-mile contest and while the race is open for those 3-years-old and up, the youngest runner is Blaine Wright's 4-year-old Clovisconnection (Vronsky). The class appears to be deepest amongst the 5-year-olds with Phil D'Amato's Balnikhov (Ire) (Adaay {Ire}) making his 13th straight graded-stakes start dating back to Sept. 2022. Last year's winner, Banikhov will have to again hold off the longshot third-place finisher from 2023 in Il Bellator (Shackleford), another 5-year-old for Edward and Theresa DeNike and Jose Bautista. Also of note will be the speedy Astronomer (Air Force Blue) making his first start of the year for Simon Callaghan.

Further south at Santa Anita, older fillies and mares also go one mile in the GIII Royal Heroine S. Reddam Racing homebred Stay and Scam (Square Eddie) will look to play “catch me if you can” with the rest of the field. The 4-year-old has hit the board in nine of 11 starts, including wining two of her last three. Second after relinquishing the lead late in her first try over course and distance in the GIII Wilshire S. last out Apr. 4, the Doug O'Neill trainee will look to last this go round. Breaking just to her inside is the 5-year-old mare Uncorked (Aus) (Pierro {Aus}), an Australian invader making her first start for Phil D'Amato after a consistent career on the East Coast with Brittany Russell. Also entered for D'Amato is GII Megahertz S. winner Bellabel (Ire) (Belardo {Ire}). Continuing to try her hand on the turf for John Shirreffs is 'TDN Rising Star' Justique (Justify) who will be happy to hear that Richard's Mandella's Ruby Nell (Bolt d'Oro) is not an entry here after running behind that filly in four of her last five starts.

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