Graded Stakes Fireworks Set For Saturday

Saudi Crown | Coady Photography


Ellis Park will host its first Grade I race in its 100-year history Saturday, but there are plenty of other graded stakes scheduled before the Fourth of July at Belmont Park, Delaware Park, Woodbine Racetrack and Gulfstream Park. Here's a rundown of what's on tap.

Showdown in Belmont's Dwyer

One of two graded stakes on Saturday in Elmont is the GIII Dwyer S. Going a mile, the race pits Fort Bragg (Tapit), who was forced to scratch from the GI Woody Stephens S. by trainer Bob Baffert when the 3-year-old colt came down with a fever, against the undefeated Saudi Crown (Always Dreaming), who is making his stakes debut for Brad Cox.

“This gives us options. We can see how we do here,” said Tom Ryan, managing partner of SF Racing. “There will be opportunities to stretch him out down the road if we feel that's the right thing. A race like the Allen Jerkens could be on the radar for him later in the summer if we felt like he needs a cutback.”

The other half of the co-feature is the GII John A. Nerud S. for older horses at seven furlongs, which includes Candy Man Rocket (Candy Ride {Arg}) the winner of the GIII Runhappy S. at Belmont May 13 for Bill Mott. “He's run some good races and if he gets a good trip, he usually runs pretty well,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I think he's fine on the lead or fine with a target. It just depends how the race sets up.”

Promiseher America Looks to Rebound

Trainer Ray Handal scooped up the first graded race of his career when 3-year-old Promiseher America (American Pharoah) won the GIII Gazelle S. at Aqueduct in early April. With a tough trip in the GI Kentucky Oaks, the chestnut filly will look to rebound in Saturday's GIII Delaware Oaks. She will face a pair of challengers in Juddmonte homebred Fireline (Arrogate) from the barn of Chad Brown and Siena and WinStar Farm's Miracle (Mendelssohn) trained by Todd Pletcher. Also part of this card is the GIII Robert G. Dick Memorial S. over the grass, which includes Ian Wilkes trainee Miss Yearwood (Will Take Charge)–winner last out of the Keertana S. at Churchill Downs.

Five at Woodbine

Canada Day on Saturday fits in well as Woodbine Entertainment hosts its own fireworks when it cards five graded races. The GIII Marine S. includes Chad Brown invader Turf King (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) whose main rival will be King's Plate hopeful Twin City (Klimt), while the GIII Selene S. witnesses the return of reigning Eclipse Award-winning juvenile filly Wonder Wheel (Into Mischief).

Wonder Wheel | Coady Photography

Not seen since she was ninth in the GI Kentucky Oaks, the Mark Casse trainee makes her first start at her trainer's home base. “I was really disappointed with her effort in the Ashland,” Casse said from his Ocala base. “And the Oaks was kind of a weird-run race. Then I wanted to get her up there and train her on the Tapeta. I just find that horses thrive at Woodbine, more than anywhere. I just kind of felt like we needed to get her back to square one, try to get her some confidence.”

Switching to the turf, trainer Larry Rivelli sends sprinter One Timer (Trappe Shot) north of the border for the GII Highlander S. as his 4-year-old gelding meets George Weaver shipper Outlaw Kid (Violence). Also on the grass, the GII Nassau S. includes Todd Pletcher trainee Scotish Star (Arg) (Key Deputy) who will look to upend current Canadian Horse of the Year Moira (Ghostzapper). Back on the Tapeta, the top three finishers from the June 4 running of the GII Eclipse S. at Woodbine–Treason (Constitution), Carrothers (Mshawish) and Tyson (Tapit)–will once again face one another in the GIII Dominion Day S.

Antonucci After More Graded Glory

Trainer Jena Antonucci made history when she won the GI Belmont S. last month and now she is looking for more graded hardware, this time at her southern digs in South Florida. Doc Amster (Midshipman) will compete in Gulfstream Park's GIII Smile Sprint Invitational S., but the 6-year-old will have to face down potential favorites in Dean Delivers (Cajun Breeze) for trainer Michael Yates and Todo Fino (Chi) (Verrazano) for Amador Sanchez.

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