New York’s final Grade 1 race of 2020 headlines this weekend’s bicoastal slate of graded stakes races, coming to you from Aqueduct and Southern California’s Los Alamitos.
The Cigar Mile is that Grade 1 farewell from New York. The $250,000 race for 3-year-olds and up is Aqueduct’s flagship winter race. It headlines four graded stakes at the New York track, with the others being the Grade 2 Remsen, the Grade 2 Demoiselle, and the Grade 3 Go For Wand Handicap. The former two offer Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks points, respectively, for their juvenile runners.
Beginning Friday and going through Dec. 20, Los Alamitos runs its winter Thoroughbred meet. Opening weekend features the Grade 1 Starlet on Saturday and the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes on Sunday. The Starlet is a Kentucky Oaks prep race.
OG News takes a look at this weekend’s stakes races and who bears watching – and wagering – on.
Cigar Mile, Aqueduct
Big A’s biggest race of the year sends out an intriguing field of nine on Saturday. None more intriguing than King Guillermo, who returns to the starting gate for the first time since his second-place finish to Nadal in the Arkansas Derby on May 2. King Guillermo, who scratched from the Kentucky Derby with a fever, has never faced older horses. He has two formidable ones waiting for him in Firenze Fire and Performer. Firenze Fire is coming off a third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, while Performer brings a five-race winning streak to the fray.
This 1-1/8-mile jaunt for 2-year-olds on Saturday offers 10-4-2-1 Derby points to its top four finishers. The contender’s line forms behind Pickin’ Time and Ten for Ten, who went 1-2 in the Grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct the last time out. Pickin’ Time, who brings the largest earnings ($184,024) and best resume (three wins and a second in five starts), attempts to be the first horse since Mohaymen in 2015 to win the Nashua-Remsen double. Keep an eye on Known Agenda and Erawan, who broke his maiden last out at 23/1.
Led by Malathaat, the juvenile fillies go 1-1/8 miles on Saturday in search of 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks points. The $1.05 million Keeneland Yearling Sale purchase and Todd Pletcher charge is 2-for-2, winning an October race at Aqueduct, then capturing the Tempted Stakes at Belmont on Nov. 6. Pushing her will be maiden winners Malibu Curl, Café Society, and Millefeuille.
Go For Wand, Aqueduct
Another Pletcher prodigy grabs the attention in this 1-mile race for fillies 3-year-old and up. That’s Nonna Madeline, who captured two of her four career wins in her last three races, including restricted stakes races at Saratoga this summer, and at Monmouth Park in October. Trainer Horacio DePaz is seeking his first graded stakes victory with Sharp Starr, who romped to a 15-¾-length victory in a state-bred allowance at Aqueduct last month.
Starlet, Los Alamitos
The two to watch in this 1-1/16-mile Kentucky Oaks prep are unbeaten Astute and Princess Noor, coming off a disappointing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. That broke a career-opening, three-race winning streak for the Bob Baffert trainee. Astute, meanwhile, comes off a dominant 7-½-length win in the listed Desi Arnaz Stakes.
Bayakoa, Los Alamitos
Headlining Sunday’s feature for 3-year-olds and up fillies and mares is Southern California standout Warren’s Showtime. The 3-year-old looks for her fifth victory of 2020 in her 10th race. All of her victories came in stakes, highlighted by the Grade 3 Autumn Miss at Santa Anita in October. Challenging her is La Buena Vida, who is 5-for-8, but who hasn’t run since dismantling her opponents by 5-¾ lengths in a Chilean Grade 1 last November.