Rumblings out of Southern California – not the earthquake variety – indicate Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert may be rolling out his three-year-old star Game Winner Saturday at Los Alamitos. Baffert has yet to confirm his exact plans. Entries for the race are taken Wednesday. If he runs, expect Game Winner to be the overwhelming public choice.
Track representatives say they’re hoping to see last year’s two-year-old champion in the 1 1/8 mile, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby. Saturday is Los Al’s second to last day of its summer meet. The Southern California circuit moves to Del Mar, in Northern San Diego County, on July 17.
Game Winner has not been seen since his never-threatening performance in the 2019 Kentucky Derby where a sloppy track with a poor break out of the starting stall compromising any chance of winning the US’s most important race.
Baffert, if he enters the son of Candy Ride at Los Alamitos, is thought to be looking down the road at the $1.25 Travers Stakes at Saratoga as a possible goal for his trainee. A strong performance at the Upstate New York racing emporium immediately re-inserts Game Winner into the three-year-old championship picture. The 1 1/4 mile Travers, first run in 1864, is Aug. 24.
Testing Maximum Security’s Defenses at Monmouth
Meanwhile, Baffert, winner of the prestigious Haskell Stakes at Monmouth eight times – 2001, 2002, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 –, appears to be aiming Mucho Gusto, another of his top three-year-olds in that direction. The Haskell, also 1 1/8 mile is July 20. It carries a $1 million purse.
There, Mucho Gusto is likely to acquaint himself with Maximum Security the disqualified Kentucky Derby winner and King For A Day. That’s the horse that beat heavily favored Maximum Security in a prep for the Haskell, Monmouth’s signature race each summer.
Maximum Security runs for Gary and Mary West and Jason Servis conditions this leading three-year-old. The West barn boasts an embarrassment of riches as the owners of Game Winner, too.
Code of Honor, officially second in the Kentucky Derby, is looking solid returning to the races Saturday at Belmont in the $300,000 Dwyer Stakes, a 1 mile event. There, trailing the leaders for most of the race before brushing past everyone in the stretch blasting home a nearly four-length winner. For a complete chart of the Dwyer, click here.
He’s heading to Saratoga for an appearance in the Jim Dandy Stakes, according to his connections. That race is the prelude to the Travers. Preakness winner War of Will is also targeting the Travers. That’s the latest word from his trainer, Mark Casse. Official Kentucky Derby winner Country House is currently out of training as is Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston.
Omaha Beach, the presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite only to scratch with breathing issues, is finally back on track. That’s after throat surgery. However, trainer Richard Mandella says he’s eyeing the Shared Belief Stakes late in the upcoming Del Mar meeting as a possible comeback race for his horse. The 1 mile Shared Belief goes for $100,000 on Aug. 25.
Developing Henley’s Joy a 20/1 Shocker in Belmont Derby
Belmont Park’s closing weekend Stars and Stripes Racing Festival also marks the emergence of Henley’s Joy in the three-year-old turf division. The Mike Maker student was overlooked in the betting in favor of leading trainer Chad Brown’s foursome that was expected to dominate. Henley’s Joy – $43.60-$21.60-$13.60 – with Jose Lezcano astride had other ideas. The best Brown finisher is Rockemperor, reporting home third. Click here for the complete chart of the Belmont Derby.
The Belmont Derby is the initial leg of the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) Turf Trinity. The $1 million Saratoga Derby Aug. 4 at Saratoga and $1 million Jockey Club Derby Sept. 7 at Belmont Park completing the series.
Henley’s Joy is now pointing towards those races. NYRA is continuing an expansion of its grass program attempting to generate more fan and betting interest in three-year-old turf runners.
Saratoga opens on Thursday. The historic venue now offers a five-day-a-week racing schedule rather than the previous customary six days-a-week schedule.