By Richard Rosenblatt
To wind up the Memorial Weekend of horse racing, Santa Anita and Lone Star Park are set for a Monday (May 31) of top-notch graded stakes races.
After checking on a race of another sort – the Indy 500 (start your engines at 12:45 p.m. ET), the thoroughbreds take to the track for a trio of Grade 1’s in California and a Grade 3 in Texas.
America’s Day at the Races on FOX will have live coverage of races from Belmont Park, Churchill Downs and Santa Anita. FS2 begins coverage at 12:30 p.m. TVG will also have live coverage.
At Lone Star, multiple graded-stakes winners C Z Rocket and By My Standards top an eight-horse field in the $400,000, Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile (post time 8:35 p.m. ET).
C Z Rocket has two wins this year over last year’s sprint champion Whitmore. The 7-year-old is 11-of-25 lifetime.
By My Standards opened his 5-year-old campaign by winning the Oaklawn Mile by a nose for trainer Bret Calhoun.
At Santa Anita, it’s the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile (G1), the $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), and the $300,000 Gamely Handicap (G1).
Smooth Like Strait, trained by Michael McCarthy, and Whisper Not, trained by Richard Baltas, top the field of seven for the Shoemaker Mile on the turf. Post time is 7 p.m.
The Shoemaker is the first Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In’’ even of the year, with the winner gaining an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Smooth Like Strait finished third in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 1 after leading most of the way, had his saddle slip and wound up third as Colonel Liam and Domestic Spending finished in a dead heat for first. Whisper Not has hit the board in all five of his starts for Baltas, including a win in the San Francisco Mile (G3) at Golden Gate Fields on April 24.
With a listed post time of 7:30 p.m., the Hollywood Gold Cup features the Richard Mandella-trained Royal Ship, recent winner of the Californian (G2) for his first victory in the U.S., in a field of seven older horses going 1 ¼ miles.
Country Grammer, a neck behind Royal Ship in the Californian is back to challenge. Also in the field is McCarthy-trained Rushie, winner of last September’s Pat Day Mile (G2) at Churchill Downs.
The Gamely for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on the turf has a field of nine, led by last year’s winner Keeper of the Stars. Post time for the race is 8 p.m.
Trained by Jonathan Wong, the 5-year-old mare defeated Bodhicitta by 1 ¼ lengths in the 2020 edition. She also ran second against males in the San Francisco Mile, won by Whisper Not. Bodhicitta (GB) is back again to challenge.
Looks like the Belmont Stakes (G1) will have a field of 10-12, including Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer and 2-year-old champion and beaten Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality.
The post-position draw is Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET at Belmont Park.
Even though Rombauer won the second leg of the Triple Crown, Essential Quality is looking like he will be the morning-line favorite.
Also expected to run in the “Test of the Champion” are Rock Your World, Hot Rod Charlie, Bourbonic, Brooklyn Strong, Known Agenda, Overtook, France Go de Ina, Rebel’s Romance
Promise Keeper and Keepmeinmind are also possible.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.