There are some serious champions in the field, though my Preakness Stakes pick of the day -- Mitchell Road -- returns to the track and I think has a strong chance for an upset win.
There's also a pair of races at Arlington, outside of Chicago, with Race 7 -- the Arlington Handicap -- looking a lot tougher to handicap than the Hatoof Stakes (Race 5). The fourth is a so-so field of Grade 3 talent at Woodbine in Toronto.
After surviving the Belmar 5 this morning, I'm hoping a day of some ocean and beach put me in the zone for picking some winners. Let's find out.
Arlington Park, Race 5: Hatoof Stakes, 4:38 p.m. ET
Selection: #2, Delta's Kingdom (5-1)
Alternates: #4, Indigo Gin (8-1); #6, Princess Carolina (5-2)
Two scratches reduce this to only a mildly interesting 7-horse field. There's nothing majorly scientific about my choice of Delta's Kingdom. She faced tougher on June 15 in the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill Downs and ran a decent 5th vs. 10 others and outran today's favorite, Princess Carolina. It was her first try vs. stakes competition, and this looks like a softer spot facing other horses who mostly beat older, softer fields. Delta Kingdom may be late early on, but should be strong late.
Woodbine, Race 8: Ontario Matron Stakes, 4:50 p.m.
Selection: #4, Giovanna Blues (20-1)
Alternates: #7, Niigon's Bay (6-1); #8, Katie Baby (5-2)
I liked the alternates above enough to use in a small exacta box with Giovanna Blues, a long-shot on paper. Yet if you dig a little you'll find that she's a decent horse on synthetic tracks (2-for-4) and had a good 2019 debut vs. similar-level stakes competition, finishing 6th only beaten about 2 lengths. Two really aggressive workouts since tell me she's perhaps in good form for her second start with a trainer I admittedly don't know. I generally don't like closer types at the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance on this track, but believe Giovanna's a major upset prospect. She has also gotten support on the PH.com odds, listed at 13-to-1 as of 3 p.m. ET.
Arlington Park, Race 7: Arlington Handicap, 5:46 p.m.
Selection: #5, El Picaro (9-2)
Alternates: #7, The Great Day (6-1); #9, Callum Road (9-2)
I think this'll be one of the more-formful races of the four this afternoon, but didn't like 7-2 favorite Bandua's post position, as he's going to have to work to clear some front-runners to establish a decent position. I think he runs the risk of getting hemmed in, and instead landed on Chilean shipper El Picaro. He ran a decent sixth in both his U.S. and 2019 debut at Churchill on June 15. The competition that day in the Grade 2 Wise Dan was more serious than this, and a sharp June 29 workout suggests jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. has a live mount who may be comfortable on the lead if needed. I'd prefer him to be on the front end, as I think Arlington's turf is more challenging for closer types. We'll see, but either way I think he could go higher than his 9-to-2 morning line.
Saratoga, Race 9: Diana Stakes, 5:46 p.m.
Selection: #3, Mitchell Road (8-1)
Alternates: #4, Sistercharlie (8-5); #6, Homerique (5-2)
The intrigue in a field of six that includes four trained by Chad Brown is who takes the lead. I love these tactical types of races. The three inside horses all seem to want the lead, and I sorta think Brown entered 15-to-1 rail horse Thais as a rabbit for his other runners, namely #2 Rushing Fall, who's on the verge of breaking $2 million in winnings and has lost just once (by a neck) in nine lifetime races. She's serious for sure, though I think we may see jockey Javier Castellano sit patiently and stalk the stablemate. Mitchell Road is the X factor. Though she won the Gallorette wire-to-wire on May 18, the race prior at Fairgrounds showed Mitchell Road can rate a bit. I think jockey Jose Lezcano will try and beat Castellano to the punch for the position just off Thais' flank. If he's able to do that, I think we've got a shot at an upset vs. some very prominent turf runners.