Scully’s Saturday stakes plays

Today’s stakes action includes races from Arlington Park, Indiana Grand and Saratoga. Here are some opinions:

Arlington Park

Race 8, American Derby (G3): Seven of his 12 rivals have raced on or very close to the lead in recent starts and the American Derby should set up perfectly for #2 War Film (12-1 morning line), who has garnered 95 and 99 BRIS Last Pace numbers in the last two races with little pace. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt has kept fine company since opening the year with an allowance triumph at Fair Grounds, launching an eye-catching rally behind a solid pace, and I liked his closing fourth in the Transylvania (G3) three back. Miguel Mena picks up the mount and War Film could be finishing fastest of all.

Indiana Grand

Race 4, Michael G. Schaefer Memorial: #1 Pioneer Spirit (4-1 m/l) made his stakes debut a winning one here last year and looks more formidable this time around, recording a pair of close thirds in his last three stakes events. He’s tractable enough to sit close if necessary but with Flameaway being the only other speed entered, the six-year-old looks capable of seizing the initiative from his innermost post. Brad Cox and Shaun Bridgmohan have combined to win 12 of the last 23 starts entering Thursday.

Race 7, Indiana General Assembly Distaff: #6 Hanalei Moon (8-1) comes back from a freshening after recording a pair of strong efforts at Fair Grounds, winning a salty allowance and finishing third in the Marie Krantz Memorial. Mark Casse wins at an 18% clip off an extended layoff and Hanalei Moon is eligible to keeping moving forward at age 4. She should receive the proper set-up in speed-laden field.

Race 8, Indiana Oaks (G3): #1 Kim K (6-1) got back in form with a sharp allowance score at Churchill Downs, scoring by a widening 6 ¾-length margin, and registered a 94 BRIS Speed rating six points better than any other last-out figure. She brings high speed to this event for Peter Miller and with no other confirmed front-runners entered, the expected pace scenario favors her. Wire to wire with Brian Hernandez.

Saratoga

Race 9, Diana (G1): The race features three front-runners and I won’t go against #4 SIstercharlie (8-5 m/l), who race a huge race to win a Grade 1 by nearly three lengths when returning from a lengthier layoff last year and will be making a title defense today. My play here is a straight exacta over #5 Secret Message (12-1 m/l), who steps up in class for Graham Motion following consecutive stakes wins. Her BRIS Late Pace nunbers (103 and 98 last two) have clearly improved at age 4 and the progressing filly shows a six-furlong work in preparation. She should be making up ground late at a preferred distance can surprise with a runner-up finish.

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Indiana Grand stakes plays for Saturday, July 13

A total of six stakes races with combined purses exceeding $1 million headline a huge day of racing at Indiana Grand. I tabbed a few contenders who look to be worth a play in the very competitive events.

RACE 9 – Indiana Derby (G3)

The headliner attracted 11 and the horses to beat drew widest in the field. With very little early speed toward the inside of the race, I will give ALWAYSMINING (#6) (8-1) a chance to return to his winning ways. Five-time stakes victor tired when chasing swift fractions in the Preakness (G1) two prior, and he hung around through the finish going a one-turn route in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park most recently when third. The Kelly Rubley charge has a chance to lead this field early and perhaps steal it under jockey Julian Pimentel.

RACE 8 – Indiana Oaks (G3)

Deep edition of this race attracts an overflow field of 14 for the 1 1/16-mile affair. I am not sure that SUNDAYSATTHBEACH (#4) (8-1) can beat the whole cast in her stakes debut, but I do like the way the Brendan Walsh trainee is progressing in preparation of the affair. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has earned BRIS Late Pace figures of 101 and 106 in her two most recent showings, and if things fall into place, she could be a late presence in this spot at a price that will drift up higher than the morning-line number.

RACE 6 – Warrior Veterans Stakes

Nine will travel 1 1/16 miles on the green in a very talented field for the level. DOT MATRIX (#8) (4-1) was a convincing winner of the race in 2018 and, judging by his latest, looms large in hopes of defending his title. The Brad Cox pupil went last-to-first with a rush in his seasonal bow at Churchill Downs over a decent field last out. The New York-bred son of Freud should get an honest pace to rally into with Shaun Bridgmohan on board.

RACE 5 – Mari Hulman George Memorial

A field of 10 fillies and mares will go 1 1/16 miles in this affair. I have a liking for SHE’S PRETTY LUCKY (#4) (8-1) in her return to the dirt. The Eddie Kenneally charge is four-for-six on a fast surface and has the ability to give the top guns in the cast a serious run with her top performance. The Lookin at Lucky four-year-old has a hint of class and should be fit and ready with Declan Cannon aboard.

PHOTO: Alwaysmining (c) Maggie Kimmitt/Maryland Jockey Club

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Race 4 – Michael G. Schaefer Memorial

THIRSTFORLIFE (#7) (5-1 ML)

Just when it looked like this five-year-old gelded son of Stay Thirsty was headed in the wrong direction, he woke up out of nowhere to score a narrow victory over the classy American Anthem. That was a one-turn mile and he’s actually a better horse around two bends. I actually thought he had a legit chance to make an impact in the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2). He emptied out at the quarter pole, but managed to finish a respectable fifth of 12. This is a much easier spot and he should be forwardly placed in a race that isn’t overloaded with speed.

Race 5 – Mari Hulman George Memorial

Sterling Miss (#1) (9-2 ML)

Her ability to transfer the sprint form successfully around two turns is the obvious question, but this four-year-old daughter of Mutadda has never been better. The sire was more of a sprinter, but several of his siblings were classy routers and the dam was a successful miler type. This gal smoked the red-hot Headland while under a hand ride last out at Churchill Downs, and that talented foe returned to her winning ways in her very next start. Sterling Miss will show speed from the rail, but she doesn’t need to be on the lead.

Race 6 – Warrior Veterans Stakes

Lamartine (#1) (12-1 ML)

A Group 1 winner in his native Brazil, it’s taken this four-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby a few North American starts to get his bearings, and two starts back he did not get a fair crack at all. He enjoyed a pocket trip, but was blocked badly without an opportunity to shake free. Sent off as a huge 12-1 overlay in his most recent run, he lost four lengths at the start before rushing up into a perfect, pressing position. He responded when asked, got the jump on the closers, and held firm. He’s well drawn on the rail here and should sit another sweet trip.

All Right (#2) (9-2 ML)

A solid turf horse his entire 25-race career, this five-year-old son of Dominus is arguably better than ever. There are a couple of different ways to look at his 71-1 runner-up performance in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. On the positive side, he ran huge. Covered up on the rail while stalking a hot pace, he split horses and led late, only to get run over by a high-flying closer. Conversely, the Wise Dan was a deep race, but it wasn’t Grade 2 caliber. At 9-2 I’m in, but that price might not hold.

Race 7 – Indiana General Assembly Distaff

Limari (#2) 1-1 ML)

Even-money on the morning-line is a little tough to swallow, but this lightly raced four-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has a chance to be a star by year’s end. Odds on to win her fifth turf start in a row last out in the Mint Julep Stakes (G3), she seemingly lost all chance at the start. Off six lengths slow, this front-runner got shuffled to the back of the pack. Hung four-wide while in hand, she was forced six-wide on the turn for home. Miraculously she kept coming late and wound up getting beat less than a length in third. With a clean break here, chances are Limari and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan take it to them from an inside post.

Race 8 – Indiana Oaks (G3)

With Dignity (#10) (8-1 ML)

McCraken’s baby half-sister is very, very talented. When an Ian Wilkes trained debuter wins, they usually are. Up in time to win sprinting right out of the box, she stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the follow-up start. In tight early and then steadied out while three-wide, she was forced to close into pedestrian fractions. Nudged on the turn, she unleashed a visually impressive rally and won under a hand ride. The concerns here are the outside post and the apparent lack of early speed signed on, but if you can get half her inflated morning-line, the risk would be worth the potential reward.

Kim K (#1) (6-1 ML)

She’s had some ups and downs in her young career, but this three-year-old daughter of Will Take Charge put it all together last out at Churchill Downs. After clearing the field from post nine of 11, got away on the backstretch through hot fractions and just kept going. The fractions were fast, but well under her control, and when asked, she had another gear to give. With an alert break, she had a great chance to play a winning game of “catch me if you can.”

PHOTO: With Dignity (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

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