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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Arlington Park stakes plays for Saturday, July 13

Four stakes races highlight an excellent nine-race card at Arlington Park on Saturday. A trio of graded events top Arlington Million Preview Day, and I have some horses of interest with attractive prices attached to them in the featured contests.

RACE 7 – Arlington Handicap (G3)

EL PICARO (#5) (9-2) is a multiple Group 1 victor on the turf who will make his second run since importing from South America. The Lookin at Lucky colt had a decent tightener at Churchill Downs in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) and figures to show big improvement with more ground to work with on Saturday for trainer Ignacio Correas IV. The move to leading local pilot Jose Valdivia Jr. was a smart one, as well.

RACE 8 – American Derby (G3)

A baker’s dozen of sophomores will vie in a well-matched field going 1 1/16 grassy miles. The Steve Asmussen-trained WAR FILM (#2) (12-1) might finally receive the swift and contested pace that aids his robust late kick. The son of the hot Declaration of War comes in fresh with good morning drills, and the colt out of the classy Film Maker lands in a field with a good measure of early speed. The three-year-old also gets a rider change to Miguel Mena.

RACE 6 – Modesty Handicap (G3)

Fillies and mares will compete on the lawn going 1 3/16 miles in a solid cast. Juddmonte homebred JULIET FOXTROT (#2) (3-1) is perfect from a pair of runs since coming to the United States and seems poised to make it three in a row on Saturday. Trained by Brad Cox, the bay was super impressive at Churchill Downs last time in a powerful allowance score when she relaxed early and flew home late. Her tactical speed should allow jockey Florent Geroux to get first run turning for home.

RACE 5 – Hatoof Stakes

Three-year-old fillies will vie in this 1 1/16-mile turf affair with nine going postward. Mike Maker’s BE NIMBLE (#3) (10-1) could be dangerous at a healthy price while making her stakes debut. The daughter of rising turf sire The Factor was a close fourth at Keeneland last time in a key race where multiple foes came back to win next out, including race winner Desert Ride, who bagged the Woodbine Oaks. Be Nimble could sit a perfect trip in the stretch with local leader Jose Valdivia Jr. inheriting the mount.

Good luck!

PHOTO: War Film (c) Coady Photography/Keeneland

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