Stakes jottings: Six contenders to watch on May 27

May 26th, 2023

In studying the Saturday stakes, several contenders prompted note-taking. We’ll find out if any qualify as actionable intelligence or turn out to be merely random scribbling!

Obeah S. at Delaware Park – Race 6 (3 p.m. ET)

#2 Tap the Faith (9-2) is bred to excel around two turns as a daughter of Tapit and Embellish the Lace, the 2015 Alabama (G1) winner. The Christophe Clement trainee has had just two opportunities at that configuration. Pitched into the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle (G2) straight off her debut win (over A Mo Reay), she wound up a rank fifth behind future champion Nest. Tap the Faith’s only subsequent two-turn try resulted in a Monmouth Park allowance score last summer. She finished 2022 on a high note, staying on strongly to win an allowance around Aqueduct’s one-turn mile. Tap the Faith figures to enjoy this 1 1/16-mile distance, possibly setting up a return visit for the July 8 Delaware H. (G2). Interestingly, her sophomore half-sister Pumpkin Scone, who sold for the same $1.25 million price as a yearling, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in her debut in Sunday’s fifth race at Churchill Downs.

Cliff Hanger S. at Monmouth Park – Race 7 (3:26 p.m. ET)

#2 Smokin’ T (3-1) is easy to root for as a grandson of Azeri. Yet the blueblood son of War Front and Grade 2 heroine Wine Princess (by Ghostzapper and out of Azeri) has a bit more than sentimental vibes. Third to budding turf star Up to the Mark in a Gulfstream Park allowance two back, Smokin’ T moved forward to win a Churchill allowance handsomely in his latest. The Shug McGaughey pupil was knocking on the door in stakes as a three-year-old. He might be ready for a breakthrough if he can run down streaking pacesetter #7 Big Everest (8-5).

Soaring Softly (G3) at Belmont Park – Race 7 (4:06 p.m. ET)

If #4 Queen Picasso (5-1) is anything like her Group 1-winning half-brother Aclaim, she’ll find seven furlongs congenial. Aclaim was effective from six furlongs to a mile, but all of his stakes victories came over seven, including his grand finale in the 2017 Prix de la Foret (G1). Their dam, Aris, earned her lone win at the same distance, capturing a Listowel maiden over future globetrotting money-spinner Gordon Lord Byron. This family has produced everything from classy sprinters and milers to 1999 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) superstar Montjeu. But the immediate influence of her dam gives hope that Queen Picasso, by top miler Kingman, can handle the cutback from her Gulfstream debut at 1 1/16 miles.

Keertana S. at Churchill Downs – Race 10 (5:26 p.m. ET)

#5 Miss Yearwood (6-1) ran below form on the Gulfstream turf, but she bounced right back in last-to-first style in a Keeneland allowance at this 1 1/2-mile trip. By Will Take Charge and out of an Awesome Again half-sister to Grade 1-winning turf specialist Dancing Forever, from an excellent Phipps family, Miss Yearwood may have found her true home going long on turf. The key formline is her close third, as a 23-1 shot, in last fall’s Jockey Club Oaks (G3) to McKulick and Toskana Belle.

Daytona (G3) at Santa Anita – Race 7 (7:14 p.m. ET)

#6 Prince Lancelot (8-1) is intriguing in his stateside premiere for trainer George Papaprodromou, who strikes at 40% with his new imports. Progeny of Sir Prancealot have done so well in California – Lady Prancealot, Beau Recall, Madam Dancealot – that the sire was actually brought over to stand at Rancho San Miguel. Prince Lancelot sports a better French resume than Bran, a prominent California-based turf sprinter in 2022. Unlike Bran, who was mostly an allowance-class horse beaten in stakes back home, Prince Lancelot was a frequent stakes competitor, twice a winner at the listed level and a fringe player in Group 3s. He had been regarded well enough to try the 2021 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1), but after his ninth going the metric mile, he lowered his sights and stuck to sprinting. If Prince Lancelot adapts to this circuit as well as Bran did, he has a right to make at least as great an impact.

Triple Bend (G2) at Santa Anita – Race 8 (7:44 p.m. ET)

Papaprodromou won last year’s edition with American Theorem, once a promising juvenile who ended up missing a lot of time, flopping over a route, and reinventing himself as a sprinter. The horseman will try to win it again with a horse of an entirely different profile, the lightly-raced #6 Spirit of Makena (8-5). Not making it to the races until the summer of his four-year-old season, the Ghostzapper gelding is a perfect 3-for-3 in sprints, with his lone loss by a head at a mile.

Spirit of Makena is likely to overhaul #4 Forbidden Kingdom again, as in the March 11 San Carlos (G3). But #7 C Z Rocket, a two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) runner-up, adds more depth to the line-up. This seven-furlong affair could have been more of a spectacle if The Chosen Vron and Brickyard Ride were here, instead of the Cal-restricted Thor’s Echo S. on Sunday. With Santa Anita hosting the Breeders’ Cup in November, the local brigade is worth watching closely, wherever they are dispersed.