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International insights - Laura King's tips for Belmont and Santa Anita

Higher Power winning the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar in August.

International racing expert, Laura King provides her tips for the major races at Santa Anita on Saturday 28th September.


There is a busy weekend of Breeders’ Cup preps in America, with Grade 1s taking place at Belmont Park in New York and Santa Anita in California.

You have to go right back to 2007 and Curlin to find the last time a horse won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same season, but nevertheless the Belmont contest remains the east coast’s preeminent trial for the big one. A small field of five includes the Travers Stakes one-two, Code Of Honor and Tacitus, who face older horses for the first time, including Woodward winner Preservationist (5/2 Virgin Bet).

With four wins from his last five starts, including at Belmont in the Grade 2 Suburban, Preservationist could be the one here, although due respect also goes to Grade 1 Whitney Stakes third Vino Rosso, whose connections opted to skip the Woodward to bring him here fresh. A winner over this trip at Santa Anita, he is also respected in what is a wide open race.

He might only be just over 15hh, but Imperial Hint's (8/15 Virgin Bet) record-breaking win in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga was worthy of a horse twice his stature. Luis Carvajal’s charge is the short-priced favourite for the Grade 1 Vosburgh, against five rivals, and rightly so. He can take this race, as he did last year, en-route to another crack at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in which he finished third in 2018. Firenze Fire, who is three from four at Belmont, might be next best. 

There’s another prohibitive favourite in the Grade 2 Beldame, in which Midnight Bisou (1/2 Virgin Bet) is expected to land her seventh straight win of an unbeaten 2019. There doesn’t look to be much in opposition although Wow Cat won this last year and shouldn’t be far away, having run a good fourth in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign last time out; her second start after an eight-month break. 

Over in California, Bob Baffert’s Breeders’ Cup Classic favourite McKinzie faces just five in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita. The smooth winner of the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga last time, the four-year-old seems a more straightforward horse than in previous seasons, and jockey Mike Smith will be able to position him wherever he likes in the race. There’s not much speed here, so we can expect him to sit forward this time, something which may set up an early duel with his main rival Higher Power (4/1 Virgin Bet).

The runaway winner of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic last time out, John Sadler’s charge has obvious parallels with last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate. A rail draw here should help jockey Flavian Prat and he could just cause an upset against Mckinzie, should the favourite’s old quirks rematerialize.

Santa Anita’s other Grade 1 on Saturday is the Rodeo Drive Stakes, over the same course and distance as the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. A weak field of six is headed by Beau Recall (4/5 Virgin Bet), who is yet to win over this trip but is one of only two Graded winners in the line-up. The winner of the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar last time out, she did well to quicken off a slow pace that day and is the one to beat here.  At a longer price, Mirth who looks the only frontrunner, appeals in the sort of event which could be dictated from the front. 

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International insights - Laura King's tips for Belmont and Santa Anita

International racing expert, Laura King provides her tips for the major races at Santa Anita on Saturday 28th September.

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