Instagrand winning the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar - © BENOIT PHOTO

Instagrand winning the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar – © BENOIT PHOTO

Although we’re nearing the conclusions of the 2018 summer meets at Del Mar and Saratoga, there’s still plenty of top-notch juvenile racing still to come. In fact, the meets are going to end with a bang in that respect!

Saturday will see fillies take the stage in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) at Del Mar and the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, while on Monday, promising colts will battle in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I). Throw in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes and the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes and it’s shaping up to be quite the holiday weekend!

Entries for the last four races mentioned have not yet been drawn, but the expected fields are deep. The Hopeful will see Todd Pletcher’s Sanford Stakes (gr. III) winner Sombeyay take on the impressive maiden winners Mucho (from the barn of Bill Mott) and Nitrous (trained by Steve Asmussen), as well as the improving D. Wayne Lukas-trained maiden Derby Date.

The Del Mar Futurity is shaping up to be an even stronger race, with potential superstar and Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) winner Instagrand taking on Roadster, a much-hyped debut winner from the barn of Bob Baffert. Their respective stablemates Rowayton and Game Winner are also among the potential starters in the Del Mar Futurity, which could very well produce the early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and the 2018 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

One impressive winner who won’t be in action this weekend is Tale of the Union, but that’s only because he broke his maiden less than a week ago on August 26th at Del Mar. The New York-bred son of Union Rags sold for $925,000 as a 2yo-in-training and arrived at the starting gate with a reputation as a potential star for trainer Bob Baffert. Heavily favored at odds of 9-10, Tale of the Union didn’t get off to the best of starts under jockey Drayden Van Duke, but quickly recovered to press the pace through an opening quarter-mile in :22.24 seconds.

Thereafter, the colt easily opened up on his rivals, powering clear in the homestretch to win by an authoritative eight lengths while stopping the clock in a quick 1:03.81 seconds for 5 ½ furlongs, earning an eye-catching 91 Beyer speed figure. With Roadster and Game Winner already in his barn, Baffert can boast a very strong hand when it comes to promising two-year-old males this year.

Baffert also sent out the 1-2 finishers in a 5 ½-furlong maiden race for fillies on August 25th, with the first-time starter Fighting Mad narrowly battling back from a 1 ½-length deficit to edge her stablemate Honeyfromthesouth by a nose, earning an 82 Beyer.

Out at Saratoga, Endorsed and Code of Honor also caught eyes while winning six-furlong maiden races in their respective debuts on August 18th. Endorsed, a Godolphin homebred trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, earned an 89 Beyer while rallying to defeat the favored Chad Brown entrant Ahead of Plan by a neck with the rest of the field far behind, while Code of Honor posted an 86 Beyer while prevailing in gate-to-wire fashion over the talented Wild Medagliad’oro. Code of Honor’s effort was particularly intriguing since his trainer, Shug McGaughey, is not generally known for sending out ready-to-win first-time starters.

Looking ahead, Saturday’s Spinaway Stakes is shaping up to be a terrific affair with the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) winner Catherinethegreat taking on the impressive Debutante Stakes winner Restless Rider and Bob Baffert’s promising Chasing Yesterday, a half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. For a more in-depth analysis of the Spinaway, including selections and wagering tips, check out our handicapping preview of the race.

As for the Del Mar Debutante, it’s drawn a much smaller field than the Spinaway (five entrants versus twelve), but what it’s lacking in quantity it makes up for with quality. Brill, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was a heavily-bet debut winner on opening day at Del Mar (earning a 99 BRIS speed figure), and while such a performance would normally make her a clear favorite for the Del Mar Debutante, she’s hardly the only exciting filly in the field.

In fact, Brill might not even be favored thanks to the presence of Bellafina, a Simon Callaghan-trained filly who won the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar on August 5th by 4 ¼ lengths, earning a 101 BRIS speed figure. Toss in Bob Baffert’s well-bred Mother Mother, who broke her maiden by 6 ½ lengths on July 22nd at Del Mar, and you have a can’t-miss race that ought to produce a serious contender or two (or three!) for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).

There are also a couple of 6 ½-furlong open maiden races scheduled for Saturday at Del Mar. In the first (the fifth race on the card), Baffert will send out the $600,000 yearling purchase Much Better, a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of the multiple Grade 2 winner Dust and Diamonds. But wait, there’s more—in the second maiden race (the ninth event the card), Baffert will send out the homebreds Admiral Brown (a son of Malibu Moon) and Magic On Tap (by Tapit out of the Grade 1-winning mare Aubby K). Toss in Richard Mandella’s promising second-time starter Extra Hope and Jerry Hollendorfer’s $200,000 purchase Shining Through and you have a pretty deep race.

Lastly, I’ll be excited to see Bill Mott’s Southern Bridge compete in Saturday’s sixth race at Saratoga, an 8.5-furlong maiden race over the Mellon Turf Course. Southern Bridge finished fifth in a similar race at Saratoga last month, beaten just two lengths despite a dreadfully slow early pace that compromised his chances. I’m expecting a big effort on Saturday.

Enjoy the races!