Einstein, with a pair of grade I wins on the turf and a gallant second to reigning Horse of the Year Curlin under his belt so far this year, will be a short price Friday in the one-mile Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs.
It's not surprising that S J Stables' Cloudy's Knight, a grade I winner who towers over his competitors with earnings of more than $2 million, will be the starting highweight in the July 4 Stars and Stripes Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Arlington Park.
Well beaten in the Pacific Classic last time out, California star Lava Man has an opportunity to prove he's as good as ever when he takes on nine rivals in the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup (gr. I) at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meeting Sept. 29.
Among the 12 rivals entered against Lava Man in the $1-million Pacific Classic (gr. I) Aug. 19, several could undoubtedly be considered from barns that are taking a shot, perhaps because their horse has shown an affinity for Del Mar's Polytrack or because they believe the California champion is vulnerable. That's not the case for trainer John Shirreffs, who heads into the 1 1/4-mile event with a one-two punch.
Lava Man and A.P. Xcellent, who staged a dramatic Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) stretch duel won by the California star by a nose on June 30, are among 13 horses entered in the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar Aug. 19.
Twenty-three horses were nominated -- with 13 considered likely -- for the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at 1 1/4 miles on the Del Mar Polytrack Aug. 19, including defending champion Lava Man.
Favored Lava Man joined the legendary Native Diver as the only horse to win the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) in three consecutive years when he prevailed by a nose over the gritty A. P. Xcellent in a heart-pounding stretch duel Saturday at Hollywood Park.
Lava Man, who can match legendary Native Diver with a third consecutive victory in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (gr. I) June 30, has been assigned high weight of 124 pounds for the 1 1/4-mile classic.
Favorite Buzzards Bay, under strong urging from jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., gamely held off the late charging 25-1 shot Sun Boat to win the $250,000 Californian (gr. II) by a nose on the Cushion Track Saturday at Hollywood Park.
An even dozen, including seven graded winners, are entered Saturday for the $250,0000 Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park, led by 8-year-old Perfect Drift, a winner of $4.6 million in his lengthy career.
Journeyman Brice Blanc, building a reputation as a premier turf rider in Southern California, could find himself on the favorite, One Off, for trainer Neil Drysdale Saturday in the $200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT).
Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale holds a heavy hand in Santa Anita's $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) on Sunday when he saddles co-high weights Obrigado and One Off in the 1 1/2-mile early season turf distance test.
Likely favorites Brother Derek and Arson Squad will switch riders for Saturday's $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
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