Dave Litfin - Litfin At Large

Dave Litfin - Litfin At Large

Litfin: Intriguing Weekend Ahead of Del Mar, Spa

Dave Litfin handicaps some top races of July 15.

While racing fans everywhere eagerly await opening day at Del Mar and Saratoga Race Course next week, there is solid stakes action across the nation July 15.

Bridge-jumpers far and wide are eyeing the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (G1), where two-time champion Songbird figures to be 1-20. Preceding that exhibition is the $200,000 Kent Stakes (G3T) for 3-year-olds on turf.

Belmont Park and Los Alamitos Race Course have bundled a cross-country pick four, starting with the $150,000 Forbidden Apple for older turf milers and ending with the $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G3) for 3-year-olds.

Three-year-olds are also spotlighted at Indiana Grand in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3) and $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G3).

Delaware Handicap (Del, race 9, 5:30 ET): Seldom is a race so much of a mismatch on paper, and Songbird (#5) should hardly draw a deep breath as she spots five rivals from 9-13 pounds in the 80th running of this long-time fixture at picturesque Delaware Park

Weep No More (#3), beaten a combined 26-plus lengths by Songbird in last year's Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama (both G1), heads up a quintet shooting for a generous runner-up prize of $150,000 and a grade 1-placing behind the reigning queen of American racing.

Songbird will be everyone's single in the concluding leg of a pick four that starts with a pair of $50,000 stakes and features the Kent as the third leg.

Frostmourne (#6) and Master Plan (#5), both based in New York, are the ones to beat in the 1 1/8-mile Kent. They have already shown the wherewithal to ship and win: Frostmourne comes off a nice win in the Penn Mile (G2T) for Christophe Clement; and Master Plan got a race over the local course winning the Stanton Stakes June 10 for Todd Pletcher, who sent in American Patriot to win last year's Kent in a course-record time of 1:47.19 seconds.

The intriguing third choice is Lunaire (#2), who comes off a rallying fourth behind subsequent Manila Stakes winner Bricks and Mortar (3 for 3) in a one-mile preliminary allowance at Belmont. That race unfolded through very slow splits, and concluded with a 22.10 fourth quarter, into which Lunaire gained 3 1/2 lengths.

A - 5, 6
B - 2

Forbidden Apple (Bel, race 8, 5:18 ET): As well as the "New York-Los Alamitos Pick Four," this race also begins Belmont's  late pick four with a $350,000 guaranteed pool.

The 8-year-old gelding Grand Arch (#3) looks to be gearing up for Saratoga, where he has been in the money in each of the last three renewals of the Fourstardave Handicap (G1T), including a win in 2015.

Otherwise, the Forbidden Apple is all about the New York-breds Get Jets (#1), Offering Plan (#6), Disco Partner (#9) and King Kreesa (#10).

Get Jets won the Sleepy Hollow at 2, but has blossomed since switched to grass for his last three starts, and could be the "now" horse.

Disco Partner pushes the envelope as he stretches out to a mile, after winning the Jaipur (G3T) and establishing a North American record of 1:05.67 seconds for six furlongs.

Offering Plan and King Kreesa ran one-two in the Kingston when both made their initial appearance of the season in late May. King Kreesa has to concede weight to most of the field, but the veteran has won the past two runnings of this race carrying the same 124 pounds.

A - 6, 9, 10
B - 1, 3

Los Alamitos Derby (LRC, race 7, 7:58 ET): There's a great subplot to this race. Klimt  (#6) won last year's Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Best Pal (G2) for Bob Baffert, but has since been given over to Art Sherman. He makes his 3-year-old debut, and, wouldn't you know it, the horse he has to beat is Baffert's West Coast (#5), who will be favored off a sharp score in the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes five weeks ago.

As well, there is an element of uncertainty about the distance. With the exceptions of Kimbear (#1), Milton Freewater (#7) and Term of Art (#8), who were all off the board in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), no one has any experience at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.

Kimbear has improved since then, however, and has worked swiftly of late.

Cistron (#2) returns to dirt after contesting the lead to deep stretch in the Penn Mile, and his last turf-to-dirt switch resulted in a front-running win in the $150,000 Northern Spur at Oaklawn Park. He is 2-1-1 from four starts with Tyler Baze, and is in position to dictate the pace.

A - 5
B - 1, 2, 6

Indiana Oaks (Ind, race 8, 9:21 ET): The eight fillies are a collective 1 for 20 in stakes, the lone victory accomplished by 7-5 favorite Mopotism (#8) in the $75,000 Island Fashion at Sunland Park back in February.

Mopotism was bumped on the first turn and rallied to finish second in the Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita on June 17, with Majestic Quality (#4) close behind in fourth. Given the remarkable success enjoyed by Southern California-based shippers this season, this race probably goes through these two.

One to watch in her stakes debut—particularly if she catches a wet track—is Stonetacular (#6), who disappointed in the slop against older allowance foes last out, but won big in the slop prior to that.

A - 4, 8
B - 6

Indiana Derby (Ind, race 9, 9:49 ET): Irap (#2) posted a 31-1 shocker in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) for his first career win, and after finishing far back in the Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (G1), he rebounded with a gritty nose decision over favored Girvin in the Ohio Derby (G3).

Irap had seven weeks off for the Ohio Derby, though, and the son of Tiznow  is back in only three weeks this time. Moreover, his two stakes wins were at 1 1/8 miles and he cuts back to 1 1/16 miles.

If there is an upsetter in the mix, it will probably be found among Wild Shot (#3), Hollywood Handsome (#5) and Untrapped (#9).

Hollywood Handsome comes off a nightmare trip in the Belmont Stakes Presented By NYRA Bets (G1), when he clipped heels into the first turn and had the rider lose the irons. He has won twice from four starts at 1 1/16 miles, while the rest of the field is a combined 1 for 27 at the distance.

A - 2
B - 3, 5, 9