Shoemaker Mile Stakes 2020 preview

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Monday’s $300,000 Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park kicks off the U.S. schedule of Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” races as a qualifying race for the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

The Memorial Day race is named after legendary Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker and regularly draws a deep, talented field. With limited opportunities over the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Shoemaker Mile lured a gifted cast of 11 turf milers for what should be an excellent edition of the Grade 1 race.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Read on for more information about the contenders for the 2020 Shoemaker Mile.

SHOEMAKER MILE STAKES

Racetrack: Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
Date: May 25
Purse: $300,000
Distance: 1 mile
Race: 9
Post Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Notable winners: J. O. Tobin (1978) Steinlen (1988), Fastness (1996), Labeeb (1998), Silic (1999, 2000), Aragorn (2006), The Tin Man (2007), Obviously (2013, 2014)
First held: 1938

1. Without Parole (4-1 morning line): A Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot in 2018, he has not been quite the same racehorse since that victory, which capped a four-race winning streak to begin his career. He’s been well-beaten in each of his seven races since then with the lone bright spot a solid third in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile last November. Came up very small in his 2020 debut when 11th of 12 in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. He’s a threat at his best and you almost certainly will get the best price we’ve seen in his third start in the U.S., but Without Parole is one that I’ll take a stand against here. Looking elsewhere.

JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.TRAINER: Chad Brown

2. True Valour (20-1): A multiple graded stakes winner on this course at this distance, True Valour is winless in three starts this year but his most recent race – fourth by a length in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile – was a nice step in the right direction as he came just a point from matching his career-best Equibase Speed Figure with a 113. Prefer others on top but he’s capable of filling out the trifecta or superfecta at a nice price.

JOCKEY: Jose Valdivia Jr.TRAINER: Simon Callaghan

3. Next Shares (12-1): All or nothing type who is capable of winning a Grade 1 (see 2018 Shadwell Turf Mile) or finishing way up the track. Most recently ran third, beaten by only a neck by River Boyne on this course and distance in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile. A tough one to predict but when he’s good, he’s very good. Demand a price … if you get it, Next Shares is worth rolling the dice on.

JOCKEY: John VelazquezTRAINER: Richard Baltas

4. Voodoo Song (12-1): He can get very brave when allowed to set the pace uncontested, but he has not been competitive on open stakes since winning the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap in August 2018. Probably safe to toss his 2020 debut when sixth in the Grade 3 San Simeon because he broke poorly and lost position early, but he has not shown much against elite competition over the last 20 months.

JOCKEY: Mike SmithTRAINER: Richard Mandella

Monday, May 25: 1-6 p.m. ET on FS2; 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

5. War of Will (4-1): Grade 1-placed on the grass as a 2-year-old, the 2019 Preakness Stakes winner makes his return to turf racing in a tough spot with a new rider against a quality field off a 6 ½-month layoff. He’s a talented racehorse, no doubt, but I’ll let him beat me here given the circumstances. Looking elsewhere.

JOCKEY: Flavien PratTRAINER: Mark Casse

6. Blitzkrieg (20-1): Returns for his first start since a four-race stretch in Dubai from January to March where he ran well enough, including a third-place finish in a Group 2 race, without winning. Three of his five wins came sprinting on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, and at this mile distance against this group he looks a bit overmatched unless he’s allowed to absolutely steal it on the front end.

JOCKEY: Drayden Van DykeTRAINER: Doug O’Neill

7. Majestic Eagle (20-1): Won the Grade 3 American Stakes on this course at this distance in June 2019 but is winless in five subsequent races with only one top-three finish. Wouldn’t be a shock to see him get a nice stalking trip and run well, but I’d have trouble using him on my exotic tickets given the quality of the opposition.

JOCKEY: Jorge VelezTRAINER: Neil Drysdale

8. Raging Bull (7-2): He has not raced since a troubled third-place finish in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Sept. 14, 2019, but he’s a definite threat at his best having won a Grade 1 in Southern California back in December 2018 and competed admirably in five Grade 1 races in 2019: one second, two thirds, and two fourths. Tough to win off this long of a layoff against elite competition, but he’s a serious turf miler in with a shot if ready to fire.

JOCKEY: Joel RosarioTRAINER: Chad Brown

9. March to the Arch (6-1): Hard-hitting vet ventures to the West Coast for the first time in his career. Grade 2 winner is always flying late and his last two races were very good, but he’s stepping back up in class and a minor award might be his ceiling. Viewing him more as a closer at what figures to be a price who might spice up the exacta or trifecta.

JOCKEY: Victor EspinozaTRAINER: Mark Casse

10. Neptune’s Storm (15-1): Makes his 4-year-old bow coming off a very nice 3-year-old season in which he won four times and finished in the top three in all 11 of his starts in 2019. Might have a bit of a tactical advantage as one of the few runners entered with early speed. He needs to take a step forward from a speed-figure perspective to win but it’s possible he matured and filled out in his five-plus months on the sidelines.

JOCKEY: Umberto RispoliTRAINER: Richard Baltas

11. River Boyne (4-1): Enters Shoemaker Mile on a roll coming off back-to-back wins at this distance and turf course in the Grade 3 Thunder Road Stakes Feb. 8 and Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes March 7. He’s super-consistent, too, as he’s only lost by more than three lengths once in his 21 races in the U.S. River Boyne has shown a little more tactical speed this year and that’s been a big help. Top win candidate.

JOCKEY: Abel CedilloTRAINER: Jeff Mullins

THE PICK: River Boyne

LIVE LONGSHOT: Neptune’s Storm

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.