Timeform's Graeme North previews Saturday's Stateside action, including Graded events from Delaware, Saratoga and Del Mar.
"As the likely sole front runner at Saratoga and bred to relish this longer trip, Questing has every chance of upsetting her higher-profile rivals at odds of around 4.57/2."
The highlight at Delaware on Saturday is the G2 Delaware Handicap (17:45 local time, 22:45 BST) over a mile and a quarter for fillies and mares and features a clash between the two best older mares in training, Royal Delta and Awesome Maria.
They have met just once before, in the G3 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream in February, when both were making their season reappearance, Awesome Maria since the previous June and Royal Delta since winning the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and before her unsuccessful foray to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup. Awesome Maria came out well on top on that occasion, when Royal Delta was recorded as having stumbled at the start, but if she did it looked insignificant and when Awesome Maria increased an already decent gallop with two furlongs left Royal Delta had little answer.
Royal Delta is much better than that effort, as her two G1 wins and latest wide-margin success in the G2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs confirms, but she will do well to concede a 3lb swing to Awesome Maria. The latter's defeat in the G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont last time out - where she finished one place behind the pace-setting Cash For Clunkers who takes her on again - is best ignored seeing as the first two got first run on her in a slow time.
The progressive Cash For Clunkers, winner of four of her seven races, has yet to race beyond a mile and a sixteenth and is unlikely to get her own way in front this time with Awesome Maria's stablemate Love And Pride (who has won three of her four races at Delaware)likely to take her on. That could set things up for Awesome Maria who shapes very much as if this longer trip will be right up her street. Awesome Maria should arguably be favourite, not second favourite.
Saratoga's feature event on Saturday is the G1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks over nine furlongs (17:45, 22:45 BST). Only six go to post, but it looks very competitive with just 2lb separating the top three on Timeform ratings, with G2 Black-Eyed Susan winner In Lingerie marginally top ahead of G1 Mother Goose winner Zo Impressive, and the filly who finished runner-up in both, Disposablepleasure.
In Lingerie won the Black-Eyed Susan fair and square after having to race very wide throughout, even though Disposeablepleasure didn't get a clear run in the straight, and there seems no reason to expect the latter either to reverse placings with Zo Impressive from the Mother Goose. The form of the Mother Goose might not be quite as strong as it looks on paper, however, seeing as both the first two in the betting were well below their best in a race that developed into a real slog, and with that in mind the value play may be the former John Gosden trained Questing, who was second in the 2011 Oh So Sharp Stakes and makes now makes her first Graded start this year in the States.
Questing won an allowance optional claimer at Belmont last time out in a very fast time allowed to stride on in front as she tended to be ridden in Britain, in the process looking a completely different filly on just her second dirt start to the one that had finished fifth ridden with restraint from a bad draw in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. As the likely sole front runner at Saratoga and bred to relish this longer trip, Questing has every chance of upsetting her higher-profile rivals at odds of around 4.57/2.
Over at Finger Lakes the grandly named New York Derby (16:19, 21:19 BST) over eight and a half furlongs on the dirt has attracted a field of seven. The New York Derby is the middle leg of the Big Apple Triple after the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont last month and not surprisingly given a points scheme that handsomely rewards the highest scoring horse in the series, the winner of the Mike Lee, Willy Beamin, has turned up. That win, his fourth on the bounce, means he has to carry co-top weight, but even so he should just about be good enough, though the concession of 10lb to G2 Black Eyed Susan third Wildcat's Smile won't be easy given that filly has good course form having won the Breeders' Futurity here last year.
Del Mar has a guaranteed $250,000 Pick Six (last six races) and a guaranteed $500,000 Pick Four (last four) (click HERE to bet on the US Tote) up for grabs on Saturday though the feature race, the G1 Eddie Read Stakes (15:00, 23:00 GMT) over nine furlongs on the turf, doesn't feature as it's the third race on the card. The ex-Stan Moore trained Slim Shadey bids to atone for a flop when favourite last time in the G1 United Nations at Monmouth. Being held up off a slow pace on a very tight track was always a recipe for disaster that day but it's impossible to oppose Acclamation who won this last year, has 8lb in hand on Timeform ratings and should be able to dictate the race from the front with only outsider Hog's Hollow, for whom this trip is a bare minimum anyway, to head off in a bid to record a seventh straight Graded win.
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