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2021 Memorial Day Weekend Stakes: 11 Graded Stakes on Tap
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2021 Memorial Day Weekend Stakes: 11 Graded Stakes on Tap

by Laurie RossMay 25, 2021

The 2021 Memorial Day weekend kicks off summer racing at four tracks across the country.

2021 Memorial Day Weekend Stakes: Saturday

Belmont Park

Saturday’s action begins at Belmont Park with the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2), at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds. Nine colts were entered, and post time is 5:12 PM ET.
Last seen finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby, Sainthood will make his turf debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. The son of Mshawish previously finished second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G2) over Polytrack. Pletcher also entered recent maiden winner Shaftesbury, a half-brother to Grade 1 winning turf horse Lochte.

Churchill Downs

The scene moves to Churchill Downs with two stakes.

The Matt Winn (G3), at 1 1/16 miles on the main track for 3-year-olds, features a small but stellar field of five.

Notable entries include Arkansas Derby (G2) runner-up Caddo River, Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Helium, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, and Jimmy Winkfield Stakes winner Hello Hot Rod.
The Regret Stakes (G3), at 1 1/8 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies, attracted seven entries. Barista and Line Dancing, second and third respectively in the Edgewood Stakes (G2) over this course in April, lead the field.

Santa Anita

Santa Anita offers seven graded stakes on Memorial Day weekend, including a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event. Their Saturday card includes three graded contests.
The Triple Bend (G2) at 7 furlongs for 4-year-olds and up isn’t a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, yet many sprinters exiting the Triple Bend have done well in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Eight older sprinters are expected.

Flagstaff seeks his third straight victory. The John Sadler trainee won the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) by an exciting head in his race. Flagstaff was fourth in last year’s Triple Bend Stakes.
Law Abidin Citizen starts his year in the Triple Bend after closing out 2020 with a pair of third-place finishes in the Bing Crosby (G1) and Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2). The field also includes Magic On Tap, who cuts back in distance after a fourth-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Californian Stakes (G2) in his last start. The Bob Baffert trainee should be sharp after firing two bullet works.

The Charles Whittingham (G2) at 1 1/4 miles on turf for 3-year-olds and up drew a field of five accomplished turf routers led by San Luis Rey (G3) winner United.
Crossfirehurricane makes his first start in the U.S. under trainer Michael McCarthy. The son of Kitten’s Joy looked good winning his first four starts in Ireland but was off the board in the Irish Derby and the Diamond Stakes last year. He’s cross-entered in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) on Monday.

Red King makes his second start off the layoff after finishing third in a Starter Allowance tune-up. The Philip D’Amato trainee won the San Juan Capistrano (G3) and Del Mar Handicap (G2) last year.

The Daytona Stakes (G3) at 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf for 4-year-olds and up may include ten starters. The turf sprint spotlights a rematch between San Simeon (G3) winner Gregorian Chant and second-place finisher Bombard. Gregorian Chant is vying for his fourth consecutive victory of the year.

Sunday

Santa Anita

Sunday’s graded action continues at Santa Anita with a pair of Grade Two contests.

The prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup (G2), at 1 1/4 miles for 3-year-olds and up, formerly a Grade 1 contest, dates back to 1938, when Seabiscuit captured the inaugural running. Many Gold Cup winners continue to championship years, including last year’s Champion Older Dirt Male, Improbable.

This year’s Hollywood Gold Cup drew a field of six. Royal Ship and Country Grammar may renew their rivalry after completing the exacta in the Californian Stakes (G2) last time out.
Rushie and Express Train, second and third respectively in the Oaklawn Mile Stakes, are also part of the field.

The Summertime Oaks (G2) at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies has a small, talented field of six, lead by the undefeated Soothsay, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks (G2). She may face Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) heroine Crazy Beautiful, who bombed with a tenth place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and the promising last-out maiden winner Lady Aces, whose dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 heroine Paradise Woods.

Monday

The graded stakes scene wraps up on Monday with a pair of Grade One stakes at Santa Anita and a Grade Three at Lone Star Park.

Santa Anita

The Shoemaker Mile (G1) at 1 mile on turf for 3-year-olds and up drew ten nominations, but five will likely enter. Smooth Like Strait likes the Santa Anita lawn. Last year, he was victorious in the Twilight Derby (G2) and Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes (G2). This year he placed second by a neck in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), and most recently, was third in the Turf Classic Stakes (G1) at Churchill.

Whisper Not and Restrainedvengence, first and third in the San Francisco Mile (G2) last out, may have a rematch.

The Gamely (G1), at 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, closed with 18 nominations. Possibly eleven of those may enter. Charmaine’s Mia is undefeated in three starts this year, including a half-length victory in the Royal Heroine Stakes (G2) over Dogtag and Warren’s Showtime, who might contest the Gamely.
Keeper of the Stars returns to defend her title as last year’s Gamely winner.

The Jonathan Wong trainee suffered a head loss defeat against the boys in the San Francisco Mile (G2) in her last start. Going To Vegas is on a roll after winning the Santa Ana Stakes (G2) by an impressive 3 3/4-lengths. It was the Richard Baltas’ filly’s first graded win. She had a case of seconditis last year in a trio of graded events, including the American Oaks (G1).

Lone Star Park

The Steve Sexton Mile (G3) for 3-year-olds and up closes out the holiday weekend. 27 were nominated, but a field of eight to eleven is likely.

C Z Rocket won seven of his last eight starts and was second behind Whitmore in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). The Peter Miller trainee captured the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) in his last start.

Silver State has strung together five victories, including the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in his last start. The local hope Sheriff Brown steps up after winning three Allowance Optional Claiming events.

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About The Author
Laurie Ross
Laurie is a handicapper, pedigree consultant, and published author. Her work has been featured on numerous prominent racing websites and she is a reoccurring guest on sports radio programs. She is also a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. Her yearly publications contain tremendous insight and value for bettors and horsemen. The Freshmen Sire Guide has received accolades from leading trainers and handicappers and her Triple Crown guides are a best-selling feature.