It is usually this time of the year when things start to grind to halt as far as the progression of that particular year goes. August doesn't have any holidays to look forward to, the oppressive heat of the summer reaches its zenith, school has started in many parts of the country and there just seems to be a general malaise when it we reach the end of August on the calendar. This is not the case when it comes to major Thoroughbred racing events, however. The last weekend in August 2011 will be a humdinger with the King's Bishop and Travers at Saratoga and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
The King's Bishop is noteworthy this year for one big reason. It marks the return to racing of 2010 Juvenile Champion, Uncle Mo. Mo has been away from the races since suffering the first defeat of his career in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. It was hoped that would be the final prep for his Triple Crown campaign, but Mo was scratched after drawing post position #18 for the Kentucky Derby and has been away from the races since with a liver problem. Uncle Mo is in post position #7 for this return to the races and will have to overcome the speedy Flashpoint, who will be breaking from the rail, which could be a big advantage given his natural speed and ability to run at this distance, especially once he gets to the front. It promises to be an interesting prelude to the big show, as Ed Sullivan used to say.
The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Travers Stakes will feature a field of ten three-year-olds in the "Summertime Derby". That group will include two Triple Crown race winners this year, Preakness champ Shackleford and Belmont winner Ruler On Ice. Not that we want to leave out this year's Haskell winner, Bob Baffert's Coil, or the winner of the Jim Dandy, Saratoga's Travers prep race, Stay Thirsty. In fact, Stay Thirsty has been installed as the 5-2 favorite for the Travers over the luminaries he will be facing on Saturday. Coil is second choice at 3-1, Shackleford is at a quite generous 9-2, and Ruler On Ice is 6-1 on the morning line.
Meanwhile, the best of the best in the West will be going to the gate at Del Mar on Sunday in the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Pacific Classic. Twirling Candy, who won the Californian, but might be at his distance limit here at 1 1/4 miles is the slight 5-2 favorite in the morning line over the 3-1 Game On Dude, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year. Perennial West Coast big names like Tres Borrachos, Setsuko, Acclamation, and Jeranimo also dot the field of eleven in the Del Mar meeting's signature event.
They Are Off will be taking a better look at the Grade 1 Travers Stakes tomorrow. Tune in again then for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!