By Lindsay Griffin
It is often said that the Breeders’ Cup races are the perfect cap to the racing “season.”
That would be true…if racing in the United States was not a year-round sport. Indeed, thanks to the wildly varying climates around the country, as well as tracks made from surfaces designed to stand up to all kinds of weather, not a day goes by when there is not a horse race somewhere on American soil.
So, what do fans have to scratch their racing itch before the 2023 Triple Crown trail starts in earnest? If you are looking for horse races today here are four events in the near future you won’t want to miss.
Grade II Remsen Stakes
Most racing fans look to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile competitors to start creating their Triple Crown lists, but when they consider the impact that last year’s Remsen Stakes had on the 2022 Triple Crown, they might want to keep a close eye on this year’s edition. This year it will be held on December 3rd at New York’s Aqueduct Racetrack.
At 1 ⅛ miles, the Remsen Stakes is the longest graded stakes race for two-year-olds. Therefore, it might not be much of a surprise that the top two finishers of the 2021 Remsen, Mo Donegal and Zandon, both went on to have a huge impact on three-year-old route races. Remsen winner Mo Donegal won the Belmont Stakes, while runner-up Zandon placed third in the Kentucky Derby.
Grade I Cigar Mile
Speaking of Zandon, he highlights the list of probables for the Cigar Mile, held at the same track as the Remsen and on the same day. Other horses pointing toward the race include Grade I Florida Derby winner White Abarrio, Grade III Salvatore Mile Stakes winner Mind Control, and Grade I Woodward runner-up Law Professor.
The Cigar Mile is historically a chance to shine for talented dirt horses who, for one reason or another, missed the Breeders’ Cup races. Winners in recent years include dethroned Kentucky Derby first-place-finisher Maximum Security, versatile Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, and hot young sire Sharp Azteca.
Grade II Clark Handicap
Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., a nineteenth century racing aficionado, opened the Louisville Jockey Club (now known as Churchill Downs) in 1875 with three spectacular stakes races that still carry on today. One was the Kentucky Derby. One was the Kentucky Oaks. The third was a race he named for himself: the Clark Handicap.
Run at 1 ⅛ miles at Churchill Downs on November 25th, the list of possible entries for this race is highlighted by Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike. Trainer Eric Reed recently confirmed the son of Keen Ice for the race, stating that “as long as we don’t have any hiccups, we’ll be there.” He looks to face West Will Power, an up-and-coming Brad Cox trainee who recently won the Grade II Fayette Stakes at Keeneland.
Grade I Malibu Stakes
This seven-furlong California feature for three-year-olds has always been a favorite, but the 2022 edition looks to be one of the most highly anticipated runnings of recent years.
Why is that? One word: Flightline.
It was in the 2021 that Flightline first established himself as a serious racehorse. It was his stakes debut, and though he was favored, few viewers thought that they were witnessing the launch of one of the all-time greats.
Flightline went from strength to strength, parlaying his sprint-distance Malibu triumph into equally glorious victories at a mile and a mile and a quarter. He retired an undefeated racehorse- and an almost certain Horse of the Year- after his Breeders’ Cup Classic domination.
Is it likely that this year’s Malibu, to be run on December 26th at Santa Anita Park, will produce another Flightline? No.
But this sport is built, fueled, and financed on dreams of the next champion.