The final four stakes on the Festival Day card are the pair of 2-year old Northern Lights races as well as the pair of Classics.
Northern Lights Debutante
The six furlong, $85,000 Deb features a trio of fillies that have been very impressive in their limited careers thus far.
Though Shipmate is 2 for 2 on the season and was bred in Minnesota, her pair of starts have taken place further south on I-35 at Prairie Meadows where she broke her maiden and then came back to take the Iowa Stallion Breeders’ Futurity. She’ll make her first start at “home” in the Debutante where a pair of impressive maiden winners await.
Mac Robertson’s Line of Grace debuted at the end of July and cruised to a gate to wire maiden victory in a very professional effort. Leader rider Dean Butler will be on board for the Debutante.
Another impressive maiden winner was Gary Scherer’s Ryan and Madison. She broke alertly in her debut, stalked the pace for about a quarter mile before she opened up under a hand ride to win by 9 1/2 lengths under Nik Goodwin.
All three of these fillies loved getting to the front and staying there so obviously something will have to give in the race. Should the trio get out to a blistering pace, Pinup Girl, who had some issues in her debut before coming off the pace to win by three, could draw on that experience to come late for the upset win.
Northern Lights Futurity
Trainer Scherer has the morning line favorite in the Futurity in Devil’s Teeth. Devil’s Teeth is one for one and was very professional in his debut, stalking the early pace and then drawing off when asked by Goodwin.
Fridaynitestar and Chaska also took the stalking routes to their maiden win as well, but speed won’t be lacking as maiden Keats Corner should head to the front early. Trainer Vic Hanson adds blinkers for the Futurity on hopes of enabling the gelding to carry his speed further.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chaska be the one to pressure Keats Corner early and all signs point toward Devil’s Teeth getting a perfect trip.
Should all go well, the Scherer/Goodwin combination could take both juvenile stakes.
Glitter Star Distaff Classic Championship
If the Distaff was run over the turf, Dear Fay may have been your odds on favorite. She was a tremendously impressive winner in the Princess Elaine going the Distaff distance of a mile and a sixteenth two starts back.
However she seems to falter on dirt and the last two seasons has not been able to get there in the Distaff, leaving this year’s edition relatively wide open.
Speedster Blues Edge looks to be able to get a jump on the field early. In her last she gamely beat a field of open $16,000 claimers battling head to head down the stretch after leading from the break and cutting the fractions. She finished second last year in this race and will be looking to capture the top spot this year.
Da Kleinen Schatzi may be the filly that makes sure that Blues Edge doesn’t get away too easily. She’s been steadily improving this season and cleared through her claiming conditions at $20,000 impressively in her last two starts.
Last year’s Minnesota Oaks winner, Sioux Appeal, has only a pair of starts this season and was beaten by a neck in her last by Thunder and Honey, the morning line favorite for the Distaff at a mile.
Thunder and Honey picked up that win and followed it up with a third over the turf in the Princess Elaine. The mare is solid over both surfaces and should be sitting behind the early pace under Alex Canchari.
Three year old Blazing Angel ran a huge race in an upset victory in the Minnesota Oaks last out. She handled the transition to her first dirt route since fall of her 2-year old season at Keeneland with aplomb, sitting behind the early fractions, then steadily picking off her rivals through the turn and down the lane. That may be a bit tougher to do against older, but if she improves off of that effort she’s right in the mix here.
This is a competitive edition of the Distaff and while Thunder and Honey looks like she can pick up that stakes victory, it’s not going to be easy.
Wally’s Choice Minnesota Classic Championship
The returning champion, A P is Loose, has very much the look of a repeating champion. He’s as solid on the turf as he is on the dirt and has hit the board on three of his four starts on the season with his only miss being the season opener in the 10,000 Lakes, a six furling sprint to which he is ill suited.
Bouncing back from the opener, he was third in a $25,000 optional and then captured the mile and a sixteenth Blair’s Cove gate to wire. In his last he battled next out winner Empire Knight gamely down the stretch in another $25,000 optional. He worked a strong :59 2/5 in preparation for the Classic and looks to be in fine form.
While A P is Loose looks formidable, there are six other looking to try and stop him from repeating. Minnesota Derby winner Pensador is one. He’ll look to settle in behind the leaders and see if he can unleash a run in the lane to duplicate his Derby win. To do so he’s going to need some help in softening up A P and that could come in the form of Pennant Fever.
While Pennant Fever was no threat to the favorite in the Blair’s Cove, that was over the turf. Prior to that he dispatched a field of state bred allowance runners by seven lengths going a mile. His forte is early speed and pushing the favorite early may be the only road to an upset for him – or anyone else in the field.
Minnesota Festival of Champions Day starts at 12:54 PM. The forecast calls for clear skies, a high of 74 degrees and low humidity – a perfect day for racing.