by Jeremy Plonk
June 8, 2020
Each Monday, I’ll select my Most Valuable Pony from the previous week’s racing action around the country. Who won the week? It could be a breakout performer, a known stakes commodity or the horse lifting the most loot. Chime in on Twitter @Xpressbet with your thoughts on who should be each week’s MVP.
June 1-7, 2020
Owner: Phoenix Thoroughbreds III and Three Chimneys Farm
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Performance: There were bigger purses and more prestigious races this past week, but no singular effort could match the 8-length romp by Volatile in the June 6 $100,000 Aristides Stakes. In one of the fastest 6-furlong times in Churchill Downs’ history, this 4-year-old son of Violence stopped the clock in 1:07.57, missing the 2007 track record by just .02. Volatile drew away with each stride in the stretch, defeating a classy field that included Honest Mischief and Bobby’s Wicked One. The final quarter-mile in :23.21 was exceptional after dueling the first half in :44.36. The legacy performer Volatile is a grandson of the Asmussen-trained Grade 1-winning sprinter Lady Tak.
On Tap: A potential sequel to Asmussen’s 2019 champion sprinter Mitole obviously will be aimed toward the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland in November. The path to that one likely heads next to New York as the brief July summer stand at Keeneland does not include any major sprint stakes for the males. Belmont Park has the June 27 Grade 2 $250,000 True North Handicap as a possibility sprinting, while the July 4 Grade 1 $500,000 Metropolitan Mile would certainly be a contender on a mile stretch-out in distance. Mitole took that challenge a year ago with success.
Honorable Mentions: A series of stakes winners June 6 nationally earned plaudits. Honor A.P. vanquished rival Authentic to win the Grade 1 $400,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby for his first stakes win, stamping him perhaps the west’s top Kentucky Derby hopeful. On the fillies side, Swiss Skydiver took her road show to the winner’s circle in the Grade 2 $196,000 Santa Anita Oaks. The well-traveled Kenny McPeek trainee has now captured the Gulfstream Park Oaks, Fantasy at Oaklawn and Santa Anita Oaks in her last 3 starts. The June 6 card at Belmont Park had a deep series of stakes winners, most impressively though was Vekoma in the Grade 1 $250,000 Carter, zipping 7 furlongs in 1:21.02 and drawing off by more than 7 lengths. On the same card, Code of Honor made a rousing 2020 return to the races with a determined score in the Grade 3 $100,000 Westchester over a stubborn foe in Endorsed.