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Most Valuable Pony (July 20-26): Shirl’s Speight

by Jeremy Plonk

July 27, 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.

July 20-26, 2020

MVP: Shirl’s Speight

Owner: Charles Fipke

Trainer: Roger Attfield

Jockey: Rafael Hernandez

Performance: One of North America’s most exciting, rising 3-year-olds made a successful stakes splash July 25 at Woodbine in the Grade 3 Marine Stakes. The rousing, 8-length July 4 debut winner Shirl’s Speight successfully transitioned from turf to Tapeta in the Marine, and drew away to a 2-3/4 length victory in his first try around 2 turns. Among those in his wake was Grade 3 Gotham Stakes runner-up Untitled. Shirl’s Speight ran 1-1/16 miles about 8-9 lengths faster than 3-year-old fillies in the same-day Grade 3 Selene Stakes.

On Tap: Canada’s series for sophomores skews heavily to Ontario-sired runners, so travel almost seems assured for Shirl’s Speight unless they want to keep him on turf. The son of Breeders’ Cup sprint winner Speightstown and Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Perfect Shirl would seem to have all surface options available. The Sept. 19 Grade 1 Woodbine Mile against elders would be a wildly ambitious spot, as would a run at the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 (he’s nominated, and there’s a chance points won’t matter if 20 horses do not enter). The American Turf or the Pat Day Mile on the Derby Day undercard might be safer stepping stones. The Preakness on Oct. 3 could be a goal with a chance to race once prior either on turf or dirt. Other grass possibilities include the Grade 3 Saranac on Aug. 29 at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Virginia Derby on Sept. 1 at Colonial Downs.

Honorable Mentions: This was not an easy cast to top this week. Starship Jubilee continued her roll as a win machine, now 4-for-4 on the year, in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga on July 25, thwarting the season return of champion turf mare Sistercharlie in the process. Volatile continued to emerge as one of America’s leading Sprint division players in the July 25 Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga. He outran a short lineup that included Whitmore while adding his second lifetime stakes score. Maximum Security returned to the races under the care of Bob Baffert for the first time in posting a photo-finish score over Midcourt in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, Del Mar’s July 25 prep for next month’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Also at Del Mar, United improved to 3-for-3 on the year in winning the July 26 Grade 2 Eddie Read as he marches back toward the Breeders’ Cup Turf. And finally, Pink Lloyd posted his 24th win in 30 starts with his July 23 score in Woodbine’s $100,000 Shepperton Stakes. Canada’s Horse of the Year and sprint legend has now won 8 of his last 9 starts and is 2-for-2 at age 8.