ESSENTIAL QUALITY might be the horse most people will be watching today in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, but the race with lasting consequences will be run a Del Mar. The winner of the Bing Crosby Stakes is in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
C Z ROCKET (PP:3 ML 5/2) is the pre-race favorite and headlines the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes in Saturday's 10th race on the card. He's won seven of his last nine starts and finished second in the other two. It won't be easy for C Z as the seven-year-old will be facing some younger, potential stars in the making.
The Defending Champ
COLLUSION ILLUSION (PP: 6 ML 4-1) wears the Bing Crosby crown, winning by a nose in 2020. It's the last race he won. He's raced three time since, finishing behind C Z ROCKET twice and CHARLATAN in the other. You can't help but notice jockey leading Flavien Prat getting off COLLUSION ILLUSION to ride DR. SCHIVEL.
DR. SCHIVEL (PP: 8 ML 7/2) looked like he was headed for the Kentucky Derby trail prior to getting dinged up in his Del Mar Futurity win. He spent nine-months in the barn before returning in June. On paper, he won by a neck, but if you watched the race, you know he was pounds the best. He was bumped at the start and blocked until very late in the race and then revved up and went.
BRICKYARD RIDE (PP: 9 ML 9/2) has raced eight times at 6 furlongs, winning five of them wire-to-wire. Getting to the front and trying to outrun everybody is what he knows, and he'll try that again today. The four-year-old has a history of fading when challenged for the lead role. He will be challenged today.
The Live Longshots
VERTICAL THREAT (PP: 2 ML 8-1) hasn't been in a live race since last November when he smoked his way around Mahoning Valley Race Course, popping his best speed figure by a wide margin. Blistering his way to a 7 ½ length win in a non-graded stakes must have taken something out of him as he's been in the barn since. He's three for three at the distance and training well coming into the Bing Crosby.
EIGHT RINGS (PP: 7 ML 10-1) was one of the it two-year-olds going into the 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby. He blasted the competition in two of his three first starts, lost the jockey in the other. He was the second choice in the 2019 Breeders Cup Juvenile in an anticipated matchup with DENNIS' MOMENT. It never materialized and EIGHT RINGS has been beaten badly since winning his third start. If his workouts are any indication, he could be ready to return to his early career form. He bulleted his way through three of his last four training sessions.
How the Bing Crosby Unfolds
There is a lot of early speed here. VERTICAL THREAT, LAW ABIDIN CITIZIN (PP: 4 ML 12-1), QUICK TEMPO (PP: 5 ML 12-1), EIGHT RINGS and BRICKYARD RIDE all have a bunch of 1s across their winning past performance lines. It would not be surprising to see one of them get a little too aggressive and set a hot pace, which could make the race shape perfect for stalkers like C Z ROCKET, DR. SCHIVEL, COLLUSION ILLUSION and possibly SHOOTERS SHOOT (PP: 1 ML 15-1).
The 2021 Bing Crosby should set up nicely for CZ ROCKET and DR. SCHIVEL. We give DR. SCHIVEL the edge because the four-year-old probably hasn't shown us his best yet, meaning he has the most upside potential.