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A Very Busy Weekend

It’s a big sports weekend all around – the Virginia Derby, the Del Cap and, of course, the Gold Cup. Granted, some racing fans may be wondering what the Gold Cup is, but if you feel it necessary to avoid soccer talk, you can simply skip the today’s final paragraphs.

I have long maintained that it would be nice if people paid attention to the Grand Slam of Grass (for the uninitiated, that’s the Colonial Turf Cup, the Virginia Derby, the Secretariat Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Turf), but even in the racing community it’s often overlooked. I would suggest that one of the reasons for that is that it’s a lot to expect an American 3-year-old to beat older European horses in the Breeders’ Cup on top of winning three other races, but on the whole I like the idea of a turf race series and would like to see it further developed. It should be noted that the series and the $5 million bonus was news even to one of the trainers – so perhaps some better marketing is called for.

This weekend’s leg, the Virginia Derby, will likely get a little more notice than usual thanks to the participation of Nicanor. While he does seem to be coming along nicely as a turf runner, he’s still best known only as Barbaro’s brother – it’s a bit of a stretch to see him as the favorite over a field that includes Colonial Turf Cup winner Battle of Hastings and synthetic specialist Hold Me Back giving the grass a go. Affirmatif could also be a strong factor in the race – but as mentioned above, it’s nice to see a quality turf race for 3-year-olds simply getting some coverage – and it’s a nice spot to see how Nicanor shapes up against his peers.

Unbridled Belle (pictured) is looking to regain her Del Cap crown on Sunday but it will be no easy task with Acoma in the field. No doubt the connections of all the entrants are happy they are not facing Rachel Alexandra, who is already scaring off colts in the Haskell (Big Drama and Papa Clem are both avoiding her) – that leave the $1 million Del Cap purse more realistically up for grabs. I’m not usually a fan of excuses, but Todd Pletcher is correct in his assessment of Unbridled Belle’s poor performance in last year’s installment when she was attempting to win back-to-back Del Caps – she was fussy in the paddock and looked very washed-out by the time she got to the starting gate. This time around I imagine she will fare better, but I also like Livin Lovin and Morena as longshots.

I’m sorry I won’t be attending this year’s Del Cap in person, but I may need some recovery time after Saturday’s Gold Cup – we’ve got a Sons of Ben tailgate and then the two games to get through; for me, that’s a lot of sunlight. I will be the odd one out not wearing red – but my only official US Soccer shirt is navy blue, sorry! When they make more women’s tops in red, I’ll be happy to purchase one – the Sounders make a great women’s jersey, the national team and other MLS teams should follow suit.

But I digress – the US will be facing off against Panama in the quarterfinals just after Canada loses to Honduras. Since I don’t do the American sort of football, this will be my first trip to Lincoln Financial Field – I hope they are as forward-thinking as their baseball stadium counterpart is regarding the reasonable availability of craft beer (although we’ll no doubt have had plenty at the tailgate – we’ll have a lot of Victory, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Stoudts, Flying Fish and Yards options on tap). If you’ve never seen the US national team play and you happen to be in Philly, do come along – it may be an exciting new experience for you to feel outnumbered by the opposing team’s fans at a home game, but we American soccer fans get to do that all the time!

I’ll be following Saturday’s races from the stadium and probably tweeting unadvisedly throughout the day using #usmnt – feel free to follow along!

Update: Nicanor is scratched – perhaps next time!

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