Older horses will be at center stage when nearly 40 major stakes are offered during the Fourth of July weekend at tracks on both East and West coasts.
The headliners are a pair of Maryland-breds, Cigar and Concern, who meet for the third time this year in the $1 million Hollywood Gold Cup tomorrow in California.
Cigar, who defeated Concern in both the Oaklawn Handicap and Pimlico Special, will be the high weight at 126 pounds and might face his stiffest career challenge. He drew the 1-post in an eight-horse field and isn't expected to get an easy lead, as he did a couple of months ago at Pimlico.
Urgent Request and Del Mar Dennis are bona fide speed horses and are expected to set a quick early pace.
Concern, who won the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park a month ago, is given an excellent chance to upset. He will carry 123 pounds and is now racing closer to the pace; in previous races, he lagged far behind early and then was faced with too much to do in the stretch.
The richest race nationwide today will be the $200,000 Baltimore Budweiser Breeders' Cup at Laurel Park. But the older division on the East Coast is spread thin because of the rich Hollywood race and Tuesday's $350,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.
Seven horses are entered at Laurel today, but one of them, Siberian Summer, will be scratched, his trainer, Gary Sciacca, said last night.
Siberian Summer will stay in New York and run in the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont.
That leaves a six-horse field at Laurel, neatly divided into two groups: three Maryland horses -- Ameri Valay, Mary's Buckaroo and Rugged Bugger -- against three shippers from Monmouth Park -- Always Silver, Poor But Honest and Meadow Flight.
Ameri Valay will carry from seven to 11 more pounds than the opposition, but is still regarded as the heavy favorite, although he has seldom put together back-to-back wins. He comes off a 4 1/4 -length win at Laurel two weeks ago in the Walter Haight Handicap.
Nationwide, 3-year-olds are featured tomorrow in the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park and the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park and on Monday in the Arlington Classic at Arlington International Racecourse.
Maryland-based Da Hoss, headquartered at Fair Hill Training Center with Michael Dickinson, was entered in both the Affirmed and Arlington Classic, but has been scratched from both. His primary objective was the Arlington race.
Mucus, which forced him to be scratched from the Ohio Derby a couple of weeks ago, showed up again yesterday.