UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview
It's a rich weekend on the turf as Australian racing climbs new heights with Saturday's $10 million The Everest, the world's richest grass race, and Woodbine hosts the Canadian International as the gem of a four-stakes Sunday program.
Keeneland contributes the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup and the Jessamine Stakes to the grassy extravaganza.
Charles Town hosts the West Virginia Breeders' Classic series on Saturday, crowned by the $350,000 Classic itself.
And … we have results from Monday's Columbus Day action as well as a late Breeder's Cup "Win and You're In" from Keeneland.
On the international scene, Aidan O'Brien chases Bobby Frankel's single-season Group 1 record in a pair of juvenile events at Newmarket and Japan's filly Triple Crown wraps up with the Shuka Sho.
So, let's get the "sho" on the road:
Breeders' Cup preps:
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Rushing Fall claimed the final Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" spot with a late-running victory in Wednesday's $150,000, Grade III JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland. The More Than Ready filly, trained by Chad Brown and making just her second career start, broke behind most of the field. With Javier Castellano calling the shots, she began picking off rivals on the turn, circled around the leaders and was clear at the finish, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Stainless was second, also with a late run, and Cash Out finished third. Rushing Fall ran 1 1/16 miles on soft turf in 1:46.20. "Extremely impressive but I'm not surprised," Brown said. "She identified herself as special the first time we breezed her on the turf for us. We are lucky to have her."
Fatale Bere and Moon Dash rallied together from well back in Monday' $100,000 Surfer Girl Stakes at Santa Anita with Fatale Bere holding a short lead to the wire. The favorite, Retro, also found her best stride last but settled for third, 1 1/2 lengths farther in arrears. Fatale Bere, a French-bred filly by Pedro the Great, finished the 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.73 for jockey Kent Desormeaux. It was her first U.S. start after a summer campaign that saw her win two of three at minor French tracks.
My Boy Jack rallied around the leaders into the stretch in Monday's $100,000 Zuma Beach Stakes on the Santa Anita turf, got the lead close to the wire and won by 3/4 length over the favorite, Count Alexander. Armour Plate was a long shot third. My Boy Jack, a Creative Cause colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.84 with Kent Desormeaux in the irons. The victory was his first and ended a streak of three straight runner-up finishes, most recently in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf.
A full field plus four also-eligibles signed on for Friday's $100,000 Grade III Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes for fillies and mares. At least a half dozen appear on paper to have a shot in this 5 1/2-furlongs dash, among them Miss Ella, Kasuga, Lull, Morticia, Always Thinking and Nobody's Fault.
Around the ovals:
Sunday's $800,000 Grade I Pattison Canadian International, 12 furlongs on the grass, is a really good race with competitors coming from California, Kentucky, Ireland, France and England.
If trainer Aidan O'Brien hasn't already tied or surpassed Bobby Frankel's record of 25 Grade/Group I winners in a calendar year (see International, below), he can do it with Idaho in this race. The full brother to Highland Reel will have to find a little extra on Sunday, though, as the competition includes Erupt, who won this race last year as Idaho finished fifth. Chemical Charge steps up from Group 3 company in England but trainer Ralph Beckett shows some intent by bringing jockey Oisin Murphy for the ride.
Oscar Nomination and Postulated enter the Canadian after a 1-2 finish in the Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs. Bullards Alley and Enterprising also contested that race. Flamboyant has been close but no cigar in graded races in California all year. Johnny Bear and Messi were first and third in the Grade I Northern Dancer going the course and distance last month.
It's the same deal in Sunday's $500,000, Grade I E.P. Taylor going 10 furlongs on the turf with some excellent European fillies and mares tackling some equally talented local distaffers.
The O'Brien-Ryan Moore combo has Rain Goddess, a 3-year-old Galileo filly who had some issues while finishing a close-up eighth in the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park in her only previous U.S. visit. But she was second behind only the superb Enable in the Irish Oaks before that and has two good efforts back home since the Chicago race. Nezwaah was seventh in last year's E.P. Taylor but beaten only 2 lengths. She won the Grade I Pretty Polly at the Currah in July, with Rain Goddess second. Blond Me has been a tigress at home but has fared poorly when traveling to Italy, Turkey and the United States in past campaigns.
The locals for the E.P. Taylor include Quidura, winner of the Grade II Canadian over the course and distance last month and Rainha Da Bateria, winner of last year's Canadian and, in a dead heat, this season's Grade II Dance Smartly. Sassy Little Lila looks like the speed of the field but will be hard pressed to survive stretch pressure. Kitten's Roar has the credentials to post the upset after winning at Kentucky Downs. And while much of Fourstar Crook's considerable success has come versus fellow New York-breds, the 5-year-old is trained by Chad Brown and did not ship to Woodbine for the exercise.
Sunday's $250,000 Grade II Nearctic Stakes, 6 furlongs on the turf, drew an interesting field of eight. Christophe Clement brings White Flag from New York, where the 3-year-old War Front colt has progressed rapidly through conditions to win the Armed Forces Stakes in his last start. Dowse's Beach visited from Belmont Park in August and finished second in the Grade II Play the King Stakes, caught late while trying 7 furlongs. British-based Cotai Glory has had a few good races for trainer Charlie Hills, most impressively a third behind Marsha and Lady Aurelia in the Group 1 Nunthorpe at Ascot in August. The local contingent arguably is headed by Ikerrin Road, winner of the Grade III Bold Venture in his last start. But that was on the all-weather track, where he has been most effective.
The two lasses entered for Sunday's $125,000 Grade III Ontario Derby also appear to be the class of the field for the 9 furlongs on the all-weather course. Holy Helena, a Ghostzapper filly, stepped up directly from a maiden win to take the Woodbine Oaks and then the Queen's Plate. She fizzled on the Saratoga dirt in the Grade I Alabama, beating only one rival as the favorite but returns to the scene and surface of success. Grizzel, an Irish-bred daughter of Kodiac, is 2-for-2 on the Woodbine all-weather and returns to that surface after three reasonably good tries in graded stakes on the grass. Among the colts and geldings, Tiz a Slam gets back to the surface where he finished second in the Queen's Plate and Gorgeous Kitten is worth a long look if only because the Kitten's Joy colt comes off a good effort, albeit a fifth-place finish, in Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs. Runners from that meeting have been very successful in subsequent outings, at least on grass.
Already in the books: Latonka hit the gate and was away last in Monday's $125,000 (Canadian) Bull Page Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds. But the Signature Red colt, under Gary Boulanger, got to the outside of rivals in the stretch run, passed them all and won by 3/4 length over the odds-on favorite, Be Vewy Vewy Quiet. The early leader, Inge, was third. Latonka ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.56, improving to 2-for-2.
Quidura, picture WEG and Michael Burns Photography
Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, New Money Honey, and Godolphin Racing's Group 1 winner Wuheida top a field of 11 entered for Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies at 9 furlongs on the grass. New Money Honey, also the winner of the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational, returns to the grass after finishing fifth in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga. Wuheida, trained by Charlie Appleby, won the Group 1 Total Prix Marcel Boussac this spring and will try to rebound from a fourth-place finish, beaten only 1/2 length, in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera on Arc day at Chantilly. Other likely ones are Daddys Lil Darling, Dream Dancing and La Coronel.
Already in the books: Blacktype raced just behind the pace made by Hello Don Julio in Monday's $200,000 Grade II Knickerbocker, eased by when asked and ran on to win by 1 length over a fast-closing Muqtaser. Hello Don Julio held third. Blacktype, a 6-year-old French-bred gelding by Dunkerque, trained by Christophe Clement, ran 9 furlongs on the good inner turf course in 1:50.33. He ended a six-race losing streak with a win Sept. 9 at Belmont Park. "He handled the (good turf) really well and he ran a big race," said winning rider Joel Rosario. "Last time he got a win and now he stepped up to a graded stakes. He's a nice horse. I work him in the morning with Christophe and he has a nice gallop."
Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Futurity at Belmont Park has six to sprint the 6 furlongs with Engage, Happy Like a Fool and Mojovation the early favorites. Engage comes off a maiden win at Saratoga. Happy Like a Fool was second in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, then sixth in the Group 2 Lowther at York. Mojovation won at first asking at the Spa but was seventh in the Grade I Hopeful. Don't discount Barry Lee, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity on the all-weather. The long shots are Red Peril and Smooth B.
Nine turned out for Saturday's $200,000 Pebbles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, 1 mile on the turf. The 8-5 morning-line pick is Rubilinda, a Frankel filly who has two wins and a second from three outings. Thais was graded stakes-placed in her native France and finished second at Saratoga in her first U.S. outing.
Sunday's feature is the $150,000 Matron for 2-year-old fillies, 6 furlongs.
The $350,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic headlines a nine-stakes card for state-bred steeds. The Classic drew a full field of 10 plus a trio of also-eligibles. The 9-5 morning-line favorite is last year's runner-up, Charitable Annuity.
Awesome Slate stalked the pace in Monday's $100,000 (Canadian) B.C. Premier's Handicap, rallied to the lead entering the final turn and held off a determined bid by Crazy Prophet for a 1-length victory. Venetian Mask was third. Awesome Slate, a 4-year-old Summer Bird gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on a fast track in 2:18.13 with Richard Hamel riding.
Breakin the Fever tracked pacesetting favorite Foreset through the first furlongs on Monday's $50,000 Leon Reed Memorial for New York-breds, worked to the lead a furlong from home and won by 2 lengths. Saratoga Giro was along for second with Peter's Project third and Foreset fading to finish fourth. Breakin the Fever, a 5-year-old Roaring Fever gelding, finished 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:10.87 with Nazario Alvarado riding.
Just Call Me Ken rallied from mid-pack to take Monday's $50,000 Governor's Cup Stakes for 2-year-olds by 1 3/4 lengths over Bortstein. Touchdown Redskins was third. Just Call Me Ken, a Regal Ransom gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.74 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.
Kram was sent quickly to the lead in Monday's $50,000 Permian Basin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and kept on going, winning by 6 3/4 lengths over Touchdown Trojans. Line of Credit was third. Kram, a Colonel John filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.00 with Roimes Chirinos up.
Saturday's The Everest at Randwick is modeled after the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park -- requiring the purchase of starting spots. In this case, however, the buy-in is for three years and the revenue from that sale helps fund a purse of Aus$10 million.
Sprinting is Australia's game and the Everest is run at 6 furlongs. The field includes Chautauqua, once the world's highest-rated sprinter, who is among the favorites despite two straight defeats. She Will Reign, Redkirk Warrior, Redzel and Vega Magic all are kept safe by the local punters.
The Pegasus proved its worth when the winner, Arrogate, traveled to Dubai for an improbable last-to-first victory in the Dubai World Cup two months later. Chautauqua already has competed in Hong Kong but the international worth of the Everest will hinge on what its participants do -- or at least attempt -- in the coming months.
Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien is two shy of the late Bobby Frankel's record of training 25 Group 1 winners in a single year and he could equal the mark this weekend at Newmarket. O'Brien has the three favorites in Friday's Group 1 bet365 Fillies Mile for 2-year-old fillies, including Happily, a Galileo filly who already has provided two of this year's top-level scores. Should one of those three win the Fillies Mile, O'Brien still would need an upset from one of several potential starters in Saturday's Group 1 Darley Dewhurst, for 2-year-olds.
Sunday's Group 1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto is the third leg of Japan's filly Triple Crown. The winner of the Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks, the Frankel filly Soul Stirring, is not in the field. But the nominees do include but two other Group 1 winners -- NKH Mile Cup winner Aerolithe and Reine Minoru, winner of the Oka Sho or Japanese 1,000 Guineas. Either of them could nail down the 3-year-old Filly of the Year award with a win in the Shuka Sho.