Weather is scrambling the late-summer, early autumn U.S. racing schedule with Kentucky Downs running some of last weekend's races midweek and Laurel Park rescheduling this weekend's turf stakes for later in the month.
Hoping to dodge weather problems, Woodbine hosts one of its two great weekends of turf racing and Churchill Downs and Woodbine both have Breeders' Cup qualifiers for 2-year-olds and 2-year-old fillies.
It's a huge weekend in France, England and Ireland, too. Saturday's cards include the St Leger at Doncaster and a really juicy renewal of Irish Champion and Matron Stakes at Leopardstown -- Group 1 events, all. Sunday it's four top-level races at the Curragh -- the Irish St Leger, the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five, the Moyglare Stud and the National. Breeders' Cup spots are on the line.
Across the Channel (or two channels if starting from Ireland), Sunday is trials day at Longchamp for the Oct. 7 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe program. Five stakes, including the Group 1 Prix Vermeille, will help sort things out.
Things are heating up in Australia, too. Winx is out for No. 27 in a row.
Here's a brief look at how it shakes out:
With Hurricane Florence churning toward landfall, it's hard to look past Stormy Atlantic in Saturday's $800,000 (Canadian) Grade I Ricoh Woodbine Mile, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In". Pronounced in good form by trainer Ed Walker, Stormy Atlantic already boasts a Group 2 win in the Badener Mile at Baden-Baden on May 31, a second behind Benbatl in the Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr in Munich on July 29 and most recently a third in the Group 2 Ladbrokes Celebration Mile at Goodwood.
The prospective field of eight includes fellow British raider Lord Glitters, plus the likes of La Sardane, Delta Prince, Divisidero and Good Samaritan.
Channel Cat surged to the lead down the hill into the turn in Wednesday's $400,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby then gamely held off a determined bid by Cullum Road, defeating that rival by a head. It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to Captivating Moon in third. Channel Cat, an English Channel colt, ran 1 5/16 miles on good turf in 2:15.51 for Luis Saez. Earlier, the Todd Pletcher trainee had finished third once and fourth three times in graded stakes.
Hawkbill and Mekhtaal head a field of 10 for Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) Grade I Northern Dancer Turf at Woodbine. Hawkbill, winner of the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March, was second in this last year and most recently fourth in the Group 1 Coral Eclipse. Mekhtaal comes off a second over the course.
Angaston rallied to the lead in the stretch in Thursday's $300,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-olds at Kentucky Downs and held off a late bid by Majestic Dunhill, winning by a neck. Shangroyal, the early leader, finished third. Angaston, a Denman colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf 1:17.45 with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons. A consistent money-earner, the score was Angaston's biggest by far for trainer Lon Wiggins and Twin Magnolia Farm.
Filly & Mare Turf
Osare led throughout Wednesday's $300,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs, found plenty left in the long stretch run and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Princess Warrior and Sippin Kitten both rallied from well back to finish second and third. Osare, a Medaglia d'Oro filly trained by Jonathan Thomas, ran 1 5/16 miles on good turf in 2:15.06 with Jose Ortiz up.
Tricky Escape led early in Thursday's $400,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes at Kentucky Downs, surrendered the lead midway through and used a late run to escape with a head victory over the favorite, Mom's On Strike. Res Ipsa was third. Tricky Escape, a 5-year-old Hat Trick mare, ran 1 5/16 miles on firm turf in 2:13.40 for jockey Chris De Carlo.
Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Sands Point for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park drew a well-balanced field of eight.
Inflexibility and New Money Honey headline a field of eight in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade II Canadian at Woodbine.
Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs is not only a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" but also the first in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series. It's only 7 1/2 months until Derby Day. Watch and learn.
Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In".
Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Pocahontas at Churchill Downs is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In.
Saturday's $100,000 Barrett's Debutante for California-breds at Los Alamitos might throw up a prospect or two.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade I Natalma at Woodbine is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In".
Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Locust Grove at Churchill Downs features here. Blue Prize is the morning-line.
Pink Lloyd is the headliner in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Bold Venture at Woodbine. He now has two straight wins since his long stakes winning streak was snapped.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Saturday's $100,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs has a field of seven with Vertical Oak, Astrollinthepark and Miss Kentucky among the favorites.
The deal here is Sunday's $200,000 Presque Isle Mile on the all-weather track.
Saturday's Group 1 Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown previews as another showdown among a remarkable class of 3-year-olds with some older supporting actors. Roaring Lion looks to make it three straight after taking the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse and the Group 1 Juddmonte International. Saxon Warrior, the 2000 Guineas winner but second in the Coral-Eclipse and fourth in the Juddmonte, will try again. The main question mark is French Derby winner Study of Man, who disappointed in a prep race Aug. 15 at Deauville. In addition to Saxon Warrior, O'Brien has loaded up the entry box with Rhododendron, Athena and Deauville.
If the Irish Champion isn't enough to whet the appetite, look at the Group 1 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron on the same program. There we find Alpha Centauri, the Mastercraftsman filly who has swept all before her since winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas, sweeping the Coronation Stakes at Ascot, the Falmouth at Newmarket and the Jacques le Marois at Deauville, Group 1's all. O'Brien has Clemmie, plus Happily and Magical. Laurens won a pair of Group 1 races in France but was well beaten in the Yorkshire Oaks.
Saturday's Matron, Irish Champion Stakes and KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes are all Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races. Suedois, fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, is on the undercard.
On Sunday, the action moves to the Curragh where the Big News for the Group 1 Irish St Leger is that Order of St George will not be there. Trainer Aidan O'Brien announced earlier in the week the multiple Group 1-winning stayer has been retired. In addition to his victories in the 2016 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and this race last year, he was third and fourth in the last two runnings of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. O'Brien said there's nothing wrong with the entire 6-year-old son of Galileo but rather the inevitable march of time.
O'Brien holds seven of the 10 remaining entries for the Irish St Leger, including Idaho, a full brother to Highland Reel. With that one and now Order of St George retired, O'Brien would like nothing more than for Idaho to step up into their big hoofprints -- a task he has yet to accomplish.
Sunday's Derrinstown Stud Flying Five and the Moyglare Stakes for 2-year-old fillies are "free pass" races for the Breeders' Cup. O'Brien has entered St Patrick's Day, a full brother to American Pharoah, in the Flying Five but he will need a magnificent turnaround to figure -- if he actually runs.
Entries from O'Brien, John Gosden and Charlie Appleby have drawn the most attention afore Saturday's Doncaster St Leger. What a surprise. O'Brien holds several entries here, too, with Kew Gardens among the better fancied. The 3-year-old Galileo colt won the Queen's Vase at 1 3/4 miles during Royal Ascot, followed with a win in the Grand Prix de Paris at 1 1/2 miles and would leapfrog Idaho among the Coolmore stayers with a win here. Gosden fields Lah Ti Dar, a 3-year-old by Dubawi who makes just his fourth career start. He's undefeated and obviously talented but tackles unknown territory. Appleby's pair for Godolphin is Old Persian and Loxley. The former comes off a win in the Great Voltigeur at York. The latter, a win in the Grand Prix de Deauville. Oddly, both Lah Ti Dar and Old Persian are by Dubawi, out of Singspiel mares. Don't overlook Dee Ex Bee, the runner-up in the Investec Derby.
Winx is entered to seek her 27th straight win in the Group 1 Colgate Optic White Stakes Saturday at Randwick. Who Shot the Barman and Le Romain are among the seven opponents but unless something goes awry, the 1 mile doesn't look like a tough assignment for the super mare. Hugh Bowman will have his usual seat, starting from gate No. 3.
Saturday's Group 1 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes -- 1 mile at Flemington -- features the likes of Happy Clapper, Black Heart Bart, Humidor and Tosen Basil. One to watch for the bigger tickets as spring starts to bloom Down Under.