Turn to Paris -- and who wouldn't? -- and it's Arc weekend, with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe itself anchoring a card so powerful that the phenomenal mare Goldikova is relegated to the supporting cast.
Cast your gaze out west and find California racing returning to Santa Anita with a stunning lineup of races including five formal Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events.
But wait! Flick the eyes to Belmont Park and see six "Win and You're In" races -- all on Saturday and headlined by the $750,000, Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup. Tune in there to see the likes of Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, Havre de Grace, Big Drama, Euroears and Cape Blanco. Sunday, Belmont has four more graded events.
Asia? The Group 1 Sprinters Cup is on tap in Japan on Sunday. Down under, Australia anticipates a clutch of graded events, including the Metropolitan Stakes, Spring Champion Stakes, Flight Stakes and Epsom Handicap, all Grade I's on Friday at Randwick, and culminating in the Group I Turnbull Stakes at Flemington Sunday.
Around North America, events that would headline a normal weekend seem almost pedestrian by comparison, among them: Saturday's $750,000, Grade II Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania; the $500,000, Grade II Indiana Derby and $200,000, Grade II Indiana Oaks on Saturday at Hoosier Park; and the Maryland Million Day program for state-breds at Laurel Park.
Scattered throughout the proceedings are 2-year-old races, many with the potential to turn up future champions.
Between this weekend's races and next weekend's doings at Santa Anita, Belmont and Keeneland, many of the Breeders' Cup World Championship races will have their top contenders well tallied.
The key races at Longchamp are sponsored by Qatar and the setpiece is the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe -- always a primary target for middle-distance runners.
The race offers some appealing wagering chances with last year's winner, Workforce, a questionable commodity for the repeat. He has only a single victory since last year's Arc, might be compromised somewhat by firm going and faces the dangerous local favorite, Sarafina. Also expected is the Aidan O'Brien-trained So You Think, which bested Workforce in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. International Group 1 winning filly Snow Fairy is expected to run should trainer Ed Dunlop find the going suited to her taste. Goldikova's younger sister, Galikova, is in the field, too.
The Group 1 Prix de La Foret at 7 furlongs could be a tuneup for Goldikova as she prepares to try for an unprecedented fourth straight win in the Breeders' Cup Mile a month down the road at Churchill Downs. Even getting a horse into the starting stalls for four straight runnings of such a hotly contested race -- much less winning four in a row -- is an almost unfathomable feat but trainer Freddy Head seemed keen on Goldikova's wellbeing early in the week. "I am very happy with her at the moment and the ground looks like it will be on the fast side of good, which will suit her," Head said. She will face eight rivals.
Also on the star-studded card are the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Grand Criterium for 2-year-olds and the Total Prix Marcel Boussac-Criterium des Pouliches for juvenile fillies; the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp at 5 furlongs; and the Prix du Cadran at 2 1/2 miles.
Tizway, the current leader in a topsy-turvy handicap division, will miss Saturday's $750,000, Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup after spiking a fever. Trainer H. James Bond said he plans to work the 6-year-old son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow up to the big race. That leaves a contentious field including the likes of Stay Thirsty and Suburban victor Flat Out. Stay Thirsty, in the shadow of stablemate Uncle Mo early in the year, came on to finish second in the Belmont Stakes, then won the Jim Dandy and the Travers during the Saratoga meet. "He's established himself as the 3-year-old leader," said trainer Todd Pletcher as Stay Thirsty prepares to take on older horses. Also up is 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer. Rodman, who finished second to Tizway in the Met Mile four months ago but has been up and down since, will try the longer distance, according to trainer Mike Hushion. "I'm unsure if he has distance limitations. He might be fine," the conditioner told Daily Racing Form.
Uncle Mo, last year's 2-year-old champ, continues his comeback from a liver ailment against older horses in the $200,000, Grade II Kelso Handicap at 1 mile -- a potential prep for either the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile or the Classic. Jackson Bend also is expected in that field.
Havre de Grace is the likely prohibitive favorite in the $350,000, Grade I Beldame at 9 furlongs on the main course. After finishing second to Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap, the potential Horse of the Year candidate came back to win the Woodward against a classy field of males, including Flat Out.
Defending Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Big Drama is the big attraction in the $350,000, Grade I Vosburgh at 6 furlongs on the dirt. He has major competition from Euroears, which finished second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, then came back with a victory in the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar. Trappe Shot finished second by a nose in the Grade I Alfred Vanderbilt in his last outing.
In the $500,000, Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, look to Cape Blanco, fresh from back-to-back Group 1 victories in the Man o'War and the Arlington Million. But don't overlook any of the other five and especially Winchester, winner of the Grade I Sword Dancer in his last start.
Stacelita, winner of the Grade I Beverly D. in her last start, is among the likely ones in the $500,000, Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational for grass-loving distaffers.
Sunday, Belmont cranks the gradings down a notch but not the quality of the racing. Four stakes cater to juveniles and juvenile fillies, sprinting on the main track and going long on the grass.
Blind Luck is the star attraction on Saturday's card as the potential Horse of the Year candidate will be favorite in the $250,000, Grade I Lady's Secret at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. A half dozen fillies and mares signed up to try her, including Ultra Blend, coming off a win in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, and Ask the Moon, victorious in the Personal Ensign and Ruffian at Saratoga.
The $250,000, Grade I Yellow Ribbon for fillies and mares going 10 furlongs on the grass attracted a field of nine. Dubawi Heights enters off a second in the Grade I Beverly D. and a win before that in the Grade I Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park.
Bob Baffert plans to try Coil against older horses in the $250,000, Grade I Goodwood Stakes on Saturday. Coil defeated Shackleford by a neck in the Haskell but then finished last of 10 in the Travers. Baffert also entered Game On Dude, which finished second in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup in July but then got home fourth in the Grade I Pacific Classic. Acclamation, fresh off Grade I wins in the Eddie Read and Pacific Classic, was entered for the Goodwood but expected to start instead on the grass Sunday.
Two-year-olds will go 1 1/16 miles on the main track in Saturday's $250,000, Grade I Norfolk Stakes and juvenile fillies will tackle the same distance Sunday in the $250,000, Grade I Oak Leaf Stakes.
Also Sunday, the $150,000, Grade II Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship drew a field of eight to try 10 furlongs on the grass, including Acclamation, who was cross-entered against the Goodwood. Trainer Donald Warren worked the 5-year-old son of Unusual Heat on the lawn Thursday.
Shackleford, winner of the Preakness Stakes but a disappointing eighth in the Travers last time out, will be one to watch in Saturday's $500,000, Grade II Indiana Derby. Caleb's Posse, which beat Uncle Mo in the 7-furlong King's Bishop at Saratoga, will be stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.
The $200,000, Grade II Indiana Oaks features the Bob Baffert-trained A Z Warrior, who finished third in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks way back in March, then was sidelined until a fourth-place finish in the Victory Ride at Saratoga a month ago.
It's Pretty and Plum Pretty headline a field of six drawn for Saturday's $750,000, Grade II Cotillion Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. It's Tricky has taken the Acorn and the Coaching Club American Oaks this year while Plum Pretty lists the Kentucky Oaks as her high-water mark. In their last race, the Grade I Alabama at 1 1/4 miles over the Saratoga main track, It's Tricky got home second to Royal Delta and Plum Pretty faded from the lead to finish fourth.
In Saturday's $150,000 Brandywine Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Say a Novena invades from Monmouth off a win and a second in stakes races and a second in the Matron at Belmont earlier in the summer. Flor de Amelia won by 12 at Calder in her last start.
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