It's all about Australia this week in Thoroughbred racing.
On track, Black Caviar will try to stretch her undefeated record to 15 in Saturday's $300,000 (U.S. dollars) Schweppes Stakes on the Cox Plate undercard at Moonee Valley.
And, on the horizon, former Australian superstar and recent U.K. sensation So You Think is reported to be headed for a try at the Breeders' Cup Classic two weeks down the road at Churchill Downs.
Meanwhile, there are a few items of note on the U.S. agenda, including state-bred festivals at Belmont Park, Hawthorne Race Course and Hoosier Park.
Black Caviar unquestionably takes the weekend's star billing as the 5-year-old Bel Esprit mare meets just four rivals in the 6-furlong Schweppes. The heavy, odds-on favorite opened her season with an easy, 4 1/4-lengths win Oct. 8 and wouldn't seem to have much standing between her and her 15th straight win. Scenic Blast, returning from an unsuccessful California campaign, could be the top challenge.
So far an exclusively Australian commodity, Black Caviar's connections have discussed an outing to Royal Ascot in the spring, should she remain undefeated. Nothing in between -- not Breeders' Cup, Japan or Hong Kong -- seems to tempt them to test their highly rated mare against the rest of the world.
The Cox Plate itself features 15 runners, most prominently Helmet and Jimmy Choux. Helmet, a 3-year-old, Australian-bred son of Exceed and Excel, took the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas Oct. 8 while Jimmy Choux, a 4-year-old New Zealand-bred Thorn Park colt, comes off two Group 1 wins in New Zealand. The Cox Plate is a prep for the Nov. 1 Melbourne Cup.
And speaking of the Cox Plate, a two-time winner of that event, So You Think, appears headed to Louisville off his recent narrow loss to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.
"He could have won three Cox Plates but we wanted to take on the world," co-owner Dato Tan Chin Nam was quoted as saying in sportinglife.com. "He has showcased Australian racing to the world and showed that we can match them. It has taken two course records to beat him (in his last two starts). I hope he can go better in America."
The 5-year-old, New Zealand-bred son of High Chaparral has won four times this year and finished fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe before his 3/4-length defeat at Ascot.
In other action overseas, the British flat racing season winds up with the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy Stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday at Doncaster. Camelot, from Aidan O'Brien's ever-powerful stable, is heavily favored off a maiden win and already well fancied for next year's Epsom Derby. Also, the Group 1 Premio Lydia Tesio for fillies and mares runs Sunday in Rome.
The $200,000 Empire Classic at 9 furlongs tops seven races for New York-breds on Saturday's card at Belmont Park, not just because of the purse but also because it features Haynesfield. The 5-year-old has seen only limited action this year because of foot problems and has not raced since finishing fifth in the Grade I Met Mile in May.
Now, said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, "I feel very good about him. His feet have kind of come together a little bit so we're looking good there."
Haynesfield, when right, is very good -- good enough to have beaten Blame in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last season.
Hawthorne has seven races Saturday for Illinois-bred runners, each worth $125,000 this year. Sunday, Hoosier Park runs a quartet of events for Indiana-breds with $84,000 added in each pot.
The only graded stakes events on the U.S. schedule are at Keeneland -- Friday's $150,000, Grade III Pin Oak Valley View for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the grass and Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Lexus Raven Run for 3-year-old fillies on the all-weather track.
Delta Downs gears up for its rich, slots-fueled 2-year-old showdowns with Saturday's $200,000, 1-mile Jean Lafitte Stakes and the juvenile fillies-only $150,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes at 7 furlongs.