Bodemeister is the favorite over Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another in Saturday's Preakness as action picks up around the world.
The Singapore Airlines International Cup and KrisFlyer Stakes Sunday at Kranji highlight the weekend program overseas. Frankel will put his unbeaten record to the test in the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury Saturday while York's Dante Festival features some well-known names and some top prospects for the Derby and Oaks. The Japanese Oaks runs Sunday in Tokyo.
Pimlico offers a baker's dozen stakes Friday and Saturday supporting the Preakness. Hollywood's weekend card features the newly renamed Marjorie L. Everett Handicap for fillies and mares, honoring the track's former owner. Arlington Park adds to the international flavor with "Japanese Heritage Day" featuring the Hanshin Cup on Saturday.
Here's how the action shakes out:
Bodemeister finished second to I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby but that didn't stop Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli from making Bodemeister the favorite for Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Preakness Stakes -- the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Bodemeister drew gate No. 7 and was made the 8-5 favorite and I'll Have Another, at 5-2, got No. 9 at Wednesday's draw. Both trainers were happy.
"I think it's a good post," said Bodemeister's conditioner, Bob Baffert. "With him, anything in the middle would have been fine. In the Preakness you just don't want to be stuck down on the inside, where you have to use your horse a little bit. The Derby winner drew well also. Everybody is in a good post."
Doug O'Neill, who handles I'll Have Another, added: "I thought the draw was really good. I'm very happy with that. Being outside of the legitimate speed, most jockeys would be real happy with that. We're okay with that."
O'Neill said he expects Mike Smith, on Bodemeister, to control the pace but, if, "for whatever reason if he breaks slow or decides not to go, we'll take the lead and take it from there."
A field of 11 was drawn for the 1 3/16-miles test. Went the Day Well and Creative Cause drew posts 6 and 7 respectively, and each was listed at 6-1 on the morning line. The seven others were set at double-digit odds.
Heavy rain pelted Kranji Racecourse Thursday during trackwork hours for the foreign contingent for Sunday's Singapore Airlines International Cup and KrisFlyer Sprint, Singapore's signature, Group 1 events.
A field of nine was entered later Thursday for the 6-furlong KrisFlyer Sprint but the anticipated rematch between locally based star Rocket Man and Krypton Factor, the horse who beat him in March in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, fizzled when Rocket Man was withdrawn with a minor injury. Additionally, Krypton Factor's training schedule was thrown off when he tossed a shoe Wednesday, forcing his final workout to be moved from Thursday to Friday. "I normally give my horses a final hitout four to five days before the race," said trainer Fawzi Nass. "It'll now be two days from race day. But he's a tough horse and it should not be a problem."
Thirteen horses, heavy on those that recently campaigned in Dubai and Hong Kong, comprise the field for the 10-furlong Cup. California Memory got gate No. 6 and trainer Tony Cruz said he hopes a rider switch to Felix Coetzee will lead to an improvement on his steed's 12th place finish in the Dubai Duty Free and fifth in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup in Hong Kong.
Zazu, fifth in this year's Dubai World Cup, will start from the No. 2 spot for the Cup. Veteran Hong Kong competitor Thumbs Up got gate No. 11, just outside Godolphin's City Style, who comes off a third-place showing in the Dubai Duty Free. French-based Chinchon, winner of the Prix Exbury two starts back, will start in the middle at gate 7.
Frankel is set to return to action Saturday at Newbury in the JLT Lockinge Stakes and trainer Henry Cecil is expected to add Bullet Train to the mix to ensure a pace for his star. If he is at his best off a long layoff, Frankel won't need the help. But, if not, he might welcome it as Aidan O'Brien has confirmed Excelebration will join the Lockinge field. Excelebration comes off a victory in the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh last month and hopes take advantage of the recent sharpener to better his three losses to Frankel last season. O'Brien admitted it's a tall order. "If you know his Achilles Heel, I wish you'd let me know," he said. O'Brien also has entered So You Think but said he is more likely to run at the Curragh in the Tattersall Gold Cup in a week's time.
York's Dante Festival runs through Friday, starting with candidates for the Epsom Derby and Oaks and culminating in the Group 2 Sportingbet Yorkshire Cup. Two-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory is entered for that 2,800-meters contest.
A full field of 18 is set for Sunday's Group 1 Yushun Himba -- or Japanese Oaks -- at Tokyo Racecourse. Atop the list is Gentildonna, a Deep Impact filly who accounted for the Oka Sho -- the first leg of the Japanese Filly Triple Crown -- in her last outing. The question will be if she can handle the addition of 800 meters to the Oaks distance of 2,400 meters. Only six fillies have won both races since 1984, when the current configuration was established. The uncertainty of the added distance muddles the picture, especially with the large field.
Friday's card includes seven stakes, featuring the $300,000, Grade II Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies going 9 furlongs, and the $300,000, Grade III Pimlico Special at 1 3/16 miles for 3-year-olds and up. In the latter, the morning-line odds favor Alternation, Mission Impazible and Hymn Book. But it's a contentious field with Toby's Corner and Nehro also likely to make their presence felt. Baffert's Mama Kimbo headlines a nine-filly field in the Black-Eyed Susan. She is undefeated in two starts, the latest in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Todd Pletcher will saddle both Disposablepleasure and In Lingerie.
Saturday's second feature at Old Hilltop is the $300,000, Grade II Dixie Stakes at 9 furlongs on the grass. Casino Host and Smart Bid are the highweights in a field of 11.
The ever-present Baffert sends out Ellafitz in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Marjorie L. Everett Handicap, trying to regain the form that found her in the winner's circle three straight times before a fourth-place finish in the Santa Margarita two months ago. The winner, of that race, Include Me Out, also is included in this field. Zazu returns from a nine-month layoff after seven straight in-the-money finishes.
Lonesome Street, winner of the Grade II Commonwealth at Keeneland in April, headlines a field of 10 for Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Hanshin Cup, the first stakes event of the Chicago-area track's summer season, which puts a renewed emphasis on international racing.