The Triple Crown contenders already are starting to resurface as the second phase of the racing year kicks into high gear.
Only three weeks after the Belmont Stakes, 3-year-old races in New York and Iowa will offer runners who featured prominently for this year's Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Hansen, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award winner, is set to make his first start since a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. Hansen had never been worse than second in six starts before the 1 1/4 mile distance caught up to him. The 1 1/16 mile of the Iowa Derby should be more to his liking.
Only four signed up in anticipation of Hansen's arrival, including two from trainer Gennadi Dorochenko: Hero of Order, winner of the Louisiana Derby at 107-1 odds but a disappointment since then, and Macho Bull, third in his only start at Prairie Meadows, which was sandwiched by less-than-auspicious efforts at Golden Gate and Arlington. Alsvid, who has won two straight local stakes, will carry the home-team banner. Truetap, second behind Alsvid in his last start, completes the field.
Seven 3-year-olds are entered for Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Dwyer at Belmont Park, including several who competed on the Triple Crown trail.
Teeth of the Dog finished fifth in the Preakness and third in the Wood Memorial and returned to win the $100,000 Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Trainer Michael Matz said he sees the Dwyer as the start of bigger things for the Bluegrass Cat colt. "If he runs well in this, we'd probably look at a race like the Jim Dandy" on July 28 at Saratoga, he said. "But we'd keep our options open."
Also in the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer are Zetterholm, who finished fourth in the Preakness; Unstoppable You, who was sixth in the Belmont; Morgan's Guerrilla, runner-up in the Grade III Illinois Derby at Hawthorne this spring; and Guyana Star Dweej, who beat none of his 10 rivals in the Belmont.
Older horses will be going 9 furlongs in the $300,000, Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap on Saturday. Six were entered with Successful Dan the morning-line favorite. Successful Dan has been successful this year to the tune of two wins from three starts with the Grade II Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs among the victories. He finished first in the Grade I Clark Handicap last fall, also at Churchill, but was disqualified to third.
Headache won the Cornhusker last year and is back for another try. He also accounted for last fall's Hawthorne Gold Cup. Fort Larned was going well early this year but finished eighth in the Stephen Foster under the Twin Spires in his last outing.
The Cornhusker is one of several Midwestern stakes the great Black Tie Affair won in 1991 en route to his Breeders' Cup Classic triumph.
Elsewhere around the world's race tracks:
Weekend competition includes Group 1 events for 3-year-olds in three countries: The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh, expected to feature rising star Camelot against a short field; the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly, with Caspar Netscher perhaps prepping for a showdown later this summer vs. Frankel; and the IDEE Deutsches Derby at Hamburg.
Filly and Mare Turf
The question at Belmont Park on Saturday is: Which vintage of European import will prove superior? This year's or last? The old is represented by Aruna, who had two wins and two seconds from five starts last year after coming to the United States. The new is Banimpire, making her first start after a Euro campaign that included five group stakes wins. Trainer Graham Motion said he is confident Aruna will be ready after her win in the Sheepshead Bay on May 26. The two events, he said, are "are similar races, but the New York will be more akin to a Grade I in terms of the caliber of the horses who will be competing in it," Motion said. Banimpire, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor, finished second by a nose in last year's Group 1 Irish Oaks in addition to her five group wins. Martin Schwartz purchased the filly at auction after the Curragh race for more than $3 million. The second- and third-place horses from the Sheepshead Bay, Hit It Rich and Principal Role, also are back for more in a field of seven scheduled starters.
Ruthenia, Unbridled Humor, Heavenly Landing and Pinch Pie also are looking for a breakthrough performance in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park. The 1 1/16-miles event drew a field of 10 and should be ultracompetitive.
A very competitive field of eight will contest Saturday's $300,000 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park -- a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race. Little Mike has won five of his last six, including the Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He is 6-for-8 at 1 mile on the grass. Mr. Commons was second in the American Handicap over the Hollywood Park lawn in his last start and second in the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita before that. Jeranimo, Corporate Jungle and Liberian Freighter have credentials. Ron McAnally will saddle Argentine import Suggestive Boy for his first U.S. start.
Turalure showed every promise last summer of hitting the heights in this division, winning the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga and the Woodbine Mile before settling for second in the Breeders' Cup. He also was second in his seasonal debut at Keeneland but then got home seventh as the favorite in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day in Louisville. The 5-year-old Wando horse will try to rebound in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Firecracker Handicap under the Twin Spires, facing the likes of Guys Reward and Seruni in a field of six.
Filly & Mare Sprint
C C's Pal has hit the board in each of her last eight starts and is the assigned highweight in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Bed o' Roses Handicap for fillies and mares going 7 furlongs at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old daughter of Alex's Pal won the Grade II Vagrancy at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track in her last outing. Island Bound comes off a win in the Grade III Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs. Five others will be looking to improve.
Smiling Tiger will be looking for a repeat win in Saturday's $250,000, Grade I Triple Bend Handicap at 7 furlongs on the Hollywood Park all-weather track. The 5-year-old son of Hold that Tiger has not won in five intervening starts. Bob Baffert will send out The Factor for the first time since his sixth-place finish in the Dubai Golden Shaheen March 31 at Meydan. Comma To The Top, winner of the 2010 Cash Call Futurity over the Hollywood oval, and Tres Borrachos also are in the nine-horse field.
Rothko is the even-money morning-line favorite among seven entered for the $125,000 Iowa Sprint off his last-out win in the Grade III Aristides at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old Arch colt has won half his eight starts and finished second in the Grade I Malibu at Santa Anita last Boxing Day. Other recognizable names in this heat are Capt. Bullet Bob and Noble's Promise -- the latter the winner of last year's Aristides.
With Hansen opting for Iowa, Saturday night's $400,000 Red Legend Stakes at Charles Town is left with nine likely starters and Il Villano as the morning-line choice. Il Villano finished second in the Grade II Hutcheson early this year at Gulfstream Park and most recently was second again in the Grade II Woody Stephens at Belmont Park.
Ice Cream Silence is the early favorite in a field of six for Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows. The Street Sense filly has won three straight for trainer Rusty Arnold, including the Street Sense at Churchill Downs May 26. Uptown Bertie has been competitive in all nine of her starts but has won only twice and is making her stakes debut.
Also Friday at Prairie Meadows, Sterling Madame and Another World are favored in a seven-horse field for the $100,000, 1 1/16-mile Iowa Distaff. And female sprinters will tackle 6 furlongs in the $100,000 Saylorville with eight set to go.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Ariana D will hope to improve on two straight thirds as the highweight in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park. Seven fillies and mares are slated to go in the 7-furlong test on the all-weather surface. Ariana D was third most recently in the Grade III Arlington Matron a month ago with a rough trip at 9 furlongs -- beyond her best distance. Kitty in a Tizzy shows up from the East Coast to participate in this one.
It's always fun speculating on the 2-year-olds and this year will be no different. Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs highlights the weekend activity for juveniles with Circle Unbroken seeking to keep his undefeated status unbroken in his second career start. The Broken Vow colt's trainer, Garry Simms, saddled Blueeyesintherein to a victory in last Saturday's Grade III Debutante for 2-year-old fillies and Simms would be only the fifth trainer to win both races in the same year should Circle Unbroken get home first. Steve Asmussen sends Special Jo, who also won at first asking May 25. Several others in the field of eight also come off maiden wins.
Louisiana Downs "Louisiana Legends" program Saturday includes seven $100,000 events for state-bred horses.
Charles Town supports the Red Legend with five other states including the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful at 7 furlongs.
Woodbine's weekend highlights are the $150,000 (Canadian) Clarendon Stakes for 2-year-old Ontario foals on Saturday and Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Bison City Stakes for 3-year-old, Canadian-bred fillies.