Attention older horses with aspirations to the big Breeders' Cup races: This is a weekend to make your mark.
Early preps for the Classic include a pair of top events on Saturday -- the Suburban at Belmont Park and Hollywood Gold Cup out west. The Ohio Derby is 1 1/16 mile on Saturday at Thistledown.
Speed demons are featured Saturday in Calder's "Summit of Speed," with events from 5 furlongs to 7 1/2 furlongs, on both dirt and grass. Arlington Park has the grassy, 5 1/2-furlong Arlington Sprint, also on Saturday.
Going longer on the lawn? Atop that list is the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth on Saturday at 11 furlongs. Fillies and mares tackle 9 furlongs on the turf Sunday in the Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine.
There's a bounty of 1-mile grass races that started with Wednesday's Poker Handicap at Belmont and Monmouth's Red Bank as well as Tuesday's Penny Memorial at Parx Racing. Fillies go the grassy mile Saturday in Hollywood's Royal Heroine Mile and Woodbine's Ontario Damsel with the latter restricted to Ontario-bred 3-year-olds.
On the international front, Saturday's Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown remains a top event despite the disappointing withdrawal and slightly premature retirement of So You Think.
Let's have a closer look, starting where there's already action to report, shall we?
Clear Attempt got to the lead in the lane in Wednesday's $150,000, Grade III Poker Handicap at Belmont Park and the favorite, Compliance Officer, could only draft along in his wake, finishing second, 1 3/4 lengths back. Yield Bogey was third. Clear Attempt, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy colt, got the 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.01 with Jose Lezcano riding. Leanna Williford, assistant to winning trainer Bill Mott, said, "Bill just takes his time. He's marinating them. We've always liked this horse. He's been one we aspired to win a stakes with."
Get Serious got involved in a serious battle with El Commodore in Wednesday's $100,000, Grade III Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park, traded the lead in the lane and eventually came back to win by 1/2 length. Queen'splatekitten was third. Get Serious, an 8-year-old City Zip gelding, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.63 with Pablo Fragoso in the irons. Get Serious also won the Red Bank in 2009 and 2010. It was omitted from the schedule last year. Winning trainer John Forbes said he was concerned when Get Serious was getting pushed a little for most of the way. But he's as game as they get. As he's gotten older, he's learned to relax more when there's a horse on his flank."
Tuesday's $250,000, Grade III Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap at Parx Racing was for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles but it still fits here. Gitchee Goomie was in from New York to win by 1/2 length, outfinishing Hessonite. Julie's Love finished third. Gitchee Goomie, a 5-year-old City Zip mare, got home in 1:41.23 with Alan Garcia up for trainer Richard Violette Jr. Gitchee Goomie has been quite the meal ticket, missing the trifecta only twice in 19 lifetime starts while earning nearly $650,000.
Yet to come is Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Royal Heroine Mile for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park. Eight are entered there. All Star Heart has won three straight for trainer Ron McAnally. Quiet Oasis has been running well in graded stakes company.
Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup features Game On Dude and Richard's Kid, both trained by Bob Baffert, both veterans of Dubai and both stakes winners in their last outing. Game on Dude took the Grade II Californian On June 2 by 7 1/4 lengths while Richard's Kid, who has had more downs than ups in the past few years, comes off a win in the June 8 Prove It Stakes. The rest of the 7-horse field for the 10-furlong event is tough, too, as befits a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race. Owner/trainer Myung Kwon Cho sends his 4-year-old filly Love Theway Youare against the boys off a victory in the Grade I Vanity on three weeks' rest. Kettle Corn, second in the Californian, is back hoping for a few more kernels.
Across the continent, To Honor and Serve is the heighweight in Saturday's $350,000, Grade II Suburban Handicap at 9 furlongs. He will stretch out after three straight efforts at 1 mile, including a third-place showing last time out in the Met Mile. Mike Repole has entered both Caixa Eletronica and Stay Thirsty. Endorsement, Trickmeister, Hymn Book and Mucho Macho Man all have strong claims.
Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Ohio Derby at Thistledown features Prospective, winner of the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine. "We think he's going to be invited to the Haskell, so I'm looking for a big effort from him to get us there or to the Jim Dandy," said trainer Mark Casse. Politicallycorrect and Z Rockstar also are fancied in a field of five.
On Sunday, 3-year-olds go 1 1/16 miles in the Long Branch at Monmouth Park.
Already in the books in Wednesday's $150,000, Grade II Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds, run Wednesday at Hollywood Park. In that 9-furlong test, Blueskiesnrainbows led all the way to a handy 3/4-length victory over Nonios with the favorite, Liaison, closing sharply to finish a close third. Blueskiesnrainbows, an English Channel colt, got the distance in 1:50.89 with Joe Talamo up. Baffert trains the first- and third-place runners. "I thought I could run first and second," he said. "But Liaison kind of struggled a little bit with that slow pace. I was a little disappointed but they ran their races. I'll get them down to Del Mar and decide what to do with them. They'll be nominated all over the country. There are Derbies everywhere."
Musical Romance is the marquee name at Calder's "Summit of Speed" on Saturday, where six sprints are worth a combined $1.3 million. Musical Romance was beaten by a neck in last year's Princess Rooney for fillies and mares but Saturday's $400,000, Grade I renewal offers another chance for the defending Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award champ. Nicole H, too, looks tough in a field which also includes six starters from trainer Marty Wolfson in a field of 11.
Three-year-old fillies will go 6 furlongs in the $150,000, Grade III Azalea Stakes. The nine-filly field looks pretty wide-open with Citizen Advocate the narrow morning-line choice.
The top race on the card for male speedsters is the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In," $400,000, Grade II Smile Sprint Stakes. Trinniberg and Field Commission are the morning-line favorites with 10 entered. Woodbine-based Field Commission has done the "reverse snowbird," venturing to Florida to win the Ponche Handicap last month after a long layoff. Trinniberg bounced back from a 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby to win the 7-furlong Woody Stephens at Belmont Park June 9.
Three-year-old sprinters will try the $150,000, Grade III Carry Back Stakes. Trinniberg is cross-entered in this race and listed as the 6-5 favorite against just six others, including Fort Loudon. The latter has two straight stakes wins at Calder.
On the turf, it's the $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint at 5 furlongs with a well-balanced field of 11 entered.
For the grass-running distaffers, Calder offers the $100,000 Hollywood Wildcat at 7 1/2 furlongs. Trip for A.J., Speak Easy Gal and Canadian Mistress are well-spotted in a field of 11.
Calder doesn't quite have a monopoly on top-level weekend sprints. On Saturday at Arlington Park, the last two winners of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint -- Regally Ready and Chamberlain Bridge -- will face off in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint at 5 1/2 furlongs on the green course. Regally Ready is making his first start since returning from Dubai, where he was part of the general U.S. misfire back in March. Four others will try to crack the elite back class.
A field of seven was drawn for Saturday's $500,000, Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. The oddsmaker had a tough time separating Turbo Compressor, Brilliant Speed, Slim Shadey and Air Support, all of whom were posted at 3-1 or less on the morning line. All of them, however, have been inconsistent or promising rather than reliably dominant in recent form. The race nonetheless is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In," so it's a chance for someone to step up smartly.
And speaking of stepping smartly, Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian), Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes for fillies and mares at Woodbine provides a showcase at 9 furlongs on the grass.
Rule is the morning-line favorite for Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Monmouth Cup at 1 mile on the main track. The 5-year-old son of Roman Ruler, who has not started since finishing seventh in last fall's Hawthorne Gold Cup, is slated to face five rivals, most notably Flat Out and San Pablo.
Sadly, So You Think will not run in Saturday's Group 1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. The international warrior was found lame in his stall on Thursday morning at Ballydoyle and withdrawn from what was to have been his final race. Instead, he will enter quarantine prior to being shipped back to Australia, where he began his illustrious career. "So You Think is an extraordinary horse and it was a real privilege to have had him here at Ballydoyle on loan from Australia," said trainer Aidan O'Brien. In his absence, Godolphin's Farhh, who finished third to So You Think in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, is the likely favorite for Saturday's event. Red-hot rider William Buick is aboard Nathaniel, who runs for the first time since a fifth-place finish in the Champion Stakes last October. Trainer John Gosden said Nathaniel will go only if he judged the going to be suitable on Saturday. Cityscape returns from his 10th-place showing in May in the BMW Champions Mile at Sha Tin in Hong Kong.
Racing results from Independence Day and its Eve:
R Gypsy Gold shook loose in the deep stretch of Wednesday's $90,000 Endear Stakes for fillies and mares and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Opus A. The winner, a 4-year-old Bernardini filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.81 for jockey Javier Castellano.
Revelstoke kicked into high gear in the stretch in Tuesday's $75,000 Firecracker Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the grass and drew clear to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Zaphyra. Revelstoke, a 4-year-old daughter of Monashee Mountain, finished in 1:36.97 with Deshawn Parker up.
Strike Impact just caught Sal the Barber in the final yards of Tuesday's $75,000 Independence Day Stakes, winning by a neck over that rival. Strike Impact, the odds-on favorite, ran the 1 mile on firm going in 1:36.78. John McKee rode the 8-year-old Smart Strike gelding.
Presque Isle Downs
Mystic City led from the early going in Tuesday's $100,000 Windward Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the all-weather, then held on at the end to win by 3/4 length over Noble Charlotte. Mystic City, a 5-year-old City Zip mare, finished in 1:38.03 under Pedro Rodriguez.
Calder Race Course
Frolic's Revenge got her backers' hearts beating a little before the real fireworks started on Wednesday. The odds-on favorite waited until the last possible moment before sticking a nose in front of pacesetting Montessa G to win the $55,000 Sweettrickydancer Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Imperial Strike also was moving well late and finished third, just another head in arrears. Frolic's Revenge, a Vindication filly, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.04 with Luis Saez up. She finished ninth in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies but has thrived at Calder, winning her last three starts on both dirt and grass.
Guam Typhoon led most of the way to a popular win in Wednesday's $50,000 Chesapeake Stakes, leading Broad Rule across the wire by 2 3/4 lengths. Guam Typhoon, a 6-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in track-record time of 1:07.86 with Daniel Centeno up.
Bailouttheminister bailed out his backers in Wednesday's $50,000 Sam J. Whiting Memorial with a strong stretch run that got him by pacesetting Ain't No Other and on to a 1/2-length win. Bailouttheminister, a 4-year-old Minister's Wild Cat gelding, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.06 under Russell Baze.