Competition heats up among the 2-year-olds this weekend with graded stakes on both coasts.
There's also plenty of action on the grass from sea to shining sea and, among the amber waves of grain, Arlington Park has the Washington Park Handicap for older horses going 9 furlongs on the all-weather course.
The Woodward and the Forego on Saturday at Saratoga offer Grade I chances for some of the heavy hitters in the Classic and Sprint divisions. Parx Racing has top events for turf sprinters, including a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race.
Labor Day may the only the unofficial end of summer but it's also exactly two months until the second and final day of the Breeders' World Championships. Time's a wastin'. Let's get busy.
Sunday's Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden should be a tuneup for Danedream, the German mare who will be defending her crown in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris in a few weeks time. But there are some concerns for the mare's connections as the field is expected to be small, there may be a lack of pace and German Derby winner Pastorius might be waiting to spring a surprise. Danedream caught one break when trainer Andre Fabre announced earlier in the week he will not be sending Meandre to Baden Baden for his Arc prep and instead will use the Prix Foy in his backyard. Danedream comes off a win in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on July 21.
Bob Baffert will saddle Executiveprivilege in search of her fourth straight win without a loss in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Debutante. The First Samurai filly moved quickly from a maiden win to capture the Landaluce and Grade III Sorrento in succession. She will face eight others, including Heir Kitty, second in the Grade II Best Pal; Pat's Back, who broke her maiden at first asking last weekend; Miss Empire, third in both the Landluce and Best Pal; and Speedinthruthe city, second in the Landluce and Sorrento. Unless someone can stop Executiveprivilege's march, she would rise to the top of the West Coast ranks in this division.
On Wednesday at Del Mar, Tilde put in a nice stretch run to win the $150,000 Generous Portion Stakes for California-bred juvenile fillies. At the wire, the Swiss Yodeler miss was 3/4 length better than Awe' Some Kitten. Boiler Bomb finished third. Tilde ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.42 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons for trainer Mike Harrington.
Action switches to the East Coast on Sunday with the $300,000, Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga and the $100,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth.
In the Spinaway, So Many Ways, winner of the Grade III Schuylerville on July 20 will defend her 2-0 record against six rivals, including a coupled entry. Three of the others are coming off maiden wins in a relatively light field.
The Sorority drew eight, including Doubled, who finished third in the local Colleen Stakes in her last outing. Trish's Wish was sixth in that event. The other six are coming off maiden wins.
Effie Trinket's backers didn't go hungry after Monday's games as their 2-year-old filly found the wire a head in front of the favorite, Agilion, in the $100,000 Aristie Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga. Zekes Surprise finished third. Effie Trinket, a Freud filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.86 under Alan Garcia.
The big race in this division is Monday's $300,000, Grade II Three Chimneys Hopeful at Saratoga, which awards a Breeders' Cup berth through the "Win and You're In" deal in addition to the purse money.
In Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Sapling at Monmouth Park, Brave Dave comes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Sanford at Saratoga. Drum Roll was fourth in the Grade II Saratoga Special. Keep the Canoli finished fifth in the Tyro Stakes locally. Special Jo was third in the Grade III Bashford Manor but then took a step back in the Sanford, finishing sixth. The rest are first-time stakes contestants.
Weekend Hideaway ran away and hid from a quartet of rivals in Wednesday's $100,000 David Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds at Saratoga, winning by 6 1/2 lengths over Slot Play. Weekend Hideaway, a Speightstown colt, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.89 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
In Thursday's $200,000, Grade II With Anticipation Stakes for 2-year-olds, Balance the Books came into the stretch with a good view of most of his rivals, kicked quickly in to gear for jockey Julien Leparoux and was just up in the final yards to win by a head over the pacesetter, Joha. The favorite, Charming Kitten, finished third. Balance the Books, a Lemon Drop Kid colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.30. Asked about the Breeders' Cup, winning trainer Chad Brown said, "I think that's the plan ... He'll have one prep before then." He mentioned the Grade III Pilgrim on Oct. 7 at Belmont Park and the Grade I Breeders' Futurity a day earlier at Keeneland.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Watsdachances outfinished Broken Spell to win Wednesday's $100,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga by a neck. Tara From the Cape finished third. Watsdachances, an Irish-bred Diamond Green filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles over the firm inner turf course in 1:42.90 for Javier Castellano.
Saturday's $750,000, Grade I Woodward at Saratoga attracted an attractive field of seven. Mucho Macho Man has won four of his last five starts dating back to last November but finished third behind Fort Larned and Successful Dan in the Grade III Alysheba in his last start back on May 4. If he fires off the layoff in the 9-furlong Woodward, he will move back toward to top of the division. Rule, who led last year's edition before yielding to Havre de Gras, is back and looking to atone for a ninth-place finish in the Whitney. Last year's Travers winner, Stay Thirsty, is here but hasn't won since he painted the canoe. To Honor and Serve usually runs well and is a Grade I winner. Cease, Gourmet Dinner and Trickmeister all are capable of pulling off a surprise.
Multiple graded stakes winner Prayer for Relief ships in for trainer Steve Asmussen as the morning-line favorite for Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park. The 4-year-old Jump Start colt comes off a second-place finish in the Governor's Cup at Remington Park. He won the Iowa, West Virginia and Super derbies in succession last summer. Pool Play, who won the Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in June, is in from his Woodbine base. Mister Mardi Gras has been right there but not quite good enough against graded stakes competition all year and will be tough here. Workin For Hops was third in this race last year.
On Labor Day, Parx racing offers the $350,000, Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 mile and 70 yards.
In the "it doesn't cost anything to dream" department, Euro jockey Kieren Fallon says he thinks Frankel should not wind up his career in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe or the Champion Stakes at Ascot but, rather, in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. "For me there is only one race for Frankel and that is the Breeders' Cup Classic," Fallon wrote in his column in Racing Post Weekender. "He would win that on the snaff and the Americans wouldn't know which way to turn." For the record, Frankel's trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, has never given a sniff of interest to shipping Frankel to America. He even seems hesitant about shipping him across the English Channel. And, also for the record, Tom Queally rides Frankel.
Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Forego at 7 furlongs at the Spa features Shackleford, who beat reigning sprint champ Amazombie at 7 furlongs in the Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day. He then beat Caleb's Posse, To Honor and Serve and Caixa Eletronica in the Met Mile. But running in the mud on Aug. 5 in the Grade I Alfred Vanderbilt, Shackleford folded up early and finished last of eight. Nick Zito will saddle the hard-trying Jackson Bend, who won the Grade I Carter Handicap at 7 furlongs at Aqueduct back in April, with Shackleford third. Pacific Ocean wins a lot for trainer Richard Dutrow and could be dangerous. Emcee, representing Godolphin, could be on the verge of a breakthrough after running fourth in the Carter and third in the Vanderbilt. Caixa Eletronica is back and Hamazing Destiny will start from the outside.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Tu Endie Wie didn't fire in the Grade I Prioress at Saratoga but she is among the favorites for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Seaway Stakes at Woodbine. Among those she'll have to measure, though, is Roxy Gap, who has stayed at home with success, finishing first or second in each of her last five starts. Jenny's So Great, Zermatt and Gold Dust Lady round out the compact field.
Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Del Mar Derby has an icy theme with the top picks including Old Time Hockey and Howe Great. The former counts the La Jolla Handicap in his win column; the latter, the Jersey Derby. A number of others in the 10-horse field are just a short step behind those. Among them, My Best Brother, Midnight Crooner, Tones, Squared Away and Ellis. The race is at 9 furlongs over the infield turf course.
The East Coast 3-year-old grass runners go in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Saranac Stakes at 9 furlong. Eleven signed up, among them Lucky Chappy, who was second to Silver Max in the Virginia Derby and before that, seventh in the UAE Derby in Dubai. Quick Wit comes back in three weeks after winning the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes. Excaper was second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and has been in the exactor three times in a row at Woodbine. King Kreesa has run well against fellow New York-breds.
Filly & Mare Turf
Distaffers will go 1 1/16 miles on the grass in the $250,000, Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar on Monday. Also on Monday, Saratoga cards the $150,000, Grade III Glens Falls Handicap at 11 furlongs on the grass for fillies and mares.
The $250,000, Grade II Bernard Baruch at 1 1/16 miles on the grass kicks off Saturday's graded stakes triple at Saratoga with Data Link drawn inside in a competitive field of seven, plus one main-track-only entrant. Data Link has won six of his last nine for trainer Shug McGaughey, including the Grade II Monmouth Stakes in his last outing. Todd Pletcher will bring some help to saddle two or three -- Queen'splatekitten, Dominus and the MTO option, Alma d'Oro.
Tune Me In, winner of the recent Grade III Oceanport, tops Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Cliff Hanger Stakes at 1 mile on the Monmouth Park grass. Upgrade won the Grade III Jaipur at Belmont in June. Get Serious won last year's Oceanport and always competes on the shore grass. Lentenor is in there, too. He jumped up to win the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs last time out.
Monday's $350,000, Grade III Turf Monster Handicap at 5 furlongs on the Parx Racing green is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. On the same card is the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap for fillies and mares at the same distance.
Grade III Glens Falls, Saratoga
Already in the books:
Go Unbridled came from far back in Monday's $100,000 Saratoga Dew Stakes for state-bred distaffers, quickly hit the lead and kicked clear, winning by 6 1/2 lengths. The pacesetting favorite, Opus A, was left in the dust but held on for second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Ginger Snapit. Go Unbridled, a 5-year-old Unbridled Jet mare, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.90 with Junior Alvarado up. Winning trainer H. Allen Jerkens, seemingly caught off guard by his mare's easy win at 5-1 odds, commented, "As Hirsch Jacobs used to say, 'It's much better to be surprised than disappointed.'"
Miami Cat was just up in time to win Thursday's $100,000 Equalize Stakes for 3-year-olds by a neck over Film Shot. Yari finished third. Miami Cat, a Powerful Goer gelding, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.15 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons.