With Del Mar and Saratoga in the rear-view mirror, the eyes of Thoroughbred racing now are focused on the year-end championship events.
Belmont fires up its fall meeting on Saturday. Santa Anita and Keeneland are not far behind. The Super Derby on Saturday gives late-blooming 3-year-olds a chance to step up. Presque Isle Downs has a couple logical Breeders' Cup preps. And Arlington, Louisiana Downs and others offer lucrative weekend juvenile races.
There's so much going on in Ireland and England that a helicopter may be needed to ferry at least one of the participants to his key engagements.
And this transition week finds some important races already in the book, as noted below.
Let's take a flying look:
England and Ireland
Things are so hot and heavy here on Saturday that top rider William Buick is trying to figure out how he can ride at Haydock in England at 3:25 p.m. and still get to Leopardstown in Ireland for a 5:45 p.m. post time. It would be worth his while as Buick would be riding Australian sprinter Orensia in the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock and Nathaniel in the Group 1 Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. "Obviously, I would very much like to ride both horses," Buick said early in the week. "It is still possible I could do both but my loyalty is to John Gosden," Nathaniel's trainer. Mind you, while Coral-Eclipse winner Nathaniel is at the top of his game, he is no sure thing for this race as the opposition includes the resurgent world traveler Snow Fairy and Aidan O'Brien's "home team" of St Nicholas Abbey and Daddy Long Legs. St Nicholas Abbey is the defending Breeders' Cup Turf winner. Daddy Long Legs will be happy out of America, where he has raced against 38 rivals in three races and finished in front of just one of them. Born to Sea and Light Heavy complete the lineup. Ortensia is one of 15 set for Haydock. The biggest threat to the Nunthorpe winner could be Bated Breath, who is looking for a first Group 1 win for trainer Roger Charlton. Strong Suit, Dandy Boy and Gordon Lord Byronalso are among those in prospect for the 1,200-meters feature, as is France's 4-year-old filly, Whizz Kid. The latter was second to Moonlight Cloud in her last outing at Deauville.
Also on the Curragh schedule are Saturday's Group 1 Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 mile and Sunday's Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going 7 furlongs.
A nice lineup of local horses is set to go in Sunday's Group 2 Centaur Stakes at Hanshin. Among them is Curren Chan, likely gearing up to defend his title in the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes on Sept. 30.
And speaking of the Sprinters Stakes, that is the third-last leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, which requires a horse to win three races in three different jurisdictions to qualify for a $1 million bonus. The only likely candidate to do that is Hong Kong-based Little Bridge, who won the King's Stand Stakes in England and is entered in the Sprinters Stakes. Should he win there, he could qualify with a third win in either the Patinack Farms Classic in Australia or, more likely, the Longines Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin in December. Black Caviar, who won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot and the Coolmore Lightning Stakes in Australia, is not expected to contest any of the remaining legs of the series.
It's a long trip from Southern California to Bossier City, La., only to find your top rival is one of those you met back home. That's the story for Blueskiesnrainbows and Rousing Sermon, who finished first and fourth in the Grade II Swaps in July and now are the favorites for Saturday's $500,000, Grade II Super Derby. Also in the mix in the field of nine is Bourbon Courage, who finished second in the West Virginia Derby.
Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade III British Columbia Derby at Hastings Racecourse is unlikely to impact the Breeders' Cup but promises to be a nice race, with an overflow crowd of 13 entered. Six other stakes, including the $100,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Oaks, support the Derby.
New York action returns from its late-summer Spa holiday with Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Bowling Green Handicap kicking off stakes action at Belmont Park. The 10-furlong grass affair drew a field of five. Air Support finished second in the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth two starts back. Brilliant Speed was third in the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga in his last start. Newsdad won the Grade II Pan American at Gulfstream Park and most recently was fourth in the Sword Dancer. Brujo de Oileros makes his second U.S. start for trainer H. Graham Motion after arriving from South America. Bombaquia steps up from the allowance ranks and Redeemed is in only if the race is taken off the turf.
Jazzy Idea rallied from last of nine to win Wednesday's $100,000 Jameela Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares by 3 lengths in course-record time of 1:07.45. Luis Garcia was aboard the 3-year-old Great Notion filly, who was the favorite despite taking on elders. Colony Club finished second and Queen Chatanika finished third. Owner-trainer Edwin Merryman said Jazzy Idea will make her next start in one of the Maryland Million races on Oct. 6 at Laurel. "I believe she's as good on the dirt as she is on the grass," he added.
A nicely balanced field of 10 graces Saturday's $100,000 Japan Racing Association Stakes at Laurel Park. Eighttofasttocatch, Tonto Fontenot, See Tobe and Action Andy all are listed among the favorites on the morning line.
Friday's $250,000 Presque Isle Mile drew an overflow field, also including Bergerac, Jimmy Simms, Eternal Rule and Alma d'Oro. South American import Brujo de Olleros and Canadian stakes winner Hunters Bay were entered but withdrawn to race elsewhere.
Remember Comma to the Top, second in last year's Santa Anita Derby but 19th at Louisville? He's been slowly working back into form in California and rallied three-wide into the stretch in Wednesday's $85,000 Pirate's Bounty Stakes at Del Mar, then went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Mensa Heat. Sequoia Warrior finished third. Comma to the Top, a 4-year-old Bwana Charlie gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.71 with Martin Pedroza up. In his last previous race, he finished fourth behind the California sprint monsters in the Grade I Bing Crosby.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Groupie Doll is the early favorite for Saturday's $400,000 Presque Isle Masters for fillies and mares going 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather. A field of 12 is in prospect. Holiday for Kitten and Kitty in a Tizzy also are expected. Groupie Doll will be making her first start since winning at Churchill Downs of Derby Day in near-record time.
Speaking of near-record time, Reneesgotzip just missed the Del Mar record for 6 furlongs while winning Wednesday's $110,000 C.E.R.F.S. Stakes for fillies and mares by 3 1/4 lengths over Byrama. Reneesgotzip, a 3-year-old City Zip filly tackling elders, finished in 1:08.23. The mark is 1:08.17, set last year by Euroears. Reneesgotzip finished second in both the Group I Las Virgenes and the Group I Santa Anita Oaks this spring, then won an allowance at Hollywood Park on May 4 before taking the summer off.
Sweet Redemption, Gold Edge and American Sugar -- all stakes winners -- top a field of 14 entered for Saturday's $150,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie at Arlington Park. Sweet Redemption's only start was a victory in the $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Debutante at Woodbine. Gold Edge accounted for the Lisa M. Stakes at Arlington and American Sugar took down the Prairie Gold Lassie. Saturday's race is a one-turn mile on the all-weather surface.
Twelve signed up Saturday's $100,000 Happy Ticket Stakes at 1 mile on the grass at Louisiana Downs. Promise Me More, My Daughter's Song, Fleet Dawn, Lonnie Bell and Misty Swamp finished first through fifth in the Donnie Willheit Memorial over the local turf on Aug. 4 and all return for this heat.
Bob Baffert might have another one in Rolling Fog. The Posse colt dueled his way to the lead in Wednesday's $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Futurity, kicked clear to a daylight lead and won by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Know More. The Iowa-bred former claimer, Scherer Magic, finished third. Rolling Fog, with Rafael Bejarano up, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather surface in 1:22.96. He came into the race off a win at first asking in an Aug. 4 maiden event. Baffert assistant Jim Barnes said Rolling Fog "was ready to run when we left Santa Anita. He was one of our top horses when we left Santa Anita but we got down here and worked him a couple of times and he was struggling with the track a bit. We entered him and he got in, then he ran a low-grade fever and we had to scratch. That was probably the best thing, because then we worked him a couple more times and won the first time out. He just kept improving on this track and he really likes dirt, I know that."
Muppet Man, sporting a 2-for-2 record including the $65,000 Meadowlake Stakes last month, heads a field of eight for the $150,000, Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington. The one-turn mile on the all-weather track also attracted Stormin Monarcho and Urban Renewal, both stakes-placed.
Trainer Mark Casse entered three of the five set to go in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Swynford Stakes at 7 furlongs on Woodbine's all-weather track. Among them is Uncaptured, who is undefeated in three starts including the Clarendon Stakes and Vandal Stakes. Platitude won at first asking and is making his second start. Brilliant Comet is a first-timer. Dan the Tin Man was sixth in the Saratoga Special last time out. Five Iron comes off a maiden win.
Dry Summer rallied by the dueling leaders at the end of Wednesday's $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar and won by a neck over Power Broker. Caught Napping rallied late from well back to finish third. Dry Summer, an Any Given Sunday ridgling, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.16 under Joe Talamo. Trainer Jeff Mullins said he decided to try Dry Summer on the grass mainly to avoid butting heads with another of his 2-year-olds. But he noted Dry Summer "has a little grass pedigree and with his style and his mind, as you can see, he's just a real quality horse who doesn't make any mistakes."
Brown Almighty, undefeated in two starts, is among 10 signed on for Saturday's $150,000 Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs going 1 mile on the grass. The Big Brown colt broke his maiden at first asking at Arlington, then won the Sunny's Halo over the local oval. Mr. Bandini's Band was second in the Sunny's Halo and then second in the Louisiana Cup Juvenile three weeks ago. Unbridled's Score was third in the Sunny's Halo. The others would seem to need to move up a notch.
Kentucky Downs is running Saturday and Monday. If you haven't seen the old Dueling Grounds course near the Kentucky-Tennessee border, it's worth a trip.
Parx Racing has five interesting sprints for Pennsylvania-breds on Saturday.