Camelot shoots for the Triple Crown in England this weekend while top American and international stars tangle in the Woodbine Mile.
Those are the very top highlights of a racing schedule that also includes graded stakes on the grass at Arlington Park, Belmont Park, Woodbine and Kentucky Downs. Parx Racing has a $250,000 race at 9 furlongs on the grass. There are Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races for 2-year-olds at Woodbine.
And all "Euroeyes" will be refocused from Camelot's Saturday race at Doncaster to Sunday's racing at Longchamp in Paris, where three stakes point the way directly to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 7.
Let's take a closer look:
When Camelot goes to the post in Saturday's Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes at Doncaster, he will seek to become only the 16th horse to sweep the British Triple Crown races. None has accomplished the feat since Nijinksy in 1970 and, before that, Bahram in 1935. West Australian was the first Triple Crown winner in 1853. Camelot was convincing in winning the first two legs of the series -- the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket way back in May and the Investec Derby at Ascot in June. But the step up to the 1 3/4 miles is so daunting that few even try to complete the triple. And Camelot's trainer and jockey both warn there is no certainty their star can stay the course. "Camelot is an exceptional horse," jockey Joseph O'Brien said early in the week. "But whether he can stay a mile and three-quarters is a big question and nobody knows the answer until Saturday." Trainer Aidan O'Brien added: "The old adage was 'class outs.' But I don't know. This is a big test." The Montjeu 3-year-old backed up his Epsom Derby win with a victory in the June 30 Irish Derby at the Curragh, running his record to a perfect 5-for-5. British bookmakers, perhaps remembering how easily Frankel tacked on 2 furlongs to his previous longest trip in winning at York, have made Camelot the heaviest of favorites for the St Leger. Anyway, none of the other eight starters has yet gone 16 furlongs, either. Perhaps speaking for the chances of those others, Mahmood Al Zarooni, who trains Encke for Godolphin, said, "We can dream of beating Camelot but anything can happen in this game and our horse deserves to take his chance." The St Leger, incidentally, is billed as the oldest Classic race contested anywhere in the world, having had its first running in 1776. The race has moved around a bit but has been staged every year since then save 1939, making this the 236th running.
Sunday's featured attraction is the $1 million Ricoh Woodbine Mile over the sweeping greensward in suburban Toronto. World traveler Cityscape, winner of the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan in March, is in for the race. He comes off a second-place finish in the Group 1 Prix Jacques Marois at Deauville Aug. 12 -- a race won by Excelebration. Trainer Roger Charleton noted Excelebration has been chasing Frankel most of this year and last and, since "Frankel is about 7 or 8 lengths better than the rest," a second to Excelebration isn't to be taken lightly. Also, he said, Cityscape "obviously ran a fantastic race at Meydan. And in many ways, Woodbine is a similarly shaped track, with a long straight and sweeping turns." Cityscape also finished second in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile last December during his world tour. The likely favorite, however, is Wise Dan and a good performance at Woodbine would make him a likely favorite for the Breeder's Cup Mile as well. That's handy since the Ricoh Mile is a "Win and You're In" for the Santa Anita showdown. Wise Dan comes up to Sunday's race as the winner of four of his last five starts, finishing second to Ron the Greek in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in the other. He has won on three types of surfaces and is training smartly over the Keeneland all-weather. Worthadd won the Italian 2000 Guineas and the Italian Derby two years ago and has been rounding into form for trainer Mark Prescott. Hunters Bay, coming off a disappointing dud in the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga last month, will make his first start on the grass in the Mile. Riding the River, a one-time $3,500 claimer, will be a longshot in the race but has won graded events locally as a longshot and finished a credible fifth in this race last year behind Turallure.
Sunday's Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp drew only four starters, including Godolphin's Farhh and Moonlight Cloud, who nearly ended Black Caviar's winning streak at Royal Ascot. Sarkiyla and Caspar Netscher complete the short field.
A promising field of nine, with lots of international flavor, is entered for Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Noble Damsel for fillies and mares at Belmont Park. Embarr, a 4-year-old Royal Academy filly, comes to the race with three straight wins under her girth. Kyla One is making her first start after shipping from France. Law of the Range is making her second start off the plane from England. Julie's Love raced in Germany and won the De La Rose at Saratoga in her last start. Dealbata won three straight, including two in France, before getting home third in the De La Rose. Silver Screamer won the Grade III Eatontown at Monmouth.
Rahystrada, a dead-heat third in last month's Grade I Arlington Million, defends his title in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup over the undulating Kentucky Downs course. Rahystrada is among eight set to go the 1 1/4 miles. The rest of the field is no slouch, including earlier Arlington stakes winner Ioya Bigtime as well as Kindergarten Kid, Tahoe Lake, Canaveral and Cozy Kitten. The race was renamed this year to stand alone outside the defunct Kentucky Cup series.
Japanese raider Orfevre will prep for his Arc quest in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Foy at 12 furlongs over the Longchamp green. He is among eight left in although Aidan O'Brien has not confirmed the participation of Treasure Beach or Robin Hood. Andre Fabre will start Meandre, also looking for a leg up on the Arc.
Stormy Lord is in from Woodbine to contest Saturday's $250,000 PTHA President's Cup at Parx Racing, a 9-furlong turf event that drew a field of 10, including a two-horse entry. Stormy Lord is the morning-line chalk off a pair of second-place finishes, including one in the Grade II Sky Classic Stakes last time out. Cantonic has won four straight and steps considerably up in class.
Nine are entered for Saturday's Group 1 Irish St Leger at the Curragh. Run at 1 3/4 miles on the turf for 3-year-olds and up, Fame and Glory and Brown Panther are the early market choices. Fame and Glory has a sterling record for trainer Aidan O'Brien but the 6-year-old son of Montjeu has been a little slow to get going this year. Brown Panther has a win and a second from four 2012 starts. Aiken would appear a live longshot for trainer John Gosden. The 4-year-old Selkirk colt had a six-race winning streak, including a Group 2 event at Chantilly, snapped when he finished fourth in the Group 2 Hardwick Stakes at Ascot in June.
Sunday's $500,000, Grade I Northern Dancer at Woodbine drew a field worthy of its grade, purse and reputation. Bill Mott brings Al Khali, who finished third in the Grade I United Nations, then second in the Grade II Sword Dancer in his last two starts. The first- and third-place finishers are back from the local Grade II Sky Classic -- Forte Dei Marmi, Stormy Lord and Scalo, the latter making his second U.S. start after racing well in Germany and Italy. Musketier has been competitive in graded stakes for years now and comes off a second-place showing in the Grade III Stars and Stripes at Arlington. Wigmore Hall won this race last year asa the favorite and is back after a disappointing spate of globetrotting that saw him in England, Dubai, France and Chicago, where he finished seventh in this year's Arlington Million.
Filly & Mare Turf
Arlington's lush turf course attracted a field of 12 for Saturday's $175,000, Grade III Pucker Up Stakes at 1 3/8 miles. This field also has a lot of international flavor. Volcat brings in a two-race winning streak, including a victory in the Grade III Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs in her last start. She has not been out of the money in three starts since Kenny McPeek shifted her to the grass. Angegreen, an Italian-bred daughter of Ekraar, will make her first U.S. start for trainer Graham Motion. She finished second in the Group 2 Italian Oaks in her last start. Miss Cato, a British-bred filly, will make her third U.S. start since coming from England. She finished fourth in the Grade I American Oaks at Hollywood Park this summer.
Seven passed the entry box for Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Garden City at 9 furlongs over the Belmont Park turf. Samitar, winner of the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas in May at the Curragh, and Karlovy Vary, who took the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, are coming off third-place finishes in their last starts. Open Water is interesting off a third-place finish in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in her last outing but even she remains eligible for the "one other than" condition. Tannery won four of her last five, but those were in handicap and weight-for-age events here and there around Ireland. An interesting handicapping challenge.
Nine are set for Sunday's $300,000, Grade II Canadian for fillies and mares at 9 furlongs on the Woodbine weeds. Irish-bred and raced Laughing comes off a win in the Grade III Taylor Made Matchmaker at Monmouth. Stars to Shine has been tough at Woodbine but flopped in the Beverly D. at Arlington in her last start. Ron McAnally brings Ontario-bred All Star Heart home from California after a second-place finish in the Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar in her last outing. Kapitale ran fourth in the Beverly D. in her first race off the plane following a short and promising career in Germany and Italy.
Last year's winner, Galikova, may face as many as 14 rivals as she defends in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp. The 1 1/2-mile heat also is expected to include cross-Channel invader Was.
This year's Classic has no definitive favorite and some rehabbing potential starters could add even more uncertainty to the mix. Their respective trainers told Breeders' Cup folks this week that 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and multiple graded stakes winner Acclamation are both working well and could be ready in time for the Breeders' Cup. Animal Kingdom suffered a setback while prepping for the Dubai World Cup; Acclamation, while in training for the Pacific Classic.
Mark Casse has three entered in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Ontario Derby at Woodbine. Among the nine listed for the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track are Casse's small herd of Stealcase, Prospective and Patrioticandproud. Ultimate Destiny ran fifth in the Queen's Plate, then second in the Prince of Wales and the Vice Regent. Gung Ho was third in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland.
Are You Kidding Me is a likely favorite in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Summer Stakes at Woodbine, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup. He has won his last two over the local oval and is trained by RogerAttfield. I'm Boundtoscore, winner of the Chenery Stakes at Colonial two months ago, also is in prospect along with a flock of maiden winners.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
It's a flock of maiden winners looking for their level in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Natalma at Woodbine, also a "Win and You're In." Bet 'em by the names and take Kitten's Dumplings in a tasty both-ways exacta with Coconut Shrimp. They're both recent Saratoga victors. Or try the out-of-season combination of Spring in the Air and Spring Venture, both recent local winners.
News and notes:
Sam Walker, writing in Racing Post, almost offhandedly makes the point that international racing, rather than the afterthought it has been in the past, recently has become a primary feature of the sport. Discussing Snow Fairy and the prospect of trainer Ed Dunlop taking her to the Breeders' Cup, Walker said, "It used to be that globetrotters were horses who couldn't make the grade in Europe. Horses like Collier Hill and Phoenix Reach won millions of pounds across many countries without ever running to an RPR higher than 121. But globetrotting is going up in the world. It has a new pin up girl - and she's not a European reject. She's a player in the biggest races in Europe and she can display that ability in any type of race. Slow pace: she'll out-sprint you. Fast pace: track record." Snow Fairy already has won Group 1 races in Hong Kong, Japan, England, Ireland and France. Taking this argument a little farther, international competition stirs interest in racing at the local level. Check out Black Caviar in England, any Japanese horse anywhere, or even last week's victory by a Korean-bred steed at Calder. Any new stirring of interest in the sport is an open door to moving forward and that's definitely a good thing.
Quotes of the week: Mike Kinane, on winning the Leger Legends race for retired jockeys at Doncaster: "There are little bits of it there, yet." Julie Krone, who finished 14th: "There are no indignities in his old age."