This weekend is proof positive of the old race track saying: "Optimism is a good 2-year-old in the barn."
Here and there, hither and yon, From France to California, there are races for the juveniles hoping to find a level where they can make an impact.
Starting with California:
It's been such a rough year for trainer Bob Baffert that he might as well be looking ahead to 2013. And he is.
In 2012, Baffert lost both his parents, suffered a serious heart attack and finished an agonizing second in each of the Triple Crown events. He was blanked in the Breeders' Cup World Championships at his home track.
Even as he was surveying the wreckage last weekend at Santa Anita, including the upset defeat of Horse of the Year candidate Game On Dude, Baffert said it was important to focus not on what had been or might have been, but on what will be.
"It was a tough day for me," Baffert said. "But I've had tougher ... When these things happen, you've just got to move on."
He said former baseball manager Joe Torre, a part-owner of Game On Dude, told him after the Classic: "'You've got to forget it.' Things that happened 5 seconds ago, you've got to let them go and move on. That's what will happen."
Which leads him, and us, to the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park on Saturday and to one of Baffert's hopes for next year's 3-year-old races, Carving. Carving is owned by Baffert's wife, Jill, and superskier Bode Miller. He won his first two starts at Del Mar and Fairplex before finishing fourth in the Grade I FrontRunner at Santa Anita.
Among the other six in the 1 1/16-mile Real Quiet are Fury Kapcori, winner of the Charlie Palmer Futurity at Fresno; Glencoe Kid, victor in the Ascot Graduation Stakes at Hastings Park; and Simon Eyes, about whom it's tough to wax poetic.
Despite his optimistic future focus, Baffert might have a twinge of bad juju thinking about the name of this race. He saddled Real Quiet to victory in the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to lose the Belmont and the Triple Crown by a last-jump nose to Victory Gallop.
Sunday at Hollywood, the 2-year-old fillies take to the track in the $100,000 Sharp Cat Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather surface. Scarlet Strike is the morning-line choice off her second-place showing behind Breeders' Cup runner-up Executiveprivilege in the Grade I Chandelier Stakes Sept. 29 at Santa Anita. Tilde comes in off three straight wins. The 1 1/16-mile Sharp Cat, run over the all-weather track, is a prep for the $500,000, Grade I Hollywood Starlet Dec. 8.
North of the border, Woodbine Saturday has the $250,000 (Canadian) Coronation Futurity, with Canadian-breds going 9 furlongs. Six are entered including His Race To Win and Up With the Birds, both from Sam-Son Farm.
"It's nice to be in the position to have two good-looking, talented colts in your barn," said trainer Malcolm Pierce, echoing the theme of this advance.
On Sunday, Woodbine cards the 7-furlong, $150,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song Stakes, an open event for 2-year-old fillies that drew a field of five. Mechaya was third in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante this summer behind Executiveprivilege and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Beholder and then finished second to Beholder -- albeit by 11 lengths -- in a Santa Anita allowance Oct. 4. Sweet Redemption won at first asking in the local Ontario Debutante, but then finished up the all-weather track in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie in Chicago.
There are excellent state-bred races for 2-year-olds seemingly at all points of the compass, most of them worth six figures.
Calder Saturday has races on both turf and dirt for both genders. Dual stakes winner Brave Dave takes on five rivals in the 7-furlong Jack Price Juvenile and Toasting, the third-place finisher in the Grade I Frizette in New York will meet nine other juvenile fillies in the Joe O'Farrell. Ten set for the 1 1/16-mile Arthur I. Appleton Juvenile Turf and Florida Stallion Stakes winner Verso a Verso tops a field of 11 in the John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Hawthorne showcases the Illinois-bred youngsters Saturday. Laurel Park has a juvenile sprint on Saturday's program. Retama Park has 2-year-olds on the green course Saturday.
Sunday, the New York Stallion Series 2-year-old divisions run on the Aqueduct main track. Undefeated Matchmadeinheaven goes for her fourth straight stakes victory, taking on six other 2-year-old fillies in the $125,000 Fifth Avenue Division. Meeker Avenue, Stoneless and Laila's Jazz are favored in the Great White Way Division, which also drew seven.
Charles Town in West Virginia has a hybrid event Saturday -- the Tri-State Futurity for 2-year-olds bred in Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia.
Older horses have a few chances, too.
Nine are entered for Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Cardinal Handicap for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs. The Cardinal is run at 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course and Daisy Devine has been assigned top weight of 122 pounds off her runner-up finish in the Grade I First Lady at Keeneland. Competition includes fellow graded stakes winners Bizzy Caroline, La Cloche and Fugitive Angel.
Provided the plague of bad weather abates, 10 fillies and mares will take to the turf Saturday at Aqueduct in the $150,000, Grade III Long Island Handicap. Last year's winner, Hit It Rich, is back and favored to repeat off a seventh-place showing in the Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational on Sept. 29. Centring, Mystical Star and Kissable are among the would-be upsetters.
Keeping in the 2-year-old theme, Saturday at Saint-Cloud in France, 2-year-olds will tackle 1 1/4 miles on the grass in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud. A competitive field of eight is set to go, including English invader Miss You Too.
Kyoto Racecourse will be decked out with English trappings for Sunday's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup - Diamond Jubilee. But there will be no foreign runners this year for the race won in 2010 an 2011 by Snow Fairy. The 2,200-meters event drew a relatively well-balanced field including Verxina, who has raced in the shadow of the outstanding Gentildonna, and last year's fourth-place finisher, Whale Capture.
In Australia, 15 are entered for the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington -- a 6-furlong dash over the grass for 3-year-olds and up first contested in 1868. Among the favorites, Sea Siren, a 4-year-old filly, beat several of her rivals in their last start, the Group 1 Sportingbet Manikato Stakes at Mooney Valley. Mental, who fell just a neck short in that race, is back for more. Black Caviar won this race in 2010 and 2011 but is still recovering from her grand tour to England and is not in this year's lineup. The race also is the penultimate leg of the Global Sprint Challenge though it appears there will be no claimant of that $1 million bonus. The Longines Hong Kong Sprint Dec. 9 concludes the series and unless Black Caviar unexpectedly shows up in that field and wins, the bonus goes begging.
Speaking of Hong Kong and looking a week ahead, most of the SAR's top horses are entered for the Jockey Club Races at Sha Tin on Nov. 18 -- the local lead-ups to the four Group 1 events that comprise the Longines Hong Kong International Races Dec. 9. Topping the list is Ambitious Dragon, the two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year, who won the HK Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy in his seasonal debut. He is set to go in the Jockey Club Mile as a prep either for the Longines Hong Kong Mile or the Hong Kong Cup at 2,000 meters. Glorious Days, second in the Oriental Watch, is also entered for the Mile, as are proven international-class milers Xtension and Sweet Orange. The Jockey Club Sprint drew the toughest possible local entrants in Royal Ascot winner Little Bridge and reigning Hong Kong Sprint champion Lucky Nine. Also entered for that race is Singapore's rising star, Super Easy. The Jockey Club Cup also has a host of big names, including last year's Hong Kong Cup winner, California Memory, two time Hong Kong Cup runner-up Irian, Group 1 Singapore Cup runner-up Zaidan and Hong Kong Derby winner Fay Fay. December invaders will be watching these races to see what they have to contend with from the local contingent.
Racing is under way at Meydan Racecourse in a series of programs that will intensify starting Jan. 10 with the Dubai World Cup Carnival, then culminate with World Cup night itself March 30. The Carnival will offer purses worth an aggregate $37.36 million. The World Cup program includes prize money totaling $27.25 million for one night of racing in the desert.
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