It's a short but sweet racing schedule this weekend with 2-year-olds topping the program in California, Florida and Japan.
Woodbine winds down with a nice, long grass race on Sunday.
Mostly, racing folks are hunkering down for the winter, thinking of spring and new beginnings.
Those looking farther ahead already are considering the potential that could result from the infusion of a top English bloodline into Kentucky -- and to the 2014 Epsom Derby, with some extremely well-bred babies in the early entry list.
We'll get to those things but, first, the immediate prospect:
Ten youngsters are set to go in Saturday's $750,000, Grade I Cash Call Futurity. Bob Baffert will saddle four of them, including likely favorite Carving. Carving won the Real Quiet Stakes earlier in the meeting and is 3-for-4 for his owners, Jill Baffert and superskier Bode Miller. Bob Baffert also has Den's Legacy, Really Mr Greeley and Title Contender. The latter is by Pulpit, who passed away last week in Kentucky. He finished eighth of nine in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He's Had Enough just missed winning the Juvenile and is back for another try but has only a maiden win from four starts. Violence is undefeated in two starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, including the Grade II Nashua at Aqueduct.
A.P. Indy won the Hollywood Futurity in 1991, en route to a pretty good career. Other recent winners include Captain Steve, Real Quiet, Point Given, Lion Heart and Lookin at Lucky.
In Saturday's co-feature, 10 are entered for the $250,000, Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup. Grandeur, runner-up in last month's Grade I Hollywood Derby, will try to become the first 3-year-old to hoist the Turf Cup since Bien Bien in 1992. Bourbon Bay, second last year, is back for trainer Neil Drysdale. Slim Shadey, Optimizer and Kindergarden Kid all have claims on the 11 /2-mile test.
Also on Saturday at Hollywood, Zenyatta's half-sister, Eblouissante, will try to make it 2-for-2 in her young career. The John Shirreffs trainee came from far back to win her first race and has been working well since. She will face four rivals in an optional claimer going 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track.
And on Sunday, Hollywood offers the $200,000 King Glorious Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds going 7 furlongs. If you're looking forward to the Kentucky Derby, it would be foolish not to glance at the results of that one.
Two-year-olds will tackle 1 mile on the grass in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Dania Beach Stakes. Itsmyluckyday, a Lawyer Ron colt, won a pair of stakes at Calder before finishing sixth in the Delta Jackpot in his last start. Tate's Landing won the Laurel Futurity. Mystic Love, a Not for Love filly, won the Selima Stakes at Laurel. Charming Kitten finished third in the Grade II With Anticipation at Saratoga but bombed at Keeneland. Sr. Quisqueyano has three wins and three seconds from six starts. The others in the 11-horse field are eligible to improve and will need to do so.
Three-year-olds and up will attempt the 1 3/4 miles of the $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Valedictory Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday. Nine are entered, including a quintet of 3-year-olds looking to stretch their legs.
On Sunday at Nakayama in Japan, 2-year-old colts and fillies line up in the $1.9 million, Grade I Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes at 1 mile on the grass. Codino and A Shin Top come into the race undefeated. Logotype has been improving and could be a threat. Several others have shown promise. The race is limited to 16 starters because of a short run into the first turn on the mostly downward sloping, right-handed course.
News and notes
For those who really want to look ahead, Epsom Downs has received initial entries for the 2014 -- yes, 2014 -- Derby. And they include some promising yearlings, including 33 from the first crop of Sea the Stars. Among those is the first foal from Japanese star Vodka. Galileo, a busy lad, has 52 offspring nominated to the race. Among owners, Godolphin has 68 initial entries. The Coolmore partners, among them, 56. Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum has 23, the Aga Khan has 19, the Niarchos family 13 and Khalid Abdullah 11. Overall, 406 horses were nominated, 32 fewer than last year. But Andrew Cooper, director of racing at Epsom Downs, noted the entries come from as far afield as Japan and India. He said the course is "hugely encouraged to see such a international spread." Mark your calendar for June 7, 2014. And, yes, that's also Kentucky Derby Day.
And speaking of European bloodlines, Bullet Train, a three-quarters brother to the undefeated, retired Frankel, will be standing Wintergreen Stallion Station in Midway, Ky., for $7,500. Bullet Train, by Sadler's Wells, served as Frankel's pacemaker during most of his career, eclipsing his great natural ability. Wintergreen owner John Greely IV said Bullet Train "gives American breeders the opportunity to infuse that classic Juddmonte Farms bloodline into their mares at a stud fee that is a fraction of that of Frankel."