Top-notch turf events around the world and a couple of nice heats for 3-year-old fillies top the list in weekend racing.
Royal Ascot winds up with the Coronation Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Friday and top sprinters in the Diamond Jubilee on Saturday.
On the grass elsewhere around the world: top-ranked Cirrus des Aigles is expected to take on a tough field in Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in France; Sunday's Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen in Hanshin, Japan, is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race; Colonial Downs cranks up its rich turf schedule with two events on Saturday; and milers go in Sunday's King Edward Stakes at Woodbine in Canada.
The 3-year-old fillies star in a bicoastal double feature on Saturday -- the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont Park and the Grade II Hollywood Oaks in Southern California.
Take a deep breath and dive right in.
This meeting always seems to top itself as it goes along. There's a lot to top in the final two days of this year's edition after Irish domination of the early days; Americans showing well as breeders, owners and trainers despite Animal Kingdom getting trounced in his final race; and the Gold Cup proving the old saw about "sport of Kings" as the winning filly was bred by the Aga Khan and owned by Her Majesty the Queen.
Still ... Saturday's Group 1 Diamond Jubilee should provide some closing-day fireworks with 18 set to go. The event may lack the flash provided last year by Black Caviar. But it still includes the likes of 2012 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor, Society Rock and Gordon Lord Byron. The 6-furlongs event is another leg in the Global Sprint Challenge although none of these is likely to be a candidate to land that series's $1 million bonus.
Friday's co-featured event has been renamed the Queen's Vase in Memory of Sir Henry Cecil and includes a runner trained by Sir Henry's widow, Lady Jane Cecil. Her starter, Disclaimer, is a Juddmonte Farms homebred and will be among the favorites off four straight wins. Friday's other feature is the 1-mile Coronation Stakes. The race pits English 1,000 Guineas winner Sky Lantern and Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Just the Judge among 17 in the Coronation.
Elsewhere on the grass
Cirrus des Aigles has been handled carefully since his last race in October, when he finished second to Frankel in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot. He was scratched from the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup in December with a strained ligament and bypassed Royal Ascot. Now, he's back and trainer Corine Barande-Barbe says he's ready for Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. Among those likely to test the world's top-rated turf horse are Dunaden and Joshua Tree. Should he perform up to snuff, Cirrus des Aigles is ticketed for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot next month.
Sunday's Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen is one of two top-level Japanese races where fans get to vote in 10 runners to the field. Although Orfevre is not contesting the 2,200-meters event, there is no shortage of star power with Gentildonna and Gold Ship signed on to the maximum 18-horse field. Fenomeno will be out to prove that his victory in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Spring), over Gold Ship among others, was no fluke. Tenno Sho runner-up Tosen Ra also is back for more. There are no foreign runners in the field, which is a qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Air Support and Atigun are among the early favorites for Saturday's $300,000, Grade III Colonial Turf Cup at 9 1/2 furlongs. Air Support won the Grade II Virginia Derby over the course two years ago and copped the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth last year but struggled in his first two starts this year. Atigun has been close at the finish in stakes race after stakes race without winning any of them but finished second in his last outing, the Grade II Louisville Handicap, missing by 1/2 length with a late run. The eight-horse field has some others that bear watching as well. Seven fillies and mares will tackle 9 furlongs in the companion Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes, a $100,000, Grade III affair. Channel Lady is the 7-5 morning line favorite despite fourth-place finishes in her last two starts.
At Woodbine, outside Toronto, Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II King Edward Stakes at 1 mile on the turf attracted a field of nine, including Pender Harbour, who won back-to-back stakes over the course to close out 2012 and makes his 2013 debut. Riding the River has been tough on the local grass, including a second-place finish in the Grade II Connaught Cup in his last outing. Valentino Beauty was fourth in the Connaught Cup after three straight wins to start his career. Several others have had good days. Those looking for a hunch bet in the King Edward may incline to Any Given Royal, who hasn't done much since being put on the grass but was second in the Grade II Ontario Derby on the all-weather course last fall.
Dreaming of Julia reappears for the first time since finishing fourth in the Kentucky Oaks and will face just four rivals in Satuday's $300,000, Grade I Mother Goose at 1 1/16 miles over the Belmont Park dirt. She was undefeated in two starts at Belmont last year, including the Grade I Frizette in October before a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She is not unopposed here. Close Hatches ran second to Midnight Lucky last time out in the Grade I Acorn over the course. Marathon Lady has figured in the trifecta in three straight graded stakes at three different tracks.
With likely favorite Fiftyshadesofhay out, five are set for Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Hollywood Oaks. Iotapa, an Afleet Alex filly, enters after a second-place finish behind Beholder in the Santa Anita Oaks, then a victory in the Railbird Stakes at Hollywood. Jerry Hollendorfer has two, including Ciao Bella Luna, who was second in the Railbird but won the Grade II Beaumont at Keeneland in April. His other, Doinghardtimeagain, has back-to-back ungraded stakes wins at Santa Anita and Hollywood.
Kinsale King, winner of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen back in 2010, is back on the track Tuesday at Hollywood Park after a yearlong absence. The 8-year-old gelding, plagued with hoof problems, is in a 5-furlongs turf allowance with six rivals.
Travelin Man and Candyman E are among 10, including a coupled entry, in Saturday's $100,000 Donald Levine Memorial at Parx Racing, going 7 furlongs.
Fillies star in the $100,000 Debutante at Churchill Downs on Saturday night in "Downs After Dark." With 11 entered, the morning-line favorites are Teardrop, Fiftyshadesofgold and More Than Beauty. All three come off first-out wins.
A field of six is set for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Victoria Stakes at Woodbine. The 5-furlongs event on the all-weather course includes the filly Conquest Whiplash in her career debut. She was a $370,000 purchase at the OBS spring sale.
At Calder, Satuday's $100,000 Frank Gomez Memorial drew a field of 11 to go 5 1/2 furlongs while the $100,000 J J'sdream for 2-year-old fillies got nine for the same distance.