A look ahead at weekend horse racing

By ROBERT KIECKHEFER, UPI Racing Writer   |   Sept. 19, 2013 at 4:52 PM   |   0 comments

The big weekend events are at Parx Racing near Philadelphia -- a pair of 3-year-old events each worth $1 million.

There's also a lot of money on the line for sprinters at tracks scattered hither and yon. But in this case, hither is only a reasonable van ride away from yon so there are multiple cross-entries. Be sure to check for the actual starting lineups.

A couple overseas races have the potential to propel the winners to bigger and better things. And Cirrus Des Aigles will try to start a climb back toward the lofty perch he enjoyed at the start of the year when he faces five rivals at Maisons-Laffitte.

But when you put up a pair of $1 million races on the same card, that merits the first look:


Classic

Will Take Charge, who bested Moreno by a nose in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga, will take on that rival again as the headliners in a field of eight for Saturday's $1 million, Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. Moreno took nine tries to break his maiden, then went directly to a victory in the Grade II Dwyer at Belmont Park in July. He followed that by running third in the Grade II Jim Dandy before the Travers battle. Will Take Charge ran eighth in the Kentucky Derby, seventh in the Preakness and 10th in the Belmont Stakes. He then finished second in the Jim Dandy and went on to take the Travers at 9-1 odds. Also in the field are Blue Grass Stakes winner Java's War and Speak Logistics, who finished second in the Smarty Jones at Parx two weeks ago. Fury Kapcori comes from California after showing promise in two earlier races this summer. The race is 9 furlongs on the main track. With the 3-year-old division honors still very much up in the air, this is an important event.


Distaff

In Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Cotillion at Parx, Close Hatches is expected back from a layoff that began after she won the Grade I Mother Goose at Belmont on June 22. She has a tough comeback spot in this 1 1/16-miles test. Among the 9 rivals is Sweet Lulu, undefeated in four starts culminating in a victory in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga last month. Also lining up is Dancing Afleet, who is riding a three-race winning streak capped by a victory in the Grade II Delaware Oaks. Carnival Court comes out of a third-place finish behind Princess of Sylmar and Fiftyshadesofhay in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga. Seaneen Girl was second in the Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows but then jumped up to win the Grade III Monmouth Oaks in her last start. My Happy Face finished second in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and third in the Test Stakes. She is cross-entered at Charles Town and expected to go there.


Sprint

Eleven signed on for Saturday's $400,000 Researcher Stakes for 3-year-olds at Charles Town in West Virginia, going 7 furlongs. Bond Vigilante is the 121-pound highweight off three straight wins, most recently in the Claramount Stakes at the Spa. The Chad Brown trainee drew post position No. 9 with Javier Castellano to ride. Hidden Canyon has won three in a row over the track. A few of the others have stakes experience. Four of the entrants are cross-entered in other races, so be sure to pay attention to the overweights and changes. Those who may go elsewhere are Hidden Canyon, Take It Like a Man, Res Judicada and Whiskey Romeo.

Saturday's $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at 6 furlongs at Laurel Park has some familiar rivals in a competitive field. Ben's Cat comes off a third-place finish Grade III Turf Monster at Parx Racing and seldom fails to earn a check. Service for Ten has won three of his last four starts. Sage Valley has a pair of Grade III wins to his credit this season. Il Villano is always close and so is Immortal Eyes.

Saturday's $300,000, Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes at 6 furlongs on the Parx Racing dirt attracted a field of 14. It's a tough one to figure but Rainbow Heir won his first four starts before finishing sixth in the Grade II Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga. He drew gate No. 11 so Mike Smith will have to figure out a way from the outside.


Filly & Mare Sprint

As with the Researcher, Saturday's $400,000 Charles Town Oaks in West Virgina is replete with cross-entered horses. Among them is So Many Ways, who also is entered for the $100,000, Grade III Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs. Trainer Tom Amoss has had his filly at Charles Town to make sure she can handle the hairpin bends and earlier this week sounded ready to go for the bigger purse. Again, check the overweights and changes. So Many Ways will be looking for a way back into the winner's circle after a fair absence. The Sightseeing filly won the Grade III Eight Belles Stakes on Oaks Day in Louisville, but hasn't quite measured up in three subsequent tries, albeit in tough, graded heats. She recently was fourth, beaten only 2 lengths, in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga. My Happy Face, cross-entered at Parx, engendered some frowns among her backers with a second in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and a third in the Test. Mr. Hall's Opus was second in the Grade III Monmouth Oaks in her last start. Ile St. Molly was second in the Grade II Delaware Oaks last time out. One-time Puerto Rican wonder filly Fusaichiswonderful, also cross-entered at Churchill Downs, seeks her second mainland win. The local heroine is Jax and Jill, a West Virginia-bred daughter of Yes It's True who has four wins and two seconds over the local oval in six starts this year. If any of the out-of-town headliners flee, she merits a long look.

Speaking of looks, it's tough to look past Dance to Bristol in Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Gallant Bloom going 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont Park. But go ahead and do so, anyway, because there are some interesting prospects among the others. Dance to Bristol, a 4-year-old Speightstown filly, has won her last seven starts, working up from the allowance ranks to win the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga in her last outing. Overall, the Ollie Figgins trainee has 10 wins and seven seconds from 18 starts so watch the show pool for bridge-jumper money and wager accordingly. She drew the outside post of nine. Among the rivals Saturday is Dance Card, who went to the sidelines since last November with a four-race win skein that culminated in the Grade I Gazelle at Aqueduct in November. Also in the field is Villanesca, who had a modest winning streak snapped with a third-place finish in the Ballerina. Cluster of Stars is undefeated in five starts for trainer Steve Asmussen but is making her first start since taking the Grade II Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct back when the leaves that are turning color now were just budding up.

One of the favorites for Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Dogwood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs, So Many Ways, is expected to opt instead for the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks. Fusaichiswonderful also is cross-entered in the same two races. Sky Girl comes off a third-place finish in the Grade III Arlington Oaks. Irish Lute has run competitively in graded stakes company. Finding More is 2-for-2 over the track in allowance company.

Saturday's $100,000 Musical Romance Stakes at Gulfstream Park at 6 1/2 furlongs picked up a field of eight including Starship Truffles, My Pal Chrisy, Defy Gravity and the only 3-year-old in the bunch, Wildcat Lily.


Turf

While it's a relatively quiet week on the U.S. turf, Laurel Park in Maryland has a great Saturday program filled with $100,000 stakes races on the green course, including turf sprints for the juvenile set.

In France, many eyes will be set on Friday's Group 3 Le Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte, where Cirrus Des Aigles will face five rivals in what either will be a confidence-builder going into the big races during the rest of the year -- or a confirmation that the 7-year-old no longer has what it takes. "Cirrus" was the top-rated horse in training at the start of the year, thanks to Frankel's retirement. He finished second to that one in last October's Group 1 Champions Stakes. But this year he has not been competitive, finishing in the top three only once in four tries -- that in a Group 3 event at Deauville. In his prime, he was a globetrotting terror, defeating St Nicholas Abbey in the 2012 Dubai Sheema Classic and landing other Group 1 wins in France and England. His rivals at Maisons-Laffitte don't have those credentials but some do have more impressive recent results.

A pair of Godolphin runners -- Lost in the Moment and Prince Bishop, both trained by Saeed bin Suroor, are on target for Sunday's Group 1 Preis Von Europa at Cologne, Germany. The race is 1 1/2 miles on the sod.


Dirt Mile

Shanghai Bobby, last year's U.S. 2-year-old champion, has recovered from a stress fracture in his pelvis and is slated to start in Friday's $100,000 Aljamin Stakes at Belmont Park. The race is restricted to 3-year-olds and run at 6 1/2 furlongs. Shanghai Bobby was undefeated as a 2-year-old, capping his year with a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But he finished second in the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January, then fifth in the Grade I Florida Derby. Todd Pletcher, who trains for the Coolmore ownership partners, said a good showing Friday could put Shanghai Bobby on the track to start in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile or the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.


Juvenile Turf

Nine are entered for Saturday's Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury in England. Shamshon is among the likely ones after winning his first two starts, one in England and one in France, for trainer Richard Hannon. Charlie Appleby will saddle Figure of Speech for Godolphin. The colt comes off a listed-race second. Both Shamshon and Figure of Speech are by Invincible Spirit. Figure of Speech and another Saturday starter, Anticipated, ran eighth and ninth in the Group 1 Prix Morny but that was a much tougher challenge, won by the promising No Nay Never.


News and notes

The Australian Racing Board this week announced a complete ban on the use of steroids, both in and out of competition. "Foremost in the Board's consideration was the need for absolute integrity and public confidence in racing," said ARB Chief Executive Peter McGauran. "Racing is a sport and, as such, must be a test of the ability of the individual horse, its trainer and rider and not of the pharmacologist, veterinarian or sports scientist." The ban, covering all horses 6 months or older, takes effect next May 1. Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities, applauded the action, which the IFHRA has advocated for some time. "I look forward to further discussion on this matter among all IFHRA member countries to further two key objectives of the IFHRA -- to coordinate and harmonize the rules of the member countries ... and to ensure the quality and fairness of racing in the interest of both the breeding and the public," said Romanet, former director general of France Galop, which regulates French horse racing.

The National Turf Writers and Broadcasters will honor Ramon Dominguez, Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson, Jack Whitaker and Bob Fortus at the organization's 54th annual awards dinner Oct. 30 at The Derby in Arcadia, Calif. Dominguez, winner of three straight Eclipse Awards, was forced to retire after being injured in January. He will receive the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of racing. Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, will receive the Joe Palmer Award for long and meritorious service to racing because few have served as long or with as much merit. Whitaker, a CBS broadcaster and essayist, will be presented the inaugural Jim McKay Award, which salutes excellence in broadcasting and recognizes the recent inclusion of broadcasters in the NTWAB. Fortus, who covered racing for nearly three decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, is winner of the Walter Haight Award for career excellence in turf writing.

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