It's a bit of a lull with just a week to go until British Champions Day and three weeks until the Breeders' Cup World Championships. But the weekend is far from devoid of action.
On the international front, the final leg of the Japanese filly Triple Crown runs at Kyoto and Newmarket has some fine races for 2-year-olds eyeing next year's Classics. And there is a spot of news from the Paris gathering of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
Let's have a look, shall we?
Filly & Mare Turf
Alterite and Kitten's Dumplings head a cast of nine for Saturday's $400,000, Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at 9 furlongs over the grass at Keeneland. I'm Already Sexy provides some potential spice for the exotic bets. Alterite, a French-bred and French-raced filly, won in her U.S. debut last month, taking the Grade I Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park rather easily. Kitten's Dumplings, another of Ken and Sarah Ramsey's band, won four straight races before finishing fourth in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in her last outing. I'm Already Sexy, a daughter of Ready's Image, has shown steady progress, winning a division of the Hatoof Stakes on Arlington Million day, then backing that up with a win in the Grade III Pucker Up Stakes at the Chicago-area oval. Does she have more upside?
Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Athenia for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Belmont Park drew seven entries. With bad weather in the offing, another three are entered for "main-track only." Samitar and Pianist are the early favorites for a grassy race. Samitar, a 4-year-old Rock of Gibraltar filly, is a Grade I winner over the course, albeit a year ago, and won a minor event at Saratoga in her last start. Pianist, a 4-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, finished second in the Grade II Ballston Spa at the Spa in her last outing. Watch out if there is a surface switch, which would ring in the likes of Lady Cohiba, Moment in Dixie and Royal Lahina.
Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Knickerbocker Handicap at 9 furlongs on grass at Belmont Park, looks like a make it or break it race for Boisterous. The Grade I Man o' War winner has disappointed in back-to-back races -- eighth in the Grade I Sword Dancer, then third in the Grade I Bowling Green. The 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor won this race last year. The competition includes Za Approval, who has two straight Grade I seconds, both at 1 mile. Three are entered for "main track only" with stormy weather forecast for the East Coast during the weekend. A surface switch will require adjustment of handicapping.
Riding the River is the highweight among 11 entries for Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian), Grade I Neartic Stakes for 3-year-olds and up going 6 furlongs on the Woodbine green. The 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding shortens up after finishing fourth in the Grade I Woodbine Mile in his last start. Longhunter, a Halling gelding, returns to the north after winning the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash. Phil's Dream has won five of his last six but against lesser company. Mr. Online was just nipped for the win by Ben's Cat in the Laurel Dash in his last race.
My Brown Eyed Guy goes for a series sweep in Saturday's $300,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. The With Distinction gelding is riding a three-race winning streak including the Dr. Fager Division and the Affirmed Division in his last two outings. Back for more is Best Plan Yet, who finished second in both earlier legs of the series, then won the Foolish Pleasure Stakes against open company.
Scandalous Act goes for a sweep, too, in Saturday's $300,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder, also at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. She earlier won the Desert Vixen and Susan's Girl divisions and will face seven in Saturday's series finale.
Already in the books:
Who else should win a race sponsored by a bank than Kitten Kaboodle? And so it was in Wednesday's $150,000, Grade III JP Morgan Chase Jessamine Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Keeneland. With Alan Garcia up, the Kitten's Joy filly saved ground, found a way through the leaders early in the stretch run and kicked clear, winning by 4 3/4 lengths. The favorite, Zinzay, settled for second and Courtesan was third. Kitten Kaboodle finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.01. It was her first win, following two seconds at Saragota, and owner Ken Ramsey said he is rounding her up with a bunch of others to head west for the Breeders' Cup. Watch for the cowboy hat in the Santa Anita paddock.
The would-be European stars of the future will be in action Saturday at Newmarket. Six Group races, including two Group 1 events, are on the card.
Supplicant will try to become the third horse in the past seven years to complete a double of the Mill Reef and the Middle Park Stakes. The Richard Fahey trainee is among 13 entered for the Group 1 Middle Park, run at 6 furlongs. Astaire, winner of the Gimcrack Stakes at York, is among the likely rivals, along with Great White Eagle, Group 1 Phoenix winner Sudirman and Hot Streak.
Aidan O'Brien has two of the six left in for the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at 7 furlongs. Of them, War Command, winner of the Coventry and the Futurity, is the general favorite. Godolphin has entered Champagne Stakes winner Outstrip.
Also on the card are the Group 2 Dubai Challenge Stakes at 7 furlongs, the Group 2 Vision.ae Rockfel Stakes at 7 furlongs, the Group 3 Darley Stakes at 9 furlongs and the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at 1 mile.
In addition, Newmarket on Saturday hosts the 2 1/4-miles Cesarewich Handicap, a heritage race with 36 left to run as of Thursday and nothing like a standout favorite. Perhaps Cosimo de Medici can scheme out a trip to rule at the end. Who wouldn't take 40-1 or so on a Medici?
Eighteen 3-year-old fillies are in for Sunday's Group 1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto. The race is the final leg of the Japanese Triple Crown but neither of the top two finishers in the first leg is contesting this one. That leaves attention focused on Meisho Mambo, winner of the Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks, and Ever Blossom, runner-up in that race. However, both of those disappointed in an intervening event, leaving the Shuka Sho a bit of a puzzle. Last year, Gentildonna swept the series with a victory here.
News and notes
England's Arena Racing Co. has unveiled a new "All-Weather Championship" series to run during the idle months for UK flat racing. The series will open Oct. 26 at Wolverhampton and wind up on Good Friday, April 18, 2014. Six categories each will culminate in in a championship race with total purses of 1 million pounds sterling, making it the richest all-weather program in Europe. ARC owns three of the four all-weather courses in England -- Lingfield Park, Wolverhampton and Southwell. The Jockey Club's Kempton Park also will be included in the series.
"Racegoers and punters alike will have an exciting season of racing to follow during the winter months," said Jim Allen, director of racing at ARC.
The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, meeting this week in Paris, established as its official position that anabolic steroids "have no place in horse racing" and the use of anabolic steroids "should not be permitted in or out of competition."
However, the group's statement also allowed, "The IFHA will work with jurisdictions that may permit exceptional use for therapeutic purposes only, subject to stringent controls and a minimum stand-down period to eliminate performance-enhancing effects."
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, this week called for uniform regulations regarding international movement of horses.
"These cross-border movements contribute to the size and quality of fields and have the potential to increase the benefits from simulcasting and commingling," he said at the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities meeting in Paris.
Differing regulations, particularly regarding quarantine, also hamper "the global industry's capacity to build an international circuit, with top-line horses participating in Group 1 races in a number of countries before returning home," he added. He suggested the IFHA join with the International Equestrian Federation to work with the World Organization for Animal Health in setting uniform standards.
Engelbrecht-Bresges is the vice chairman of the IFHA, representing Asia.