Graded stakes in New York and Kentucky, the Sunshine Millions Preview in Florida and lots of 2-year-old events highlight weekend racing.
On the international front, a Global Sprint Challenge bid "down under" and fillies and mares in Japan are on the agenda.
Otherwise, with the Arc weekend, British Champions Day, the Breeders' Cup and the Melbourne Cup all in the rear-view mirror, action slows down a bit. But what there is, is choice. Check out the menu, starting with the international specials.
As noted separately, Fiorente landed Australia's biggest race for the home team Tuesday, taking the Group 1 Melbourne Cup over a pair of British invaders. Fiorente, previously trained by Sir Michael Stoute in England, now is under the tutelage of Australia's foremost trainer, Gai Waterhouse. The 5-year-old, Irish-bred son of Monsun, with Damien Oliver up, advanced from the middle of the 24-horse field to snatch the lead with a furlong to run, then held off the ageless Red Cadeaux to win by 3/4 length. Mount Athos was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third as Fiorente completed the 2 miles on good turf at Flemington in 3:20.3. Fiorente finished second in last year's edition of the Melbourne Cup but Tuesday's win was only his second since coming to Australia last fall. Red Cadeaux was second in this race two years ago and started his 2013 with a second-place finish behind Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup in March. Simenon finished fourth and Dandino was fifth in a race that will send competitors on to the Group 1 Japan Cup later this month and the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase on Dec. 8.
On Saturday, Hong Kong's champion sprinter, Lucky Nine, will be looking for more than just the purse money when he starts in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic at Flemington. The 1,200-meters race is the penultimate stop on the Global Sprint Challenge, which offers a US$1 million bonus for a horse winning three legs in three different jurisdictions. Lucky Nine won the KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore in the spring and, should he win Saturday, would need only the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 8 over his home course at Sha Tin to make the cashbox jingle. The 6-year-old son of Dubawi was second in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes on Oct. 25 at Mooney Valley and trainer Caspar Fownes said he now is "right where I want him for the race on Saturday."
Sunday's feature is the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at 2,200 meters at Kyoto. Snow Fairy won the race in 2011 but the field this year is completely local. Last year's winner, Rainbow Dahlia, is back but she has not won in five intervening starts, albeit at shorter distances. She will have tough competition, including Meisho Mambo, winner of both the Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks, and the Shuka Sho, Verxina, the beaten favorite in last year's QE II, Whale Capture and the late-running Denim and Ruby.
Heavy going is likely for Saturday's Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud for 2-year-old colts and geldings. That didn't dissuade Aidan O'Brien from entering Mekong River, a Galileo colt who is undefeated in four starts. Others to watch: Bereni Ka, Dylan Boy, King Ruby and Hartnell. But youngsters at the end of the year on testing ground can lead to just about anything.
Back in North America, we find just three graded stakes, one each at Aqueduct, Woodbine and Churchill Downs. There also is a lot of action for the 2-year-olds.
Anjaz finished second last time out in the 1 1/2 mile Waya Stakes at Saratoga and that might be enough to put her among the favorites for Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Long Island Handicap for fillies and mares at the same trip. Trained in England last year, the 4-year-old Street Cry filly is still looking for her first U.S. win. Among the other seven, Aigue Marine, who formerly campaigned in France, makes her first start since March but finished third in this race last year. Left a Message was second in the Dowager at Keeneland in her last start, also at 12 furlongs. Strathnaver won at this distance in the Grade III Bewitch at Keeneland in the spring. Sheppard's Pie is this week's "name of the week" only because she's trained by Jonathan Sheppard.
Four graded stakes winners are among 10 distaffers set for Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Cardinal Handicap at 9 furlongs on the turf. Somali Lemonade, Solid Appeal, Starstruck and Miz Ida all have won graded events and are to be considered here. But coming from New York under the guidance of trainer Shug McGaughey is Abaco, first or second in 11 of her 17 career starts and coming off a second-place finish in the Grade III Athenia at Belmont Park. McGaughey picked this spot rather than the Long Island at Aqueduct because of the distance. "I like the mile and an eighth on Saturday," he said. "I didn't want to run her a mile and a half. And this looks to be the spot."
Alpha Bettor and James Street have traded punches in graded stakes over the local track and meet again in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade II Autumn Stakes for 3-year-olds and up. Alpha Bettor has hit the board in four of his five starts this year, including two graded stakes wins over the course and should be tough enough in However, he will be trying to turn the tables on Bond Street, who outfinished him to win their last meeting, the Grade III Durham Cup on Oct. James Street also won this race last year. Eight others also signed on for the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course. Ultimate Destiny also has run consistently in the exacta, including a close second to Alpha Bettor in the Grade III Seagram Cup in August, and Awesome Overture has been competitive in these races. Pender Harbour, who won two legs of the 2011 Canadian Triple Crown, remains dangerous at age 5. This is a nice race.
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies often sew up the 2-year-old Eclipse Awards. But they seldom showcase the ultimate contenders for the following year's 3-year-old honors so it pays to keep an eye on the ball in these divisions even after the Breeders' Cup.
Saturday's $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park attracted a field of six to tackle 7 furlongs on the all-weather course. Graham Motion brings Lemon d'Oro, a Lemon Drop Kid filly who showed little on the dirt at Saratoga and Belmont Park, then got the job done last month on the Keeneland all-weather track. Bajan won the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, with E Equalsmcsquared, an Einstein filly, second and they are both in this field. The others are just off maiden wins or still seeking one.
Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Hollywood Prevue at 7 furlongs on the Hollywood Park all-weather course features Kobe's Back, who makes his first start since winning the Willard L. Proctor Memorial over the course back in June -- in his first and so far only career start. The gray Flatter colt has been working steadily since mid-September for this comeback. None of the others has more than a maiden win. A couple of those scores were impressive, though, and this race bears watching.
Saturday's Sunshine Millions Preview at Gulfstream Park includes 2-year-old events on both the grass and the main course for both genders. Three of the four races boast full fields. In the other, the $125,000 Juvenile Sprint, My Brown Eyed Guy, winner of the first two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes, will cut back in distance and try to bounce back from his dismal showing in the final leg, the In Reality Division, a month ago.
Dunkin Bend and Guns Loaded are the morning-line favorites for Friday's $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park. Eight are set to go 7 furlongs. Dunkin Bend has won two straight, including the Grade III Sapling at Monmouth last time out, and the gray Dunkirk colt is one to watch. Guns Loaded comes from Del Mar where the D'Wildcat colt finished fifth in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity in his last race. Bump Start, a son of Jump Start, won by 9 3/4 lengths at first asking, going 5 1/2 furlongs at Indiana Downs.
Seven are in for Saturday's $50,000 Golden Nugget at 6 furlongs on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather track. None has done anything of much note -- yet.
Hawthorne, Retama, Charles Town and Woodbine all have restricted races for the youngsters.