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UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer   |   Jan. 21, 2016 at 4:42 PM
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Tampa Bay Downs is the hotspot for 3-year-olds this weekend with races on Saturday for both Derby and Oaks hopefuls. The Northeast looks like a cold, snowy spot.

Northeast tracks face the prospect of an historic weekend blizzard. Laurel proactively canceled racing for Saturday and Sunday.

Santa Anita offers the weekend's lone graded stakes, the Grade II Santa Monica for filly and mare sprinters. At the other end of the distance spectrum, Gulfstream Park has the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes on the turf on Saturday -- at 2 miles.

The Martin Luther King holiday produced a minor upset along the Kentucky Derby trail as Discreetness won the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park while California-based Toews On Ice looked like he needed a line change at the top of the stretch.

Internationally, it's the Investec Cape Derby on Saturday at Kenilworth in South Africa.

And three of the great recent North American stallions passed away during the past week. See "News and Notes".

Meanwhile, American Pharoah completed his sweep of the awards. After the colt and most of his human connections collected statuettes at the Eclipse Award ceremony in Florida on Saturday, the humans trundled off to London to receive the Longines World's Best Racehorse award at Tuesday's ceremonies. American Pharoah beat out the impressive winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Golden Horn, for the Longines honor. He's the first American winner since Curlin in 2008.

Also, kudos to South China Morning Post's talented young scribe, Andrew Hawkins, who picked up a Longines watch at that same Tuesday event for producing the best coverage of the Longines Hong Kong International Races last December.

Watch this:

The Road to the Roses

Discreetness stalked the pace in Monday's $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park, moved to challenge for the lead as the field straightened out into the stretch and battled with Gordy Florida to the wire before prevailing by a neck over that rival. Synchrony rallied from the back of the pack to finish third and the favorite, California shipper Toews On Ice, faded from a pressured lead to finish sixth. Discreetness, a Discreet Cat colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.05 with Jon Court in the irons. It was his fourth win from six starts with one of the victories coming under the Churchill Downs twin spires. "Going a mile here, if you're not 1-2-3, or very close at the three-eighths pole, it's hard to make that up," said winning trainer Jinks Fires. "We decided to ask him a little early because if you get shuffled back around that turn, it's hard to make it up down that short stretch going a mile." Fires, who won the 2011 Arkansas Derby with Archarcharch, said Discreetness will move along to the $500,000, Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb. 15. With the Smarty Jones win, Discreetness jumped into a seven-way tie for the eighth spot on the Kentucky Derby point standings. Last year's 2-year-old champ, Nyquist, leads that list in the early going. Martin Garcia, who rode Toews on Ice for trainer Bob Baffert in Monday's race, said, "It just wasn't our day today. He was really happy in the post parade today and he broke really well and we were just cruising along. When I asked him to go at the three-eighths pole, he didn't want to go. It's not him today."

Ten are in for Saturday's $100,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs at 7 furlongs on the main track. Morning Fire, Hand of Power, Epic Journey, Formal Summation and Jay's Way all are among the fancied on the morning line. All of them are looking for a breakout performance in what promises to be a worthwhile, if tough, wagering challenge.

As usual, those looking for help in handicapping would do well to visit www.popejude.com. And for comprehensive coverage of Triple Crown, Breeders' Cup and other major Thoroughbred events, Horse Racing Radio Network at www.horseracingradio.net is your one-stop shop.

{b:Kentucky Oaks preps } The top two from last month's Sandpiper Stakes -- Hidden Treat and A Little Attitude -- return for Saturday's $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs at 7 furlongs. Trainer Eoin Harty has three of the other eight fillies, all Darley-bred and Godolphin-owned. High Pitch is a Medaglia d'Oro filly out of the Seattle Slew mare Mystic Melody. She won easily at first asking last month. Conflate, a Bernardini filly, won her first start, then finished third in a Hawthorne allowance and fourth in the Sandpiper. Cosmic Girl is by Street Sense out of Stellar Jayne, who in turn is by Wild Rush, who won the 1997 Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park and the 1998 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park -- the latter in a dead heat with Silver Charm. Cosmic Girl won her last start -- an allowance race at Tampa. Of the others, Valueable Charmer boasts two straight wins. R Girl's a Charmer could be an upward-bound prospect for trainer Mark Casse.

Saturday's $100,000 Busanda at Aqueduct is 1 mile and 70 yards -- providing the weather doesn't bury the Big A in snow. Flora Dora was second in the Grade III Tempted and fourth in the Grade II Demoiselle, both at Aqueduct in November. Her only win in four starts came in the My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park in October. She did beat a couple of previous winners that day -- a feat none of the other six in this race has accomplished yet. Dreams to Reality comes off a first-out victory in a maiden claimer. She's So Fine was third in her only previous start. But they're all lightly raced and you've got to start somewhere.

Sprint

The $150,000, Grade III Toboggon Stakes scheduled for ML King Day at Aqueduct was canceled because of bad weather.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Prize Exhibit and Living the Life headline Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Santa Monica at 7 furlongs on the Santa Anita main track. The former, a 4-year-old Showcasing filly, exits a victory earlier this month in the Grade II Monrovia down the hillside turf course but has yet to win over an American dirt course. Living the Life has been a bear on the all-weather surfaces in both her native England and in the United States. Kiss at Midnight won three in a row last summer, then came down with a three-race case of the seconds to end 2015. Room for Me ran well out east, including a stakes win at Monmouth Park.

Turf

A field of nine will take deep, cleansing breaths before embarking on Saturday's $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Gulfstream Park at 2 miles, an almost unheard-of distance in American racing. Charming Kitten looked good going 1 1/2 miles in winning the Grade III W. L. McKnight Handicap over the course in his last outing. A few who trailed in that race will hope the extra 4 furlongs is beyond Charming Kitten's scope -- but not theirs. Interesting: Neutronstar is an Irish-bred, 4-year-old son of Galileo out of the Danehill mare Brown Eyes. He's winless in seven tries but his best effort was a third-place finish in a Woodbine starter allowance at 1 7/8 miles on Nov. 29, where he plodded up from well back and just missed finishing second after being steadied at the rail.

Turf Mile

Keri Belle came from far back in the field of 12 to win Monday's $100,000, Grade III Megahertz Stakes at Santa Anita by a nose over Stormy Lucy and another neck from Theatre Star. The favorite, Glory, faded from the lead to finish an inglorious seventh. Keri Belle, a 6-year-old Empire Maker mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.30 for jockey Alex Smith. It was her first stakes win and fourth overall. Raced primarily in New York, she improved her Santa Anita record to 2-for-2. Solis said he did not intend to get so far in arrears but the early pace was quick and Keri Belle was shuffled back. Said trainer John Shirreffs: "If you watch her races, she's got a beautiful way of going. She's got a big stride and she carries herself well. Turf racing, you've got to be a little bit lucky and today was her day."

International {i: South Africa}

Saturday's "Investec Day of Dreams" card at Kenilworth features the Group 1 Investec Cape Derby at 2,000 meters -- a race apparently to be run without one of the early favorites, Abashiri. Abashiri drew post 16 for the race and trainer Mike Azzie said he likely will be kept for the Triple Crown races later in the season at Johannesburg. That would leave Rabada, also trained by Azzie, and Brazuka, conditioned by Johan Janse van Vuuren, as the favorites.

On the same card, Same Jurisdiction is likely to be fancied in the Group 1 Majorca Stakes after a favorable draw. Same Jurisdiction finished fourth in the Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes in her last outing after being parked outside at the start.

Dubai

Last year's winner, Safety Check worked from mid-pack to the lead with some 200 meters left in Thursday's Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, sponsored by Meydan Sobha, and went on to score the repeat victory by 1 3/4 length over Harry's Son. Mastermind contested a good pace and held on gamely to finish third. Safety Check, a 5-year-old son of Dubawi, is trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin. William Buick was at the controls as the chestnut picked up his first win since the Zabeel Mile over the same course 11 months ago.

"He just loves it in Dubai," Appleby said. "The track itself and the style of racing really suits him and that was a good performance first time out ... He won the Group 2 Zabeel Mile last year and that will be the next target but he does work well on dirt so, maybe after that, we will try him on the dirt."

Read much more about the Dubai doings in Richard Gross's report, included at no extra charge in Monday's UPI Horse Racing Roundup. {i: England}

The All-Weather Championships continue Saturday on the Polytrack at Lingfield with a Fast-Track Qualifier in the marathon division. Among the 12 hopefuls for the 32Red.com Conditions Stakes at 2 miles is Hamelin, who has been second going 12 furlongs in his two most recent appearances for trainer George Scott. "His dam, Love Divine, was an Oaks winner and his half-brother, Sixties Icon, won a St Leger, so all of the signs point to him staying, and the way he races should also help him," Scott said. Charlie Appleby has two for Godolphin, including Anglophile, who won this a year ago and lost in the finals by a head. Appleby also will saddle Pinzolo, who tackles the distance for the first time.

News and notes:

Racing lost three of its top recent stallions in the past week -- Gulch, Arch and Kingmambo. Gulch, champion sprinter in 1988 and the oldest living Breeders' Cup winner at age 32, was euthanized at Old Friends near Georgetown, Ky., where he retired after being pensioned at Lane's End in 2009. Arch, sire of 11 Grade I winners, died of an apparent heart attack at Claiborne Farm, where the 21-year-old stood at stud. Kingmambo, 26, was euthanized at Lane's End, where he stood before being pensioned in 2010. The son of Mr. Prospector, out of Miesque, was a champion runner in France and, at stud, produced champions in Japan, Europe and the United States, including 24 winners at the top level. American Pharoah, Golden Horn and their young comrades have big hoofprints to fill as they embark on their second careers.

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