Racing looks to the future this weekend -- the immediate future in some final preps for the fall classics and the longer term with some top events for 2-year-olds.
And that theme is international. Europe braces for the Arc weekend in Paris and the British Champion Series races. Change "fall classics" to "the Spring Carnival" which looms in Australia. Japan's two featured weekend races are for juveniles.
Let's read on before we get any older. Or confused by the seasons.
As Paris prepares to host the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting next month, several of the top prospects will be making preparations of their own this weekend and next.
The Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden, the jewel of the always fashionable Baden Baden meeting, takes on added import in Sunday's renewal with the expected presence of Sea the Moon, the German-based, undefeated Sea the Stars colt who is well fancied for Arc. The colt has made three starts and has yet to find a serious test. He has been idle, however, since an 11-lengths triumph in the Group 1 Deutsches Derby at Hamburg on July 6. A win Sunday by Sea the Moon would be another stellar outcome in a race won last year by Sirius.
Meanwhile, last year's Arc winner, Treve, is working toward a return to the races the second weekend of September at Longchamp. The 4-year-old filly sustained a back injury while finishing third in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and trainer Criquette Head-Maarek said she will need a race to be in top form for the Arc.
Saturday's Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock has a star-studded field in prospect, including Sole Power, winner of the Group 1 King's Stand and Group 1 Nunthorpe in his last two strolls down the course. Extortionist also has been knocking on the door, including a third place in the Nunthorpe. It's 6 furlongs, with lots of traffic expected.
Saturday's September Stakes at Kempton is only a Group 3 event but the lineup belies that relatively low status. Among those still in on Thursday for the 1 1/2 miles are Red Cadeaux, Dandino, Prince Bishop, Cat o' Mountain and Godolphin's Secret Number, who has been idle since winning the Cumberland Lodge at Ascot some 11 months ago. Red Cadeaux is prepping for a third try at the Group 1 Melbourne Cup -- a race in which he has been "thisclose" twice without winning. Dandino was second to The Pizza Man last month in the American St. Leger at Arlington. Prince Bishop won Round 2 and Round 3 of the Maktoum Challenge at Meydan this year and has been rested since finishing ninth behind stablemate African Story in the World Cup. Cat o' Mountain was third in the World Cup. Not bad for a Grade III.
A couple of Group 2 races on Saturday at Moonee Valley presage the upcoming big events of the Spring Carnival. Lankan Rupee, ranked atop the world's sprinters by Racing Post, is a possible in one. The other could offer a preview of The Offer, ranked as one of the top local defenders of the Melbourne Cup.
The North American Juveniles
American Pharoah got the jump on the field in Wednesday's $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Futurity and drew off late to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Calculator finished second, Iron Fist was third and the favorite, Skyway, settled for fourth. American Pharoah, a Pioneerof the Nile ridgling, blazed 7 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:21.48 with Victor Espinoza up for trainer Bob Baffert. The winner was making just his second start. In his first outing, he checked in fifth, trailing Iron Fist and Calculator, among others. "Bob called me this morning and said, 'Whatever you do, put him on the lead,'" Espinoza said. "He broke a little slow, but I encouraged him and he made the front. Once he made the lead, I could feel he has that high cruising speed. He's a nice horse." Baffert's assistant, Jim Barnes, added the rail "seems to be golden today."
Mr. Z is the morning-line favorite in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs, which is a Breeders' Cup qualifier. The Malibu Moon colt enters this after finishing second in both the Grade III Sanford and the Grade II Saratoga Special at the Spa. He also has the advantage of a win under the Twin Spires in his first start. Several of his eight rivals look capable of a mild upset.
The $125,000, Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity on Saturday at Arlington Park picked up eight entries, with several rating a good chance on the all-weather course. The morning-line favorite is Recount, a Limehouse gelding who finished a reasonably good third in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile in his last outing and returns to the surface where he won at first asking. Private Prospect, Bourbon Cowboy, Ike Walker and One Go All Go all rate chances.
Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Swynford is 7 furlongs on the Woodbine all-weather course.
On the grass:
Daddy D T rallied nicely from the back of the pack to take Wednesday's $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar by 1/2 length over Sky Preacher. Papacoolpapacool was just a neck behind that one in third with the favorite, Dallas Skyline, tiring late to finish fourth. Daddy D T, a Scat Daddy ridgling, covered 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.35 with Corey Nakatani riding. He finished sixth in his only other start, going 6 1/2 furlongs on the Del Mar turf.
On the grass later in the weekend are the $200,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile and the $75,000 Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs.
Take Charge Brandi is a lukewarm favorite among 10 entered for Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Pocahontas at Churchill Downs, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In". This is another worth watching more for later clues than for expectations of immediate return.
Sarah Sis, Quality Rocks and Puntsville are rated at the top of a field of seven entered for Saturday's $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie at Arlington Park.
Also to be noted is Saturday's $75,000 Happy Ticket at Louisiana Downs.
A nice field of 10 is set for Saturday's $250,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs at 13 furlongs on the undulating turf course. Medal Count and Global View are the morning-line favorites. Medal Count, a Dynaformer colt, has spent most of his short career on the dirt but scored one of his three wins on the Keeneland all-weather course in the Grade III Transylvania, which was shifted off the turf on April 4, then finished second in the Blue Grass over the same course. Global View, a Galileo colt, comes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington.
The 3-year-olds are looking better and better in this division, if only by comparison with their older rivals, so check out Saturday's $400,000, Grade II Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. The morning-line favorite among 11 is Louisiana Derby winner Vicar's In Trouble, an Into Mischief colt who hasn't won since that long-ago March day at Fair Grounds. He didn't beat any of his 18 rivals in the Run for the Roses, then finished third in the Grade III Iowa Derby and the Grade II West Virginia Derby. Iowa Derby winner Jessica's Star and Ohio Derby winner East Hall figure to the be toughest competition. Jessica's Star was second in the Ohio Derby.
A mixed bag is on offer in Saturday's $100,000 Locust Grove for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs. Among those set to tackle the 1 1/16 miles are On Fire Baby, winner of the Grade I La Troienne; Molly Morgan, who was second in that heat but comes off a victory in the Grade III Gardenia at Ellis Park; and the winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Ria Antonia, who hasn't found the winner's circle in six subsequent tries. Don't Tell Sophia returns to the races after a six-month rest following a third-place finish in the Grade II Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs got only five takers and there's not a lot to separate the likes of Flashback, Right to Vote, Politcallycorrect, Carve and Bradester
A nicely balanced field of 12 signed on for Sunday's $200,000 Presque Isle Mile on the all-weather course. The field is so well-balanced, in fact, that the morning line has nine of them at single-digit odds. Those who put the pieces in the right places should be well rewarded.
Ankeny Hill dueled his way to the lead in Wednesday's $120,000 Pirate's Bounty Stakes at Del Mar and then held off the late run of long shot Ain't No Other to win by 1/2 length. The odds-on favorite, Seeking the Sheriff, led early but weakened to get home third. Ankeny Hill, a 4-year-old Sharp Humor colt, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:09.41 with Tyler Baze riding.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Reneesgotzip zipped right to the lead in Wednesday's $120,000 C.E.R.F. Stakes for fillies and mares at Del Mar and kicked clear of seven foes, winning by 5 1/4 lengths. Top Kisser was second and Go West Marie third. Reneesgotzip, a 5-year-old City Zip mare, finished 6 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:08.51 with Edwin Maldonado up. She finished third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint two years ago but has been lightly raced since.
News and notes
The winners of both the juvenile stakes at Del Mar on Wednesday are ridglings -- males with one undescended testicle.
Del Mar closing day didn't have quite the bittersweet "summer's gone" feel it has in the recent past since the seaside track will reopen in November after the Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita in the new Hollywood-less California racing scene.