It's likely the biggest racing weekend of the year, at least in terms of the sheer number of high-caliber races around the world, headed by the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and attendant heats in Paris.
Keeneland, Santa Anita and Belmont Park, plus a few others, also host the final big round of preps for the upcoming Breeders' Cup World Championships. In Japan, the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes is the eighth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge. Spring Carnival rolls in Australia.
Keeping track of it all is a challenge, itself. So let's not waste any time.
It's a French story this weekend with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe headlining the Sunday card at Longchamp and a clutch of attendant stakes.
Japan's trio of Harp Star, Just A Way and Gold Ship give the overseas invaders as good a chance as any in the Arc after three previous, crushing second-place finishes. Tapestry was a supplemental entry for Aidan O'Brien, joining the likes of that trainer's Ruler of the World. Last year's winner, Treve, hasn't won since but will try again. Al Kazeem, Ivanhowe, Prince Gibraltar, Kingston Hill, Avenir Certain and Taghrooda help raise this field to the stratosphere.
Cirrus des Aigles tops a field of seven for Saturday's Group II Prix Dollar at Longchamp. The old guy threw a scare into trainer Corinne Barande-Barbe earlier in the year but rallied with three straight wins, most recently in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom. Also in here is Smoking Sun, who finished second in the Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji, sixth in the Group 1 Arlington Million in August and second in the Group 3 La Coup de Maissons-Lafitte last month.
Five are left for Saturday's $100,000, Group III Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot. Among them Pether's Moon, recent winner of the Group 2 International Bosphorus Cup in Istanbul. Also on for the 12 furlongs are Encke, Palace Hall, Don't Stare and Energia Fribby.
Saturday's $500,000, Grade III Hill Prince for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park features a trio of Euro raiders, the top two from the Grade II Sarnac at Saratoga, two of the top three from the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park and Mr Speaker. Blacktype and Cabral have run well in France in somewhat lesser heats and Slone Avenue comes off a win on the all-weather course at Kempton. Mr Speaker has been brilliant and disappointing for trainer Shug McGaughey but might be at his best on the grass. Tourist and Sheldon finished second and third behind the impressive Adelaide in Chicago. Ring Weekend and Smooth Daddy were the exacta payoff in the Sarnac. The Hill Prince is run at 9 furlongs.
Filly & Mare Turf
Fourteen are entered in Sunday's Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp, going 1 1/4 miles. The well-balanced bunch has a lot of talented fillies and mares, most of them inconsistent.
A really tough bunch will contest Saturday's $400,000, Grade I First Lady Stakes at 1 mile on the Keeneland green. The field of nine includes graded stakes winners Centre Court, Somali Lemondae, Dayatthespa, Discreet Marq, Better Lucky, Istanford and Kitten's Point.
Wise Dan, the two-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner and two-time U.S. Horse of the year, is the star attraction in Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. But the 7-year-old gelding is making just his second start back from May colic surgery and jockey John Velazquez took care of him in his comeback race as he won the Grade II Bernard Baruch at Saratoga by a nose over Optimizer. That rival is back for another try. So, too, is Silver Max, who handed Wise Dan his last defeat a year ago in this race when torrential rain washed the event off the grass and onto a swampy all-weather course. Silver Max has been inconsistent since, however, including a fourth place in last year's Breeders' Cup.
At Santa Anita, a field of 12 is set for Saturday's $200,000, Grade II City of Hope Mile, with those doing well hoping for a chance at the big race in four weeks' time. None of these seems calculated to put a scare into Wise Dan, although Soi Phet comes off a win in the Los Alamitos Mile on the dirt and Starspangledheat was a good fourth in the Grade II John Henry Turf Championship just last weekend going 1 1/4 miles.
A big field of 14 is set for Saturday's Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein for 3-year-olds at 1 mile on the turf at Longchamp.
Nine fillies and mares go 1 mile on the grass in Saturday's $75,000 Swingtime Stakes at Santa Anita -- worth a look.
Sunday's Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp at 5 furlongs features Sole Power as the heavyweight in a field of 20 as of Thursday. But Stepper Point, Maarek, Pearl Secret and others will be heard from.
On Sunday at 7 furlongs, it's the Group 1 Prix de la Foret, with such hard hitters as Gordon Lord Byron, Olympic Glory, Custom Cut, Ansgar, Anodin and Vorda entered.
Seventeen were entered as of Thursday for Saturday's Group III Bengough Stakes, going 6 furlongs at Ascot in England. Among them are Krypton Factor, Reckless Abandon, Louis the Pious and Signs of Blessing.
While Japan's attention is focused on France, the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes at 6 furlongs on the turf at Niigata is the big race of the weekend locally. There are, however, no foreign horses in the race and, with Lord Kanaloa retired, it looks to be a lost leg of the Global Sprint challenge. Copano Richard, Grand Prix Boss and Hakusan Moon among the more likely.
No Nay Never resurfaces Saturday at Keeneland in the $150,000, Grade III Woodford going 5 furlongs on the lawn. He won at first asking over the course in the spring of 2013 for trainer Wesley Ward, then won the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Ascot and the Group 1 Darley Prix Morny and was done for the year. He then finished second in Grade II Swale at Gulfstream in March in his only start since the European triumph, losing the lead late in the stretch while going 7 furlongs. The Scat Daddy colt has been training steadily at Keeneland. The opposition is a mixed bag including Marchman and Spring to the Sky, Sum of the Parts and Sharp Sensation.
Vicar's In Trouble, East Hall and I Got It All headline a field of nine for Saturday's $500,000, Grade II Indiana Derby going 1 1/16 miles at Indiana Grand. Vicar's In Trouble exits a win in the Grade II Super Derby. East Hall won the Ohio Derby. I Got It All won the Straight Line Stakes at Arlington last time out.
Close Hatches has won six of her last seven starts -- a string broken only by finishing second to Beholder in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff. She will try to extend her winning skein -- and earn an automatic berth in this year's Distaff as she faces five rivals in Sunday's $500,000, Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland. A wild card here is Godolphin Racing's Shuruq, a 4-year-old Elusive Quality filly who won the Group 2 International Istanbul Trophy in Turkey in her last start and has been a useful sort in Dubai and in England. Ria Antonia will try for the eighth time since her Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies win to return to the winner's circle.
Eleven are set for Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand with Unbridled Forever as the 121-pound highweight. She hasn't won for a while but finished third in the Kentucky Oaks and second in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks. She should find this bunch easier.
Only six will contest the one-turn mile of Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In." And of those, four are coming off maiden wins. The others are I Spent It, who won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special at 6 1/2 furlongs, then finished second to Competitive Edge in the Grade I Hopeful while trying 7 furlongs, and Upstart, who has won both his starts, both at Saratoga. Don't dismiss the recent maiden winners as some of those races were impressive.
Conquest Tsunami leads in a field of 12 for Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. The 1 1/16 miles event is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In." Conquest Tsunami won at first asking at Keeneland in the spring, then won all three subsequent starts at Woodbine, the last of them on the grass. He would be making his first start on the dirt and first around two turns, however. He is cross-entered in Sunday's Bourbon Stakes on the Keeneland grass. Also here are the second- and third-place finishers from the Sep. 6 Iroquois at Churchill Downs -- Bold Conquest and Hashtag Bourbon.
Saturday's $350,000 In Reality Division at Gulfstream Park is restricted to Florida-breds and features a match between the winners of the first two divisions of the series -- Sing Praises, who won the 6-furlongs Dr. Fager Division in August, and Twotwentyfive, who took the Affirmed Division last month going 7 furlongs. The latter is undefeated in two starts as he stretches out to 1 1/16 miles. Twelve are entered.
Conquest Typhoon is a good bet to make it a sunny day for Conquest Stables as he takes on seven rivals in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Grey Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Keeneland all-weather. He won the Grade II Summer Stakes in his last outing.
The Wow Signal figures in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere for 2-year-old colts and fillies at Longchamp. The Starspangledbanner colt comes off wins in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Ascot and the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville and is undefeated in three starts for trainer John Quinn. War Envoy represents Ballydoyle and Full Mast might hoist the local colors.
Conquest Tsunami (see above) also is entered for Sunday's $250,000, Grade III Dixiana Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland at 1 1/16 miles -- a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In." He might be a bigger favorite here, although Less Than Perfect is a stakes winner, Danny Boy was fourth in the Iroquois at Churchill Downs and Croninthebarbarian won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.
Five are set for Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Futurity, a 6-furlongs affair at Belmont Park. Cinco Charlie won the Grade I Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs in the spring, struggled at Saratoga and then came back to win the First State Dash at Delaware Park. Blofeld comes out of a first-asking win at Saratoga.
Ten are entered for Sunday's $100,000 Zuma Beach Stakes at 1 mile over the Santa Anita turf.
It's hard to look past the unbeaten Condo Commando in a field of seven for Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park -- another Breeders' Cup free pass race. The Tiz Wonderful filly is undefeated and untested after winning her first start at Saratoga by 12 lengths and the Grade I Spinaway by 13 1/4 lengths in the slop. There's nothing wrong with Cavorting or Wonder Gal, who were first and third in the Grade II Adirondack at the Spa, with Cavorting also undefeated.
Thirteen are entered for Friday's $400,000, Grade I Darley Alcibiades going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. As befits the youngsters at this point, there's no clear-cut favorite for this Breeders' Cup qualifier.
Eight equally enigmatic 2-year-old fillies will face the starter in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Matron at Belmont Park, a 6-furlongs affair. One could hope for a good showing from Paris Bikini.
Conquest Harlanate is the highweight among seven for Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine. She has won her last two, including the Grade II Natalma.
Holywell will look to make it two out of the three in the Florida Stallion Stakes series in Saturday's $350,000 My Dear Girl Division. After finishing sixth in the Desert Vixen Division, she won the Susan's Girl last month. Leap Year Luck was first and third in those two heats and returns.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Sunday's Group 1 Prix Marcel Bousac at Longchamp features 14 2-year-old fillies with great aspirations. Aiden O'Brien brings the highly regarded Found. Ervdya finished third behind The Wow Signal in the Prix Morny.
Thirteen are set to try Sunday's $100,000 Surfer Girl Stakes at 1 mile on the Santa Anita grass course.
An interesting bunch is entered for Friday's $200,000, Grade III Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix, a 6-furlongs Breeders' Cup Sprint "Win and You're In" over the new Keeneland dirt course. The morning-line favorites are the Illinois-bred Work All Week and the New Jersey-bred Rainbow Heir. Also in the mix with D. Wayne Lukas now listed as trainer is Zee Bros, who finished eighth in the Grade I Vosburgh at Belmont Park just last week.
Goldencents and Secret Circle are the highweights among six in for Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship at 6 furlongs. Goldencents won the Grade II Pat O'Brien in his last start, following two seconds in graded stakes. Secret Circle, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, has raced only once since, finishing second in the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes way back in February. He turned in a bullet work last weekend, going 5 furlongs in 59 seconds.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Stonetastic and R Free Roll look tough in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland, a Breeders' Cup qualifier at 6 furlongs. R Free Roll comes off three straight wins, including the Grade II Honorable Miss at Saratoga. Stonetastic has won her last two, most recently the Grade II Honorable Miss at the Spa. Leigh Court has been a speedy sort on the all-weather course at Woodbine.
Six are set for Saturday's $100,000, Grade III L.A. Woman Stakes at Santa Anita. Among those is Stopshoppingdebbie, who is undefeated in nine starts -- all at Emerald Downs. Tribal Gal rides a two-race win streak in Southern California.