May 3 (UPI) -- While American racing fixates on Churchill Downs this weekend, talented 3-year-olds also see action elsewhere around the world, from Japan to England.
In Tokyo, colts and fillies mix it up in Sunday's NHK Mile Cup. Newmarket, the epicenter of British racing, hosts the 2000 Guineas for 3-year-old colts and the 1000 Guineas for 3-year-old fillies.
Already in the books is Ascot's inaugural "Royal Ascot Trials Day," previewing the June extravaganza of racing and fashion statement.
Here's a look:
Some of Japan's top 3-year-olds, both colts and fillies, drop back in distance to clash in the NHK Mile Cup (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse May 5.
Top filly Gran Alegria and 2018 juvenile colt champion Admire Mars are set to tangle for a second time in Sunday's Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup for 3-year-olds at Tokyo Racecourse. Admire Mars, a Daiwa Major colt, won the earlier meeting, sealing his championship with a victory in the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity with Gran Alegria finishing third.
This year, however, Gran Alegria started with a stakes-record victory in the Grade 1 Oka Sho, or Japanese 1000 Guineas, while Admire Mars is winless in two starts.
The colt's trainer, Yasuo Tomomichi, said his charge simply has taken some time to get going this season. "He got going at the fourth corner in his last race, and I had the feeling he could run on well," Tomomichi said. "But it seems he just needs a bit longer to get fully wound up."
Gran Alegria's assistant trainer, Daisuke Tsumagari, meanwhile, lauded the filly's quickness. "She can be very keen," Tsumagari said. "But the jockey handles her well and last time when she got to the front early, she just showed her natural speed and ability to go on and win. Since that race, she's been at the stable and looks very well, especially in her coat."
The race drew a full field, including several other prospects. While the key players seem to appreciate the 1-mile trip, the race has produced such past Japanese Derby winners as King Kamehameha and Deep Sky.
This week's racing might be enough to distract the British from their Brexit briar patch as Saturday's Qipco 2000 Guineas and Sunday's Qipco 1000 Guineas build on the results of Wednesday's inaugural "Royal Ascot Trials Day".
While Bob Baffert has the top three favorites in Louisville, Aidan O'Brien fields the top two for the 2000 Guineas in Ten Sovereigns and Magna Grecia. Ryan Moore chooses to ride Ten Sovereigns, a No Nay Never colt who was undefeated at 2 and makes his 2019 debut.
The juvenile record included a win in the Group 1 Middle Park. That leaves O'Brien's son, Donacha, who piloted Ten Sovereigns in all three of his wins, to ride Magna Grecia. Small loss as the younger Donacha rode that Invincible Spirit colt to victory last fall in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity.
The 2000 Guineas is far from a two-horse race, though. Royal Marine, a Group 1 winner in France last season, heads a three-horse team for Godolphin. Sheik Hamdan's Madhmoon is 1/2 length short of being undefeated in three starts for trainer Kevin Prendergast. Skardu won last month's Craven Stakes.
And never overlook Frankie Dettori, who rides Advertise. That Showcasing colt finished second in October's Group 1 Darley Dewhurst to Too Darn Hot, who would have been the hot favorite in the Guineas but for a minor setback that has redirected him to the Dante Stakes. The field is so deep that bookmakers are offering 20s on the likes of Khalid Abdulla's homebred Dansili colt Setpiece, who was a good third in the Craven.
Sunday's 1000 Guineas, awaiting final declarations at press time, is even more wide open. Qabala, Skitter Skatter, Just Wonderful and Iridessa all draw significant support.
Also of note Saturday at Newmarket is the Group 2 Roaring Lion Jockey Club Stakes where Coronet, Defoe and Young Rascal all vie for consideration. On Sunday, it's the Group 2 Charm Spirit Dahlia Stakes with Veracious, Billesdon Brook, Worth Waiting and Nyaleti ready to duke it out.
Wednesday was "Royal Ascot Trials Day" with some potential for impacting the June meeting and the reappearance of some familiar but long-absent names.
None was absent longer than Barney Roy. Unsuccessful at stud and having undergone the ultimate equipment change, the 5-year-old came up just short in his first start after 557 days away, finishing second to the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Zaaki in the Ascot Shop Paradise Stakes.
The win was the third of the day for Frankie Dettori. Sir Michael said he will have a think about Royal Ascot for Zaaki, a 4-year-old by Leroidesanimaux. Barney Roy's trainer, Charlie Appleby, said the Grade I Queen Anne Stakes is on the horizon for his charge, the winner of the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes at the 2017 Royal meeting.
Calyx, with Dettori up for John Gosden, made his first start since winning the Group 2 Coventry Cup at last year's Royal meeting and made it a winning one. The Kingman colt, a Khalid Abdulla homebred, blasted away in the last of 6 furlongs to win by a commanding 4 lengths over No Nonsense.
Gosden said the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at 6 furlongs for 3-year-olds is the plan now. "I've been training him diligently to be a miler, but when he goes out there, he wants to be a sprinter and that's great," the trainer said. "I haven't encouraged him to do that, that's just him."
Dee Ex Bee, the runner-up in the 2018 Derby and fourth in the St Leger, made it clear he's to be considered a top stayer this year with a 3 1/4-lengths victory in Wednesday's Group 3 Longines Sagaro Stakes at 2 miles, designated a trial for the Gold Cup at the Royal meeting. William Buick had the mount for trainer Mark Johnston.
"He is going to be a stayer to be reckoned with," Johnston said of the Farhh colt, "and I think he will keep getting better as the season progresses." The last Sagaro winner to go on to victory in the Gold Cup was Her Majesty the Queen's Estimate, in 2013.
Also on Wednesday, Dettori piloted Muchly to victory in the British EBF Fillies Conditions Race and Gosden said the 3-year-old Iffraaj filly will be considered for the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot or something longer than that straight 1-mile test.
"We have felt all along that she was a mile and a quarter filly who was bred to stay a mile," Gosden said. "I'll consult with the jockey and then the whole team of owners here. Then between us, we'll come up with the wrong decision for sure!"
Ventura Rebel scored a 20-1 upset win in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Royal Ascot Two-Year-Old Trial Conditions Race. With Paul Hanagan up, the Pastoral Pursuits colt caught pace-setting favorite Lady Pauline in the closing stages to win by 1 length. Lady Pauline is trained by Wesley Ward and was ridden by John Velazquez, who returns to Kentucky to pilot Code of Honor in the Kentucky Derby.
Owner's representative Tom Palin said Ventura Rebel's odds belied his talent. "Ventura Rebel is not a slow horse by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "But Paul indicated it took him quite a while to pull up after the race and so all roads probably lead to the Coventry at Royal Ascot now."