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Enable faces tough field in King George; speed rules in weekend U.S. racing

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Two-time Arc winner Enable stretches her legs over the Newmarket gallops in preparation for Saturday's Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Photo courtesy of Ascot Racecourse 
Two-time Arc winner Enable stretches her legs over the Newmarket gallops in preparation for Saturday's Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Photo courtesy of Ascot Racecourse 

July 26 A massive showdown in England, pitting two-time Arc winner Enable against the likes of Anthony Van Dyck and Cheval Grand in a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In," complements a North American weekend racing schedule loaded with blazing speed.

And for the second straight week, 3-year-olds try to regroup after the tumultuous Triple Crown season -- this time in a dandy of a Jim Dandy up at Saratoga Springs.

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Let's start with the big one.

England

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Dual Arc winner Enable is the odds-on favorite for Saturday's Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes at Ascot but trainer John Gosden, noting the competition, is having none of it.

"The betting industry has put her in at a price that says they don't want people to be backing her," Gosden said during a Monday media event after Enable worked over the Warren Hill gallops at Newmarket. "I don't think the price is realistic of her chances but I suppose they are just protecting themselves if she does win." Enable is 4/6 with Ascot's official bookmaker, Betfred.

Enable, whose 2018 campaign was compromised by injury and illness, had another long break between winning the Breeders' Cup Turf at Louisville in November and winning the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park July 6 -- both times by 3/4 length over Magical. She won't have that rival to face in the King George but will meet Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, last month's Prince of Wales's Stakes winner Crystal Ocean, 2017 Japan Cup winner Cheval Grand and some other potential upsetters.

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"This is no penalty kick," Gosden said. "Absolutely not. It is a really exciting race with a deep field. Obviously, Enable and Crystal Ocean set the standard and then you have the three-year-olds getting the allowances. Enable is up for it, but I just don't think it is the formality that is indicated. I see her more as even money shot against this field rather than the price she is."

James Doyle, booked to ride Crystal Ocean for Sir Michael Stoute, agrees the race is for the taking.

"He's a proper, solid Group 1 horse now," Doyle told Racing Post. "The form of his Prince of Wales's win looks strong with Magical, who finished second, a top-class performer as well as the third horse (Waldgeist). So I'm looking forward to the race."

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Cheval Grand is the fifth Japanese-trained horse to contest the King George. The best of the previous four was his sire, Heart's Cry, who finished third in 2006. He exits a runner-up showing in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan on World Cup night in March and trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said his owner, former Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki, is looking to the Juddmonte International at York and possibly the Arc.

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"It was always the plan to give him a break after he ran in Dubai," Tomomichi said Monday at Newmarket. "There will be no problems with his fitness. Cheval Grand has the stamina and the power. He is the best horse I have trained but Enable is very strong -- a machine."

Also on the weekend schedule on the international front: Sunday's Group 1 Prix Rothschild for fillies and mares at Deauville at 1,600 meters features Laurens looking for redemption after a Royal Ascot disappointment, and Sunday's Grosser Dallmayr-Preis Bayerisches Zuchrennen at Munich at 2,000 meters has a strong British challenge from Matterhorn, Danceteria and Stormy Antarctic.

Returning to North America:

Sprint

Grade I events on Saturday at Del Mar and Saratoga may not feature the crème de la crème of the nation's speed merchants but they have plenty of talent, nonetheless. Sunday brings sprint stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga and Woodbine.

Recruiting Ready and Cistron top a field of eight for Saturday's $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event. Recruiting Ready, a 5-year-old son of Algorithms, makes his first visit to the West Coast on the back of a third in the Grade II True North at Belmont. Cistron defends the home turf after finishing second in the Grade II Triple Bend and first in the Grade II Kona Gold, both at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old son of The Factor is 1-for-6 at Del Mar with most of the losses by fairly substantial margins.

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Also in the Crosby mix are Triple Bend upset winner Air Strike and Jalen Journey, who makes his first start outside South Florida and was last seen finishing second to Diamond Oops in the Grade II Smile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

A powerful field of seven is set for Saturday's $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga. Mitole, a 4-year-old Eskendereya colt, is the even-money favorite on the morning line as he cuts back a quarter mile from his last-out victory in the Grade I Met Mile. His current seven-race winning streak includes five at this 6-furlongs trip but none of those was against this kind of competition.

Speaking of the competition, that's headed by Imperial Hint, winner of last year's Vanderbilt and most recently third in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night at Meydan. Also in with a fighting chance are Strike Power, recently a close second behind Catalina Cruiser in the Grade II True North, and an improving longshot, Diamond Oops.

Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Amsterdam at Saratoga drew 12 3-year-olds to contest 6 1/2 furlongs. Nitrous is the headliner after running second by a neck to Hog Creek Hustle in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day. The Tapit colt, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, has finished first or second in three of his last four starts, all against stakes company. Strike Silver was fourth in the Woody Stephens and Wendell Fong ended a two-game win streak with a fifth in that race. Most of these are looking for a big step forward.

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Big Drink of Water resurfaces for Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) King Corrie for 3-year-olds on the Woodbine all-weather course. The Florida-bred Soldat gelding was a terror last year on the all-weather around the Midwest and northeast and wound up his season finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Souper Success has been competitive against some good ones. Six will face the starter.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Minit to Stardom needed little more than a minute to post an upset win in Wednesday's $200,000 Grade II Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga, leading from the early stages and running on to a 1 1/2-lengths score. Chalon was second, followed by Ours To Run and the fading favorite, Mia Mischief. Minit to Stardom, a 4-year-old, Louisiana-bred filly by Star Guitar, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.81 with Alex Cintron riding. It was her third straight win and she has missed the top three only once in 10 starts -- that a sixth-place finish in the Grade I Test Stakes last summer at Saratoga.

"Alex and I talked all week about this race," said winning trainer Jose Camejo. "He really knows the horse and our game plan was to let her break, get comfortable and for her to be where she wants to be. She was really sharp today and did the rest."

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Distaff

Familiar foes La Force and Paradise Woods square off again as part of a seven-horse field for Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Clement C. Hirsch at Del Mar, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In". Those two finished 1-2 last time out in the Grade II Santa Maria but two races back, they came home in the other order with Paradise Woods first and La Force second, 10 1/2 lengths back. Secret Spice comes to this after winning the Grade I Beholder Mile at Santa Anita in March, then taking second in the Grade I La Troienne at Churchill Downs in May. None of the seven is impossible here.

Classic

Six turned out for Saturday's $600,000 Grade II Jim Dandy for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, most of them refugees from the Triple Crown trail. The oddsmaker tabs Tacitus as the morning-line favorite. The Tapit colt, a Juddmonte Farms homebred trained by Bill Mott, makes his first start since finishing second behind Sir Winston in the Belmont Stakes. He finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, promoted to third. War of Will is here. The War Front colt's victory in the Preakness was sandwiched among an eighth in the Derby, promoted to seventh, and a ninth in the Belmont. Tax was 15th in Louisville, elevated to 14th, and a good fourth in the Belmont in his latest effort. Global Campaign did not contest the Triple Crown races and enters off a win in the Grade III Peter Pan -- good enough to get him second-favorite status on the line. Mihos seeks the upset.

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Two already in the books:

The order of finish in Tuesday's $400,000 (Canadian) Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, was just the opposite of the first leg, the Queen's Plate. In the rematch, Tone Broke caught pacesetting One Bad Boy and rolled on to win by 2 lengths. Avie' Flatter edged One Bad Boy for second. In the Plate, One Bad Boy led all the way, winning by 3 1/2 length with Avie's Flatter second and Tone Broke third. Tone Broke, a Broken Vow colt trained by Steve Asmussen, finished Tuesday's 1 3/16 miles over a fast track in 1:56.56 under Ricardo Santana Jr.

"I kind of think he'll go ahead and finish up the Canadian Triple Crown,," said Assmussen assistant Darren Fleming. "But actually it'll be up to Steve and the owners to decide. I think the further the better and he's versatile. He's been on the (all-weather) one time and he liked it. I don't think the turf will bother him a bit. He's that good. He's a nice horse."

The third jewel of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown is the $400,000 Breeders' Stakes on August 17 at Woodbine Racetrack over 1-1/4 miles on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.

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Campaign was away last of five in Wednesday's $100,000 Grade III Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar, swung three-wide into the stretch while rallying forward and was up in time to get the lion's share by 1 1/4 lengths over Itsinthepost. For the Top showed the way, then tired badly to finish third, a further 12 lengths in arrears. Campaign, a 4-year-old Curlin colt out of the Dynaformer mare Arania, ran 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:32.36 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons.

The victory was Campaign's fifth from 10 starts and trainer John Sadler said there is "a very strong chance" the colt will contest the $1 million Grade I TVG Pacific Classic Aug. 17.

Turf

Channel Maker is the lukewarm 7-2 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Bowling Green at Saratoga. The 1 3/8-miles event over the Spa's well-watered turf course drew 13, many of whom have displayed the ability to figure here but not the consistency to lend confidence.

Channel Maker, a 4-year-old English Channel gelding, actually fits that description, too. The Bill Mott trainee last was seen finishing a discouraged fourth behind Bricks and Mortar in the Grade I Manhattan. Before that, he won the Grade I Man o' War. He does have a win and a second from two starts at Saratoga. Arklow enters after just missing in the Man o' War and the Grade II Belmont Gold Cup but was dismal in his two previous outings.

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Chad Brown, who has made a habit of sweeping the placings in these races, might be hard pressed to repeat that feat in the Bowling Green. He saddles Focus Group and two recent imports -- Olympico, who makes his third U.S. start after a campaign in the French provinces, and Ya Primo, making his first start after shipping up from Chile after three straight graded stakes wins.

Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine drew a field of eight. Souper Tapit is the highweight among them, coming off a short rest following a victory in the Grade II Eclipse Stakes in May.

Around the ovals:

Saratoga

Rinaldi led the parade in Wednesday's $150,000 Cab Calloway Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds and cruised on home first by 4 1/4 lengths. Funny Guy, the favorite, was second with Albie another 3 1/2 lengths back in third. Rinaldi, a Posse colt from the Dynaformer mare Dynamite Cocktail, ran 1 mile on the good inner turf course in 1:36.28 with Luis Saez in the irons. Trainer H. James Bond pointed out Rinaldi is closely related to former Canadian Horse of the Year Lexie Lou but added, "We're New York-bred so we won't be too overzealous."

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