Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Seeking the Soul headlines the biggest event of weekend horse racing, the $1 million Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar, with a Breeders' Cup Classic "Win and You're In" berth on the line.
Three-year-old fillies contest the weekend's other Grade I, the $600,000 Alabama at Saratoga. Two of last year's top juveniles are back in action and champion grass sprinter Stormy Liberal, rested from Dubai, returns at Del Mar, also seeking a free pass back to the Breeders' Cup.
There's also a Breeders' Cup spot up for grabs on the foreign front as some very promising 2-year-olds mix it up at Deauville in France.
And ... Mattress Mack is back with another creating naming sponsorship. See "News and Notes". A master promoter is always worth a look.
But before hitting the mattress, here's some bedtime reading:
Ten are set for Saturday's $1 million Grade I TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic. The lukewarm morning-line favorite in a contentious field is the well-traveled Seeking the Soul, winner of the Grade II Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in his last start, with Pavel and Quip also getting good reviews from the oddsmaker.
Seeking the Soul, a Charles Fipke homebred 6-year-old son of Perfect Soul, finished second in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile and has competed as far afield as Dubai, finishing eighth in this year's Group 1 World Cup. He won just one of six starts last season and the Stephen Foster was his first victory in four tries this year, while facing some of the world's top horses.
Seeking the Soul's trainer, Dallas Stewart, said he was happy with the No. 5 draw at Tuesday's ceremony at The Brigantine, overlooking the seaside track. "Why not?" Stewart said. "My horse is doing good, he's training good and I expect a big race from him Saturday."
Pavel, a 5-year-old son of Creative Cause, won the 2018 Stephen Foster but is winless in seven starts since. He finished fourth in Dubai. Quip, a 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt, races for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing. Lightly raced, Quip was second in the Stephen Foster in his most recent start, following a victory in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap.
A full field is set for Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Canadian Derby at Century Mile with the 8-5 morning-line favorite Final Jeopardy, a Street Sense colt who finished second in the Grade III Dwyer at Belmont Park July 6.
On the down side in the Classic division, both Game Winner and Maximum Security are out of Grade I Travers, the "Midsummer Derby" -- a race that had promised to sort out the murky mess that is the 3-year-old division. Game Winner, the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male, has contracted a virus at an inopportune time.
He scored his first win since the Breeders' Cup in the Grade III Los Alamitos Derby July 13 and trainer Bob Baffert had high hopes of getting him back to his 2-year-old form in the Travers. Maximum Security, disqualified from victory in the Kentucky Derby, isn't eating or carrying weight up the standards of trainer Jason Servis. So the top 3-year-olds may not meet until the Breeders' Cup Classic -- if then.
Mother Goose winner Dunbar Road and Coaching Club American Oaks runner-up Point of Honor top a field of nine set for Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Alabama for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. It's a deep field, though, with nary an automatic throw-out.
Among the likely ones are Lady Apple, winner in four of her last five starts and third in the Kentucky Oaks; Ulele, second to Lady Apple in the Grade III Iowa Oaks and second to Point of Honor in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan; Street Band, winner of the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks and Grade III Indiana Oaks; and Champagne Anyone, winner of the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Baffert could be fighting mad about Game Winner being forced to miss the Travers so it's a good thing he has Fighting Mad as a solid favorite for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Torrey Pines for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar.
The New Year's Day filly won her first two starts, hit a big blip in the Grade III Miss Preakness at Pimlico and made a nice comeback earlier in the Del Mar meeting, finishing a good second to Lady Ninja. She does make her first start around two turns. Sneaking Out, second in the Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita, and Classic Fit, second in the Grade II Mother Goose at Belmont, appear the main threats.
Jaywalk, the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Eclipse Award winner, looks to win her second straight race in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Monmouth Oaks, facing four rivals. The Cross Traffic filly, trained by John Servis, struggled in her first three starts this season, finishing 13th in the Kentucky Oaks.
After a short break, she got back to the winner's circle in the Grade III Delaware Oaks in her last start. On that effort, the others will have to find a few lengths to compete here, although Jaywalk does give weight to all of them.
Filly & Mare Turf
A full field of 14 is in for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks but it's tough to look past the No. 1 draw, Cambier Park. The Medaglia d'Oro filly, trained by Chad Brown, comes west with a record of three wins from six starts. Two of the defeats were at the hands of division leader Concrete Rose. A couple of others could have an impact with a step forward.
Among them is another Brown shipper, Dogtag, who steps up a bit in class but seems willing. Hidden Message makes her first U.S. start fresh off a win in England. Out of Balance, Mucho Unusual and Lady Prancealot could be flying late if the early pace is hot enough.
Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Lake Placid for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga got seven plus a "main track only" entry. Regal Glory and Blowout, both from Chad Brown's seemingly bottomless barn, are the morning-line favorite with little to chose between them.
Regal Glory, has four wins and two seconds from six starts and won the Grade III Lake George earlier in the meeting. Blowout, never worse than second in five starts, was second in the Lake George -- a race in which only three started and all were saddled by Brown.
The Great Day passed up a long shot bid in last weekend's Arlington Million in favor of an easier slot in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap, where he finds himself the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
The 5-year-old Argentine import, by Harlan's Holiday, finished second in the Grade III Arlington Handicap behind Bandua, who went on to finish third in the Million, so he deserves the respect. Also respected, Marckie's Water and United, the 1-2 in the Charlie Whittingham at Santa Anita two starts back, and 7-year-old French import Itsinthepost, who always seems to work his way into the mix.
The Del Mar Handcap is a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, as was the Arlington Million.
Tone Broke makes his first start on the green course in Saturday's $400,000 (Canadian) Breeders' Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds at Woodbine, trying to nail down two-thirds of the country's Triple Crown.
The Broken Vow colt, trained by Steve Asmussen, won the Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Eire after finishing third in the Queen's Plate over the Woodbine all-weather track. He started his year in Dubai but things didn't go welle there.
Plate winner One Bad Boy was third in the middle leg of the series and is not contesting the Breeder's Stakes, leaving 2018 Canadian 2-year-old champ Avie's Flatter as the major threat. "It will be interesting for his turf debut," Asmussen said of Tone Broke.
Bolo, victorious in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile, ranks high among 11 entered for Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Del Mar Mile. The Temple City gelding is 7 now and lightly raced and there is a three-weeks gap in his published works.
Bowie's Hero comes from a win in the Grade I Eddie Read after finishing third in the Shoemaker. Kentucky shipper El Picaro was a fading third in the Grade III Arlington Handicap in his last start and should appreciate the shorter distance.
Stormy Liberal is back. The 7-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding makes his first start since finishing third in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan against five rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Green Flash at Del Mar. Stormy Liberal won this last year amid a four-race winning streak that included the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
Among the five rivals are Eddie Haskell, who narrowly defeated Stormy Liberal back in February and now rides a three-race win streak, and Undrafted, the Wesley Ward-trained globetrotting warrior who last visited California for the 2016 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, where he finished eighth.
Rowdy Yates is the 9-5 morning-line pick among seven in for Sunday's $100,000 Ellis Park Juvenile. The Oklahoma-bred colt by Morning Line, won at first asking at Churchill Downs, then finished second in the Grade III Bashford Manor over the same track. If the name rings a bell, Clint Eastwood played Rowdy Yates in the TV series "Rawhide" back in the golden age of westerns.
Deviant relaxed early in Wednesday's $75,000 El Jovan at Retama Park, came five-wide around the early contenders and drew off easily, winning by 7 3/4 lengths. Valiant Defender and You Should Talk dueled for the lead and got the minor shares.
Deviant, a Daredevil colt trained by Danny Phish, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.59 with Lane Luzzi riding. The colt started the Jovan as the favorite although he remained a maiden after coming up short in three previous starts, all at Churchill Downs.
Eight are entered for Friday's $100,000 Skidmore at Saratoga with Another Miracle and Montauk Daddy catching the oddsmaker's eye. Another Miracle, a daughter of American Pharoah from the Medaglia d'Oro mare Retraceable, was second in her first start at Belmont Park, then a front-running winner earlier at the Spa. Montauk Daddy, a daughter of Daddy Long Legs, was second in her first start, too, then won late in the Belmont Park meeting.
Five are entered for Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine, 6 1/2 furlongs on the green course. Mr. Hustle gets a few extra pounds for winning the Victoria Stakes in his previous start.
Lady Glamour shoulders the favorite's role among 11 fillies set for Sunday's $100,000 Ellis Park Debutante. The Discreet Cat filly is 2-for-3 with the wins sandwiching a third in the Debutante at Churchill Downs.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Kimari, second in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, dominated Wednesday's $100,000 Bolton Landing at Saratoga, kicking away to a 4-lengths victory as the odds-on favorite. The Munnings filly, with John Velazquez up for trainer Wesley Ward, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:01.43. Abscond and Champagne Humor were second and third.
Kimari, out of the Cozzene mare Cozze Up Lady, won her career bow at Keeneland by 15 lengths before boarding the Ward Express to Ascot, where she surrendered by only a head to Raffle Prize and Frankie Dettori. That duo came back to win the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge at Newmarket July 12.
"She had been training real well," Ward assistant Ollie Sangster said of Kimari. "She showed us what we always had seen. We were a bit disappointed to get beat at Ascot, but they had a lot of rain, which wasn't to her liking, but she still ran a big race. She showed us what she was made of today."
Tizsfranderella settled well back in Wednesday's $75,000 La Senorita at Retama, circled five-wide to seize the lead in the late going and rolled on to the upset victory, winning by 2 1/2 lengths from pacesetting Cedar Hall. Viv was third. Tizsfranderella, a Tiznow filly out of the Henny Hughes mare Franderella, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.22 with Thomas Pompell up. She now is 2-for-2.
Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Catch a Glimpse Stakes at Woodbine has a very competitive field of seven. The narrow favorites are My Dear Stakes winner Fast Scene, undefeated after two starts, and Fair Maiden, a last-time winner by 14 1/4 lengths over the Arlington all-weather.
On the international beat:
Also pending late withdrawals, Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet for fillies and mares, 2,000 meters at Deauville, has a field of 10. Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Coronet, Group 1 Sussex Stakes third I Can Fly and Wild Illusion, winner of last fall's Group 1 Prix de l'Opera Longines all have claims among a good bunch.
Pending final declarations, Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Morny for 2-year-old colts and geldings at Deauville looks like a really good heat. Still on the list at press time were the likes of A'ali, winner of the Group 2 Norfolk at Royal Ascot and the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin over the Deauville course; Arizona, winner of the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot; Golden Horde, winner of the Group 2 Richmond at Goodwood; and Earthlight, a Godolphin homebred by Shamardal who's 3-for-3. This is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Up Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Saturday's Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh is a comeback spot for Sir Dragonet. Remember? He was the 2-for-2 sensation, 8-lengths winner of the Chester Vase, who loomed large a few furlongs from home in the Investec Derby -- then faded to finish fifth. He hasn't raced in the intervening 76 days but trainer Aidan O'Brien says the Camelot colt is in fine fettle and could go on to the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes or the Group 2 Prix Niel. First, let's see what happens Saturday.
And, speaking of the Irish Champion Stakes and close calls in the Investec Derby, the runner-up from the classic of classics, Madhmoon, returned to the winner's enclosure Thursday at Leopardstown after the Group 3 Desmond Stakes. Trainer Kevin Prendergast says the Irish Champion in three weeks' time is a hot goal. The Dawn Approach colt, another from O'Brien's yard, was fourth in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby in between Epsom and Leopardstown.
Back in North America, once lightly around the ovals:
No Hayne No Gayne caught pacesetting favorite Might Be in the closing strides of Monday's $50,000 Jack Betta Be Rite Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, winning by a head. New Girl In Town was 4 1/4 lengths farther back in third. No Hayne No Gayne, a 5-year-old Haynesfield mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.34 for jockey Jaime Rodriguez.
Red Cabernet took the lead in the final furlong of Wednesday's $100,000 Eternal Search Stakes for Ontario-bred fillies and mares and held on to win by a neck over She's the Berries, who rallied from last. The favorite, Piper's Legacy, finished third, another 3/4 length in arrears. Red Cabernet, a 5-year-old Signature Red mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.89 with jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson appropriately winning the feature on Ladies' Day.
Carrera Cat prompted the pace in Thursday's $100,000 Union Avenue Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, got by the tiring pacesetter and won by 2 1/4 lengths. Holiday Disguise was second, a neck in front of Jc's Shooting Star. Carrera Cat, a 4-year-old Courageous Cat filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.93 for jockey Rajiv Maragh.
News and Notes
Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, proprieter of the Houston-based Gallery Furniture empire, isn't shy about plastering creative names on racing fixtures. In 1999, for example, Turfway Park's important Kentucky Derby prep became the "Gallery Furniture.com Stakes." Now McIngvale has turned his attention -- and sponsorship, to Kentucky Downs on behalf of that track and his star stallion Runhappy, the 2015 Breeders' Cup Sprint and Eclipse Award winner.
The five-day meeting at the unique southwestern Kentucky turf track is now officially the "RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs" (the all-caps apparently is important).
"I think it's a perfect fit," McIngvale said. "Kentucky Downs is America's most unique race meet and Runhappy the most unique American racehorse we've seen in recent years, with his speed, quality and competing without any medication. One of Kentucky Downs' meet mottos is, 'It's gonna be quick.' What better horse to sponsor that than our brilliantly quick Runhappy?"