Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Ten Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races from Japan, across North American and on to England, the first stops on the "European Road to the Kentucky Derby and the return of Santa Anita highlight weekend horse racing.
On the international scene, Grade 1 racing returns to Japan and Hong Kong's star of stars, Beauty Generation, is gearing up nicely for his seasonal return.
With the Chicago Cubs officially eliminated from baseball's postseason play, we now turn our full attention to:
The weekend sees the final two "Win and You're In" events for the Breeders' Cup Classic, one at either end of the continent.
The 1-2 finishers from the Grade I Travers, the winner of the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita and the winner of the Grade I Woodward are set to square off in the first of them -- Saturday's $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
Code of Honor, the dominant winner of the Travers, is the morning-line favorite for Saturday's race. Tacitus returns after finishing second in the Travers, 3 lengths back of the winner. Those 3-year-olds face 4-year-old Vino Rosso, who won the Santa Anita Gold Cup two starts back, and 6-year-old Preservationist, who exits the Woodward victory Aug. 31.
On Saturday at Santa Anita, McKinzie can cement his status atop the older male division with a win in the $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again. And he is the odds-on favorite it do just that. The 4-year-old Street Sense colt has been a bit of a hard-luck story for trainer Bob Baffert, missing the Kentucky Derby with an injury, then finishing second in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and Grade I Met Mile. But he returns to California off a smashing win in the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga last month and conditions look right for a repeat.
Still, McKinzie and jockey Mike Smith will have to outrun the likes of Pacific Classic upset winner Higher Power and runner-up Draft Pick and Grade II Stephen Foster winner Seeking the Soul. The bonus to the "Win and You're In" status of the Awesome Again is that the Breeders' Cup Classic will be run on the very same strip.
Quip looks to rebound from a frustrating trip to the West Coast -- ninth in the Grade I Pacific Classic -- when he lines up for Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt won the Grade II Stephen Foster over the Churchill strip the race before that and is 2-for-3 under the Twin Spires. Sir Anthony, Tenfold, Pioneer Spirit, Silver Dust, Mojito Rojo and former Mexican champ Kukulkan are among the other nine.
Global Access, Avie's Flatter and Jungle Fighter are the top three and the inside posts among six in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Derby on the Woodbine all-weather. Global Access, by Giant's Causeway, was last seen winning the Grade III Sarnac at Saratoga. Avie's Flatter, a Flatter colt, finished second, second and third in the three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown. Jungle Fighter has hit the exacta in five straight heats.
Five are set for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Durham Cup on the Woodbine all-weather track.
On Sunday at Remington Park, Mucho Gusto gives it another try in the $400,000 Grade III Oklahoma Derby. The Bob Baffert trainee, by Mucho Macho Man, hasn't missed a top-three finish in nine career starts but comes to Oklahoma after reporting second in the Haskell at Monmouth and third in the Travers at Saratoga. Tax, Owendale and Bankit deserve respect among the other 10.
Five ambitious rivals turned out seeking to end Midnight Bisou's six-race win streak in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Beldame at Belmont Park. Midnight Bisou, a Midnight Lute filly, hasn't been beaten since finishing third in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff. Three of the wins in her current skein were Grade I events, most recently the Personal Ensign at Saratoga, where she edged Elate by a nose. The primary rivals, per the oddsmaker, are Vexatious and Chilean-bred Wow Cat.
There are several really good ones among the six set to run Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Zenyatta at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff. Secret Spice has a win and two seconds from her last three starts, all Grade I races. La Force was second in the 2018 Zenyatta and Paradise Woods won this two years ago and usually is in the mix. Ollie's Candy won the Grade I Clement Hirsch in her last outing.
It's a four-horse "you pick em'" in Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Remington Park Oaks. Lady Apple was third in the Kentucky Oaks. Gold Standard enters off three straight wins on the Kentucky circuit. Classic Fit was second in the Mother Goose. And the local, She's Shiney, has four wins from eight starts.
Eight Rings is the rather lukewarm among nine entered for Friday's $300,000 Grade I American Pharoah at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The Empire Maker colt won at first asking at Del Mar Aug. 8 but then lost jockey Drayden Van Dyke early in the strangely run Grade I Del Mar Futurity in his second start, won by 35-1 long shot Nucky. John Velazquez replaces Van Dyke aboard the Bob Baffert-trained favorite and Nucky is back among the rivals. Also with support are Grade II Best Pal Stakes winner Collusion Illusion, American Pharoah ridgling American Theorum and Grade I Hopeful Stakes runner-up Shoplifted.
Chance It and Liam's Lucky Charm are the favorites in a field of 10 for Saturday's $400,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes for state-breds at Gulfstream Park. Chance It, a Currency Swap colt, won the first leg of the series, then finished second in the middle leg, caught late by Liam's Lucky Charm. As the distances get longer, can the pacesetter find more?
A pair of classy recent maiden winners virtually bookend the field in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Pilgrim at Belmont Park. Breaking from the No. 2 post is the Wertheimer homebred Silent Name colt No Name, who won at first asking at Saratoga, earning a 77 Beyer Speed Figure -- tops in this field -- going 1 1/16 miles. In the No. 6 slot in the field of eight is Structor, a Palace Malice colt who fetched $850,000 in March and also won his only previous start at the Spa. As with most 2-year-old events, anything could and probably will happen.
Bast, winner of the Del Mar Debutant in her last start, is the 3-5 favorite on the morning line for Friday's $300,000 Grade I Chandelier at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Uncle Mo filly, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Del Mar feature by 8 1/2 lengths in her second start. Among the others, Comical won the Schuylerville at Saratoga but then failed to get the job done in two subsequent starts in California. Been Studying Her exits a win versus state-breds at Del Mar.
Ceci Valentina stretches out to two turns for Saturday's $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes for state-breds at Gulfstream Park -- the third leg of the valuable series. The filly appeared to have something left in the tank when she won the second leg, the $200,000 Susan's Girl Division Aug. 31 despite some serious traffic issues and trainer Angel Rodriguez said he sees no problem with moving on from that 7 furlongs to Saturday's 1 1/16 miles. There are some "new shooters" joining the series.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Miss Grillo at Belmont Park attracted eight and should be competitive and informative. As the man said, watch and learn.
It would be hard to find a more evenly matched bunch than the eight 3-year-olds set for Saturday's $125,000 Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs. There has to be a favorite and that's Tracksmith, at 3-1 on the morning line. The Street Sense colt exits a fourth-place showing in the Grade III Virginia Derby. A program-stabber.
Mr. Misunderstood is the solid morning-line favorite among 12 entered for Sunday's $100,000 Remington Green. The Archarcharch gelding was a force last year but has been in and out this season.
Filly & Mare Turf
Division leader Vasilika is not in the field for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and that shakes up the equation. The morning-line pick is Paved, a 4-year-old Quality Road filly who finished second to Vasilika in her last race, the Grade II John C. Mabee, just 2 3/4 lengths back. And, as Michael Hammersly notes in the Daily Racing Form analysis, "Can anyone else in here get that close to Vasilika?" Not recently. Still, you'd like to have a look at the likes of Excellent Sunset, Yellow Ribbon winner Beau Recall and a few others.
Imperial Hint takes on five rivals in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Vosburgh at Belmont Park, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. The 6-year-old entire son of Imperialism finished third in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in March against some of the world's best and, after a warmup, returned to form with a four-lengths win in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga in his most recent race. He was second and third in the last two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Sprint, too. Rivals include Promises Fulfilled, who was fourth in Dubai, and Firenze Fire.
Thirstforlife and Timeline are co-favorites for Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Ack Ack at Churchill Downs. There are no monsters in the field of nine but Timeline was a force before going on extended break last December. This is his return engagement. Thirstforlife is 4-for-8 at Churchill Downs but, afte that, it's tough to get too excited. Mr. Jagermeister shows three straight wins, all theoretically down the class ladder but perhaps not bad with this field. Mr Freeze makes his second start of 2019 for trainer Dale Romans.
Sunday's Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse is the first Grade 1 event of the Japanese fall season and also a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In". The likely favorite, Danon Smash, is a 4-year-old son of the 2012 and 2013 Sprinters Stakes winner Lord Kanaloa. He comes to the race with four of his six wins coming at this 1,200-meters distance, including the Grade 3 Keeneland Cup in August.
The runner-up in the Keeneland Cup, Tower of London, returns for another try, as do Mr. Melody, the 3-year-old filly Dirndl and Nakayama 1,200-meters specialist Mozu Superflare, who could be dangerous on the lead.
Friday's Shadwell Rockfell for 2-year-old fillies at Newmarket is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. The very warm antepost favorite is Daahyeh, a Bated Breath filly coming off seconds in the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge at Newmarket and the Group 2 Moyglare Stud at the Curragh for trainer Roger Varian.
The Juddmonte Cheveley Park for 2-year-old fillies at Newmarket on Saturday attracted a field of 11 with many looking possible. The combination of trainer Mark Johnston and jockey Frankie Dettori could help make Raffle Prize a slight favorite. The Slade Power filly exits a second, beaten a neck, in the Group 2 Darley Prix Morny.
Saturday's Juddmonte Royal Lodge Sakes for 2-year-olds at Newmarket is both the first stop on the "European Road to the Kentucky Derby" and a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The turf races on the Derby series seldom have much bearing on the first Saturday in May in Louisville. The Breeders' Cup ticket could be more germane. On the other hand, the early favorite is Kameko, a Kentucky-bred Kitten's Joy colt trained by Andrew Balding for Qatar Racing. Those connections could wind up anywhere on the globe. Aidan O'Brien has three but any would be a surprise on the top end of the result.
Sunday's Beresford Stakes at the Curragh is the second "European Road to the Kentucky Derby" race. At press time 21 remained in. Check back for results.
Two-time Horse of the Year Beauty Generation kicks off his 2019-20 campaign next week in the Group 3 Celebration Handicap and trainer John Moore said the 7-year-old is hitting his marks with the eye on December.
The champion miler breezed through a 1,000-meters barrier trial Tuesday at Sha Tin under Zac Purton, finishing first by 1 1/4 lengths. "I'm very pleased," Moore said. "He'll go into the race slightly underdone, which is taken for granted at this stage of his prep. But Zac wasn't concerned that the horse's age had caught up with him or anything like that."
He'll be both slightly underdone, then, and rather massively weighted, toting 137 pounds while giving as much as 20 pounds to rivals. "It wouldn't be a disaster if he did get beat," Moore said. "I don't think he will. The important thing is getting him prepared for the Longines Hong Kong Mile in December."
Meanwhile, owner Patrick Kwok continued to beat the drums for an international expedition with Beauty Generation -- a plan that last year was shut down quickly by other members of the Kwok family.
Speaking of Purton, he saw his lead in the jockey premiership chase vanish Wednesday night at Happy Valley as chief rival Joao Moreira booted home a triple. Moreira, a three-time champ before an aborted move to Japan last season, now has 10 wins, one more than Purton and two in front of Karis Teetan.
"I'm trying my best and I'm making the most of every opportunity I'm being given," Moreira said.