Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Canada, Japan and Kentucky carry the banner in weekend horse racing, with Woodbine hosting its top-tier turf races and Kyoto Racecourse featuring the final leg of the filly Triple Crown, typhoon permitting.
In the "How Cool Is THAT?" department, Her Majesty the Queen for the first time will have a starter in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.
Meanwhile, the final Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race of the year is in the books from Keeneland while Belmont Park contributes a few late races that might produce Breeders' Cup candidates.
Australia's spring extravaganza rolls on with a quintet of Group 1 events.
We have lots of interesting stuff in "News and Notes" this time around. Don't miss it.
We roll on, starting with:
A strong international contingent, including last year's winner, looks to have the upper hand in Saturday's $800,000 (Canadian) Grade I Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine. Desert Encounter, a now 7-year-old Halling gelding, closed from the back of the field to win the 2018 Canadian and enters this year's fray on the back of three straight wins in England for trainer David Simcock.
He's not the favorite, though. That honor goes to Ziyad, a 4-year-old Rock of Gibraltar gelding who won the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville in his last outing for the Wertheimer. He just missed in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint Cloud in the previous race. Alounak, a 4-year-old Camelot colt, exits a victory in a Group 3 race at Baden-Baden in Germany's Black Forest and Pivotine, fifth in the Grade I Arlington Million two months ago, completes the list of invaders.
Among the locals in the Canadian, Nessy most recently was seen finishing second in the Grade I Northern Dancer over the course and Pumpkin Rumble won the Alphabet Soup for Pennsylvania-breds at Parx Racing.
Filly & Mare Turf
Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies commemorates Her Majesty's visit to Keeneland 35 years ago. Magnetic Charm, a daughter of Exceed And Excel, will be the Queen's first colors-bearer ever to contest the race when she lines up Saturday, hoping to improve on her second-place finish in the Grade II Canadian at Woodbine Sept. 14. That was no fluke, either. The Godolphin-bred filly finished second, beaten only a neck, in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot while toting 133 pounds.
"She's very straightforward and tries incredibly hard," assistant trainer Harry Eustace said about the filly. "She ran one of her best races in Canada. She's trained well since at Keeneland. It's a great place for horses to come to and she's really blossomed since she got there. Fingers crossed, she can run well and give the Queen something to cheer about."
Those fingers had best be crossed firmly as Her Majesty's filly faces three from the all-conquering ranks of trainer Chad Brown. That trio includes the morning-line favorite, Cambier Parc, recent winner of the Grade I Del Mar Oaks.
The race is an object lesson in racing internationalism even aside from Magnetic Charm representing the British monarch and having raced last in Canada. Her breeder, Godolphin, is the creation of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and the Canadian race that earned Magnetic Charm an invitation to Saturday's affair was sponsored by the Japan Racing Association.
The field also includes an Irish-bred Godolphin filly, Castle Lady, who opened her account with three straight wins in France and ranks second-favorite on the morning line.
Saturday's $600,000 (Canadian) Grade I E.P. Taylor for fillies and mares at Woodbine looks a fair balance between some promising overseas shippers and some proven local commodities. The local team features 2017 Queen's Plate winner Holy Helena, winner of the Grade II Dance Smartly over the course in June; Starship Jubilee, winner of the Grade II Canadian over the course last month; and a pair from trainer Graham Motion including Si Que Es Buena, who makes her first start since January. Gaining wheels back after a rallying third at Kentucky Downs and anything last seen at that track is dangerous.
The visiting party for the E.P. Taylor includes Red Tea, a Joseph Patrick O'Brien trainee last seen finishing a competitive third in the Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville; Imperial Charm and German-based Durance.
At Belmont Park on Saturday, New and Improved, Dyna Passer and Romantic Pursuit top a field of seven for the $200,000 Grade II Sands Point for 3-year-old fillies. New and Improved, one of two in the field for trainer Chad Brown, won her first start at Saratoga, then finished fourth in the Riskaverse Stakes, beaten less than 2 lengths after a rough stasrt. Dyna Passer finished fifth in the $750,000 Grade I Belmont Oaks and third in the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks and this field should be a bit easier. Romantic Pursuit finished fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks in her first-ever stakes race.
They're fighting to get into an overflow field for Friday's $150,000 Grade III Buffalo Trace Franklin County for fillies and mares at Keeneland. And they likely will be fighting it out in the stretch as there's talent up and down the ranks. The nominal morning-line favorite at 9-2 is Morticia, who exits a victory in the Grade III Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs. But, goodness, it should be quite a 5 1/2 furlongs.
There's speed, speed and more speed in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nearctic at Woodbine with well-fancied Richiesinthehouse and Yorkton preferring to show the way and some longer shots also lead-lovers. That could open the way to Blind Ambition, who returned from a 10-months absence to win over the course last month, and Irish invader Woody Creek, second in the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh two starts back.
Goldwood puts a five-race winning streak on the line as the early favorite in Saturday's $100,000 Floral Park for fillies and mares at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old mare won all four starts at Monmouth Park this summer, then took the Sensible Lady at Laurel Park in her last start. She is cleverly named, by Medaglia d'Oro from the Rahy mare Crimson Maple. Others to watch out for, judging by the morning line, are Sensible Lady runner-up Fire Key and Mominou, idle since winning the Caress Stakes at Saratoga in July.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Sweet Melania blew the doors off 13 rivals in Wednesday's $200,000 Grade II JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland, the final Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race of the year. With Jose Ortiz up, the American Pharoah filly waited behind the favorite, Jezebel's Kitten, onto the backstretch, took over the lead and was in full flight down the stretch en route to a 5 1/2-lengths victory. Witez and Ask Bailey were along late at long odds to finish second and third with Jezebel's Kitten fourth. Sweet Melania finished 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.13.
"As soon as I completely got the lead, she relaxed well and I cruised to the quarter pole," Ortiz said. "When I asked her to go, she switched leads and gave me a great turn of foot." Owner Robert Low added, "Win any kind of stakes race, a "Win and You're In" race (at Keeneland) is fantastic, so we're looking forward to going to California."
Godolphin's excellent weekend results carried right over to Wednesday's $100,000 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile on the Presque Isle Downs all-weather course. Toting the blue silks of Sheik Mohammed's global juggernaut, Albert Park rallied from well back, gained ground through the lane and won by 3/4 length over Kid Russell. Johnny Cab was third as Albert Park ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.30. Pablo Morales rode for trainer Michael Stidham. The Street Sense colt, based at Arlington Park, now is 2-for-2.
New York Groove hit her groove in the final stages of Thursday evening's $100,000 Presque Isle Debutante on the all-weather surface. The Verrazano filly, with Antonio Gallardo up, raced in mid-pack early in the 6 1/2-furlongs event, came three-wide into the stretch and drew clear in the final sixteenth, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Bean. New York Groove finished in 1:15.13, remaining undefeated after three starts.
Five will line up for Sunday's $75,000 Anoakia Stakes at 6 furlongs at Santa Anita. Leucothea, after breaking her maiden at Del Mar, finished eighth in the Del Mar Debutante, then bobbled at the start of the Grade I Chandelier at Santa Anita, losing her rider. Third time's the charm? Buyer's remorse was fifth in the Chandelier and Pure Xena was fifth in the Del Mar Debutante. Shedaresthedevil exits a fourth-place finish in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. Always watch for Bob Baffert in the 2-year-old ranks. He saddles Éclair, winner on her third start.
On the international front:
Sunday's Grade 1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto Racecourse is the last leg of the Japanese filly Triple Crown but lacks either winner from the first two legs -- Gran Alegria and Loves Only You. Instead, the 2,000-meters race features last year's 2-year-old champ, Danon Fantasy, who raised some doubts while finishing fourth and fifth in the two preceding legs. She returned to win the Rose Stakes in record time and will have regular rider Yuga Kawada aboard. For those scoring at home, Kawada currently is Japan's leading rider, six wins ahead of perennial contender Christophe Lemaire.
Others to watch in the Shuka Sho are fillies who ran well enough without winning in the first two stop in the series -- Chrono Genesis, Curren Bouqeuetd'or, Beach Samba and Contra Check, Lemaire's mount.
The joker in the deck is Typhoon Hagibis, which is on target to hit the area Saturday, threatening heavy rainfall and, at a minimum, a soft course for the Sunday races -- an unfamiliar test for most Japanese runners. The approach of the storm forced cancellation of two rugby World Cup matches scheduled for Saturday. And when they can't play rugby, things are serious, indeed.
Saturday's card at Caulfield includes four Group 1 events including the Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas and the Schweppes Thousand Guineas, each at 1 mile. The Ladbroke Stakes at 1 1/4 miles features such familiar names as Black Heart Bart, Gailo Chop and Humidor along with Cape of Good Hope, last seen finishing third in the Grade I Saratoga Derby Invitational for Aidan O'Brien and Coolmore. The 1-mile Toorak Handicap rounds out the action with a big and competitive field.
At Randwick, Saturday's headliner is the Group 1 Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes for 3-year-olds at 2,000 meters. Castevecchio, winner of the Group 1 Champagne back in the southern hemisphere autumn, is top-rated but has been disappointing in two recent efforts.
Quadrilateral, already a favorite for the 2020 Guineas, is best-priced in the antepost market for Friday's Group 1 Fillies Mile at Newmarket. The Juddmonte homebred daughter of Frankel is 2-for-2 going in with the second win coming by 9 lengths at Newbury in September. Others in this nine-filly field include Cayenne Pepper, an Australia filly who won two starts, then finished second to So Wonderful in a Group 3 at the Curragh, and Coolmore's entry Love. Love, a Galileo filly, exits a victory in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud at the Curragh and has won three of her last four starts but started her career finishing fourth behind Cayenne Pepper in June.
Powerful Breeze, an Iffraaj filly trained by Hugo Palmer, comes to the Fillies Mile 2-for-2 with a Group 2 win in her last start at Doncaster. And who wouldn't have a flutter on a John Gosden-trained, Frankie Dettori-partnered horse at 16-1 odds (as of Wednesday). That's the cleverly named Anastarsia, a Sea the Stars filly whose last outing was a victory at Newcastle.
Back in North America, around the ovals:
Maters and Taters, at odds of 28-1, dominated Tuesday's $100,000 Crown Ambassador Stakes for Indiana-bred 2-year-olds. The Santiva gelding jumped to the early lead, cruised and got home first by 2 1/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Cash Logistics. Dont Ask Kinmon was third. Maters and Taters, with Eddie Perez in the kip, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.48.
Super Jen rallied smartly through the stretch to win Tuesday's $100,000 Indiana Stallion Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies by 1 1/4 lengths. Betcha held a brief advantage in the stretch and settled for second, 4 3/4 lengths to the good of Little Maemi. Super Jen, a daughter of Unbridled Express, ran 6 furlongs in 1:13.19 for jockey Marcelino Pedroza.
Tribecca opened a big early lead in Monday's $50,000 Leon Reed Memorial for New York-breds and scurried home first by 3/4 length over Winston's Chance. P J Advantage was third. Tribecca, a 5-year-old Bustin Stones gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:11.03 with John Davila Jr. up.
News and Notes
Waldgeist got the better of Enable in the Arc but could do no better than a dead heat with the regal mare in the latest Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings. Waldgeist's number jumped from 124 to 128. That put him in a three-way tie with Enable and Crystal Ocean, who earned his number in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's top horse, Beauty Generation, improved from a 125 rating to 127 by winning the Celebration Cup in course-record time while carrying 133 pounds. That's old school stuff. The top-ranked U.S. horse is City of Light, whose 125 ranking is, by way of comparison, the same as the retired Australian legend Winx. Omaha Beach enters this rarified company at 120 after winning the Santa Anita Sprint Championship in his first start since the Arkansas Derby.
Churchill Downs Inc. has announced plans to buy Turfway Park, rebuild he grandstand and install an historical racing facility. The deal with Jack Ohio, an affiliate of Hard Rock International, averts a showdown over the winter racing dates in northern Kentucky and could generate additional purse money through the gaming expansion. The deal, subject to regulatory approval, comes just more than a month after CDI turned down the opportunity to add a purse money-generating gaming facility at its Arlington Park track in Illinois.
The China Horse Club has appointed Juan-Carlos Capelli to its International Advisory Council -- a panel headed by John Warren, bloodstock adviser to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Capelli's background in sports marketing and the luxury industry includes a long tenure with Longines, during which he was the public face of the Swiss watchmaker at top race meetings around the globe. Capelli also is the founder and CEO of International JCC Consulting Group. "His appointment to the International Advisory Council of the China Horse Club is testament to his standing as a pioneer in his craft," said Teo Ah Khing, CHC founder and chairman.