June 12 (UPI) -- Kentucky Derby prospects Sole Volante and Ete Indien faced off at Gulfstream Park this week and last year's Belmont Stakes winner was defeated in a comeback bid in New York. The weekend brings some of the top U.S. fillies and mares back to action.
On the international front, results are in from the first big round competition among 3-year-olds in France, while the O'Brien family has a numerical advantage during the weekend in the Irish Guineas -- but not the favorites.
Canadian racing gears up with prospects for the Queen's Plate on display at Woodbine.
And away we go.
The Road to the Triple Crown
Wednesday at Gulfstream Park, Sole Volante rallied from last with a sweeping move into the turn and rolled home first in an allowance affair carefully carded for several Triple Crown hopefuls.
Jesus' Team rallied right with Sole Volante to finish second. Shivaree dueled the favorite, Ete Indien, into submission after five furlongs and those two finished third and fourth. Sole Volante, a Karakonte gelding, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.80 with Luca Panici up.
Shivaree and Ete Indien were racing for the first time since finishing second and third behind Tiz the Law in the Florida Derby on March 28. Sole Volante was on the track in the afternoon for the first time since finishing second to King Guillermo in the Tampa Bay Derby om March 7.
Patrick Biancone, who trains both Sole Volante and Ete Indien, said Wednesday's race was "a training race" and unlikely to change his plans to send Sole Volante to either the Belmont Stakes on June 20 or Blue Grass at Keeneland on July 11 and Ete Indien to the Haskell Invitational on July 18 at Monmouth Park.
Trainer Ralph Nicks was equally impressed with Shivaree and said he's eyeing the Blue Grass.
Meanwhile, while the extended "Road to the Kentucky Derby" continues to benefit some late-bloomers, it also continues to claim victims to injury. The latest is Maxfield, who suffered an injury to his right front leg during a workout Wednesday at Keeneland.
Trainer Brendan Walsh said surgery was successful and the Godolphin homebred might be able to resume racing after recuperation. But the Kentucky Derby hopes are smoke.
Maxfield is only the latest in a string of injury-related detours on the "Road" in the past few weeks. Also forced to the sidelines were the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Nadal and Charlatan, winners of the two legs of the Arkansas Derby, and Wells Bayou, who was ruled out Wednesday by trainer Brad Cox because of bone bruises.
Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park is not only the weekend's sole Grade I affair but also a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff. Six are set to go and a good case could be made for any of them.
Ollie's Candy is the 8-5 favorite on the morning line but the 5-year-old Candy Ride mare, usually in the mix, seems averse to winning. She took her first three starts back in 2018, but then is 1-for-9 since. She was last seen finishing second in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 18.
Point of Honor was third in the Apple Blossom and also enters this fray. Pink Sands exits a victory in the Grade II Inside Information at Gulfstream Park. Golden Award was second in the Grade III Royal Delta at Gulfstream in her most recent outing.
Blamed won the 2019 Royal Delta and most recently won an allowance event at Oaklawn. She's a Julie has had her moments.
Classic / Dirt Mile
Thursday's $80,000 Flat Out at Belmont Park marked the return to action of 2019 Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston. But the star on this day was Moretti, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt who jumped out to a big early lead and just kept extending the advantage, winning by 5 1/4 lengths.
Sir Winston did rally from well back to finish second as Moretti, under Javier Castellano, finished 1 3/8 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 2:16.31.
Moretti, making just his second stakes appearance, won an allowance event at Oaklawn Park in his last race May 2. Sir Winston had not raced since he won an optional-claiming tilt Jan. 31 at Aqueduct. He then traveled to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup, which was canceled.
"He's always been a steady galloper and he seems like he's come around in his last couple of starts," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Moretti. "He's really found himself and seems like he's improving, which is really what we expected all along. The older he got, the better he would get."
Pletcher said the $200,000 Grade II Suburban on the Fourth of July is "in the cards" for Moretti.
Sir Winston's rider, Joel Rosario, said his mount "fought hard to get second. It's harder to make up ground on the muddy track. He ran his race."
Saturday's $55,000 Coaltown Handicap at Gulfstream Park drew Pennsylvania Derby winner Math Wizard and multiple Grade I stakes-placed Diamond Oops. Diamond Oops reported fourth in the Pegasus World Cup in his last outing while Math Wizard was eighth in the Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Both look for better in this -- an obvious warmup for bigger things. They face seven others going 1 mile on the dirt.
Turf / Filly & Mare Turf
Arklow is the 8-5 morning-line pick in a full field for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs. The race is 1 1/2 miles, which is no issue for the 6-year-old son of Arch, who won the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic over the course and distance last October.
He's been freshened since running out of the money in the Breeders' Cup and the Pegasus Word Cup Turf. Those not liking him might look to Tiz a Slam or Admission Office.
Sunday's $75,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes at Santa Anita finds seven fillies and mares trying 1 1/4 miles, starting on the downhill turf. None has been setting the world afire but it should be a decent wagering opportunity.
Saturday's $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes for 3-year-olds at Golden Gate features Bettor Trip Nick, who won the Golden Nugget and Gold Rush Stakes over the all-weather course last year, when he was 4-for-5 but came up short in two starts earlier this year at Santa Anita.
Trainer William Delia tries the Boat Trip gelding on the grass for the first time. Several others based down south are worth a look.
Sunday's $250,000 Grade III San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate lured a bunch from down south, most of whom have been so-so of late, albeit in decent company.
Drawn outside in the field of eight is Restrainedvengence, a 5-year-old Hold Me Back gelding who has been bouncing around between California and New Mexico with three wins from his last four starts. Two of those came on dirt and one on the Golden Gate all-weather track, though, so we shall see.
North of the Border
Saturday's Woodstock and Star Shoot Stakes, each for $100,000 (Canadian) and run at 6 furlongs, are early preps for the COVID-19 delayed Queen's Plate and Woodbine Oaks. The Star Shoot is for 3-year-old fillies only. Unlike the QP and Oaks, they are not restricted to Canadian-bred runners.
The $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks has been set back to Aug. 15 with the $1 million (Canadian) Plate now scheduled Sept. 12.
Around the world, around the clock:
Aidan O'Brien and various Coolmore combinations have six of the 11 in Friday's Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas -- but not the favorite. That's Siskin, a Juddmonte Farms homebred colt by First Defence from the Oasis Dream mare Bird Flown.
The colt was undefeated in four starts as a 2-year-old and makes his 3-year-old debut. All of those races were at 6 furlongs. This is 1 mile at the Curragh.
The O'Brien bunch is headed by Armory, Vatican City and Royal Lytham. Armory and Vatican City are by Galileo and Royal Lytham is by his son, Gleneagles.
All three are at antepost odds of about 3-1 to 5-1. The other three are at longer odds, among them Monarch of Egypt, an American Pharoah colt out of the Galileo mare Up, who finished second to Siskin in their final two meetings of 2019 but has disappointed twice this year.
Fort Meyers was sired by War Front and produced by the Galileo mare Marvelous while Lope y Fernandez, by Lope de Vega, is from the Dansili mare Black Dahlia.
One way or the other, that Galileo bloodline will find its way. Or ways.
Saturday, attention turns to the 3-year-old fillies and the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas. Here, Aidan O'Brien has only two of the 15 runners -- So Wonderful and Peaceful. But his sons, Joseph Patrick O'Brien and Donnacha O'Brien, have two and one each, respectively, for a family total of one-third of the field.
The 1,000 Guineas favorite, though, is Albigna, a Zoffany filly trained by Jessica Harrington. She won the Prix Marcel Boussac last fall prior to a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and makes her 2020 debut.
Chantilly on Wednesday hosted some important preps as the compressed season continues.
In the Prix de Montretout, last year's Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) runner-up Persian King wasn't able to get by stablemate Magny Cours in the final furlong, settling for second in his first start in one year and eight days.
Nonetheless, trainer Andre Fabre pronounced himself pleased with the 4-year-old Godolphin runner's performance and he now is likely for the Group 1 Prix Ispahan, reslated for July 19 and opened only in this this unusual year for 3-year-olds to try their luck against elders.
Among the 3-year-olds racing this week, Chachnak, a Kingman colt, found a late lead and held off Hurricane Cloud to win the Group 3 Prix du Guiche by 1/2 length with three others in close attendance. Chachnak had finished third in two previous starts this season.
And Ebaiyra a Kentucky-bred Aga Khan homebred by Distorted Humor, rallied to the lead a furlong out in the Group 3 Prix du Royaumont for 3-year-old fillies and ran on to win for the second straight time, by 2 1/2 lengths from American Apples. She was confidently ridden by Christophe Soumillon.