Maximum Security, shown winning the $20 million Saudi Cup (blue and orange silks) is the favorite for Saturday's Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita. Photo by Neville Hopwood, courtesy of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia
Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Weekend horse racing brings 11 "Win and You're In" events for the Breeders' Cup World Championships, from Brazil to England and back to California.
Belmont Park, Churchill Downs and Woodbine also contribute to the mix and Gulfstream Park winds up its Florida Sire Series stakes for 2-year-olds. Remington Park's signature Oklahoma Derby runs Sunday.
On the international front, we'll see if old warrior Beauty Generation, with a new trainer, still has what it takes as he faces the likes of reigning Hong Kong Derby winner Golden Sixty Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse. The springtime pot approaches full simmer in Australia with a trio of Group 1 events.
Things look a lot less jolly in England, however, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement Tuesday in Commons that COVID-19 restrictions may preclude fans at race meetings through next March.
Let's hope things get a lot better a lot sooner than March. In the meantime, let's keep calm and ... whatever.
Let's start with the announcement Tuesday that Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law will not contest the Oct. 3 Preakness Stakes, the third leg of the bizarre 2020 Triple Crown, after his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Barclay Tagg said the colt just didn't bounce back quickly enough after the Derby and will train up to the Breeders' Cup Classic.
The decision leaves wide open whether Tiz the Law or Derby winner Authentic has the inside track to the Eclipse Award for the year's top 3-year-old.
Authentic is the likely favorite for the Preakness. Early odds for the Classic have Tiz the Law, Authentic and 4-year-old breakaway division leader Maximum Security bunched at the top.
While the 3-year-olds jockey for position, the aforementioned Maximum Security returns with only four rivals in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic.
Maximum Security's record speaks for itself. The 4-year-old New Year's Day colt has won 10 of 12 starts and it would be 11 were it not for his controversial disqualification in the Kentucky Derby.
He traveled to Saudi Arabia to win the $20 million Saudi Cup in February and shrugged off the travel, winning his two subsequent starts at home for new trainer Bob Baffert. The most recent was the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar -- a 3-lengths triumph.
Unless you believe Sleepy Eyes Todd can recreate his winning ways from the Grade II Charles Town Classic Aug. 28, Maximum Security's main threat is his Baffert barnmate Improbable.
That City Zip colt won the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 6, then journeyed east to win the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga Aug. 1. You could box those two in the exacta and not get all your money back on a winning ticket if Maximum Security wins.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park has Indiana Derby winner Shared Sense and Ohio Derby winner Dean Martini as morning-line favorites in a field of nine.
Rowdy Yates has posted three straight fourth-place finishes, including the Saudi Derby in Riyadh in February, but also merits a look.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Zenyatta at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff, has only five entries, but it's a relatively classy bunch.
Fighting Mad, a 4-year-old New Year's Day filly, won the Grade II Santa Maria at Santa Anita and the Grade I Clement Hirsch at Del Mar in her last two outings for trainer Bob Baffert.
Harvest Moon, a daughter of Uncle Mo, brings a three-race win streak that includes a last-out victory in the Grade III Torrey Pines at Del Mar. Hard Not to Love burned a bunch of money in her most recent start, finishing eighth in the Clement Hirsh, but had five wins in eight starts before that.
Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Remington Park Oaks has nine fillies to go 1 1/16 miles. The morning-line pick is Evoutante, a daughter of Uncle Mo who was third in the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland in July and then fourth in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga. The Kenny McPeek trainee should find these rivals a bit easier.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Saturday's $150,000 Grade II Vosburgh at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, has a field of six and more than its share of question marks.
Among them, was Firenze Fire's last-place finish in the Grade I Forego in his last start the result of a sloppy track or something else trainer Kelly Breen can fix in time for this? He has won four of seven starts over the track, including the Grade II True North three starts back.
Stan the Man, True Timber and Funny Guy are back after finishing second, third and fourth in the Forego.
Another question: Is Engage ready to go against this bunch after being on the sidelines since a fourth-place finish in last November's Breeders' Cup Sprint? He also has a sterling record at Belmont.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, features Collusion Illusion, a 3-year-old Twirling Candy colt whose resume shows five wins from six starts.
His only loss came when he was pulled up and walked off in the American Pharoah over the same track exactly one year ago. He comes off a win in the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar. Flagstaff, now 6, was third in this race last year and since then has been consistently among the top three in top company.
C Z Rocket jumped up to win the Grade II Pat O'Brien at Del Mar last time out -- his first trip west since 2017.
A dozen will line up for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Ack Ack at Churchill Downs with the morning-line favorite, Warrior's Charge, starting from the No. 1 gate in the one-turn mile.
Warrior's Charge, a 4-year-old Munnings colt trained by Brad Cox, comes fresh from victory in the Grade III Philip Iselin at Monmouth and, before that, was fourth in the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont Park. After him, there's a herd of contenders.
Most of the seven entered for Friday's $100,000 Grade III Chillingworth at Santa Anita come from either the Grade III Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar Aug. 21 or the Tranquility Lake Stakes over the same track a week later.
Message won the Tranquility Lake and Amuse was a well-beaten second in the Rancho Bernardo. You pays your money and takes your chances.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Painting reigns as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in a field of six for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Fashion Stakes at Woodbine. The 4-year-old Distorted Humor filly has been second in four straight graded stakes at the Ontario-area oval and looks likely to finally get the job done while dropping in distance to 6 furlongs on the all-weather surface.
Saturday's $200,000 Grade II John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita is a rematch of the Aug. 22 Del Mar Handicap, lacking only the winner, Red King, from the top six finishers in that event.
United was the odds-on favorite at Del Mar and just missed with a late run. He's an obvious win consideration here at 6-5 on the morning line.
The other returnees from the Del Mar Handicap are Originaire, third last time and the victim of traffic; Proud Pedro, fourth and beaten only 1 length; Oscar Dominguez, fifth; and another of those amazing Illinois-breds, Another Mystery, sixth at odds of nearly 100-1 for Team Block. Don't be surprised if Next Shares outruns some decently long odds after making his last start at Kentucky Downs. "Last start KD" is a good angle.
Filly & Mare Turf
A very competitive field of seven is set 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.
Most of the seven have run well in the likes of the Grade II Yellow Ribbon, the Grade I Gamely and the Grade II John C. Mabee. Whose turn will it be Saturday?
One potential clue: The only one in the bunch who's won at this 1 1/4-miles distance is Lady Prancealot, who won the Grade I American Oaks in December. She's the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. Mucho Unusual was second in that event, only 1/2 length back, and returns for this at 5-1 on the line.
Feel Glorious has hit the board in nine of her 11starts since arriving from Europe and looks for her second straight win in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Noble Damsel for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
A win, however, would be her first in a graded event. There are nine rivals, including a trio from Chad Brown's barn -- Blowout, Viadora and Noor Sahara.
Seven signed on for Friday's $200,000 Grade II Eddie D Stakes at 7 furlongs on the Santa Anita green. Among them are graded stakes winners Sparky Ville, Mr Vargas and Wildman Jack.
Big Runneur, a 5-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, makes just his seventh start, has never finished out of the money and won his last start, the Siren Lure Stakes over the course at 5 1/2 furlongs, back in June.
Saturday's $75,000 Unzip Me Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita has nine -- some shortening up significantly, others stepping up in class. It's a tough field to figure out but easily could produce something for the future.
The race is run around the turn on the main turf course as the hillside layout still sees action only as a starting point for distance events on the grass.
The Horwarts "sorting hat" might prove useful in handicapping Saturday's $300,000 Grade I American Pharoah at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Spielberg, a $1 million yearling trained by Bob Baffert, has run twice and twice finished second to Dr. Schivel, who is not in the American Pharoah field.
The Union Rags colt faded through the stretch in each of those starts, going 6, then 7, furlongs and now has to go 1 1/16 miles. Still, he's a narrow favorite on the Santa Anita morning line.
Others looking for the right Hogwarts house include: Get Her Number, by Dialed In, who turned in two nice efforts at Del Mar, but both were on the turf; Touchdown Brown, who posted the field's best Beyer Speed Figure (75) in his last start but that was against fellow Cal-breds; and Notable Exception, an impressive, 5 1/4-lengths winner in his only previous start but that was on the Arlington Park all-weather.
Saturday's $400,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park has nine entrants with Breeze On By installed as the even-money favorite.
The Cajun Breeze gelding is going for a sweep of the series and his 7 1/2-lengths margin of victory in the Affirmed Division on Aug. 29 at 7 furlongs indicates he won't mind the 1 1/16 miles of this event.
Sunday's $60,000 Kip Deville at Remington Park bears watching. Steve Asmussen, Brad Cox and Bret Calhoun all have live prospects and have been known to move quickly from this type of race to bigger things.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
There are three first-time starters among nine set for Saturday's $100,000 Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Two others go for the second time.
There are shippers from Golden Gate Fields, Saratoga and Tampa Bay Downs. Feathers makes her first U.S. start after a win and a loss in England in the summertime. A pretty puzzle. Don't look at the morning line -- not that it would help much -- and see if you can figure it out.
Only five turned out for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Chandelier at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and three of them are trained by -- wait for it -- Bob Baffert.
One of those, Princess Noor, a $1.35 million purchase in April, is the 2-5 morning-line favorite after romping victories in her two previous starts. The daughter of Not This Time tackles 1 1/16 miles this time but with speed as her weapon and a rail draw, she seems to have the aces.
Baffert also has Varda, a recent maiden winner, and Illumination, who was third behind Princess Noor in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante Sept. 6.
The Chandelier also has Make Mischief, whose three runner-up finishes at Saratoga were enough to convince trainer Mark Casse to ship her cross-country, and Miss Costa Rica, who won her debut on the Del Mar turf.
Saturday's $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park has a field of 10. The morning line points to Princess Secret, second in the first race in this series and winner of the second, and Big Rings, who exits a monster win in her debut Sept. 5 over the track.
Around the world, around the clock:
Babbitt led from the start in Monday's Grade 2 Asahi Hai St.Lite Kinen for 3-year-olds at Nakayama and held on well to win by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Satono Flag. Galore Creek was third.
Babbitt, with Hiroyuki Uchida up, ran 2,200 meters on firm turf in 2:15.0, by Nakayama Festa, finished second in both starts in 2019 and now is 3-for-3 at 3 as he moved up the class ladder. The race is a trial for the Grade 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger, to run Oct. 25 at Kyoto over 3,000 meters.
Do old guys rule? In the case of 8-year-old Beauty Generation, we'll find out in Sunday's Celebration Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse.
The veteran warrior, a two-time local Horse of the Year, seeks a Hong Kong-record 19th win overall, his fourth Celebration Cup trophy and a boost back to the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December. He'll have to earn it, though.
The opposition includes reigning Hong Kong Derby winner Golden Sixty, who gets an 18-pounds weight break versus Beauty Generation as he seeks his ninth straight victory.
Ka Ying Star, who finished second in Beauty Generation's last two victories in the springtime, Southern Legend and some other potential upsetters also will line up but the Hong Kong Jockey Club promotes the race as "The Master Miler Meets the Golden Boy."
Beauty Generation also has a new trainer as his old mentor, John Moore, reached mandatory retirement age in Hong Kong and has moved along to more age-friendly Australia, where he will be watching with interest to see what David Hayes can do as the new conditioner.
Hayes, for his part, said Sunday's 7-furlongs contest isn't the ultimate goal. "He'll be better at a mile and what I'm trying to do is have him at his best in December -- just building him up," Hayes said as he prepared Beauty Generation for season's debut. Zac Purton retains the mount.
Friday's Group 2 Shadwell Joel Stakes at Newmarket is the race of the week with Benbatl doing battle with Kameko in a field of eight.
Benbatl makes his first start since finishing a gallant third in the $20 million Saudi Cup at Riyadh on Feb. 29.
The Dubawi 6-year-old won this event last year by 5 lengths and has scored at the Group 1 level as far afield as Dubai and Germany. Kameko, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Kitten's Joy, won the Qipco 2000 Guineas in June, but since has finished fourth in each of three starts -- the Investec Derby, the Qatar Sussex and the Juddmonte International, Group 1 events all.
Friday's Group 2 Shadwell Rockfel Stakes has just five 2-year-old fillies tackling 6 furlongs. Monday, a Coolmore filly by Fastnet Rock out of the Galileo mare Ballydoyle, is a narrow favorite. Isabella Giles, by Belardo, is 3-for-4 and in with a chance. This is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Saturday's program at Newmarket has three races for 2-year-olds.
The Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes is for 2-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs.
Nine are entered with primary attention in the antepost market to Dandalla, a Dandy Man miss who is undefeated after three starts including the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group 2 Dutchess of Cambridge Stakes, and Miss Amulet, a Sirprancealot filly who took a while to get going, but now has won three of her last four, most recently the Group 2 Lowther Stakes at York.
Eight signed on for the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park, also at 6 furlongs. Method, a Mehmas colt, seeks his third win sans loss with Frankie Dettori as his third rider following Oisin Murphy and Ryan Moore.
Nice company. Another Mehmas colt, Minzaal, is co-favorite on most tallies after winning the Group 2 Gimcrack at York in his last outing.
The Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge for colts and geldings at 1 mile, drew five and has no clear favorite. Cobh, a Kodi Bear colt trained by Clive Cox for the China Horse Club, has won two of three.
Gear Up, a Teofilo colt, is 2-for-2. Frankie Dettori gets the return call on New Mandate after winning with the New Bay colt in his last start.
Ontario benefits from the Coolmore, Galileo, O'Brien, Moore connections as he seeks his second win. Pleasant Man, another Galileo racing for a different team, won his only other outing. This one is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Saturday at the Curragh, the Alan Smurfit Memorial Beresford Stakes for 2-year-olds has a field of 11 with only five of them starting for the O'Brien clan.
While the race isn't exactly in clear focus, High Definition looks to be one of the likely ones. The Galileo colt, trained by Aidan O'Brien for Coolmore and with Seamie Heffernan named to ride, won at first asking at the Curragh Aug. 22 in his only previous start.
Friday at The Valley, Trekking is the top-rated among 13 in the Group 1 Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes at 1,000 meters. He won the Group 1 Goodwood back in May going 1,200 but has not raced since June.
The 6-year-old Street Cry gelding was eighth in this event last year. The opposition includes Hey Doc and Jungle Edge.
Saturday's Group 1 Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes at Caulfield drew a field of 10 to tackle 1,800 meters. The field includes such familiar names as Gailo Chop, Humidor and Arcadia Queen.
Saturday at Rosehill Gardens, the De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose Stakes has nine 3-year-old set to tackle 1,400 meters.
Sunday's Group 1 Grande Premio de Brasil at Hipodroma da Gavea, is a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf. Check back Monday for results.