1 of 2 | Silent Poet, shown winning the 2019 Play the King Stakes, is among the favorites for Sunday's Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine, Photo by Michael Burns, courtesy of Woodbine Racecourse
Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Champions Day in England and one of the big North American turf festivals at Woodbine headline weekend horse racing and add up to one final opportunity for the grass runners to bid for spots in the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland.
Elsewhere on the international front, Daring Tact will be favored to become the first undefeated Japanese filly Triple Crown winner when she tackles the Group 1 Shuka Sho Sunday at Kyoto.
In Australia, it's the Group 1 Caulfield Cup on Saturday. And in Hong Kong, the season's first Group 2 races find Golden Sixty and Beauty Generation renewing their rivalry.
There's also action at Keeneland and Santa Anita. With plenty to analyze, cut through the clutter and get a fresh look at Sunday's action by turning an eye to expert analyst Jude Feld at popejude.com.
Champions Day just about rings down the curtain on the year's flat racing in the UK so let's start there.
Qipco British Champions Day
Champions Day, a worthy target in its own right, is nicely positioned between the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe program and the Breeders' Cup.
Saturday's renewal features several runners eliminated from the Paris proceedings by the contaminated feed debacle and some the Breeders' Cup folks still hope to entice to Keeneland.
The John Gosden-Frankie Dettori team could ease some of the pain of Enable's retirement as they are likely to be favorite or close to it in three of the races with Stradivarius, Palace Pier and Mishrif.
Here's how it shakes out:
Magical, denied her chance in the Prix de l'Arc de Triumph because of the contaminated feed fiasco, heads up the redirected team for Irish maestro Aidan O'Brien in the Group 1 Qipco British Champion Stakes at 1 1/4 miles.
The 5-year-old Galileo mare won the Filly & Mare Stakes on Champions Day two years ago and returned to win the 2019 Champion Stakes, defeating Addeybb by 3/4 length. She comes off a win in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf, where she finished second to Enable in 2018.
Champion Stakes contender Addeybb journeyed to Australia earlier this year, winning twice with Aussie star Verry Elleegant second both times.
Verry Elleegant is a prime contender for Saturday's Group 1 Caulfield Cup. Addeybb, a 6-year-old gelding, returned to run second in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and win a listed stakes at Ayr last month in a warmup for the Champion Stakes.
There's plenty more talent in the feature, too.
Mishrif was second in the Saudi Derby Feb. 29, then came back to Europe to win all three starts including the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club. Dettori rides for Gosden with a big chance.
Lord North, a 4-year-old son of Dubawi, defeated Addeybb in the Prince of Wales's in June, then was third in the Group 1 Juddmonte International, behind Ghaiyyath and Magical.
The O'Brien team also includes Investec Derby winner Serpentine and Japan, who may need a good effort to keep his international agenda alive.
Palace Pier is the solid early favorite for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at 1 mile. The 3-year-old Kingman colt enters undefeated after five starts with victories this season including the Group 1 St James's Palace at Royal Ascot and the Group 1 Jacques le Marios at Deauville.
Into the bargain, Sheik Hamdan's star has the benefit of Gosden and Dettori. The Revenant came across the Channel to finish second in this race last year, but has run only once since, winning the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp on Oct. 3. Circus Maximus always seems to get into the mix. Fourteen are set to run.
Dream of Dreams looms a lukewarm favorite among 17 drawn for the 6-furlongs Group 1 Sprint. The 6-year old gelding by Dream Ahead finished next-last of 17 last year following a disappointing late-summer campaign and reported 13th of 14 the year before.
This time around, he enters on a two-race winning streak. His last effort was a win in the Group 1 Betfair Sprint Cup Stakes at Haydock. One Master looks a worthy opponent after winning the Group 1 Prix de la Foret on Arc day. Oxted won the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket but hasn't raced since that July 11 triumph.
Looking to the future? Starman, a 3-year-old colt by Dutch Art, is 3-for-3, improving dramatically from race to race, but takes on a whole different task here.
The Group 1 Fillies & Mares Stakes took a blow when Enable went directly from the Arc to retirement. The dozen remaining for the 1 1/2-miles test are a bit light on star power but certainly comprise a more competitive field, at least in the wagering, without the potentially odds-on super mare.
Among those battling for the punters' pounds are Group 1 Prix de Royallieu winner Wonderful Tonight and reigning Irish Oaks winner Even So. Frankly Darling, who has disappointed twice since winning the Grade II Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot, gets another chance to salvage her season.
Stradivarius, after a gallant but ultimately doomed swing at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in his last start, returns to a more appropriate distance in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup.
The pre-eminent European stayer of the past three years is likely to be odds-on for the 2 miles although Champions Day hasn't been the scene of his greatest glory.
The 6-year-old son of Sea the Stars finished third in the 2017 edition, won by Order of St George. He won in 2018 and last year finished second by a nose to Kew Gardens.
Those not liking the odds on the favorite might eye Search for a Song, a Galileo 4-year-old coming off his second straight triumph in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger. Kew Gardens was second in that race last year.
The festivities conclude with the Balmoral Handicap, a 20-horse cavalry charge down the straight mile. It's a program-stabber but Keats, a Galileo colt, has been improving under the radar in Ireland for O'Brien and Ryan Moore will hop aboard for the first time. Fair notice.
We'll move trans-Pacific in a bit but, meanwhile, here's what's shaking in North America:
Rideforthecause, Theodora B. and Etoile are likely suspects in Sunday's $600,000 (Canadian) Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares, 10 furlongs on the turf. Rideforthecause, a 4-year-old Candy Ride filly, exits a 4-lengths win in the Grade II Canadian Sept. 12.
Theodora B, a 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper, and Etoile, a French-bred, 4-year-old Siyouni filly, finished 1-2 in the Grade II Dance Smartly over the course Aug. 15. Etoile has been idle since while Theodora B won the $500,000 TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs Sept. 15.
Eight are on tap to go 1 1/2 miles in Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Grade I Northern Dancer Turf. Among them we find the first five finishers from the Grade III Singspiel at 1 1/4 miles over the same course Sept. 19, most of whom were making a rare appearance in the stakes ranks.
Five-year-old Admiralty Pier makes his first start beyond 1 1/16 miles after fading from the lead to finish sixth in the Grade I Woodbine Mile in his last start. He does, however, have stamina all over his pedigree and a better record of success in graded stakes than his rivals here. Speed is his game and there's not much of it among Sunday's rivals.
Silent Poet comes to Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nearctic Stakes, 6 furlongs on the turf, with three wins from his last four starts and a record of eight wins from 13 starts on the Woodbine turf. He seldom goes this short, though, and there are others to consider.
Olympic Runner has finished second in his last two starts behind Pink Floyd, who does not appear here. Kanthaka just missed in the Grade I Jaipur at Belmont Park two starts back. Guildsman won the Grade III Franklin Simpson at Kentucky Downs in his last start. Reconfigure was second in this race last year, but seems to have lost a step or two at age 8.
Eight are signed on for Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes for 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs on the all-weather course. Many are maiden winners, none are obvious monsters at this early point in their careers.
The weekend kicks off Saturday with the $100,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song for 2-year-old fillies at 7 furlongs on the all-weather course. Souper Sensational, Charlie's Penny and Reinforced -- all recent winners in their respective first starts -- are the focus in a field of seven.
Saturday's $80,000 Floral Park Stakes, 6 furlongs on the turf, drew a main field of 11 fillies and mares with two in for main-track-only. Mitchell Road, Lead Guitar and Xanthique get the oddsmaker's nod.
Decorated Invader looks for a bounce-back effort in Sunday's $150,000 Grade II Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 mile on the turf. The Declaration of War colt finished fifth in the Saratoga Derby Invitational in his last start.
Before that, he won the Grade II Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park and the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at the Spa. He won the Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine as a 2-year-old. Get Smokin' and Bodecream have the credentials to compete and several others are young and promising.
Olympico, last year's runner-up, returns to try for one better in Sunday's $150,000 Grade II Knickerbocker, a 9-furlongs race on the turf. The 5-year-old, French-bred gelding has started only twice in the intervening 12 months, finishing fifth in each case. None of the others looks much better, though.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Twilight Derby, 9 furlongs on the turf, has a big and diverse field. Margot's Boy was last seen running second in the Grade II Del Mar Derby and Dominant Soul was third in that race in his first try after breaking his maiden.
Smooth Like Strait won the Grade III La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar, then finished fourth at Churchill Downs in the Grade II American Turf. Trainer Todd Pletcher redirects Farmington Road, who was fourth in a division of the Arkansas Derby and eighth in the Belmont Stakes.
Field Pass comes west after winning the Grade III Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, then disappointed at Churchill Downs and Saratoga. Should be an interesting race.
Kentucky Downs graduates struck again in Thursday's $150,000 Grade III Sycamore, at 12 furlongs on the turf. Red Knight and Postulation, last seen finishing second and fifth in the Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup, rolled home first and second in the Sycamore with Red Knight running by pacesetting Postulation in the late going to score by 2 lengths.
Ziad was third, just a head farther back in his first North American start. Red Knight, a 6-year-old Pure Prize gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:28.81 with James Graham riding for trainer Bill Mott, who suddenly seems to have developed a hot hand.
"I wished he was a little bit closer," Mott assistant Kenny McCarthy said. "A wonderful ride by James, a great decision on the turn to split those horses. And then he really picked the horse up and finished strongly."
Saturday's $125,000 Grade III Rood & Riddle Dowager is for 3-year-old fillies at 12 furlongs on the turf. A field of 10 signed on with Venetian Harbor and Four Graces topping the morning line.
Venetian Harbor, a Munnings filly, has finished second in her last three races -- the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn, the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland and the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga.
Four Graces, a daughter of Majestic Perfection, won the Grade III Dogwood at Churchill Downs and the Grade III Beaumont at Keeneland before settling for second in the Grade II Eight Belles back in Louisville.
Friday brings Oklahoma Classics Night with eight stakes races for the state-breds on both dirt and turf. Tune in Monday to see how all that worked out.
Presque Isle Downs
Like a Saltshaker raced amid a tightly bunched field into the stretch in Monday's $75,000 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes, split rivals and prevailed by 3/4 length. Nice Ace held a brief lead and finished second, 1 length in front of Sky's Not Falling.
Like a Saltshaker, a Peace and Justice gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.10 with Harry Hernandez up.
Premier Star settled early in Wednesday's $100,000 Jersey Shore Stakes for 3-year-olds, quickly took the lead when offered the chance and drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite.
Johnny Ritt was second, a neck in front of Meru. Premier Star, a Tapiture colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.61 with Paco Lopez aboard.
Monday's program, including the $100,000 Born to Run Stakes, was canceled because of heavy rain and high winds.
Now, as promised, let's head across the big ocean to:
Daring Tact heads into Sunday's Grade 1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto Racecourse with a chance to become the first to sweep the Japanese filly Triple Crown while remaining undefeated.
The Ephiphaneia filly is 4-for -4 but has not raced since winning the Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks in May. Trainer Haruki Sugiyama said that's all according to plan and his filly has matured and filled out in the interim.
With Contrail seeking the colts' Triple Crown, much is expected in the coming months. Sunday's rivals include Ria Amelia and Maltese Diosa, both needing to step up their game.
It's Round Two in what everyone hopes is a season-long bout between the veteran Beauty Generation and "youngster" Golden Sixty. That pair headlines Sunday's Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy, a heat that also includes Ka Ying Star, Furore and several others very familiar to the Hong Kong punters.
The headliners, though, are 8-year-old Beauty Generation, the two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year, and Golden Sixty, 5, who swept last year's Four-Year-Old Classic Series, finishing up with the BMW Hong Kong Derby.
They met for the first time Sept. 27 in the Celebration Cup, won by Golden Sixty with Beauty Generation and Champion's Way dead-heating for second and third. That was 1,400 meters. Sunday's race is 1,600 meters and most of the all of this is preparation for the Group 1 events in December.
Anthony Van Dyck is back on the road for trainer Aidan O'Brien and set to go in Saturday's Group 1 Stella Artois Caulfield Cup against a whole bunch of talented rivals.
The 2019 Investec Derby winner, a son of Galileo, won the Group 1 Prix Foy at Longchamp Sept. 13 before packing his bags. In last autumn's travels, he finished third behind Bricks and Mortar and United in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, then tossed in a clunker at Sha Tin Racecourse, finishing 12th in the Longines Hong Kong Vase.
The rest of the lineup for the Caulfield Cup includes another returning foreigner, Prince of Arran, who wound up second in the messy finish of last year's Melbourne Cup, missed the Japan Cup in a misunderstanding about a "comfort blanket" for the start and then finished one spot ahead of Anthony Van Dyck in Hong Kong.
The local contingent includes last year's Melbourne Cup winner, Vow and Declare, plus such as Verry Elleegant, Mirage Dancer, Finche, Avilius and Dalsan, with no shortage of potential upsetters. The race is run at 2,400 meters.