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Irish Guineas, Japanese Oaks top weekend horse racing

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Sodashi, shown winning the 2020 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, is front and center for Sunday's Grade 1 Japanese Oaks. Photo courtesy of Japan Racing Association
Sodashi, shown winning the 2020 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, is front and center for Sunday's Grade 1 Japanese Oaks. Photo courtesy of Japan Racing Association

May 21 (UPI) -- Three-year-olds are front and center in Ireland and Japan on this weekend's horse racing schedule, as the American youngsters enjoy their break before the Belmont Stakes.

There is stakes action at Santa Anita, Belmont Park and Churchill Downs to help fill the American racing void.

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Hong Kong wraps up its Group 1 racing for the season with Sunday's Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.

Since much of the action is international, there's no better time to point out a new website produced by Great British Racing International, designed for those who crave more information about the British racing scene. Who doesn't? See News and Notes for details.

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Distaff

Maybe trainer Bob Baffert can get a little respite from his troubles when he sends out As Time Goes By in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita.

The 4-year-old American Pharoah filly is the 2-5 favorite in a field of just four after winning the Grade II Santa Margarita in her last start. Before that, she was second in the Grade I Beholder Mile.

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Ce Ce was a win machine for a while last year before tailing off late against top-rank opponents and certainly could show up again here.

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Filly & Mare Sprint


Frank's Rockette and Sconsin head a field of six for Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Winning Colors at Churchill Downs.

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A 4-year-old Into Mischief filly, Frank's Rockette is the 6-5 favorite on the morning line. Aside from an 11th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, she has been tough as nails with seven wins and five seconds from 12 other starts.

Sconsin was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and exits a second in the Grade I Derby City Distaff.

Filly & Mare Turf

A wide-open field of 10 is entered for Saturday's $110,000 Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs. Delta's Kingdom is the 5-2 favorite on the morning line with Dalika, Pass the Plate and Temple City Terror all at single-digit odds.

Delta's Kingdom, a 5-year-old Animal Kingdom mare, was last seen finishing second in the Grade III Bewitch at Keeneland.

Going Global shoots for her fifth straight win -- fourth in the United States -- when she lines up against six rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita.

The Mehmas filly has scored in three straight stakes races, two of them graded events, since arriving Stateside. She departed Ireland after a first career victory at Dundalk. The chief rival seems to be Madrone, a Vancouver filly who won the Grade III Senorita Stakes on May 1.

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Turf

Entries were pending at press time for Sunday's $100,000 Cinema Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita.

Turf Mile

Flavius and Decorated Invader are the morning-line picks among 10 entered for Saturday's $100,000 Seek Again Stakes at Belmont Park.

Flavius, a 6-year-old son of War Front from the Chad Brown barn, has only one win from seven U.S. starts but that was a nice one, in the $750,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs last September.

Decorated Invader, a 4-year-old colt by Declaration of War, was a multiple graded stakes winner at 2 and 3 and makes his second start of the seaon for trainer Christophe Clement.

Around the world, around the clock:

Japan

The white filly Sodashi, latest star to blaze through Japanese racing, gets the distance test in Sunday's Grade 1 Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks at Tokyo Racecourse.

Sodashi is undefeated after five starts but has never raced beyond 1,800 meters and Sunday will tackle 2,400 meters. The distance adds to worries about the narrow margins of her two Grade 1 wins -- a nose and a neck -- although the flip side of that is she showed the resolve to win.

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Her sire, Kurofune, has produced winners of 40 graded stakes races but, again, none longer than 1,800 meters.

She gets a break in not having to face Satono Reinas, who was second behind Sodashi in the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in December and just a neck short of upsetting her in the Grade 1 Oka Sho or Japanese 1,000 Guineas.

But Fine Rouge, a Kizuna filly who was only another 1/2 length back, returns for another shot.

Distance might be a plus for Cool Cat, a daughter of Screen Hero, who has improved as her races have got longer. Uberleben, by Gold Ship, has been third in each of her last three races, starting with the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies and most recently in the Flora Stakes.

A victory would boost Sodashi into the rarified ranks of such as Vodka, Gentildonna and Almond Eye, with the added attraction of her stunning appearance.

Hong Kong

Sunday's Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup is contested at 2,400 meters or about 1 1/2 miles -- and distance rarely run in Hong Kong and often a target for foreign horses. This year, thanks to pandemic restrictions, it's an intramural affair among eight locals.

Chief among them is Exultant, a 7-year-old Teofilo gelding who since 2018 has been the standard by which Hong Kong stayers have been judged. In that year, he jumped up to win the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase and trainer Tony Cruz and jockey Zac Purton have been riding the wave since -- other than when out-of-towners come to call.

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He is winless this season, finishing second December's Vase, won in smashing fashion by Coolmore's Mogul, but Cruz said the gelding is back from some five weeks' R&R at the lush Conghua Racecourse on the Mainland and is capable of another win.

"I believe so," Cruz said. "There's no foreign horses around this year. That's a big help."

Glorious Dragon tries 2,400 meters for the first time, but trainer Francis Lui said the added ground is no concern for him.

"I think he can handle the distance, no problem," Lui said of the striking gray. "I targeted this race for him. I think he'll love the distance. It's a big positive."

Some of the others have had their moments. Columbus County was third in the Longines Vase in December but has failed to build on that. Butterfield, a champion in his native land, exits a late-running win in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup on May 2.

Ireland

Saturday's Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh features a few who will look to make amends for recent failings.

Poetic Flair, winner of the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket May 1, struggled home sixth in the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains on May 16 and makes his third start in the calendar month for trainer Jim Bolger.

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Lucky Vega, a Lope de Vega colt, was third in the English Guineas in his last outing. Wembly and Battleground were Coolmore's top hopes in the English Guineas but finished 11th and 13th, respectively. On the bright side, it's a fascinating wagering opportunity and someone's going to win.

With final declarations pending, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Joan of Arc and the Joseph Patrick O'Brien-trained Pretty Gorgeous get lots of antepost action for Sunday's Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas.

They're far from the only possibilities. Besides Pretty Gorgeous, the field is replete with reference to pulchritude -- More Beautiful, Lovely Esteem and Belle Image.

Again pending final declarations, Sunday's Group 1 Tattersalls Irish Gold Cup is replete with big names, including the aforementioned Mogul, Derby winner Serpentine, Japan, Love, Cayenne Pepper and more. This is an extended 1 1/4 mile who knows what it could lead to?

News and Notes

Great British Racing International Wednesday launched a new website chockablock with information about -- well, great British racing. The site, greatbritishracinginternational.com, is geared in large part to potential owners or investors from outside the UK, which is fascinating in its own right even for casual fans who'd like to know more about that end of the business.

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But there's also a "news" section that includes way more detail about big races than this humble scribbling.

As the world emerges from the pandemic restrictions, the Gulf nations work to consolidate their schedules, the Chinese government shows the first stirrings of getting behind racing on the Mainland and American horses continue to make their mark hither and yon, there's never been a better time to take a closer look at the place where Thoroughbred racing started.

Thanks to Minty Farquhar, acting general manager of GBRI, for pointing out the launch.

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