Memorial Day kicks off summer horse racing with a coast-to-coast bang

Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Bricks and Mortar, ridden by Iran Ortiz Jr., passes United, ridden by Flavien Prat, to win the Breeders Cup Turf during the 36th Breeders Cup World Championship at the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California, on November 2, 2019. Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI
Bricks and Mortar, ridden by Iran Ortiz Jr., passes United, ridden by Flavien Prat, to win the Breeders Cup Turf during the 36th Breeders Cup World Championship at the Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California, on November 2, 2019. Photo by Mark Abraham/UPI | License Photo

May 28 (UPI) -- The Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer season for United States racing with stakes action from coast to coast and many points in between.

Monmouth Park is back and Penn National has a big day Friday. Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita all are in on the action. Lone Star Park has some really nice fields on Monday's card with Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup contenders on hand.


On the international front, Sunday's renewal of the Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby promises to be interesting. South Africa and Australia each offer up a couple group races and we have both a preview and a result from France.

It's a lot of action so the previews will be brief.

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Meanwhile, some really good news from England: The government has authorized up to 12,000 people be admitted daily to Royal Ascot. Ascot had been preparing to hold the crowd to 4,000 daily June 15-19. The boost, part of the "Events Research Programme" has yet to be spelled out in detail. An allocation of Royal Enclosure badges and Queen Anne (general admission) tickets will be on sale starting Friday. Jolly good.

No one will comment on Her Majesty's attendance plans, if any. But the fact Buckingham Palace hasn't said no is promising, especially in light of Wednesday's announcement.


Now, shall we have that promised brief look at this weekend's action?

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United is the massive favorite with just three rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Charles Whittingham at Santa Anita. The 6-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding, trained by Richard Mandella, was last seen winning the Grade III San Luis Rey but has an outstanding record on the local greensward. He fell a head short in the 2019 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf of derailing Bricks and Mortar's 2019 Horse of the Year season.

Nine are set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Pennine Ridge for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park with Hard Love as the 9-5 favorite on the morning line. The Kitten's Joy colt has two wins and a second from just three previous starts.

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Saturday's $100,000 Audubon for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs has Like the King in a field of eight. The Pioneer of the Nile colt won the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished 12th. Several others were last seen in the Grade II American Turf on Derby Day.

Saturday's $110,000 Douglas Park Stakes at Churchill Downs is a real tossup with nine older warriors set to duke it out at 1 1/16 miles. Set Piece is the morning-line favorite after winning the 1-mile Opening Verse Stakes over the course in his last start.


Filly & Mare Turf

Friday's $100,000 Penn Oaks, a 1-mile affair, drew seven with Honey Pants and Amalfi Princess topping the morning line. Each of them has but a single win on her record.

Nine really nice 3-year-old fillies comprise the field for Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Regret Stakes, 1 1/8 miles on the Churchill Downs green. A case could be made for any of them and it should be fun to watch.

Raven's Cry won the Miss Houston Turf in her last start April 3 and returns from her Louisville training base to contest Monday's $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff at Lone Star Park at 1 mile on the lawn. The 4-year-old Raven's Pass filly is 2-for-2 in the U.S. for trainer Brad Cox. Summering is in from Florida. Summer In Saratoga, who has never raced at Saratoga, trains at Keeneland. Laura's Light invades from California.

We await entries for Monday's $300,000 Grade I Gamely at Santa Anita.

Turf Mile

If he runs, Outadore is the big morning-line favorite among seven in Friday's $300,000 Grade II Penn Mile for 3-year-olds at Penn National. However, trainer Wesley Ward indicated he'll opt for Sunday's $100,000 Paradise Creek at Belmont Park, where the colt is cross-entered. Either way, he looks to be a likely Royal Ascot candidate.


Friday's $100,000 Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park, 1 mile on the lawn, has a contentious field of eight plus a "main track only." It's tough to single out any of them but Sifting Sands, from Chad Brown's barn, could bounce back from a tough outing in his last start.

Monday's $300,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup FanDuel Mile this November at Del Mar. Entries were not available at press time.

Turf Sprint

Bombard and Law Abidin Citizen stand out among five set for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita. Bombard exits a close second in a local allowance event in his first start since finishing eighth, beaten just 3 1/4 lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Law Abidin Citizen finished third in both the Grade I Bing Crosby and the Grade II Pat O'Brien at Del Mar last August and hasn't raced since.

As noted above, Outadore is cross-entered in both Sunday's $100,000 Paradise Creek for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park and Friday's Penn Mile. Still, Ward told Belmont officials he'll be there despite the lower purse and tougher competition including Fauci and Chasing Artie. Second of July, winner of October's Grade III Futurity, returns for this after reporting 12th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in his only intervening start.


Monday's $100,000 Chamberlain Bridge at Lone Star Park got a solid field of turf dash specialists to tackle 5 1/2 furlongs. Among them, Texas Wedge and Chaos Theory invade from California and Tempt Fate comes off four straight wins at Oaklawn Park, lately the Grade II Arkansas Breeders' Championship.

Classic/Dirt Mile

Silver Dust and Night Ops are the morning-line picks for Saturday's $150,000 Blame Stakes at 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs after running 1-2 in the Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland in their last start.

The 3-year-olds take the spotlight in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs and the field includes a couple Kentucky Derby also-rans -- O Besos, who closed to the fifth in the Run for the Roses, and Helium, who finished eighth while coming off a nearly two-month layoff. Also here is Sittin On Go. We recall trainer Dale Romans assuring us on the way into dinner at Jeff Ruby's in Lexington that the colt would hit the board in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He finished ninth that day and we're still Sittin' and Waitin'. Maybe Saturday's the day.

Monday's $300,000 Texas Derby at Lone Star Park is replete with fugitives from the Triple Crown trail. Super Stock won the Grade I Arkansas Derby before finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby. Get Her Number was fourth in the Arkansas Derby. It's My House won the Turf Paradise Derby. Rightandjust contested both the Grade II Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby and has a recent win at Lone Star.


Some of the best from the Oaklawn Park meeting continue in Monday's $400,000 Grade III Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park. C Z Rocket, who won a couple of epic showdowns with Breeders' Cup Sprint champ Whitmore, stretches out to the mile. By My Standards exits a victory in the Oaklawn Mile. A couple others shorten up after finishing off the board in the 1 1/8-miles Oaklawn Handicap.

Monday's $300,000 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita had not been drawn at deadline.


Envoutante is the odds-on favorite among eight entered for Saturday's $150,000 Shawnee at Churchill Downs. The Uncle Mo filly won the Grade II Falls City over the same track last Autumn and was second to Shedaresthedevil in the Grade I La Troienne on Oaks Day this year.

Soothsay is 2-for-2 entering Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita, where she faces four rivals. The second win came in the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks. Trainer Kenny McPeek ships Crazy Beautiful from Churchill Downs. The Liam's Map filly finished 10th in the Kentucky Oaks but won the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks the race before that and usually is in the mix.



It's a wide-open, five-horse field in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Triple Bend at Santa Anita. Eight Rings is the favorite in his first start since Saratoga and his workouts for trainer Bob Baffert suggest he's locked and loaded if 7 furlongs isn't too much for a comeback effort.

Saturday's $125,000 Aristides at Churchill Downs drew 10 to go 6 furlongs and, for some reason, Tap It To Win is the 7-2 favorite on the morning line. Maybe the reason is he's back at his most effective distance or that his last effort was against some of the country's top sprinters. Check back after the weekend to see how that worked out.

Monmouth Park is hip-deep in controversy over a new state regulation banning the use of a whip other than for safety reasons -- a rule some jockeys say does just the opposite of promoting safe racing. Nonetheless, trainers lined up eight jockeys to ride in Saturday's $100,000 Mr. Prospector, a wide-open affair with It Can Be Done as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. The Temple City gelding recored both his wins on the Jersey Shore.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Six are set for Monday's $100,000 Memorial Day Sprint at Lone Star Park with Churchill Downs shipper Mundaye Call looking imposing. The Brad Cox charge faded to finish fifth in the Grade I Madison at Keeneland in her last start but that was 7 furlongs in her 2021 debut and this is 6 with a race under her belt.


Around the world, around the clock:


Incarville was along in the final strides to win Monday's Group 1 Saxon Warrior Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary for 3-year-old fillies at Longchamp by a head over Cirona. Es La Vida was third, just another head back. Incarville, a daughter of Wootton Bassett, completed 2,000 meters on turf rated "very soft" in 2:10.45 with Christophe Soumillon in the irons. Incarville finished second in each of two previous starts this year.

Bubble Gift edged Gregolimo for the win in Monday's Group 2 Hocquart for 3-year-olds with Lambo third and the favorite, Calgary, defeating only two. Bubble Gift, a Nathaniel colt, is moving up in the world with his second straight win.

Sunday's Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan has a provisional field of seven, topped by The Revenant, a 6-year-old by Dubawi who was marvelous in 2019 and 2020 but has finished third and fourth in two starts this year. Skaletti, a 6-year-old Kendargent gelding, by contrast, has won his last two start, both Group affairs at Saint-Cloud.


Sunday's Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby has a field of 17, minus last year's Grade 1 Hopeful winner Danon the Kid, who is out for at least three months with a training injury. The race is the second leg of the Triple Crown and does include Efforia, winner of the first leg, the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese St. Leger. He is undefeated after four starts and the Satsuki Sho win was impressive.


The next four finishers from the Satsuki Sho also are in Sunday's race. The lone filly in the field, Satono Reinas, would be the first female to win the Derby since Vodka in 2007.

South Africa

Saturday's card at Grayville has a pair of Group 1 events -- the Daily News 2000 for 3-year-olds and the Woolavington 2000 for 3-year-old fillies.


Eagle Farm in Queensland has another day in the sun Saturday with the Group 1 TAB Kingsford-Smith Cup and Group 1 Moet & Chandon Queensland Derby.

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