Mighty Heart, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, wins Thursday's Grade III Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine. Photo by Michael Burns, courtesy of Woodbine
July 2 (UPI) -- The international impact of the big-money, mid-winter races in Dubai and Saudi Arabia is outlined in fireworks and sparklers this weekend as the big players in those events headline top races from Sandown in England to Prairie Meadows in Iowa.
Mishriff, winner of the $20 million Saudi Cup and the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, returns in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. Mystic Guide, winner of the $12 million Dubai World Cup, is back in action in he Grade II Suburban at Belmont Park. Both face challenges from rapidly improving rivals.
Knicks Go, a gallant fourth in the Saudi Cup, is the morning-line pick for the Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker in Iowa, where Prairie Meadows has its biggest weekend of the year. And Gulfstream Park contributes two classy sprints, one of them a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event.
There's more Group 1 action in France, Germany and South Africa.
So ... fireworks on Fourth of July weekend. Let's start the celebration with:
Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Suburban at Belmont Park, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic, pits Happy Saver, an undefeated Wertheimer homebred colt by Super Saver, against the aforementioned Mystic Guide, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred by Ghostzapper.
It's a rematch of last October's Jockey Club Gold Cup, in which Happy Saver outfinished Mystic Guide by 3/4 length as both got by odds-on favorite and two-time Saudi Cup contender Tacitus in the late going.
Mystic Guide, trained by Michael Stidham, earned his trip to the Middle East with a victory in the Grade III Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park. His record is 4-2-2 from eight starts with earnings north of $7 million.
Happy Saver, makes just his sixth start. He won an allowance event at Belmont Park May 28 in his first start since the Gold Cup for trainer Todd Pletcher.
There's certainly upset potential in the rest of the field. Moretti, another from the Pletcher barn, was second in last year's Suburban. Informative exits a victory in the Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park.
Max Player was fifth in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2020 but finished 11th in this year's Saudi Cup and finished sixth in the Grade III Pimlico Special in his most recent start.
Moving west to the prairie ...
It's been a winding road for Knicks Go, the 5-year-old son of Paynter who eventually is slated for stud duty in Korea. After winning the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland, Knicks Go headed south to Gulfstream Park to win the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational.
Then it was on To King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, where he finished fourth in the $20 million Saudi Cup, and Belmont Park, where he reported fourth again in the Grade I Met Mile.
Now he reappears in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker in Iowa where he is the even-money favorite on the morning line. Last Judgment and Modernist come off a 1-2 finish in the Grade III Pimlico Special. Rated R Superstar is a local hope.
Friday's $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows features a well-balanced assemblage of nine with Super Stock, Proxy and Nova Rags perched atop the morning line. Super Stock won the Arkansas Derby but was 16th in the Run for the Roses.
Proxy was fourth in both the Grade II Louisiana Derby and Grade III Lexington. Nova Rags was fourth in the Florida Derby and second in the Grade III Peter Pan. Looking elsewhere? Brad Cox saddles two promising types, Snow House and Gagetown.
And even farther west ...
We'll see in the international section that some in England are concerned about only four horses being left in for this weekend's Group 1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Los Alamitos officials share their pain and wish they had anything as good as those four to run in the $150,000 Grade III Los Alamitos Derby. The failed to attract enough entries to run as scheduled Saturday and was shuffled to Sunday's program to give racing officials time to round up a field.
They eventually got five, including trainer Bob Baffert's Defunded and Classier, second and third behind The Chosen Vron in the Affirmed Stakes June 13 at Santa Anita. The five have a grand total of one stakes victory among them -- that being the Turf Paradise Derby, won by It's My House.
Up north ...
Thursday was a big day for Canadian racing as fans returned to the Woodbine stands for the first time and reigning Horse of the Year Mighty Heart won the $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Dominion Day Stakes.
The 4-year-old son of Dramedy took the early lead, turned back a challenge from the favorite, March to the Arch, and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that one in the 1 1/16-mile test on the all-weather course. The victory backed up a win in the colt's last start, the Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 29.
Trainer Cosie Carroll said the Blame "just put him right where I wanted him. In fact, he had two works after that, simply because he came out of it so well. We had to sort of take the high note off of him a little bit four days ago so he could settle in this race. I think he's just a good horse and he's maturing. We're pretty happy with him today."
Crazy Beautiful is the 6-5 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park. The Liam's Map filly exits a victory in the Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita and early in the year won the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks. She was 10th in the Kentucky Oaks with a nasty trip. Nine are entered for Saturday's tilt.
Pauline's Pearl and Army Wife are the standouts in a field of seven for Friday's $225,000 Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows. The former won the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn Park and finished eighth in the Kentucky Oaks.
The latter reported third in the Grade III Gazelle at Aqueduct before winning the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in her most recent outing.
Himiko, trained by Steve Asmussen, and Josie, from the Brad Cox operation, head a field of six for Saturday's $100,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows.
Himiko, a 4-year-old daughter of American Pharoah, has victories at Del Mar, Santa Anita and, in her most recent start, Churchill Downs. Josie, a 4-year-old Race Day filly, comes off a victory at Indiana Grand.
Like the King is the oddsmaker's pick among seven entered for Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park.
The Palace Malace colt, trained by Wesley Ward, got into the Kentucky Derby by winning the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks on the Turfway Park all-weather but finished 12th in the Run for the Roses and fifth when returned to the grass for the Audubon Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 29.
He did break his maiden on the grass at Belterra Park. If that record doesn't inspire, Gershwin enters off a win in the Grade III Penn Mile, which was taken off the turf. Yes This Time boasts a four-race winning streak while coming north from Gulfstream Park.
A long shot in the Kent, Doubleoseven, continues the laudable tradition of naming horses in reference to ... well, you know.
Viadera makes her 2021 debut as the odds-on favorite in Saturday's $100,000 Perfect Sting for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
The 5-year-old, British-bred Bated Breath mare, trained by Chad Brown, ended last season with three straight wins, culminating in the Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar on Nov. 29.
The opposition has a decided international flavor including progressive 4-year-old filly Princess Grace, by the Japanese-bred sire Karakontie; Honey Cake, making her first U.S. start after running competitively in France; and Madita, a German import who just missed pulling a big upset in last September's $300,000 One Dreamer at Kentucky Downs.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Saturday's $350,000 Grade II Princess Rooney Invitational at Gulfstream Park, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, attracted a very competitive field of eight. Estilo Talentoso, Ce Ce, Laura's Light, Pacific Gale and Thissmytime all appear at single-digit odds on the morning line for the 7-furlongs sprint.
Other than an 11th-place finish in the 2020 Breeders' Cup Sprint against male rivals, Frank's Rockette has not finished out of the top three in 14 career starts. That record includes three graded stakes wins and is plenty good enough to make her the odds-on favorite among six in Saturday's $100,000 Saylorville at Prairie Meadows.
Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Smile Sprint Invitational at Gulfstream Park looks to be a wide-open affair with Diamond Oops the 5-2 favorite on the morning line, followed closely by Chance It and Miles Ahead.
Diamond Oops, a 6-year-old Lookin at Lucky gelding, was a force early last year, then tailed off late in the campaign. He started 2021 running fourth in the Grade II Twin Spires Turf Sprint on Oaks Day at Churchill Downs and won a local handicap event June 5.
Nine are lined up for Saturday's $100,000 Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows with Special Reserve the morning-line favorite. The 5-year-old Midshipman gelding won the Grade III Maryland Sprint at Pimlico in his last start and was second in the Grade III Commonwealth at Keeneland before that. Empire of Gold was fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Sunday's $250,000 Grade II John A. Nerud at Belmont Park, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint has seven entries including Firenze Fire and Mind Control.
Firenze Fire isn't slowing down at age 6. The son of Poseidon's Warrior won both previous starts this year -- the Grade III Runhappy Stakes and the Grade II True North, both at Belmont Park.
Mind Control hasn't won in a while, but was second in the Grade I Carter Handicap two starts back. American Power, a $40,000 claimer last autumn, jumped all the way up to finish third in the True North and Wicked Trick returns from running fourth in that race.
On the international front:
How about Coolmore's star 3-year-old St Mark's Basilica against the likes of Saudi Cup and Dubai Sheema Classic winner Mishriff and Champion Stakes winner Addeybb in Saturday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park?
Those are some classy horses and a good thing, too, as they make up three-fourths of the microscopic field for the important race after three others were pulled out at the final confirmation stage.
Mishriff has not raced since that dramatic Sheema Classic finish at Meydan, where the John and Thady Gosden-trained 4-year-old held off Japanese rivals Chrono Genesis and Loves Only You for the win.
Chrono Genesis franked that outcome with an easy win last weekend in the Grade I Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse in her return. Addeybb traveled to Australia after the Champion victory and finished second in the Group 1 Ranvet and won the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes -- the latter for the second straight year.
St Mark's Basilica hit his stride with a win in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst at Newmarket in his 2-year-old finale. His two starts this year were both Group 1 wins -- the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains or French 2,000 Guineas and Qatar Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby.
The only other runner left in the Coral-Eclipse is El Drama, last seen 15th in the Jockey Club, beaten more than 23 lengths.
John Gosden said the short field is attributable in part to the steep cost of starting a horse in the race, given the likely dominance of the favorites, and the short turnaround from the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. But Racing Post quoted the trainer as saying the Coral-Eclipse remains a good race.
"The race is a test of the 3-year-olds against the older horses, and I'm perfectly aware of the task at hand with the best mile-and-a-quarter 3-year-old colt in Europe, St Mark's Basilica, running.
"We're hoping for a good race for the purists, something they'll really enjoy, and you'll probably see the outsider, El Drama, beat them all."
Noteworthy: An appeals panel has upheld the race day decision by Royal Ascot stewards reversing the order of finish in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup in favor of Campanelle.
Dragon Symbol, who finished first by a head after carrying her rival halfway across the course in the final few hundred yards, was ruled to have interfered sufficiently with Campanelle to affect the finish. Dragon Symbol's rider, Oisin Murphy, and trainer, Archie Watson, vigorously disputed the ruling, to no avail.
Campanelle's trainer, Wesley Ward, called the decision "the right result and we're going to have to have champagne again. I've lost the race once and won it back twice now, which is just great," Racing Post reported.
Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud has a field of 10, pending final declarations, to go 2,400 meters. Aidan O'Brien has three, including Japan, who was among the late withdrawals from the Coral-Eclipse. Joseph Patrick O'Brien has Baron Samedi, last seen winning the Grade II Belmont Gold Cup in New York on June 4.
Sunday's Group 1 Idee 152nd Deutches Derby at Hamburg has a field of 20, lacking the usual raiders from the likes of Godolphin or Coolmore.
Do It Again, trained by Justin Snaith, won the Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July in 2018 and did it again in 2019. He finished third last year in the race that marks the high-water point of the South African year -- at least in terms of purse money, trailing Belgarian and Got The Greenlight, both of whom are back.
Do It Again, a 6-year-old Twice Over gelding, has raced three times since the pandemic-delayed 2020 July, finishing fourth each time. Belgarian, a 5-year-old gelding by Dynasty, exits a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge, while Got the Greenlight, a 4-year-old colt by Gimmethegreenlight, was last seen winning the Grade 1 4Racing Premier Champions Challenge. Rainbow Bridge, winner of the Gold Challenge, also reappears here.
Some early-week results:
A Life That's Good caught pacesetting odds-on favorite Summer Brew in the stretch run of Monday's $50,000 Niagra Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies and ran by to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Isle Storm and Pazzion completed the order of finish.
A Life That's Good, a Congrats filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.15 with Andre Worrie in the irons.
Odds-on favorite Conformist fared much better in the companion Ontario County Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, recovering quickly from a bumpy start to take the lead, then getting away in the stretch to win by 11 lengths.
Florida Endeavour was second as Conformist, a Hit It a Bomb gelding, finished 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 under John Davila Jr.
Chipofftheoldblock, the even-money favorite, was along late to win Wednesday's $75,000 Brickyard Stakes for Indiana-breds by l length over Double Tuff. Flowerpecker was third.
Chipofftheoldblock, a 4-year-old Ready's Image gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:09.51 with Marcelino Pedroza in the irons.
Ever Wonder left nothing to doubt in Wednesday's $75,000 Checkered Flag Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, drawing off smartly through the stretch run to win by 8 1/2 lengths. Hungarian Princess was best of the rest, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Serena Beck in third.
Ever Wonder, a 6-year-old Jersey Town mare, finished 6 furlongs in the slop in 1:09.25 under Eduardo Perez.