July 9 (UPI) -- Belmont Park winds up its meeting with a bang this weekend, hosting a pair of turf races rich enough to lure some top trans-Atlantic talent before turning things over to Saratoga for more of the same.
Irish horses are favored in both the $1 million Belmont Derby and the $700,000 Belmont Oaks, but both have something to prove.
Delaware Park's big weekend features graded stakes action on both dirt and, weather permitting, turf. Monmouth Park has turf sprints for the 3-year-olds.
On the international front, while the big Belmont races attracted some good ones to cross the Atlantic, there was plenty of action back home with top-level sprints in England and France.
As is often the case, ace analyst Jude Feld's insights into the top action are available at www.popejude.com. And don't miss "News and Notes" for the latest upgrades to the Oaklawn Park program. My goodness gracious!
Bolshoi Ballet is the 7-5 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $1 million Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational.
The Galileo colt at one time was the hot thing for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom but things went south for his Coolmore owners and trainer Aidan O'Brien when a victory in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial in Ireland led to a seventh-place finish as O'Brien's only starter in the big race.
He also faltered in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in his 2-year-old finale, leaving question marks about his ability at the top level -- a situation that could do a 180-degree turnaround with a win here.
The other international in the Belmont Derby should not be overlooked. Tokyo Gold, a Kendargent colt, showed a new dimension in coming from well back to win the Group 2 Derby Italiano in his most recent start.
He's owned by Teruya Yoshida, the powerhouse of Japanese racing and one of the world's most astute horsemen.
Fans of drama and irony will remember that one of trainer Bob Baffert's triumphs on Kentucky Derby day, besides saddling first-place Derby finisher Medina Spirit, was sending out a rare turf winner, Du Jour, owned by his wife, Jill.
Baffert is banned from New York tracks, and Du Jour, a Temple City colt, now is trained by Bill Mott as he lines up for the Belmont Derby. He sports three straight wins including that Grade II American Turf victory in Louisville.
The favorite among American-trained horses in the Belmont Derby, though, is Hard Love, a Kitten's Joy colt who has three wins and a second from four starts. Sainthood, a Mshawish colt, makes his turf debut after a handy off-the-turf victory in the Pennine Ridge Stakes.
Micheline and Dalika top a field of nine entered for Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park.
Micheline, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred filly by Bernardini, has turned in two straight subpar performances, but previously won the rich Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs and the Grade II Hillsborough at Keeneland.
Dalika, a German-bred, 5-year-old mare by Pastorius, just missed in her last start after opening a 15-lengths lead.
Already in the books:
Monarch's Glen was away last of 11 in Wednesday's $85,000 Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial at Indiana Grand, swung out seven-wide to find room in the lane and closed with a rush through the final sixteenth, winning by 1/2 length after a late bump with runner-up Hemp Hemp Hurray.
An objection by the latter's rider was disallowed. Monarch's Glen, a 7-year-old, English-bred Frankel gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:40.52 with Umberto Rispoli riding for trainer Mike Maker. He won the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2018.
Filly & Mare Turf
Coolmore and Aidan O'Brien field another well-regarded 3-year-old needing a victory in Saturday's $700,000 Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational.
This time it's Santa Barbara, a Camelot filly who showed tremendous promise before sustaining a 22-lengths drubbing in the Group 1 Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.
She rebounded from that to finish second in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh in Ireland, running against elders, just 13 days prior to Saturday's race.
The other international travelers are Cirona, who has been right there in top company in France, and Nazuna, whose only poor effort so far came in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland.
The top Americans are Plum Ali, Con Lima and Spanish Loveaffair, who have seen each other before.
Sunday's $150,000 River Memories Stakes at Belmont Park has a talented cast including graded stakes winners Mutamakina, Civil Union, Call Me Love (in Italy) and Virginia Joy (in Germany).
Already in the books:
Princess Grace rated behind the speed in Tuesday's $200,000 Grade III Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx Racing, found a path between rivals entering the stretch, got through to chase down Madita in the final yards for a narrow win. Madita finished second, 2 lengths in front of Platinum Paynter.
Princess Grace, with Joe Bravo in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.18, improving her record to four wins and a second from five starts. The 4-year-old filly is by the Japanese-bred sire Karakontie out of the Silent Name mare Masquerade. Silent Name also was bred in Japan.
Summer In Saratoga came with a late rush to capture Wednesday's $85,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff by 1 length from Alnaseem with La Renoleta third and the favorite, Raven's Cry, settling for fourth.
Summer In Saratoga, a 5-year-old Hard Spun mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.44 for jockey Corey Lanerie.
Saturday's $75,000 Blue Sparkler Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park has eight takers, plus two for "main track only." The favorites in a well-matched field are Wink and Running Memories. The latter has three straight wins and steps up a notch in class.
Sunday's $75,000 My Frenchman Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park has eight entries. Momos was third in both the Grade II Saratoga Special and Grade III Futurity at Belmont Park last year before coming up short in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
He started 2021 with a win over the Monmouth dirt May 3. Chasing Artie has wins at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland and was third in the local Woodstock Stakes in his last outing.
Bonny South is the solid 3-2 morning line favorite in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park, thanks to a record-showing four wins and four seconds from 10 starts and most of those in graded stakes.
The Munnings filly, trained by Brad Cox, was last seen finishing second to Letruska in the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park June 5. Don't ignore Dream Marie, who finished second in the Grade II Delaware Oaks last season and won the Obeah Stakes over a sloppy Delaware course in her most recent effort.
Her record elsewhere is not that good. Queen Nekia also is better at Delaware than elsewhere.
Gotta Go, California Lily and Our Flash Drive are bunched atop the morning line for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Selene Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the Woodbine all-weather course.
Those looking for potential Queen's Plate or Woodbine Oaks contenders will eye Ontario-breds Il Malocchio and Munnyfor Ro.
Already in the books:
On Wednesday at Indiana Grand, California invader Soothsay broke in the air, trailed badly and then rallied from last of nine to win a four-way photo in the $200,000 Grade III Indiana Oaks.
Soothsay, a Distorted Humor filly, scored by a neck over 40-1 long shot Moon Swag with Lady Aces a head back of that in third and just a neck in front of Marion Francis.
The favorite, Will's Secret, finished sixth. Soothsay, with Flavien Prat in for the ride, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.36, improving to three wins from four starts for trainer Richard Mandella.
The wins include the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks and her only defeat was a second to Crazy Beautiful in the Grade II Summertime Oaks -- both at Santa Anita.
Matera chased down Microcap in the final sixteenth to win Wednesday's $85,000 Mari Hulman George Memorial at Indiana Grand by 3/4 length. With Florent Geroux up for trainer Brad Cox, the 4-year-old Tapit filly ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.29.
Six are entered for Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Woodbine all-weather course. Each of them looks for a breakout performance with four of the six eligible to the Queen's Plate.
On Wednesday at Indiana Grand, Mr. Wireless waited behind the leaders into the stretch turn in the $300,000 Grade III Indiana Derby, moved up heading into the stretch to take the lead and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths.
Sermononthemount also mounted a late bid to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of the odds-on favorite, Fulsome. Mr. Wireless, a Dialed In gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.84 with Ramon Vazquez up for trainer Bret Calhoun.
He now has three wins from his last four starts with a second in the Texas Derby sandwiched in between.
Plainsman seized control in the stretch run of Wednesday's $85,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial at Indiana Grand, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Exulting.
Plainsman, a 6-year-old son of Flatter out of the Street Sense mare S S Pinafore, finished 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:39.63 with Francisco Arrieta in the irons.
Filly & Mare Sprint
The first three finishers from the June 5 Jersey Girl Stakes -- Australasia, Bella Sofia and Jersey Girl, return to contest Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park. Australasia, a daughter of Sky Kingdom, is undefeated after six starts and is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line.
Chub Wagon arrives at Saturday's $100,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes at Delaware Park undefeated after seven starts and largely untested until her last start when she won the Shine Again Stakes at Pimlico by a neck over Hello Beautiful. That rival returns but the oddsmaker has Chub Wagon on top of the morning line at odds of 4-5.
Tengo Mis Papeles, Simply Wicked and Royal Tap are the big three among 12 set for Saturday's $100,000 Texas Futurity at Lone Star Park. All three come off wins and all would be undefeated had not Royal Tap been pulled up in his debut May 20.
Saturday's $100,000 filly division of he Texas Futurity at Lone Star Park has nine starters and should be fun to watch. As for handicapping -- you pick 'em.
Around the world, around the clock:
Friday's Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket has 13 fillies and mares set to negotiate 1 mile. The antepost wagering is well spread out with Alcohol Free a narrow favorite along with Snow Lantern, Primo Bacio and Mother Earth.
Alcohol Free, a 3-year-old No Nay Never filly, was last seen winning the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and regular rider Oisin Murphy rides for trainer Andrew Balding.
Snow Lantern and Mother Earth were second and third in the Coronation. Primo Bacio was a non-runner in that event when drenching rains left the course rated "heavy" at race time.
On the same program, the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes for 2-year-old fillies drew the top three finishers from the Group 3 Albany Stakes at the Royal Meeting -- Sandrine, Hello You and Oscula -- in a field of eight. They are the favorites in the rematch.
Saturday's Newmarket program features the Darley July Cup, a 6-furlongs dash with 19 confirmed. Oxted, winner of the Group 1 King's Stand at Royal Ascot, shares top billing with Starman, who won the Group 2 Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes at York, but was a non-runner in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee at Ascot.
Also drawing a lot of support is Dragon Symbol, first finisher in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup who was demoted to second behind Campanelle in one of the Royal Meeting's most dramatic moments. Quite a few of the others look capable of making an impact.
Meanwhile, trainer Mark Johnston says Ascot Gold Cup winner Subjectivist, projected to be the star stayer of the near future, is out of action at least for a year.
The trainer told Racing Post Subjectivist "had filling in his right foreleg at the start of the week. We left him in the Goodwood Cup in the hope it would come to nothing.
"But it's not proved to be the case and you certainly won't be seeing him again this year. It's not impossible he'll be back for the Gold Cup next year but it's highly unlikely he'll be back before then."
Subjectivist's half-brother, Sir Ron Priestly, picked up the baton, winning Friday's Group 2 Princess of Wales's Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket, leading from the start under Franny Norton and holding on gamely to defeat odds-on favorite Al Asay by a neck. Star Safari was third.
Sir Ron Priestly, a 5-year-old by Australia, was rebounding from a seventh-place showing in the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal Meeting at the same 1 1/2 miles.
Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Prat has 3-year-olds tackling 1,400 meters on the Deauville turf. With final declarations yet to come, the Godolphin forces still had Naval Crown, Erasmo and Midtown in the mix while archrival Coolmore had kept Wembley and Battleground in.
News and notes:
Anyone who thinks racing is a dying sport needs to take a trip to Hot Springs, Ark. After chomping down some McClard's barbecue and taking in bathhouse row, a trip to Oaklawn Park will dispel any notions of sporting demise.
Oaklawn has increased its purse structure dramatically in the past few years, recently announced a schedule expansion into December, and Tuesday unveiled major changes in its Triple Crown prep program.
The Grade I Arkansas Derby now will offer a $1.25 million purse and be pushed back a week to April 2 -- five weeks before the Kentucky Derby. The changes are part of a record 36-stakes schedule worth $12.3 million.
Along the way, Derby hopefuls will run for $250,000 on their third birthday in the Smarty Jones Stakes, for $750,000 in the Grade III Southwest Stakes on Jan. 29 and $1 million in the Grade II Rebel on Feb. 26.
With Oaklawn racing expanding into December, the track also will stage its first 2-year-old stakes since 1973 -- the Advent Stakes on opening day, Dec. 3.
"Historically, Oaklawn's 3-year-old series has offered the most Kentucky Derby qualifying points of any track in the country," Oaklawn President Louis Cella said. "With the extra timing between races and added purse money, we believe Oaklawn will only grow as 'the' place to prepare for the Triple Crown races."