July 16 (UPI) -- It's too early to say Saturday's Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park is a key race for this year's 3-year-olds but, featuring some of the major players from all three Triple Crown events, it certainly is an important step along the way to year-end honors.
The Haskell highlights a Monmouth program that also includes the Grade I United Nations on the turf and a clutch of other important stakes.
Saratoga is up and running with Del Mar joining the fun during the weekend so it must really be summertime. Arlington Park, presumably in its last year of operation, hosts "Arlington Million Preview Day" even though there is no Arlington Million this year.
Some important races already are in the books. To wit:
Hurricane Lane blew away his competition in the Grand Prix de Paris on Bastille Day and breezed into the top rank of contenders for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over the same course in fewer than three months' time.
Golden Pal made short work of fellow 3-year-old turf sprinters on opening day at Saratoga while Pretty Birdy had her picture taken after winning the Grade III Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies on the same program.
With the big tracks all up and firing, look for some guidance from premier analyst Jude Feld, who pontificates at popejude.com.
Meanwhile, we'll start at the top, "down the shore" at Monmouth Park with:
The second-place finishers from all three Triple Crown races are set for Saturday's $1 million Grade I TVG.com Haskell for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park -- a heat that could prove pivotal for year-end honors in a division still very much up for grabs. The race also is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Of course, the runner-up from the Kentucky Derby, Mandaloun, stands to become the winner of the Run for the Roses should Medina Spirit eventually be stripped of that title in the wake of a positive drug test.
Preakness runner-up Midnight Bourbon and Belmont Stakes second Hot Rod Charlie also are in the mix for the Haskell in a field of seven.
Hot Rod Charlie and Mandaloun are the morning-line favorites at 6-5 and 2-1, respectively. But the Monmouth linemaker next looks to Following Sea, a Runhappy colt trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won his last two starts, most recently by 6 1/2 lengths in a Belmont Park allowance event.
The Haskell will provide momentum for one or more of the contenders. But other 3-year-olds are gearing up for a second-half push, too.
Essential Quality, the Belmont winner, relocated to Saratoga this week and continues to train there for trainer Brad Cox. His only defeat in seven starts was a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Rombauer won the Preakness and finished third in the Belmont. He has not run since but has been working since late June at Santa Anita.
Meanwhile, Life Is Good, the undefeated Dialed In colt who missed the Kentucky Derby with a minor setback, has been back on the work tab at Keeneland. His most recent effort was a 4-furlongs breeze in 48 seconds flat, eighth-fastest of sixty at that distance on Tuesday.
The older horses are in action Saturday in the $300,000 Grade III Monmouth Cup. Ny Traffic is the favorite in a competitive field of seven but the 4-year-old Cross Traffic colt has a couple demons to exorcize.
In his first visit to the Jersey shore, the Saffie Joseph Jr. trainee finished second, beaten a nose by Authentic, in last year's Haskell. He returned last month in the Grade III Salvator Mile, led most of the way and was caught late by Informative.
Third time's the charm? If not, Dr Post, Night Ops and Bankit all have the credentials to post an upset.
Mrs. Danvers and Vault are the lukewarm favorites among nine in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park. Mrs. Danvers, a 4-year-old Tapit filly trained by Shug McGaughey, looks for her first win of the season. Vault secured the Grade II Ruffian at Belmont Park two starts back.
Arklow and Tribhuvan loom as favorites in a field of 10 set for Saturday's $500,000 Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park. Arklow, a 7-year-old son of Arch, wound up a successful 2020 with a win in the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar in November and picked things right up on his return May 15, winning the Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Tribhuvan, a 5-year-old, French-bred gelding by Toronado, finished second in the Grade I Manhattan in his last start, fading from the lead at the end of 1 1/4 miles and now tackles 1 3/8 miles. Arklow starts from the No. 1 gate; Tribhuban, from No. 10.
Chad Brown, omnipresent and not to be ignored in East Coast turf races, has two in the United Nations. Chilean import Master Piece is 1-for-3 in the United States. Serve the King, a lightly raced Kingman 4-year-old, looks to improve in his second start of the season.
Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Arlington Stakes is the local prep for the $600,000 Grade I Mr. D. Stakes -- the former Arlington Million.
Zulu Alpha is the class of the eight-horse field if the 8-year-old Street Cry gelding can fire fresh after a 10-months layoff. His recent workouts at Churchill Downs say he's still going strong and the oddsmaker has him as the 6-5 favorite.
It's a bit of a drop-off after that, but Captivating Moon, a solid performer on any surface, is back on the grass, where he ran well in his younger years for trainer Chris Block.
Saturday's $100,000 American Derby at Arlington Park is rich with more than 120 years of history and an honor roll that includes such hallowed names as Whirlaway, Citation, Native Dancer, Swaps, Round Table and Damascus.
There's nothing of that quality in this year's field with the 3-1 morning-line favorite, King of Miami, coming off a victory in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. The race is designed as a prep for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Mr. D. Stakes day.
Filly & Mare Turf
Last weekend it was Coolmore's Irish runners plundering the New York turf stakes purses at Belmont Park. Saturday, Godolphin's English duo of Althiqa and Summer Romance line up to grab a piece of $500,000 Grade I Diana at Saratoga. That pair finished 1-2 in the Grade I Longines Just a Game at Belmont in their last start June 5.
Summer Romance also won the Group 2 Balanchine at Meydan in Dubai in February with Althiqa second. Both have been working at Belmont since the Just a Game and took the scenic ride up to the Spa on Monday.
The locals are no slouch, either. Harvey's Lil Goil is a Grade I winner and finished third in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The others in the eight-horse field are all consistent graded stakes performers but generally short of wins, especially at the Grade I level.
Chad Brown, who has won the race six times, including the last five editions, saddles Lemista and Pocket Square.
Juliet Foxtrot waltzes into Monmouth Park for the first time as the morning-line favorite for Saturday's $150,000 Grade III WinStar Matchmaker.
The 6-year-old Dansili mare has all kinds of graded stakes placings on her past performances, including a victory in the Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland two starts back. Brad Cox trains the Juddmonte homebred and Tyler Gaffalione rides.
Brown sends out Great Island and Counterparty Risk, both lightly raced and both with potential to improve.
Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Modesty at Arlington Park is the local audition for the Grade I Beverly D. on Mr. D. Stakes Day and drew an evenly matched field of 12 -- a credit to the history of the race and Arlington's staff, including stakes coordinator Dave Zenner.
So well-balanced is the field that the morning-line favorite, Joy Epifora, is posted at odds of 7-2 with four others at single digits.
Saturday's $75,000 Hatoof Stakes at Arlington Park attracted seven 3-year-old fillies with Flown posted as the morning-line favorite.
The Kitten's Joy filly, trained by Brendan Walsh, exits a third-place finish, beaten less than 1 length, in the Grade III Regret at Churchill Downs and appears to have the potential to be a good one.
Golden Pal made quick work, literally, of Thursday's $120,000 Grade III Quick Call Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. The Wesley Ward trainee shot out of the gate, quickly opened a comfortable lead and relaxed nicely, coasting home first by 3 lengths with long shot Omaha City making up ground late to finish second.
The Florida-bred colt by Uncle Mo was second in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at last year's Royal Ascot, returned to the United States to win the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga and went on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland in November.
British bookmakers have him among the favorites for next month's Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York but Ward appeared to be thinking along different lines.
"The bigger races are here in the next months and heading into the fall and then the Breeders' Cup, so this is when you want to see them do this," Ward said.
The Critical Way is a solid, odds-on favorite among seven in Saturday's $100,000 Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth Park. The 7-year-old has hit the board in eight straight races and 10 of his last 11.
He also isn't old by the standards of this heat. That honor goes to Fox Rox, a 10-year-old Officer gelding who makes his 106th career start and eighth in 2021. He won last time out, too. As the aforementioned handicapping guru Feld is fond of saying, "Old guys rule."
Sunday's $120,000 Coronation Cup at Saratoga has 12 3-year-old fillies including one for main-track-only. Wink, a daughter of Midshipman, won her first two starts last year and finished second in the Group 3 Prix d'Arenberg at Longchamp in September.
Bye Bye was a Grade III winner at Belmont Park two starts back. A few others are moving in the right direction but find a tough and competitive heat here.
Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Connaught Cup at Woodbine has a field of nine with no real standouts. Chuck Willis, a lightly raced, 5-year-old Kodiac gelding, arrives with four straight wins -- two last year at Woodbine and two earlier this year at Gulfstream Park. All were down the class ladder.
Friday's $150,000 Grade III Forbidden Apple at Saratoga drew a field of 10 with the Chad Brown-trained duo of Value Proposition and Sacred Life topping the morning line. Neither is a true standout, however, and the race looks fairly wide-open.
Friday's $100,000 Runhappy Oceanside at Del Mar, often run in divisions, this year has only one gate's worth of 3-year-olds, albeit a full gate of 14. The race is restricted to non-winners of a stakes of $50,000 or more and if you can pick 'em, you should collect handsomely.
Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Sanford at Saratoga has a field of 12 -- 10 of them coming off maiden wins. The other two, Kavod and Trust Our Journey, were second and third in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park in their last outing June 4.
Pretty Birdie shot right to the lead in Thursday's $150,000 Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga, kept to her task and cruised home first, 2 lengths in front of the favorite, Mainstay. Saucy Lady T was third.
Pretty Birdie, a Marylou Whitney Stables homebred filly by Bird Song out of the Street Sense mare Bird Sense, flew home in 1:12.32 over a fast track with Luis Saez riding. She won her only previous start by 3 3/4 lengths June 18 at Churchill Downs, also leading from gate to wire.
Winning trainer Norm Casse noted Pretty Birdie didn't want to switch leads in the stretch run and appeared generally to run greenly.
"I think she was just gawking around and maybe even waiting on the other horse," he said. "Those are things we'll fix before we run her in the Spinaway next." That's the Grade 1 on Sept. 5.
Around the world, around the clock:
Hurricane Lane kicked away smoothly through the final 300 meters to win Wednesday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris for 3-year-olds at Longchamp by 6 lengths as cross-Channel raiders landed the first four placings.
With William Buick along for the ride, Hurricane Lane Irish Derby winner Hurricane lane tracked pacesetting The Mediterranean though the first mile of the Bastille Day feature, quickly took the lead turning for home and was clearly best.
Wordsworth was always close and finished second with Alenquer pipping The Mediterranean for third.
Hurricane Lane, a Frankel colt racing for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby, has been defeated only once in six starts, that a third-place finish in the Cazoo Derby.
Wednesday's win was impressive enough to move him into the top ranks of contenders for the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over the same course in October.
"I think he's improved again," Racing post quoted Buick. "He keeps getting quicker."
"He is a very good colt and I believe his performance today shows that he is one of the best 3 year-olds in Europe," Appleby said. "On what he's done today, we obviously have to think about the Arc with him, although we'll see how he comes back from this race."
Anyone want to take on Snowfall in Saturday's Group 1 Juddmonte Irish Oaks at the Curragh? Anyone?
All said and done, trainer Aidan O'Brien left in four of her stablemates and son Joseph Patrick O'Brien contributed one to help make up an eight-filly field for the 1 1/2-miles Classic. Snowfall not only won the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom in her last start, but carries the blood of both her sire, Japanese superstar Deep Impact and her damsire, Coolmore's own Galileo.
With Galileo's death last week and Deep Impact's passing in 2019, that pedigree is both golden and historic.
Snowfall's juvenile career was so undistinguished that she did not draw into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland. Things turned around dramatically in her first 3-year-old start May 12 at York when she won the Group 3 Tattersalls Musidora Stakes for fun at odds of 14-1.
She went immediately to the Oaks, where Ryan Moore jumped ship in favor of Santa Barbara only to see -- from a distance -- Frankie Dettori ride Snowfall to a 16-lengths win. Ryan is back aboard for the Curragh race.
The other Coolmore runners are two American Pharoah fillies, one by Frankel and one by Galileo. All have yet to prove themselves at anything like Snowfall's level. Any of the others would be a massive surprise.
On Thursday, Japan just held on in the final strides to win the Group 3 Green Room Meld Stakes at Leopardstown, presumably keeping alive his hopes for bigger glory later in the year somewhere in the world.
The 5-year-old son of Galileo always has been on Coolmore's list of potential travelers but never quite fit the bill sufficiently to board a plane for any destination farther than Longchamp, where he finished fourth in the 2019 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
As the season draws to a close, Golden Sixty Monday was named Hong Kong Horse of the Year, champion miler and champion middle-distance horse. The 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro also was voted the season's fan favorite.
Golden Sixty enters the break with a perfect record of seven wins from seven starts in 2020-21, with the last four wins all at the Group 1 level.
Since September 2019, he has maintained an unbeaten run of 14 and he is the first horse to capture the Longines Hong Kong Mile, Stewards' Cup, Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup FWD Champions Mile -- all Group 1 events, in the same season.
Caspar Fownes won the training title and Joao Moreira locked down the jockey premiership. Recently retired Exultant and Beauty Generation were presented lifetime achievement awards.
It was a tough year for the Hong Kong Jockey Club with pandemic restrictions preventing or severely limiting attendance at the races for the entire season.
Despite that, total turnover for the season was a record HK$136.37 million -- up 12.1%. That followed a small decline in last season's totals which reflected both pandemic issues and sometimes violent social unrest that forced closure of some off-track wagering sites and abandonment of two Happy Valley race meetings.
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, HKJC's CEO, applauded employees and staff for their performance under trying conditions and predicted better times yet.
"With the improving COVID-19 situation, sooner than later, I am looking forward to a return to normality and we can welcome back all of our customers to our great racetracks," Engelbrecht-Bresges said.