July 30 (UPI) -- The first three finishers from the 2020 Breeders' Cup Sprint are all back in action this weekend as speed highlights the weekend horse racing agenda.
Essential Quality, undefeated save a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, returns as the heavy favorite for Saturday's Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga.
One Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event already is in the books in England, with two more to be run during the weekend on U.S. shores. In Canada, 9-year-old Pink Lloyd seeks a return to the winner's circle.
We've got a quick look at all that action and more plus, on the international scene, results from this week's "Glorious Goodwood" in England and a peek at Sunday's German Oaks. Read on to learn about the newest British racing series, the William Hill Racing League and good luck to any innovative idea for the sport.
But let's sprint right on to the sprints to get ourselves started. Beep beep!
Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, drew a field of nine and if the oddsmaker is right, it should be a good one.
Topping the morning line are 2020 Breeders' Cup runner-up C Z Rocket, recent Thor's Echo Stakes winner Brickyard Ride, last year's Grade I Del Mar Futurity winner Dr. Schivel and last year's Bing Crosby winner Collusion Illusion. It's 6 furlongs and the devil take the hindmost.
Saturday's $350,000 Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga promises another hot 6-furlongs heat with Mischevious Alex, Firenze Fire and Whitmore featuring in a field of nine.
Mischevious Alex won three in a row before finishing third in the Grade I Met Mile in his last start. Whitmore and Firenze Fire were first and third in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, bracketing the aforementioned C Z Rocket.
This field is tough enough that last year's Bing Crosby runner-up, Lexitonian, is 20-1 on the morning line.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Amsterdam for 3-year-olds at Saratoga has a quality lineup featuring Jackie's Warrior and Drain the Clock, both Grade I winners. Crowded Trade was last seen finishing sixth in the Preakness Stakes. Six are set for this 6 1/2-furlong jaunt.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Bell's the One was the one -- the favorite and the winner -- in Wednesday's $200,000 Grade II Honorable Miss at Saratoga. With Corey Lanerie aboard, the 5-year-old Majesticperfection mare launched last of eight, came out toward the middle of the track to commence her rally and outfinished Lake Avenue by a neck.
Ain't No Elmers led most of the way and finished third. Bell's the One completed 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.83. Third in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, she now has put together back-to-back wins.
Can't Buy Love and Honey Pants are the morning-line favorites in a field of six 3-year-old fillies lining up for Saturday's $120,000 (Canadian) Alywow. Lady War Machine comes off a maiden win and Dirty Dangle has been better this year since finishing ninth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
The scramble for supremacy in the 3-year-old division shifts to Saratoga for Saturday's $600,000 Grade II Jim Dandy with Essential Quality the 1-2 favorite against five rivals.
Essential Quality's only loss, against six career wins, came in the Kentucky Derby and he won the Belmont Stakes in his last start. None of the five he will face in the Jim Dandy comes close to that record and a win here would be another step toward more year-end hardware for the Godolphin homebred, who was honored as last year's juvenile champ.
Before mortgaging the house to bet on Essential Quality, though, remember Saratoga's reputation at "Graveyard of Champions" -- a nickname renewed just last weekend as Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat went down to defeat at short odds.
The 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner, Shedaresthedevil, ships out west for Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff.
The Daredevil filly has won half her 14 career starts but finished third and fourth in her two previous starts at Del Mar as a 2-year-old. She won her first two starts of 2021, then reported third in the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park in her most recent start.
As Time Goes By looks to make it three wins in a row and five from her last six starts when she lines up for the Clement Hirsch.
The American Pharoah filly, trained by Bob Baffert for the Coolmore connections in Ireland, won the Grade II Santa Margarita and Grade II Santa Maria after finishing second in the Beholder Mile -- all at Santa Anita in her last three outings.
The others in the Clement Hirsch include multiple graded stakes winner Venetian Harbor and Warren's Showtime.
A field of 10 is set for Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks for Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies on the Woodbine all-weather.
It's a mixed bunch for sure, but worth a look are Lorena, undefeated in three starts including the Fury Stakes in her last, and Munnyfor Ro, second in the Grade III Selene Stakes in her most recent. Three in this field are still maidens.
A contentious field of nine is set for Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Monmouth Oaks. There is no clear favorite with the oddsmaker leaning toward Midnight Obsession, Allworthy, Edie Meeny Miny Mo and Leader of the Band.
Channel Maker and Channel Cat will be trying to channel their sire, English Channel, among the eight set for Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Bowling Green at Saratoga. Channel Maker is the morning-line pick as one of three in the race for Bill Mott.
He makes his first start since finishing second in the Neom Turf Classic in Saudi Arabia and eighth in that memorable Longines Dubai Sheema Classic in March. Chad Brown saddles two of the longer chances on the morning line but is never to be tossed out in handicapping turf races.
Saturday's $100,000 Tale of the Cat Stakes at Monmouth Park has a really well-matched field of eight with one "main track only" entry. Get the hatpins handy to stab the program and hope for the best.
Those unsure might opt for It's a Gamble. Those more confident in their handicapping could plunk for It Can Be Done.
Change of Control looks a likely prospect in Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Royal North for fillies and mares at Woodbine. The Fed Biz mare has finished in the top three in each of her last six starts and exits a win in the Grade III Intercontinental at Belmont Park in her most recent.
Lead Guitar arrives from Saratoga with four straight wins, all on the New York circuit. A longshot -- Jessica's Beepbeep, which is where we started way back at the beginning of this.
Six are set for Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Vigil on the Woodbine all-weather with old favorite Pink Lloyd hoping to get back to his winning ways after two straight losses -- his first back-to-back defeats since 2018.
The 9-year-old Old Forester gelding also seeks his fifth straight Vigil victory. Rival contender Souper Stonehenge was last seen winning the Grade III Jacques Cartier.
Nine are entered for Saturday's $100,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Sire Stakes with Hope In Him posted as 8-5 favorite on the morning line. The Chitu colt, trained by Joe Orseno, won his only previous start by 5 lengths, going 4 1/2 furlongs over the same track.
Master shipper Larry Rivelli is at it again, sending One Timer from his Arlington base to Woodbine where the Trappe Shot gelding is the 9-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Victoria Stakes.
Rivelli is deadly with the trip from Chicago, especially to run on the all-weather track, which One Timer will face along with seven others. Mowins also ships in but from the dirt track at Churchill Downs. Mark Casse charge Twenty Four Mamba looks like the toughest local.
Noble Dreamer, from Saffie Joseph Jr.'s barn, is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $100,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Sire Stakes. The Noble Bird filly finished second in her debut, then won her next outing and faces 10 rivals in her third trip to the track.
Mark Casse saddles the two favorites among eight entered for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) My Dear Stakes at Woodbine. Lois Len, the 2-1 favorite, won at first asking at Woodbine and Diabolic scored in her first try at Gulfstream Park.
Those two are, however, thin favorites and the 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track could go any of a number of ways.
Sunday's $100,000 Colleen Stakes on the Monmouth Park turf has eight takers, six of them recent maiden winners. Trainer Wesley Ward, who is good with these, sends out Chi Town Lady, who won at first asking at Keeneland in April, and Miss Alacrity, who scored in her only previous start at Belmont in May.
Detouring to the international scene:
Trueshan looked like a good chance for Tuesday's Group 1 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup even before unexpected rain turned the Goodwood going "soft" and Stradivarius was withdrawn. The 5-year-old Planteur gelding looked even better through the final half of the 2-miles event, running freely to the lead for jockey Hollie Doyle and reporting first by 3 3/4 lengths. Away He Goes was second with Sir Ron Priestly third. The 2020 Derby winner, Serpentine, finished sixth and still has not won since that runaway score in the Epsom classic.
Trueshan, trained by Alan King, won last year's Qipco British Champions Long-Distance Cup but was a non-runner at Ascot on the quick ground early in the meeting. King took the edge off as Trueshan finished sixth in an all-weather marathon at Newcastle to settle him for Goodwood.
"There was no gallop and I expected a bit of pace," Doyle said. "So halfway round I thought, 'I'm going to do something about this' as I didn't want to get caught on the rail. He just went when he hit the rising ground."
On Wednesday, Oisin Murphy got Coronation Stakes winner Alcohol Free a free trip outside the traffic to win the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes 1 3/4 lengths going clear of St James's Palace winner Poetic Flair. Falmouth Stakes winner Snow Lantern closed sharply to finish third, giving 3-year-olds a sweep of their elders.
Alcohol Free, a No Nay Never filly trained by Andrew Balding, was hung wide through the first few furlongs of the Sussex -- a circumstance which may have helped more than hindered later in the race when some of the others found themselves in tight quarters, exchanging a few brushing bumps, while Murphy's mount ran by them to victory.
"I am sure there were hard luck stories," Balding said. "But I am sure she was the best horse on the day. It was lovely to see her do that because we have always believed in her. It is no easy task taking on the colts and older horses, and to do it in that style was just fantastic."
The Sussex was a "Win and You're In" for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile but Balding said Alcohol Free's next engagement, at the suggestion of owner Jeff Smith, is in the 1 1/4-miles Juddmonte International at York next month. "If it doesn't work, we'll regroup and go back to the mile race on Champions Day," he said.
The 10 furlongs of Thursday's feature, the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes, proved just what the doctor -- or, in this case, the trainer -- ordered for Lady Bowthorpe.
After sitting fourth through much of the race while co-favorite Joan of Arc set the pace, jockey Kieran Shoemark moved Lady Bowthorpe to the outside for the stretch challenge. Gobbling up ground, she quickly grabbed the lead and won by 1 1/2 lengths.
Zeyaadah was up for second while Joan of Arc held third. The other co-favorite, 2020 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Audarya, never threatened and finished fifth.
Lady Bowthorpe won the Group 2 Dahlia at Newmarket in her 2021 debut, finished second to the mighty Palace Pier in the Group 1 Lockinge at Newbury and second to Indie Angel in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge at Royal Ascot before a fourth in the Group 1 Falmouth in her previous start. Those last three were at 1 mile.
"I've been dying to run her over 10 furlongs for a long time but events transpired against us until today," trainer William Jarvis sai. "Anyway, I think she has proved that she's even better over 10 [furlongs] than she is at a mile."
Here's something to keep an eye on: The William Hill Racing League, which kicked off its season Thursday at Newcastle. The League consists of 12 teams, each with two to four trainers, a to-be-determined number of jockeys, a squad of 30 horses and a manager.
They will compete on six Thursdays, contesting six races per meeting at distances from 5 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles. Each race is worth 50,000 pounds in purse money with bonuses bringing the total pot up to 1.8 million quid.
As with anything new, there has been skepticism and negativity along with support but Racing League CEO Jeremy Wray noted to Racing Post, "The proof of this will be if it grows from the start and by the end people are interested in what happens. I'm encouraged by all the enthusiasm that the teams are showing. Let's see."
A field of 16 and little to separate most of them on the ratings or past performances makes a handicapping puzzle for Sunday's Group 1 Henkel-Preis der Diana or German Oaks. The race is contested at 1 3/16 furlongs at Dusseldorf and we'll have the outcome in the weekend roundup.
And these, including some early-week results:
Step Dancer stepped on the gas through the final furlong of Wednesday's $150,000 Cab Callaway Division of the New York Stallion Stakes, reeling in the breakaway leader, Dreamer's Disease, and winning by a neck. It was another 4 3/4 lengths to It's Gravy in the 1-mile test for state-bred 3-year-olds on the firm inner turf course.
Step Dancer, a War Dancer colt, finished in 1:35.83 with Dylan Davis in the irons.
Violenza got the best of a three-way photo at the end of Monday's $100,000 Andy Guest Stakes for fillies and mares, prevailing by a neck over Mucha Mezqina with the odds-on favorite, Beantown Baby, another neck back in third.
Violenza, a 4-year-old Violence fily, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the good outer turf course in 1:02.74 with Chris Landeros in the irons for trainer Ian Wilkes.
Eons rallied from last of seven to win Monday's $100,000 Buckland Stakes by a head over Kentucky Ghost with the favorite, Pixelate, settling for third.
Eons, a 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, got the 1 1/8 miles over the good inner turf layout in course-record time of 1:48.14. Mychel Sanchez had the call from trainer Arnaud Delacour.
Presque Isle Downs
Darcy Mae led gate to wire in Monday's $100,000 Princess of Sylmar Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares, winning by 1 3/4 lengths from Redeem My Heart.It was another 3 lengths to Wildcat Cartridge in third.
Darcy Mae, a 7-year-old daughter of 1999 Galleryfurniture.com runner-up K One King, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on the all-weather track in 1:42.46 for jockey Pablo Morales.
Wait for It, the odds-on favorite, waited for a go-ahead from jockey Anthony Nunez before surging to the lead in Tuesday's $100,000 Hard Spun Stakes for state-breds, then cleared to win by 1 length over late-running Viski Jones. Ravens Delight was third.
Wait for It, a 6-year-old Uptowncharliebrown gelding, was clocked in 1:40.86.