Maracuja and Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat, shown finishing 1-2 in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks, face off again Saturday in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga. Photo by Joe Labozzetta, courtesy of New York Racing Association
Aug. 20 (UPI) -- The $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar is just one of four Breeders' Cup qualifiers stretching from France to California on the weekend horse racing calendar, while the Queen's Plate in Canada and an interesting matchup in Japan add more international spice to the mix.
The Alabama for 3-year-old fillies has a rematch between Maracuja and Malathaat. There's more action at Monmouth Park, Gulfstream Park and Del Mar.
Meanwhile, in the north of England ... well, for now, let's just say: Mishriff. Snowfall. But be sure to see the "international" section for details on the exploits of two superstars.
Also, with all the hot action from hither to yon, be sure to see Jude Feld's thoughts on what's what. The industry insider pontificates at popejude.com.
Let's jump right in where the turf meets the surf -- Del Mar.
Saturday's $1 million Grade I Pacific Classic, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic, is a pretty wide-open affair with nine entries. Express Train is the lukewarm 3-1 favorite off a victory in the Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles in his last start and he is 3-for-4 at Del Mar.
Among the others, Tripoli and Royal Ship return after finishing second and third in the San Diego; Tizamagician shortens up from 1 1/2 miles to this 1 1/4 mile and could try a front-running theft job; Dr Post ships west for trainer Todd Pletcher fresh from victory in the Grade III Monmouth Cup; and Magic On Tap, fifth in the San Diego, will see what he can do with a route of ground after notching his first graded stakes win in the 7-furlongs Triple Bend two starts back.
For anyone unfamiliar with Del Mar's history, it was founded by a group including most of the 1930s Hollywood stars, including Bing Crosby, who collected tickets at a turnstile on opening day in 1937. "Der Bingle" recorded the theme song of the laid-back oceanside course, "Where the Turf Meets the Surf."
The Breeders' Cup World Championships will return to Del Mar in November.
Code of Honor rates as the 6-5 favorite among seven in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park. The 5-year-old Shug McGaughey trainee has been successful at the highest level for years but has not been seen in the afternoon since finishing fifth in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January.
Plainsman is the 2-1 pick on the morning line in Friday's $175,000 Governor's Cup at Remington Park. The 6-year-old son of Flatter, trained by Brad Cox, has won three in a row at Oaklawn Park, Prairie Meadows and Indiana Grand so why not add Remington to the list?
The Queen's Plate
Sunday's $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds is the race of the year north of the border and the one the local horsemen really want to win. Lots of them really have a chance this year as the 13-horse field has plenty of potential but little in the way of favorites.
The trick in handicapping the Plate -- well, one of them, anyway -- is that many of the contenders have been racing against horses barred from participation here by the "Canadian-bred" requirement.
Thus, the 4-1 favorite on the morning line, Keep Grinding, exits a second in the Grade III Marine Stakes behind Easy Time, a Kentucky-bred. On the flip side, Avoman won the Plate Trial on Aug. 1, but that was against fellow Canadians.
Then there are the Plate-eligible 3-year-olds, who have been laboring in other vineyards with moderate success, but who might enjoy the softer competition here.
That would include Safe Conduct, a fading eighth in the Grade I Belmont Derby on the turf in his last start, well back of winner Bolshoi Ballet. Another wrinkle: Fillies have done well in the Plate in recent years and Munnyfor Ro, winner of the Aug. 1 Woodbine Oaks is back to take on the boys here.
With the favorite posted at 4-1, some might be looking for a long shot in the Plate. That could be 30-1 chance Go Take Charge, still a maiden after four trips to the gate.
Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Alabama for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga is a rematch between Maracuja and Malathaat. The former, at odds of nearly 15-1, handed Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat her first career loss in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks July 24, using every inch of the 1 1/8 miles to get by the pacesetting favorite.
The Alabama shouldn't be regarded as a two-filly race, though. Army Wife has back-to-back graded stakes scores. Clairiere was fourth in the Kentucky Oaks and usually is close. Crazy Beautiful won the Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita and romped by 6 lengths in the Grade III Delaware Oaks in her last start.
Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies has a field of seven with nothing like Maracuja or Malathaat. Most are allowance types although Private Mission and Forest Caraway have shown promise in their relatively few starts.
Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, drew 11 contenders and the oddsmaker makes it a battle between locally based United and East Coast invader Arklow.
United, a 6-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding, exits a win in the Grade II Eddie Read over the course. He has three wins and two seconds from five Del Mar starts, including a second in this race last year.
Arklow, a 7-year-old son of Arch, won the Grade III Louisville Stakes in his 2021 debut and then clipped heels in the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park, stumbled and finished sixth. His only previous trip to the West Coast resulted in a victory in the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar last November. Red King won this last year and returns.
Last year's Queen's Plate runner-up Belichik is among the most likely of eight set for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine.
The Lemon Drop Kid colt followed the Queen's Plate with a 4-lengths victory on the turf in the Breeders' Stakes and hasn't missed a top-two finish since reporting third in his career debut.
The morning-line favorite here is Eons, a winner at Colonial Downs last time out who visits the Toronto area for the first time. Also look for Corelli, in from Saratoga.
Already in the book: Ocean's Map got a bit of a wide trip around both turns in Monday's $75,000 Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park but still managed to rally from mid-pack to win by 1 1/2 lengths over long shot Real Factor. Cibolian was third.
Ocean's Map, a 4-year-old Liam's Map gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:26.53 with Isaac Castillo in the irons.
Filly & Mare Turf
Going Global is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line among nine set for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks. She won her first four U.S. starts, but then was second to Madone in the Grade II San Clemente in their last start. Madone returns, seeking the repeat.
It's not a two-filly race. Chad Brown shipped Fluffy Socks cross-country for this and she won her only previous California jaunt, the Grade III Jimmy Durante over he same Del Mar course. Soaring Sky is in from Ireland with Florent Geroux taking the reins from Shane Foley at the behest of trainer Jessica Harrington.
Technical Analysis is the 6-5 favorite among six 3-year-old fillies entered for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Lake Placid at Saratoga. The Irish-bred Kingman filly, trained by Chad Brown, has won three of her last four and exits a victory in the Grade III Lake George, also over the Saratoga turf.
Mutamakina and Etoille ship up from Saratoga as the favorites in Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine. Mutamakina, a British-bred Nathaniel mare trained by Christophe Clement, and Etoile, a 5-year-old,
French-bred mare by Siyouni, both have been in the mix consistently at top level. Etoile was second in last year's Dance Smartly and returned to win the Grade I E.P. Taylor two months later.
Chad Brown imports Misspell, an American Pharoah filly, as the 2-1 favorite in a field of eight for Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Colleen for 3-year-old fillies. She finished second in her 2021 debut at Saratoga July 17. Speightstown Shirl and Our Flash Drive rate among the locals.
Last year's winner, Mo Forza, returns as the even-money favorite in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Del Mar Mile.
The 5-year-old son of Uncle Mo is fearsome at his best but missed last year's Breeders' Cup Mile with a soft-tissue injury and hasn't raced since last October. He also faces some tough cookies in Grade 1 winners Hit the Road and Smooth Like Strait. This is a nice race.
Five are in for Saturday's $120,000 Smart N Fancy Stakes for fillies and mares at Saratoga and it looks like a question whether anyone will catch even-money favorite Robin Sparkles.
Her main rival, Lead Guitar, starts right to her outside so it should be an interesting 5 1/2 furlongs.
Sunday's $100,000 Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar has eight takers to go 5 grassy furlongs. Collusion Illusion is 3-for-3 at Del Mar including a win in last year's Grade I Bing Crosby, but those all were on the dirt.
Gregorian Chant was on a three-race roll at Santa Anita, but reported seventh in the Grade I Jaipur at Belmont Park in his last start. Lieutenant Dan has missed a top three finish only once in 14 previous starts.
Caravel, a Mizzen Mast filly, has won three straight and seven of nine for her career -- enough to make her the even-money favorite on the morning line for Sunday's $350,000 (Canadian) Grade I Highlander Stakes at Woodbine. Graham Motion trains the 4-year-old for breeder/owner Elizabeth Merryman and super chef Bobby Flay.
Sunday's $100,000 Rainbow Heir Stakes at Monmouth Park drew a field of nine plus two also-eligibles. Grateful Bred is the 124-pound highweight after winning three of his last four starts. In the "old guys rule" category, 10-year-old Fox Rox makes his 108th start and already has three wins from nine outings this year.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Edgeway, Scottish Star and Stellar Sound are lumped at the top of the morning line for Friday's $100,000 Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap at Del Mar. None has done anything outstanding yet in their relatively short careers, but they have more to show than the other two in the field.
Boardroom and Amalfi Coast, both improving in recent efforts, are the favorites in a field of seven for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Seaway Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather. Our Secret Agent also showed promise while finishing second, between those two, in her first start on the turf in the Grade II Nassau.
Kaufymaker and Overbore, both trained by Wesley Ward, are at the top of the list for Friday's $120,000 Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga. Kaufymaker returns from an also-ran finish in the Grade II Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Overbore stayed home and won the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park. Mike Maker brings Pure Panic, a Summer Front colt out of the Hansen mare Shock the World.
Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine is a real head-scratching, program-stabbing affair despite having just six takers. None has beaten winners. The oddsmaker says locally based First Empire and Indiana Grand invader Heaven Street have the best chance to do so.
Saturday's $75,000 Proud Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park has nine plus two for "main track only." It's another "you pick 'em" with six of the main nine posted at single-digit odds. As the man said, watch and learn.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Catch a Glimpse Stakes at Woodbine has a field of eight with six of them coming off either a first or second in their previous starts. That makes it a bit of a tossup.
The oddsmaker, who has to commit, puts a 2-1 favorite tag on Diabolic, undefeated after two starts and winner of the My Dear Stakes in her last start. Note that one was on the all-weather course.
Already in the books: Wesley Ward saddled the exacta in Wednesday's $120,000 Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga as Chi Town Lady rallied by pacesetting stablemate Poppy Flower in the stretch run, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over that one. Kneesnhips was 3 lengths farther back in third.
Chi Town Lady, a Verrazano filly, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:05.87 with John Velazquez aboard. She now is 2-for-2 with the initial outing coming at Keeneland in April. Ward said the Kentucky Downs meeting "is coming up a little sooner than I would like" so he will look for a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event.
"Unfortunately, she had some minor shin issues that kept her from Ascot, which was originally the plan," Ward said of Chi Town Lady. "It afforded me the time to let her come around and she did what she did today. She was great."
Around the world, around the clock:
Here's the recap we promised on the exploits of Mishriff and Snowfall:
Mishriff returned to the purple patch that saw him victorious in the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic with a 6-lengths win in the Juddmonte International that could be a springboard to Paris, Ascot and California.
Mishriff was a world-beater in the early months of 2021, winning the $20 million Saudi Cup on the King Abdulaziz Racecourse dirt and the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on the Meydan turf.
He hit some bumps in the road in the Coral-Eclipse and the King George but the horse described as "at his very best" by trainer John Gosden was back in form Wednesday at York.
After tracking the pacesetting Mac Swiney to the 3-furlongs marker, jockey David Egan pushed the button with immediate results. At the end, it was all Mishriff, 6 lengths better than Alenquer. Love was third. St Mark's Basilica, the antepost favorite, was a non-runner after an injury on the gallops.
Gosden said Mishriff "has now come to his very best," Racing Post reported. "I think we've seen the finished article. "I would be inclined to look towards the Arc and Champions Day, and I would not be ruling out the Breeders' Cup either."
The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic.
Thursday, it was Snowfall's turn in the spotlight in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. And what a turn it was. The blood of two recently deceased supersires, Galileo and Deep Impact, runs through the veins of this filly and she looks like running well enough to make both her sire and damsire proud.
The latest exploit was a dominant, 4-lengths victory over a classy Oaks field on the Knavesmire. After being slow away from the gate, jockey Ryan Moore kept Snowfall interested, moved into contention around 3 furlongs out and quickly put matters to rest when he asked the question.
Albaflora was second and the winner's stablemate, La Joconde, doubly pleased the Coolmore lads and trainer Aidan O'Brien by holding on from the lead to finish third -- at odds of 150-1.
Snowfall, by Deep Impact out of the Galileo mare Best In the World, showed little as a 2-2-year-old. This year, she has won all four starts including a 16-lengths romp in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom and an 8 1/2-lengths score in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks.
"She gave me an exceptional feel and the race was over very quickly," Racing Post quoted Moore as saying. "Today, the performance was as good as anything I've felt. She definitely felt better than she did at the Curragh and hopefully that's a good sign she will continue to do that into the autumn."
What could be better than races like these? How about this: Mishriff and Snowfall are likely to meet again in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. And the Yorkshire Oaks was a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Stay tuned for Friday, when trainer Wesley Ward tries again to win the Group 1 Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes with Golden Pal, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner.
Ward has been oh-so-close in this event without winning, including the 2017 edition, in which Lady Aurelia was nipped by Marsha on the line. Golden Pal was sold to the Coolmore partners before his winning 2021 debut and Frankie Dettori gets the ride.
Sodashi, the white filly who captured the imagination of Japanese fans while being crowned last year's champion 2-year-old female, returns to action in Sunday's Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen.
She will be trying for a second time to show she can go this 2,000-meters trip after finishing a fading eighth in the Grade 1 Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks. Before that, she was undefeated in five starts while becoming the first officially white horse to win a Japanese Grade 1 event.
If it were not for her coloration, Sodashi wouldn't rate more than a mention in this race, which features Loves Only You.
The Deep Impact filly, winner of the 2019 Yushun Himba, has blossomed this year. She started with a win in the Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen in February, and then a month later settled for third, beaten just two necks, in that memorable Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic won by Mishriff with Chrono Genesis second.
From there, she went to Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong to win the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in April. Now she preps for almost anything during the rest of the year, from the Arc to the Breeders' Cup or Hong Kong again.
The others have much more modest resumes although Blast Onepiece, a 6-year-old son of Harbinger, is a one-time Grade 1.
Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Morny is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. With final declarations to come, it looks like a good size field with plenty of possibilities.
On the same program, the Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet features Lady Bowthorpe and Audarya. Lady Bowthorpe, a Nathaniel mare, was last seen winning the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
Audarya, by Wootton Bassett, won the 2020 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. She was second behind Love in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, but then fifth in the Nassau.
Thundering Nights defeated Santa Barbara in the Group 1 Pretty Polly in her last start. She and Cayenne Pepper, third in that race, both return for the Jean Romanet.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
Mad for Fame rallied from next-last to win Monday's $50,000 Jack Betta Be Rite Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares by 1/2 length from Fleeta Belle. Tax Me Naught led most of the 1 1/16 miles and held on for show money.
Mad for Fame, a 4-year-old Sir Whimsey filly, finished in 1:48.70 with Tammi Piermarini in the irons.
Presque Isle Downs
Bullseye Beauty took charge late in Monday's $75,000 Lady Erie Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, kicking away to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Risky Reward was second, 1 length to the good of Lexinator.
Bullseye Beauty, a daughter of Dialed In, was clocked in 1:08.76 for 6 furlongs on the all-weather track. James Graham rode.
Thealligatorhunter battled to the lead in Wednesday's $100,000 Minnesota Derby for state-breds, then inched away to a 1-length victory despite wandering a bit through the stretch. Bayou Benny was best of the rest, 2 lengths better than Kid's Inheritance.
Thealligatorhunter, an Overanalyze colt, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:42.29 with Alonso Quinonez in the irons.
Molly's Angel flew by pacesetting favorite Star of the North early in the stretch drive in Wednesday's $100,000 Minnesota Oaks for state-bred fillies, hit the afterburners and won off by 5 1/2 lengths. Star of the North held second, another 3 3/4 lengths in front of Maiden Rock.
Molly's Angel, an Istan filly, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.18 with Quinonez scoring the Derby-Oaks riding double.
Zoe's Delight seized the lead with a couple furlongs yet to run in Wednesday's $55,000 Wally's Choice Stakes for Minnesota-breds and held off Cinco Star through the closing strides to win by 3/4 length. Dame Plata was third.
Zoe's Delight, a 5-year-old Itsmyluckyday gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.17 with Reuben Fuentes up.
Ready to Runaway was as good as her name in Wednesday's $55,000 Glitter Star for Minnesota-bred fillies and mares. Leading early, the 5-year-old First Dude mare extended the advantage at each pole, eventually reporting 6 1/4 lengths in front.
Shebam was second with another 3 3/4 lengths separating her from Hotasapistol. Timber Lady was fourth and last. Ready to Runaway, with Roimes Chirinos at the controls, finished in 1:43.18.