Arklow, shown winning the 2020 Hollywood Turf Cup, is in the mix for Saturday's $1 million Calumet Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs. Benoit photo courtesy of Santa Anita
Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Kentucky Downs' unique course and massive purses lead the way as turf racing takes a rare star turn on U.S. racetracks this weekend.
The former Dueling Grounds, just north of the Kentucky-Tennessee border and not far from Nashville, is the only North American track with a European-style grass layout, featuring undulating ground and a non-oval shape.
Management parlayed early adoption of "historical racing" gaming machines to a lucrative revenue source, fueling massive purses.
The purses have attracted many of nation's best trainers and jockeys and the quality of horses has climbed although runners bred outside the Commonwealth run for only half the advertised amount with the rest coming from a breeders' fund.
The better horses have caught the eye of the Graded Stakes Committee, which has upgraded several of the events, and the Breeders' Cup, which has awarded "Win and You're In" status for two of this weekend's affairs.
With Saratoga and Del Mar winding up their summers last weekend, much of the rest of North America takes a general pause. Although, see the cool "Meanwhile, back in the States" section for results from Minnesota and Indiana.
On the international scene, five of this weekend's Irish races enjoy "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup status. And the dress rehearsal for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomph meeting is this weekend at Longchamp with the Group 1 Prix Vermielle and Snowfall leading the way.
Speaking of leading the way, right this way, please ...
You know them. You love them. They've been fighting it out for years and 6-year-old Channel Cat, 7-year-old Arklow and 8-year-old Zulu Alpha go at it again in Saturday's $1 million Grade II Calumet Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Like most of the Kentucky Downs races, it's a full field. And, like all of them, it's full of potential upsetters. This is a theme we'll see throughout the weekend at the all-turf track.
Saturday's $1 million Grade III FanDuel Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, is a wide-open affair with an overflow field.
Trainer Mark Casse inserts Got Stormy, winner in her last outing of the Grade I Fourstardave at Saratoga. She also won the Grade III Ladies Sprint here last season.
This field also includes the 1-2-3 finishers from the 2020 edition of the KD Turf Sprint -- Imprimis, Front Run the Fed and Bombard.
Saturday's $600,000 Grade II Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-olds at Kentucky Downs has another overflow field with plenty of prospects. Among them are Point Me By and Tango Tango Tango, the first two home in last month's Grade I Bruce D. Stakes at Arlington Park.
Point Me By is the 7-2 morning-line favorite while Tango Tango Tango is 20-1 so go figure. King of Miami, fourth in the Bruce D., also takes another swing.
Venetian Harbor and Superstition, both in from California, headline an overflow field for Saturday's $600,000 Grade III Mint Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs. Venetian Harbor, trained by Richard Baltas, has the more impressive resume, finishing first or second in nine of her 10 starts.
Tobys Heart is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in an oversubscribed field for Sunday's $500,000 Music City for 3-year-old fillies at Kentucky Downs, but it's tough to set the Jack Milton filly much apart from several others. Illegal Smile, Navratalova, Saranya and New Boss all seem to have roughly comparable records. Pick 'em right and win big.
Filly & Mare Turf
An even dozen are in for Sunday's $550,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon and, as with some other events at the track, the morning line is a little hard to understand.
The 7-2 favorite is Micheline, a Godolphin homebred filly by Bernardini who did win the Dueling Grounds Oaks last year with a late move, and then ran second to Harvey's Lil Goil in the Grade I QE II at Keeneland.
But she has finished 10th, beaten by 8 lengths, and seventh, beaten by 14 lengths, in her last two starts. Unless trainer Michael Stidham finds a quick reversal of form, a few other look at least as good on recent form. There also are two in from Europe to complicate things even more.
Already in the books: Hendy Woods stalked the pace in Thursday's $400,000 One Dreamer at Kentucky Downs, went by pacesetting Sweet Melania in the stretch drive and ran on to win by 4 1/4 lengths over that one. Alta's Award was along for third, 2 1/2 lengths adrift of Sweet Melania.
Hendy Woods ran 1 mile and 70 yards on firm going in 1:38.33 with Tyler Gaffalione up.
Princess Grace shipped across the country last month to win the Grade II Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar and, after a shorter journey, is the morning-line favorite for Saturday's $750,000 Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf. The Karakontie 4-year-old has won five of six starts at five different tracks.
There are several potential upsetters among the other eight should Princess Grace not take to the course.
Nine are signed on for Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Toronto Cup for 3-year-olds at Woodbine. Gretzky the Great, winner of half his eight starts, including a victory in the Grade I Summer Stakes over the course last season, drew the outside gate.
Riptide Rock exits a second-place finish in the Queen's Plate on the all-weather course. Artie's Storm and a few others could improve to figure in the outcome.
Last year's Queen's Plate hero, Mighty Heart, is the odds-on favorite among just five entries for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Seagram Cup on the Woodbine all-weather course.
The Dramedy colt is going well with a win in the Grade III Dominion Day Stakes over the course in July and a second in the Grade III West Virginia Governor's Stakes on the dirt at Mountaineer last month.
Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahone Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather track has a cast of seven. Skygaze, an American Pharoah filly, won her season opener on the Turfway Park all-weather, and then finished third in the Grade III Trillium when back at Woodbine.
Trainer Chris Block brings Fate Factor after back-to-back wins at Arlington and Indiana Grand. Antigone has won three in a row over the course.
Six are set for Saturday's $100,000 Rumson Stakes at Monmouth Park with Foolish Ghost and Francatelli the morning-line favorites.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Sunday's $500,000 Ainsworth Stakes at Kentucky Downs has 12 plus one also-eligible. The 3-1 morning-line favorite, Lady Danae, drew the No. 12 gate. The Klimt filly, trained by Joe Sharp, won her only previous start at Saratoga by 2 lengths while circling the field.
Mystic Eyes also was an impressive winner at the Spa in her only previous start. Ditto Koala Princess, but at Monmouth Park. Cheerupsleepyjean is 10-1 on the morning line despite having finished third in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Already in the books: Red Danger battled into contention in the final furlong of Thursday's $500,000 Global Tote Kentucky Downs Juvenile Sprint, and then outfinished Romancer to win by 3/4 length.
It was another 3/4 length to the favorite, Kaufymaker, in third. Red Danger, an Orb colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the firm turf in 1:16.41 with Luis Saez in the irons.
Around the world, around the clock:
Hurricane Lane looms a solid favorite among 10 starters set for Saturday's Group 1 Cazoo St Leger at Doncaster -- the oldest and last of the British Classics. The Frankel colt, trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin, has lost only once, finishing third in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom.
The opposition includes four Coolmore runners trained by Aidan O'Brien with Frankie Dettori taking the reins on High Definition for Ryan Moore, who rides in Ireland. Ottoman Empire and Mojo Star also have garnered antepost support although this 1 mile, 6 1/2 furlongs is a new staying challenge for the 3-year-olds.
Saturday's Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown gives new meaning to the old cliché "compact but talented field."
That phrase usually is a beard for a poorly subscribed race. In this case, the key word is "talented" with St Mark's Basilica, Tarnawa and Poetic Flair filling three of the four starting slots in a 1 1/4-miles test that's a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf in November at Del Mar.
St Mark's Basilica, a Siyouni colt from the Coolmore ranks, won last autumn's Group 1 Darley Dewhurst and is 3-for-3 this year in all Group 1 events, most recently defeating Addeybb in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse.
Tarnawa, a 5-year-old Shamardal mare, won last November's Breeders' Cup Turf, defeating Magical, and warmed up for this with an as-you-please victory in a Group 3 over the course.
Poetic Flair, a 3-year-old by Dawn Approach, won the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot but has been second in his last two, the Group I Sussex and the Group 1 Jacques le Marois. Trainer Jim Bolger tries Poetic Flair past 1 mile for the first time -- an eye-opener or otherwise.
The Champion is one of three Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events on the Leopardstown card.
Mother Earth, a 3-year-old Zoffany filly benefitting from the Coolmore-O'Brien-Moore connections, is a solid favorite in the Group 1 Coolmore America "Justify" Stakes, with the winner getting the Annie Oakley to the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
She comes to this after winning the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville a month ago but faces a dozen rivals so it's no certainty.
The KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Oddly, two of the 10 attracting a lot of attention are trained by Aidan O'Brien's sons -- Maritime Wings by Joseph Patrick O'Brien and Absolute Ruler by Donnacha Aidan O'Brien. Absolute Ruler is a Coolmore runner by War Front out of a Galileo mare. Maritime Wings, by Gleneagles out of a Zoffany mare, races for Team Valor.
On Sunday, the action shifts to the Curragh, where the Group 1 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five at 5 furlongs is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
The Group 1 Moyglare Stud for 2-year-old fillies is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National is open to any 2-year-old.
The Group 1 Comer Group Irish St Leger has a big field. Two of the likely ones are Baron Samedi, winner of the Grade I Belmont Gold Cup in June and Twilight Payment, a veteran world traveler who finds a spot somewhat softer than the Melbourne Cup and Saudi Arabia's rich Turf Handicap. Both are trained by the aforementioned Joseph Patrick O'Brien.
Saturday's Group 1 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva at Flemington has 13 including Mo'unga, winner of the Group 1Winx Stakes three weeks ago in his season debut; Sir Dragonet, winner of last season's Group 1 Tancred; and Tofane, a dual Group 1 winner in June. It's a 1-mile affair.
Sunday is Arc Trials day at Longchamp, featuring the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille for fillies and mares at 2,400 meters. And that event features Snowfall, the Deep Impact filly out of the Galileo mare Best in the World, who has carried all before her this season. A win here will put her in the top rank of Arc contenders for the Coolmore lads.
She is one of four Aidan O'Brien trainees in the nine-horse field. Her biggest threat might be Alpinista, a Frankel filly who's 3-for-3 this year, most recently with an impressive win over Torquator Tasso in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin.
The Qatar Prix Foy is open to both genders. The Group 2 Qatar Prix Niel is restricted to 3-year-olds. Both also are run at 2,400 meters.
And speaking of international ...
International News and Notes
The appointment of Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, as chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, announced Wednesday, moves Hong Kong racing into an unrivaled position of international influence in the sport.
Besides leading one of the world's premier racing organizations, Engelbrecht-Bresges also is chairman of the Asian Racing Federation, which represents 29 racing jurisdictions throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania, and organizes one of the world's best-attended and influential regular international conferences.
He was selected to succeed Louis Romanet, who has led the IFHA since its founding in 1994.
"It is time for me to step down in favor of new generations of leaders, and I am confident that out next chair and vice chairs, working alongside the federation's executive council, will successfully progress the IFHA and international horse racing," Romanet said.
Based in Paris, the IFHA lists as its main objectives coordination among members on rules regarding racing, breeding and wagering; ensuring quality and fairness of racing across jurisdictions; coordination of standards for the protection of jockeys, horses and spectators; and maintenance of racing's status amid technical, social and economic evolution.
The organization maintains an International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering, which is updated annually after a membership conference.
Engelbrecht-Bresges joined the Hong Kong Jockey Club in 1998 and has been CEO since 2007, significantly strengthening the HKJC's position as a major player in Hong Kong and in worldwide racing.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
Holy Justice came running late to win Wednesday's $102,650 Back Home Again Stakes for Indiana-bred 2-year-old fillies by 1/2 length over the favorite, Louder Than Words. No More Fake News was third.
Holy Justice, a daughter of Harry's Holiday, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.23. Mowins rallied five-wide to get past the early leaders and win the $103,375 Circle City Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths. Oro Azteca was second as Mowins, a Mohaymen colt, finished in 1:11.89.
Royal Prince inherited the victory in Wednesday's $150,000 Caesar's Stakes for 3-year-olds when the stewards ruled jockey Jose Riquelme, aboard Dyn O Mite, struck that rival with his crop while going by to finish first by 1/2 length.
Royal Prince is a Cairo Prince colt, trained by Brad Cox. The 1 mile on firm turf was clocked in 1:35.26. In the companion $150,000 Indiana Grand Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Burning Ambition left no doubt, jetting down the lane to score by 7 lengths over Princess Theorem. Burning Ambition, another from the Cox barn, got home in 1:34.91.
There was lots of action for Minnesota-breds on the Wednesday program with six $110,000 stakes contested over the fast main track and firm turf course.
Love the Nest flew down the stretch to win the Northern Lights Futurity for 2-year-old colts and geldings by 7 1/4 lengths over long shot North Arm Bay. Love the Nest, a Blame colt out of the Congrats mare Congrats and Roses, reported in 1:10.27, winning his second straight start and bears watching.
She's My Warrior led all the way to a 3 3/4-lengths victory in Northern Lights Debutante for 2-year-old fillies. The Warrior's Reward miss finished the 6 furlongs in 1:11.77 with the favorite, Honey Bella, second.
The odds-on favorite, Cinco Star, rallied by pacesetting El Tizar in the stretch to win the Blair's Cove Minnesota Turf Championship by 1 1/2 lengths over that one.
Cinco Star, a 6-year-old gelding by Three Hour Nap, certainly wasn't dozing as he ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:40.37. Rush Hour Traffic got the early lead and went on to win the Princess Elaine Minnesota Distaff Turf Championship by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Ready to Runaway. The 4-year-old Cross Traffic filly finished in 1:41.40.
Drop of Golden Sun rallied by the venerable Mr. Jagermeister in the lane to win the Crocrock Minnesota Sprint Championship by 3/4 length with the favorite, Thealligatorhunter, fading to finish sixth.
Drop of Golden Sun, a 6-year-old Neko Bay gelding, finished 6 furlongs in 1:09.81. Clickbait faced only two rivals in the Bella Notte Minnesota Distaff Sprint Championship and left them in her dust, winning by 9 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. The Lovango mare was clocked in 1:09.38.