Clairiere, shown winning the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds, is favorite in Saturday's Grade I Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing. Photo courtesy of Fair Grounds
Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The topsy-turvy 3-year-old division gets another shakeup Saturday with Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon renewing a budding rivalry in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.
On the same program, Parx offers six other stakes, four of them graded affairs.
Remington Park contributes the Oklahoma Derby and several other interesting stakes to the weekend festivities. Churchill Downs, Belmont Park and Gulfstream Park also have potentially weighty races on the schedule.
On the international front, 2-year-olds take center stage in England and Ireland, with the program including the first two races in the "European Road to the Kentucky Derby". We're also watching developments in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.
First, the Keystone State:
Saturday's $1 million Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing lost its morning-line favorite when trainer Bob Baffert looked with disfavor on the No. 9 gate drawn for his Kentucky Derby first-place finisher, Medina Spirit.
Fewer than 24 hours after Monday's draw, Baffert announced Medina Spirit will stay in California to prep for the Breeders' Cup.
That boosted Hot Rod Charlie to the favorite's role, followed by Midnight Bourbon -- the participants in the controversy surrounding the stretch run of the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park in July.
In that, Hot Rod Charlie drifted in front of Midnight Bourbon, who clipped heels, unseating jockey Paco Lopez. Hot Rod Charlie finished first but was disqualified and placed seventh, moving Mandaloun up to the win.
Hot Rod Charlie has not raced since the Haskell, while Midnight Bourbon put up a courageous battle in last month's Grade I Travers before finishing second by a neck to division leader Essential Quality.
Two up-and-coming types to watch out for in the Pennsylvania Derby: Speaker's Corner, a Godolphin homebred colt by Street Sense, and Americanrevolution, a Constitution colt co-owned by China Horse Club and WinStar Farm.
Godolphin is on a monumental roll, and Speaker's Corner exits a massive win in his 2021 debut at Saratoga Aug. 14. Bill Mott trains the colt, who ventures beyond 7 furlongs for the first time.
Americanrevolution is 3-for-3, all against fellow New York-breds, so trainer Todd Pletcher gives him the acid test here. On the plus side, he won his last start at this 1 1/8-miles distance.
King Fury returns from a fifth-place finish in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga to contest Saturday's $275,000 Bourbon Trail Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs. The Curlin colt's resume includes a win in the Grade III Lexington and a second in the Grade III Ohio Derby.
Six rivals include Gagetown, most recently third in the $250,000 St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park.
Sunday's $400,000 Grade III Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park got eight takers with Warrant, Mr. Wireless and Super Stock catching the oddsmaker's eye.
Mr. Wireless, a Dialed In colt trained by Bret Calhoun, comes off back-to-back wins in the Grade III Indiana Derby and Grade III West Virginia Derby. Warrant won the Texas Derby at Lone Star Park, with Mr. Wireless second, and finished second in the West Virginia Derby.
Super Stock went into a slump after winning the Grade I Arkansas Derby for trainer Steve Asmussen and his family but got back in stride with a score in the Ellis Park Derby in his last start.
Clairiere may have found her spot in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Parx Racing. The Curlin filly is winless since taking the Grade II Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in February but has two seconds, two thirds and a fourth in the interim, all in Grade I or Grade II events.
The fourth came in the Kentucky Oaks and she was second to the well-regarded Malathaat last time out in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga.
She's the 2-1 favorite here, although she will face two who've beaten her before -- Maracuja and Always Carina.
Also in the Cotillion are Army Wife, third behind Malathaat and Clairiere in the Alabama, and Will's Secret, third in the Kentucky Oaks and a fading fourth in the Alabama. Bob Baffert entered Private Mission, who is 3-for-4 in California, but scratched her along with Medina Spirit (see above).
Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Remington Park Oaks has a very competitive field of seven. Steve Asmussen has the 5-2 favorite, Pauline's Pearl, while Bret Calhoun brings Lovely Ride, Brad Cox fields Amendment Nineteen and Peter Eurton has Lady Mystify.
Pauline's Pearl has been right there in multiple graded stakes and finds a potentially softer spot here.
Sunday's $100,000 Remington Green Stakes is a wide-open affair with a dozen entries. The lukewarm morning-line favorite is Spooky Channel, a 6-year-old English Channel gelding, who exits a second in the Kentucky Downs Turf Cup Preview at Ellis Park. He has won graded stakes at Gulfstream Park and Sam Houston.
Filly & Mare Turf
Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Athenia at Belmont Park has only five takers, plus one "main track only" hopeful. Chad Brown trains two, Miss Teheran and Pocket Square, and Brendan Walsh fields Godolphin homebred Lake Lucerne.
None has been worth a letter home, yet but all three seem to be poised for a breakthrough race after good recent efforts.
Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Turf Monster at Parx Racing drew a field of 12 to dash 5 furlongs on the green course. The 9-5 morning-line favorite is Caravel, a 4-year-old Mizzen Mast filly who has won seven of 10 starts, all going short on the turf.
She was last seen finishing third in the Grade I Highlander at Woodbine. Carotari and Firecrow also bear a close look.
Jackie's Warrior stands out among seven set for Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Gallant Bob for 3-year-olds at Parx Racing. The Mclean's Music colt arrives with back-to-back wins in the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens and Grade II Amsterdam, both at Saratoga.
His speed figures are head and shoulders above the other six, but he does start from the outside gate with speed to his inside so jockey Joel Rosario will have to earn his fee.
Pink Lloyd looks to stop a career-long losing streak -- three -- in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Bold Venture on the Woodbine all-weather. The popular 9-year-old Old Forester gelding has 26 wins from 35 starts, but has been third, second and second in his last three outings. Souper Stonehenge, his conquerer in the last two, is not in this field.
Irish Unity is prominent among 10 entered for Saturday's $257,000 Harrod's Creek for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs. The son of Pioneerof the Nile exits a runner-up finish in the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park and has not been worse than second in any of his four starts.
The field also sports Dreamer's Disease, Bob's Edge, Flags Up and Wolfie's Dynaghost.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Carribean Caper shoots for her fifth victory without a loss in Saturday's $275,000 Grade III Dogwood for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs. The Speightstown filly, trained by Al Stall Jr., comes off a 1-length score in the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park, her narrowest margin of victory.
She faces six rivals in the Dogwood, including graded stakes-placed Li'l Tootsie and Shea Mystery.
Bella Sofia, winner of the Grade I Test Stakes in her last start, takes on four older rivals in Sunday's $250,000 Grade II Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old daughter of Awesome Patriot is 3-for-4 overall and won the Test by 4 3/4 lengths.
Lake Avenue, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred filly by Tapit, has posted three straight second-place finishes, all in graded stakes, including the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga in her last race.
Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park features Life Is Good, potentially one of the best 3-year-olds of 2021 except for the untimely injury that knocked him out of the Triple Crown picture after victories in his first three starts.
The Into Mischief colt, trained by Todd Pletcher for China Horse Club and WinStar Farm, returned with a gusty second behind the talented Jackie's Warrior in the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Aug. 28, beaten only a neck. Pletcher said the goal is the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
After that, the Kelso looks a tad on the weak side, especially relative to its namesake. Chance It was third in the Grade I Forego Stakes at Saratoga last time out, but has not won since January at Gulfstream Park. Informative has been unimpressive since winning the Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park in June.
Doubly Blessed was seventh in the Forego. And Fort Peck was last seen winning a claimer at Saratoga in which he won by 6 3/4 lengths but was not taken for the $50,000 tag. This is his first stakes race of any kind.
Silver State is a solid 8-5 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $200,000 Parx Dirt Mile. The 4-year-old Hard Spun colt has won two of three starts in the conditions, including the Grade I Met Mile at Belmont Park in June.
The Steve Asmussen trainee had a six-race win streak snapped in his last start as he finished third in the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga going 1 1/8 miles. Seven rivals have their work cut out.
Octane and Cajun's Magic are the morning-line picks in Saturday's $400,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Those two finished first and second in the FSS Affirmed Division in their last race, Octane getting home first by 3 1/4 lengths.
Sunday's $100,000 Smoke Glacken Stakes at Monmouth Park has a field of eight. Many will be watching Local Motive, who won her first two starts but was pulled up midway through the third Aug. 29 at Timonium and vanned off. She has worked well twice since then.
Forty Stripes gave it the old college try in the Tyro Stakes on Aug. 7, finishing sixth. Swift Tap was fifth in the Sapling in his second start.
Outfoxed is the 4-5 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Valiant Minister filly, trained by Bill Mott, won the Susan's Girl Division of the FSS by 13 1/2 lengths in her last start.
Coinage returns from a victory in the Grade III With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga to contest Sunday's $500,000 Nownownow Stakes at Monmouth Park. Pure Panic was second in the Skidmore Stakes, also at the Spa, in his last outing. The others are recent maiden winners or, in a couple cases, maidens still.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Saturday's $100,000 Hollywood Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park has a field of 11 with Last Leaf, one of two fillies in the field, as the 2-1 favorite. The daughter of Not This Time is 2-for-4 and won her last start by 10 3/4 lengths on the Gulfstream dirt course. She makes her turf debut.
Moretti looms a likely choice in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing, a 1 1/2-miles event that attracted a field of nine.
Other than a flop in his first time on the turf in the Grade I Sword Dancer in his last start, the 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro has been consistently in the mix in what passes for distance racing in the United States. He's far from a slam dunk, though, especially off the turf debacle.
Around the world, around the clock:
It's a relatively quiet weekend on the international front, but not entirely devoid of interest.
It's all about the 2-year-olds in the British Isles this weekend, including two races that kick off the "European Road to the Kentucky Derby."
Historically, these turf races have a lot more to do with finding potential contenders for the following year's Guineas and Derby than for the subsequent Run for the Roses in Louisville. Still, if Churchill Downs anoints them, we can but bow in acknowledgment.
Saturday's Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge at Newmarket kicks off the Kentucky Derby series. Also on the agenda at Newmarket Saturday are the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park for 2-year-old colts and Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park for 2-year-old fillies, both at 1,200 meters.
These are all watch-and-learn events, although sponsor Juddmonte Farms has a well-backed favorite, Sacred Bridge, looking for her fifth win without loss in the Cheveley Park.
Another promising Godolphin 2-year-old, Modern Games, won Thursday's Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket and trainer Charlie Appleby opined the colt might be a logical candidate for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar along with Albahr, last weekend's Grade I Summer Stakes winner at Woodbine.
"Along with Albahr, we've got two hard-knocking sons of Dubawi, who wouldn't look out of place in America," Racing Post quoted the trainer as saying.
Saturday's Group 2 Alan Smurfit Memorial Beresford Stakes at the Curragh is the second in the Churchill Downs-promoted "European Road". Only five are entered with Luxembourg, a Camelot colt trained by Aidan O'Brien, as a solid favorite.
Alpinista is the star in a field of nine for Sunday's Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne, 2,400 meters. The Frankel filly has won all three starts this season, most recently a 2 3/4-lengths romp over favorite Torquator Tasso in the Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin.
Only five are set for Saturday's Group 1 Quayclean Underwood Stakes at Ladbrokes Park, among them Probabeel and Zaaki as the highest rated. None of the five has been setting the world ablaze lately, though.
Saturday's Group 1 XXXX Golden Rose at Rosehill Gardens had 13 nominees pending final declarations and not a lot to sort a half dozen or more one from the others.
Previously unheralded Asamano Itazura came with a late rush to post a massive upset victory in Monday's Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse, a trial for next month's Grade 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger.
As the 3-year-olds spun out of the final turn in the 2,000-meters race, favorite So Valiant surged to the lead and, with 100 meters left, looked a likely winner.
Asamano Itazura and jockey Hironobu Tanabe were having none of that. After dawdling at the back of the field into the stretch, the Victoire Pisa colt kicked into another gear, shot by So Valient in the final strides and won by a neck. Orthoclase was third.
Asamano Itazura's only previous win came in a maiden event Jan. 5. In his two starts before Monday's tilt, he finished 16th in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2,000 Guineas, and 12th in the Grade III Radio Nikkei Sho. By contrast, So Valiant was coming off back-to-back victories at Sapporo, both at 2,000 meters.
As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee is fond of saying, "It's an easy game."
Sunday's Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai, another Kikuka Sho trial, is 2,200 meters at Chukyo Racecourse.
Sunday's Group 2 Celebration Cup at 1,400 meters on the Sha Tin turf is the first Group stakes of the 2021-22 season. The race drew some big names, including last season's BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Sky Darci, 6-year-old Champion's Way and 9-year-old Southern Legend.