Maxfield, shown winning this year's Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, preps for the Breeders' Cup Classic in Saturday's Grade I Woodward at Belmont Park. Photo by Eclipse Sportswire, courtesy of Churchill Downs
Oct. 1 (UPI) Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is the 100th renewal of that event and also promises to be one of the best ever, highlighting a weekend of horse racing that sees 14 Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" slots up for grabs.
Seven of those Breeders' Cup events, including two in Paris, are for 2-year-olds. Other tracks in on the action are Santa Anita, Churchill Downs and Belmont Park. Breeders' Cup Classic top contenders Knicks Go, Maxfield and Medina Spirit all get their final tuneups.
The Arc itself has a star-studded field and is one of five "Win and You're In" races on the Sunday program at Longchamp in Paris. Watch the weather forecast, which will help determine the final fields.
In all, there are 10 Breeders' Cup qualifying races hither and yon and the fields include not only hopefuls for next month at Del Mar but several of last year's winners at Keeneland. Mother Earth is entered for a Breeders' Cup tune-up at Newmarket in England.
Australia's spring season springs up in two locations. Grade 1 racing returns to Japan with the Sprinters Stakes.
Where's the Pontiff? Ace analyst Jude Feld takes his thoughts on the weekend action to Horse Racing Radio Network this week so catch him there -- Sirius channel 219 or horseracingradio.net.
We'll start with three of the top contenders for the Breeders' Cup Classic, all tuning up this weekend but in three different races at three different tracks.
Only three horses have ever finished in front of Maxfield and none of them is among his five rivals in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Woodward at Belmont Park.
Maxfield, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred by Street Sense, has seven wins from nine starts with a third in the 2020 Santa Anita Derby and a second, behind division-leading Knicks Go, in his most recent start, the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga.
There's certainly lots to like in Code of Honor and Art Collector. But they, and the other three, will have to step things up to challenge Maxfield.
Bob Baffert didn't like the outside draw for last weekend's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and elected to keep Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit home and point, instead, to Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic.
He did get a better draw -- No. 5 in a field of eight -- but he also now stacks the Protonico colt up against older horses including the 1-2 finishers from the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar -- Tripoli and Tizamagician.
The field also includes Idol, winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap in March. Idol, however, has not raced since that event in March. Express Train was second in the "Big Cap" and ran well in his next three, but was nowhere in the Pacific Classic after early traffic. An interesting mix.
So if the Woodward and the Awesome Again are the big weekend preps for the Breeders' Cup Classic, where's the aforementioned division leader, Knicks Go?
Well, he's strolling over from Brad Cox's Churchill Downs barn to contest Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Lukas Classic.
The 5-year-old son of Paynter, eventually headed to Korea to take up stud duty, has had an interesting year, finishing fourth in the $20 million Saudi Cup and fourth in the Grade I Met Mile before landing the double of the Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap in Iowa and the Grade I Whitney -- the latter, as noted, over Maxfield.
The main rival is Tacitus, whose only start this year produced a seventh-place finish in the Saudi Cup, but who has the back class to contend with anyone.
Private Mission tops the entries for Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Zenyatta at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff.
The Into Mischief filly, trained by Bob Baffert, has won three of four starts and was last seen winning the Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar by 6 1/2 lengths.
Rivals include Stellar Sound, a 4-year-old Tapit filly who has shown promise, and her own stablemate, As Time Goes By, who was spectacular in the springtime but flopped in her last two starts after taking some time off.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
When the gates open for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, six rivals will be off and flying in once of the most wide-open events of the weekend.
C Z Rocket, Flagstaff, Dr. Schivel and Collusion Illusion all have the credentials to win and Vertical Threat and Colt Fiction can't be ignored.
Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Ack Ack at Churchill Downs has a field of 11 going the one-turn mile. Two of the favorites, Beau Liam and Rushie, are drawn in the outside gate so the race should be a tactical test for the riders.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Six signed on for Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Chillingworth Stakes at Santa Anita, but a few of those would need significant improvement to be competitive with the likely favorite, Ce Ce.
That 5-year-old Elusive Quality mare, a dual Grade I winner, also is 4-for-7 at Santa Anita with two seconds. She was not disgraced finishing third behind Gamine and Lake Avenue in the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga in her last start and stands out here.
Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Fashion Stakes at Woodbine features Boardroom, winner of five of seven starts including her last two, both Grade III Affairs.
The others have more modest resumes. Betwixting has won five straight races while working up to this from the claiming ranks. It might be a soft enough spot for her to hit the board.
If the locals are going to be competitive against the international contingent in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf, Saturday's $200,000 Grade II John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita would be a good place to make a statement.
Thirteen are entered with United as the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. The 6-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding finished eighth in the 2020 Breeders' Cup and is 2-for-4 this season. Master Piece, Acclimate and Neptune's Storm also figure here, if not a month later at Del Mar.
Filly & Mare Turf
Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, got a field of nine. The oddsmaker tabs Going to Vegas, a 4-year-old Goldencents filly who exits a win in the Grade II John C. Mabee at Del Mar.
Consistency is not a hallmark of the field, though, and several have a chance. Well-bred East Coast invader Magic Attitude has disappointed in her last two, but earlier showed flashes of real talent.
My Sister Nat looks like a promising option among seven in Sunday's $300,000 Grade III Fasig-Tipton Waya Stakes at Belmont Park.
The 6-year-old Acclamation mare has been the epitome of consistent performance for trainer Chad Brown, finishing in the top three in 10 of 13 U.S. starts. Still, beware. In all that time, dating back to June of 2019, she has only won once -- the 2020 Waya.
Were it not for an ambitious try in the 2020 Pegasus World Cup Turf, which proved way beyond his scope, Mo Forza would be riding a seven-racing winning streak into Saturday's $200,000 Grade II City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita.
As it is, the 5-year-old Uncle Mo colt has scored in each of his last three starts -- well-spaced Grade II turf miles. In the most recent, he just got by Smooth Like Strait to win the Del Mar Mile and faced that one again.
Friday's $200,000 Grade II Eddie D. Stakes marks the first sprint down the Santa Anita hillside turf course in more than two years.
It's a contentious field with Lieutenant Dan the 7-2 favorite on the morning line off two straight wins. Snapper Sinclair and Law Abidin Citizen also have good shots. The latter is 4-for-4 over the unique course.
Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational is another program-stabber. Backtohisroots and Pulsate top the morning line in a field of nine to go 6 furlongs.
Backtohisroots is back to the scene of a mishap in last year's edition of this race where he stumbled out of the gate, unseating his rider. He did not race again until Sept. 3, when he was second in the Lucky Coin at Saratoga.
Friday's $300,000 Grade I American Pharoah at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile, should separate the contenders from the also-rans among the West Coast 2-year-olds.
Bob Baffert sends out three of the seven, including two of the three morning-line favorites, Corniche and Rockefeller. Both are undefeated recent Del Mar maiden winners. Both tackle two turns for the first time. Oviatt Class won a 1-mile maiden race at Del Mar in his last outing.
Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park, a "Win and You're In" for the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile, has six takers but, if form matters, two stand out.
Gunite, by Gun Runner, won the Grade II Saratoga Special, then took the Hopeful over the same course by 5 3/4 lengths. Wit, a Practical Joke colt, won the Grade III Sanford and finished second Hopeful, compromised by a stumbling start.
And by the way, form does not always matter in these 2-year-old affairs since the youngsters develop so quickly.
Bob Baffert saddles the favorite, undefeated Grace Adler, one of seven in Friday's $200,000 Grade II Chandelier at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
The Curlin filly is 2-for-2 and won the Grade I Del Mar Debutante by 11 1/4 lengths in her last start. Phil D'Amato has three entered, the best of them maiden winner Ain't Easy. This should settle who's the West Coast favorite for the dance.
Sunday's $400,000 Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park, also a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In," should determine the East Coast favorite for the big race. That easily could be Echo Zulu, a Gun Runner filly who's 2-for-2 and won the Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga in her last start.
Saucy Lady T finished third in all three graded stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga. Jumeirah was second in the Sorority at Monmouth in her most recent start. There are some other nice ones in the nine-filly field but they still have to show it on the track.
Saturday's $150,000 Laurel Futurity has a field of nine. Epic Luck is 2-for-2 with a win in the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs. Determined Kingdom won the Jamestown, also at Colonial.
Four of the six 2-year-olds entered for Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Pilgrim at Belmont Park have stakes experience but none has yet won an added-money event. Portfolio Company, a Kitten's Joy colt trained by Chad Brown, finished second in the Grade III With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga Sept. 1.
Sunday's $200,000 Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita boasts the top three finishers from from the Del Mar Juvenile Turf -- Mackinnon, Thirty Four Coupe and Silver Surfer -- as well as Picotta, whose three previous starts were in England.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Miss Grillo at Belmont Park has six with the outside pair sparking a little interest. In the No. 5 gate is Philly Eagles, an Irish-bred daughter of Havana Gold, who won her only previous start, that in England June 26. She then was sold to Tracy Farmer and turned over to Mark Casse.
In the outside stall is McKulick, a British-bred Frankel colt who won at first asking at Saratoga on Aug. 8 for trainer Chad Brown.
Nine signed on for Saturday's $150,000 Selima Stakes at Laurel Park. Petition Prayer has won two in a row at Pimlico and Colonial Downs, but Saratoga maiden winner Consumer Spending is the likely favorite because of the Chad Brown-Klaravich Stables connection. Brown also has the well-bred Hedy Lamarr.
Sunday's $200,000 Surfer Girl at Santa Anita has a field of 11. Among them are the first three from the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf -- Liam's Dove, Helens Well and Dolly May.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Friday's $100,000 Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, has a field of seven. Larry Rivelli and owner Patricia's Hope LLC, who just wrapped up the last Arlington Park trainer and owner titles Saturday, have one of the three favorites,
One Timer, who is a two-time winner, both on all-weather tracks. Also, see Kentucky import Miss Alacrity and local Forbidden Kingdom.
Around the world, around the clock:
Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, boasts such an unbelievably classy field that an easy case could be made for nearly half of them.
Attention, though, focuses on Tarnawa and the multiple entries by Godolphin, Coolmore and Japanese interests. The only caveat is that rain is forecast for Paris and a testing course could prompt a scratch or two.
Tarnawa, a 5-year-old Aga Khan homebred by Shamardal, leads the market with five wins from six starts through 2020 and 2021. Her only loss came Sept. 11 in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes to recently retired St Mark's Basilica. Christophe Soumillon gets the call.
Godolphin has a powerful one-two punch in 3-year-old Frankel progeny Adayr, the Derby and King George winner, and Hurricane Lane, victor in the Grand Prix de Paris and St Leger. William Buick is named on Adayr and James Doyle on Hurricane Lane.
Coolmore and trainer Aidan O'Brien bring Snowfall, Love and Broome. Love, a 4-year-old Galileo filly, was near the top of the market early in the year but after three consecutive losses has seen her odds balloon.
Snowfall, a 3-year-old filly whose pedigree crosses recently deceased world-class sires Deep Impact and Galileo, marched through four straight victories this season, but finished second to an unheralded longshot in her Arc trial.
Broome, a 5-year-old son of Australia owned in partnership with Japanese interests, is the long shot of the three. Ryan Moore rides Snowfall, Frankie Dettori gets the leg up on Love and Yutaka Take pilots Broome.
Japanese connections have been trying to win this race for decades with incredibly frustrating results. This year's hopes rest on Chrono Genesis and Deep Bond.
The former hasn't raced since winning the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin in June and finished second to Mishriff in that classic Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night in March.
Oisin Murphy hops on, assuming he's OK after a parade ring mishap Thursday at Salisbury in England. Deep Bond won the Qatar Prix Foy on trials day with Broome second.
Spectacular though it is, the Arc is just the cherry atop the sundae that is the weekend program at the Paris showplace. Also Sunday:
The Prix de l'Opera Longines, a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, features Audarya, upset winner at last year's Breeders' Cup meeting at Keeneland. She finished third in this race last year.
The Qatar Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines, a 1,000-meters dash that's a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, has a big field with a lot of prospects. Glass Slippers was the upset winner of the 2020 Breeders' Cup event after finishing second in this event. He is among the favorites here.
The Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac are "Win and You're In" races for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf, respectively. Both are tossups with plenty of well-bred, talented and promising youngsters.
The Qatar Prix Foret at 1,400 meters didn't make the Breeders' Cup cut but nonetheless attracted the likes of Space Blues, Duhail and Sagamiyra, any of whom certainly would be welcome at Del Mar.
Don't wait for Sunday to get excited about Longchamp. Saturday's program features a rematch between Stradivarius and Trueshan in the 4,000-meters Group 1 Qatar Prix Cadran -- provided the weather cooperates.
In last year's Group 2 Qipco British Champion Long Distance Cup at Ascot, Trueshan obviously enjoyed the soft turf, winning by 7 1/2 lengths, while Stradivarius did not and was eased through the stretch, beating only one rival. Stradivarius arrives on the back of two straight wins on good to firm footing at York and Doncaster.
Trueshan was last seen winning the Group 1 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup on soft turf. Princess Zoe is getting a lot of play despite not having won in a good long while.
The Group 1 Qatar Prix Royallieu, 2,800 meters for fillies and mares, is pretty much a "you pick 'em" event after the Aga Khan's Valia and Coolmore's Joie De Soir.
Grade 1 racing is back in Japan with Danon Smash and Resistencia taking center stage in Sunday's Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama. Danon Smash, a 6-year-old son of race record-holder Lord Kanaloa, and Resistencia, a 4-year-old filly by Daiwa Major, finished 1-2 in the Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen in the springtime.
Resistencia returned to action with a victory in the Grade II Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes at Chukyo Sept. 12 while Danon Smash has been idle since finishing a disappointing sixth in the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize in Hong Kong on April 25.
Pixie Knight, a promising 3-year-old son of Maurice, comes off a second in the Centaur Stakes gets a weight break here.
Saturday's Group 1 TAB Turnbull Stakes at Flemington has the likes of last year's winner Verry Elleegant, Incentivize, reigning Cox Plate champion Sir Dragonet and Colette tackling 2,000 meters.
At Royal Randwick, a field of 17 is set to line up for the 1-mile TAB Epsom Handicap with Riodini and Winx Stakes winner Mo'unga among the fancied.
An overflow field is engaged for the 1 1/2-miles Heineken Metropolitan and the Group 1 Darley Flight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies has 16 takers.
Saturday's Group 1 Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket has Mother Earth, runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, prepping for an expected return trip to America for this year's festivities at Del Mar.
The rivals include Snow Lantern, who beat Mother Earth into second in the Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in July.
News and notes
The Coolmore partners have announced St Mark's Basilica's retirement from racing, both hailing him as a superstar on the course and predicting an equally exciting career at stud.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien called the Siyouni colt, produced by the Galileo mare Cabaret, "possibly the best we have ever had at Ballydoyle," which is saying something considering the quality that has passed through that training yard.
He retires the winner of six of nine starts, including five in a row to wind things up, all Group 1 events.
Speaking of his potential as a sire, Coolmore's David O'Loughlin said, per Racing Post, "He's the most exciting prospect we've retired from Ballydoyle since his late grandfather Galileo."