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World's richest races marks weekend horse racing

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
World's richest races marks weekend horse racing
Sodashi, shown winning the Sapporo Kinen in her last start Aug. 22, returns in Sunday's Grade 1 Shuka Sho at Hanshin Racecourse. Photo courtesy of Japan Racing Association

Oct. 15 (UPI) -- As American horse racing enters its pre-Breeders' Cup "calm before the storm" this weekend, the international contingent ably plugs the gap with the world's richest turf race, England's year-end showdown at Ascot and Japan's talented white filly, Sodashi.

That should be plenty to keep us going.

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And, of course, the North American scene isn't totally devoid of interest. See below for the results of the 84th and what we thought (!) was the last Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race on Wednesday at Keeneland. And see News and Notes below for an explanation of that punctuation mark.

Saturday's Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland is a fascinating race and Woodbine and Belmont Park have graded stakes. Trainer Chad Brown, as usual, is in with big chances in the weekend's top turf races all over the landscape.

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Let's rock and/or roll.

Filly & Mare Turf

Irish invader Empress Josephine, third and beaten only 1 length just a week ago in the Grade I First Lady, wheels right back as the favorite in a field of 10 for Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland.

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The Galileo filly won the Group 1 Irish 1,000 Guineas but has missed the frame in four intervening starts.

She will have her hooves full with the rival starting right to her inside, the Chad Brown-trained Shantisara, who has back-to-back wins in the Grade III Pucker Up at Arlington and the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park.

Brown also saddles Technical Analysis, winner of her last two starts at Saratoga.

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Brown also has two of the favorites in a field of eight set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Sands Point Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park.

The oddsmaker's top pick, Higher Truth, finished third in the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational, then second in both the Grade III Saratoga Oaks and the Jockey Club Oaks.

Stablemate Fluffy Socks comes off a third in the Del Mar Oaks. Also look to Harajuku, an Irish-bred filly by the late Japanese supersire Deep Impact.

Harajuku was competitive in top company in France and third in the Jockey Club Oaks in her first U.S. start for trainer Graham Motion.

Brown continues to spread his talent around, sending three to Sunday's $600,000 (Canadian) Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.

Etoile won this last year and returns off a second in the local Grade II Dance Smartly. Stablemate Great Island won the Grade III WinStar Matchmaker at Monmouth Park two starts back and exits a second in the Grade I Flower Bowl at Saratoga, while Kalifornia Queen seeks her first U.S. graded stakes win.

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They face a solid bunch of rivals including Dance Smartly winner Mutamakina, Grade II Canadian Stakes winner and runner-up La Dragontea and Court Return, Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon winner Family Way and French invaders Waliyak and Keyflower.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Wednesday's $150,000 Grade III Buffalo Trace Franklin County for fillies and mares at Keeneland, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, turned up a big longshot for the big race.

California Angel, a California Chrome filly, lagged near the back of the 13-filly field until midway around the stretch turn, came far wide out onto the course to circle the field and was just up in time to deny Diamond Wow by a head.

The favorite, Turnerloose, led much of the way and finished third. California Angel, with Rafael Bejerano up, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:44.30, winning for the second time in three starts.

"I thought I had a special filly from the beginning but I never dreamed of being here," said California Angel's trainer, George Leonard III. Asked about the free pass to the Breeders' Cup, he added, "We're looking forward to California. We're going."

Turf Sprint

Town Cruise cruises into Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine off a victory in the Grade I Woodbine Mile and before that was second in the Grade II King Edward.

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The lightly raced, 6-year-old Town Prize gelding toiled well down the class ladder prior to this season's renaissance. Mark Casse has three in the entry box including King Edward winner Olympic Runner.

Jolie Olimpica was sixth in the King Edward but prior to that had not missed a top-three finish in nine starts across Brazil, California, Kentucky and Ontario. Others have claims.

Sunday's $150,000 Floral Park Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park has a well-balanced field of nine. Introduced has been improving rapidly at Monmouth Park, winning her last two with escalating speed figures. Brad Cox has the well-traveled Raven's Cry in a good spot despite the outside post position.

Around the world, around the clock

England

Qipco British Champions Day Saturday at Ascot effectively winds up the flat racing season in England and does it in a fine fashion, too. Some juicy rivalries are renewed, Breeders' Cup at the last minute made two of the races "Win and You're In" events and plenty of value is on offer for the punters.

Trueshan and Stradivarius are at it again in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup. Trueshan, a 5-year-old Planteur gelding, saw off his 7-year-old rival by 4 1/2 lengths in their last meeting, the Qatar Prix du Cadran at Longchamp.

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That touched off talk by Stravarius' owner, Bjorn Nielsen, that the son of Sea the Stars might be nearing retirement. Much will depend on the ground for the 2-mile event. The firmer the better for Stradivarius; the opposite for Trueshan.

Rohaan, Dragon Symbol and Art Power are held at short odds for the Group 1 Sprint at 6 furlongs -- not the strongest field on the program.

Snowfall disappointed over heavy ground in the Arc, finishing sixth. Now she turns up here as the antepost favorite for the Group 1 Fillies & Mares at 1 1/2 miles.

The triple Oaks winner (English, Irish and Yorkshire) finished second in her Arc trial at Longchamp so the question is whether she is winding down from a strenuous campaign or was caught out by unfavorable going. The other seven hope it's the former, or that the rains come.

The top milers are assembled for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with Palace Pier and Baaeed leading the market. This field is so deep that the likes of Bentatl, a Group 1 and winner around the globe, is generally available at odds ranging up from 15-1.

And the longest antepost chance two days out from the race, the venerable Lord Glitters, a Group 1 winner earlier this year in Dubai, is generally at 100-1.

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And the final Group 1 event on the program, the Qipco Champion Stakes at 1 1/4 miles, is hardly a letdown with Saudi Cup, Dubai Sheema Classic and Juddmonte International winner Mishriff facing off with Cazoo Derby and King George winner Adayar. Addeybb, Sealiway and Bolshoi Ballet are in there, too.

Japan

White filly Sodashi renews her budding rivalry with near-black Uberleben in Sunday's Grade 1 Shuka Sho for 3-year-old fillies at Hanshin Racecourse.

Sodashi has lost only once -- to Uberleben in the Grade 1 Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks. That race was at 2,400 meters, which may be beyond the range of the white wonder. Sunday's tilt is at 2,000, a distance she mastered in winning the Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen in her last start.

Uberleben has not raced since the Oaks victory May 23. Sodashi's unusual color made her wildly popular with Japanese racing fans even before she demonstrated her ability by winning her first five starts, two of those at the Grade 1 level.

Another top-level win will have those supporters clamoring to see Sodashi in the biggest year-end events. If the top two should falter, the second, third and fourth-place finishers from the Oaks are back to try again. So is Fine Rouge, winner of a 2,000-meter Grade III event in her last start.

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Australia

The Everest is not a graded race, thanks in part to the financial structure. But that scheme also makes the race the world's richest on the grass, with Aus$15 million (about US$11 million) on offer for Saturday's fifth edition at Royal Randwick, with Aus$6.2 million (about US$4.44 million) to the winner.

Redzel won the first two runnings of the 1,200-meter sprint, and Classique Legend on Saturday will endeavor to duplicate that back-to-back success. Early wagering has the 6-year-old Not a Single Doubt gelding a narrow favorite over Nature Strip and plenty of other chances.

With Australia finally struggling out of pandemic lockdowns, Randwick will have 10,000 fans on hand to watch the race.

Yearning came from last, hit the lead passing the clocktower and went on to score by 1 length from Elusive Express in Wednesday's Group 1 Schweppes Thousand Guineas at Caulfield with Barb Raider third and the favorite,

Hinged, reporting a well-beaten sixth after traffic issues. Yearning, a Snitzel filly, was dispatched at odds approaching 30-1 after posting just one win from six previous starts.

Now, she could take up her nomination for the VRC Oaks although co-trainer Wayne Hawkes indicated that might be an unnecessary overreach now that the filly has a top-level win.

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Incentivize looks to make it three Grade 1 wins in a row while taking on a massive field in Saturday's Carleton Daught Caulfield Cup. Twenty are signed on for the 2,400-meter challenge, but Incentivize looks impressive after winning the Turnbull Stakes and Makybe Diva Stakes in his last two starts.

Turnbull runner-up Young Werther, Group 1 Caulfield Stakes runner-up Nonconformist and recent Group 1 Metropolitan winner Montefilia will find support.

News and notes

Just when we thought the long series of Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races had come to an end Wednesday at Keeneland: Not so fast.

Breeders' Cup and Qatar Racing on Tuesday announced a deal that makes Qatar Racing the title sponsor of the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint, and added Saturday's QIPCO Champion Stakes and QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on the Champions Day program at Ascot to the list of qualifying races.

Chairman of Qatar Racing, Sheikh Fahad bin Abdullah Al Thani, said Qatar Racing is "delighted to be sponsoring the Breeders' Cup Sprint as we continue to raise the profile of Qatar Racing as an international brand and off the back of our growing success in America with the likes of Shedaresthedevil winning the [Kentucky] Oaks last year."

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