Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty in morning trackwork Oct. 11, preparing for his return to action. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club
Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Two-year-olds are on display this weekend at tracks from France to England and on to California, while much of the globe girds for the Breeders' Cup World Championships in two weeks' time at Del Mar.
While the European races are mostly a peek into next season, the California race could still have a bearing on the Breeders' Cup as two of the likely favorites are trained by Bob Baffert.
The final Group 1 event of the British turf flat racing season, one of the aforementioned 2-year-old races, goes off Saturday. But fear not, the 2021-22 All-Weather Championships already are off and running -- with some notable changes for the program's ninth season.
The spring festivities continue Down Under with a fascinating lineup entered for Saturday's Group 1 Cox Plate.
Off we go.
Friday's $150,000 Grade III Sycamore at Keeneland has a field of 12 to go 1 1/2 miles. At that distance, post positions are of less importance that in sprints.
Still, note the favorites, Two Emmys and Glynn County, are drawn No. 12 and No. 1, respectively. Two Emmys, a 5-year-old English Channel gelding, won the Grade I Mr. D. Stakes at Arlington in his last start.
Glynn County was third in that race and third again in the Grade II Calumet Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs.
The Kentucky Downs race had a purse of $1 million while the Mr. D., the former Arlington Million, was worth $600,000.
Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Hill Prince for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park features as the morning-line favorite Public Sector, a Chad Brown-trained colt by Kingman.
Public Sector won both the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes and the Grade III Saranac at Saratoga in his last two starts.
Also in the field is Soldier Rising, a Frankel colt trained by Christophe Clement who finished second in both the Grade I Saratoga Derby and the Jockey Club Derby in his first two U.S. starts.
Filly & Mare Turf
Ten plus a "main track only" also-eligible are in for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Noble Damsel at Belmont Park. It's no surprise the morning-line favorite here, Tamahere, also is from the Chad Brown barn.
The French-bred Wootton Bassett filly has won only twice in the United States but finds a likely spot here. High Opinion is well regarded after finishing second in the Grade II Ballston Spa at Saratoga for trainer Anthony Dutrow.
Sunday's $150,000 Grade III Rood & Riddle Dowager at Keeneland has a diverse field of 10 with distinct flavor of Kentucky Downs.
La Lune, a Champs Elysees mare, finished second in her U.S. debut in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon after a modestly successful start to her career in England. Viburnum finished second in the Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs in her last outing.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Lexus Raven Run for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland has 13 takers and it's pretty much a program-stabber. Obligatory, a Curlin filly, is the nominal favorite at 3-1 on the morning line but drawn in the outside gate.
There are lots of other decent chances and racing luck will play a part with a big field going 7 furlongs.
Our Secret Agent and Amalfi Coast stand out in a field of six set for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Hendrie on the Woodbine all-weather track.
Both have been effective going short on the artificial surface and Our Secret Agent cuts back from a lead-and-fade job that saw her finish last going 1 1/8 miles on the turf in her last start in the Grade I Canadian.
Trainer Bob Baffert, newly cleared to run horses in the Breeders' Cup World Championships, has two of the six entered for Sunday's $75,000 Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita.
Benedict Canyon took two starts to find the winner's circle during the Del Mar meeting. Eda, by Munnings, finished second in the Grade II Sorrento at Del Mar, then was fifth last time out in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante.
None of the other four has done anything yet to write home about -- or, for that matter, to write about here.
Around the world, around the clock:
Sunday's Grade 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger is a true tossup -- not only because most of the 3-year-olds will be trying 3,000 meters for the only time in their careers, but also because the winners of the first two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown are taking a pass on the race.
Efforia, the winner of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2000 Guineas, is being prepped directly for the Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) and plans have not been announced for Shahryar, victorious in the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby.
Among Sunday's contenders are Stella Veloce, third in both of the first two legs of the Triple Crown and winner of the Kobe Shimbun Hai, a Kikuka Sho prep; Orthoclasse, third in the Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen, second of the two Kikuka Sho preps, but apparently on the improve; and Asamano Itazura who won Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen at odds of 42/1.
Titleholder was second in the Satsuki Sho and Red Genesis was second in the Kobe Shimbun Hai.
Friday's Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley has 13 runners to tackle 1200 meters. There's no standout but Savatoxl, Lombardo and Ingratiating attract some early interest.
Zaaki will look to avenge an upset at the hands of Probabeel as the two face off in Saturday's Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate at Mooney Valley. Zaaki, a 6-year-old gelding by Leroidesanimaux, saw a five-race win skein go by the boards when third behind Probabeel in the Group 1 Neds Might and Power Stakes in their last race.
Still, based on body of work, Zaaki remains the favorite for this.
Those preferring youth in the Cox Plate will be backing Godolphin 3-year-old Anamoe. The Street Boss colt was last seen winning the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas by 1/2 length over Captivant and faces that rival again as they both see about the 1 1/4 miles for the first time.
Also in this top-notch field are the likes of Veery Elleegant and Mo'unga and Gold Trip.
Juvenile colts and fillies have one last chance to stretch their legs in France Saturday in the 1,600-meters Criterium International and the 2,000-meters Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Angel Bleu headlines the shorter heat off a 3/4-length win over Noble Truth in the Group 1 Qatar Jean-Luc Lagardere on Oct. 3.
The Dark Angel colt is trained by Ralph Beckett. Ancient Rome, owned by Coolmore but trained in France by Andre Fabre, was third in that race and returns. Aidan O'Brien imports Aikhal and Glounthaune, both of whom still have lots to prove.
The longer race features a rematch between the Charlie Appleby-trained Dubawi colt Goldspur and the Donacha O'Brien-trained Churchill colt Unconquerable.
The two finished 1-2, in that order and just a head apart, in the Group 3 Godolphin Flying Start Zedland Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 9. If added spice is needed, Frankie Dettori returns on Unconquerable while William Buick takes over from James Doyle on Goldspur.
The Criterium de Saint-Cloud has lots more potential in the nine-horse field.
Particularly intriguing is Martel, a Wertheimer homebred colt by Frankel out of the Scat Daddy mare Lady of Shamrock, the 2012 Santa Anita Oaks winner. He is 2-for-2, but gets a class and distance test. Aidan O'Brien has Stone Age, a Galileo colt seeking his first win.
Sunday's Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp is 3,100 meters or 1/2 furlong short of 2 miles. Pending final declarations, some likely prospects in a wide-open field include Glycon, Kemari, Skazino, Call the Wind and Valia.
One season ends, another begins. For most of our British friends, the new campaign involves horses jumping over things. For us, it's racing on the flat with the turf put to bed for the winter and all-weather tracks taking center stage.
First, out with the old.
Luxembourg enters Saturday's Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster as a solid favorite. The Camelot colt, owned by a Coolmore partnership and trained by Aidan O'Brien, is 2-for-2 and exits a commanding win last time out in the Group 2 Alan Smurfit Memorial Beresford Stakes at the Curragh.
It's no walkover, though. Royal Patronage was last seen winning the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge at Newmarket and has won three in a row for trainer Mark Johnston. Bayside Bay won the Group 2 Champagne at Doncaster and was third in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst.
Now, in with the new.
Space Cowboy, with Hollie Doyle in the irons, earned the first Fast-Track Qualifier spot in the All-Weather Championship finals with a front-running win Tuesday at Newcastle.
The Kodi Bear colt made it two in a row on the all-weather and is guaranteed a slot in the Coral All-Weather Three-Year-Old Championships over the same 6-furlong course and distance on Finals Day, Good Friday 2022.
"Finals Day is a nice option to have," winning trainer Richard Spencer said. "Myself and the owners will make a plan over the winter and work out where we want to go, but there's great prize money on offer on Finals Day if we decide to go down that route."
The series, entering its ninth year, has some major changes. Finals Day, held for the past eight years on Good Friday at Lingfield Park, moves to the Tapeta surface at Newcastle.
Saudi Arabia is added alongside Dubai as dirt-surface qualifying venue, reinforcing the All-Weather Championships' value to the Middle Eastern racing program.
And Lingfield Park on Good Friday gets the consolation prize of the "All-Weather Championships Vase" fixture, with a program mirroring that of the Finals Day card, but for horses whose rating did not qualify for the big races.
The changes also embrace a new series of pony races for aspiring young jockeys -- four races for riders aged 14 and above across Lingfield Park, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton with a Final at the All-Weather Championships Vase Fixture at Lingfield.
Horse of the Year Golden Sixty had another pleasing trial heat Tuesday in winning, but more importantly, demonstrating he hasn't lost the edge that has carried him to 14 straight victories.
Golden Sixty now is three wins short of the record held by Silent Witness and will get a chance to cut that to two in the Group 2 Jockey Cub Mile on Nov. 21. That, in turn, is a prelude to the Longines Hong Kong Mile in December.
"He's still, for sure, not even 80% fit, I would say around 70%," jockey Vincent Ho said. "But once he jumped out the gates he knew his job."
News and Notes
The Niarchos family has been selected to receive the 2021 Longines and International Federation of Horseracing Authorities' International Award of Merit, which recognizes distinguished horsemen and horsewomen for lifelong contributions to Thoroughbred racing.
The family will be honored during a ceremony Nov. 5 in Del Mar during Breeders' Cup World Championships weekend.
The Niarchos family has bred and/or campaigned more than 125 Group 1 or Grade I winners during decades of involvement, including winners of seven Breeders' Cup races and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
The late Stavros Niarchos served as a Greek naval officer in World War II and made his fortune in the shipping business. He first became involved with Thoroughbred racing in the 1950s, took a break, and returned in full force in the 1970s.
His first major winner was Pipe of Peace, who won the 1956 Middle Park Stakes. His daughter, Maria Niarchos-Gouaze, now manages the family racing interests and will accept the award.