1 of 2 | Essential Quality, shown winning the Grade I Travers, is among the favorites in a Breeders' Cup Classic field announced this week. Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association
Oct. 29 (UPI) -- It's a week for looking forward as horse racing around the globe nears its annual champion-making events and youngsters get in final licks to make a case for next year's star turns.
Pre-entries are complete for next week's Breeders' Cup World Championships in California. The initial entries are in for December's Longines Hong Kong International Races. Australia already is agog with preparations for Tuesday's Lexus Melbourne Cup, the "race that stops a nation."
And the countdown has begun to February's $20 million Saudi Cup, newly designated an international Group 1 race.
Looking a little farther ahead, the 2-year-olds are on display around North America, looking for opportunities to crack the 2022 Classics lineup.
Churchill Downs basically makes it official, dubbing Sunday's opening-day program for juveniles "Stars of Tomorrow." Many others face state-bred competition, but that doesn't mean they can't move along from there.
Let's us move right along to:
Breeders' Cup Pre-Entries
We'll have much more on these fields next week. For now:
The $6 million Classic features a showdown between the best of what turned out to be a solid bunch of 3-year-olds (once-beaten Essential Quality, tentative Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie) against tough older rivals Knicks Go, Max Player and Art Collector.
The final makeup of the $4 million Turf will be determined next week at entry time but if even a few of the international stars actually face the starter, it will be a great race.
Last year's winner, Tarnawa, is back off a second-place finish in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Godolphin nominated Jockey Club Derby winner Yibir and Canadian International winner Walton Street. Prix Vermeille winner Teona is on the list.
The Coolmore-Aidan O'Brien contingent includes 2020 Hong Kong Vase winner Mogul, who also is nominated to defend that title, 2020 Triple Oaks (English, Irish and Yorkshire) winner Love, ever-promising Japan, Belmont Derby winner Bolshoi Ballet and Broome.
Heading the home team are Domestic Spending, Rockemperor and United.
The $2 million Distaff has Letruska and a bunch of hopeful rivals including last year's and this year's Kentucky Oaks winners, Shedaresthedevil and Malathat. Japan and Argentina have entries.
The $2 million, one-mile Turf is jammed with talent from all around the globe. Noteworthy is the runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Mother Earth, from Coolmore's deep roster.
But it hard to look past Godolphin's Space Blues, a 5-year-old Dubawi colt at the top of his game for Charlie Appleby.
The $2 million Sprint has everything punters could want in terms of American speedsters plus a return of Japan's Matera Sky, who was edged into second in both runnings of the $1.5 million sprint on Saudi Cup night in Riyadh, second in the 2019 Dubai Golden Shaheen and a fading eighth in last year's Breeders' Cup. Don't blink or you'll miss this one.
The $2 million Filly & Mare Turf has defending champion Audarya. But it also has Japan's crack turf mare Loves Only You and Prix de l'Opera winner Rougir among a strong foreign representation.
Queen Supreme formerly campaigned in South Africa and Reina de Mollendo hails from Argentina. Among the locals, War Like Goddess has won four in a row out east and Going to Vegas has a three-race skein in California.
The $1 million Dirt Mile, $1 million Turf Sprint and $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint complete the Saturday program.
Friday is "future stars" day with the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Juvenile Turf each worth $1 million.
The $2 million Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies round out that card, each with the added attraction of awarding the winner 20 points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" and "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" leaderboard.
The entries for the Dec. 12 Longines Hong Kong International Races remain quite tentative with as many as 57 on the list for the 2,000-meters Cup.
Many of the overseas entries for that race, as well as the Mile, Vase and Sprint, also are listed among the Breeders' Cup pre-entries, demonstrating the strength of both programs in wrapping up the year's global turf racing.
The four Group 1 races, after another round of purse enhancements, now offer total purses of HK$100 million or about US$12.86 million.
It's always tough to beat the locals in these races and Hong Kong's reigning Horse of the Year, Golden Sixty, pending the results of a prep race, will be a prohibitive favorite to defend his crown in the Mile.
Japan and Australia have stars of their own on the entry lists and Gufo and Channel Cat are cross-entered for the Cup and the Vase. While it would be wonderful to see an American presence on the day, either would be a long shot to hit the board.
Stay tuned as we transition over the next few weeks from Del Mar to Sha Tin and let's hope Hong Kong racing is reopened to international spectators in 2020!
The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia officially rolled out plans Thursday for February's renewal of the $20 million Saudi Cup and it's rich undercard. Did we say rich?
The whole, two-day shebang Feb. 25-26 has $35.1 million on offer -- the most anywhere. Also the Cup itself has been upgraded to international Group 1 status by the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities and Saudi racing overall has been elevated to Part 2 status -- one step short of the top level.
HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, head of the Jockey Club, also said talks continue among the Middle Eastern racing jurisdictions to develop uniform quarantine and transportation standard and common racing rules.
He predicted an announcement within six months, saying elimination of red tape will make the region even more attractive for overseas owners and trainers.
This year's Saudi Cup was held without spectators because of the pandemic. Prince Bandar said the 2022 edition will be open to fans.
Moving along to this weekend's racing:
The youngsters are in action all over North America. Most of the races are for state-breds but a few open heats have the potential to turn up contenders for the 2022 Triple Crown trail.
Sunday's $200,000 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs is a 1 1/16-miles run that logically would be a preview for the following year's Kentucky Derby.
This year, there are nine entries with no standouts. Several are recent maiden winners and a couple come off good efforts on the grass at Kentucky Downs. Watch and learn.
Ironstone is the 8-5 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes at 7 furlongs on the Woodbine all-weather.
The Mr Speaker colt won the local Simcoe and Clarendon stakes in his last two starts. Twenty Four Mamba also has a local stakes victory. Hicksey, a Hootenanny colt, exits an impressive maiden win.
Who remembers hootenannys?
Saturday's $150,000 Bowman Mill at Keeneland has some promising sprinter types in a field of eight going 6 furlongs. Nakatomi competed at Royal Ascot and Saratoga, Roger McQueen won the Ellis Park Juvenile and My Prankster was fourth in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park.
Friday's $100,000 Clever Trevor at Remington Park has nine set to tackle 7 furlongs. The Steve Asmussen-trained Concept is the 5-2 morning-line favorite off a win in the local Kip Deville Stakes in his last start. Feel the Fear is 2-for-2 with a win in the Prairie Gold Juvenile at Prairie Meadows.
Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Coronation Futurity for Canadian-breds on the Woodbine all-weather will send some owners and trainers off for the winter happy with their prospects for next year's Queen's Plate.
Saturday's $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes for NewYork-breds at Belmont Park has a field of six with Overstep and Shipsational as the heavy favorites.
Shipsational was fourth in the Funny Cide at Saratoga, then won the Bertram Bongard back on Long Island. Overstep steps up after a dazzling maiden win Sept. 25.
Also on Saturday: The $75,000 Crown Ambassador for Indiana-breds at Indiana Grand, the $60,000 Ocala Stud Juvenile Sprint for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park and the $100,000 Juvenile for Ohio-breds at Mahoning Valley.
Sunday's contribution is the $100,000 New Mexico Classics Cup Juvenile for state-breds at Zia Park. Twelve are set to go 6 furlongs.
Already in the books:
Doin'ittherightway waited behind rivals in Monday's $50,000 Tin Cup Chalice Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes, circled the leaders and came home best of all to win by 2 lengths. I Found It, the early leader, finished second with another gap of 8 1/2 lengths to Kenny Hustle in third.
Doinittherightway, a Super Saver gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:13.21 with Kevin Navarro riding.
As with the males, a few races here have potential for the big ones next year.
Sunday's $200,000 Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs has a cast of five. Mama Rina finished second in the Grade II Pocahontas over the course in September and fourth in the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland Oct. 8. Dressed was fourth in the Jessamine Stakes on the Keeneland grass in her last start. The others are maiden winners.
Friday's $150,000 Myrtlewood at Keeneland attracted 11 young ladies. Despite finishing sixth in the Grade III Futurity at Belmont in her last start, the Wesley Ward-trained Chi Town Lady is a narrow favorite in an otherwise well-matched field.
Saturday's $250,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes for New York-breds at Belmont Park has a field of 10, most of whom look to have a chance. The oddsmaker has half of them at single-digit odds on the morning line.
Skylerville is the 2-1 morning-line favorite among eight in for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song on the Woodbine all-weather. She did not run in the Schuylerville at Saratoga, but did make her first start there, finishing fifth. She then won when shipped north to Woodbine.
Also Saturday: The $65,000 Brethren Juvenile Fillies on the Gulfstream Park all-weather, the $50,000 Eleanor Casey Memorial for West Virginia-breds at Charles Town, the $75,000 Indiana Stallion Fillies for state-breds at Indiana Grand and the $100,000 John W. Galbreath for Ohio-breds at Mahoning Valley
Sunday's lone event is the $100,000 New Mexico Classics Cup Juvenile Fillies for state-breds at Zia Park.
Already in the books:
Shesawildjoker raced behind the early speed but in contact through the first furlongs of Monday's She'sastonecoldfox Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes, got to the front early in the stretch run and won by 2 1/4 lengths. Toscanova Beauty was second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Curly Girl.
Shesawildjoker, a Practical Joke filly, was timed in 1:13.22 over a sloppy track with Harry Hernandez in the irons.
On the turf:
Saturday's $75,000 Pike Place Dancer Stakes at Golden Gate Fields has a field of six to go 1 mile on the lawn. Wishing on a Star and Code Ribbon are the morning-line picks.
Friday's $150,000 Grade III Rubicon Valley View Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the turf drew 14 plus two also-eligibles. From that herd, Crazy Beautiful and Tobys Heart rise to the top of the morning line and they are drawn in gates No. 3 and 4, respectively.
Independence Hall, Sleepy Eyes Todd, Code of Honor and King Fury all are high in the oddsmaker's estimation for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette Stakes. Any of those could have been considered for the Breeders' Cup but instead take on 1 1/8 miles on Keeneland's closing day.
I know, right? Closing day, already?
Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes got eight 3-year-old fillies to try 1 mile on the turf. The early picks are Zero Tolerance, Spanish Loveaffair and Madone, narrowly followed by Burgoo Alley. How does an Irish-bred filly acquire the name Burgoo Alley?
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Twilight Derby, 1 1/8 miles on the turf, has a couple standouts in recent Grade II Del Mar Derby winner None Above the Law and Rock Your World, who was the "wise guy" pick for the Kentucky Derby before being shuffled back in traffic at the start. Many of the others finished behind None Above the Law in the Del Mar Derby.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Bold Ruler, 7 furlongs around one turn, has Plainsman, winner of the Grade III Ack Ack Stakes in his last start; Wendell Fong, second in the Grade III Tom Fool Handicap in his most recent effort; and Wonderwherecraig is, who comes off a second in the Grade III Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.
Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Derby, 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather, drew Breeders' Stakes winner British Royalty and Queen's Plate and Breeders' Stakes runner-up Riptide Rock in a field of eight.
Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Damsel for 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/6 miles on the all-weather, has Woodbine Oaks winner and Queen's Plate fourth Munnyfor Ro and Grade III Ontario Colleen runner-up Seasons.
The state-bred festivals
One could infer from the juvenile races that the weekend program is chock full of state-bred festivals. In fact, Belmont Park, Indiana Grand and Mahoning Valley all shower their horsemen with well-funded events on Saturday. On Sunday, Zia Park has eight "hundred granders" for horses bred in the Land of Enchantment.
Around the world, around the clock:
Sunday's Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Racecourse can't match last year's edition for star power as seven Grade 1 winners went to the post in that one.
On the other hand, 2020's race was a bit lacking in suspense with Almond Eye fulfilling all expectations by cruising to victory in her penultimate race.
This year the emphasis is on a distribution of talent with variety and potential up and down the field. The nominees, ranging in age from 5 to 7, include five Grade 1 winners with all but two making their Tenno Sho (Autumn) debut.
Expected to headline the show are last year's Triple Crown winner Contrail, who first tasted defeat when second to Almond Eye a year ago; five-time Grade 1 winner Gran Alegria; this year's Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) winner, Efforia; and World Premier, who won the Tenno Sho (Spring), conquering 3,200 meters at Hanshin Racecourse.
The race is open to international competition but none has signed on this year.
Flemington and the Aussie punters start the windup to Tuesday's Lexus Melbourne Cup with four Group 1 events on Saturday.
The Penfolds Victoria Derby at 2,500 meters has a big field and certainly nothing is a lock. Forgot You is an early favorite and connections reportedly have discussed wheeling him right back in the Cup, presumably before he even cools out. Alegron, Gunstock and Tutukaka all have support in the market.
The Coolmore Stud Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1,200 meters has 17 takers, quite a few with worthy resumes. In the Congo, Extreme Warrior and two of Godolphin's three, Paulele and Kalios, seem likely.
The TAB Empire Rose Stakes is for fillies and mares at 1,600 meters. Tofone, Mystic Journey and Colette all get early backing in a field with many prospects.
The Kennedy Cantala sends 2-year-olds on a 1,600-meters journey in search of hope for next season. Good luck to them while we watch and learn.
The flat racing season may be over, but this week brought news that brightens prospects for the next: Stradivarius will remain in training next year.
Racing Post quoted trainer John Gosden and owner Bjorn Nielsen saying the seven-time Group 1 winner ideally will have a three-race campaign -- a prep, a shot at a record-tying fourth Ascot Gold Cup win and the Goodwood Cup.
"Stradivarius will be eight next year and could he decline?" the publication quoted the owner. "Of course he could and the odds are he might. But he was kicking and bucking there today absolutely full of himself and on a good ground surface bring it on. We're not worried about anybody."