Channel Cat, shown winning the Grade I Man o' War in May, is among the favorites for Saturday's Grade II Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct. Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association
Nov. 19 (UPI) -- High-class graded stakes racing is spread across North America this weekend, with a turf showdown in New York, a tough mile event for fillies and mares in Kentucky and a really wide-open race for older horses in California.
Two-year-olds are on display just about everywhere as the year winds down toward their third birthday on Jan. 1.
On the international front, we have important racing in Japan, Bahrain and Hong Kong.
Without further ado ...
Serve the King and Channel Cat head a roster of 10 facing 1 3/8 miles on the turf in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Red Smith Stakes.
Serve the King, a 5-year-old by Kingman, one of two in the field trained by Chad Brown, was second behind stablemate Rockemperor in his last start, the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 9.
Channel Cat, a 6-year-old son of the recently deceased English Channel, has been an infrequent visitor to the winner's circle in the past two years, but did capture the Grade I Man o' War Stakes at Belmont in May. Soldier Rising and Shamrocket also get some notice from the oddsmaker.
Sunday's $100,000 Notebook Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds has a field of six going 6 furlongs. Senbai, a Candy Ride colt, should be well-fancied after winning three of his first four starts, including two stakes.
Sunday's companion $100,000 Key Cents Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies has eight. The Wesley Ward trainee Miss Alacrity won the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park this summer and traveled west to finish fourth in the Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita in her most recent outing in October.
Classy Edition is 2-for-2 with a win in the Joseph A. Gimma at Belmont Park. Shesawildjoker is a Finger Lakes stakes winner.
Eight fillies and mares are entered for Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Chilukki Stakes going the one-turn mile out of the backstretch chute.
A case can be made for most of them, but the morning line has Obligatory, the only 3-year-old in the field, on top. Trained by Bill Mott, the Curlin miss won the Grade II Eight Belles Stakes in her last appearance under the Twin Spires and subsequently finished second in both the Grade I Acorn at Belmont Park and the Grade I Cotillion at Parx Racing.
Miss Bigly and Matera also are well regarded here.
If there's been a better-matched field than the eight lining up for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Native Diver Stakes, we can't remember it.
None of the eight set to try 1 1/8 miles is held at less than 8-1 odds on the morning line. Bob Baffert saddles three of them -- Ax Man, Azul Coast and the 7-2 favorite, Eight Rings.
None Above the Law seeks a turnaround from his eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby on Halloween when he lines up against six rivals in Sunday's $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes for California-breds.
Before that disappointment, the Karakontie gelding won the Grade II Del Mar Derby, prompting hopes for a career outside the state-bred ranks. If he doesn't bounce back to his best, the race is as wide open as can be.
Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Frost King Stakes for Ontario-bred 2-year-olds has seven rivals going 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track. A few are stakes-tested and the others either or maidens or, in the case of Sir for Sure, a first-time starter.
Seven Ontario-bred juvenile fillies are set for the companion $100,000 (Canadian) South Ocean Stakes on the Sunday card. As with the King Frost field, there's not a lot to go in for handicapping purposes. As we say, watch and learn.
Sea Level and Free Like a Girl are the early picks among 10 2-year-old fillies set for Friday's $100,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes. Sea Level, by Exaggerator, is 2-for-2 with wins at Indiana Grand and Remington.
Free Like a Girl, an El Deal filly, steps out of state-bred company after winning back-to-back stakes at Evangeline Downs and Delta.
Saturday's $100,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes attracted nine 2-year-olds with Kaely's Brother the 9-5 favorite on the morning line. The Twirling Candy colt, trained by Brad Cox, took a big step forward in his second start two win a Keeneland maiden event Oct. 9. As always with the youngsters, anything is possible.
Around the world, around the clock
Gran Alegria seeks a repeat win in Sunday's Grade 1 Mile Championship at Hanshin Racecourse but the 5-year-old will have to get past some tough competition, including some up-and-coming youngsters, to accomplish the feat.
Gran Alegria, a daughter of Deep Impact, also seeks her sixth win at the top level in the run around one sweeping turn of the outer turf course.
Four of Gran Alegria's previous Grade 1 wins have come at the mile distance with the other at 1,200 meters. Victories in the Yasuda Kinen, Sprinters Stakes and Mile Championship earned her Champion Sprinter/Miler honors for 2020.
The competition includes Schnell Meister, winner of the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup for 3-year-olds in the spring. Danon the Kid, winner of the Grade I Hopeful Stakes in 2020, and Grenadier Guards, victorious in last year's Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes, also represent the contentious 3-year-old division.
Indy Champ won the 2019 Mile Championship and returns after finishing second last year. Salios was fifth in the 2020 version after a tardy start and seems capable of better.
Sunday's three Group 2 races at Sha Tin Racecourse are the local preps for the four Group 1 events comprising the Longines Hong Kong International Races.
Only the 2,400-meter Hong Kong Vase lacks a mirror on Sunday's card with local hopefuls using the 2,000-meter BOCHK Jockey Club Cup as their warmup. The other preps are the BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile and the 1,200-meters BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint.
Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty is the star of the day and the heavy favorite for the Mile. The 6-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding chases his 15th straight win in his seasonal debut and has pleased trainer Francis Lui in his preparation. All being well, he also will be the shining star on the December program.
"He's good, He's healthy. He's more relaxed, as you can see even in his gallops," Lui said of Golden Sixty. "I think he's getting more mature all the time. He's very well. He's good."
Panfield looks likely in a short field in Sunday's Cup. The 5-year-old, Chilean-bred son of Lookin at Lucky scored a 1/2-length victory over Columbus County in the Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions and Chater Cup going 2,400 meters to wind up his 2020-21 campaign and won his first outing this season.
The Sprint has a field of 10, featuring Wellington, winner of the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize in his 2020-21 finale, and Courier Wonder, a 4-year-old who was undefeated last season down the class ladder but finished four in a Group 2 in his first start of this campaign.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Jockey Club has released this year's lineup for the International Jockey Challenge at the iconic, in-town Happy Valley Racecourse.
The roster consists of eight international visitors versus four locals. Ryan Moore competes for a record 15th time. He and local juggernauts Zac Purton and Joao Moreira each seek a record-tying third title.
Also in for the HK$800,000 competition are Damian Lane, Tom Marquand, Hollie Doyle, Mickael Barzalona, Yuga Kawada, James McDonald and Lyle Hewitson. The two top-ranked riders after Purton and Moreira as next Wednesday will fill out the field.
Friday's Bahrain International Trophy, newly elevated to Group 3 status by the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities, has a solid international cast confirming the wisdom of that decision.
The raiders are led by four Godolphin horses, two trained by Charlie Appleby, one by Saeed bin Suroor and one by Andre Fabre. Ireland and Germany also are represented in the turf event, celebrating its third running.
Three Fawzi Nass runners -- recent acquisitions from Ireland, all -- top the local contingent. Nass saddled Simsir to a front-running upset victory in the 2020 edition of this race and makes no bones about his plans to repeat that pattern and outcome this time around.