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Potential prep for the Pegasus World Cup Turf set in Florida

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Largent, shown winning the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Stakes, returns from an 11-month layoff to contest Saturday's Tropical Turf at Gulfstream Park and could be considered for the Grade 1 Pegasus Turf with a good effort. Photo by Ryan Thompson, courtesy of Gulfstream Park
Largent, shown winning the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Stakes, returns from an 11-month layoff to contest Saturday's Tropical Turf at Gulfstream Park and could be considered for the Grade 1 Pegasus Turf with a good effort. Photo by Ryan Thompson, courtesy of Gulfstream Park

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A potential prep for the Pegasus World Cup Turf in Florida, a quality race for 3-year-old fillies in California and two Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events in South Africa top the weekend horse racing agenda.

Oaklawn Park and Turfway Park also have nice races but, overall, the U.S. slate is pretty light, which gives us a chance to catch up on, or preview, a lot of other action, from Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Dubai. We're just in time, catching up with Dubai, since the World Cup Carnival kickoff is just a week away.

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Speaking of away, away we go.

Gulfstream Park

Largent returns from more than 11 months on the sidelines to face six rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Tropical Turf at 1 mile.

A good showing could have him back in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf on Jan. 29, where he finished second, just a neck behind Colonel Liam, last year in his most recent appearance on the track.

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The Todd Pletcher trainee, a 5-year-old by Into Mischief, has six wins and four seconds from 10 lifetime starts.

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"I'd be lying to you if I said we thought we had him 100 percent cranked up off such a long layoff," said Aron Wellman, managing partner of part-owner Eclipse Thoroughbreds.

"While we're certainly not, by any means, trying to get too far ahead of ourselves, it's not out of the question that if he were to run very well and emerge from this race well, that in three weeks' time the Pegasus could come back into play."

Chad Brown will saddle Value Proposition, a consistent moneymaker who will see if warmer climes help reverse a fifth-place finish in his last start, the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship on Nov. 27.

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This will be his first-ever race south of the Jersey Shore, where he won the Red Bank Stakes last summer.

The others look challenged in this mix.

Oaklawn Park

Coach is the morning-line pick among seven fillies and mares entered for Saturday's $150,000 Pippin Stakes at 1 mile.

The Commissioner filly, trained by Brad Cox, showed tremendous promise at age 2, but tailed off at 3 and was shelved after finishing ninth in the Kentucky Oaks. She returned Dec. 17 at Oaklawn, winning a conditioned allowance event by 2 lengths.

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Also high on the oddsmaker's list are Josie, a 5-year-old Raceday mare who had a win over the track 11 months ago, and the ultra-consistent Miss Bigley, third in the Grade II Zenyatta at Santa Anita in October and third again in the Grade III Chilluki at Churchill Downs in November.

Santa Anita

Six newly turned 3-year-old fillies are set to face the starter in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes at 7 furlongs.

Awake at Midnyte, a Nyquist filly trained by Doug O'Neill, makes her first start since finishing second, beaten a nose by Tezzaray, in the Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 27.

Big Switch, a Mr. Big filly, is 2-for-2 for trainer John Sadler, but makes the big jump up to open company. Her last start was in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies on Breeders' Cup weekend when she defeated her stablemate, Big Novel, by 2 3/4 lengths.

Mimajoon, a Florida-bred daughter of Fed Biz, won the Golden State Debutante on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather track in her last start.

The other three in the Santa Ynez come off maiden wins, but shouldn't be taken lightly. Under the Stars, a Pioneerof the Nile filly trained by Bob Baffert for the Coolmore bunch, was third in the Desi Arnaz Stakes before winning at Los Alamitos on Dec. 11.

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Miss Mattie B broke through on the turf in her last start at Del Mar. Big Shamrock may need some Irish luck as she needed a drop into the $50,000 claiming ranks to score her first win in her most recent start.

What's more unusual than seeing a Baffert-trained horse in a turf race? Seeing two. That the case in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for fillies and mares, 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside course. Baffert saddles two of the eight -- Beautiful Gift and Ginja.

Beautiful Gift, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, looked like something special when she won last year's Grade III Santa Ysabel and finished second in the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks.

But then she went to the sidelines after finishing seventh in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico and returns now for the first time on the lawn. Ginja's record is more modest, but also more recent and she has hit the board in seven of nine starts.

Among the others in the Las Cienegas, Zero Tolerance has won three of her five starts, including the Unzip Me Stakes down the tricky hillside layout. Gold for Kitten was a force on the East Coast and makes her first start for John Sadler.

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Turfway Park

Nobals returns to the all-weather, the surface upon which he won the Arlington-Washington Futurity in August, to contest Saturday's $100,000 Turfway Prevue for 3-year-olds.

The Noble Mission gelding, trained by Larry Rivelli, was last seen finishing fifth, beaten less than 2 lengths, in the Qatar Golden Mile on the Breeders' Cup program at Del Mar.

Kaely's Brother won the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs and was fifth in the Sugar Bowl on Dec. 27 at Fair Grounds and tries the all-weather for the first time for trainer Brad Cox.

Trikitraki comes north after going 2-for-2 at Gulfstream Park, the latter over the new all-weather course there.

Around the world, around the clock:

South Africa

Saturday's Grade 1 L'Ormarins Queen's Plate and Grade 1 Cartier Paddock Stakes at Kenilworth are "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge races for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile and Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, respectively.

The Queen's Plate, at 1,600 meters, features the old guy, 7-year-old Rainbow Bridge, against 10 younger challengers.

Rainbow Bridge finished second in this race a year ago, and then racked up three straight wins before finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July. He returned to finish second Dec. 4 behind seeking the Stars in the Grade 2 Green Point Stakes.

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Saturday's opposition includes 4-year-olds Kommetdieding and Linebacker, who were first and second, respectively, in the July, and Seeking the Stars. Another 4-year-old, Jet Dark, won the Grade 1 HKJC World Pool Champions Cup at Greyville on July 31, but was fourth in the Green Point.

The quartet of 3-year-olds is led by Pomp and Power, a Justin Snaith trainee who finished second in the Grade 1 Cape Guineas in his last outing.

Snaith also saddles the likely favorite in the Group 1 Cartier Paddock Stakes for fillies and mares at 1,800 meters -- Captain's Ransom. The Captain Al filly comes off back-to-back victories including the Grade 3 Diana Stakes at Durbanville.

Several others have claims in the Paddock, including Santa Therese. That Kentucky-bred daughter of Flower Alley won seven straight races, most of them sprints, at Fairview, but did score at 2,000 meters over that venue's Polytrack course.

Chansonette has not missed the top three in any of her five starts and won the Grade 1 World Sports Betting Cape Fillies Guineas in her last start.

Dubai

With only a week to go to the start of the 2022 Dubai World Cup Carnival, it's time to cast our eyes to Meydan Racecourse, warming up for the season with Friday's feature, the Zabeel Trophy at 1,600 meters on the turf.

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There's a full field with most of the riders wearing blue -- four for Godolphin and five for Shadwell. The international market has two of Charlie Appleby's string, One Ruler and La Barrosa, as the favorites, and both would appear to be getting a final shot at a big-time career.

One Ruler was a hot item a year ago in England off a second in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy to finish 2020, but reported sixth in both the Qipco 2000 Guineas and the Cazoo Derby last season and never clicked thereafter.

By Dubawi, he makes his first start as a gelding. La Barrosa, by Lope de Vega, similarly showed early promise but finished up the track in both the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the St James's Palace, underwent the ultimate equipment change and took the second half of the year off.

Meydan scheduled an early start to accommodate nine races on the program.

Next week's schedule includes the Group 2 Maktoum Challenge Round 1.

Saudi Arabia

One of the primary goals of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia is the promotion and advancement of international racing, especially in nations ranked down the priority list by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.

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Thus, the Norwegian invasion for the Saudi Cup meeting in Riyadh on Feb. 25-26 ranks as a notable achievement.

Trainer Niels Petersen is planning not only to have Square De Luynes, a three-time winner of the Stockholm Cup International, in the $1.5 million Neom Turf Cup, but also to start stablemates Kick On and King David in the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap.

The latter race is restricted to horses trained in IFHA's Part II and Part III jurisdictions, and is meant not only to give them a moment in the sun, but also to position Saudi Arabia as a champion of racing in those parts of the globe.

Petersen says Square De Luynes is the star not only of his operation, but of all of Scandinavia and ready for the international stage. He's also excited, though, about the opportunity for his other two prospects.

"Square De Luynes is the best horse in Scandinavia -- by the figures, by his performances, by everything," the trainer said. "He's the star of the show here. He's such a popular horse.

"He's got a high cruising speed. He can run over anything from 1,800 meters to 2,400 meters, and he's as good on soft ground as he is on fast. He can also go from the front or come from behind. It doesn't matter."

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It's the conditions of the International Handicap that open doors for Kick On and King David.

"I think both of them will be suited by the race and you're not meeting the best horses from the main racing countries so it's a little less competitive," Petersen said. "The International Handicap obviously has some conditions which we benefit from.

"What they're doing with The Saudi Cup is great."

Entries for all international races at The Saudi Cup meeting closed Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Hong Kong

It's no secret that Golden Sixty long ago ran out of meaningful competition among the Hong Kong talent pool. He also has defended the local honor against foreign raiders in Hong Kong's international races on multiple occasions.

So it's no surprise that, after another satisfying trial heat Tuesday morning, jockey Vincent Ho was discussing a schedule that might include overseas travel.

First, though, are two local races, starting with the Group 1 Stewards' Cup on Jan. 23.

A win there would be Golden Sixth's 17th straight, a record for Hong Kong.

He already holds the record for all-time wins locally with 19, including five Group 1 events and the Four-Year-Old Classic Series that culminated in the BMW Hong Kong Derby. His name already ranks alongside, if not above, the likes of Silent Witness and Beauty Generation.

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Silent Witness did venture overseas three times, winning the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes in Japan in 2006 in his best showing. Beauty Generation stayed home.

"If we're going to travel overseas," said Golden Sixty's regular rider Ho, "then the 1,400-metre race [the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on Feb. 20] will be good for him. But we still haven't talked about it."

That would rule out an appearance during the Saudi Cup night Feb. 26, but could open the door to Dubai the following month and/or the Group 1 Yasuda Kinen in Japan in June.

Bahrain

Mars Landing obviously has made a happy landing in Bahrain. Formerly trained in England by Sire Michael Stoute, the 5-year-old Dark Angel gelding made it three straight wins by landing the Al Dana Cup at 1,800 meters at Sakhir Racecourse on New Year's Eve.

That race was the second in Bahrain Turf Series, designed to attract international runners, and followed Mars Landing's victory on the first day of the series Dec. 10 in the Al Muharraq Cup.

Bonuses are on offer for the owner and trainer of the winner of each of two "pots" -- one for sprinters and one for middle-distance runners.

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"These races will sit alongside outstanding facilities, world-class hospitality, and exceptional off-track entertainment to create a fun, exciting, and uniquely Bahraini experience for visitors," His Highness, Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, chairman of the Rashid Equestrian & Horseracing Club, said in announcing the series last year.

The series is of added note, as Bahrain has been party to talks among several Gulf jurisdictions, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, about establishment of a coordinated racing "circuit" throughout the Middle East that could significantly ease international participation.

Mars Landing finished eighth and then second in his first two starts for Sir Michael back in 2018 -- both times behind winner Palace Pier. Their careers diverged thereafter.

Purchased at Tattersalls' August 2021 sale, Mars Landing now is trained by Hesham Alhaddad as part of Fawzi Nass' operation. Neil Callan is based in Bahrain for the season and retained by His Highness Shaikh Sultan's Al Mohamediya Racing, which owns Mars Landing.

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