Advertisement

Horse racing action around globe fills weekend before Kentucky Derby

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Yibir, shown winning the 2022 Breeders' Cup Turf, preps for another American invasion with a start Friday at Newmarket in England. Photo by Carolyn Simancik/Eclipsesportswire, courtesy of Breeders' Cup
1 of 2 | Yibir, shown winning the 2022 Breeders' Cup Turf, preps for another American invasion with a start Friday at Newmarket in England. Photo by Carolyn Simancik/Eclipsesportswire, courtesy of Breeders' Cup

April 29 (UPI) -- With a week to go before the Kentucky Derby, there's plenty of racing action to keep fan interest alive with Breeders' Cup runners coming out of hibernation, Churchill Downs and Belmont Park back in action, and Golden Gate Fields hosting a stakes-filled program.

On the international front, it's Guineas weekend at Newmarket in England with, as a bonus, Breeders' Cup Turf winner Yibir prepping for another North American raid and some tasty 3-year-old action.

Advertisement

The Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) tops the menu in Japan and the Group 1 Prix Ganay is on tap at Longchamp in Paris.

There's been no movement in the prospective Kentucky Derby field since last we convened. The post position draw is Monday, and we'll revisit the scene.

Before we begin, let's note for the record that the No. 3 horse in Saturday's second race at Doncaster in England, a 5-furlongs affair for 2-year-olds, is a Zoffany colt named Nifaliophobia. Nifaliophobia means "a fear of being sober."

Advertisement

Onward, soberly:

Classic

Can Express Train keep up his head of steam in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Californian at Santa Anita?

The 5-year-old son of Union Rags has posted three straight wins, the most recent being the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap where he battled down the stretch with Warrant before prevailing by a head.

The opposition includes Stiletto Boy, third in each of his last three starts, including the Pegasus World Cup and the "Big Cap," as Santa Anita likes to call its standout fixture. Shaaz is undefeated after three starts, once thanks to the stewards, and will see what he can do against the big boys.

Cabo Spirit is back on the West Coast and hoping to reverse an unhappy trend in Saturday's $100,000 California Derby on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather.

The Pioneerof the Nile ridgling finished second in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, but then fifth in the Grade II San Felipe. Trainer George Papaprodromou then shipped him to Turfway Park, where he finished sixth in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks in his first try on the all-weather. He's the favorite in this field of six.

Distaff

A nice field of nine is engaged for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Margarita at Santa Anita.

Advertisement

The oddsmaker's eye turns to Miss Bigly, a Gemologist mare who is drawn outside for the 1 1/8-miles affair. She finished second in the Grade I Beholder Mile in her last outing and won the Grade III Bayakoa at Oaklawn Park right before that.

Saturday's $75,000 California Oaks on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather has nine with second-time starter My Kentucky Girl and the cleverly named Anthonys Cleopatra as the morning-line favorites.

Turf / Turf Mile

Beyond Brilliant looks like the class of the seven entered for Saturday's $225,000 Grade II Charles Whittingham at Santa Anita.

The Twirling Candy colt won the Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar in December, took two months off and then was fourth, fading from the lead to be beaten just 1 length, in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile in his return. The others have more modest resumes.

Saturday's $250,000 Grade III San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields has a full field of 14 with nary a clear favorite in sight. Check out Vanzy, the 4-1 morning-line favorite or perhaps Ecrivain, Restrainedvengence, Tiz Plus or Evening Sun, all at single-digit odds.

Filly & Mare Turf

Advertisement

War Like Goddess kicks off her 5-year-old season in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Bewitch Stakes going 1 1/2 miles on the Keeneland grass.

The English Channel filly came into November's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf riding a four-race winning streak and certainly wasn't embarrassed finishing third behind Loves Only You and My Sister Nat, leading late only to succumb by little more than 1/2 length.

She hasn't raced since, but trainer Bill Mott has had her working consistently at Payson Park in Florida for the return.

A few of the other six in the Bewitch could provide a test for War Like Goddess, who is posted as the odds-on favorite on the morning line. Family Way exits a win in the Grade III Orchid at Gulfstream Park. Luck Money was second on the Keeneland grass in last autumn's Grade III Dowager.

Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Wilshire Stakes at 1 mile on the Santa Anita greensward is an interesting proposition. Many in the 11-horse field have stakes experience without a lot to show for it, at least on the win end.

Then, there's Bye Bye Bertie, who has four straight wins and five from her last six but all in optional claimers or starter events. She was sixth in the Grade III Bayakoa when she last tried graded company in January.

Advertisement

Avenue de France, winner of the Miss America Stakes on her last visit from Southern California, is the morning-line pick among eight entered for Saturday's $75,000 Golden Poppy at Golden Gate Fields. Since that triumph, the Cityscape filly has been knocking heads in graded stakes at Santa Anita without much impact.

Turf Sprint

There are not a lot of recent winners among the seven assembled for Sunday's $100,000 License Fee Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park. But many have show ability against sharp rivals with Too Sexy, Miss J McKay and Assertive Style particularly noteworthy.

Saturday's $75,000 Camila Urso for fillies and mares at Golden Gate Fields has an overflow field of 10 with two also-eligibles. It's a 5-furlongs tossup with the better-fancied horses relegated to the outside gates and good luck to them.

Sprint

Saturday's $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn Park is pretty much a tossup with four entries, none of them an easy toss-out. Cairama and Cogburn are the morning-line favorites. Cairama has deeper experience but Cogburn, a Not This Time colt trained by Steve Asmussen, looks to have momentum and upside potential.

Brickyard Ride and Miles Ahead both come into Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Kona Gold at Santa Anita riding three-race winning streaks and their careers are quite similar.

Advertisement

The difference is that Brickyard Ride's three consecutive wins all came at Santa Anita, while Miles Ahead's all were achieved at Gulfstream Park. So, Brickyard Ride enjoys the favorite role on the morning line.

Doug O'Neill was to have started Strongconstitution in his first-time back from Dubai, where he spent the first three months of the year, peaking with a second in the Group 3 Firebreak Stakes. But he was a late scratch.

Take your pick among 10 entered for Saturday's $75,000 Lost in the Fog at Golden Gate Fields. Or try the old hatpin-through-the-program method -- should a hatpin come to hand.

Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Woodstock Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Woodbine all-weather has a nice field. Nobals arrives after two straight wins at Turfway Park for trainer Larry Rivelli.

One Timer was undefeated before finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in his most recent race. Unraptured is in from Golden Gate, where he won his last start. Doctor Jeff was last seen winning the Atlantic Beach Stakes on the Belmont Park turf in November.

Ironstone, one of two Ontario-breds in the nine-horse Woodstock field, was second in the local Grade III Grey Stakes in November in his last. The other, Silent Runner, ended his 2-year-old campaign with two straight wins including the Frost King stakes, both on the Woodbine all-weather.

Advertisement

Filly & Mare Sprint

Carribean Caper is undefeated after five starts and looms a solid favorite in a field of five for Saturday's $160,000 Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Al Stall Jr. took the Speightstown filly from Fair Grounds to Keeneland, Ellis Park twice and finally the Grade III Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs last year without finding any who could beat her.

Saturday marks her 4-year-old debut, and a bullet work over the track two weeks ago says she's ready.

Mark Casse saddles three of the six entered for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Star Shoot Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the Woodbine all-weather, including the morning-line favorite, Diabolic.

Wesley Ward sends out Miss Alacrity for her fifth start on her fifth different track. She previously raced at Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, Santa Anita and Aqueduct, winning her first two.

Around the world, around the clock:

Japan

Sunday's Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) is the longest Grade 1 race of the year on the Japanese turf at 3,200 meters or about 2 miles, and this year's version drew a field that could be seen as "those two" and "the others."

The former category would include Deep Bond, who finished second in last year's edition, and Titleholder, winner of the 2021 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger.

Advertisement

Deep Bond, a 5-year-old son of Kizuna, is still looking for his first Grade 1 win but was second in the Grade 1 Arima Kinen to end the 2021 campaign. The Kikuka Sho is the sole top-level win for Titleholder, a 4-year-old by Duramente.

After those, there are a lot of names unfamiliar in the Grade 1 ranks. Several of them, however, are proven commodities at marathon distances a bit down the class ladder.

England

It's Guineas weekend at Newmarket and, as a bonus, one of the world's top turf runners is on display, too. There is a LOT of Godolphin Blue in the antepost wagering markets.

Sheik Mohammed's omnipresence is felt nowhere more than Saturday's Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas itself. Native Trail, an Oasis Dream colt, and Coroebus, by Dubawi, are both trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin.

Native Trail is undefeated after five starts while Coroebus has two wins and a second from three outings. They compete in the early betting with the Coolmore-Aidan O'Brien connections of Luxembourg, a Camelot colt who is 3-for-3.

The pendulum swings a bit for Sunday's Group 1 Qipco 1000 Guineas as two of the most popular fillies are provided by O'Brien. Tenebrism, a Caravaggio filly, looks for her third win in as many starts after defeating a nice lineup of rivals in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes in September.

Advertisement

Tuesday, by Galileo, enters off a maiden win, but with excellent reviews. There are lots more prospects in here including Godolphin hope Wild Beauty, a Frankel filly.

Friday's Group 2 Betfair Exchange Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, 1 1/2 miles against some tough-enough competition, looks a logical place for Godolphin star Yibir to prep for another bite of the low-hanging fruit that Europeans have started to plunder from the New York Racing Association turf.

The son of Dubawi got good after gelding at mid-year last season and visited Belmont Park in September to win the Jockey Club Derby Invitational, and then returned to win the Breeders' Cup Turf at Del Mar in November.

He was second, beaten just a head by Japan's classy Shahryar in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March.

"We have been delighted with Yibir since his return from Dubai," Racenews quoted trainer Charlie Appleby. "He surprised us with how well he took his race in the Dubai Sheema Classic and has continued to show his wellness back in Newmarket.

"He carries a penalty for his Breeders' Cup win, but this looks a good stepping stone toward the Grade I Man o' War Stakes back at Belmont next month. This is a decent prize in itself and fits nicely into his program."

Advertisement

Nation's Pride, a Godolphin homebred colt by Teofilo, enters Friday's Group 2 Newmarket Stakes for 3-year-olds on the back of a victory in the Jumeirah Derby at Meydan on Feb. 25.

That heat hasn't exactly turned key as the runner-up finished last in his next race and the third, another Godolphin homebred is entered in a conditions race Friday at Goodwood.

Nonetheless, Nation's Pride is the heavy favorite against three rivals at Newmarket and with a good run, Appleby said, "we might look at a Derby trial a little closer to the Derby."

Godolphin also has the favorite, albeit a lukewarm one, in Friday's 7-furlongs Betfair King Charles II Stakes for 3-year-olds. Noble Truth showed promise last year but did not fare well when tried on the dirt in Riyadh in the Saudi Derby.

Now he's back on the grass, and Appleby says this race will point the way forward. There are only four rivals, but they all have chances.

France

Sunday's Group 1 Prix Ganay, 2,100 meters at Longchamp, has a field of six, most with some excellent results in their past-performance lines and all with question marks.

The question mark about State of Rest is not related to ability but to his ability to recover from travel and time off.

Advertisement

The Starspangledbanner 4-year-old ended a three-race 2021 campaign with victories Aug. 7 in the Grade I Saratoga Derby Invitational in upstate New York and the Oct. 23 Cox Plate in Australia. Does trainer Joseph Patrick O'Brien have him ready and cranked?

Sealiway peaked with a victory in last Autumn's Group 1 British Champion Stakes but then bombed on the dirt in the Saudi Cup, eased to beat only one rival, the favorite, Mishriff.

He rebounded with a second behind Skalleti in the Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt over very soft Longchamp turf April 10. That same Skalleti is back for another run, looking to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since last July.

Andre Fabre will saddle last year's Ganay winner, Mare Australis. The 5-year-old son of Australia did not race again in 2021 after that win and returned to finish third in the Harcourt, just 1 length adrift of Skalleti.

Pretty Tiger enters off a win in the Group 3 Prix Exbury March 19, in which Skalleti finished third as the favorite.

Those who fancy Smile Makers in the Ganay will enjoy big rewards if they're right.

Latest Headlines