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European 3-year-olds test U.S. counterparts in rich grass races at Belmont

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Silver Prospector, shown winning the 2020 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, is among the favorites for Saturday's Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. Photo courtesy of Oaklawn Park
1 of 2 | Silver Prospector, shown winning the 2020 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, is among the favorites for Saturday's Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows. Photo courtesy of Oaklawn Park

July 8 (UPI) -- Three-year-olds from Ireland, England and France will see what they can do with American rivals this weekend at Belmont Park in the $1 million Caesar's Belmont Derby and $750,000 Belmont Oaks.

The weekend also includes the Indiana Derby, Iowa Derby and Los Alamitos Derby in California, where trainer Bob Baffert returns from suspension to field two runners.

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Belmont Park has an important test for older horses in the Grade II Suburban. Delaware Park features fillies and mares with graded stakes on turf and dirt.

Over the waves, Newmarket has the July Cup for top-level sprinters, the Falmouth Stakes for fillies and mares and races for both 2-year-old colts and fillies. Sunday brings the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville.

And as Hong Kong's season draws to a conclusion, will it be Joao Moreira or Zac Purton copping the jockey premiership?

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Here we come, spinning out of the turn ...

Belmont Derby

The overseas raiding party assembled for Saturday's doings does not include the absolute A-list of 3-year-olds.

But it's not a bad roster by any means. Some have run well before recent disappointments and it will be interesting to see how they stack up against Americans who have what look on paper to be more accomplished records.

On the plus side, four of the five Europeans competed in either the Cazoo Derby at Epsom or the French Derby at Chantilly and two of the American-trained colts contested the Kentucky Derby. On the flip side, none of them made any impact on those races.

The Epsom fugitives are Stone Age (sixth), Nation's Pride (eighth) and Royal Patronage (16th). All have run better than that previously, and now they cut back from the 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/4 miles with, presumably, even firmer going than they encountered on the Epsom Downs.

Machette, a Myboycharlie colt, finished seventh in the Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby. But in the race before that, he was second to Vadeni, who won the Jockey Club and ran on to win the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse last weekend in England. He looks like he'd enjoy firm turf and can't be ignored. Implementation comes from France looking least likely.

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The American contingent will take some beating. Emmanuel, Napoleonic War and Limited Liability were 1-2-3 in the Grade II Pennine Ridge over the course last time out. Stolen Base and Sy Dog were first and third in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

Tiz the Bomb is a sleeper. He finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby and two previous wins were on the Turfway Park all-weather. But he has a superior record on grass and might be a bit overlooked.

Classic Causeway makes his turf debut after finishing 11th in both the Florida Derby and the Run for the Roses, then third in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown.

Kenny McPeek trains both Tiz the Bomb, a closer, and Classic Causeway, a speedball.

If it sounds like a tough race to handicap -- well, it is. The Belmont Park oddsmaker has Stone Age as the morning-line favorite at odds of 9-2, with Tiz the Bomb the shortest price among Americans at 6-1.

Belmont Oaks

Five Europeans are set to take on five American distaffers in Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational. The Americans have the better records against graded stakes company, leaving the question of the relative merits of the competition.

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Chad Brown has three entries -- Haughty, winner of the Penn Oaks in her last; Consumer Spending, winner of the Grade II Wonder Again in her most recent; and McKulick, second in both the Group 2 Edgewood and Grade III Regret in her last two.

Cairo Memories comes from California off consecutive victories in the Grade III Providencia and the Grade III Honeymoon. New Year's Eve was an impressive winner of the Grade II Edgewood at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Ireland's O'Brien family brings two of the invaders. Father Aiden has Concert Hall, who finished fourth in the Group I Cazoo Oaks at Epsom, while son Joseph Patrick brings Agartha, winner twice in group stakes last year and looking for a breakthrough at 1 1/4 miles on firm footing.

Hot Queen and Know Thyself come from France with lots to prove at this level.

Concert Hall is the morning-line favorite at 3-2, but perhaps to be feared most among the Euros is Godolphin's homebred With the Moonlight, a 6-1 chance on the line.

She won the Betfair Pretty Polly at Newmarket in May with a 101 Timeform rating, but was a bust in the Oaks, where she reported 11th. Regular rider William Buick does not take the trans-Atlantic jump, but Agartha won't suffer from Frankie Dettori jumping aboard for trainer Charlie Appleby.

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The other derbies

Rattle N Roll, who never quite got over the top on the Triple Crown trail, finally got a Derby win just a week ago in the off-the-turf American Derby at Churchill Downs.

Now, trainer Kenny McPeek sends the Connect colt north on Interstate 65 on just a week's rest to contest Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Indiana Derby at Horseshoe Indiana.

He's the 5-2 favorite, but several of the 11 rivals rate a chance. Un Ojo won the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park. King Ottoman won the Texas Derby at Lone Star Park

Saturday's $250,000 Iowa Derby also found Rattle N Roll in the entry box, but Indianapolis being a lot closer to Churchill Downs than Des Moines, and the Indiana race being graded while this one is not, look for the post-time favorite here to be the Todd Pletcher-trained Major General.

Slow Down Andy is the 8-5 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $125,000 Los Alamitos Derby, a race that also sees Baffert back in action with High Connection and Doppelganger, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Grade III Affirmed in their last start.

Slow Down Andy won last year's Grade 2 Los Al Futurity and this year's Grade III Sunland Park Derby. Doppelganger returns to Baffert's barn from Tim Yakteen's while Sean McCarthy handled High Connection through the dark days.

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The other Oaks

Interstatedaydream, winner of the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite among eight set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Indiana Oaks.

The Classic Empire filly, trained by Brad Cox, has three wins, a second and a third from five previous starts, all at different tracks. Don't ignore Runaway Wife, Candy Raid or Patna.

Saturday's $225,000 Grade III Iowa Oaks drew a field of eight, with Candy Raid the 5-2 favorite on the morning line. It's hard to toss any of them, so maybe best to watch and learn.

Turf

Friday's $150,000 Grand Couturier at Belmont Park has a field of five to try 1 1/2 miles. The race was rescheduled from last weekend when only four names were found in the entry box. The five set to go are hard to separate with British Royalty and Channel Maker perhaps a cut above.

Also among the grassy sort, there's Saturday's $100,000 Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial at Horseshoe Indiana.

Filly & Mare Turf

Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park has a field of 10 to tackle 1 3/8 miles.

The favorites would make it a rematch of the Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 28 as Temple City Terror, Stand Tall and La Lune, who finished first through third in that heat, all reappear here.

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Luck Money, who finished fifth in the Keertana, has been down on her luck recently but finished second in this race last year and is capable of repeating with some improvement in form.

Also in this division is Saturday's $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff at Horseshoe Indiana.

Turf Sprint

Saturday's $60,000 Pea Patch Stakes at Ellis Park attracted seven 3-year-old fillies to tackle 5 1/2 furlongs. Sunday's open $60,000 Dade Park Dash has six.

Classic

Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Suburban at Belmont Park came up a little short and oddly shaped. Only five signed on, and the big gun, Max Player, comes into the race with lots of back class but three straight bombs -- losses by double-digit lengths in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Grade II Alysheba and Grade III Brooklyn.

Three others exit the Grade III Pimlico Special -- the winner, First Captain, third-place Untreated and Forewarned, who finished last of 10. That leaves Dynamic One, a 4-year-old by Union Rags who won the Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs in his last, but takes a jump, in theory anyway, in class here.

Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker has a field of six, with little from whom to choose among Warrant, Silver Prospector, Rated R Superstar and possibly Officiating.

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This is a historic race, originally run at Ak-Sar-Ben, and won over the years by the likes of Black Tie Affair in his 1991 Horse of the Year campaign; Roses in May in 2004, the year before he won the Dubai World Cup; and last year by Knicks Go en route to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic and Horse of the Year honors.

Also, Saturday's $100,000 Battery Park Stakes at Delaware Park, Saturday's $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial at Horseshoe Indiana.

Distaff

Miss Leslie and Battle Bling, the first two past the judge in the local Obeah Stakes on June 8, are back as the favorites among seven entered for Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park. Microcap and Bees and Honey, both in from Kentucky, look like credible opponents.

Also, Friday's $100,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows, Saturday's $100,000 Battery Park Stakes at Delaware Park, Saturday's $100,000 Mari Hulman George Memorial at Horseshoe Indiana

Sprint

Top Gunner and Oil Money are the morning-line picks in a field of eight for Friday's $100,000 Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park has a quality field of seven 3-year-old fillies. Four of them are last-race winners and the others were last seen finishing second.

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This division also has Saturday's $100,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes at Delaware Park and Friday's $100,000 Saylorville at Prairie Meadows.

Juvenile

Saturday's $100,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile at Prairie Meadows has seven headed on the morning line by the Steve Asmussen-trained Undalay and Mike Maker's Top Recruit. It's a pretty wide-open affair, though.

Saturday's $75,000 Everett Nevin Stakes at Pleasanton has nine set to go. Vegas Magic, a filly trained by Doug O'Neill, is a lukewarm favorite. She is one of three fillies in the field.

Juvenile Fillies

Friday's $100,000 Prairie Gold Lassie drew eight entries, none standing out.

Around the world, around the clock:

England

Yibir, last seen finishing third in the Grade I Man o' War at Belmont Park, returned to the winner's enclosure with a nice victory in Thursday's Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket.

William Buick reserved Yibir last of the six runners until the final furlongs, when he advanced outside the field and drew off to a 2 1/4-length victory over Living Legend. Global Storm was just a neck farther back in third.

Yibir, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred by Dubawi from the Monsun mare Rumh, won the 2021 Breeders' Cup Turf at Del Mar, and then was just nipped by Shahryar in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic and finished second again in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket before his New York trip.

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Promising 2-year-olds were on display at Newmarket during the weekend, as well.

Persian Force, a Mehmas colt trained by Richard Hannon, delivered a powerful run through the final furlongs of the Group 2 Close Brothers July Stakes for colts and geldings and won easily by 1 1/2 lengths as the hot favorite.

Persian Force improved to three wins and a second from four starts, the second coming behind Bradsell in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Ascot last time at the races.

Friday, 2-year-old fillies go in the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket. Six are set and nothing would be a huge surprise.

It's absolutely no surprise that Frankie Dettori and John Gosden have let bygones be bygones. Dettori piloted Mighty Ulysses to victory for Gosden and son/partner Thady in Thursday's Sir Henry Cecil Stakes at 1 mile.

The highly successful jockey-trainer combo had been on the outs after the elder Gosden criticized Dettori's efforts in a couple Royal Ascot rides -- including Mighty Ulysses' fifth in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes.

Dettori and the Gosdens are together again Friday in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes for fillies and mares and Dettori was well-advised to win that one as his mount, Inspiral, is about as hot a favorite as can be.

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The Frankel filly has won all five previous starts including the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, that by nearly 4 lengths.

Saturday's Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket is 6 furlongs and, pending final declarations, has a strong cast.

Perfect Power ranks as early favorite after winning the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Flaming Rib, second in that race, gives it another go. So, too, do Naval Crown, Creative Force and Artorious, the first three finishers in the other Group 1 sprint at the Royal meeting, the Platinum Jubilee.

France

Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Prat for 3-year-olds at Deauville has 11 takers, including Modern Games, most recently third in the Prix du Jockey Club.

Tenebrism, fourth in the aforementioned Coronation Stakes, is entered for Aidan O'Brien. Lusail, second in the Group 1 St James's Palace, represents Al Shaqab Racing and trainer Richard Hannon.

Texas was second to Modern Games in the French 2000 Guineas in his last. Mangoustine took the French 1000 Guineas two starts back.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong racing fans follow jockey competitions almost as closely as the equine ones, and they're getting a treat this year as Purton versus Moreira heads down the stretch in a head-to-head battle.

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Going into the fourth-last meeting of the season Wednesday at Happy Valley, Zac Purton led Joao Moreira by one win. The lead had switched back and fourth between them six times, with Purton losing ground after an injury sustained at the Longines Hong Kong International Races and gaining back as Moreira sat out a lengthy suspension.

Purton booted home two winners at the Valley to improve his margin by two -- hardly a comfortable advantage. What's left is 10 races Sunday at Sha Tin, nine more to close out the Happy Valley season Wednesday and 11 back at Sha Tin on July 16.

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