Regal Glory, shown winning the 2021 Matriarch at Del Mar, takes on male rivals in Saturday's Grade I Fourstardave at Saratoga. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Turf racing at Saratoga, Del Mar and Churchill Downs tops the weekend agenda, with a pair of Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" slots up for grabs.
A third automatic entry goes to the winner of the weekend's top race in France, the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. That 1-mile event has a top-shelf field, including the winners of some of the top events of the first half of the European flat season.
There also are some wide-open events for 2-year-olds, including the Grade II Saratoga Special and the Grade III Best Pal at Del Mar. In the latter, trainer Bob Baffert is back together with one of his more successful ownership teams of the recent past. See the Juvenile section for more.
Saturday's Grade I Arlington Million is only a shadow of the race that in 1981 offered the first $1 million Thoroughbred purse since Churchill Downs Inc. has closed the former home of the Million, Arlington International Racecourse, and is in the process of auctioning off the bits and pieces of that track in preparation for a sale of the real estate.
Over the years, the Million drew some of the classiest turf runners from around the world. Not this year.
Churchill Downs didn't even try, or perhaps didn't try very hard, to attract international competitors for the race, to be run on a new turf track that has been sufficiently problematic that it was closed down before the end of the spring meeting.
The International Racing Bureau, which has recruited foreign competition since the inaugural Million, was not employed this year. As a result, the Million field of nine includes only horses trained in the United States.
It's only the third time, and the first since 1990, that the race has gone to the post without a foreign starter. The race also was shortened from its traditional 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/8 miles.
Setting aside the wrenching break with history and tradition, it's not a bad field, given the circumstances. Smooth Like Strait arrives from California as the 5-2 favorite off a string of second- and third-place finishes in big West Coast events, but has competed mostly at a straight mile.
Santin is held at 3-1 on the line after winning the Grade I Turf Classic over the course and distance in May but was sixth in the Grade I Manhattan at Belmont Park in his most recent.
Chad Brown, who won the race four times at Arlington, sends Sacred Life off a victory in the Grade III Monmouth Stakes. Among the others, Set Piece is 4-for-5 over the old Churchill Downs turf course and Cellist won the Grade III Louisville Stakes under the twin spires going 1 1/2 miles in May.
At Monmouth Park on Sunday, seven are entered for the $100,000 Oceanport Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
Ironically, the field includes Two Emmys. He won last year's pseudo-Million at Arlington after CDI downgraded the purse to $600,000 and renamed it the Mr. D. Stakes to "honor" the late Arlington owner Richard L. Duchossois.
Also here is Mohs, who won the Hawthorne Derby last fall on the turf at Hawthorne Racecourse, the only remaining track in the Chicago area. Brown sends Kuramata, who has back-to-back third-place finishes in Belmont Park allowance heats in his last two.
Filly & Mare Turf
Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Beverly D. at Churchill Downs, a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, has a field of just five and rates as a high-class tossup.
Chad Brown saddles the 2-1 morning-line favorite, Rougir, who comes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Diana at Saratoga in her last start.
The 4-year-old, French-bred filly is the only one in the field with a top-level win, that in the Prix de l'Opera Longines at Longchamp last October. She followed that with a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
The only foreign-based runner in either of Saturday's two Grade I races is Lily Pond, a 3-year-old Galileo filly from the Coolmore combine in Ireland.
She was last seen winning a Group 2 event at the Curragh in Ireland July 17 and has her work cut out for her against much more experienced rivals.
Family Way has been in the mix in all four starts this year against top company and just missed defeating the impressive Bleecker Street in the Grade I New York Stakes in her last.
Princess Grace and Dalaika are talented, but the former steps up in class and the latter may have lost a step at age 6.
Going Global gets the oddsmaker's nod among seven entries for Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap at Del Mar.
Going Global, a 6-5 favorite on the morning line, won the Grade I Del Mar Oaks and the Grade II Goldikova Stakes last year and the Grade II Royal Heroine at Santa Anita this season. Phil D'Amato trains the 4-year-old Mehmas filly.
The very nice field includes Avenue de France, Flippant and Park Avenue.
Regal Glory and Masen, both trained by Chad Brown, perch atop the morning line for Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Fourstardave Stakes at Saratoga, a "Win and You're In" for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile. The race drew only five entries with Bill Mott's Casa Creed also well-respected.
Regal Glory, a 6-year-old Animal Kingdom mare, takes on male competition after winning her last four starts, three of them Grade I affairs, against fillies and mares. Overall, she's 12-for-19 with four seconds and earnings of more than $2 million.
Masen, a 4-year-old Kingman gelding, has made three starts for Brown, finishing second in the Grade I Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in May, then winning the Seek Again Stakes and the Grade III Poker Stakes, both at Belmont Park.
Casa Creed, by Jimmy Creed, finished fifth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night, then won the Grade I Jaipur in June at Belmont. He also won the Jaipur last year prior to finishing third in the Fourstardave.
Get Smokin and Front Run the Fed complete the lineup for Saturday's heat.
Poppy Flower outfinished favorite Empress Tiger in Thursday's $150,000 Galway Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga, winning by 1 length over that rival.
Empress Tiger had taken the lead from pacesetting long shot Delmona at the top of the stretch, only to yield to Poppy Flower inside the sixteenth pole. Delmona held third.
Poppy Flower, a daughter of Lea, trained by Bill Mott, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:02.09. The two also faced off May 22 at Woodbine, with Empress Tiger holding off Poppy Flower by 1/2 length for the win in the Coronation Cup.
Feast and Breakthrough both seek a third straight Monmouth Park win in Saturday's $100,000 Rainbow Heir Stakes. Feast's feats have come on the dirt, Breakthrough's on the grass.
The field includes the Wesley Ward-trained Outadore, who is cross-entered Saturday at Woodbine.
Classic / Dirt Mile
King Fury is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $200,000 Fort Larned Stakes at Churchill Downs, apparently on the strength of rivals who've defeated him in such as last year's Grade I Travers Stakes, Grade I Clark Stakes and Grade II Fayette Stakes.
He did win a minor stakes over the course last September and the rest of the field is a lot easier than he's been chasing in those other assignments.
Trademark and Stavra top a field of nine for Sunday's $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby.
Trademark, the 5-2 favorite was last seen finishing fourth in the Indiana Derby. Stavra was fifth in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, and then won an allowance event at Churchill Downs in his last start.
Sunday's $150,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs attracted a dozen with Background as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Based at Churchill Downs, the 5-year-old Khozan gelding has finished in the money in 13 of 20 starts.
The race is a nod to the old Longacres Race Course, gobbled up decades ago to become part of the Boeing facilities in Renton, Wash.
A well-matched field of nine is assembled for Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Seagram Cup on the Woodbine all-weather.
Frosted Over and Artie's Storm look possible and Clayton looks to regain the form that saw him finish third last year in the Queen's Plate and second in the Prince of Wales.
Lady Speightspeare looks to improve her Woodbine record to 6-for-6 in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Trillium Stakes, but her local prowess, achieved on both turf and the all-weather course, didn't scare off any competition.
Twelve others are set to line up against the 4-year-old Speightstown filly, with Dreaming of Drew, Lake Lucerne and Lovely Ride looking most likely to make things interesting.
Super Quick is the morning-line pick in a field of 11 for Sunday's $125,000 Groupie Doll Stakes at Ellis Park.
The 4-year-old daughter of Super, trained by Norm Casse, exits a second-place showing in the Group II Fleur de Lis Stakes at Churchill Downs and, before that, a victory in the Grade III Alaire DuPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico.
Also have a peek at Jilted Bride, Li'l Tootsie and Four Graces.
Last Leaf is the solid, 2-1 favorite in a big field for Sunday's $100,000 RUNHAPPY Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park.
The daughter of Not This Time arrives from Gulfstream Park as the winner of three of her last four starts. She was third in last year's Grade III Forward Gal and fourth in the Grade III Herecomesthebride. This, however, will be her first start outside Gulfstream.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Familiar rivals Bell's the One and Sconsin meet again in Saturday's $200,000 Lady Tak Stakes at Churchill Downs.
In six head-to-head confrontations dating to late 2020, the tally is even in terms of who finished ahead of whom. In their last, Sconsin was second and Bell's the One third in the Grade III Chicago Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 25, both trailing Lady Rocket. Both are closers and their three rivals all feature speed so, bring it on.
Tap It to Win, Souper Stonehenge and Outadore top the morning line in a field of 14 set for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Bold Venture Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather.
Tap It to Win and Souper Stonehenge, both trained by Mark Casse, are the favorites at 3-1 and 4-1, respectively, although Tap It to Win is cross-entered in Sunday's Seagram Cup at 1 1/16 miles.
Outadore, a 4-year-old Outwork gelding conditioned be Wesley Ward, is posted at 4-1, but he also is cross-entered in Sunday's Rainbow Heir Stakes on the Monmouth Park turf.
Isolate isolated himself nicely in the stretch run of Wednesday's $135,000 Tale of the Cat Stakes at Saratoga, drawing off to a 6-lengths victory. Repo Rocks was second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Mr Phil in third.
Isolate, a 4-year-old colt by Mark Valeski, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.04 with Tyler Gaffalione riding. Trainer Tom Amoss rung up his 4,000th career win as Isolate won for the fourth time in his last five starts.
Procrastination and Absolutely Zero are the morning-line favorites for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar and drew the inside and outside gates, respectively, in a field of six.
Procrastination, a Not This Time filly, won her only previous start at Los Alamitos on the Fourth of July by 8 lengths. Absolutely Zero, by Nyquist, won at first asking in May, and then won the Fasig-Tipton Futurity at Santa Anita on June 18 after a stretch battle. Vegas Magic and Satin Doll also look capable.
Twelve fillies, plus four also-eligibles, are entered for Sunday's $125,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Debutante. Empire of My Own is the nominal 3-1 favorite, but it's anyone's race.
Tuesday at Colonial Downs, Titoschangedmyluck gained ground from the middle of the track around the turn in the $150,000 Keswick Stakes and got clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Rebel Consort. Livana was third.
Titoschangedmyluck, a Social Inclusion filly, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 58.59 seconds with Jeiron Barbosa up. She finished second in her career debut, and then lost her rider in her only other start.
Gulfport and Damon's Mound loom large in a field of five set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Saratoga Special.
Gulfport, an Uncle Mo colt trained by Steve Asmussen, is the 4-5 favorite on the morning line after two wins at Churchill Downs, most recently in the Bashford Manor Stakes.
Damon's Mound, a Florida-bred colt by Girvin, got massive speed figures while winning his only previous start, also at Churchill Downs, by 12 1/2 lengths for trainer and part-owner Michelle Lovell.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Best Pal at Del Mar has a full field containing mostly maiden winners and a few still seeking that first victory.
Pop d'Oro, an Arizona-bred, comes off a fourth in the Fasig-Tipton Futurity at Santa Anita.
For what it's worth, Baffert saddles Havnameltdown, an Uncaptured colt racing for the partnership of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. That's the owners-trainer team that brought you the likes of Eclipse Award champions Midnight Lute and Lookin at Lucky.
Six signed on for Sunday's $125,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Juvenile at 7 furlongs, and it looks like a good opportunity to watch and learn.
Friday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes for California-breds at Del Mar drew a field of eight after one scratch. The Big Wam and Straighten Up are the morning-line picks.
Tuesday at Colonial Downs, Simply Super wore down pacesetting favorite Heldish in the closing yards of the $150,000 Hickory Tree Stakes, winning by 1/2 length over that one. Grand Escape competed early and faded to finish third, another 5 1/2 lengths back.
Simply Super, a Super Saver colt trained by Mike Maker, ran 5 furlong on a fast track in 56.74 seconds. He earlier was eighth in the Kentucky Juvenile and fourth in the Bashford Manor, both at Churchill Downs.
Around the ovals
Presque Isle Downs
Loyalty stalked the pace in Monday's $100,000 Lady Erie Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, ran by the early leaders with a four-wide move and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Majestic d'Oro was second, 3 1/4 lengths better than Chasing Fireflies.
Loyalty, a Hard Spun filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.22 with Luis Contreras up for trainer Josie Carroll. It was her third win from four starts, the other three at Woodbine.
Around the world, around the clock
With a "Win and You're In" spot for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile -- and lots of other prospects -- on the line, the Group 1 Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques Le Marois at Deauville drew a quite phenomenal lineup.
Pending final declarations, the field includes State of Rest, winner of the Group 1 Prix Ganay and Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes earlier in the year; Coroebus, winner of the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes; Bathrat Leon, winner of the Group 2 Godolphin Mile in March; the ever-dangerous Order of Australia; and several others who have been knocking on the door.
The Godolphin juggernaut sends Rebel's Romance to take on the locals in Sunday's Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten in Berlin.
The 4-year-old Dubawi gelding had a disappointing stay in Dubai this season but bounced back from that to win a listed affair at Newmarket in June and the Group 3 Glorious Stakes at Goodwood in July.
A test against the stout German runners should indicate his path forward although this bunch is not overly stout.