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Final Breeders' Cup preps mark U.S. weekend horse racing

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Life Is Good, seen winning the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January, warms up for the Breeders' Cup Classic in Saturday's Grade I Woodward at Aqueduct. Photo courtesy of Katsumi Saito
Life Is Good, seen winning the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January, warms up for the Breeders' Cup Classic in Saturday's Grade I Woodward at Aqueduct. Photo courtesy of Katsumi Saito

Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Seven Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races, from New York through Kentucky and on to California highlight the weekend U.S. horse racing schedule, with the likes of Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer and Whitney Stakes champ Life is Good set to have their final preps for the big race.

Classic

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A couple of the top contenders for the feature race of the Breeders' Cup World Championships are on display this weekend.

Life Is Good looms large against just four rivals as he warms up for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Woodward at Aqueduct.

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The 4-year-old Into Mischief colt won last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and is 3 for 4 since then, the only loss a fading fourth in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. In theory, this should amount to little more than a paid workout. But, as Homer Simpson famously said, "In theory, communism works."

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The winner of the Dubai World Cup, Country Grammer, also runs Saturday on the other side of the continent in the $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic.

He's run twice since the Dubai victory, finishing second in both starts. In his last, though, he was 19 1/4 lengths behind Flightline a month ago in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He won't face that monster Saturday, as Flightline rests up for the Breeders' Cup.

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The runner-up in the Dubai World Cup, Hot Rod Charlie, is the favorite among six in Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs, a field that also includes Art Collector, who was 12th in the Group 1 Saudi Cup in February, but skipped Dubai, and Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike.

Distaff

Five names were found in the entry box for Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita and a case can be made for most of them. Midnight Memories exits a win in the Grade III Torrey Pines, possibly boosting her stock relative to Awake At Midnyte and Soothsay.

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Dirt Mile

Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Ack Ack at Churchill Downs, a "Win and You're In" for the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, has 10 takers with Speaker's Corner the even-money favorite.

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The 4-year-old Godolphin homebred exits a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Pat O'Brien at Del Mar. Untreated and Fulsome look to provide some competition and that trio starts from the three inside gates.

Sprint

Forbidden Kingdom was a Kentucky Derby candidate with wins in the San Vicente and San Felipe before finishing last in the Santa Anita Derby.

The American Pharoah colt returns for the first time since that April 9 heat in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship, going shorter and facing older rivals for the first time.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Ce Ce, the reigning Eclipse Award champion female sprinter, takes on five rivals in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Chillingworth Stakes at Santa Anita.

The 5-year-old Elusive Quality mare has only two wins from five starts since winning last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint while competing at the highest levels and traveling around the country.

If trainer Mike McCarthy intended this to be an easy confidence builder, he wasn't counting on running into Under the Stars, who also has worked successfully against good ones.

Turf

Six go in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita with half trained by Phil D'Amato. Two of his, Gold Phoenix and Masteroffoxhounds, are the favorites in a well-matched bunch.

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Saturday's $100,000 Hawthorne Derby at Hawthorne Race Course is most notable as a small step toward resumption of a stakes program at the Chicago-area track as management looks forward to getting going on construction of a purse-boosting racino.

During the Illinois industry's hard times, Hawthorne mothballed its stakes to support overnight purses, benefitting more horsemen. While just a first step, the race did draw a nice field of 10 with participation by the likes of Mike Maker, Graham Motion and Kenny McPeek.

Filly & Mare Turf

The eight fillies and mares assembled for Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Fasig-Tipron Waya Stakes at Aqueduct all seem to be having a hard time putting together consistent performances, leaving the door open for someone -- just about anyone -- to step forward here.

Turf Mile

Beyond Brilliant looms as the 6-5 favorite in a field of six for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita. The Twirling Candy colt cuts back from longer runs and faces some tough opposition.

Turf Sprint

There are no tigers among the 12 entrants for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Belmont Turf Sprint at Aqueduct. The field does include the first four finishers from the Lucky Coin Stakes Sept. 2 at Saratoga -- The White Duke, Dancing Buck, Fauci and Voodo Zip.

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Gregorian Chant is the morning-line favorite among nine in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Eddie D. Stakes down the Santa Anita hillside course.

The British-bred 6-year-old is 5-for-11 on the Santa Anita turf. Air Force Red has two wins over the unique layout earlier this year and could be tough if he gets a lead.

Trainer Bob Baffert springs a surprise with Grace Adler in Saturday's $85,000 Unzip Me Stakes for 3-year-old fillies down the Santa Anita hillside course.

It's the first trip on the grass for the Curlin miss who was a Grade I winner at 2 but has been a puzzlement since for the normally turf-averse conditioner.

Juvenile

Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Champagne Stakes at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Juvenile, drew a field of six, coming from as far afield as Iowa and Kentucky.

Gulfport and Blazing Sevens were last seen finishing second and third behind long shot Forte in the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga. There are a couple recent maiden winners too, so there's a lot to be shaken out here.

Awesome Strong bids for a sweep of the series and to extend his undefeated record to four in Saturday's $400,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes for state-breds at Gulfstream Park. The Awesome Slew colt faces 11 rivals as the series stretches out to 1 1/16 miles.

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Juvenile Turf

Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Pilgrim at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, has a field of 12, many promising types yet to prove themselves. Battle of Normandy stands out after finishing second in the Grade III With Anticipation at Saratoga in his last.

The nine signed on for Sunday's $100,000 Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita all have something to prove. It's 5 furlongs, also a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and a complete mystery. Watch, learn and see ya at Keeneland.

Saturday's $150,000 Laurel Futurity at Laurel Park has a field of 13 plus four entries for "main track only" with the chance that remnants of Hurricane Ian could affect proceedings.

Juvenile Fillies

Sunday's $400,000 Grade I Frizette Stakes at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, got seven takers. Leave No Trace, an Outwork filly, defends a 2-for-2 record that includes the Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga.

Lynx is looking for a series sweep and to keep her undefeated record intact in Saturday's $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes for state-breds at Gulfsteam Park. The Brethren fillies enters 3-for-3 and has nine rivals.

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Juvenile Fillies Turf

Four of the six entrants for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Miss Grillo Stakes at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, come off maiden wins.

Be Your Best is 2-for-2 with a victory in the P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga. Alluring Angel was second, beaten just a nose, in the Untapable Stakes at Kentucky Downs in her second start.

The oddsmaker found it tough to separate 11 entries for Saturday's $150,000 Selima Stakes at Laurel Park, settling on the Chad Brown-trained Private Credit as the 7-2 favorite off a maiden win at Monmouth Park. It's a "you pick 'em," though.

Also of note

Sunday's $400,000 Breeders' Stakes on the Woodbine turf, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. With different winners in the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales, no crown is on the line.

Prairie Meadows on Saturday has seven $100,000 stakes for Iowa-breds.

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