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Fev Rover, shown winning last month's Grade I Beverly D. Stakes at Colonial Downs, is the favorite for Saturday's Grade II Canadian Stakes at Woodbine. Photo courtesy of Colonial Downs
Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Weekend horse racing is all about the turf with seven Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" grass races on the program, two at Kentucky Downs and five at Ireland's two big racecourses.
Two-year-old competition continues to heat up on both turf and dirt at Del Mar, Kentucky Downs, Colonial and Gulfstream Park.
On the world scene, those five overseas Breeders' Cup races include a rematch of the top two from the Epsom Derby in the Irish Champion Stakes; Longchamp in Paris hosts important prep races for the Arc d'Triomphe weekend; and the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup is the feature in England.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club opens its new season Sunday at Sha Tin with one of the top local stars set to go in the first race. That's a buzz for the fans, but reigning champion jockey Zac Purton worries there might be a price to pay later in the year.
Red Knight and Another Mystery, the first- and third-place finishers, respectively, from last year, return to contest one of the biggest, or at least most lucrative, events of the weekend -- Saturday's $1.7 million Grade II Kentucky Downs Turf Cup, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Red Knight was a decent third in the Grade I United Nations in his last, but again faces Therapist, winner of that race. Another Mystery, a Team Block Illinois-bred, has had a short break since a ninth-place finish in his last start. He's usually close at the end and was third in this race in 2022.
Others to consider in the Turf Cup: Verstappen, runner-up in the Grade II Bowling Green at Saratoga in his last; Santin, last seen second in the Grade Arlington Million at Colonial Downs; Me and Mr. C, winner of the Ellis Park preview for this race; and the aforementioned Therapist.
Saturday's $500,000 Grade III New Kent County Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs lured a field of 11.
Topping the morning line is Program Trading, a Lope de Vega ridgling trained by Chad Brown. He remains undefeated after three starts, the most recent the Grade I Saratoga Derby.
Salute the Stars moves back to the turf after finishing seventh in the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park. Brown also has Activist Investing, a progressive Kingman colt who bears watching.
Temple and Sy Dog are the morning-line picks for Saturday's $150,000 Colonial Cup, 1 1/2 miles on the turf at Colonial Downs.
Rockemperor makes his first trip to Woodbine as the favorite in a field of eight for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Pattison Singspiel Stakes. The Brown charge looks for a big turnaround with the change of scenery as he has only one win from his last 10 starts with the rest being off the board.
Filly & Mare Turf
Thursday's $500,000 One Dreamer Stakes is one lap around the unique, 1 5/8-mile course at Kentucky Downs. A good case can be made for at least five of the six entries, although Vergara looks good as the 2-1 favorite.
Saturday's $250,000 Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar looks like a wide-open scramble with a half dozen set to go 1 1/8 miles out of the infield chute. Closing Remarks, Neige Blanche and Turnerloose are the nominal morning-line picks.
Mission of Joy, Alpha Bella and Idea Generation are the morning-line picks among eight entered for Saturday's $250,000 Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs.
Fev Rover, winner of the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes in her last outing, is the morning-line favorite in a tough field of seven lined up for Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian) Grade II Canadian at Woodbine.
Fev Rover also won this race last year. The 2022 Queens Plate and Woodbine Oaks winner Moira and Grade II Dance Smartly winner Miss Dracarys figure as the scariest competition.
White Frost and New Year's Eve top the morning line for Saturday's $1 million Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf but others in the seven-horse field look capable of competing.
Saturday's $1 million Grade II Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, features Cogburn and Nobals, the first two finishers in the Grade III Troy Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 5.
One Timer won the preview for this at Ellis Park with a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. Dream Shake might be hitting top form in his fourth start off a year-long vacation.
Saturday's $1 million Grade II Mint Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs is another wide-open affair. Bay storm was second, beaten a nose, in the 2022 edition and won this year's preview at Ellis Park, making her the favorite.
Quaria Comet was second in that preview heat and won her only previous start over the course in a maiden race last year. Quaria Comet's jockey-trainer combination of Joe Talamo and Paulo Lobo also has a great record at the course.
The field of 16 3-year-olds entered for Saturday's $1 million Grade II Franklin-Simpson Stakes at Kentucky Downs is so wide open the morning line, in a rarity, doesn't have an actual favorite.
Mo Stash and also-eligible Mischievous Angel share the nod at 4-1 with a bunch of others right behind them. Twelve will start.
Saturday's $150,000 Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs has Nobals cross-entered as the favorite. Souper Quest has looked impressive for trainer Mark Casse.
Bob Baffert has two of the seven in Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Runhappy Del Mar Futurity. Prince of Jericho is undefeated after two starts and won the Best Pal Stakes earlier in the meeting. Mirahmadi remains winless after three goes. The others have a few lengths or more to make up on the Prince.
How often are Del Mar patrons treated to the sight of a horse whose only previous starts came at Energy Downs 307 Horse Racing, Wyoming Downs and Sweetwater Downs?
That's Valiant Knight, who's only 2-for-6 at those venues. Viewed the other way, he and Prince of Jericho are the only horses in the field with two wins.
Saturday's $100,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park kicks off a three-race series that's always worth watching.
The usual local hopefuls are joined this year by a few who came up a little short in ambitious placings at Saratoga, notably Dickens. The Adios Charlie colt finished third in the Grade III Sanford despite unruly pre-race antics.
Sunday's $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile has a full field with Aspenite, a Constitution colt trained by Steve Asmussen, the morning-line favorite. Value Engineer, a Twirling Candy colt from the always-dangerous Mike Maker barn, also has support.
Trainer Chris Block has been known to spring some tasty upsets with the likes of Tough Little Nut, a Town and Country Racing colt who won his first start on the Hawthorne lawn.
No Nay Mets looks for his third win in Saturday's $125,000 Exacta Systems Rosie's Stakes at Colonial Downs. The No Nay Never colt finished ninth in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot but returned to win the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park in a romp.
Toupie, a Wertheimer homebred filly, is one to watch despite taking on colts. This is 5 1/2 furlongs.
Saturday's $125,000 Kitten's Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs sends the young ones 1 1/16 miles with a baker's dozen set to load in the gate. There are some expensive colts from big-name connections available at long odds here.
Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Del Mar Juvenile Turf has a field of nine. Only four of them have a previous win and one of those, Sea Singer, got the job done at Leopardstown in Ireland in his last start.
Tamara is the morning-line favorite among 14 in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I FanDuel Del Mar Debutante in part because she won her first start easily Aug. 19 over this track and in part because of her dam, four-time Eclipse Award winner and Hall of Fame inductee Beholder.
There are some other nice ones here, though, including a couple fast ones by Flameaway, Grade III Sorrento winner Dreamfyre and first-out turf winner Julias Dream.
None of the nine fillies entered for Saturday's $100,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park has yet distinguished herself, leaving this heat wide open.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Sunday's $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies Stakes is full with an also-eligible. Irish-bred Kodiac Wintergreen is the morning-line favorite after a second at Belmont Park and a victory at Saratoga for trainer Rusty Arnold.
Recent European imports also top the morning line for Saturday's $100,000 Del Mar Fillies Juvenile Turf. Angioletta came from France and won her first U.S. start for trainer Doug O'Neill. Loterie, an Irish import, was second in that same race for Phil D'Amato.
Around the world, around the clock
French Guineas and Oaks winner Blue Rose Cen looks to atone for a fourth-place finish in her last outing when she lines up in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.
The loss came in the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes against older rivals at Goodwood Aug. 3. One who finished ahead of her that day, Above the Curve, returns for another go.
The preview of some of the Arc weekend action also includes the Group 2 Prix Niel for 3-year-olds and the Group 2 Prix Foy, both at 2,400 meters.
Auguste Rodin and King of Steel, the 1-2 finishers in the 244th Derby at Epsom Downs, meet again in Saturday's Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Auguste Rodin went on from that to complete the Derby Double in the Irish equivalent with King of Steel absent. They met again in the King George at Ascot on July 29.
King of Steel finished third in that, with Auguste Rodin inexplicably tossing in the towel early, eased home by Ryan Moore. Other dangers include Shadwell homebred Alflaila, Luxembourg and Nashwa.
Trainer Dermott Weld has the heavy favorite in a field of 13 set for the Group 1 Coolmore America Justify Matron, a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Tahiyra, an Aga Khan homebred by Siyouni, has four wins from five starts including the 1,000 Guineas and was last seen victorious in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. She also won last year's Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.
Saturday's Group 2 Golden Fleece Stakes for 2-year-olds, a "Win and You're In" for the Prevagen Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, has a field of eight, three of them trained by Aidan O'Brien, two by one of his sons, Joseph Patrick and one by another son, Donnacha Aidan.
The overwhelming favorite is Diego Velazquez, a Frankel colt with a distinctive white face who won his only previous start, at the Curragh, with ease for the elder O'Brien.
The action shifts to the Currah Sunday with a field of eight entered for the Group 1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger. At least half the field is rated to have a chance including the Aidan O'Brien-trained filly Emily Dickinson.
The Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Flying Five Stakes is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes for 2-year-old fillies is a "Win and You're In" for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
O'Brien saddles the even-money favorite in the Moyglare Stud, Ylang Ylang. Highfield Princess, Bradsell and Art Power are well regarded in the Flying Five.
The day also includes the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National for 2-year-olds with O'Brien again fielding the favorite in City of Troy.
One wouldn't think much of the chances of a horse if three of his last four runs elicited the comments: "Reared start." "Reared start and slowly away." "Dwelt start." But, since Shaquille rallied to win all of those, against talented fields no less, and now has six-race in streak in progress, he's well-enough fancied to be the odds-on favorite in Saturday's Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup.
James Doyle returns to ride and told a pre-race media call: "I can't remember a horse missing the break by 5 lengths and winning a Group 1 sprint. Once you get that slow start you're almost out of the game."
Shaquille gave away all of 5 lengths before winning the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket, He trailed by far more after the start of the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, then bulled through rivals to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a remarkable performance.
The new season opens with a bang Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse with the imposing Lucky Sweynesse having a go in the fourth race.
The 5-year-old Manfred Man trainee reeled off six straight wins, three of them at the Group 1 level, after an unlucky sixth in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint in December.
Lucky Sweynesse's jockey, Zac Purton, fresh off his sixth championship season, said Super Typhoon Saola's brush with Hong Kong has created issues.
"That typhoon certainly has wreaked havoc to their preparations and got them out of their rhythm a little bit," Purton said, referring to all the local horses.
"And it's not great when you need to trial on a Monday and it's hot and then have your first start on the Sunday six days later, carrying 135 pounds -- giving 20 pounds away to the rest of the field -- when it's going to be equally as hot."
Lucky Sweynesse still will be a prohibitive favorite against this bunch but Purton said the concern is, "The horse is a trier. He's going to give everything he's got. So the risk is after that. Going forward, how much does that take out of him?"