1 of 2 | Gold Phoenix, shown winning the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, is among the favorites for Sunday's John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita. Benoit Photography, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A dozen Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" entries are up for grabs in weekend races in France, England, New York and California with the highly anticipated Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris high on the list.
The Arc winner gets a bid to the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. Three big U.S. races will help shape the Breeders' Cup Classic, with others feeding the Filly & Mare Turf, the Sprint, the Turf Sprint, the Dirt Mile and the 2-year-old turf races.
Other races around North America could provide even more Breeders' Cup contenders despite being outside the "Challenge" series.
The Arc program at Longchamp in Paris is, as always, a key to the end stage of the European calendar and a point of reference for the following year's season. And Grade 1 racing returns to Japan with Sunday's Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse.
Three races spread across the continent are likely to impact the biggest race of Breeders' Cup weekend.
Reigning Dubai World Cup champion Ushba Tesoro was an easy winner in his comeback race Wednesday in Japan and the runner-up from that $12 million Dubai race, Algiers, will try to do the same in a much tougher spot in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Woodward at Aqueduct.
Trainer Simon Crisford is pitting his 6-year-old Shamardal gelding against the likes of Zandon, Charge It, Tyson and O'Connor. All are tough enough customers, but it's worth noting that none of them won his last race.
Ushba Tesoro is headed to the Breeders' Cup Classic and any of these, including Algiers, might be on the same path with a good effort.
American Revolution and Rattle N Roll top a field of nine for Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs.
American Revolution, a 5-year-old son of Constitution trained by Todd Pletcher, has won five of 11 starts and won last year's Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.
Rattle N Roll, a 4-year-old Connect colt, came up empty late in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles in his last start for trainer Kenny McPeek, but has been dynamite at this 1 1/8 miles.
The race's namesake, venerable trainer D. Wayne Lukas, has horses in two other races on the program, but none for this one.
Defunded has been on a downward trajectory since winning the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May, finishing fourth in the Grade II San Diego and then sixth in the Grade I Pacific Classic.
Still, he's the 2-1 favorite on the morning line for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita. Perhaps that's because the Bob Baffert trainee won this race a year ago after two sub-par efforts.
His stablemate, Preakness winner National Treasure, and Pacific Classic third Slow Down Andy look to be the main competition.
The Awesome Again is the only Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" among the three weekend races.
Only four signed on for Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita, three of them probably resigned to chasing likely favorite Adare Manor.
That 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly is riding a four-race win streak, most recently the Grade I Clement Hirsch at Del Mar. Desert Dawn, second in the Clement Hirsch, defeated Adare Manor by a neck in the Grade II Santa Anita Oaks in 2022 and will try again.
Trainer Brad Cox sends Interstatedaydream along the Interstate highways from Kentucky to Saturday's $100,000 Twixt Stakes at Laurel Park, where the oddsmaker has her favored at 4-5 on the morning line. She's won both previous starts in Maryland -- last year's Grade II Black-Eyed Susan this year's Allaire DuPont.
Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Aqueduct has a tough field of nine fronted by the 1-2-3 finishers from the 2022 Longines Breeders' Cup Turf: Godolpin invader Rebel's Romance; Stone Age, a transplant from Ireland's Aidan O'Brien to Chad Brown's barn; and local heroine and last year's Turf Classic winner, War Like Goddess.
Rebel's Romance is the morning-line pick, but both he and Stone Age have something to prove as they've been less than stellar so far this year. War Like Goddess has lost two straight for the first time in her career.
Yamato ships in from Kentucky as the 2-1 morning line favorite in Saturday's $100,000 Japan Turf Cup at Laurel Park. There are several "main track only" also-eligibles who would be preferable on the main track but the weather guessers say the rain will stay away.
Southern California turf maestro Phil D'Amato has a nice trio in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita. The group is headed by Gold Phoenix, winner of his last two and three of five this year.
He also was third in this race last year, behind stablemate Masteroffoxhounds. Cash Equity completes the triumvirate.
Hong Kong Harry tops a field of nine for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II City of Hope at Santa Anita. The 6-year-old is a multiple graded stakes winner for trainer D'Amato and has been rested since a close third in the Grade I Shoemaker mile over course and distance in May.
More Than Looks, a proven stakes performer, is the morning-line pick in a big field entered for Saturday's $200,000 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs. There are plenty more prospects, though.
A diverse group of 11 will head down the unique Santa Anita hillside course in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Eddie D Stakes with Bran as the morning-line favorite. The French-bred runner was away from the races for nearly a year before finishing seventh in the Grade III Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 3.
Sunday's $100,000 Unzip Me Stakes, also down the Santa Anita hill, is for 3-year-old fillies and has a wide range of prospects, from one still a maiden to a Group 2 winner from France. Watch and learn.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Cody's Wish saw a five-race winning streak go down the drain in the Grade I Whitney Aug. 5 at Saratoga when trainer Bill Mott experimented with 1 1/8 miles.
He's back to 7 furlongs around one turn in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Vosburg at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the Qatar Racing Breeders' Cup Sprint and, on anything like his best, he's going to be tough to beat. Want to try? See if Chad Brown has found the secret to Accretive.
Zozos is a deserving morning-line favorite among seven in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Ack Ack at Churchill Downs, a "Win and You're In" for the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. The 4-year-old faded late to finish fourth going 1 1/16 miles in his last start but should appreciate this one-turn mile.
Arabian Lion didn't fire his best shot in the mud in the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga in his last outing, but the Baffert trainee showed enough in winning the Grade I Woody Stephens at Belmont Park in June to be listed favorite in a very solid field set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
Also here are C Z Rocket, second last year en route to a second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and 2021 Breeders' Cup runner-up Dr. Schivel.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Eda looks to extend her seven-race winning streak in Friday's $100,000 Grade III Chillingworth at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old Munnings filly was last seen winning the Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap on Aug. 28.
Trainer Baffert is downplaying her chances at moving on to the Breeders' Cup, telling Santa Anita publicity, "She hasn't run against those top horses from back East." She's the 4-5 favorite versus this crowd.
If jockey Junior Alvarado can work out a stalking trip for her from the inside gate in Saturday's $250,000 Gallant Bloom at Aqueduct, Carmel Swirl should be able to justify her even-money favoritism on the morning line. There are no guarantees there so have a look around at the other five.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Pilgrim Stakes at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, has a field of nine.
Most are maiden winners but Get Spooled backed up his first-race victory with a fourth-place finish in the Grade III With Anticipation at the Spa. Spirit Prince was third in the With Anticipation, but still seeks his first win.
Saturday's $150,000 Laurel Futurity is about as wide-open as they get. Note the woefully named Thedingoateyobaby and the more impressive Bolt of Aurum are "main track only" entries.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Miss Grillo Stakes at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, has a dozen set to go.
Gala Brand is 2-for-2 with a victory over colts in the Grade III With Anticipation and the Violence filly, named for a James Bond girl, look like the goods. Several are still maidens.
A promising field of 10 is set for Saturday's $150,000 Selima Stakes at Laurel Park with Saratoga winner Brocknardini and Kentucky Downs victress Yatta among the morning-line favorites.
Around the world, around the clock
The Group 1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the European season, and there's no shortage of intrigue about Sunday's renewal.
The favorite, Ace Impact, was super impressive in winning the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby in June and remains undefeated after four starts. He will have to show he can go the 1 1/2 miles.
The Irish Coolmore partners ponied up €120,000 to supplement Continuous to the field, as did the German connections of Deutsches Derby winner Fantastic Moon.
Through Seven Seas is the lone Japanese entry and a long shot one at that. Hukum and Westover, the 1-2 finishers in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, are the main hopes for England.
Considering how things have gone for the year-long Frankie Dettori farewell tour, it would be foolish not to consider his mount, Free Wind, a well-bred and well-connected second in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in her last start. Why not?
The weather, for a pleasant change, is expected to be nice enough to leave the course in decent shape.
The Parisian weekend starts Saturday with the 4,000-meter Prix Cadran and the 2,800-meter Prix Royallieu for fillies and mares, both Group 1 races, and three Group 2's.
The Arc is surrounded by the Prix de l'Opera Longines for fillies and mares at 2,000 meters, the Group 1 Qatar Prix de la Foret at 7 furlongs, the Qatar Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines for 2-year-olds and up at 5 furlongs and two Group 1 heats for 2-year-olds -- the Qatar Prix Jean Luc-Lagardare for colts and geldings and the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac for fillies.
There are five Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races on the Longchamp weekend: The Arc itself for the Longines Turf, the Opera for the Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf, the Marcel Boussac for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, the Lagardere for the Juvenile Turf and the Abbaye for the Turf Sprint.
Saturday's Newmarket program is a showcase for 2-year-olds with the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes for colts and the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes for fillies plus the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge for colts and geldings.
The Group 1's are run at 6 furlongs with the Royal Lodge at 1 mile. Friday's feature is the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Rockfel Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 7 furlongs.
The Royal Lodge is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and the Rockfel is the same for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Randwick has three top-level events Saturday: The James Squire Metropolitan at 2,400 meters, the TAB Epsom Stakes at 1,600 meters and the Darley Flight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1,600 meters.
Grade 1 action returns to Japan with Sunday's Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama. One of two major sprints on the Japanese racing calendar, the 1,200-meter dash looks pretty wide open this year.
The 16-runner field is heavy on relative youth with two 3-year-olds and nine 4-year-olds so some fresh talent may emerge. One of the 4-year-olds, Jasper Krone, an American-bred colt, has won four of his last five starts including a traditional prep for this race.