1 of 2 | Caravel, the reigning Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint champ, is among the favorites for Sunday's Grade II Franklin Stakes at Keeneland. Photo by Carolyn Simancik/Eclipse Sportswire, courtesy of Breeders' Cup
Oct. 13 (UPI) -- With the last great surge of pre-Breeders' Cup qualifying races done and tallied, the weekend horse racing slate focuses on some high-level turf events, headed by the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, with Godolphin raiders heavily involved in all of them.
Keeneland, Aqueduct and Woodbine also are in the mix in a relatively light program.
The global scene contributes to the weekend festivities with the Grade 1 Shuka Sho in Japan, the Group 1 Fillies Mile in England, The Everest in Australia and an important early Group 2 test in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, cancel the Frankie Dettori retirement tour. He's neither shy nor retiring and, rather than hanging up his tack at year's end as he announced long ago, said this week he simply will move to California and keep on riding in 2024.
Ace Impact, however, is retiring. The Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero heads off to stud as one of the great ones, leaving up in the air how great he might have been given more time on track.
Let's have a look at the weekend slate.
Filly & Mare Turf
Mawj is the 2-1 morning-line favorite Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland, but that rating is a bit of a leap of faith.
The Godolphin homebred, by Exceed and Excel, is 3-for-3 this season. But the first two wins came in minor events in Dubai and her upset victory in the Group 1 Qipco 1,000 Guineas was way back in early May.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor sent Mawj out for a gallop on the Limekilns at Newmarket last week under Oisin Murphy, and reportedly hopes to use the QE II as a stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup Mile, then a return to Dubai for a 2024 campaign.
Standing in her way may be French-bred Elusive Princess, who was competitive in 3-year-old events in France this season including a second in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary and fifth in the Group 1 Prix de Diane or French Oaks.
She makes her second U.S. appearance after winning the Grade III Saratoga Oaks Invitational on Aug. 4.
Up northeast at Aqueduct, Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Sands Point Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct has three atop the morning line in a field of 10.
Again it's a Godolphin runner, this one from the Appleby yard, leading the odds board at 5-2. Eternal Hope, whose first New York race was a victory in the Grade II Jockey Club Oaks Invitational last month over the Aqueduct grass, was 2-for-5 in Europe, but seventh in the Oaks at Epsom Downs.
Del Mar Oaks runner-up Be Your Best and consistent Soviet Express are the best-fancied Americans.
Bold Act and Red Knight top a full field for Friday's $300,000 Grade III Sycamore Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile jaunt on the Keeneland greensward.
Godolphin is a big player here, too, as Charlie Appleby brings Bold Act, a 3-year-old New Approach colt whose last three starts were in France.
Red Knight is three times Bold Act's age and exits a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs. He won that race last year, then finished eighth in the Sycamore and 11th in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
It's a very competitive field from top to bottom.
Reigning Breeders' Cup winner Caravel is the morning-line favorite in Sunday's $350,000 Grade II Franklin Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland.
She won her first three starts of 2023, but caution is on the menu as she reported fourth in the Grade III Troy Stakes at Saratoga in her last and the other eight in the lineup include the likes of Wakanaka, Twilight Gleaming and Star Guest.
Bubble Rock and Poppy Flower headline in a cast of eight for Saturday's $125,000 Floral Park Stakes at Aqueduct.
Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Matron Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course looks like a wide-open event with 12 entered and Souper Hoity Toity a lukewarm 3-1 pick on the morning line.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Loyalty and Our Flash Drive are the morning-line picks among 11 takers for Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Fashion Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course.
Juvenile / Juvenile Fillies
Ten youngsters are entered for Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes at Woodbine, three of them fillies. The companion Glorious Song Stakes is restricted to fillies and drew a field of eight. Both are 7 furlongs on the all-weather course.
Around the world, around the clock
The Everest, Australia's richest race at AUS$20 million, is set for Saturday with a field of 12 to go 1,200 meters. As a buy-in race, it's not graded. But over its short history, the event has become a key point on the island continent's racing schedule.
The 12-horse field has lots of possibilities but the antepost favorites are Think About It and I Wish I Win. I Wish I Win has seen his odds drop after drawing the inside gate. Think About It got a plum in No. 5. Private Eye, Cylinder and Hawaii Five Oh also have their supporters.
Saturday's Group 1 Dewhurst for 2-year-olds features Coolmore's sensation City of Troy. The Justify colt is odds-on in a field of eight after winning his first two starts beyond impressively.
Ryan Moore, arguably the world's best jockey, had trouble pulling City of Troy up after his career debut July 1 at the Curragh. Moore made adjustments for the colt's second start, the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket, and still had trouble getting him to gear down after the 7 furlongs.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien said City of Troy never seems to get tired, which he said is very unusual. There are other talented youngsters in the Dewhurst bunch but they will have to step things up if City of Troy is still switched on.
Shuwari, a New Bay filly trained by Ollie Sangster, is the best-fancied of eight 2-year-olds left in for Friday's Group 1 Bet365 Fillies Mile -- a race won in 2014 by City of Troy's dam, Forever Together.
Shuwari won her first two starts and finished second in the Rockfell Stakes in her last. Aidan O'Brien brings over two -- Ylang Ylang with Ryan Moore to ride and outsider Brilliant. Ylang Ylang had been considered for the Dewhurst.
Liberty Island bids for a sweep of the Japanese Filly Triple Crown races in Sunday's Grade 1 Shuka Sho at the newly renovated Kyoto Racecourse.
The Duramente filly, with Australian blood on the bottom of her pedigree, has been so dominant in five previous races that a win on Sunday would boost her right to the top echelon of Japanese stars.
Liberty Island won at first asking last year, finished second in the Grade 3 Artemis Stakes in October, the won the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in December.
She has raced only twice so far in 2023 -- victories in the Grade I Oka Sho or Japanese 1,000 Guineas on April 9 and Grade I Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks on May 21.
Her main competition Sunday appears to be Harper, who was fourth in the Oka Sho and second, 6 lengths back of Liberty Island, in the Yushun Himba. Kona Coast also has claims
The Longines Hong Kong International Races are just two months away and firmly on the radar of the local trainers fortunate enough to have contenders.
Among them, California Spangle will chase consecutive wins in Sunday's HK$5.35 million Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap at 1,600 meters.
The field also includes Russian Emperor, who who clearly is at his best going longer and warms up for the Internationals, as well Money Catcher, Senor Toba, Straight Arron, Encountered and Tourbillon Diamond and Beauty Joy.