1 of 2 | Equinox, shown winning last weekend's Japan Cup, has been retired from racing and will go to stud in Japan. Photo courtesy of Japan Racing Association
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The Grade I Hollywood Derby and Matriarch Stakes and the Grade II Cigar Mile, a continent apart, top the weekend's U.S. horse racing agenda, while some accomplished international runners line up for the Champions Cup in Japan.
In the sad but expected news department, last weekend's Japan Cup winner, Equinox, the world's top-rated horse, has been retired and will move on to his second career of siring stars for the future.
That's then. This is now:
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Cigar Mile at Aqueduct has a contentious field of 12, including Senor Buscador, a 5-year-old who cuts back from the 1 1/4 miles of the Breeders' Cup Classic, where he finished a late-running seventh.
Trainer Todd Fincher says the horse can tell the difference in distance when he lines up for the start and makes his own adjustment. "It doesn't make sense," the trainer acknowledged. "I just think he knows the difference."
Hoist the Gold comes to the Cigar Mile off a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Chad Brown saddles three and Cherie DeVaux, not to be ignored off her 2023 record, installs Pipeline into the outside stall.
They came from all points of the compass for Tuesday's $300,000 Zia Park Derby and when the dust had settled it was California shipper Two Rivers Over out front by 2 lengths from Heroic Move.
The favorite, Red Route One, winner of the Grade III West Virginia Derby and fourth in the Preakness, was third.
Two Rivers Over, trained by Doug O'Neill, finished 1 1/16 miles in track-record time of 1:41.25 and has four wins from his last five starts.
Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Go For Wand Stakes at Aqueduct, a 1-mile affair, has last year's winner, Dr B, back.
The 5-year-old has put together a nice career while largely flying beneath the radar for trainer Robert Reid Jr. Ditto Gerrymander for trainer Brown, who also has promising 3-year-old Good Sam.
Already in the books: Flying Connection, the overwhelming favorite, took over in the stretch run of Tuesday's $300,000 Zia Park Oaks and got away to a 5-lengths victory over Love Tank.
The Nyquist filly, trained by Fincher, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.29 with Joel Rosario up. She finished sixth in the Kentucky Oaks and second in the Grade III Torrey Pines at Del Mar.
Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar features the first four finishers from the Grade II Twilight Derby at Santa Anita -- Seal Team, Silver Knott, Webslinger and Reiqist -- all of whom were within 1/2 length at the wire. Several East Coast and Kentucky invaders might have a say, though.
Filly & Mare Turf
Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar is a real national showdown with a full-scale invasion from New York and Kentucky set to face some talented locals. This is one to enjoy and also to watch as year-end honors are at stake.
There are lots of ways to play the 10-horse field signed on for Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct. There are plenty of maiden winners and some more experienced runners from big-name barns.
The race is part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series with 10 points to the winner, and five, three, two and one for the next four.
Also in this division: Saturday's $300,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes for state-breds at Gulfstream Park; Saturday's $100,000 Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs; and Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Cecil B. DeMille on the Del Mar turf.
Past-posting: Trainer Steve Asmussen shipped American Rascal in from Kentucky for Tuesday's $100,000 Zia Park Juvenile, and the Stonestreet homebred Curlin colt made the trip worthwhile, winning by 5 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. He finished 13th in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Demoiselle at Aqueduct has nine takers. Life Talk looks like the class of the bunch after reporting third in the Grade I Frizette in October and fourth in the Breeders' Cup.
Shimmering Allure and Vino Rouge wheel right back after finishing first and second, respectively, in the Nov. 5 Tempted at Aqueduct. This could be ripe for a surprise and it's also on the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" series with points as in the Remsen.
Also in the division: Saturday's $300,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes for state-breds at Gulfstream Park; Saturday's $100,000 Sandpiper at Tampa Bay Downs; and Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Jimmy Durante on the Del Mar turf.
Already in the books: Candy Aisle took a narrow lead in the stretch in Tuesdays' $100,000 Zia Park Princess, and then held off TX Women for Arts, winning by a neck. The Gun Runner filly, trained by Fincher, now is 2-for-3.
The Claiming Crown
The Claiming Crown returns to Fair Grounds Saturday with eight races for horses who have started in at least one claiming race for a tag of $35,000 or less, in 2022 or 2023.
It's designed as a Breeders' Cup-like event for horses that normally would not have a chance at semi-glory. There are big, competitive fields and lots of wagering opportunities.
Around the world, around the clock
Sunday's Champions Cup at Chukyo Racecourse is one of only two Grade 1 dirt races conducted annually by the Japan Racing Association and, accordingly, draws some top talent.
This year's version lacks one of Japan's top dirt runners in Panthalassa, who instead ran in last Sunday's Japan Cup, finishing 12th after showing the way.
But the remaining field is credible enough to throw up some other candidates for the rich dirt races early next year in the Middle East and later elsewhere around the world.
Among them, 2022 UAE Derby winner Crown Pride and 2021 Champions Cup victor T O Keynes stand out. The race is 1,800 meters.