WASHINGTON, June 26 (UPI) -- Breeders' Cup berths are up for grabs this weekend in California and Japan while in France, Treve on Sunday hopes to take another step toward a potential third straight win in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
In Japan, Sunday's Takarazuka Kinen finds Gold Ship looking for a hat trick of his own as he has won the last two editions of the fan-friendly Group 1 event that opens the door to the Breeders' Cup Turf. The California race is the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, where we'll see whether Finnegan's Wake can run on the dirt as well as he does on the grass. If so, he's welcome to take on tougher foes in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Treve goes in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud but won't meet Cirrus Des Aigles, who is sidelined for a short time with a bruised fetlock.
It's the biggest weekend of the year at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, with some hot heats on both Friday night and Saturday night. Santa Anita wraps things up until later in the year. And now that it's summer, Churchill Downs will conclude its spring meeting with a stakes-packed Saturday night card that includes important races for the youngsters.
Before we get any older, let's get going.
Saturday's $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita brings together a diverse field of 11, including Finnegan's Wake, who would be making a rare start on the main track if trainer Peter Miller approves of the outside post. The 6-year-old son of Powerscourt finished a close fourth in the Grade I Manhattan at Belmont Park three weeks ago and won the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. "If it works, it opens up a lot of options," trainer Peter Miller told The Blood-Horse. "If it doesn't work out, we can always go back to grass." He also noted, "None of the top horses are in there." The field, however, does include the top three from the recent Grade II Californian over the same track -- Catch a Flight, Moreno and Hard Aces. Trainer Bob Baffert has entered Hoppertunity at 1 1/4 miles for the first time after the Any Given Saturday colt finished third in his last two starts going a furlong shorter. Majestic City comes off a victory in the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas. The race is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Carve won last year's Prairie Meadows Cornhusker in the slop and the 5-year-old First Samurai gelding returns as a likely candidate for Saturday night's $300,000, Grade III renewal. Ten rivals include last year's Grade III Iowa Derby winner Jessica's Star, 2015 Breeder's Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Tapiture as well as graded stakes winners Call Me George and Golden Lad. Page McKenney finished second to Commissioner in his last race, the Grade III Pimlico Special. Also in good form for this are Ulanbator, Lahshad, Smack Smack and Gavroch -- some at long odds on the morning line.
Saturday evening's $250,000, Grade III Iowa Derby has a smattering of horses that exited the Triple Crown trail early. But they are overshadowed by the top three from the recent Prairie Mile -- Hillbilly Royalty, Paid Admission and Allied Air Raid. Hillbilly Royalty, a Langfuhr gelding, actually fits both categories, having finished a close fifth in the Grade III Southwest at Oaklawn Park in February. Trainer Eddie Kenneally brings Bent on Bourbon from Churchill Downs, where he has been improving quickly. Private Prospect won last year's Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile and comes to this off a third in the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.
An interesting mix of eight fillies is set to contest Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows. Sarah Sis, a Sharp Humor filly, was competitive with the best in the land earlier in the year at Oaklawn Park and won the Grade III Honeybee there. But she faded late in the Grade III Fantasy in Arkansas and then was pulled up without finishing the Kentucky Oaks. She did return to win the Panthers Stakes at Prairie Meadows on May 30 and has been working strongly at Arlington for trainer Ingrid Mason. Sweet Success comes off a win in Louisville and stretches out. Trianer Donnie Von Hemel has had Paige going long, going short and going on turf and never out of the money in five tries. Sweetgrass, Sweet Opportunity and Pangburn all have claims, the latter getting first-time Lasix.
Last year's winner, Diva's Diamond, is back seeking an encore in Friday night's $100,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows. She exits a minor stakes win over the same oval. Her six rivals include Flashy American, who is seen more often in graded stakes company, and More Than Even, who has been dominant in Oklahoma, mostly against state-bred company. Annuity and Ketel Twist are worth a look.
The favorites for Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Mother Goose drew inside and outside in the 10-filly field. Embellish the Lace is the narrow pick on the morning line and will start from the rail, seeking her third straight win. Wonder Gal, third in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and third in the Grade I Acorn earlier this month, starts on the outside. Eskenformoney, second in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks but 10th in the Kentucky Oaks, starts from the No. 9 gate. And Include Betty, winner of the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn and second in the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan, starts from No. 2.
Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Triple Bend at Santa Anita features the top three from the recent Grade II Kona Gold -- Masochistic, San Onofre and Sahara Sky. San Onofre came back from that effort to finish second to Distinctiv Passion in the Grade III Los Angeles and the third-place horse from that heat, Wild Dude, also is in Saturday's field. Blue Tone, Appealing Tale and Holy Lute round out a talented cast.
Friday night's $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows provides a rematch between $1 million earner Delaunay and the horse who nipped that one at the wire in their last race, Bobcat Jim. Delaunay finished second in this event last year, losing by 1/2 length to Work All Week in a race that deserved more attention than it got at the time. Bobcat Jim has been improving steadily and has two straight wins to his credit. It's not a two-horse race, with Den's Legacy and Z Rockstar in the field.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Friday night's $100,000 Saylorville at Prairie Meadows drew Sugar Shock, a graded stakes winner sprinting who has struggled as trainer Doug Anderson tried to stretch her out. Back at 6 furlongs and training well, she could be tough for nine rivals. Herekittykitty finished second in the Grade III Winning Colors at Churchill Downs in her last start. Yucca won the Prairie Rose Stakes over the track in her last outing.
He's Comin in Hot fits his name in Saturday evening's $100,000, Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. The Early Flyer colt finished third at Keeneland in his first start, second in Louisville last month and then kicked away to a 4 1/2-lengths victory two weeks ago, also at Churchill Downs. Only three of the other five are winners with one of those, Shoot Craps, scoring on the turf at Belmont. The Bashford Manor is 6 furlongs on the dirt.
Seven of the eight fillies set for Saturday night's $100,000 Debutante at Churchill Downs are coming off their first win and the eighth finished second in her first start. The three top picks on the morning line all hail from the Steve Asmussen barn. Adhara, a Cowboy Cal filly, is the morning-line pick off an impressive start over the course last month. Areolite, a daughter of Tapit, had to battle to victory in her only previous start, also under the Twin Spires. And Thievery, by Valid Expectations, won at first asking up the interstate at Indiana Grand last month.
Sunday's $150,000, Grade III San Juan Capistrano at about 1 3/4 miles is the traditional swan song -- well, swallow song -- for the Santa Anita Spring meeting. Seven are set for the marathon. Going Somewhere, a Brazilian-bred, French-raced 5-year-old, might be logical as he has run well enough at distances as long as 2 1/2 miles. He hasn't won much, though.
Frac Daddy and Sky Flight drew the inside posts for Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Firecracker at Churchill Downs and figure to draw a lot of support. Frac Daddy faded from the lead to finish second behind The Pizza Man in the Opening Verse at Churcill Downs last month in his 2015 debut and first start in 10 months and figures to benefit from that outing. Sky Flight also coughed up a lead late in his only previous start this year after winning the Tropical Park Derby at the end of last year's campaign. Departing finished third in the Opening Verse in his first-ever start on the grass and could pick up the pieces after any speed duel. Hammers Terror can be a terror on any given day and appears to favor the track.
Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park at 1 1/16 miles drew an overflow field of 11 and three also-eligibles. The race appears to be a huge toss up, with runners in from all over the map and some with European credentials. This is a summertime, Jersey shore "you pick 'em".
Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Royal Heroine at Santa Anita got a well-matched field of 10 fillies and mares, including graded stakes winners Fanticola, Blingismything, Stormy Lucy and Queen of The Sand. Others, including the improving Birdlover, are stakes-placed and Generosidade was a Group 1 winner in Brazil before a brief detour to France.
Curlin's Fox, Avenge and Prize Exhibit look likely among nine entered for Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Senorita for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita. Prize Exhibit, formerly campaigned in England, has been competitive without winning in her last three outings, all stakes. Avenge has won three straight races but steps up in company and stretches out from 6 1/2 furlongs. Curlin's Fox was fourth in the Santa Anita Oaks and won easily in her comeback after a freshening. Most of the others show promise.
Treve, winner of the last two editions of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is the marquee attraction in Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in France. The mare is pointing to an unprecedented third Arc and trainer Criquette Head-Maarek says Treve is fit and ready. The field was to have included the venerable Cirrus Des Aigles but he is sitting it out with an injury described as minor. Among the rivals expected to go are Flintshire and Dolnyia.
Investec Oaks winner Qualify takes on colts Saturday in the Group 1 Irish Derby at the Curragh. The competition is expected to comprise seven colts, including Investec Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs. Trainer Aidan O'Brien supplemented Qualify to Saturday's 1 1/2-miles race and also saddles Highland Reel, the second-place finisher in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club in France, as well as Geovanni Canaletto and Kilimanjaro, who ran fourth and sixth in the Derby, respectively. Radanpour, undefeated in three starts, will carry the colors of the Aga Khan while Storm the Stars exits a third-place finish in the Derby.
Sunday's Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh finds Legatissimo, who finished a short head behind Qualify in the Oaks, among five 3-year-olds taking on older fillies and mares. Others include Diamondsandrubies, fourth at Epsom, and Pleascach, second to Curvy in the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Ascot. The older contingent includes Rizeena, second in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Ascot; Madame Chiang, winner of last fall's British Champions Filly & Mare Stakes (cross-entered at Saint-Cloud); and Secret Gesture, second in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York and fifth last fall in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Brooch, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly, is undefeated in four starts while climbing the class ladder for trainer Khalid Abdulla and trainer Dermot Weld.
Some of the big names of Japanese racing are in Sunday's Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse, which makes sense since fans get to vote for the horses they want to see in the field for the 2,200-meters test. Four of the top 10 vote-getters, Gold Ship, Lachesis, Toho Jackal and One and Only, are actually in the field of 16. Gold Ship should be the overwhelming favorite in a race that offers a "Win and You're In" berth for the Breeders' Cup Turf. Gold Ship already has won this race twice and comes off a victory in the Group 1 Tenno Sho Spring. Last year's second, Curren Mirotic, also is in Sunday's field.
On Wednesday, Hokko Tarumae, fifth in the Dubai World Cup, came from well off the pace to win the Group 1 Teio Sho at Ohi by 3/4 length over Chrysolite. Happy Sprint finished third. Hokko Tarumae is a 6-year-old son of Cherokee Run.