UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Beholder, seen taking the lead in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff, takes on males in Saturday's Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar. (Breeders' Cup photo)
Beholder, seen taking the lead in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff, takes on males in Saturday's Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar. (Breeders' Cup photo)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- A potential "race of the year" turned into a bit of a shambles at York in England this week, while weekend attention in North America returned to Saratoga and Del Mar.

It's Pacific Classic Day at Del Mar on Saturday. The $1 million, Grade I set piece features Beholder against some top male competition and is supported by two other graded stakes -- the lot of them Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events. And there are two more graded stakes on Sunday where the surf meets the turf.


Out east, Saratoga features its premier attraction for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade I Alabama.

Monmouth, Woodbine and Arlington Park all have graded stakes.

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Internationally, quality 2-year-olds are on display at York and Deauville.

First things first, though. About that "shambles":


Wednesday's Group 1 Juddmonte International was touted as a showdown between unbeaten Derby hero Golden Horn and the impressive Gleneagles. But things started to unravel on Tuesday as the rains fell and, after walking the course on Wednesday morning, trainer Aidan O'Brien decided the going was too deep for Gleneagles. That left Golden Horn as the overwhelming favorite -- until he proved too keen early with too little late and the only filly in the race, Arabian Queen, outfinished him at odds of some 50-1.


Silvestre de Sousa, who rode the winner, said he allowed pacemaker Dick Doughtywylie to go on the lead, figuring him a non-factor in the eventual outcome. Meanwhile, Frankie Dettori was working to keep Golden Horn within himself early, then found him laboring late over the soft ground. Golden Horn got the lead but just missed by a neck holding off the filly's second effort. The Grey Gatsby was 3 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Winning owner Jeff Smith said he had been asking himself if this year's 3-year-old fillies were as good as their male counterparts, since they had yet to mix it up. "So we thought we'd give it a go," he said. Arabian Queen had not won since the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom on June 3.

Wednesday's outcome was a bit reminiscent of the inaugural running of this stakes in 1972, when Roberto bested the prohibitive favorite, Brigadier Gerard. Roberto, in his second career, sired Dynaformer, whose influence while standing at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky is still a major force in racing. One of Dynaformer's last offspring, Danish Dynaformer, won last weekend's Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine. O'Brien said Gleneagles could reappear in the Group 1 Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Sept. 12 -- provided the going suits his taste. The Juddmonte International is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf.


Storm the Stars took the lead with a little more than a half mile left in Wednesday's Group 2 Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes and held off Bondi Beach to win by 1/2 length. Giovanni Canaletto nipped Tashaar for third. Storm the Stars, a Sea the Stars colt trained by William Haggis, finished second in the Group 1 Irish Derby and third in the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp before the York victory.

On Thursday, Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Pleascach made up some ground late to defeat Irish Oaks winner Covert Love by a neck in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks. The result continued a mixed season for the 3-year-old fillies, who have been taking turns visiting the winner's enclosure. Trainer Jim Bolger said he may try Pleascach at Longchamp, but not in the Arc -- at least not this year. "I'd love to train her as a 4-year-old," he added.

Later in the week, some top international 2-year-olds will be on display. Friday is the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, for all ages at 1,000 meters. Saturday, it's the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings at 1,200 meters. American trainer Wesley Ward has landed one for each race. Acapulco, who won the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, is likely to go favorite in the in the Nunthorpe, which is 5 furlongs and drew some much older and quite talented competition -- among them two-time Nunthorpe winner Sole Power, Goldream, Medicean Man and Muthmir. Finnegan won a 5-furlongs turf race at Pimlico in May but missed his Royal Ascot engagement after suffering a bout of colic.


They're not covering York (Yet. We're working on it!). But don't forget that U.S. racing is available at home, in your car or just about anywhere on Horse Racing Radio Network ( on Sirius XM on through local affiliates. For analysis of the big races, cast an eye to


Jazzi Top has had her problems finding running room and the same issue cropped up in Tuesday's Group 2 Prix De La Nonette at the seaside course. But this time, a gap appeared in time, Frankie Dettori got Jazzi Top through and the Danehill Dancer filly went through and on to a 1 1/4-lengths victory. Holy Moley was the best of the rest with Sainte Amirante third. Jazzi Top, with William Buick in the irons, changed course twice in the stretch run of the Group 1 Nassau Stakes and finished fifth, behind Legatissimo, Wedding Vow and others. In the Group 1 Oaks, with Dettori riding, a wall of horses impeded progress inside the final furlong and the John Gosden trainee finished fifth. Dettori said the filly continues to improve and should be competitive at the highest level.

And now, looking to the future:



Beholder rolls into Saturday's Pacific Classic as the winner of four straight races and eight of her last nine. In her last start, she won the Grade I Clement Hirsch Stakes by 7 lengths, hardly asked for her best. She has won on both coasts, she has won two Breeders' Cup races and she has won the Santa Anita Oaks. Now, trainer Richard Mandella will see what the 5-year-old Henny Hughes mare can do against male competition. That competition includes trainer Bob Baffert's duo of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern and Hoppertunity -- who finished third and fourth in the Grade II San Diego last month. The San Diego winner, Catch a Flight, also is in this field and also is trained by Mandella. Hard Aces arrives off an upset win in the Grade Gold Cup at Santa Anita in June, beating Hoppertunity by a nose and Catch a Flight by another 1 1/4 lengths. Christophe Clement brings Red Vine from the East Coast after the horse finished second in the Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth. Imperative makes his first start since finishing a surprising second behind Moreno in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic in April.



Saturday's $600,000, Grade I Alabama at Saratoga attracted seven attractive fillies, including Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria. She will be looking to bounce back from a fifth-place showing in her only intervening start -- the Grade III Delaware Oaks, where she simply lacked any punch in the stretch. She'll need plenty of punch to cope with the likes of Curalina, who has won four straight races including the Grade I Acorn and the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks in her last two outings. Also here are Fair Grounds sensation I'm a Chatterbox and Grade I Mothern Goose winner Include Betty

Eleven signed on for Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Monmouth Oaks. Among them are Grade II Indiana Oaks winner High Dollar Woman and class-droppers Eskenformoney promise.


Finnegan's Wake may have dodged a bullet by skipping last Saturday's Arlington Million, won by local hero The Pizza Man over a rain-sodden course. Instead, the 6-year-old son of Powerscourt reappears as one of nine in Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Del Mar Handicap at 9 furlongs. In his last outing he finished third behind Gabriel Charles and Twentytwenty in the Grade I Eddie Read over the Del Mar turf. But he has plenty of graded stakes experience, including win in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Ashleyluvssugar had three straight wins in California before finishing sixth in the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth last month. Ganesh has been close since shipping up from South America. Dana's Best makes his second start since arriving from Australia.


Lochte won the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes way back in January but has struggled since. He tries again -- versus just four rivals -- in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Cliff Hanger Stakes at Monmouth. He was fourth last time out in the Grade III Oceanport over the same course. Among the opponents, Inchcape and Middleburg have been knocking on the door at this level and Glenard has won two straight against lesser.

Filly & Mare Turf

Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Ontario Colleen at Woodbine finds nine 3-year-old fillies set to try 1 mile on the lawn. The three morning-line favorite are drawn inside -- Don't Leave Me, London Tower and Mississippi Delta, in that order. All three are stakes winners but each has something to prove at this level.

Turf Sprint

Eight are entered for Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Play the King Stakes at Woodbine, including last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner, Bobby's Kitten. The 4-year-old Kitten's Joy colt has not raced since that victory over No Nay Never on All Saint's Day but has been working steadily at Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown. Kaigun is entered here for his second start at Woodbine after visiting California late last year -- a trip that produced a Grade II victory in the Seabiscuit at Del Mar. Tower of Texas jumped up to win the Grade II King Edward Stakes at Woodbine going 1 mile two starts back. This is 7 furlongs. Platinum Glory and Stacked Deck, who finished 2-3 in the King Edward, also are in this heat.


Turf Mile

Multiple graded stakes winner Obviously makes his first start since fifth in the Breeders' Cup Mile in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Del Mar Mile. The 7-year-old Choisir gelding drew the outside gate in a field of 11. He finished fourth in this race last year while starting from the rail. Talco comes to this off a short rest following a victory in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita. Jimmy Bouncer is undefeated in four starts but takes a big step up for trainer Doug O'Neill. Avanzare won the Grade II Arcadia Stakes at Santa Anita in his last outing. There are several other Grade I winners here who likely will go postward at double-digit odds, so look back a few races through the past performances.

Also, The Blood-Horse reports two-time champion Wise Dan seems back from a 2014 that included a near-fatal bout with colic and a fractured cannon bone. The champ had an unrecorded work at Keeneland on Monday and trainer Charlie LoPresti said he appears on schedule to contest the Grade I Woodbine Mile on Sept. 13 en route to the Breeders' Cup Mile, the publication reported. Wise Dan, by Wiseman's Ferry, has won both those races twice en route to Horse of the Year Eclipse Awards in 2012 and 2013.



Five are entered for Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Pat O'Brien at Del Mar. Ensconsed in the middle of the gate will be Wild Dude, who comes returns from a win in the Grade I Bing Crosby over the same track a month ago. The others all have claims in what promises to be an interesting strategic heat. Keep an eye on Turnover, a lightly raced Big Brown gelding trained by Bob Baffert who had won two straight races before catching the rare sloppy track at Del Mar in his last outing and was squeezed at the start, finishing third.


Cocked and Loaded stands out from the crowd in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park on the basis of his victory in June in the Tremont at Belmont Park. However, he did finish sixth in the Grade III Sanford at Saratoga and among the dozen he will face Saturday is the promising Shogood. The latter is 2-for-2, with both wins coming over the Arlington all-weather surface that will be underhoof in the Futurity. All that aside, there are some well-bred, lightly tested youngsters in here and this has the look of a race that could come up boxcars. In the days of ladies' hats and hatpins, this might have been referred to as a "program stabber."




Hot Stones gave the Spa treatment to her eight rivals in Monday's $100,000 Saratoga Dew Stakes for New York-bred distaffers, bidding the field adieu at the top of the lane and winning by 9 1/4 lengths. Star Grazing beat the others with Flipcup a nose behind her in third. Hot Stones, a 5-year-old Bustin Stones mare, got 9 furlongs over a fast track in 1:49.87 with John Velazquez riding.

Sunray Park

Shug's Hope rallied down the lane to defeat the favorite, Tilla Cat, by 3/4 length in Tuesday's $50,000 C.O. Ken Kendrick Memorial for New Mexico-bred 2-year-old fillies. Bloss finished 4 lengths farther back in third. Shug's Hope, a Shame on Charlie filly, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 52.59 seconds with Elvin Gonzalez up.

In the companion $50,000 Totah Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old colts and geldings, Mr. Digger worked his way to the lead and edged clear to a 1 1/2-lengths win over Casey Jones Who. Seasalt N Vinegar was third and the favorite, Happy Havta Go, finished fourth. Mr. Digger, a Quinton's Gold gelding, ran 4 1/2 furlongs in 52.47 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.


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