WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- The Cox Plate in Australia boasts a tough international field, some of Hong Kong's top horses will be on display, England hosts its final Group 1 race of the year and Japan wraps up its Triple Crown in a worldwide weekend parade of top racing.
Things are relatively calm in North America as the Breeders' Cup World Championships loom only a week away at Keeneland.
Let's weave together a report.
Some of the top horses in Hong Kong will be on display Sunday in the HK Group 2 Premier Bowl at 1,200 meters and the HK Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy -- with Not Listenin'tome hoping to prove he belongs in that company. The 5-year-old Dylan Thomas gelding clocked some top rivals in the HK Group 3 National Day Cup at 1,000 meters in his last race, finishing 2 lengths ahead of Super Jockey. "He's bucking his brand off at the moment and he seems to have improved in his work since that facile win the other day," said trainer John Moore. "He should be the favorite." That's a big claim, with the likely opponents including Lucky Nine, Amber Sky, Gold-Fun and Peniaphobia -- not to mention Able Friend and Aerovelocity. The former is making his first start since a surprisingly poor performance in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. Areovelocity is gearing up for the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint in December. A victory in that race would earn Aerovelocity's folks a US$ 1 million bonus from the Global Sprint Challenge.
The second feature includes Dan Excel, Dominant, Rewarding Hero, Helene Happy Star and Harbour Master -- all Moore trainees and all group stakes-placed. "Those horses are all on the road to the Jockey Club races in November and then the December internationals," said Moore. "I'm excited to have our Group horses out and en route to the invitation races in December. We can get them back in full swing now." Again, there's plenty of competition, including Blazing Speed and Military Attack
Saturday's Group 1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley has it all among the 14 starters -- international intrigue, the young getting weight from their elders, vets and rising stars. Aidan O'Brien brings Highland Reel in from Ireland and Ryan Moore comes along for the ride. The Galileo colt comes off a fourth-place finish in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, albeit against some of the best. Peter Chapple-Hyam has shipped Arod and engaged Craig Williams. Arod was second to Solow in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes in his last outing. The locals are well represented, too, with Criterion, Fawkner, Kermadec and Winx leading the local brigade.
Incredibly, Saturday marks the final Group 1 event of the flat racing season, the Racing Post Trophy for 2-year-olds at Doncaster. The event pits two of the top prospects for next year's Investec Derby -- the John Gosden-trained Foundation and Deauville, handled by Aidan O'Brien. Deauville defeated Foundation by 3/4 length in the Group 2 Royal Lodge at Newmarket last month. Only five others remained at mid-week for the 1-mile event, run on the straight.
The final leg of the Japanese Triple Crown is Sunday's Group 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St Leger at Kyoto. Sadly, Duramente, who won the first two legs and showed incredible promise for the remainder of the season, will miss the race with an injury. Contenders include Real Steal, second in the Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2,000 Guineas; Lia Fail, who defeated Real Steal last month in Hanshin; Derby second-place finisher Satono Rasen; and Kitasan Black, who did not race as a 2-year-old but is 4-for-6 this year. Firm going is in prospect for the 3,000-meters event.
Back in North America:
Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Pin Oak Valley View Stakes for 3-year-old fillies attracted an overflow field with Sunset Glow the narrow morning-line favorite despite not having won in more than 14 months. Include Betty, Osaila, Mrs McDougal and Don't Leave Me also figure in this although the latter two are drawn on the outside. Rainha De Bateria will be a long shot but one of her two wins came in last year's Group III JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at the same 1 1/16 miles over the Keeneland grass.
Om is a solid favorite against nine rivals in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Twilight Derby at 9 furlongs on the grass. The Munnings colt won the Del Mar Derby in his last outing and doesn't suffer from having Gary Stevens in the irons.
Eight distaffers, three of them trained by Richard Mandella, are entered for Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes down the hillside turf course.
Saturday is Empire Showcase Day, with eight races worth a collective $1.75 million exclusively for New York-breds. With the absolute top horses in final preparations for the Breeders' Cup, this event truly affords opportunities for some contenders who otherwise might be a tab short of contention.
The $300,000 Classic, for example, has nine entrants with six of them pegged at 6-1 or less on the morning line. The $250,000 Distaff includes Hot Stones, Wonder Gal and Temper Mint Patty among 10.
Field sizes are generous and the entire card should be a nice opportunity to sharpen handicapping skills in preparation for the greater challenge to come.
We'll have much more, obviously, in the coming week. But here's an early look at the strong overseas contingent that promises a strong showing.
This year's European contingent of 28 is down from last year's 38 but the quality is up, up, up. In fact, the foreigners could go favorite in several races, with good reason as the likes of Golden Horn, Gleneagles, Esoterique, Legatissimo and Make Believe are expected.
Gleneagles will be facing a tough challenge in the Classic, with U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and super mare Beholder also set for that race. And Golden Horn should be a solid favorite in the Turf. That race also finds Found in the field and trainer Aidan O'Brien is high on that one. Legatissimo should be well backed in the Filly & Mare Turf and it would be unwise to ignore the Europeans in the Mile on the grass or in either of the 2-year-old turf races.