UPI horse racing weekend preview

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  Dec. 18, 2015 at 1:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Before the ink is even dry on the results from the final major international race meeting of 2015 in Hong Kong, attention turns to Dubai and the start of global competition in the new year.

In North America, a last few major stakes events are on tap during the weekend while California, Florida, Louisiana and Arkansas all put the final touches on their winter programs.

And Japan's long stretch of Group 1 races continues. In South Africa, we'll see if the year's best 3-year-old filly can deal with her male counterparts.

Deal with this:

Dubai

The Dubai Racing Club has released the list of 181 horses accepted for the 2016 Carnival, leading up to World Cup night March 26. Among them are 22 Group I or Grade 1 winners, along with 39 others with wins in other group or graded events.

Among the most notable are 2015 World Cup runner-up California Chrome, who has been training well in California after missing most of the 2015 season; British Champion Stakes winner Fascinating Rock; and Australian Group 1 winners Delectation and Good Project.

To continue the theme of international continuity, the list also includes 2015 Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint winner Sole Power, who finished eleventh in Sunday's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint, and Toormore, winner of the Group 2 International Topkapi Trophy in Istanbul who was last seen finishing eleventh in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile.

The first of the 10 Carnival days at Meydan is Jan. 7.

"The quality of the horses that have been nominated for the Carnival speaks for itself and we look forward to a hugely exciting and entertaining three months ahead," said Malih Al Basti, Meydan Group vice chairman and chairman of the Meydan Racing Committee.

Japan

Sunday's Group 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies, won in style by Major Emblem, gives way this weekend to the Group 1 Asahi Hai Futurity over the same course. A full field is on tap, including one filly -- Copano Deal. Among the likely favorites is the undefeated Air Spinel, an impeccably bred colt by King Kamehameha from the Sunday Silence mare Air Messiah. Jockey Yutaka Take, fresh from victory in Sunday's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup aboard A Shin Hikari, said of Air Spinel, "He's still a baby. But he sure can run." Others with likely support are Ball Lightning, Admire Morale, Immortal and Shuji, whose only loss in four starts came to Air Spinel.

South Africa

Silver Mountain, having run out of competition among her own gender after dominating the Group 1 Cape Fillies Guineas two weeks previously, will go after the male youngsters in Saturday's Group 1 Grand Parade Cape Guineas at Kenilworth. The Silvano filly faces a bunch generally reckoned a cut below her in ability and further weakened by the scratch of early second-favorite Rabada after an unsatisfactory post-workout testing.

Gulfstream Park

With only two weeks left in their 3-year-old year, it's last call for this year's Derby and Oaks contenders. Enter Gulfstream Park, with Saturday's $75,000 Tropical Park Derby and $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks -- both on the turf at 1 1/16 miles. The former has attracted a field of 12 including the likes of War Story, Tweet Kitten, Eh Cumpari, A Lot and Conquest Typhoon. The Oaks also has 12, with two also-eligibles.

The day's feature is the $100,000, Grade III Mr. Prospector at 6 furlongs on the main track. In that, Stallwalkin' Dude bounces right back from his Claiming Crown victory while facing last year's Mr. Prospector winner, Speechify, and five others.

Los Alamitos

Saturday's $350,000, Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity has a field of seven, including the Bob Baffert-trained duo of Towes On Ice and Mor Spirit. The former has won three straight races, including the Grade III Bob Hope at Del Mar, going a furlong and a half shorter than Saturday's 1 1/16 miles. Mor Spirit was second behind Airoforce in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, at the Futurity distance. Also, Hollywood Don won the Hollywood Juvenile Turf in September but has regressed in two intervening starts. A couple others look promising but how about Urlacher, who remains winless in four starts -- one through a DQ? His namesake Chicago Bears linebacker can't be pleased, although he has yet to run out of the money. Baffert's two and Urlacher were supplemented to this race for $10,000 each and will need another $10,000 payment to start.

Also:

Fair Grounds in New Orleans has six stakes races on the Saturday card including the Sugar Bowl for 2-year-olds and the Letellier Memorial for 2-year-old fillies, both at 6 furlongs. Older horses have opportunities on both dirt and turf.

Tampa Bay Downs is back in action and Saturday's program has both the $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings and the $100,000 Lighting City for filly and mare turf sprinters.

Aqueduct has the $100,000 Queens County Handicap at 9 furlongs on Saturday and the $150,000 Fifth Avenue Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old New York-breds on Sunday.

Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes at Turfway Park has some interesting contestants and a competitive field worth a close look.

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