UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  Jan. 15, 2016 at 1:21 PM
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Kentucky Derby preps from California to Louisiana to Maryland and the Sunshine Millions races in Florida highlight the weekend racing schedule.

Fair Grounds advances the Derby agenda with Saturday's Grade III Lecomte Stakes while Golden Gate Fields has the California Derby on the all-weather track the same day. The UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial at Meydan on Thursday night was a win for Godolphin.

Three-year-old fillies have options at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Fair Grounds and Aqueduct. The UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial at Meydan also is in the books.

The Sunshine Millions series continues to evolve at Gulfstream Park but, as always, Saturday's renewal offers some enticing wagering prospects.

And it's Vancouver from Australia to Ireland, en route to England. See the international section for the answer to that riddle.

But, before that ...

The Road to the Roses

There's a lot of sorting out to be done among the Kentucky Derby hopefuls stabled in New Orleans and that process starts in earnest in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III TwinSpires LeComte Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards. There's a full field of 14, with one also-eligible. What there's not is a solid favorite. The morning-line choice, at 7-2, is Mo Tom, an Uncle Mo colt who finished third in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club during the Thanksgiving weekend and makes his 3-year-old debut for trainer Tom Amoss. Others to watch include Destin, a Giant's Causeway colt trained by Todd Pletcher who is in from Florida; Pinnacle Peak, a Yes It's True colt who won over the course and distance in his last outing; and Uncle Walter, another Uncle Mo colt who carries the hopes of trainer Mike Maker and the colors of Ken and Sarah Ramsey. We'll know more at about 5:30 CST on Saturday.

A competitive field of eight is set for Saturday's $100,000 California Derby on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather course with Frank Conversation and Allaboutaction the morning-line favorites. Frank Conversation, a Quality Road colt, got show money in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar and finished fifth in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity but makes his first start on the all-weather. Allaboutaction, a Candy Ride gelding, has made three starts, all at Golden Gate, earning two wins. He finished fourth in the Gold Rush Stakes last month, behind Mana Rush, Algenon and Marquala, all of whom return for this heat.

Seven are entered for Saturday's $75,000, 7-furlongs Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes at Laurel Park. The morning-line favorite at 6-5 is Never Gone South, a Munnings colt who won the Strike Your Colors Stakes at Delaware Park in August and then finished second in both the James F. Lewis III and Marylander Stakes at Laurel.

On Thursday evening at Meydan, Steady Pace tracked the leaders in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial, hit the front 100 meters out and won by a nose over Rouleau. Calder Prince finished third. Steady Pace, a British-bred colt by Dark Angel, owned by Godolphin and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, ran 1,400 meters or about 7 furlongs in 1:25.55 with James Doyle up. It was only his second win in eight starts but he was competitive in good company in England all last season, including a third-place showing in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in his seasonal finale.

RICHARD GROSS will have much more on Thursday's Meydan doings in his Dubai report in Monday's roundup. {b: Kentucky Oaks preps}

Eight are entered for Saturday's $150,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and five of them are coming back after victories. The favorite, however, is Stageplay, a Curlin filly trained by Steve Asmusssen, who won her first two starts before finishing second in the Grade II Golden Rod in the slop at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28 in her first try past 1 mile. Conditioner Brett Calhoun has a couple prospects: Jet Black Magic, a daughter of Hold Me Back, who won the Grade III Delta Downs Princess to wrap up her juvenile campaign; and More Than Most, an Indygo Mountain miss who took the La Senorita on the grass at Retama Park in Texas in her most recent start.

Durango and Above Fashion are the morning-line favorites among eight for Friday's $100,000 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Above Fashion, by Paddy O'Prado, finished third in the Grade III Delta Downs Princess in November, then won the Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds last month. Durango, by First Samurai, returns after two wins at Churchill Downs in November. Alien Giant, by Giant's Causeway, comes from California where she finished second in the Landaluce Stakes at Santa Anita in her last start, way back in June. She posted an impressive, 5-furlongs work from the gate in 1:00.40 over the Oaklawn oval last week.

Todd Pletcher saddles two of the six in for Saturday's $75,000 Marshua Stakes at Laurel Park, going 6 furlongs. One is Lost Raven, by Uncle Mo and winner of the Smart Halo Stakes over the course in November. The other is yet another Uncle Mo filly, Mo d'Amour. Karen's Silk, a High Cotton filly, has won two in a row.

Polar River hit the front 200 meters out in Thursday's UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial at Meydan and surged away to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Two Godolphin runners, Promising Run and Pure Diamond, got the minor awards. Polar River, an American-bred Congrats filly, ran 1,400 meters in 1:24.26 with Patrick Dobbs up for trainer Doug Watson. She now is 2-for-2.

Sunshine Millions

Originally, this series was California vs. Florida. Last year, the races were open to horses bred in several East Coast States. This year, it's strictly Florida-breds. The six heats, headed by the $250,000 Classic, are still tough.

Last year's Classic winner, Sr. Quisqueyano, returns against nine rivals including Mr. Jordan, Classic Trial winner Saraguaro and Claiming Crown Iron Horse winner Runs With Bulls.

X Y Jet, fresh off a 9 1/4-lengths victory in the Grade III Mr. Prospector, heads the cast for the $150,000 Sprint, which also includes graded stakes-placed contenders C. Zee, Puntrooskie and Wildcat Red.

Graded stakes winners Amelia's Wild Ride and Pure Sensation will contest the $100,000 Turf Sprint. The $200,000 Distaff includes graded stakes-placed Flutterby, You Bought Her and Dogwood Trail. The $150,000 Turf includes veterans Old Time Hockey and Reporting Star. Pink Poppy will defend her crown in the $150,000 Filly & Mare Turf.

The other races on Gulfstream's Saturday card also feature huge and competitive fields. The weather forecast looks reasonably good. It should be a good day at the races.

Also:

Oaklawn Park

The older horses star in both Saturday's and Sunday's features. Saturday it's the $100,000 Fifth Season, at 1 1/16 miles, featuring 2013 Illinois Derby winner Departing. Sunday, the ladies contest the $100,000 Pippin Stakes at the same distance.

Aqueduct

Saturday's feature is the $125,000 Jazil Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at 1 mile and 70 yards on the inner track.

Santa Anita

Fillies and mares tackle 1 1/16 miles on the main track in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II LaCanada Stakes. Taris, Birdatthewire and Yahilwa all figure here, plus Oscar Party for those into omens as the Academy prepares to list the nominees for this year's Academy Awards.

Fair Grounds

Saturday's stakes-packed card includes the $125,000, Grade III Col E.R. Bradley at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf with Chocolate Ride favored after winning four of his last five starts; the $60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial for fillies and mares at the same distance; and the $75,000 Louisiana at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

International

Vancouver, a star at 2 in Australia, is headed for Ireland with plans for Royal Ascot, Racing Post reports. The Medaglia d'Oro colt was undefeated in four starts down under, including the Group 1 Golden Slipper at Rosehill. After that race, Coolmore bought a controlling interest and the organization said Tuesday the colt will enter quarantine, head for Aidan O'Brien's yard in Ireland and target the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee in the springtime. Gai Waterhouse trained Vancouver in Australia, where Tommy Berry rode all four of his races. "He has nothing more to prove in Australia," Racing Post quoted Waterhouse. "I have no doubt that he is world-class ..."

News and notes

The annual selection process for the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame is open for business. A nominating committee will consider eligible horses, trainers and jockeys and submit a slate to the voting members. To be eligible for consideration, a horse must have been retired for five years. That makes Zenyatta, Blame and Rachel Alexandra eligible for the first time this year. Think they'll get in?

Ascot Racecourse announced this week total prize money for the Royal Ascot meeting in June has been increased by 1 million pounds sterling, about US$1.44 million, to a record 6.58 million pounds, or about US$9.58 million. Each day of the meeting, from Tuesday, June 14, through Saturday, June 18, will offer purses of at least 1 million pounds. Big bumps are for the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes, from 525,000 pounds to 750,000 pounds, and the Queen Anne Stakes, from 375,000 pounds to 600,000 pounds. By comparison, the eight Thoroughbred races run on World Cup night at Meydan in Dubai are worth a total of US$29 million; the 13 races on the two-day Breeders' Cup last fall at Keeneland offered US$24.5 million; the four events comprising the Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin in Hong Kong in December put on the line HK$83 million, or about US$10.69 million; and the seven races on the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe card at Longchamp in Paris last September were worth a total of 7 million pounds, or about US$10.08 million, with the Arc itself worth 5 million pounds. British Champions Day last fall ran five races for 4.75 million pounds, or around US$6.48 million. The purse for the Japan Cup is 624 million yen, or about US$5.3 million, but that race stands alone as an international Group 1 event.

Summarizing, in U.S. dollars -- and there WILL be a short quiz next period:

Dubai World Cup night: $29 million Breeders' Cup: $24.5 million Hong Kong International Races: $10.69 million Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe day: $10.08 million Royal Ascot: $9.58 million British Champions Day: $6.48 million

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