UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  Jan. 19, 2017 at 4:36 PM
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The weekend racing program features the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park and Kentucky Derby and Oaks preps from sea to shining sea.

Breeders' Cup winner Finest City returns to action in California.

On the international front, 11-year-old Medicean Man won smartly on Thursday in Dubai. Hong Kong's Sunday program kicks off the important 4-year-old series.

Kicking this right off ...


Medicean Man, now 11 years old, rallied smartly down the grandstand side in the final 200 meters to win Thursday evening's Meydan Sobha Trophy, defeating the dead-heating pair of Harry Hurricane and Sir Maximillian by 1 1/2 lengths under apprentice jockey David Parks. The old warrior ran the straight 1,000 meters in 57.52 and appeared to be looking for more at the end.

Another veteran of the Dubai sprinting wars, 9-year-old Krypton Factor, was no factor in the Sobha Trophy, finishing 11th. Krypton Factor won a classic rendition of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2012 over Rocket Man and finished third in the same event a year later behind Reynaldothewizard -- who was a winner last week at Meydan.

Championship landed the night's feature, the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort at 1,400 meters on the grass, vanquishing Godolphin's Flash Fire by 3 1/2 lengths after leading all the way. South African kingpin Mike de Kock saddled the third- and fourth-place finishers, Noah from Goa and Anarobio.

Championship, a 6-year-old Exceed and Excel gelding, finished in 1:22.88 under Colm O'Donoghue. He was a winner two starts ago in Abu Dhabi and second two weeks ago in the 1,800-meters Singspiel Stakes and found a shorter trip to his liking.

"Championship had a tough race two weeks ago but they have freshened him up and he was in great form tonight," O'Donoghue said. "I was always happy out in front and he was striding along nicely so I asked him to quicken just after halfway and he found plenty. He just kept responding throughout the straight and that was a good performance in a quality race."

Really Special remained undefeated in three starts, landing Thursday evening's UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial at 1,400 meters on the dirt. The Shamardal filly tracked the pace while saving ground, split the early leaders to take the lead 200 meters out and cruised home under Christophe Soumillon 3 1/4 lengths ahead of persistent runner-up Complimenti. Rajar was third, another 1 3/4 lengths back. Really Special, trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin Racing, finished in 1:25.93.

Korean horses showed well on Thursday evening. Triple Nine, with Patrick Cosgrove up for trainer Young-Kwan Kim, just missed in the 2,000-meters Meydan Sobha, 1/2 length off the winner, Hunting Ground. The same trainer saddled Main Stay to win the 1,200-meters District One, with stablemate Seoul Bullet finishing fourth. Korea became the 21st country to win a Carnival race.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong kicks off its prestigious 4-year-old Classic Series with Sunday's Classic Mile at Sha Tin. Trainer John Moore sends out half of the 14-horse field, including Rapper Dragon, who missed the Oriental Watch 55th Anniversary Trophy when he came up lame on race day, Oct. 23. He subsequently finished fifth in a Class 1 handicap. Joao Moreira, who guided the Australian-bred gelding to four wins last season, returns to the irons.

Moore also has Group 1 winners Eagle Way and Helene Charisma for the Classic Mile but was high on another of his team, Beauty Generation, after a Thursday morning gallop, saying jockey Zak Purton reported the horse was "jumping out of his skin."

"It's going to be a great race, no doubt," Moore said. "But the way Beauty Generation came off the track this morning, and I had a good look at him in the light, he's just a different horse. He's trimmed right up. He hasn't lost weight, but just wait. Physically, he's wow. That's the only way to describe him."

The field also includes Pakistan Star, who became an international sensation with two stunning last-to-first wins. He hit a dry spell, then took the Griffin Trophy in his last start while racing a bit closer to the pace. Tony Cruz trains Pakistan Star. The 4-year-old series continues with the Hong Kong Classic Cup on Feb. 19 and concludes with the BMW Hong Kong Derby on March 19.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's all-dirt program at Sha Tin turned up a pair of contenders for the Dubai World Cup Carnival in Dundonnell and Fabulous One -- even though that pair could muster only a third- and fourth-place finish in the Class I Penfold Park Handicap.

Fabulous One, returning from a seven-months layoff, needed the race, made the pace and paid the price yet still finished only a head behind the winner. "Dubai is still on," said trainer Chris So, noting that in addition to his lack of condition, Fabulous One toted 130 pounds, versus the 117-pound impost on the winner, Eroico.

The runner-up, Almababy, had a feathery 103 pounds and Dundonnell toted 133. The latter, also racing on dirt for the first time, rallied from last to just miss and trainer Caspar Fownes said, "I'm very keen to take him to Dubai after that."

Back in the USA:

Kentucky Derby preps

With the backstretch under quarantine, Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds lacks the usual quotient of shippers. Instead, it has a dozen locally trained 3-year-olds who make up a handicapping knot. The best the oddsmaker could do is a morning line that finds Untrapped, a Trappe Shot colt, the 9-2 favorite based on his first career win in a maiden event at Churchill Downs in November. Guest Suite, a Quality Road gelding, and Saints Fan, a Tale of Ekati colt, are the 5-1 co-second favorites. For some reason, Tip Tap Tapizar, winner of the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park last September, is 12-1 on the morning line.

Saturday's $100,000 California Derby on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather track attracted a field of eight. Vending Machine invades from down south, where he last was seen winning the Eddie Logan Stakes on the Santa Anita turf on Dec. 30. Colonel Samsen won the local Gold Rush Stakes. So Conflated finished behind only Dabster in his last start at Santa Anita and won on a DQ.

Chance of Luck returns from a win in the local Inaugural Stakes for Saturday's $100,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The Skipshot colt is 2-for-2 after winning his career bow at Laurel Park. None of the other six has beaten winners yet.

O Dionyus, a Bodemeister colt who has missed the top three only once in six starts, is the highweight among eight entered for Saturday's $75,000 Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes at Laurel Park. High Roller, Generous Jack, The Great Ronaldo and Butch Walker also have stakes experience for this 7-furlongs expedition. {b: Kentucky Oaks preps}

Untapped and Farrell head a field of seven for Saturday's $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds. The former, a Tapit filly, posted back-to-back wins to complete her 2-year-old season, including a 1 mile, 70-yards test in December. Florent Geroux rides the Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred for trainer Steve Asmusssen. Farrell, by Malibu Moon, won the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in her last start, defeating consistent graded stakes performer Daddys Lil Darling. Channing Hill keeps the mount for trainer Wayne Catalano. Summertime Sky, who won at first asking in December on the turf, has been burning up the track in the morning for trainer Mark Casse.

Nine are set to contest Saturday's $100,000 Gasparilla at Tampa Bay Downs. R Angel Katelyn, a High Cotton filly, has won three of four starts including the Sandpiper earlier in the Tampa Bay meeting. Jumby Bay and Rashette, second and third in the Sandpiper, also return for this race. Lirica was an impressive winner of the Hut Hut Stakes at Gulfstream Park in her last outing.

Stakes winners Country Candy and Chanel's Legacy are among seven set to tackle 6 furlongs in Saturday's $125,000 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park. The field also includes several impressive maiden winners.

Nine signed up for Saturday's $75,000 Marshua Stakes at Laurel Park at 6 furlongs on the main track. Unaquoi, Item, Ianthe, Star Super, Lucky in Malibu and Clairvoyant Lady all are stakes-place in earlier efforts.

Sunshine Millions

Saturday's Sunshine Millions card at Gulfstream Park comprises five stakes for Florida-breds, worth a combined $600,000 and providing entertainment for the glittering assemblage awaiting the Eclipse Awards results that evening.

There are no tigers in the bunch but the races are at least as competitive as most of the Eclipse Award final fields.

Other Action

Finest City returns to action with only four rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Monica for fillies and mares at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old City Zip mare was last seen as the upset winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint over the same course Nov. 5. She was second in this race last year, defeated only by a head. Bad Ju Ju has won three straight while moving out of the claiming ranks. Fantastic Style is a graded stakes winner over the course.

Sunday's $100,000 Interborough for fillies and mares at Aqueduct is run at 6 furlongs on the main track. The entries include -- and we're not making this up -- Clothes Fall Off, Hot City Girl, Disco Chick and Miss Hollywood. Any of the seven look capable of contending.

A talented field of nine is assembled for Saturday's $125,000 Grade III Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds, about 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Western Reserve, One Mean Man, Greengrassofyoming, Chocolate Ride and Granny's Kitten all have the credentials to figure in this heat. Glorious Empire, a winner in England and Hong Kong, has been knocking on the door but might need some pace help.

Saturday's $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial at Fair Grounds drew multiple Grade I winner I'm a Chatterbox in her first start since finishing fifth in that Breeders' Cup Distaff for the ages two months ago at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old Munnings mare is 8-5 favorite on the morning line despite making her first-ever start on the grass in the about 1 1/16-miles event. It's no easy spot either, as the race also features graded stakes winners Include Betty, Cash Control and Prado's Sweet Ride, as well as several other tough customers.

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