UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview

By ROBERT KIECKHEFER, UPI Racing Writer   |   Aug. 17, 2017 at 2:57 PM
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The question of the week and, possibly, of the year so far in American racing: Will Arrogate bounce back from his defeat in the San Diego Handicap to win Saturday's $1 million Pacific Classic?

Arrogate, the winner of last year's Travers Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic and this season's Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup, was world's top-rated Thoroughbred going in to the San Diego on July 22. But the 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt never fired and finished a dull fourth.

Arrogate retained his No. 1 spot in the NTRA poll released Monday, although his support slipped a bit with eight of the 35 voters opting for Stephen Foster and Whitney winner Gun Runner in the top spot and two throwing their support to star 4-year-old filly Songbird.

Accelerate was the winner in the San Diego -- by 8 1/2 lengths. He will be back to challenge again in the Pacific Classic. So will Collected, Hard Aces and Donworth in a field of eight. Arrogate drew the outside gate and the race is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Not in the field for the Del Mar fixture will be Songbird, winner of 13 of 14 career starts with the only loss coming by a nose to Beholder in the 2016 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff, instead will continue to mix it up with other females, targeting the Grade I, $700,000 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 26.

While most eyes will be on Arrogate for the 2 minutes and change of the Pacific Classic, there's plenty more action in weekend racing with the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga, a pair of Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races at Del Mar and lots of other goodies.

Internationally, we'll find out about some 2-year-olds in Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Morny at Deauville. On the same card is the Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles.

And ... the China Horse Club's sixth annual China Equine Cultural Festival runs Saturday and Sunday at Yiqi Racecourse in Ordos in Inner Mongolia. We'll have much more on this in the weekend report.

{b:Distaff } Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Alabama for 3-year-old fillies shows exactly why we all love Saratoga. The 1 1/4-miles contest drew nine fillies from around the country and north of the border, one as tough as another. Choose among them:

New Money Honey, winner of the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational, tries the main track for the first time for trainer Chad Brown. Holy Helena visits from up north, making her first start since winning the Queen's Plate July 2. It Tiz Well comes off a victory in the Grade I Delaware Oaks. Unchained Melody won the Grade II Mother Goose in her last outing. Lockdown was third in the Kentucky Oaks and second in the Mother Goose.

There's more: Salty won the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks and most recently was third in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks. Elate was second in the CCA Oaks. Mopotism was second in both the Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita and the Grade III Indiana Oaks. And Actress won the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan before finishing third in the Delaware Oaks.

Saturday's $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown understandably drew a big field of 12. Notables include Money'soncharlotte, winner of the Grade III Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park in her last outing, and Keeneland-based Mo d'Amour.

Turf

Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap is 11 green furlongs and a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf. Thirteen are entered and it looks to be a scramble. Among the likely ones are Ashleyluvssugar, Hunt and the French-bred Itsinthepost, who has been more effective on the left coast than in his last two starts back east.

Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine is run at 11 furlongs.

Filly & Mare Turf

A baker's dozen plus one entered for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks at 9 furlongs on the greensward. Wesley Ward charge Con Te Partiro resurfaces here after winning the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot. In truth, it's a real program-stabber and promises nice rewards for enlightened handicapping.

Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Lake Placid at Saratoga attracted six 3-year-old fillies to tackle 9 furlongs. It's an evenly matched bunch and all of them have something to prove. In the outside gate is Uni, who showed promise in France early in the year and finished third in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational in her first U.S. start.

{b:Turf Mile } Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Violet Stakes at Monmouth Park attracted a field of nine to tackle 1 mile. The 120-pound is Beauty, a British-bred daughter of Sea the Stars who comes fresh from a victory in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff Stakes.

Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Del Mar Mile foreshadows the Breeders' Cup Mile looming just down the calendar over the same course and distance.

Turf Sprint

Eleven are entered for Friday's Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar. Among the cast is Tribalist, a 6-year-old gelding who has posted victories three straight years at the seaside track -- with a year off between each of those wins. "Once a year for the past three years," trainer Blake Heap said with a smile Sunday morning. "He's a pretty fast horse and he's been training well. Now all we need is a little bit of luck." The field also includes some potential Breeders' Cup contenders including Richard's Boy, St. Joe Bay, Rocket Heat and Guns Loaded.

Eight are set for Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Play the King Stakes at Woodbine. The oddsmaker likes Tower of Texas, Glenville Gardens and Calgary Cat for the 7 furlongs on the inviting Canadian green.

Juvenile

There are some state-bred races scattered around the schedule but the feature in this division is Sunday's $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile at 7 furlongs.

Juvenile Fillies

Ditto the above, with Sunday's $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante the key.

On the international front:

France

Prospects remain murky for Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Morny at Deauville as 15 2-year-olds were left in pending the final declarations. There are no superstars going in. Afterward ... who knows?

Twelve have been left for Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet, 1 1/4 miles for fillies and mares. Tune in Monday for more on this one, too.

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