Oscar Nominated, seen winning the Grade III Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in 2016, is in action this weekend at Kentucky Downs. (Turfway Park photo)
Arc weekend preps in France and five massive days of turf racing on the Kentucky-Tennessee border share the spotlight in weekend Thoroughbred racing.
With Saratoga packed up for the winter and Del Mar taking a break before its Breeders' Cup meeting, there's a bit of a hiatus in U.S. racing -- except for Kentucky Downs.
The all-grass, Euro-style track in southwestern Kentucky, formerly Dueling Grounds, shifted last Saturday's schedule to Wednesday because of torrential rains. We've got those results, plus a look at Saturday's and Sunday's cards.
France gets a preview on Sunday of what to expect Oct. 1 in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and associated races. Chantilly hosts two Group 1 events, the Qatar Prix Vermeille at the Arc distance of 2,400 meters and the Qatar Moulin de Longchamp at 1,600 meters.
It's a big weekend in Ireland, too, with the Irish Champion Stakes and the Group 1 Matron on Saturday at Leopardstown and the Irish St Leger the feature among three Group 1 events Sunday at the Curragh. All five Irish races are Breeders' Cup Challenge events.
England's star attraction is Saturday's Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock.
Saturday's $600,000 Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles, drew two who contested the 1 1/4-miles Arlington Million and another trio who tried the 1 11/16-miles American St. Leger on the Million undercard. Enterprising was fourth in the Million, beaten only 3/4 length for it all. Oscar Nominated was eighth, less than 3 lengths behind the winner, Beach Patrol. Postulation looked like he could run all day while winning the St. Leger by 2 1/2 lengths over Taghleeb while Bullards Alley faded to finish eighth. All are in for the Turf Cup, although Oscar Nominated was cross-entered Thursday, and the favorites likely will be in that group.
A highly competitive field of 11 is entered for Sunday's $200,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs going 10 1/2 furlongs. Parlor, recently fifth in the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga, is the 3-1 morning-line pick.
Filly & Mare Turf
Daddys Lil Darling, Summer Luck, Quebec, La Manta Gris and Gentle Kitten are all given good chances by the oddsmaker in Sunday's $350,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, Kentucky Downs at 10 1/2 furlongs. Daddys Lil Darling, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, has yet to win this season but was second in the Kentucky Oaks.
Applicator worked his way to the lead early in the stretch drive in Wednesday's $400,000 Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs, shook off the early pace pressure and edged clear to a 1-length win. Flatlined rallied from last to finish second, 3/4 length ahead of Shining Copper, who was reluctant to load after being out of action for 13 months. Applicator, a 4-year-old Henrythenavigator gelding, needed 1:44.79 to finish the mile over a course officially rated good but obviously requiring a lot of effort.
"Before the race he felt very good," trainer Mikhail Yanakov said of Applicator. "I told (jockey Jose Valdivia), 'Let him have a good start and let him get comfortable in his stride,' because it was his first time (on the course). 'Don't push him, don't grab him, whatever he wants, and then let him go.'"
My Impression came out for running room halfway down the long Kentucky Downs straight and found enough extra to win Wednesday's $150,000 One Dreamer Stakes for fillies and mares at Kentucky Downs by 1 1/2 lengths over Rattataptap. Boreale was third. My Impression, a 4-year-old Sky Mesa filly, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on good but testing turf in 1:49.25 with Tyler Gaffalione up. The Stuart Janney III homebred, trained by Shug McGaughey, scored her first win since last November. "I just started to let her run inside the quarter pole and when I got her outside, she just rebroke, basically," Gaffalione said.
Miss Temple City is the even-money favorite among eight entered for Saturday's $350,000 Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf at 1 mile on the undulating course. The 5-year-old Temple City mare got off to a weather-delayed start this season after a spectacular 2016. She paid the price, finishing a first-up 13th in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, then was a close third in the Grade III Matchmaker at Monmouth Park, going 9 furlongs. The opposition includes Zipessa and Linda, both proven graded stakes competitors.
Here's an odd one: Hogy is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint after being claimed for $80,000 in his last race at Saratoga. Mike Maker, the new conditioner, obviously noted Hogy finished second in this race a year ago, beaten just a neck at long odds. He came on from that to finish second, defeated 1/2 length, in the Grade III Woodford at Keeneland. There are no monsters in the 11 entered for Saturday's race, so why not?
Saturday's $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint is a wide-open affair with the two luke warm favorites, Mississippi Delta and Fair Point, drawn in gates 1 and 2 in a field of 11. Also of note, Lull returns from a nice second-place finish in the Grade II San Clemente at Del Mar and Morticia is riding a nice three-race win streak.
Ten are set for Saturday's $75,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity at 7 furlongs on the all-weather track. Barry Lee finished eighth in the Grade II Saratoga Special after winning at first asking at Laurel Park in July. There are recent maiden winners from Canterbury Park, Ellis Park and Fairmount Park and a few who have yet to tick that box so there's lots of room for improvement across the board.
Snapper Sinclair stuck close to the leaders in Wednesday's $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile at Kentucky Downs, moved to the lead when by jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and gradually drew clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths. John Tippmann was second and Arawak got show money. Snapper Sinclair, a City Zip colt trained by Steve Asmussen, ran 7 furlongs in 1:31.97. He broke his maiden on his second try when put on the grass at Saratoga.
"That is about as excited as I've ever been," said owner Jeff Bloom. "I'd never been here before to this track. The angle is kind of hard to figure out. I was saying, 'I think I'm going to get a fine from the stewards for whipping myself too many times before he hit the wire." Asmussen said his plan is to take Snapper Sinclair straight to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf sans any intermediate heat.
Fourteen signed on for Saturday's $75,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie. If she can handle the all-weather surface, Southampton Way could be tough after finishing second in the Grade II Adirondack at Saratoga. Red Dred posted her second career win on the Presque Isle Downs all-weather strip Aug. 3. The rest are maiden winners except for one first-time starter.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Ultima D led all the way in Wednesday's $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies at Kentucky Downs and cruised home first, 1 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, Best Performance. Go Noni Go was 1 length farther back in third. Ultima D, with Julio Garcia riding for trainer Wesley Ward, ran 7 furlongs on good turf in 1:32.38. It was her first win, following runner-up finishes at Woodbine and Saratoga.
"The thinking was that she's a really nice filly and we always thought she was stakes caliber," Ward said. "It's not about the money, especially when you can get an accolade like that on your resume for breeding. And also we're thinking down the road to the Breeders' Cup." Ward said he will consider Keeneland's Jessamine Stakes as another prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.
Saturday's Group 1 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock Park features one of Godolphin's brightest shining stars, Harry Angel. The 3-year-old son of Dark Angel won a Group 2 event over the course in May, then just missed to an in-form Caravaggio in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. He returned from that to win the Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket rather handily. Limato and Brando, second and third at Newmarket, are expected to try again at Haydock.
Two Group 1 events and two more Group 2 races on Sunday at Chantilly point directly toward the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and its undercard over the same track Oct. 1. Check back Monday for more on these.
Dual Guineas winner Churchill is the feature in Saturday's Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown despite losses in his last two outings. The Galileo colt's fourth in the Grade I St. James's Palace at Royal Ascot was a shocker for trainer Aidan O'Brien but he could be forgiven his most recent second behind only Ulysses in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York. Saturday's competition includes stablemate Winter. The 3-year-old Galileo filly is riding a three-race winning streak and, in a year when fillies seem to have a strong hand, is capable of an upset.
The Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron at 1 mile, pending final defections at the 48-hour stage, also attracted Winter, along with Roly Poly, Rain Goddess, Rhododendron and Hydrangea from Aidan O'Brien's powerful yard. Qemah, winner of the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes, also is in this field.
Big Orange and Order of St George -- the narrowly separated first and second in the dramatic Group 1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot -- reappear for Sunday's Group 1 Irish St. Leger at the Curragh. Order of St George won the local trial for this. Big Orange was unable to hold on in the final yards of the Group 1 Goodwood Cup in his last outing, finishing second to Stradivarius. At this time last year, Big Orange was en route to Australia and Hong Kong and he might appreciate this year's shorter journey.
On the same Sunday card at the Curragh we find the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes for 2-year-old colts and fillies and the Moyglare Stud Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.