UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview

By ROBERT KIECKHEFER, UPI Racing Writer  |  Oct. 27, 2017 at 4:19 PM
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Belmont Park, Keeneland, Woodbine and Santa Anita all have graded stakes on the weekend before the Breeders' Cup while Hawthorne Race Course renews the Hawthorne Derby and Churchill Downs takes the baton from Keeneland.

The New Mexico Classic Cup races run Sunday at Zia Park with big purses on offer for steeds bred in the Land of Enchantment.

It's another important weekend on the international front, too. Winx tries for her third straight victory in the Group 1 Cox Plate in Australia and some of Japan's top runners will be on display in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Racecourse.

And while England wraps up its Group 1 season on the flat with Saturday's Racing Post Trophy, the increasingly popular All-Weather Championship already are off and running.

As are we, thus:

Australia

Winx, the super mare, drew only eight rivals as she shoots Saturday for her third straight Cox Plate victory. On paper, the others are running for second-place money as Winx, winner of 21 straight races, already has defeated the rivals who've had the temerity to try her before -- Happy Clapper, Gailo Chop and Humidor. There are a couple out-of-towners in the field. Kaskpersy shipped in from England and ran 16th, beating just two rivals, in his first Australian start. Godolpin Racing's Folkswood did manage to win first up Down Under but that was in the listed Cranbourne Cup against a somewhat less distinguished cast of characters. Seaburge, Hardham and Royal Symphony all seem outclassed although Royal Symphony does get a big weight swing as the field's only 3-year-old.

Both trainer Chris Waller and jockey Hugh Bowman have declared Winx in peak form for the Cox Plate "three-peat" effort. And Waller has talked of taking the mare overseas next year, perhaps to Royal Ascot, to share her brilliance with the world.

Japan

Japan's reigning Horse of the Year, Kitasan Black, heads a deep and talented cast for Sunday's Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Racecourse. Kitasan Black, a 5-year-old son of Black Tide, earned last year's honors on the back of victories in the Tenno Sho (Spring) and Japan Cup, both Group 1 races. He started 2017 with a victory in the Group 1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin and a repeat in the Tenno Sho (Spring) but then was ninth in the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen. The grandson of Sunday Silence is headed for the breeding shed after Sunday's race, the Japan Cup and the Arima Kinen in December. The competition for Sunday's race includes:

Reel Steel, a Deep Impact 5-year-old who won the Group 1 Dubai Turf in 2016 and comes off a victory in the Group 1 Mainichi Okan over the course Oct. 8; Satono Aladdin, a 6-year-old son of Deep Impact who won the Group 1 Yasuda Kinen over the course in June; Satono Crown, a 5-year-old by Marju, who won the Takarazuka Kinen in which Kitasan Black fizzled; and Neorealism, a 6-year-old by Neo Universe, who scored his first Group 1 win in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong April 30.

Also set for this race is Soul Stirring, Frankel's first Group 1 winner. The 3-year-old filly benefits from the double weight break and carries the field's lightest impost at 119 pounds.

England

Saturday's Racing Post Trophy is the final Group 1 event of the British flat racing season but it's also a guidepost to the year to follow as the 2-year-olds who run well in the Doncaster race automatically become candidates for upcoming Classics. This year, the event gets extra spice as it gives Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien yet another chance to eclipse Bobby Frankel's record of 25 Group 1 wins in a calendar year -- a mark he equaled last weekend at Ascot with Hydrangea's victory in the British Champions Filly & Mare Stakes.

Frankel's Racing Post Trophy runners are The Pentagon, Saxon Warrior and two relative longshots. The Pentagon already is the favorite for the 2018 Investec Derby with odds as low as 9-1 with some bookmakers in England. There is formidable opposition, though. Godolphin supplemented the Charlie Appleby-trained Loxley. Godolphin has yet to win this race. Jockey Andrea Atzeni, by contrast, has won the last four renewals and will be aboard a late pickup ride, Chilean.

Meanwhile, the fifth All-Weather Championships are under way and Beatbox Rhythm became the first qualifier for the finals to be run on Good Friday, March 30, 2018, with a victory Tuesday at Newcastle. The 2-year-old Beat Hollow colt, trained by Karl Burke and ridden by P.J. McDonald, made all in the 6-furlongs contest over the Tapeta surface and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Irish challenger River Boyne. The favorite, It Dont Come Easy, was third. The colt is entered for next week's horses-in-training sale but Burke said after the win, "I would personally say that he is a horse to keep. You never know, though, as money talks." John Dance is the owner.

In their relatively brief history, the All-Weather Championships not only have helped maintain interest in flat racing during the long English jumps season but also have sent some notable runners on to grandeur on even larger stages including the likes of Enable, Decorated Knight, Tryster and Jack Hobbs.

France

A pair of Group 1 races for 2-year-olds at Saint-Cloud gives O'Brien two more chances -- should he need them -- to own the record outright. The Ballydoyle master fields four of the seven runners in the longer of the heats and a likely favorite in the 7-furlongs test.

Meanwhile, back in North America:

Belmont Park

Off Limits tops an overflow field for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Athenia Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The 5-year-old Mastercraftsman mare has won three of her last four starts, including the Grade Noble Damsel at 1 mile over the Belmont green in her most recent outing. Time and Motion, Elysea's World and My Impression also made an impression on the oddsmaker.

Miss Sky Warrior is the 8-5 morning-line pick in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares. Seven are entered to go 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Miss Sky Warrior, a First Samurai filly, saw a five-race winning streak snapped when she finished a fading eighth in the Kentucky Oaks and has not been seen in the afternoon since that effort. She has been working forwardly for trainer Kelly Breen. Those not liking the comeback effort could turn to Eskenformoney, who has been third in both the Grade I Personal Ensign and Grade I Beldame in her last two efforts.

Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Bold Ruler at 7 furlongs on the dirt drew a field of 11. Prominent among those are Seymourdini, Divining Rod, Stallwalkin' Dude, Mr. Crow and Tom's Ready. This is a program-stabber than should be fun to watch.

War Chest is the morning-line pick among 10 entered for Saturday's $100,000 Awad Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 mile on the grass. The War Front colt, trained by Shug McGaughey, won going away in his career debut over the course and distance Sept. 21 despite a slow start.

Sunday's $100,000 Chelsey Flower Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 mile on the grass looks to be a right scramble with a full field plus three on the also-eligible list and one for "main track only". There are many recent maiden winners so note Wise Gal bounced back from her maiden win to capture the Selima Stakes at Laurel Park last month by a convincing 4 1/4 lengths. Go Noni Go was third in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies at Kentucky Downs and that whole meet has proved a launching pad for future success. Bramble Queen, an Illinois-bred by the Japanese sire Silent Name, is worth a look if she draws in.

Sunday's $100,000 Pumpkin Pie Stakes for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs got seven takers. Lucy N Ethel is a comeback hope for trainer Todd Pletcher. Tiffany Case is another of the many James Bond references kicking around Thoroughbred racing. Jill St. John played the character in the movie "Diamonds are Forever" but the book, with a long section set in Saratoga Springs and a brief racing sub-plot, is much better than the film.

Woodbine

A well-balanced field of eight was entered for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Fashion Stakes for fillies and mares, 6 furlongs on the all-weather course. The narrow morning-line favorite is Stormy Victoria, coming off a win at Belmont Park. Also well regarded is Moonlit Promise, a Malibu Moon filly whose season at the Toronto-area oval already has produced four wins and two seconds from seven starts, Southern Ring and Minks Aprise.

{b:Keeneland } Honorable Duty is the morning line favorite among seven signed on for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette Stakes, run at 9 furlongs on the main track in the fall meeting's final day. The 5-year-old Distorted Humor gelding has been first or second in each of his last six starts. Don't overlook Neolithic. He was third in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup in Florida in January and third behind Arrogate and Gun Runner in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. He comes off a third-place finish, again behind Gun Runner, in the Grade I Woodward at Saratota. McCraken, third in the Kentucky Derby, makes his first start since finishing seventh in the Grade I Travers and first against older foes.

Santa Anita

At least half the 11-horse field has to be given a chance to capture Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Twilight Derby at 9 furlongs on the turf. The oddsmaker nods to Del Mar Derby winner Sharp Samurai as the 7-2 morning-line favorite. Big Score returns from a second-place finish in that race and has been running with the best all year and Bowie's Hero was third in the Del Mar Derby. Cowboy Culture won the Grade III Arlington Classic over yielding turf in May.

A full field is set for Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile on the grass. Lull is the likely one in an otherwise wide-open field. She was third in the Grade III Buffalo Trace Franklin County at Woodbine in her most recent effort but earlier won at the key Kentucky Downs meeting and finished fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. If she can stand the temperature differential Reverse has appeal after finishing third in the Grade III Ontario Colleen at Woodbine in her last start.

Churchill Downs

Sunday's opening-day card includes four stakes races for 2-year-olds with the most important the $200,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes and an equally rich filly equivalent, both restricted.

Hawthorne

Hawthorne has restored a limited stakes schedule after a year's hiatus reflecting the perilous state of Illinois racing. Saturday's renewal of the $100,000, 9-furlongs event is run over the lush Hawthorne turf course and drew 11. Voodoo Song is the morning-line favorite here. The English Channel colt notched a rare four-win performance at Saratoga, starting in a claiming race, progressing through an allowance win just four days later and culminating in a victory in the Grade III Sarnac. He was second in the Commonwealth Derby at Laurel Park in his last outing. Voodoo Song was not taken for a $40,000 tag in his first outing at the Spa.

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