Trinity Force narrowly wins the feature on opening day Nov. 9 at Meydan, where racing will continue to the Dubai World Cup on March 31. (DRC photo)
With another successful Breeders' Cup in the rear-view mirror, racing action immediately shifted well across the waters as Ireland dominated the Melbourne Cup just three days later.
Japan embarks upon its Autumn International series on Sunday, racing returned to Meydan in Dubai on Thursday and England's All-Weather Championships gained steam.
U.S. racing action is on the thin side in the wake of the Del Mar triumph, with massive sales in Kentucky taking the headlines on the backs of such top breeding prospects as Songbird, Stellar Wind and Miss Temple City.
And, as stud fees are set for the coming season, let it be noted that Gun Runner may have won the Breeders' Cup Classic, becoming a shoo-in for U.S. Horse of the Year, but his initial fee -- after a final race in the Pegasus World Cup -- will be "only" $70,000 while Arrogate will start his stud career at $75,000.
We'll start on the world front:
Judging by this year's results, the "Race That Stops a Nation" has become a race that attracts the world. With Irishmen Joseph O'Brien and his father, Aidan O'Brien, training the top two finishers, Rekindling and Johannes Vermeer, the locals had to look down to No. 4 on the order of finish to find one of their own.
The winner came directly from a fourth-place finish at Doncaster to lift the Melbourne Cup with a late run that barely saw off Johannes Vermeer, who at least had two prep races in Australia before the big one. In third was Max Dynamite, a German-bred whose two previous races were in Ireland. He did finish second in last year's Melbourne Cup during a one-and-done 2016 visit Down Under.
The top local was fourth-place finisher Big Duke. And, while he spent calendar 2017 in Australia, he raced in England through 2016. Making matters worse, last year's Melbourne Cup winner, Almandin, ran out of petrol in the final furlong this time around, finishing 12th -- and that after trainer Robert Hickmont handed the reins to Frankie Dettori.
The influx of international runners would seem to validate the positioning of the Melbourne Cup on the world's pantheon of great races. In its earlier years, with purely local contenders, it certainly was a spectacle and a national symbol but not such a great race.
There were, nonetheless, some unhappy commentators after the Irish sweep, ruing the presumed loss of Australian identity for the Cup. Greg Baum, chief sports columnist for The Age, wrote: "Some days, it feels that the Melbourne Cup has become the race that bypasses a nation."
Funny. No one in England seemed upset with Black Caviar winning at Royal Ascot or the prospect of Winx doing the same.
Otherwise on the international front:
The Japan Racing Association on Sunday kicks off a month-long celebration of Group 1 races with a full field set for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup for fillies and mares at Kyoto. Among the likely for the 2,200-meter event are defending champion Queen's Ring, Dubai Group 1 victor Vivlos and recent Group 1 Shuka Sho winner Deirdre. Also expected are front-running Fushu Himba winner Crocosmia, Shuka Sho runner-up Lys Gracieux and Mikki Queen, among the most consistent performers among Japan's filly and mare ranks with 12 in-the-money showings from 14 starts.
While the race is open to foreign entrants, neither the lone Roger Varian nominee nor any of the five nominated by Aidan O'Brien made the trip, leaving the race an all-Japanese affair. The Ed Dunlop-trained filly Snow Fairy won in 2010 and 2011.
The race is the first in the Japan Autumn International series of Group 1 events that continues with the Mile Championship at Kyoto Nov. 19, peaks with the Japan Cup Nov. 26 at Tokyo and concludes with the Champions Cup on the Chukyo dirt track Dec. 3.
United Arab Emirates
Racing returned to Meydan Racecourse Thursday evening. In the featured Emirates Airline Handicap at 2,000 meters, champion trainer Doug Watson fielded six of the 14 starters. But it was Trinity Force, who gradually wore down Mizbah in the final yards to win by a neck. Mizbah and two others Watson runners finished second through fourth.
Trinity Force, conditioned by Ali Rashid al Rayhi and ridden by Tadhg O'Shea, finished in 2:07.74.
Watson also sent out three of the top four finishers, including victor Galvanize, in the co-featured Emirates Airline Handicap at 1,600 meters.
Galvanize, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt, shot quickly to the lead from the inside stall and made all the going. With Fernando Jara up, he opened a big lead at the top of the lane and was never in danger. Munaaser was along for second, followed by the Watson pair of Thegreatcollection and Nolohay. It was Galvanize's first win from four tries in the UAE.
Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor got off the mark for their season, winning the Emirates A380 Handicap at 1,600 meters with lightly raced 3-year-old Lonhro colt Naaeebb. Winning rider Pat Cosgrave said, "He has won now and is a horse for the future. He is only going to improve with racing and experience."
Racing at Meydan will continue through World Cup night, March 31.
Titi Makfi made all in Monday's 32Red Floodlit Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on the Kempton Park Polytrack, turning back a series of challenges before crossing the line a head in front of Red Verdon. Dylan Mouth was another 1 length in arrears. The race may or may not have a direct impact on the All-Weather Championships as assistant trainer Charlie Johnston said she may be headed for the breeding shed.
However, Johnston also handled Soldier in Action, who finished fourth, and said that one is a candidate for the Marathon Division of the All-Weather Championship finals on Good Friday next. That was the point of contesting Monday's race, he said, "as that is the first of his three qualifying runs. He will come back here on Nov. 22 for a 2-mile race, then have a little break with one more run before the final."
Horses can qualify for the finals either by winning a Fast-Track Qualifier race or by running thrice in other qualifying all-weather races.
Turning back to North America:
Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Red Smith Handicap, run at 11 furlongs on the turf, attracted 12 with Money Multiplier the 5-2 morning line favorite. Also well regarded on the morning line are Hunter O'Riley, Call Provision, Get Jets and Oscar Nominated. Turco Bravo is entered for "main track only" and would be formidable if the race comes off the grass but a sunny forecast would seem to make that unlikely.
A half dozen 2-year-olds signed on for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at 7 furlongs. Run Away, a Run Away and Hide colt trained by Simon Callaghan, is the most accomplished with four wins from five starts, including the Grade II Best Pal at Del Mar and the Barretts Juvenile at Los Alamitos. He was third in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity.
Gulfstream Park West
Saturday's program has a double focus. Four stakes races are previews for the Sunshine Millions, to be run Jan. 20. Four others are juvenile races, two each on the dirt and turf. All are restricted to Florida-breds.
Saturday is "Ben's Cat Day" at the Maryland track north of Washington, D.C., honoring the venerable gelding who passed away this summer at age 11 shortly after his retirement. Six stakes are on an admirable card.
Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Autumn Stakes, is 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course.
There were a lot of very quick exits from Del Mar en route to Lexington, where there were some VERY popular ladies on parade in in the sales pavilions at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, starting Monday.
Mandy Pope said she went way past her budget when she landed Songbird at the Fasig-Tipton sale for $9.5 million. The 4-year-old filly, twice an Eclipse Award winner, became the second-highest-priced broodmare prospect ever, behind only the $10 million paid -- also by Pope -- for 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. Despite her stellar record on the field and flawless breeding, Songbird may be remembered best for the 2016 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita where she came up less than a nose short of defeating another multiple champion, Beholder, in a race for the ages.
"She's by Medaglia d'Oro, who I think is one of the best sires, and I think there are the genetics there to go on and make a good mama," Pope said. "So, fingers crossed, lots of prayers are needed." She said no decision has been made about a mate for Songbird but any of the world's top stallions would be available.
Just a few lots after Songbird, two-time Eclipse Award winner Tepin entered the same Fasig-Tipton ring and brought $8 million from representatives of the Irish Coolmore combine. The Bernstein mare, currently in foal to Curlin, already is lined up for a visit to
Galileo this coming spring, said M.V. Magnier, who signed the ticket for "the lads," as trainer Aidan O'Brien calls the partners. "It's a lot of money, but she's an excellent racehorse," Magnier said. "She's very good looking. She was a good 2-year-old and she was good up to the age of 5."
Across town, Magnier also inked the paper for Stellar Wind, the 2015 Eclipse Award 3-year-old filly, for $6 million. Magnier indicated Stellar Wind will go to American Pharoah.
A couple others at semi-random: Miss Temple City, a remarkable turf filly who visited Royal Ascot three times for The Club Racing and partners but never made it to Hong Kong, brought $2.5 million at Fasig-Tipton; restaurateur and celebrity chef Bobby Flay bought Life Well Lived, a daughter of Tiznow, a full sister to Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed who is believed to be in foal to American Pharoah, for $1.25 million; the first weanling by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah went for $250,000 to Peter O'Callaghan at Fasig-Tipton; Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, a daughter of Street Boss in foal to Pioneerof the Nile, was sold to Bridlewood Farm and Don Alberto for $2.3 million.
Congratulations to all who bred these wonderful horses, cared for them and prepared them for their first careers on the track. Those outside the industry will never understand the love and respect that's involved in those relationships.