The Gold Cup at Santa Anita headlines a strong lineup of races for the U.S. Memorial Day weekend while Canada, England, Ireland, France, Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa and Singapore all contribute to the international festivities.
With so much going on, let's get right to the action:
The Triple Crown
With three weeks between races, we'll tread lightly here, noting only that assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes reported from Churchill Downs Wednesday that Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Justify is "a chowhound."
Despite the tough outing in the Pimlico slop on Saturday, Justify "came out of the race in great shape ... He's a chowhound, he eats up everything," Barnes said. "Couldn't be happier with his weight, his flesh, his color. Everything is great on him."
The colt was scheduled to return to the track Thursday morning after a four-day respite to begin preparations for the third jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
More next week on the Triple Crown. Meanwhile, in the various divisions:
Pending that Belmont Stakes, Justify looms large in the Classic Division, especially as the older horses have yet to distinguish themselves.
City of Light and Accelerate, the 1-2 finishers from the Oaklawn Handicap in their last start, return to action in Saturday's $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. City of Light, a 4-year-old Quality Road colt, has won three straight races including the narrow upset win in Arkansas. Before that, he won the Grade I Malibu and the Grade I Triple Bend over the Santa Anita track and has never missed the exacta in seven career starts. Accelerate landed the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap two races back.
Among the others in the Gold Cup, Dr. Dorr has three wins in a row, most recently the Grade II Californian; Pavel has been running against the best, including a fourth in the Dubai World Cup in his last outing; and Full of Luck looks to recreate the form he showed in his native Chile but is cross-entered on the grass in the Charles Whittingham on the same card.
Are You Kidding Me, Melmich and Gigantic Breeze all figure prominently in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Eclipse Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Woodbine all-weather course. Are You Kidding Me won this race two years ago and finished second last season. Melmich, in his last eight starts, posted five wins, then three seconds, all at Woodbine and most in graded stakes. Gigantic Breeze has a stellar record on the all-weather but finished 11th in the Claiming Crown Jewel when he tried the Gulfsteam Park dirt in his last start.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap has a short field of five but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality. Bob Baffert imports Mubtaahij as the even-money favorite for the 1 1/16 miles. He makes his first start since finishing third in the Dubai World Cup in March and Mike Smith is named to ride, so you know they're serious. Still, the 6-year-old international traveler will have his hands full with Full of Luck, Shotgun Kowboy and Fear the Cowboy. The only long shot in the field, at 20-1 on the line, is South Beach, who makes just his fifth career start.
Ezmosh, Alternative Route and The Money Dance top the oddsmaker's estimation for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Arlington Classic, 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, an early preliminary for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million day in August.
Ezmosh, an Oklahoma-bred colt by Tizway, made a brief appearance on the Triple Crown trail, then retreated to the turf, winning a Fair Grounds allowance event March 25. Alternative Route, an Ontario-bred colt by Tiznow, makes his first start on the green course but won on the Turfway all-weather in the Rushaway Stakes March 17. The Money Dance, an Indiana-bred Jimmy Creed colt, took seven tries to find the winners' circle but now has two straight wins, at Oaklawn Park and on the Belmont Park dirt.
Money Multiplier is the morning-line favorite in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Monmouth Stakes in his first start since finishing third in the Group 1 H.H. The Emir's Trophy in Doha, Qatar, Feb. 24. The Chad Brown trainee won this event last year. This year's edition, however, looks fairly wide open with Frostmourne, Divisidero and Projected among those also having claims.
Eight are set for Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Charles Whittingham Stakes, 10 furlongs on the Santa Anita turf. Itsinthepost has four wins from his last five starts at Santa Anita and comes off a third-place finish in the Grade II Dixiana Elkhorn at Keeneland. Flamboyant has been consistent at this level. Syntax finished third in this last year but hasn't won for a good, long time. What a View comes off a win in the Grade II Californian and Full of Luck is cross-entered in the Gold Cup on the main track.
The Breeders' Cup international Challenge series continues Friday at San Isidro in Argentina with the Group 1 Gran Premio 25 de Mayo. The winner gets a free berth to the Longines Turf in November at Churchill Downs plus a travel allowance.
Filly & Mare Turf
A nice bunch turned out for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Gamely, 9 furlongs on the Santa Anita green course. The result is a tough handicapping puzzle. Hawksmoor has posted three straight runner-up results. Mopotism hasn't missed a first-three finish since the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Sophie P makes her second U.S. start after previously running in the English minor leagues. Uni, a Chad Brown charge, continues to seek consistency while battling some of the best. Ditto, Beau Recall.
Only six signed on for Saturday's $100,000 Paradise Creek for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park and one of those is in for main-track only. Gidu, a Frankel colt of whom much is expected, has two wins and two seconds from four starts, most recently a win at Tampa Bay Downs. Black Stetson exits a win in the Bridgetown Stakes at Aqueduct. Curlin's Honor tested the Triple Crown waters, then was backed off and won the Woodstock Stakes at Woodbine in his last outing, going a furlong shorter than this 7 panels. Final Frontier is the MTO entry.
Monday's $200,000 Grade II Monrovia finds fillies and mares charging 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill at Santa Anita.
Way down yonder in Chile, Nuevo Maestro was the official winner of Monday's Group 1 Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella at Club Hipico in Santiago and earned a berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile through the international Challenge program. Breeders' Cup officials said the 4-year-old's owner and breeder, Stud Don Alberto, intends to accept the invitation to participate at Churchill Downs in November.
Nuevo Maestro finished second behind stablemate Penn Rose but the stewards upheld a claim of foul by Nuevo Maestro's rider, Jorge Luis Vergara, giving the Guillermo Aguirre trainee his ninth consecutive win.
The action here runs through the Memorial Day weekend with Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nassau for fillies and mares at Woodbine and Monday's $400,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Golden Mischief, fresh from an impressive allowance win at Oaklawn Park, heads a field of six distaffers in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Winning Colors at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old Into Mischief filly has three stakes wins on her resume but seeks the first of the graded variety. Her trainer, Brad Cox, also sends out Pinch Hit.
Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth drew seven starters with at least five having good claims on the top prize. The oddsmaker has Jersey-bred Sunny Ridge the narrow 5-2 favorite off a second-place finish in his seasonal debut at Aqueduct. Also at single-digit odds are Shaft of Light, Chip Leader, Page McKenney and Great Stuff.
Action in this division continues through the weekend with Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Desert Stormer at Santa Anita and Monday's $100,000 Grade III All American on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather.
Evangeline Downs has a nine-race card worth $600,000 Saturday night for Louisiana-bred steeds. It's Louisiana Legends night and some really nice horses have come through this program.
Around the world, around the clock:
What an exciting time in England. Last weekend, the royal wedding. This week, some final preparations for the June 2 Investec Derby and Investec Oaks at Epsom. But wait, there's more! The likely contenders for next month's Royal Ascot are lining up, too.
Tuesday was the scratching deadline for the Derby and 16 are left in, including the undefeated ante-post favorite, Saxon Warrior, and Roaring Lion, who was thought by many headed for the French equivalent.
Saxon Warrior, by Japanese stallion Deep Impact, did nothing to hurt his favorite's status with a win in the Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas May 5 at Newmarket. He is one of seven left in the Derby by ace conditioner Aidan O'Brien.
The prospective field also includes Godolphin's Masar, trained by Charlie Appleby, and Roaring Lion, fifth in the Guineas for trainer John Gosden and Qatar Racing. Roaring Lion rebounded from the Guineas effort to win the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York May 17.
Five-day confirmations and a final supplement chance are May 28; Final declarations, May 31.
Royal Ascot is only a month away and everyone's looking forward to it -- especially trainers with live horses like The Tin Man.
The Tin Man, 2016 winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, obviously has recovered from a virus that sidelined him in Hong Kong for the Longines International Races in December, making a winning return in the Weatherbys Hamilton Leisure Stakes on Monday night.
The Tin Man's trainer James Fanshawe, told At The Races, "They did a great job in Hong Kong to let him recover after his sickness. We left him alone for two months and he had a really good enforced holiday, which has probably done him the world of good. I'm very relieved to win and hopefully he's on course for the Diamond Jubilee again."
Saturday at the Curragh it's the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas where trainer Aidan O'Brien fields two of the three favorites, U S Navy Flag and Gustav Klimt. The Mark Johnston-trained Frankel colt Elarqam also isin the mix in his second start of the season.
Sunday, the fillies pursue the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas. Pending final confirmations, O'Brien has a strong hand here, too, with Clemmie, Happily, Magical, Actress and several others to choose among.
It's a short field of just five for Sunday's Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin -- a rare 1 1/2-mile marathon at the Hong Kong racing palace. The race attracted one foreign runner, Chemical Charge, whose trainer, Ralph Beckett, expects to improve on a fourth-place finish at long odds in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase over course and distance last December. Beckett said he is "confident of a big show because the track and the way the races are run there clearly suit him."
Although they're at the end of a long season and seldom see this distance, the local runners are no pushovers. Pakistan Star seems to be behaving himself now with a bit of maturity -- at least enough to have won the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup in his last outing, going 2,000 meters. He's one of three fielded by trainer Tony Cruz, also including Exultant, a promising 4-year-old who won over the course and distance last time out in the Queen Mother Cup. Gold Mount and Eagle Way complete the field.
Danon Premium, undefeated in four previous starts, tops the field for Sunday's Grade I Tokyo Yushun, or Japanese Derby, despite having missed the main preliminary with a minor injury.
The Deep Impact colt, won all three starts as a 2-year-old, finishing with the Grade I Asahi Hai Futurity at Hanshin Dec. 17, then returned to win his seasonal debut March 4 at Nakayama in the Grade III Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho at 2,000 meters. A stone bruise then kept him out of the Grade I Satsuki Sho, the Japanese 2000 Guineas.
In the Tokyo Yushun, Danon Premium will face many of those who did contest the Satsuki Sho, including upset winner Epoca d'Oro, an Orfevre colt who won by 2 lengths as the favorite, Wagnerian, finished seventh while Sans Rival and Generale Uno finished second and third.
Epoca d'Oro will be running on the Tokyo turf for the first time and running left-handed for the first time. Sans Rival and Generale Uno are both back for another try and Wagnerian is nominated in hope of reversing his form from the last race.
Singapore returns to international racing attention Saturday as runners from Hong Kong and New Zealand contest the Kranji Mile against 10 locals.
The Singapore Turf Club suspended its two previous Group 1 international races after the 2015 running, then announced last year it would resume international competition by opening the 2018 Kranji Mile as an invitational event and boosting purses for that race and the supporting Lion City Cup at 1,200 meters.
"We are exhilarated to put Singapore racing back on the world map," Singapore Turf Club President B.C. Chong said at the time of the announcement. "We believe the way to do so is to offer better incentives and bigger prize money to attract the world's top horses, owners, trainers and jockeys to the Singapore Racecourse. This year's Kranji Mile will be a window into the international races in 2019 to drum up early interest and anticipation among the local and international racing communities," Chong said.
Hong Kong invaders Southern Legend (AUS) and Horse of Fortune (SAF) add some authority to the field. Both have competed at the top levels during the 2017-18 Hong Kong season with Southern Legend most recently third in the Champions Mile (G1).
Horse of Fortune's best showing was a sixth-place finish, beaten only 4 lengths, in the Longines Hong Kong Mile in December.
New Zealand's hope is Ocean Emperor, who enters the Kranji tilt after a win in the Windsor Park Stud Japan Trophy at Matamata.
Bateel shrugged off a 212-day break to win Monday's Group 2 Prix Corrida at Saint-Cloud -- a race both Treve and Solomia used en route to victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Johnnie Peter-Hoblyn, racing manager for the owners, Al Asayl, said Bateel may be set the same task. "We've got the rest of the season and, really, she's an autumn filly," he told Racing Post. He said Bateel might try for a repeat in the Prix Vermeille "but she needs time between her races, so it needs planning carefully."
Scottsville hosts four Grade 1 sprints on Saturday -- the Tsogo Sun Sprint, the South African Fillies Sprint and a pair of races for 2-year-olds. All are contested at 1,200 meters and all seem fairly wide-open.
News and Notes:
Leslie's Lady, the dam of Beholder, Mendelssohn and Into Mischief, has been bred to Not This Time, Taylor Made Stallions announced Wednesday. Not This Time is a son of Giant's Causeway out of the Trippi mare Miss Macy Sue. "Not This Time is a great-looking horse that was extremely talented," said Fred Mitchell, owner of Leslie's Lady. "The reports on his first foals this year have been excellent, and we wanted to get back to that sire line, which has been so successful." Leslie's Lady also has a yearling colt by Medaglia d'Oro and this spring foaled an American Pharoah filly.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame's "Pillars of the Turf Committee" has elected 12 new members to the Hall of Fame: Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin, August Belmont I, Cot Campbell, Penny Chenery, John W. Galbreath, Arthur B. Hancock, Sr., Hal Price Headley, John Morrissey, Dr. Charles H. Strub, William Collins Whitney, Harry Payne Whitney and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.
The Museum's executive committee authorized the Pillars of the Turf Committee to select as many as 12 inductees in both 2018 and 2019 to address a "significant backlog of worthy candidates" in the category established in 2013.