The Queen's Plate in Canada, the Irish Derby and a French filly and mare showdown top an international buffet of classy weekend racing.
Woodbine has a stellar supporting program for the Queen's Plate. Belmont Park, Monmouth and Gulfstream have important stakes. And Churchill Downs has a couple races for the precocious and ambitious 2-year-old set.
Last weekend, the Queen herself at Royal Ascot. This weekend, the Queen's Plate in the former colony. We flow on with the narrative ...
The Queen's Plate
Saturday's $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate at Woodbine features the first three finishers from the Plate Trial and the top two from the Woodbine Oaks
Mark Casse trains the Plate Trial winner, Telekinesis, and Wonder Gadot, who has finished second by narrow margins in the Fantasy at Oaklawn Park, the Kentucky Oaks and Woodbine Oaks in her last three starts. She again squares off against Dixie Moon, who is 3-for-4 over the course for trainer Catherine Day Phillips.
Woodbine oddsmaker Ernie Perri taps Telekinesis as the morning-line favorite. Before his win in the Plate Trial, the Ghostzapper colt was second in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland by a head to My Boy Jack, who went on to finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
Telekinesis drew gate No. 10 for the Plate, just inside Wonder Gadot. "He's going to have speed from out there," Casse said. "He'll be the most forwardly placed of my runners and it looks like the speed is inside us."
Casse also fields Neepwa, a Scat Daddy colt still seeking his second win. A potentially live long shot is Silent Poet, a son of Japanese sire Silent Name out of the Ghostzapper mare Cara Bella, who tries two turns for the first time after a pair of shorter victories over the course.
Sixteen are set for the race, restricted to Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds and run at 1 1/4 miles on the Woodbine all-weather course. If you can't be there in person, check out the action live on Horse Racing Radio Network (www.horseracingradio.net). Expert thoughts on the tilt from HRRN commentator Jude Feld are at www.popejude.com.
Trainer Chad Brown has four of the 10 starters for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park. Money Multiplier, Silverwave, Funtastic and Kurilov all rate a chance. Last year's winner, Bigger Picture, is back for an encore. Oscar Nominated and One Go All Go also rate a chance in the 1 3/8-mile romp on the lawn.
Filly & Mare Turf
Last year's Queen's Plate winner, Holy Helena, returns as the 5-2 favorite agaisnt nine rivals in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Dance Smartly at Woodbine. The Ghostzapper filly won her first three starts this year before finishing fifth in the Grade II New York at Belmont Park in her last outing. Santa Monica, previously raced in Ireland, finished third behind Holy Helena in the Grade II Sheepshead Bay at Belmont May 5 and could be a threat, as could Inflexibility.
A nicely matched group of eight is set for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Eatontown Stakes for fillies and mares, going 1 1/16 grassy miles at Monmouth Park. The marginal morning-line favorite is Elysea's World but five of the others also are posted at single digits on the morning line. Looks like an excellent wagering opportunity.
Tower of Texas, if not towering over his seven rivals, nonetheless is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II King Edward Stakes at Woodbine. The 7-year-old Street Sense gelding won the King Edward in 2015 and finished third in 2016 and 2017. He comes off a third-place finish behind Caribou Club in the Grade II Connaught Cup going a furlong shorter and faces that one again.
Machtree, Elusive Mischief and Ride a Comet top the oddsmaker's estimates for Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Charlie Barley Stakes for 3-year-olds at Woodbine. All three are trained by Mark Casse.
A really good field of 10, with plenty of international spice, is set to contest Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Highlander at 6 furlongs on the Woodbine turf. The race is newly upgraded to Grade I status and is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeder's Cup Turf Sprint in November at Churchill Downs.
The morning-line favorite is Imprimis, a 4-year-old Broken Vow gelding who is undefeated in five career starts but steps into stakes company for the first time. He faces the likes of Long On Value, second in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in 2017; Holding Gold, a competitive seventh in this year's Al Quoz; Belvoir Bay, riding a three-race win streak in California; and 3-year-old British-trained filly Corinthia Knight.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
This new division has three new "Win and You're In" preliminaries. Breeders' Cup announced Monday the winners of the Oct. 6 Futurity at Belmont Park, the Oct. 7 Indian Summer Stakes at Keenneland and a yet-to-be finalized Oct. 6 event at Santa Anita will have a guaranteed spot in the $1 million race. Shang Shang Shang already secured a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate Nov. 2 by dint of her victory in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes last week at Royal Ascot.
"We look forward to establishing a late fall stakes program of automatic qualifiers with three major racetrack partners to provide 'Win and You're In' opportunities for the new Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint," said Dora Delgado, Breeders' Cup Senior Vice President of Racing and Nominations.
Imperative, Harlan Punch and Page McKenney headline in a cast of seven for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park. Imperative, the 2-1 favorite, comes off a win in the Grade II Charles Town Classic. Page McKenney exits a win in the Salvator Mile over the same track. Harlan Punch wins infrequently but rarely misses the frame.
Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Dominion Day Stakes, 10 furlongs on the all-weather, has a field of seven of Woodbine's most accomplished.
Santa Anita Oaks winner Midnight Bisou is the morning-line favorire for Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park. The Midnight Lute filly makes her first start since finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks slop and has been in the money in all six starts.
Also in the cast of seven for the Mother Goose is Road to Victory, a Quality Road colt trained by Mark Casse who is 3-for-3, including the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last fall.
X Y Jet makes his return from Dubai in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old Kantharos gelding finished second in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night, snapping a three-race winning streak that followed a series of injuries. He faces some tough ones again, among them Classic Rock, winner of three in a row including the Grade III Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Princess Rooney Handicap at Gulfstream Park is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and drew a field of eight. Ms Locust Point, winner six from 10 starts, is the highweight. She won the Grade II Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park in February but misfired in two intervening starts. This is not the toughest field ever assembled for a graded race and it could be ripe for an upset. Treble, a Macho Uno filly, has been in the money in all six previous starts this year and has been stepping up.
Thirteen 2-year-olds are set to face the starter in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. The morning-line favorite, believe it or not and there is a joke relative to this, is Toothless Wonder, a Street Boss colt trained by Doug O'Neill. His first two starts were in California and he won the more recent of them at Santa Anita. Obviously, the race is a tossup.
Saturday's $100,000 Debutante at Churchill Downs has a field of nine fillies with great potential and high hopes. Toss a dart at the program to make your pick and it's likely to be a good one.
Derby disappointments Saxon Warrior and Dee Ex Bee headline Saturday's Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.
Saxon Warrior, the Japanese-bred colt who went off a hot favorite at Epsom, had a troubled trip in that race but never seemed likely to contend with Godolphin's impressive winner, Masar. He nonetheless finished fourth. Dee Ex Bee, trained by Mark Johnston, ran strongly through the final furlongs to finish second the Derby, well outrunning his 20-1 odds.
Those two face another Godolpin star in the making, Old Persian, who comes off a rather commanding win in the Group II King Edward at Royal Ascot just eight days prior to the Irish classic. In all, 12 are set to go and while trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore make Saxon Warrior their choice, O'Brien also fields Delano Roosevelt, the Pentagon and Rostropovich.
Eight of the 12 tentatively in for Sunday's Group 1 Juddmonte Pretty Polly for fillies and mares are trained by Aidan O'Brien, including Hydrangea and Rhododendron, Happily and Forever Together. John Gosden entered Coronet, who exits a win at York but she also is in Sunday's big race in France.
In addition to the aforementioned Coronet, Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud includes Bateel and Salouen. The latter just failed to last at the wire in her last start, the Group 1 Coronation Cup, as Cracksman won with a final lunge. Bateel won her seasonal debut and looks poised to continue a stellar career at age 6.
News and Notes:
The joke is -- and I feel I can tell it because I grew up in Louisville -- "How do we know for sure toothpaste was invented in Kentucky?" The answer is, "If was invented somewhere else, it would have been called 'teethpaste'."