UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview

Two days of top-level turf action at Woodbine, including three Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events, provide the feature attraction in weekend horse racing.

Two of the Breeders' Cup qualifiers are for 2-year-olds. The third, the Woodbine Mile, features the 2019 Preakness winner with a new lease on life on the green course.

Kentucky Downs completed another highly successful meet with praise from many first-time competitors. Del Mar gave way to Santa Anita, which delayed its opening for a week because of smoke from the California wildfires.

In New York, a powerful French filly challenges locals in the Belmont Oaks Invitational.

Internationally speaking, 2-year-olds fire it up in the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury in England. And a pair of Group 1 events in Australia has Verry Elleegant back on the track.

Now that we've finally got that name right, let's get going.

Turf Mile

A nice cast of eight is assembled for Saturday's $1 million (Canadian) Ricoh Woodbine Mile, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup FanDuel Mile Presented by PDJF.

War of Will, the 2019 Preakness winner, seems to have found a new home on the green course. In his first try on grass since the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, the War Front colt finished fifth in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita in May but was set down to sixth. He returned July 10 to win the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in his most recent start.

March to the Arch comes off a victory in the Grade II King Edward at the same conditions and is the 5-2 second favorite on the morning-line. Starship Jubilee and Value Proposition also merit consideration.

Then there's Shirl's Speight, a Speightstown colt who has run twice and won twice, both times ridden out. The first win came at 7 furlongs on the Woodbine turf. The second was in the Grade III Marine Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track. After that win, owner-breeder Charles Fipke had designs on the Kentucky Derby but the colt developed a cough and missed the Run for the Roses. Now he tries older and much more experienced rivals. Watch and learn.

War of Will, seen winning the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in July, is a major player in Saturday's Grade I Woodbine Mile, photo courtesy of Keeneland


Nakamura invades as the morning-line favorite among 10 entered for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine. The 5-year-old Animal Kingdom gelding has made two previous starts this year, finishing third in both. Trainer Graham Motion engineers the first time jockey-horse combination of Kazushi Kimura-Nakamura. Motion also has Standard Deviation, who hasn't shown quite his old pep since returning from a runner-up showing behind French King in the Group 1 H H The Emir Trophy in Doha in February. Top local candidates are Skywire, winner of the Grade II Eclipse Stakes July 4, and Admiralty Pier, second in each of his last two. Tiz a Slam won this last year but has been in a slump.

Filly & Mare Turf

The power of pre-eminent Irish sire Galileo reaches out, via France, to Belmont Park in Saturday's $250,000 Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational. Magic Attitude is the even-money favorite on the morning line in a field of five. The Galileo filly is out of the Irish-bred mare Margot Did, who, in turn, is by the Australian-bred Exceed and Excel. That world-class pedigree helped her to a victory in May at Longchamp in Paris in a Group 3 event, a second in the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary at Chantilly in June and a respectable fifth, beaten just 3 lengths, in July's Group 1 Prix de Diane against candidates for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. She's been training at Fair Hill for Arnoud Delacor since mid-August.

Magic Attitude, however, will have to have her running shoes on. The opposition includes Antoinette, who exits a win in the Saratoga Oaks Invitational in a bit of a breakthrough, and Key Biscayne, who finished third in that race. Neige Blanche, another French import, finished fourth in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks last month in her U.S. debut. She won the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre at Lyon-Parilly before catching the plane for sunny California.

Already in the books:

Theodora B. took the lead early in Tuesday's $500,000 TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs and held on late to win by 3/4 length over the closing favorite, Mrs. Sippy. Delta's Kingdom was another 2 lengths back in third. Theodora B., a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare out of the Dynaformer mare Dyna Waltz, ran 1 5/16 miles on good turf in 2:09.72 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. She was last seen winning the Grade II Dance Smartly at Woodbine Aug. 15.

"She's a really incredible filly, a little on the quirky side," said Fenella O'Flynn, assistant trainer for Maryland-based trainer Michael Dickinson. "But she's a really, really nice filly."

Turf Sprint

Lighthouse stalked the pace in Tuesday's $400,000 Music City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got first run to the lead in the long Kentucky Downs straightaway and held off Miss J McKay to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Kimari, scratched from a weekend start against elders in favor of this, settled for third. It was her first start back from Royal Ascot -- culture shock. Lighthouse, a daughter of Mizzen Mast, ran 6 1/2 furlongs of good turf in 1:14.99 with Umberto Rispoli riding.

Lighthouse shipped in from Southern California where she had two wins and two seconds for trainer Simon Calaghan. Rispoli, also visiting from California, expressed his appreciation for the unique, European-style track.

"I've been riding around the world, and even in Italy we have a few up and down tracks. Not like this," Rispoli said. "But in England and France, too. But I love the grass, so I can adapt myself anywhere, no matter what."

Guildsman raced next-last in a field of 12 in Wednesday's $500,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-olds at Kentucky Downs, came out to the seven path under Tyler Gaffalione's guidance and sprinted home best to win by a neck. Island Commish was second, another neck in front of Super Dormy. The favorite, Turned Aside, finished fifth. Guildsman, a French-bred gelding by Wootton Bassett out of the Street Cry mare Dardiza, got 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:15.87. He finished second and third in Group races in England and France, missed in his first three U.S. starts and found success on the Presque Isle Downs all-weather track in his previous start. He totes the burgundy and gold of Sheik Fahad Al Thani's Qatar Racing and the sheik's representative, Fergus Galvin, said his boss was watching closely.

"He's always shown a lot of promise, this horse. He ran in some of the bigger 2-year-old races over there (in Europe). The distance, 6 1/2 furlongs, and the configuration of the track obviously played to his advantage," Galvins said. "But it certainly made Sheik Fahad a big fan of Kentucky Downs. He's already wanting to stock up the stable to point to the meeting next year." 

Kentucky Downs ended its all-too-brief, six-day season with just shy of $60 million in total handle, $12.3 million in purses won and praise from many of its newcomer participants.

"First meet here. I love it," said Saffie Joseph Jr., a native of Barbados who this summer expanded his East Coast base to include Kentucky. "It's a cool setting, different from what you're used to seeing in America. It's kind of like a European track. I'm coming back every year."

Sprint / Dirt Mile

Sunday's $150,000 Grade III Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park drew many of the warriors who have fought it out at the shore all summer with little to separate them or their chances. A newcomer is Valid Point, a 4-year-old Scat Daddy colt who won the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park last August on a day when trainer Chad Brown swept all before him. Since then, however, Valid Point has been dismal in three starts and gets a chance to reverse that trend with his first-ever race on the dirt.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Chillingworth Stakes at Santa Anita is postponed because of the wildfire-driven poor air quality.

Juvenile Turf

Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Gretzy the Great, a Nyquist colt, steps up after winning the Soaring Free Stakes in his last start. Ready to Repeat, a More Than Ready gelding, has won on both the turf and all-weather surfaces and exits a third in his last outing. He's cross-entered in what may or may not be a less ambitious spot Sunday. American Monarch comes off a career-debut win at Saratoga and looks to continue the great record his sire, American Pharoah, is posting with young turfers. Dolder Grand, a Candy Ride colt, sold for $800,000 at the Ocala 2-year-olds in training sale, then ran third in his first start in August.

Saturday's $100,000 Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, was postponed a week due to the poor air quality in the area due to wildfires.

Saturday's $135,000 (Canadian) Ontario Racing Stakes at Woodbine will show something about the promising Wesley Ward-trained Amsden, an American Pharoah colt who won for fun in his only previous race, July 28 at Colonial Downs. He's the 8-5 favorite on the morning line, trailed by Ready to Repeat, who is cross-entered here.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade I Natalma Stakes at Woodbine is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Alda enters after winning two in a row, most recently the Catch a Glimpse Stakes in August and bounces back across the border for trainer Graham Motion. Dreaming of Drew exits a second in the Catch a Glimpse after winning in her second try in July. Sleek Lynx, a War Front filly who sold twice for six-figure sums, finished second in her career debut in July at Gulfstream Park and returns here for trainer Mark Casse. Sleek Lynx and Lady Speightspeare also could have bright futures.

Saturday's $135,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Cares Stakes features the Ward-trained Illegal Smile, an Irish-bred Camacho filly who failed to hold off the late bids of Alda and Dreaming of Drew in her last start. Those two are candidates for the Natalma, making this task a bit easier for Illegal Smile. The main rivals this time appear to be last-time maiden winners Souper Munnings and Rocket Reload and Chatelet, who just missed in her debut.

Emro tracked the pace in Tuesday's $400,000 Untapable Stakes at Kentucky Downs, closed quickly through the stretch under Shaun Bridgmohan and then cleared to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Taylor's Tourist was second, 3 lengths in front of Fouzia. The favorite, Red Ghost, had every chance at the top of the lane but flattened out and reported seventh. Emro, a Point of Entry filly from the Grand Slam mare Grand Finesse, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:16.31. She won at first asking on the Ellis Park turf and now is 2-for-2.

"Obviously still green and has a lot to learn, but very talented filly that we think has a big future," said trainer Brad Cox, who on Saturday won the $1 million, Grade 3 Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup with Arklow. 

In other action:

Indiana Grand

Expect Indy parked right behind pacesetting, odds-on favorite Unbridled Class through the early furlongs of Wednesday's $75,000 Richmond Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, got by that rival and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Unbridled Class then had all she could do to save second by 3/4 length over a fast-closing Pretty Assets. Expect Indy, a 7-year-old mare by Mr. Mabee, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.25. Emmanuel Esquivel rode.

Unbridled Beast pressed the pace in Wednesday's $75,000 Gus Grissom Stakes for state-breds, took the lead when asked by jockey Rodney Prescott and won off by 5 lengths. Operation Stevie rallied from last of seven to finish second with Stop Hammertime third. Unbridled Beast, a 3-year-old Unbridled Express gelding running against elders, finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.52.

Louisiana Downs

Saturday is Louisiana Cup day with six races for the state-breds on both turf and dirt.

Around the world, around the clock:


Okay. We'll use this construction once and promise never to use it again, no matter how good the colt turns out to be: Fivethousandtoone is, in fact, only 2-1 in antepost wagering for Saturday's Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes for 2-year-olds at Newbury. The Frankel colt, trained by Andrew Balding for King Power Racing, finished second in his career debut in August, then returned quickly to overcome a slow start and win by 4 lengths Sept. 3 at Newcastle. Chief rival in a field of eight appears to be Rhythm Master, a son of Dark Angel who was third in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Longchamp Aug. 23 in his second career start. Others are moving in the right direction.


Verry Elleegant is back on the track Saturday in the Group 1 Fujitsu George Main Stakes at Royal Randwick. The 5-year-old, New Zealand-bred daughter of Zed comes off a victory in the Winx Stakes Aug. 23 and faces the runner-up in that race, Star of the Seas. Among the others, Dreamforce has been impressive in some top-level races, hopeless in others.

Behemoth looms large in Saturday's Group 1 Neds Sir Robert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield after winning the Memsie Stakes over course and distance in his previous outing. Superstorm will see what he can do against Eastern competition. It's a big field going 1,400 meters so traffic likely will play a part in the outcome.