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UPI Horse Racing Roundup

Horse racing takes a break from the Triple Crown wars to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with graded stakes from New York to California with stops in Kentucky and Texas along the way.

Santa Anita has one of its most prestigious programs of the season with Monday's Grade I Shoemaker Mile and Grade I Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares, both on the grass, and the Grade II Hollywood Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles on the dirt.

Memorial Day at Lone Star Park in Texas includes the Grade III Steve Sexton Mile and the $300,000 Texas Derby on the dirt and the $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the turf.

Churchill Downs and Aqueduct have graded stakes both Saturday and Monday.

On the international front, there's the Japanese Derby at Tokyo Racecourse, the Group 1 Standard Charted Champions & Chater Cup in Hong Kong and the Irish Guineas and Gold Cup at the Curragh.

It's worth noting up front: August Rodin is the big favorite for Sunday's Irish 2000 Guineas despite finishing last of 12 in his most recent start in Dubai and City of Troy is the antepost choice in next weekend's Derby despite finishing ninth of 12 in the English 2,000 Guineas in his last start. Aidan O'Brien has a theory about the in-and-out performances. See the "Around the World …" section.

Here's a quick look at some of that action, by division:

Turf / Turf Mile

Legend of Time, a disappointment for Godolphin in his U.S. debut on Derby Day at Churchill Downs, returns for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Pennine Ridge Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct. Opposition in the seven-horse field includes two from the Chad Brown barn plus representatives of Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott and others.

Monday's $400,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita no doubt will be a good race but we await the entries to make sure.

Filly & Mare Turf

Seven are in for Saturday's $250,000 Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs with Chop Chop the 9-5 morning-line favorite. The City of Light filly won the Grade III Bewitch at Keeneland in her last start. Vegara and Atomic Blonde are both worth a look.

We await entries for Monday's $200,000 Grade II Wonder Again Stakes at Aqueduct and $400,000 Grade I Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita.

Turf Sprint

Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Daytona Stakes down the Santa Anita hillside drew 10 mostly familiar opponents. Johnny Podres has won three straight, including the Siren Lure stakes over several of these. But, the old hatpin in the program trick might be a good as any handicapping.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Eleven filles and mares are set for a 6-furlongs trip in Monday's $250,000 Grade III Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Monday's $200,000 Ouija Board Stakes at Lone Star Park has what looks to be a wide-open field of 11. The race is named for the superstar mare, trained by Ed Dunlop, who won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in 2004 at Lone Star Park and repeated in 2006 at Churchill Downs. She was the dam of 2014 Epsom Derby winner Australia.

Distaff

Six-time graded stakes winner Adare Manor, fresh off a victory in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park, tops Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita. Four of her graded stakes wins have come at Santa Anita although she was a traffic-troubled seventh in the Breeders' Cup Distaff there last November. Coffee in Bed figures to provide some competition after winning the Grade II Santa Maria in her last start. Super Shine returns after finishing second in that race in her first U.S. start since arriving from South America.

Adare Manor, seen winning the 2023 Clement Hirsch Stakes, returns in Sunday's Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita, Benoit Photography, courtesy of Santa Anita

Classic

Monday's $300,000 Texas Derby at Lone Star Park attracted a competitive bunch including Real Men Violin, E J Won the Cup and Informed Patriot. This is a heat to watch for a potential improver.

Monday's $200,000 Grade II Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita - awaiting entries.

Dirt Mile

Frosted Grace and Everso Mischievous, Churchill Downs invaders both, top the morning line for Monday's $400,000 Grade III Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park. Touchuponastar, winner of five of his last six, highlights the locals. The Star Guitar gelding was second in the Grade II New Orleans Classic two starts back and second in this last year -- behind Frosted Grace.

Around the World, Around the Clock

Japan

Sunday's Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby has the usual big field with Justin Milano looking to remain undefeated and keep alive his Triple Crown hopes. The opposition includes the filly Regaleira, winner of last year's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes and sixth after a troubled start in the Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2,000 Guineas -- behind Justin Milano. Most of the field tries 2,400 meters for the first time so there certainly are no guarantees.

Hong Kong

Seven local runners take on Godolphin import Rebel's Romance in Sunday's Group 1 Champions & Chater Cup -- the final and, at 2,400 meters, the longest -- Group 1 race of the season. Rebel's Romance, a Group 1 winner in Dubai and Germany, is intended to join Charlie Appleby's American operation in the summertime, making this an interesting detour. The Hong Kong team includes Russian Emperor, winner of last year's edition. He, however, has not come close in six tries since then, including the H H the Amir's Trophy in Doha, won by Rebel's Romance. Hong Kong Derby winner Massive Sovereign still has buzz but misfired in his most recent outing, albeit on yielding turf. None of the others is mesmerizing although La City Blanche (ARG) and Five G Patch (IRE) did finish 1-2 in the Queen Mother Memorial Handicap at 2,400 meters May 5. Persistent rain in Hong Kong could tilt the advantage to Russian Emperor.

Ireland

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Unquestionable returns to action in Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh and may find this a tougher task. Entries also include two stablemates from Ballydoyle -- Breeders' Cup runner-up Mountain Bear and last year's Coventry Stakes winner River Tiber. None of them is the early favorite, though. That honor goes to Rosallion -- a Blue Point colt trained by Richard Hannon for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum, who exits a fine second behind Notable Speech in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Nice race.

Another Aidan O'Brien charge, Opera Singer, reigns as early favorite in Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh. Those not liking the winner of October's Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac can turn to the maestro's son, Donnacha Aidan O'Brien, who conditions Porta Ventura, last seen finishing second by a neck to Elmalka in the English 1000 Guineas. All pending final declarations, of course.

While the Guineas are always the attraction, Sunday's Group I Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh might steal the show with O'Brien's Auguste Rodin and Luxembourg both holding entries. O'Brien obviously hasn't given up on Auguste Rodin, the dual Derby and Breeders' Cup Turf winner whom he previously has held out as a potential game changer for the breed, despite his last-place finish in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. Luxembourg, second to Romantic Warrior in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup in December, exits a 14th-place finish in the Group 1 Dubai Turf.

O'Brien has an interesting take on why his horses can go from a horrible result one race to a stunning victory in the next, or vice-versa -- as Auguste Rodin has done twice and he hopes City of Troy can do in the Derby. Discussing the Dubai results with Racing Post, he said jockey Ryan Moore "accepts it very quickly" when he senses a horse isn't having its day and takes his foot off the accelerator pedal. "He knows what's happening so the horses don't have hard races which is great," O'Brien said.

England

Apparently William Haggis carried the day in his discussions with owner Sheik Isa Salman Al Khalifa as the trainer announced Thursday Dante winner Economics will not contest either the English or French Derby. Haggis had argued the conditions would not suit the colt and strongly suggested he be prepared for later-season goals -- leaving the decision, of course up to the Sheik. The decision leaves O'Brien's City of Troy, despite his dismal showing (see above) in the 2,000 Guineas, as the head-and-shoulders favorite for the Classic on Epsom Downs a week from Saturday.

                                    
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