A Graded Stakes Saturday We Never Want To End

War Like Goddess | Sarah Andrew


The parade of graded stakes races this Saturday is like a Christmas tree laden with presents. Towards the end of the celebration, as the wadded paper congregates, there will be a customary wistfulness that slowly sets in. We never want it to end.

With 17, yes 17, graded races on the docket–nine of those have Breeders' Cup 'Win and You're In' status–it is going to be a splendid day to receive as Belmont at the Big A, Keeneland Race Course, Woodbine Racetrack, Gulfstream Park, Hastings Racecourse and Santa Anita Park hustle to apply the Scotch tape. Cue the carols, please.

Heading to the venerable Big A in Ozone Park, the graded menu expanded when last weekend's GI Joe Hirsch Turf Classic S. was added to Saturday's slate. The 12-furlong grass test includes the reigning GI Breeders' Cup Turf winner Rebel's Romance (Dubawi {Ire}) who looking for some New York redemption after unseating his rider around the far turn in the late-July running of the GII Bowling Green S. at Saratoga. The Charlie Appleby trainee is set to face the queen of the blades in MGISW War Like Goddess (English Channel), who still has plenty of fight in her as she faces the boys again for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

If one Grade I wasn't enough for you on this card, then we are going to add two more just for good measure. The GI Frizette S. is a passageway to the GI Breeders' Cup NetJets Juvenile Fillies and Repole Stable has the 9-5 morning-line favorite in Life Talk (Gun Runner), who broke her maiden at second asking Aug. 31 at Saratoga by 6 1/2 lengths. The Todd Pletcher trainee will have to contend with Stonestreet's Emery (More Than Ready), who scratched out of Friday's GI Darley Alcibiades S. at Keeneland to run here for trainer Brad Cox. Also present is Godolphin homebred Central Avenue (Street Sense), who debuted a winner at Colonial Downs, and will try to stretch out for trainer Michael Stidam.

“She [Central Avenue] started going seven-eighths and we thought that might be a little short for her, but she got up anyways,” Stidham said. “She always looked in the mornings like she would come running late and she would [run like that]. The mile is going to be even more helpful for her style.”

The other top race of the day at 'Belmont West' is the GI Champagne S., which offers a ticket straight to the GI Breeders' Cup FanDuel Juvenile. Once again, Repole Stable held David Aragona's attention with 6-5 morning-line favorite Fierceness (City of Light). The 'TDN Rising Star' had his own way in the Saratoga mud Aug. 25 when the bay colt won that debut by 11 1/4 lengths. His main rival could be fellow 'TDN Rising Star' Timberlake (Into Mischief), who is also entered in the GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

Rounding out the action at Aqueduct is a trio of Grade III turf events which include the Waya S. with GISW McKulick (GB) (Frankel {GB}), the Belmont Turf Sprint with GSW Big Invasion (Declaration of War) and finally, English import Measured Time (Frankel {GB}) is up against GISP Webslinger (Constitution) in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational.

Locked | Sarah Andrew

The Keeneland Association which just kicked off its October meet on Friday, has its own take on Christmas come early. Taking to the Haggin Turf Course, the GI First Lady S. for older females sports a rematch of the July running of the GI Diana S. between Whitebeam (GB) (Caravaggio) and MGISW In Italian (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}). The former bested the latter at Saratoga and the Chad Brown stablesmates are set to do battle again. Not to be overlooked is the Joseph O'Brien trainee Jumbly (GB) (Gleneagles {Ire}) who returns to the U.S. after finishing fifth in the G1 Matron S. at Leopardstown Sept. 9.

Moving right along to some more Grade I festivities, the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity offers the winner a shot in the GI Breeders' Cup FanDuel Juvenile. 'TDN Rising Star' Locked (Gun Runner) won at second asking by 7 1/4 lengths at Saratoga Sept. 1 with a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm-owned chestnut colt for trainer Todd Pletcher will take on New York-bred undefeated hero The Wine Steward (Vino Rosso) for trainer Mike Maker and possibly the aforementioned Timberlake.

“He [Locked] was impressive the time he went two turns at Saratoga,” said Pletcher. “One reason he came here and Fierceness stayed in New York for the Champagne is that I thought the Champagne suited him better with the one start. It worked well that we could find a Grade I for both of them.”

The capstone to Keeneland's Super Saturday is the GI Coolmore Turf Mile, which allows access to the GI Breeders' Cup FanDuel Mile. Fresh off his 3 3/4-length first North American score in the GI Woodbine Mile, Master of The Seas (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) will challenge Up to the Mark (Not This Time), who was last seen winning GI Manhattan S. at Belmont. Lane's End recently announced that the 4-year-old colt trained by Todd Pletcher would head their way for stud duty at the conclusion of his racing career.

A pair of Grade II races will complete the Keeneland Saturday graded offering. First, the Woodford S. welcomes turf sprint specialist and G1 Nuthorpe S. at York victor Live In The Dream (Ire) (Prince of Lir {Ire}) from the yard of Adam West. Meanwhile, MGSW and MGISP Wicked Halo (Gun Runner) tries to secure her spot in the GI Breeders' Cup PNC Bank Filly & Mare Sprint when she sets sail against six others in the Thoroughbred Club of America S.

Before heading west, both Gulfstream Park and Woodbine Racetrack card a graded race each. GSP Maryquitecontrary (First Dude) switches from Shug McGaughey's barn to David Fawkes, as she returns to her home track in the GIII Princess Rooney S, a race which also feeds into the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Up at Woodbine, the GIII Durham Cup S. finds G1 Dubai World Cup runner-up Algiers (Ire) (Shamardal {Ire}) making his first start in North America after trainer Simon Crisford scratched him from the GII Woodward S. last weekend.

Staying put in Canada, Hastings Racecourse cards the GIII BC Premier's H. for 3-year-olds and up. The race includes Accidental Hero (Mo Town), who bested his rival Sunbird (Orb) in the GIII BC Derby last month.

Anisette | Benoit

It would not be a graded Saturday without 'The Great Race Place' and Santa Anita Park has its share. Of course, the GI American Pharoah S., which TDN covered in a special edition on Friday, is a 'Win and You're In' event for the GI Breeders' Cup FanDuel Juvenile S. 'TDN Rising Star' Muth (Good Magic) will square off against seven others in the feature, which includes stablemate Wine Me Up (Vino Rosso).

Speaking of juveniles, the fillies get their chance to shine in the GII Chandelier S. On the line is the opportunity to make the starting gate in the GI Breeders' Cup NetJets Juvenile Fillies. One of the top contenders is Laurent (Practical Joke). The Peter Eurton trainee was second Sept. 9 in the GI Del Mar Debutante S. The dark bay filly is in the blocks right next to the Zedan Racing's Dua (Arrogate). The Bob Baffert trainee was third in the GIII Sorrento S. at Del Mar Aug. 12.

In the race before the American Pharoah S., turf routers will load at the mouth of the downhill course for the GII Rodeo Drive S. Looking for a chance to return for the Breeders' Cup Maker's Mark Filly & Mare Turf is the undefeated Anisette (GB) (Awtaad {Ire}). The 3-year-old will take on older females for the first time. After coming over from England last spring, the Leonard Powell trainee won three in a row, including the GI Del Mar Oaks by 2 3/4 lengths.

Anisette is going to have to try and get past the 9-5 morning-line favorite Didia (Arg) (Orpen) though. She was the runner-up in the GI New York S. at Belmont Park June 9 and has a history of winning from off the bench for trainer Ignacio Correas. Add in some seasoned Southern California stayers like MGSW Closing Remarks (Vronsky) and MGSW Neige Blache (FR) (Anodin {Ire}), and the Rodeo Drive is going to be quite the shopping spree at the windows.

Here's to a Saturday of graded racing that never ends.

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