Trio of Woodbine Grade I's Headline Saturday Stakes Action

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Modern Games | Scoop Dyga

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Three Grade I events, all of which are Breeders' Cup 'Win and You're In' qualifiers, north of the border at Woodbine will take the spotlight among nine graded stakes this Saturday as the racing calendar transitions to fall with all of the major summer meets now wrapped up.

The $1-million GI Ricoh Woodbine Mile serves, along with the Queen's Plate, as the centerpiece of the Woodbine meet, and this year's renewal features an 11-horse field that includes last year's winner Town Cruise (Town Prize), who will be looking to bounce back from three off-the-board finishes following his wire-to-wire score in this race last September. The likely favorite, however, will be Godolphin's Modern Games (Dubawi {Ire}), who returns to America for the first time after his controversial purse-money-only win in last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

Trained by Charlie Appleby, who swept the three Grade I's on this card last year, Modern Games started his 3-year-old campaign off with a score in the G1 Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains before running third in the G1 Qatar Prix du Jockey Club, fifth in the G1 Haras d'Etreham Prix Jean Prat and second when last seen in the G1 Qatar Sussex S. July 27 at Goodwood.

Appleby doesn't have an entry in this year's GI Natalma S. for juvenile turf fillies, but will be represented by last-out G3 Circus Maximus Prix Francois Boutin hero Mysterious Night (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) in the GI Summer S. Other contenders in that one-mile test for juvenile turf males include Klaravich Stables' Appraise (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) for Chad Brown and Philip My Dear (Silent Name {Jpn}), who overcame stretch traffic to take the local Soaring Free S. Aug. 20.

Stakes action over the flat at 'Belmont at the Big A' will get underway with the GIII Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational and GIII Jockey Club Oaks Invitational for 3-year-old turf males and fillies, respectively. The former features a rubber match between Classic Causeway (Giant's Causeway), who upset the July 9 GI Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational S. and Nations Pride (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), who was second that day and exacted revenge when taking the GI Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational S. Aug. 6 at the Spa. Adding intrigue is progressive German invader Ardakan (GB) (Reliable Man {GB}). Trained by Markus Klug, the gray scored a victory in the G2 Premio Derby Italiano May 22 and was eighth in the G1 German Derby before running third last out with a 111 Timeform Rating against elders in the G1 Grosser Preis von Berlin Aug. 14 at Hoppegarten.

The Jockey Club Oaks also features a hopeful for Germany, Toskana Belle (Fr) (Shamalgan {Fr}), who ships in for legendary German trainer Andreas Wohler. The chestnut, who captured the G1 German Oaks Aug. 7 at Dusseldorf, looks like the only realistic alternative to Klaravich Stables' McKulick (GB) (Frankel {GB}), who annexed the GI Belmont Oaks Invitational S. July 9 before running second in the G3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational S. Aug. 7.

Churchill Downs will host five stakes Saturday, including Kentucky's first two graded events for 2-year-olds in the GIII Iroquois S. and GIII Pocahontas S., which are also the first two-turn graded dirt races for juveniles on the calendar in the U.S. The clear horse to beat in the Pocahontas for fillies is Three Chimneys Farm's Grand Love (Gun Runner), who was an impressive 4 3/4-length debut victress Aug. 21 at Saratoga with an 84 Beyer, nine points higher than the closest figure run by any rival.

The Iroquois looks much more competitive on paper, with undefeated 'TDN Rising Star' Damon's Mound (Girvin), who followed up a 12 1/2-length debut romp with a 3 1/4-length score in the GII Saratoga Special S., clashing with fellow 'Rising Stars' Jace's Road (Quality Road) and Echo Again (Gun Runner), each of whom steps into stakes company after dominant first-out scores last month. Echo Again ran the fastest Beyer of any 2-year-old this summer at Saratoga, receiving a 94 for his 6 3/4-length rout when bet down to 3-5 Aug. 20.

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