A clutch of nice turf races at a variety of distances nicely fills the Memorial Day weekend racing schedule while U.S. fans keep an eye on Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah and various contenders vie for Epsom Downs glory.
France, England, Japan and Australia all offer important races as some of the winners from World Cup night in Dubai resume their campaigns around the globe.
So let's get globetrotting.
Sunday's Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp may be short on numbers but it's certainly long on talent with Cirrus Des Aigles and Solow set to face no more than three rivals. Cirrus Des Aigles comes off a win in the Group 1 Prix Ganay in his 9-year-old debut, with a big assist from a crafty ride by Christophe Soumillon. The old guy has a checkered history in the Ispahan but won last year's edition. Solow, a lightly raced 5-year-old, has won five straight races, most recently the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night at Meydan. Good performances could send Cirrus Des Aigles to the Coronation Cup at Epsom and Solow to the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.
Saturday is the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh with Gleneagles carrying the rapidly diminishing Derby hopes of trainer Aidan O'Brien, who has seen several of last year's 2-year-olds wilt on their seasonal debuts. But there will be a sizeable field, so the task won't be easy. O'Brien has a stronger hand in Sunday's 1,000 Guineas over the same course, with a five-filly team headed by Found. Also Sunday is the Group 1 Curragh Tattersalls Gold Cup at just over 1 1/4 miles.
The Group 2 Betfred.com Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday will be missing Sole Power, who instead will race at the Curragh on the same day. The 8-year-old makes his first start since winning the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup day at Meydan.
Sunday's Group 1 Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks, is the second leg of the filly Triple Crown and will determine whether Let's Go Donki's victory in the first leg, the Oka Sho, or 1,000 Guineas, was a pace-dictated fluke or the emergence of a potential star. Jockey Yusanari Iwata admitted after the Oka Sho he was surprised to find himself on the lead and now is considering whether his King Kamehameha filly can stretch out to 2,400 meters -- and, if so, how. "Let's not forget it's a race among 3-year-old fillies and anything can happen," Iwata said in the lead-up to the race. Culminar finished second in the Oka Sho as the favorite after a bad start and is back for another try in a likely big field.
A full field is on tap for Saturday's Group 1 Doomben 10,000 at Brisbane. The 1,350 meters has no clear favorite.
Back in North America:
On the turf
The races range from 4 1/2 furlongs out to 1 1/2 miles, from Charles Town to Santa Anita and from Gulfstream Park to Woodbine.
The longer races include Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita, at 1 1/12 miles. Divine Oath, the winner of the 2014 American Derby at Arlington, shipped in for this by Todd Pletcher. Ashleyluvssugar comes off a win in the Grade II San Luis Rey. Ganesh makes his third U.S. start, up from South America. Going Somewhere, a Brazilian-bred, makes his first start after arriving from France. Both Ganesh and Going Somewhere are 6-year-olds by Sulamani, a son of Hernando who had a dynamite turf career that included victories in the 2003 Arlington Million and Turf Classic Invitational and the 2004 Canadian International -- all Grade I events. He won the 2002 French Derby and finished second in that year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, then won the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in 2003. Let's see what his sons can do on the Southern California grass.
Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs is another 1 1/2-miles affair that drew a very contentious field of nine. The morning line has five of them -- Calvados, Majestic Harbor, Xtra Luck, Golden Soul and Patrioticandproud -- clustered between 7-2 and 5-1. The Florida stay-behinds have Monday's $60,000 Raymond Earl Stakes at the same distance at Gulfstream Park.
Turf milers are on tap in Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Nassau Stakes at Woodbine. Deceptive Vision, Stellar Path and Overheard are among the fancied.
Going shorter we find Saturday's $100,000 Paradise Creek for 3-year-olds at 1 mile on the Belmont Park turf.
The fillies and mares are not forgotten, with the weekend's sole American Grade I, the $300,000 Gamely Stakes at 9 furlongs at Santa Anita. Monmouth Park on Sunday has the $75,000 Miss Liberty at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares.
There are some tough grass races for the state-breds, too. Saturday's California Gold Rush Day at Santa Anita includes the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes at 9 furlongs and the $125,000 Fran's Valentine for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. New York-bred milers compete in Monday's $125,000 Kingston Stakes at Belmont Park. The turf dash types have the Fancy Buckles Stakes at 4 1/2 furlongs at Charles Town on Saturday.
And speaking of turf, nominations close Saturday for Arlington's International Festival of Racing. The Aug. 15 extravaganza features the 33rd running of the Grade I Arlington Million and includes two other Grade I events on the lawn -- the $750,000 Beverly D. for fillies and mares and the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds. The $400,000 American St. Leger, run as a Grade III for the first time this year, also is on the card, along with the Grade III Pucker Up Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
Santa Anita supports the Gamely on Memorial Day with the $100,000, Grade III Los Angeles Stakes at 6 furlongs on the main track. Churchill Downs' holiday feature is the $100,000, Grade III Winning Colors for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs.
Monday's $200,000, Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap finds 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. And Woodbine on Saturday offers 3-year-old fillies the same distance on the all-weather course in the $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Selene Stakes.
News and notes
Coolmore has purchased breeding rights to American Pharoah and intends to stand the prospective Triple Crown winner at Ashford Stud in Kentucky, owner Ahmed Zayat and Coolmore annouinced this week. Zayat said the offer was "too good to pass up" but makes it likely American Pharoah won't be racing next year. The Pioneerof The Nile colt will continue to race in Zayat's colors. Coolmore also recently purchased Australian 2-year-old Vancouver, winner of the Golden Slipper.
By ROBERT KIECKHEFER
UPI Racing Writerhttp://www.upi.com/