Jan. 8 (UPI) — Fillies and mares take center stage in weekend horse racing at Santa Anita, while much of the rest of the nation catches its breath between the holiday rush and the return to the Triple Crown chase.
On the international front, the kickoff of the Dubai World Cup Carnival is only weeks away, and Thursday’s racing indicates Sheik Mohammed‘s home team, as usual, is ready to go.
And two weekend races in South Africa offer “Win and You’re In” berth for November’s Breeders’ Cup.
Oaklawn Park says it expects to kick off its sprint meet later this month with a limited number of spectators on hand.
Which well-regarded national turf writer won TWO Eclipse Awards for work published during during the past 12 months? Check it out in “News and Notes.”
But first, another look at the “now you see them, now you don’t” older horse population.
The depletion of the Classic division continued this week with the retirement of Mucho Gusto, just weeks before his scheduled defense of his crown in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational and a return trip to Saudi Arabia, where he finished fourth in the $ 20 million Saudi Cup in February.
The 5-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man was diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury Tuesday after a workout. Trainer Bob Baffert said the injury is treatable but would require substantial time with no guarantee Mucho Gusto could return at a peak level of performance.
His departure from the racing scene follows the retirements of virtually all the major participants in the 2020 Triple Crown series, as well as the winner of the inaugural Saudi Cup, Maximum Security.
Meanwhile, on the track:
Most of the seven mares entered for Saturday’s $ 200,000 Grade III La Canada Stakes come off placings in graded stakes although none has demonstrated much ability to perform at that level consistently.
The exception would be Hard Not to Love, who has five wins, three seconds and a third from 10 starts — six of them in graded stakes. The 5-year-old Hard Spun mare was second in the Grade II Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita in her last start.
Proud Emma, Message and Miss Stormy D were first, second and fourth in the Grade III Bayakoa at Los Alamitos in their last start. Fighting Mad was third in the Zenyatta.
Sanenus, formerly raced in Chile, was last seen runner-up in the Grade III Chilukki at Churchill Downs. Never Be Enough was second in the Grade III Robert J. Frankel on Dec. 27.
Saturday’s $ 100,000 Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs on the turf also drew seven. Jolie Olimpica, a two-time graded stakes winner early in 2020 makes her first start since finishing second in the Grade I Coolmore Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on July 11.
Oleksandra won the Grade I Jaipur at Belmont Park in June and in her last start was ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland. The others have lesser resumes.
Sunday’s $ 75,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes, 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt, has a mixed bag of six fillies and mares. Qahira, a lightly raced, 5-year-old Cairo Prince mare, had a three-race winning streak snapped when she finished second in the Grade III Chillingworth Stakes on Sept. 25 and make her return from that.
Acting Out, a 4-year-old Blame filly, won her last two but makes her stakes debut. Amuse, Biddy Duke and Dynasty of Her Own all have stakes experience and Mo See Cal makes her third start after a year-long layoff.
Analyze It looks to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in October when he resurfaces in Saturday’s $ 100,000 Grade III Tropical Turf Stakes.
The 6-year-old son of Point of Entry, trained by Chad Brown, won the Grade III Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park last September after being away from the races for more than a year. He was the favorite in the Keeneland effort but never fired.
Others with early backing in the Tropical Turf include Admission Office, Frostmourne, Ride a Comet and Casa Creed.
The weekend stakes program is given over to the New York-breds. Saturday’s $ 100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes is 7 furlongs on the dirt and Sunday’s $ 100,000 Rego Park Stakes is for state-bred 3-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt
Boldor raced last of eight through most of Monday’s $ 70,000 Sam’s Town Stakes, rushed by the rest of the field in the late going and won by 3/4 length over the early leader, Secular Nation.
Shangroyal seized a brief advantage early in the stretch run and finished third as Secular Nation regained second. Boldor, a 5-year-old son of Munnings, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 58.26 seconds with Joel Dominguez in the irons.
Fillies and mares faced the same conditions in Tuesday’s $ 70,000 Orleans Stakes and She’s My Gem also came from off the pace to win by 3 lengths. Misty Day also rallied through the final furlong to finish second, a head in front of Mucho Amor.
She’s My Gem, a 5-year-old Into Mischief mare, finished in 58.52 seconds, also with Dominguez aboard.
Around the world, around the clock:
With two weeks to go to the official kickoff of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, the Godolphin home team already is fired up and firing on all cylinders. So much so that Godolphin runners finished 1-2-3 in Thursday’s feature at Meydan Racecourse — the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial Presented by Longines.
Soft Whisper, a Dubawi filly, missed the break but quickly moved up between rivals to gain a stalking position. She then rallied to the lead in the stretch drive and ran on smartly to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Last Sunset. Final Thought was third. All three are trained for Sheik Mohammed’s team by Saeed bin Suroor.
Soft Whisper finished 1,400 meters in 1:26.72. She finished second in her first two starts in England in July and August, broke through at Salisbury on Aug. 21 and then won again a month later at Pontefract.
“I rode her in her first race at Salisbury and managed to get her beat,” Cosgrave said. “I ended up phoning Saeed to apologize as we thought she would win.
“She took a bit of time to get her act together, but has improved from each race and that was a good prep. The 1,600 [meters] will suit her better and she will have learned plenty having had some dirt kicked at her.
“I could not pull her up which bodes well not only for the UAE 1000 Guineas, but hopefully the UAE Oaks, as well,” Cosgrave added. “That was a good effort.”
The disappointment was a late scratch of the highly regarded Charles Fipke homebred Super Chianti, a Super Saver filly who won her first start over the Meydan strip Nov. 19.
The Jan. 14 program at Meydan includes the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at 1,600 meters.
Amniarix landed the first Fast-Track Qualifier of the new year Monday at Wolverhampton. The 4-year-old Speightstown filly shrugged off a big weight disadvantage, racing clear in the final furlong to win the 7-furlongs feature by 2 lengths under Richard Kingscote.
Shimmering Dawn was second with Dancing Feet another 1 1/2 length back in third.
The win earned Amniarix a guaranteed start in the Ladbrokes All-Weather Fillies & Mares Championship over 7 furlongs at Lingfield Park on Finals Day, April 2. The Kentucky-bred, out of the Sea the Stars mare Bold Lass, is owned and was bred by Bjorn Nielsen of Stradivarius fame.
“I think connections wanted to find out a bit more today, just to see where they are with her and what the future holds,” Kingscote said. “She has opened up some avenues for them.”
Two Group 1 events Saturday at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town offer “Win and You’re In” status for November’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The 1-mile L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate has a field of nine with 5-year-old Belgarion defending a six-race winning skein. The winner of that event earns a spot in the $ 2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile presented by PDJF.
Summer Pudding, undefeated in nine starts, is the headliner for the 1 1/8-miles Cartier Paddock Stakes with a berth in the $ 2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on the line.
The South African racing industry continues its struggle to win relaxation of onerous quarantine protocols that make it extremely difficult to move horses out of the country into international competition.
European Union officials were to have visited early in 2020 to examine the situation but the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit complexities and a general lack of concern at the EU end put paid to that schedule.
News and notes:
Paulick Report’s Natalie Voss has won two media Eclipse Awards for work published during the past year, both related to Thoroughbred aftercare. Voss won in the Feature/Commentary category for a May 13 report entitled “‘An Angel On His Shoulder’: This Thoroughbred’s Fate Was Written In Ink.”
She also won in the News/Enterprise category for an exhaustive, three-part series published in December 2019 dealing with all aspects of the fate of Thoroughbred racehorses after their on-track career.
“I never could have imagined this happening in my wildest dreams,” Voss said. “It’s a tremendous honor to just win one award, but to win two in one year is unfathomable.”
Other media Eclipse awards went to NBC Sports producers Billy Matthews and Lindsay Schanzer for coverage of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships and the Hennegan Brothers in the TV features category for a piece on the jockeys’ pandemic-related “bubble.”
In the audio/multi-media/internet category, Joe Bianca and Patty Wolfe won for “To Hell and Back: Belmont Marks A Deserved Triumph for New York City,” and in photography, Alex Evers, also from the Paulick Report, for “A Derby Without Fans.”
In other news:
Oaklawn Park announced Wednesday it will conduct its 2021 live meet, opening Jan. 22, with live spectators. Attendance will be limited initially to fans with reservations and pandemic-related precautions of all types will be put in place.
“We’ve been working on plans covering numerous scenarios and we’re happy to announce we will be welcoming back race fans in 2021, albeit on a limited basis,” general manager Wayne Smith said.
“We know that the fans are what make Oaklawn so special, but our main concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and team members.”