Bob Kieckhefer’s stakes review/preview: Bowling Green heads U.S. action
Saturday’s $250,000 Grade II Bowling Green Handicap at Saratoga pits rivals with credentials from all over the continent. Bigger Picture comes directly from a victory in the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park. Ascend was the victor in the Grade I Manhattan at Belmont Park last time out. Frank Conversation finished second to Ashleyluvssugar in the Grade II Charles Whittingham at Santa Anita in his last start. Sadler’s Joy has been in the money in seven straight starts, including a win in the Grade II Pan American at Gulfstream Park. The Bowling Green is 11 furlongs on the grass.
Can’thelpbelieving, second to Bigger Picture in the United Nations, resurfaces north of the border for Saturday’s $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nijinsky Stakes, where he’s posted as the even-money favorite on the morning line. The 6-year-old son of Duke of Marmalade has not been a frequent winner but almost always is competitive. His four rivals here are topped by Dragon Bay, who also has had moments of glory amid inconsistency.
Six names hit the entry box for Sunday’s $200,000 Grade II Monmouth, a 9-furlongs affair out of the back of the Monmouth Park infield chute. Money Multiplier tailed off toward the end of last year but was tough earlier, running second in a trio of Grade I events. He makes his first start since finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last fall. Irish Strait won the Grade III Red Bank over the course in his last start but will be going a furlong farther here. Smooth Daddy exits a win over a yielding Belmont Park course.
Filly & Mare Turf
With this year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf dialed back to 9 furlongs to suit the Del Mar configuration, trainers are taking a long look at distaffers who might be able to stretch to that distance. Among those is Miss Temple City. Most recently a miler, she has been competitive out to 9 furlongs earlier in her career and gets a chance at that distance again in Sunday’s $100,000 Grade III Winstar Matchmaker at Monmouth Park. This is her second start of 2017, following a serious fade job in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. At her best, the 5-year-old Temple City Mare should be able to handle the six rivals in Sunday’s heat. Perhaps this is the first step to the Breeders’ Cup and even the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December. Hong Kong would love to have her.
Already in the books: Miss Ella was last first and first last in Monday’s $200,000 Caress Stakes for fillies and mares at Saratoga. After waiting patiently behind all eight rivals, jockey Joel Rosario got his 5-year-old Exchange Rate mare in gear around the turn, split rivals at the sixteenth pole and finished with energy to win by 1 length. Fair Point was along for second and Carolina Shag significantly inflated the trifecta payout. Miss Ella ran 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:02.30. She also won the 2016 Caress, which came off the turf onto a muddy main track.
It’s a battle of the generations and genders in Saturday’s Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot as dual Oaks winner Enable takes on the likes of Highland Reel and his younger brother, Idaho; Coral-Eclipse winner Ulysses and Dubai Sheema Classic winner Jack Hobbs among others. Enable, a Nathanial filly, gets a 14-pound break in the weights (1 stone in British parlance) from most of her rivals and has drifted downwards in antepost wagering to be a near even-money favorite. Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Highland Reel, a Group 1 winner on three continents, prefers firm ground and the forecast for the Ascot course is a bit iffy. His trainer, Aidan O’Brien, lauded the decision by owner Khalid Abdullah and trainer John Gosden to send Enable against older male rivals. “It’s a very prestigious race, the King George, and I think because it’s a tough race sometimes 3-year olds haven’t gone there,” O’Brien said at an early-week preview. “But that’s what makes it as good as it is, is when those really special 3-year olds come along.” Indeed.
Roly Poly and Persuasive come from England to take on likely local favorite Qemah in Sunday’s Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville.
Roly Poly, a War Front filly, was second behind Ballydoyle stablemate Winter in both the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Group 1 Coronation Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot. Freed from the shadow of Winter, she scored her first top-level victory July 14 in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket. Persuasive won her first four starts last year, then was second in the Group 1 Matron at Leopardstown. The Rothschild will be her first start of 2017.
Topping the local contingent are Qemah, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget for Al Shaqab Racing, and Usherette, a 5-year-old Godolphin runner handled by Andre Fabre. Qemah, a 4-year-old Danehill Dancer filly, won last year’s Group 1 Coronation Stakes en route to a victory in the Rothschild. In her last outing, she won the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (G2) at the Royal Meeting. Cristian Demuro rides her for the first time.
They may not be the best horses on the Continent but the 11 are set for Sunday’s Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis Bayerisches Zuchtrennen at Munich, certainly show plenty of international experience and some success. Potempkin, a Group 1 winner last season in Rome, makes his first start here since finishing seventh in the Group I Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park June 10 behind Ascend, who will be among the favorites in Saturday’s Bowling Greens Handicap at Saratoga. Iquitos won the Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Baden (G1) last September and was seventh, beaten only 4 lengths, in last November’s Group 1 Japan Cup. Noor Al Hawa, a locally trained 4-year-old Makfi colt, posted a win and a second in Doha during the winter and also has won in France. Two Godolphin runners, Prize Money and Best Solution, have posted wins in England and Dubai.
Sky Racing World, the Kentucky-based subsidiary of Australia’s Tabcorp, announced Thursday it will begin distributing Korean racing in the United States in August. The feed will have an English-language commentary and call and U.S. ADWs will be permitted to offer the usual assortment of single- and multiple-race wagers. Past performances will be available through Equibase and Sky Racing World web sites and shouldn’t be too puzzling to American punters as most of the top Korean Thoroughbreds descend from American bloodstock.