COUNTDOWN TO THE CUP
The chances of Sea The Stars being withdrawn from Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) due to soft ground appear slim to none, as the weather forecast calls for little or no rain through next Tuesday. The ground at Longchamp at the present is considered on the firm side of good, so it would require a good amount of rain to soften the course significantly.
That, of course, means Sea The Stars' participation in the Breeders' Cup is greatly diminished, although trainer John Oxx has not completely shut that door. We'll just have to see how the colt comes out of the race and whether Oxx wishes to run him into November after a long year that goes all the way back to his Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) victory in early May.
With Queen Elizabeth II (Eng-I) winner Rip Van Winkle and possibly Mastercraftsman, who is scheduled to run next in the group III Diamond Stakes on the all-weather track at Dundalk Friday night, both being pointed to the BC Classic (gr. I), trainer Aidan O'Brien will attempt to secure a place in the BC Turf (gr. IT) for Irish Derby (Ire-I) winner Fame and Glory with a good performance in the Arc. Runner-up to Sea The Stars in the group I English Derby and Irish Champion Stakes, he currently is second choice for the Arc with the British bookmakers, just ahead of Conduit and Cavalryman.
In other Arc news, it was announced that Dar Re Mi, who was disqualified from first in the Prix Vermeille (Fr-I) after upsetting heavily favored Stacelita, will attempt to avenge that controversial defeat by returning to France for the Arc, as long as trainer John Gosden gives the OK. The daughter of Singspiel, owned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, has won the group I Yorkshire Oaks and Pretty Polly Stakes this year.
Also at Longchamp, last year's BC Mile (gr. IT) winner Goldikova will try for her fourth consecutive victory when she shortens up to seven furlongs for the Prix de la Foret (Fr-I). Although she has never run that short, she has been sharp in the mornings and trainer Freddie Head is expecting another big performance.
Another top-class miler in action this weekend is One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) winner Ghanaati, who will contest the Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket. In her last start, she finished third behind Rip Van Winkle in the Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) at Goodwood.
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf looks to be the target for Full Mandate , who turned in a big effort to finish second to colts in the Goffs Million Sprint Stakes at the Curragh Sunday. Trainer Richard Hannon feels his filly, who also was third in the group III Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot, will be suited to the firm, flat Santa Anita turf course.
In what limited action there was in the U.S. over the weekend, the big name and big disappointment was Hold Me Back, who never picked up his feet in the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II). Julien Leparoux was pushing him along early in the race and never got a response, suggesting the Travers (gr. I) runner-up had no interest in running on this day for whatever reason.
Indian Blessing turned in a gutsy performance to win the 6 1/2-furlong Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) and re-establish herself as a major force for the BC Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I). But watch out for runner-up Sara Louise, who ran a super race in only her second start of the year and first try against older fillies and mares. The last horse to defeat Rachel Alexandra, she should be tougher in the Filly & Mare Sprint with this race under her belt and going the extra half-furlong.
Form didn't hold up in the Selene Stakes (gr. III) at Woodbine Saturday, as 4-5 Milwaukee Appeal, 2-1 Carem Crescent, and 3-1 Hooh Why all were beaten by 9-1 Aurora Lights in the five-horse field.
by Steve Haskin
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