Weekend Stakes Preview

CHICHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Michael Hills and Redwood lead the Phillip Robinson ridden Sri Putra home to land The Coutts Glorious Stakes run on the 4th day of Glorious Goodwood at Goodwood Racecourse on July 30, 2010 in Chichester, England. Redwood is the morning line favorite for Saturday's Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine Racecourse. (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)

It's a big day of racing up at Woodbine on Saturday where three Grade 1 races will be contested over the turf course.  Below is an overview of those three races along with a complete list of this weekend's graded stakes races.


Grade 1 Canadian International (Woodbine)

Redwood (GB) (2/1) won the Northern Dancer as the 2/1 favorite back in mid-September and he returns to Woodbine seeking further Grade 1 glory in the Canadian International.  This field looks to be a bit tougher than his last try but the High Chaparral (IRE) colt still appears to be the best of the lot. 

How impressive was that win in the Northern Dancer? Redwood stalked a moderate-to-slow early pace and then closed with a furious 23.30 second final quarter mile.  If he runs that same race on Saturday it's probably "lights out" for everyone else.

I've written a lot this year about the perceived weakness of the North American turf runners, both male and female, as compared to their counterparts across the Atlantic.  Example #1 of this split is Chinchon (IRE) (7/2), the winner of the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Pak in early July.  In Europe, Chinchon is a solid Group 3 horse, nothing more.  Upon shipping to the U.S. not only did Chinchon's form take a nice upturn but he easily took down a Grade 1 race after coming about six paths wide on the far turn.

The field that Chinchon beat at Monmouth was comprised of some of the best turf runners that we've got over here - Take the Points, Winchester, Straight Story, Get Serious, and Telling.  In their races since the United Nations, Winchester won the Grade 1 Turf Classic, Straight Story won a state-bred stake at Saratoga, Get Serious won the Grade 3 Oceanport and the Grade 3 Red Bank, and Telling won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer. 

After winning the United Nations, Chinchon went back to France to run in the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp where he finished a non-threatening last behind Duncan and Nakayama Festa (the runner-up in the Arc).  It's possible that his poor performance in the Prix Foy was a result of the travel to-and-from the U.S. or the condition of the course at Longchamp that day.  Or it could be that he's just not a Group 2 level horse in Europe, even if he's a Grade 1 winner over here.

A side note to consider with respect to both Chinchon and Redwood  - both colts won their races in North America without the use of lasix and both will run without the drug again in this race.  Mores Wells (GB) will also race without lasix.

Joshua Tree (IRE) (8/1) had the appearance of a horse that could be a major player as a three-year-old after winning the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot in September of 2009.  He didn't return to the track until August of this year which probably means he was dealing with an injury over the winter/spring.  His two return races have been so-so efforts but I'm willing to give him a break for the 5th in the St. Leger last time out as he was probably in a bit over his head in that spot.  The Aiden O'Brien trainee might not be the likely winner of this race but it wouldn't be a shock to see him run well.

 

Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes (Woodbine)

This year's E.P. Taylor field is a Euro-shipping paradise as 70% of the entries ran their last race on the other side of the pond and one other horse, Pachattack, made his first North American start in his last race. 

1-Shalanaya (IRE) (5/2) hasn't won a race in 2010 but she's faced the boys in all three attempts and missed by only ¾ of a length in the Group 1 Prix Ganay in early May.  Her last race in late August at Deauville was a major disappointment and I think we probably need to question her form just a bit in this spot.

6-Miss Keller (IRE) is the top local filly in this race after taking down the Grade 2 Canadian back on September 19th and finishing a close second in the Grade 2 Nassau in early June.  She possesses good tactical speed and should be well place throughout the race. 

It's taken a while for 10-Akarlina (FR) (6/1) to get going in her career but she's caught fire since April by winning four of her last five including the Group 3 La Coupe de Maisons Laffitte.  She probably possesses the best early speed of any of the European shippers and will likely be up near the lead early on.  If she's able to slow things down enough on the front end she could take this field all the way around.

Lifetime, Akarlina is 8-4-1-0 going a mile and a quarter.

The E.P. Taylor could be the perfect spot for 7-Contredanse (IRE) to come up with a huge effort.  The Danehill Dancer filly won three in a row earlier in the year, including the Group 2 Italian Oaks at San Siro, and recently missed by a head to Lilly of the Valley (FR) in the Group 3 Prix de la Nonette at Deauville in August.  That defeat looks a whole lot better when you consider that Lilly of the Valley is a quality filly that just beat Stacelita (FR) (one of the top European females) by a length in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera on the Arc undercard. 

This is a deep and talented field but I think the recent form of Contredanse makes her the one to beat.


Grade 1 Neartic Stakes (Woodbine)

The first of the three Grade 1s at Woodbine on Saturday is the turf sprint Neartic Stakes and it has drawn a full field of twelve horses.

I have a pretty simple angle that I like to play with turf sprints and that's horses that have been successful at the distance and at the track.  A quick breakdown of the record at six furlongs by the entries in this race reveals the following:

1 - Field Commission (3-1-1-0)
2 - Grand Adventure (1-0-0-0)
3 - Bogue Chitto (2-1-1-0)
5 - Towzee (NZ) (20-4-6-3)
6 - Amico Fritz (GER) (7-4-2-0)
7 - Signature Red (2-2-0-0)
10 - Serious Attitude (IRE) (8-4-1-0)
11 - Balthazaar's Gift (IRE) (28-5-3-3)

Field Commission returns to defend his title as last year's winner of the Neartic,s his only win at the distance and over this track in his career.  I was a bit surprised to see 12/1 for this horse on the morning line given his previous success in this race.  While it will be tough for him to repeat, he's got a punchers chance if things fall in the right direction.

Grand Adventure tried a six furlong sprint at the Fair Grounds in January and showed little to nothing throughout the race.  He's a five-time winner in his career, all at Woodbine, but he's usually better when running longer than today's distance.

Bogue Chitto has won at this distance and at Woodbine in the past but has struggled with lesser competition in his recent efforts.

Towzee has failed to win listed stakes and allowances races at Philadelphia Park and Delaware over the past year and would appear to be way out of his element in this field.

Amico Fritz tried the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye on the Arc undercard last time out and didn't run a lick (19th of 21).  His last two victories came in Group races in Germany but he has had trouble stepping up to face the cream of the crop in France.  Class wise, he appears a bit behind some of the other Europeans.

Signature Red ran 12th of 13 in the Woodbine Mile last time out but notched back-to-back wins at six furlongs at Woodbine back in June and July.  At 12/1 on the ML, this colt could be a nice value play in this race.

I could see any number of horses winning this race but I'll probably gravitate to Signature Red should his odds stay in the 8/1 or higher range.

Serious Attitude is shipping in from the U.K. where she's struggled to anything of note in the past year. 

Balthazaar's Gift ships in off of a win in the Group 2 Park Stakes at Doncaster following a string of defeats to some of the better turf sprinters in England.

 

Date

Race

Gr.

Track

Division

Dist.

Surf.

10/16/2010

Canadian International

1

Woodbine

Turf

12.0

Turf

10/16/2010

Champion Stakes

1

Newmarket

Turf

10.0

Turf

10/16/2010

Pattison Canadian Int'l

1

Woodbine

Turf

12.0

Turf

10/16/2010

Spend a Buck Hcp.

3

Calder

Dirt Mile

8.5

Dirt

10/16/2010

Nearctic Stakes

1

Woodbine

Turf Sprint

6.0

Turf

10/16/2010

E.P. Taylor Stakes

1

Woodbine

F&M Turf

10.0

Turf

10/16/2010

QE II Challenge Cup

1

Keeneland

F&M Turf

9.0

Turf

10/16/2010

In Reality Stakes

Listed

Calder

Juvenile

8.5

Dirt

10/16/2010

My Dear Girl Stakes

Listed

Calder

Juvenile Fillies

8.5

Dirt

10/16/2010

Oak Tree Derby

2

Oak Tree

Mile

9.0

Turf

10/16/2010

Athenia Stakes

3

Belmont

Mile

8.5

Turf

10/17/2010

Knickerbocker

3

Belmont

Mile

9.0

Turf

10/17/2010

Harold C. Ramser, Sr.

3

Oak Tree

Mile

8.0

Turf

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