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Weekend Stakes Preview: Top Action At Woodbine And Ascot

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 06:   Jockey Gabriel Saez, riding Summer Soiree, leads the field down the front stretch at the start of the 137th Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 06: Jockey Gabriel Saez, riding Summer Soiree, leads the field down the front stretch at the start of the 137th Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Compared to the last couple of weekends, the graded stakes calendar is pretty quiet in the U.S. However, there are some great stakes races on tap in both Canada and England.  I've already briefly touched on the inaugural British Champions Day at Ascot, but Woodbine will offer a trio of Grade 1 races on Sunday, including the Canadian International.

You can view a list of this weekend's major stakes action at the bottom of this post.

I've got family in town over the weekend, so I haven't had too much time to really pour through the past performances, but I took a look at the QEII Cup at Keeneland and the stakes races at Woodbine. 

-Together (IRE) makes a quick turnaround for Aidan O'Brien after finishing 2nd in the G1-First Lady last Saturday.  She also raced in the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Sept. 24th, meaning Together will be running in her third race in less than a month and her fifth since Sept. 3rd.  Five starts in a month and a half?  We've got Grade 1 horses that are lucky to start five times in a year.

Winter Memories gets all the hype for the QEII Cup, and for once, all the hype is deserved.  A poor showing in the G2-Lake Placid over a yielding turf course on Aug. 21st is all that separates Winter Memories form a completely unblemished 2011 campaign.  Sadly, her connections have decided that the QEII is her last race of 2011 with a trip to the Breeders' Cup out of the cards.  While that's disappointing for fans it's the right move.  This filly has never raced beyond 9 furlongs, which would make the 11 furlong Filly & Mare Turf a tough distance to handle for the first time.  But the Mile is probably less than her ideal distance, even though she's run well at a mile in the past (2-1-1-0).

In essence, Winter Memories is a "tweener" when it comes to the Breeders' Cup.  I guess the Filly & Mare Nine Furlong Turf is right around the corner.

The other "big filly" in the QEII is the second choice on the morning line, Summer Soiree.  A Kentucky Oaks contender this spring, Summer Soiree switched to the lawn in late June and posted back-to-back victories in the G3-Boiling Spring at Monmouth, and the G1-Del Mar Oaks.  She also blew away the field in the G3-Bourbonette on the Polytrack at Keeneland.  Her advantage in the QEII is her speed; she's very fast from the gate and will have every opportunity to dictate the pace in the early stages.  The question is: can she hold off Winter Memories in the stretch?  That's a tough task to accomplish when you consider that Winter Memories has the ability to clock a final furlong in less than 11 seconds.

-Going through the Form for the Nearctic I found myself not really liking any of the horses in the field.  Turf sprints aren't my strong suit, so I have a tendency to be leery of any opinions I might have about these kinds of races.  But I really don't have an opinion about this race at all.  Turf sprints are the only turf races where I seriously downgrade European shippers, unlike the milers and classic distance horses. And the domestic turf sprinters seem to generally be a group that spends the year beating up on each other over and over. 

If the race was at seven furlongs, I'd love Right One (FR) in this spot.  But I'm not sure this gelding has the speed to stay in the race at six panels.  He's probably going to have too much to do (although I like the Leparoux-Clement connection).

-While the Nearctic didn't really interest me, the E.P. Taylor is full of interesting horses, many of them shipping over from Europe. 

Brian Meehan's Straberrydaiquiri (GB) had a very nice 2010 but has run less than her best in all four of her starts in 2011.  Her last effort in the G1-Sun Chariot Stakes was an improvement off her previous form, but I'm curious as to whether she'll be able to duplicate that effort when adding the extra quarter of a mile.

A filly I really like in the E.P. Taylor is Dream Peace (IRE), a three-year-old Robert Collet trainee that won the Group 2 Prix de la Nonette Shadwell in Deauville in late August.  She's had a bit of time off since that race, but this filly has run well fresh in the past, and she's definitely cut out to run ten furlongs.  The morning line pegs this filly at odds of 3/1, but I'm guessing she'll take a bit of play at the windows and end up in the 5/2 or 2/1 range. 

-Treasure Beach (GB) didn't have much of a chance in the Arc when he was sent out like gang busters in the opening half-mile.  He faded to 14th position when it was all said and done, a result that doesn't accurately reflect his talent and ability.  After finishing over ten lengths behind Frankel (GB) in his final start as a two-year-old, Treasure Beach came back for a highly successful sophomore campaign.  He won the G3-Chester Vase to kick things off, was 2nd by a head to Pour Moi in the G1-Epsom Derby, Won the G1-Irish Derby three weeks later, and eventually shipped to Arlington Park and won the G1-Secretariat Stakes.  Not a bad 2011, if you ask me.

We'll see if a return to North America can cure the post-Arc blues for this Aidan O'Brien runner. 

-Turning to some non-stakes action, the seventh race at Keeneland tomorrow is a 8.5 furlongs Maiden Special Weight for two-year-olds.  Breaking out the old Keeneland database, I pulled the Keeneland Polytrack records for all of the sires in the race.

Something to take note of is the #3 horse, Congenial.  His sire, Pulpit, has done fairly well with runners on the Poly at Keeneland (12% Wins, 29% ITM), but when you combine the sires record with that of his trainer, things really start to pop.  Over the last five years, Al Stall is 10-for21 with two-year-olds on the Keeneland Polytrack, a stunning 48% winning percentage.  Even more impressive? He's running a $3.82 $2 ROI during that time.  Stall juveniles win at Keeneland on the Poly, and they turn a flat bet profit (so far).

So while the sire numbers on Congenial are nice, the trainer numbers are a whole lot nicer.

Horse ML Sire Sire KEE Poly Record Win% ITM%
1-Tito 10/1 Macho Uno 21-1-2-3 5% 29%
2-Ventura Bar 7/2 Officer 37-6-3-2 16% 30%
3-Congenial 9/2 Pulpit 99-12-9-8 12% 29%
4-Dance With Monarch 5/1 Monarchos 38-5-5-4 13% 37%
5-Stevie Jones 6/1 Smarty Jones 30-3-6-5 10% 47%
6-Alexander Thegreat 12/1 Cat Thief 39-8-4-6 21% 46%
7-First Minister 12/1 Tale of the Cat 111-22-13-17 20% 47%
8-Untethered 8/1 Congrats 10-2-2-3 20% 70%
9-St Moose 20/1 Lemon Drop Kid 81-8-10-3 10% 26%
10-Garmento 20/1 Mineshaft 64-4-5-6 6% 23%
11-Arabian Spirit 15/1 A.P. Indy 134-17-14-12 13% 32%
12-Timely Tally 10/1 Mr. Greely 72-11-4-4 15% 26%



Weekend Stakes Line-Up

Day Race Track Age/Sex Dist/Surf
15-Oct G1-QEII Cup KEE 3yo, f 9.0 (T)
15-Oct G2-Oak Tree Derby SA 3yo 9.0 (T)
15-Oct G3-Athenia BEL 3up, f&m 8.5 (T)
15-Oct G3-Hawthorne Derby HAW 3yo 9.0 (T)
15-Oct G3-Knickerbocker BEL 3up 9.0 (T)
15-Oct G3-Spend a Buck CRC 3up 8.5
15-Oct British Champions Middle Distance (Champion Stakes) ASC 3up 10.0 (T)
15-Oct British Champions F&M Stakes ASC 3up, f&m 12.0 (T)
15-Oct British Champions Long Distance ASC 3up 24.0 (T)
15-Oct British Champions Mile (QE II Stakes) ASC 3up 8.0 (T)
15-Oct British Champions Sprint Stakes ASC 3up 6.0 (T)
16-Oct G1-Canadian Intl WO 3up 12.0 (T)
16-Oct G1-EP Taylor WO 3up, f&m 10.0 (T)
16-Oct G1-Nearctic WO 3up 6.0 (T)
16-Oct G3-Ramser SA 3yo, f 8.0 (T)