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Weekend Preview: Kentucky Cup at Turfway; Closing Weekend at Emerald

It's sort of a calm before the storm feeling in racing this weekend as we are a week away from Super Saturday and Arc Sunday. But before the big weekend is upon us, some good racing action is slated to take place at Turfway, Parx, Belmont, Monmouth, and Emerald Downs. Below is a snapshot of the stakes action on tap this weekend across the country.

Day Race Track Age/Sex Dist/Surf Winner
23-Sep G1-Fillies' Mile (ENG) NEW 2yo, f 8.0 (T) Lyric of Light (GB)
24-Sep G2-Gallant Bloom BEL 3up, f&m 6.5
24-Sep G2-KY Cup Classic TP 3up 9.0 (S)
24-Sep G2-Pennsylvania Derby PRX 3yo 9.0
24-Sep G3-Kent Stakes DEL 3yo 9.0 (T)
24-Sep G3-KY Cup Distaff TP 3up, f&m 8.5 (S)
24-Sep G3-KY Cup Sprint TP 3yo 6.0 (S)
24-Sep KY Cup Juvenile TP 2yo 8.5 (S)
24-Sep KY Cup Juvenile Filllies TP 2yo, f 8.5 (S)
24-Sep Ontario Derby WO 3yo 9.0 (S)
25-Sep G2-Monmouth Cup MTH 3up 9.0
25-Sep G3-Eatontown MTH 3up 8.5 (T)
25-Sep G3-Red Bank MTH 3up 8.5 (T)
25-Sep G3-Selene Stakes WO 3yo, f 8.5 (S)
25-Sep Gottstein Futurity EMD 2yo 8.0

This weekend's top racing action has already begun in some parts of the world.  This morning at Newmarket, Lyric of Light (GB) edged out Samitar (GB) at the wire to win the Group 1 Shadwell Fillies' Mile.  The Fillies' Mile is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. 

Following the race, trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni talked about where the Goldolphin filly might run next with the Racing Post:

"I cannot say whether she'll run again [this season]. She could go for races like the Breeders' Cup but we will see what the Highness thinks."

If Lyric of Light were to come to the Breeders' Cup, she would be a formidable foe in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

You can view a replay of the Fillies' Mile at the following link: 2011 G1-Shadwell Fillies' Mile.

-In other news from across the Atlantic, the status John Gosden's Nathaniel (IRE) for this year's Arc is still up in the air, with the trainer stating that his horse prefers a softer surface.  I don't think that will be a major problem at Longchamp on Arc day, where the going seems to always come up on the softer side for the big meetings. As for his Breeders' Cup chances (and I'm just speculating), it's probably unlikely a horse that prefers softer ground will make the trip to Churchill since our turf courses, even when they receive a good amount of water, tend to be much firmer than those in Europe.  We'll have to wait and see.

Many English bookmakers have Nathanial as the second or third choice for the Arc at odds ranging from 5/1 to 11/2. The filly Sarafina (FR) is still listed as the Arc favorite at odds of 3/1 to 7/2.

-We tend not to get a lot of video of workouts of horses in Europe, as least when compared to those here in North America, but this morning the Racing Post had an impressive clip of Frankel (GB) during his latest drill at Newmarket. 

-It's closing weekend at Emerald Downs here in Seattle and they've put together two fantastic betting cards for Saturday and Sunday, and Friday night's card isn't too bad either.

Saturday has eleven races scheduled with fields of 6 - 8 - 9 - 6 - 12 - 10 - 12 - 10 - 10 - 8 - 9.

Sunday's eleven races feature fields of 12 - 6 - 10 - 8 - 12 - 12 - 9 - 7 - 5 - 6 - 12.

I've written about the Daily Doubles at Emerald in the past (and how a lot of the sequences pay much better than we would expect given the prices of the winners), and with even bigger field sizes this weekend, those pools should be ripe for some very nice returns.

The smallest field of the weekend is the five-horse Gottstein Futurity, the two-year-old championship race at Emerald. 

-It's Kentucky Cup day at Turfway Park, featuring three graded stakes: G3-Kentucky Cup Sprint, G3-Kentucky Cup Distaff, and the G2-Kentucky Cup.

The Ky. Cup Juvenile Fillies has a nice looking two-year-old filly in the field in the form of 8-Charming Vixen. Charming Vixen is still a maiden but she ran well in her first two starts at Churchill in June before taking a couple months off.  She returned with a near-miss second at Hoosier in late August and will try to finally break her maiden against stakes company tomorrow afternoon.  But here's the rub with Charming Vixen - she's never tried Polytrack (or turf) in her three lifetime starts.  Why is that a big deal?

Prior to the current fall meet and since the start of 2009, there have been 522 non-maiden races run around two-turns at the track.  Of those 522, only four have been won by horses that have never started on a synthetic or a turf surface prior to that race.  Four.  In other terms, only 0.77% of all winners at two-turns during that time came into the race having never raced on Poly or turf in their careers.

If you're looking for a positive nugget in those numbers you can find solace in the fact that three of the four "dirt only" horses to win at two-turns accomplished that feat during the 2011 spring meet.

There are five horses in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies that fall into the "dirt only" profile, including the 5/2 morning line favorite, 11-Flashy Lassie.

Kentucky Cup Juvenile also has a couple of "dirt only" entries: 3-Space Traveler (7/2) and 5-Fine (6/1). Michael Maker's impressive Turfway maiden winner 8-Hanson is the morning line favorite at 7/5.

On the sprinting side of the equation, there have been 601 non-maiden sprint races at Turfway since 2009 (excluding the current meet), only 19 of those have been won by a horse without a prior start over synthetic or turf.

The Kentucky Cup Sprint has three "dirt only" entries: 1-Free Entry (5/1), 3-Cal Nation (2/1), and 6-Chilled (15/1). Cal Nation is likely to take a lot of money given his connections and his strong performances in his last two races.  It remains to be seen whether he can transfer that form to the Polytrack at Turfway.