WEEKEND STAKES: WHERE TO WATCH brought to you by KBC Horse Supplies

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The only North American Grade 1 action of the weekend takes place north of the border at Woodbine on Sunday when seasoned turf specialists compete in a pair of rich stakes: the $750,000 Northern Dancer Turf presented by VTECH, at 1 1/2 miles and the $1-million Woodbine Mile over eight furlongs.

Both races will be shown exclusively on TVG, the Northern Dancer scheduled at 4:34 p.m. Eastern and the Woodbine Mile at 5:42 p.m.

While the Woodbine Mile offers the richest purse, the Northern Dancer comes up as a more competitive field in my book. Each race has attracted a field of 10.

Champs Elysees, a 6-year-old son of Danehill, bids for a repeat in the Northern Dancer, but the competition is rich in talent and experience. Marchfield, a son of A.P. Indy, just defeated Champs Elysees in the Grade 2 Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine going 1 3/8 miles on Aug. 23. Just as Well, another won of A.P. Indy, made a run at turf division leader Gio Ponti but could do no better than second in last month’s Grade 1 Arlington Million. Marsh Side won last year’s Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine at the same 12-furlong distance, and the globe-trotting 7-year-old German-bred Quijano was second, beaten a nose by Champs Elysees in last year’s Northern Dancer.

The Woodbine Mile features a rematch of last year’s one-two finishers, Rahy’s Attorney and Ventura, but Bribon, winner of this year’s Metropolitan Mile Handicap on the Belmont Park dirt, makes it interesting as he tries turf for the first time. Another horse that can’t be counted out is the 3-year-old Grand Slam colt, Grand Adventure, unbeaten in three starts on the Woodbine Turf but 10th in his only other race, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last fall.

Ventura, a 5-year-old mare by Chester House, has compiled a remarkable record of consistency for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms. She has finished first or second in 15 of 18 lifetime starts, and while her best distance may be seven furlongs, she is a Grade 1 winner on turf going a mile.

The Woodbine stakes are far from being the only races worth watching. Saturday’s Futurity (4:43 p.m.) and Matron (5:15 p.m.) on HRTV and TVG are important 2-year-old races, and the same afternoon’s $750,000 Super Derby (6:12 p.m., HRTV) marks the return of UAE Derby winner Regal Ransom for the red-hot Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.


 

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