In the final weekend leading up to the Breeders' Cup, racetracks around the world will have plenty of action to keep horseplayers' minds sharp as they prepare for the two-day extravaganza at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 and 5. Leading the way is Australia's Victoria Derby, on Saturday, and the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
For those who wish to stay up late Friday night, the Group 1 Victoria Derby field is scheduled to leave the Flemington starting gates at 12:50 a.m. (EST) Saturday morning, just after midnight in the United States. Leading the 16-horse field of top 3-year-olds in one of Australia's premier races is Sacred Elixir, but the Paulick Report's own Scott Jagow has selected Swear as one of the field's leading longshots. Another of the probable longshots is Hollywood Mo, a son of Uncle Mo, the sire of this year's Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist.
At Belmont Saturday afternoon, the stakes action kicks off with the G3 Turnback the Alarm Stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Lewis Bay is the heavy favorite for trainer Chad Brown, coming into the race off a bit of a freshening following her fourth-place finish in the G1 Test Stakes in August. Other probable contenders include the multiple graded stakes-placed Eskenformoney and the stakes winner Rachel's Temper.
The highlight of Saturday's card at Belmont is the G3 Bold Ruler Stakes, a handicap over seven furlongs on the main track. Economic Model leads a well-matched 13-horse field for trainer Chad Brown, but the sophomore will have to face serious challenges from older horses Stallwalkin' Dude, Ami's Flatter and Touchofstarquality, among others. One of the interesting longer shots in the race is Brown's other entrant, Threefiveindia, most recently a solid third in the Parx's G3 Gallant Bob Stakes behind Breeders' Cup Sprint contenders Noholdingback Bear and Mind Your Biscuits.
Up next on Saturday is the G2 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, held over nine furlongs on the main track for 3-year-olds and up. Leading the eight-horse field is the Mark Casse-trained Noble Bird, off a solid win in listed stakes company at Churchill Downs. Last year's third-placed finisher in the Preakness, Divining Rod, has recorded back-to-back allowance wins at Parx for trainer Arnaud Delacour, and looks to step back up into stakes company here. The Steve Asmussen-trained Iron Fist was a closing second to Tom's Ready in the G3 Ack Ack and will be a factor here, as well as Kasaqui, a graded stakes winner on turf moving to the dirt.
At Santa Anita on Saturday, sophomore fillies will contest the G3 Autumn Miss Stakes at a mile on the turf course. Trainer Peter Miller's Belvoir Bay leads a field of 10, entering the race off consecutive stakes victories. Her major competitor will be the Graham Motion-trained Danilovna, making her second start in the United States following an allowance win at Belmont Park.
Churchill Downs' Sunday card is the first of the track's “Stars of Tomorrow” programs, with 10 races carded exclusively for 2-year-olds. A pair of listed stakes will feature the juvenile contenders, as well as the inaugural $300,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes. This is a race written for 2-year-olds exclusively sired by stallions that stood at any of Spendthrift's locations from 2013-present, and it features a full field of 14 to contest the first running of the unusual event. The Joe Sharp-trained Cool Arrow holds slight morning-line favoritism off his stakes win at Remington Park, and Churchill Downs' own racing club has an entrant in the D. Wayne Lukas trainee Warrior's Club, who has yet to break his maiden but did run a good second last out at Keeneland.
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