Australia has two Group 1 races including the Thousand Guineas for 2-year-old fillies at Caulfield. And Sunday's three featured Group 2 events at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong will help shape the local contenders for the Longines Hong Kong International Races on Dec. 10.
Excellent news on the international (and maybe American) front: The Coolmore "lads" have decided to keep Breeders' Cup Turf winner Auguste Rodin in training for 2024 rather than hustling him off to an eager harem of top-class mares.
It's a sporting decision, for sure, and after trainer Aidan O'Brien's gushing comparison of the colt to his grandsire, Sunday Silence, prompts speculation that November 2024 might find him on the Del Mar dirt in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
That's then. This is now. Here we come, spinning out of the turn ...
Raise hands, anyone who's surprised that Bob Baffert trains three of the five entries in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. Wine Me Up is the star after finishing second in the Grade I American Pharoah, despite an eighth-place showing in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile just two weeks ago. It's 7 furlongs on the dirt.
Two other juvenile races are even shorter and both are for state-breds. As Fair Grounds swings into action, Louisiana-breds go 5 1/2 furlongs Saturday in the $75,000 Joseph R. Peluso Stakes. And at Aqueduct, New York-breds tackle 6 furlongs in Saturday's $100,000 Notebook Stakes.
Sunday's $120,000 Central Park Stakes at Aqueduct is carded at 1 mile on the turf.
The fact they're sprints or, in the case of the Bob Hope, extended sprints, doesn't mean these races can't throw up candidates for the longer tests in the New Year so they're well worth watching.
The 2-year-old fillies
The weekend's marquee event for the young ladies also is at Del Mar and also 7 furlongs. Saturday's $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes attracted five promising fillies. Wesley Ward shipped Royal Slipper from Keeneland for this and the Uncle Mo filly is owned by Coolmore "lad" Michael Tabor. Circle it.
State-breds have Friday's $75,000 Donovan L. Ferguson Stakes at Fair Grounds and Saturday's $100,000 Key Cents Stakes at Aqueduct. Friday's $120,000 Tepin Stakes is slated for 1 mile on the Aqueduct turf.
Integration stands apart from eight rivals in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
The Quality Road colt, trained by Shug McGaughey, is 2-for-2 and won the Grade III Virginia Derby impressively in his last start -- enough to make him the even-money favorite.
Saturday's $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship and Friday's $150,000 Autumn Days Stakes for fillies and mares are both at 6 furlongs on the grass with overflow fields. Our Shot, second in the Grade II Woodford at Keeneland, is the morning-line pick in the former. Poppy Flower tops the line in the latter off two decent efforts in graded stakes.
Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Chilukki Stakes for fillies and mares, 1 mile on the turf, has a wide-open field of nine. Trainer Chris Block saddles two, including She Can't Sing, owned by Lothenbach Stables, whose principal, Bob Lothenbach, died suddenly this week at age 64.
Lothenbach was a major owner and breeder in the Midwest with about 200 head in the racing and breeding operation. As an industry player and fine human being, he will be missed.
Saturday's $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes at 7 furlongs on the dirt is for state-breds but there are some good ones. The Chosen Vron looks to rebound from a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint that snapped an eight-race winning streak. That string included last year's Cary Grant.
Around the world, around the clock
Sunday's Grade 1 Mile Championship at Kyoto Racecourse features seven horses returning from last year's edition. Five of those finished in the top six spots in 2022 with only the white filly Sodashi, third a year ago, taking a pass.
After winning last year's Mile Championship, Serifos traveled to Dubai to finish fifth in the Group 1 Dubai Turf. He returned from that March engagement to finish second behind Songline in the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen June 4 and hasn't raced since.
Danon the Kid, second a year ago, went on to finish second to the highly regarded Romantic Warrior in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup at 2,000 meters, but hasn't been as effective at that distance and drops back to what might be a better trip.
Also entered for another go are Soul Rush (fourth in 2022), Schnell Meister (fifth) and Justin Café (sixth). Also watch Elton Barows, one of two 3-year-olds entered, and a filly, Namour, who would love to see a traffic-free trip for a change.
Saturday's Grade 2 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes attracted 10 2-year-olds to go 1,800 meters.
Sunday's three Group 2 heats help set the local team for the Hong Kong International Races. The Jockey Club Cup at 2,000 meters, the Jockey Club Sprint at 1,200 meters and the Jockey Club Mile represent a final tune-up for the four races Dec. 10. Only the 2,400-meter Longines Hong Kong Vase on the big day lacks a counterpart.
While most of Hong Kong's top runners will take part, three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty and recent Group 1 Cox Plate winner Romantic Warrior are notable exceptions. Golden Sixty is bypassing the Sprint, which he has won three straight years, and will go to the December race off a 224-day break.
Saturday's program at Caulfield includes the Group 1 Neds Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at 1,400 meters and the Schweppes Thousand Guineas at 1,600 meters. Nothing jumps off the page in either race.