April 24, 2018

Aqueduct, Churchill, Del Mar offering graded action on Breeders’ Cup days

Hard Aces will stretch out to 1 3/4 miles in Friday's Marathon (G2) at Del Mar (Benoit Photos)

While the two-day Breeders’ Cup rightly takes center stage this weekend, other graded stakes will be held at Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, and on the Breeders’ Cup undercards themselves at Del Mar on Friday and Saturday. Here’s a brief look at what’s on tap.

Friday

Tempted (G3) — Opening day of the six-month meet at Aqueduct is highlighted by this one-mile race for two-year-old fillies, a prelude to next month’s Demoiselle (G2). Only six will line up, with last-out maiden winner Navajo the likely favorite for Tony Dutrow.

Marathon (G2) — Grade 1 veteran Hard Aces heads a field of eight in this former Breeders’ Cup race contested over 1 3/4 miles at Del Mar. Second by a nose in the Cougar II (G3) at 12 furlongs in July, he was a distant fifth last out in the Pacific Classic (G1). The field also includes 2016 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner and Belmont S. (G1) runner-up Destin, and the Grade 3-winning mare Estrechada.

Senator Ken Maddy (G3) — Moved from its original Santa Anita home for this season, the race has been shortened from about 6 1/2 furlongs to five furlongs on the turf. The well-matched field of fillies and mares includes So Sweetitiz, winner of the course-and-distance Daisycutter H. during the 2016 summer meet, who is making her first start in 13 months. The Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard opens with the $200,000 Damascus for three-year-olds and up at seven furlongs.

Saturday

Long Island H. (G3) — Another small field of six will go postward in this long-time fixture for fillies and mares over 1 1/2 miles on what is now the Big A’s inner turf course. Despite not having run since January, Arles appears the class of the field having run a close second in the Glens Falls (G3), Red Carpet H. (G3), and La Prevoyante H. (G3) in her three U.S. appearances. The card also features the $100,000 Chelsey Flower for two-year-old fillies at one mile on the inner turf, rescheduled from last Sunday’s canceled Belmont Park program.

Chilukki (G2) — The one-mile test for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs includes Molly Pitcher (G3) winner Money’soncharlotte, a distant second to Elate in the Beldame (G1) last out. Looking to rebound off sub-par efforts are dual Grade 2-winning three-year-old Farrell and Groupie Doll (G3) heroine Tiger Moth, while stakes winner Shenandoah Queen invades from California for trainer John Sadler.

Goldikova (G2) — Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Del Mar kicks off with this one-mile grass test for fillies and mares. Front-running Sassy Little Lila is marooned out in post 14. Fellow speed Goldy Espony will break from post 8 while sporting blinkers for the first time. Recent E.P. Taylor (G1) runner-up Kitten’s Roar, Mrs McDougal, Madame Stripes, On Leave, and English invader Aljazzi are other leading contenders in a terrific betting race.

The $200,000 Juvenile Turf Sprint at five furlongs precedes the first Breeders’ Cup race, and trainer Wesley Ward is well-represented with Fairyland, McErin, and Elizabeth Darcy, all of whom competed at Royal Ascot in June. European raiders representing Godolphin, Coolmore, and Qatar Racing have shipped in along with their Breeders’ Cup counterparts, while locally-based Count Alexander and the Todd Pletcher duo of El Dulce and March X Press also figure in a highly competitive affair.

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