If you thought it was hot this summer, get ready - the road to the Breeders' Cup is a trail of gunpowder leading to an arsenal of explosive championship races November 4-5. The first spark flies this weekend in the Garden City Stakes at Belmont, where Winter Memories will try to avenge her Lake Placid loss to Hungry Island. But that's just one of the rivalries renewing this fall, not to mention the comebacks on the horizon and the Keeneland meet, too!
Here's your guide to the fall, courtesy of the Stakes Tracker!
- Winter Memories vs Hungry Island - As mentioned above, Belmont's Garden City Stakes is the stage for this turf filly challenge. Winter memories was the victim of a bad ride in the Lake Placid and gets a new rider for this race. Hungry Island is riding a 4-race win streak and is only getting better. More Than Real is also pointing for the Garden City, and this filly seems to flourish in the fall, winning the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf last year. It won't be the last time the fillies meet, as they both also have the QE2 Challenge cup on their dance cards for October.
- Blind Luck vs Havre de Grace - We may not have to wait until Breeders' Cup Friday to see these two fillies duke it out for a 7th time. Both camps have indicated the Beldame is a possibility.
- Twirling Candy vs Game On Dude: These top older horses in California have danced every dance this year, and though Game On Dude's Pacific Classic fell flat, Twirling Candy showed he could get a distance. They look to hook up again in the Goodwood in a final gut check before the BC Classic.
- The Charles Town Oaks has two speedballs lined up - Her Smile and Hot Summer. These 2 graded stakes winners outshine everyone else in the field and it promises to be a fun matchup.
Derbies aren't just in the spring - there are still a few chances for 3 year old males to pad their resumes with the "Derby winner" title
- Pennsylvania Derby has attracted the attention of Pants On Fire and Pender Harbour, winner of 2 legs of the Canadian Triple Crown.
-Indiana Derby may be the 4th "Derby" for Prayer For Relief. Caleb's Posse is also pointing for this race, attempting to stretch out after his big Grade 1 score sprinting in the King's Bishop.
- Ontario Derby - Pender Harbour may show up here instead of Pennsylvania.
Super Saturday at Belmont offers a deep slate of BC preps. Here's a sneak peek of what is coming up in a few weeks:
- Jockey Club Gold Cup is the last man standing for the oft-maligned older male division, but the horses who have been beating up on each other all year have new challengers in the form of 3 year olds Stay Thirsty, Ruler On Ice and Shackleford, who step up to open company for the first time.
- Beldame: The big draw will be Blind Luck/HDG, but even if one or the other do not make it to NY, the race will be as exciting as the JCGC with its matchups between 3yos Royal Delta and It's Tricky with Tiz Miz Sue, Pachattack and Super Espresso.
- Kelso: Uncle Mo is heading for this mile race, but he won't have Caleb's Posse to contend with this time. Instead, he will face a sharp Jackson Bend and always-tough Jersey Town. A win here will prove Mo as tough as he was before his illness.
- Joe Hirsch Turf: Cape Blanco returns to try and nab a 3rd US Turf Grade 1, and Winchester will attempt to defend his 2010 title.
Kentucky racing comes back to the forefront with the opening of Keeneland in October. The track's juvenile and turf races are always competitive, and with connections looking for last-minute Breeders' Cup cred, there's no telling who might show up in the graded stakes.
- Shadwell Turf Mile: Gio Ponti will prep for the BC in this race, which he won last year. Courageous Cat and Wise Dan could also show.
- First Lady: Bill Mott has Aviate pointing for this spot to prep for the BC F/M Turf.
- Aside from Twirling Candy and Game On Dude, the Goodwood Stakes could also find perennial contender Setsuko in the gate. A return to dirt could be a return to his Big Cap form, and a clean trip could make him a winner this time. Awesome Gem could show up here, too.
- The Clement Hirsch Turf Championship is where Acclamation is most likely to show up this fall, along with Celtic New Year and possibly City to City. Caracortado could next be seen in the Oak Tree Mile along with Mr. Commons.
- The Lady's Secret Stakes will have a new winner for the first time in 3 years. Blind Luck is a possibility for this race if she skips the Beldame, but it won't be a walk in the park if she does. Ask The Moon, impressive winner of the Ruffian and Personal Ensign at Saratoga, is likely to ship west for this race. Local Cali fillies Ultra Blend, Zazu, Switch and St. Trinians will make this a formidable race for Blind Luck should she run.
- The Factor's winning comeback in the Pat O'Brien was arguably the most exciting race on Pacific Classic day. The Baffert trainee has a few options on his path to the Breeders' Cup Sprint: The Ancient Title at Santa Anita or the Vosburgh at Belmont.
Big Drama returned to the races at Calder with a win in a listed stakes race, but he makes his first appearance at the graded level since January for the Vosburgh at Belmont. The reigning Eclipse champion sprinter won't have it easy, as Bob Baffert has Euroears pointing for this race, and Kieran McLaughlin has Trappe Shot ready for a winning return, too.
Haynesfield, Steve Asmussen's main older horse, hasn't been seen since finishing 5th in the Met Mile in May, but he will return to defend his Jockey Club Gold Cup title. Though he hasn't been a major factor in 2011, Haynesfield is a monster at Belmont and should not be underestimated.
Godolphin stable has Vineyard Haven and Giroloamo on the comeback trail, too - Vineyard Haven is pointing for either the De Francis Dash at Laurel on October 22 or the Bold RUler at Belmont Oct. 29. The grey son of Lido Palace hasn't been seen since the 2010 Cigar Mile, where he finished a disappointing 7th.
Girolamo was also in that Cigar Mile, but he was 3rd. He, too is pointing for the Bold Ruler.
Black Caviar, the undefeated Australian sprinter, is slated to make her much-anticipated return in the Schillaci Stakes on October 8.
- The Norfolk is a key race for juveniles in California. With such talent as Drill, Creative Cause and Majestic City, the Golden State's Breeders' Cup contingent will be deep.
- The Champagne is where Uncle Mo became a star on his way to Breeders' Cup glory. East-coast juveniles Union Rags, Fire On Ice and Currency Swap hope to be the next Mo with a win and a ticket to the BC.
- Goldikova, the yearlong queen of the Top 250 list, will prep for her 4th BC Mile in the Prix de la Foret on Oct 2.
-Goldi's little sister, Galikova, has turned into a talented horse herself, and she is in consideration for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Among the contenders for the always-star-studded Arc are defending champ Workforce, So You Think, Fame and Glory and Treasure Beach. Females Midday, Sarafina, and Snow Fairy are also in the lineup.
- Frankel is passing up the BC Mile this year, but he is set to run once more in 2011 in the Queen Elizabeth II stakes.
And there you have it! Keep these horses and races in mind as the season progresses toward the Breeders' Cup - and follow all of the news and updates on Stakes Tracker!