By Jim Tierney
Super Saturday and Super Sunday translates to a truly Super Weekend of racing.
Super Saturday at Belmont Park in New York showcases five Grade 1 races, highlighted by the Jockey Club Gold Cup (Blame, Rail Trip, Haynesfield, Fly Down), the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (Paddy O’Prado) the Vosburgh (Girolamo, Snapshot, Driven By Success), the Flower Bowl Invitational (Red Desire, Forever Together, Keertana, Gozzip Girl), and the Beldame (Unrivaled Belle, Life At Ten, Persistently).
Super Sunday at Longchamp Racecourse just outside Paris features seven Group 1 races, with the centerpiece being the Prix del Arc de Triomphe – perhaps the most prestigious race in the world. Behkabad, a 3-year-old French colt trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, is the Arc morning-line favorite. Aidan O’Brien’s 4-year-old Fame and Glory and 3-year-old Cape Blanco are in with a solid chance, as is Epsom Derby champ Workforce and 3-year-old French filly Sarafina.
If that’s not enough quality racing, Preakness/Haskell winner Lookin’ At Lucky is a heavy favorite in Saturday’s Indiana Derby, his final prep before the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Twirling Candy heads the Grade 1 Goodwood Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Lest we forget, unbeaten mare Zenyatta races Saturday live on ESPN (7:15p EST) in the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Hollywood Park – which is her final prep before the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
Racing was canceled at Belmont on Thursday and Friday produced more heavy rain and winds. Saturday will be less humid, cool, and in the 60s, but the turf course will likely be yielding. The same can be said of the races at Longchamp where two-time defending Breeders’ Cup Mile champion mare Goldikova will likely bypass the Prix de la Foret on Sunday and train up to her three-peat bid in the B.C. Mile. It will be a soft turf course for the Arc.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup has long been one of the best races in the United States and has crowned many champions. When you talk about the JCGC, the conversation has to begin with Kelso, who won the race five consecutive times (1960-64) and is considered one of the top five horses of all time. And Kelso won the JCGC when the race was contested over two miles.
Some other memorable JCGC winners include War Admiral, Nashua, Sword Dancer, Damascus, Arts and Letters, Forego, Affirmed, John Henry, Easy Goer, Mineshaft, Bernardini, and Curlin.
Although the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational has only been run since 1977, it has produced some of the greatest turf performers ever such as Waya, April Run, All Along, John Henry, Manila, Theatrical, Sky Classic, John’s Call, Sulamani, Kittens’ Joy, and English Channel. It has also been a key race as far as the Breeders’ Cup Turf is concerned.
Manila and Theatrical won in 1986-87 and also won the B.C. Turf. Sunshine Forever won in 1988 and finished second in the B.C. Turf the same year. Sky Classic won in 1992, and was a close second in the B.C. Turf the same year. Tikkanen won both in 1994 as did Buck’s Boy in 1998. John’s Call won the Turf Classic in 2000 and was third in the B.C. Turf the same year. Timboroa won in 2001 and finished third in the B.C. Turf the same year. Kitten’s Joy won in 2004 and was second in the B.C. Turf the same year. English Channel won the Turf Classic in 2006-07, and placed third in the 2006 B.C. Turf and won the B.C. Turf in 2007.
So as far as a key race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, look no farther than the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. And historically, horses who have raced in the Arc, but not won, have fared well in the B.C. Turf – the most notable being two-time B.C. Turf champion High Chapparal (2002-03), who finished third in the Arc in both years, and 2005 B.C. Turf champ Shirocco, who was fourth in the Arc that year.
This superb weekend of racing will surely yield some clues for the Breeders’ Cup.