Final preparation for the Kentucky Derby, excellent grass race on the Keeneland weekend program

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Campanelle, shown winning the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot 2020, competes in Saturday’s Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland. Photo courtesy of Ascot Racecourse

April 15 (UPI) — The Easter Bunny left some nice treats in the basket that’s on Friday’s schedule at Keeneland, taking over an otherwise slightly lean holiday weekend of horse racing.

Grade I Maker’s $600,000 Mark Mile is jam-packed with quality. A legitimate case could be made for one of 11 – a field that includes three Breeders’ Cup Mile returnees. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in a program with quality allowance races.

There’s also a bit of action on the Kentucky Derby stage, and that could affect the potential Run for the Roses field. Jackie’s Warrior returns to Oaklawn Park. The action returns to Woodbine after the long Canadian winter.

Internationally, there’s the Satsuki Sho or the Japanese 2,000 Guineas, two more Group 1 races at Randwick in Australia with a lovely 2-year-old filly, and the All-Weather Championships series finals in England.

Not so skinny after all, right?

Happy Easter and let’s go hippity.

Keeneland

There are 11 entries for Friday’s Maker’s Mark Mile and not one is an outright reject.

Smooth Like Strait, the 2-1 favorite in the morning, and Ivar come straight from the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where they finished second and third behind the superior Space Blues of Godolphin.

In Love finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup but won three in a row before that, including that event’s bookend, the Grade I Keeneland Turf Mile in October.

Count Again represented Grade I Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on his last start. Shirl’s Speight scores a win in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes.

Atone finished a close fourth in the Pegasus Grade I Turf World Cup.

Somelikeithotbrown finished third in the Keeneland Turf Mile and is rarely short of cash these days.

Set Piece won Grade II Wise Dan at Churchill Downs last spring, beating Somelikeithotbrown.

Mira Mission was last seen winning the Grade III Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park last month. Masan won back-to-back matches in Ireland last fall and is now racing for trainer Chad Brown, whose record with this guy is unparalleled. Brown also features Public Sector, a three-time winner of the New York Graduated Stakes last summer.

The secondary stakes race is the $200,000 Limestone for 3-year-old fillies, three of whom will be saddled by Wesley Ward. One of them, Her World, an Irish-bred miss from Caravaggio, has only one start, but it boded well as she won the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth last August, the first of 6 lengths.

The others are Kaufymaker, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, and Ruthin, who came close to winning at Royal Ascot last June.

But wait! They may not be the best of this field of 10 fillies. Derrynane, an Elusive Quality filly from Christophe Clément’s stable, is making her first start since the same Breeders’ Cup race contested by Kaufymaker.

In this she was last early after checking, then rose to finish fourth, beaten by just 1 length. She worked in Florida for her comeback.

Fast Corey and Unbridled Mary should also be considered in limestone.

Then there’s a $100,000 grass allowance deal for fillies and mares that drew Ocean Road, sixth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and several ranked rivals. in play, Flyn and Scarabea.

Speaking of Chad Brown, two more are missing in Saturday’s $500,000 Class I Jenny Wiley Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Shantisara, a 4-year-old Coulsty filly, ended 2021 with back-to-back wins in the Grade III Pucker Up at Arlington Park, the $700,000 Oaks Jockey Club at Belmont Park and the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

Regal Glory, a 6-year-old mare by Animal Kingdom, won the Grade I Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar in November and the Grade III Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park in her last two. The other four are beautiful horses but a little less accomplished.

It’s Wesley Ward again in Saturday’s $200,000 Giant’s Causeway stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass.

This time, Ward tightens the girth on Campanelle, a 4-year-old Kodiac filly whose track record already includes victories in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at the 2020 Royal Ascot meeting, the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville two months later and the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup back at Royal Ascot last year.

Guess where she’s heading with another good effort here. Watch out though for Elle Z and Change of Control in a full field for Saturday’s round.

And for those with a few bucks left for the final race on Holy Saturday, Highly Motivated returns for its first outing since an 11th-place finish at the Kentucky Derby last year. And the opposition includes Soup and Sandwich, who finished 10th in this Run for the Roses.

And speaking of…

The road of roses

The final stop on Churchill Downs’ “Road to the Kentucky Derby” is Saturday’s $400,000 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and the results could affect the Kentucky Derby’s 20-horse maximum field.

Going in, the horses ranked #16-20 in the standings each hold 40 points and are separated by the tiebreaker – the winnings. The Lexington awards 20 points to the winner with 8, 4 and 2 for the minor rankings.

Tawny Port, who is listed at Lexington, is currently No. 20 and could advance either through placement or under an additional purse. He finished second to the Jeff Ruby Steaks on the all-weather course at Turfway Park.

Ethereal Road and In Due Time each have 20 points in the standings and a win should be enough to enter the Churchill Downs starting gate.

Ethereal Road finished second in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, but seventh in last weekend’s Blue Grass at Keeneland. In Due Time finished second in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

The Major General and Dash Attack each hold 10 points and, even with a win, would need major defections to make the field Derby.

We will have an almost final line-up for the Course des Roses with the weekend roundup.

Meanwhile, looking two weeks down the May schedule from the Preakness Stakes, Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tessio Stakes at Laurel Park offer the winner a ‘new shooter’ spot for the Triple Crown rematch. .

Favorites for this year’s edition are Shake Em Loose and Joe, who finished first and second in the local Private Terms Stakes in their last start.

Oaklawn Park

2021 Eclipse Prize Sprint Champion Jackie’s Warrior returns to action in Saturday’s $500,000 Grade III Fleet Sprint Handicap.

The 4-year-old Maclean’s Music colt, a multiple Grade I winner, ended 2021 on a negative note, finishing sixth as the overall favorite in the Breeders’ Cup sprint.

There are five rivals, led by King Cotton Stakes and Grade III Whitmore Stakes winner Bob’s Edge over course and distance in his last two starts. If the two form, look for Bob’s Edge to do his best to chase down Jackie’s Warrior in the final furlong.

Honeysuckle

Canada’s premier track returns to action this weekend, with Saturday’s $100,000 (Canadian) Long Branch Stakes, 5 1/2 furlongs in all weather for fillies and mares. Seven signed for this round. Sunday’s companion Thorncliffe Stakes attracted nine male competitors.

Around the world, 24 hours a day:

Japan

Sunday’s Group 1 Satsuki Sho (2000 Japanese Guineas), the first round of the Triple Crown, features Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes winners Killer Ability and Grade I Asahi Hai Futurity winners Do Deuce.

The full field also includes many more prospects. Ask Victor More captured one of the key preparations for this race, the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho, with Do Deuce second. Be Astonished won the other major springboard, the Grade 2 Fuji TV Spring Stakes.

The result will be a good indicator of what awaits us for the summer. There have been 24 winners of the Satsuki Sho and the Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby.

Last year’s Satsuki Sho winner Eforia was not among them.

Australia

The high level races continue on Saturday at Royal Randwick with some interesting sprints.

Group 1 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes for 2 year olds features classy fillies Fireburn and She’s Extreme against four seemingly outclassed colts.

Fireburn, a daughter of Rebel Dane, has won five on the trot, including the Golden Slipper and the ATC Sires Produce Stakes in her last two. She’s Extreme finished second in the latter. A win would make Fireburn the seventh to sweep the Slipper-ATC-Champagne triple.

In Congo, Mo’unga and Forbidden Love are among the coveted Group 1 Schweppes All-Aged Stakes. It’s 1,400 meters, weight-for-age.

England

The ninth season of the All-Weather Championships ends on its traditional Good Friday date, but this year moves from its former venue Lingfield to Newcastle.

Six races will pit the winners of the Fast Track Qualifiers against international interests from Ireland and France.

The AWC program has grown into a respected bridge over the years since flat turf racing ended in the fall until it resumed in the spring. And it now serves as a proving ground for big-budget races in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Purses for finals are substantial by British standards, particularly for horses at this level of competition, and many top trainers and jockeys are represented in the fields.

Ryan H. Bowman