Shuruq: could well be the one to ask most questions of the favouritePICTURE: Getty Images
Shuruq searching for Grade 1 glory in Spinster
Preview: USA, Sunday 10.45pm BST (live on ATR)
Keeneland: Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+ f/m
GODOLPHIN'S much travelled filly Shuruq (Saeed Bin Suroor/Julien Leparoux), a winner in Dubai and Turkey this year, goes in search of Grade 1 glory in the States on Sunday in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.
But she surely faces a tall order in attempting to defeat top dirt filly Close Hatches (Bill Mott/Joel Rosario), who has progressed again since a good second to Beholder in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff and has gone unbeaten in her four starts this term.
After wining the Grade 2 Azeri at Oaklawn in March, the daughter of First Defence has recorded a Grade 1 hat-trick in the Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps, and Personal Ensign. She has won five Grade 1s altogether.
Like last year's winner Emollient, Close Hatches is trained by Bill Mott for the race sponsors Juddmonte. She is confidently expected to win this en route to the Breeders' Cup Distaff and another clash with Beholder, who won last weekend at Santa Anita.
Shuruq loved the Tapeta surface at Meydan, where she won the UAE Oaks as a three-year-old before taking the second round of this year's Maktoum Challenge and the Burj Nahaar on Super Saturday beating a below-par Variety Club in the process.
While the form of her Group 3 win last month at Veliefendi in the International Istanbul Trophy probably doesn't amount to much, she quickened away readily. Trying dirt for the first time, the four-year-old could well be the one to ask most questions of the favourite.
Of her rivals, Ria Antonia (Tom Amoss/Paco Lopez) is already a Breeders' Cup winner, having been awarded last year's Juvenile Fillies by the stewards. The filly has struggled badly this season, though, and was well behind Grade 2 winner Don't Tell Sophia (Philip Sims/Joe Rocco) last time out in a minor stakes event at Churchill Downs. The winner did pretty well considering she was returning after six months on the shelf.
Runner-up that day and beaten a couple of lengths was Molly Morgan (Dale Romans/Corey Lanerie); she won the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis by four lengths back in June at the same venue.
Ladbrokes: 1-2 Close Hatches, 5 Shuruq, 6 Don't Tell Sophia, 12 Molly Morgan, 25 Ria Antonia, 25 Got Lucky
Also on Sunday
Belmont Park: Futurity Stakes (Grade 2) 6f, dirt, 2yo (7.23pm BST, live on ATR)
Grade 3 winner Cinco Charlie (Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana), who won in the Delaware slop last time, sets the standard here. He will try to use his early speed from the rail against maiden winner Blofeld (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez) and Hebbronville (Lynn Whiting/Jose Lezcano), who has looked distinctly useful in lesser company at Parx.
Belmont Park: Matron Stakes (Grade 2) 6f, dirt, 2yo fillies (10.35pm BST, live on ATR)
Paris Bikini (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez), owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, will be favoured to confirm the promise of last month's winning debut over course and distance. Seven-length maiden winner Darling Sky (Butch Reid/Cornelio Velasquez) was fourth in the Grade 1 Spinaway last time.