Royal Ascot hopes in action on Kentucky undercard
Preview: USA, Saturday 6.55pm BST (live on ATR)
Churchill Downs: Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Grade 2) 1m | turf | 4yo+ f/m
The Kentucky Derby may be an all-American jamboree but a distinctly English pageant may well be high in people's thoughts when it comes to a couple of races on the undercard.
Royal Ascot could be on the agenda for Miss Temple City and La Coronel, both set to run in Grade 2 events on Saturday at Churchill Downs, while former Roger Charlton-trained Time Test, who won at the royal meeting as a three-year-old, makes his US debut on a high-quality card at Belmont Park.
After finishing fourth at Royal Ascot in each of the last two seasons, Miss Temple City (Graham Motion/Edgar Prado) is being lined up for a third visit this summer, where the five-year-old is entered in both the Queen Anne and the Duke of Cambridge (fourth last year).
Having won three Grade 1s last season, she makes her belated seasonal debut in the race Tepin used in 2016 before winning the Queen Anne. "Miss Temple City had a little setback over the winter when she got loose one day," explained Motion. "She got some inflammation in a leg which caused me to back off her for two to three weeks.
"To me, she is physically a bigger, stronger mare this year," he went on. "She has handled the travelling very well and her owners have wanted to come back [to Ascot] for a third shot."
Saturday's rivals include fellow Grade 1 winner Harmonize (Bill Mott) and Linda (Ian Wilkes/Brian Hernandez), who beat that one when they met at the end of last year at this venue.
Matriarch runner-up Roca Rojo (Chad Brown/Florent Geroux) might be one to note if forecast rain arrives as her only previous Graded stakes win came on soft ground.
Also on Saturday
Churchill Downs: American Turf Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f | turf | 3yo (8.37pm BST, live on ATR)
Although Coronation Stakes entry La Coronel (Mark Casse/Florent Geroux) was also entered on Friday's card, the filly is expected to take on her male counterparts here instead. She was an easy winner of the Grade 3 Appalachian last time out at Keeneland.
"I've been very happy with both of her races this year," said Casse. "Her last start at Keeneland was a very tough race including a Breeders' Cup winner and runner-up and she won it easily. She will need to run well at Churchill in the American Turf and, if she does, there is a very good chance she will come to Royal Ascot.
"She enjoys a little give in the ground and is a very smart filly, I think she will handle Ascot fine. Tepin's success at Ascot has definitely gave us more confidence and a better understanding of the English racing."
However, La Coronel has been done few favours by the draw as she breaks from the outside gate in a red-hot 11-runner field featuring Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance (Brian Lynch/Jose Ortiz), who looked distinctly in need of the outing when beaten last month on his seasonal debut at Keeneland behind Big Score (Tim Yakteen/Javier Castellano).
Churchill Downs: Humana Distaff (Grade 1) 7f | dirt | 4yo+ (6.13pm BST, live on ATR)
With rain forecast, trainer Ian Kruljac is keeping his options open for Breeders' Cup winner Finest City (Mike Smith), who also held an entry on Friday's card; either way, she is destined for her first start outside California.
The Filly & Mare Sprint heroine's rivals in this $300,000 contest would be headed by Paulassilverlining (Chad Brown/Jose Ortiz), who made a winning debut for new owners Juddmonte in Grade 1 company at Keeneland last month.
Churchill Downs: Churchill Downs Stakes (Grade 2) 7f | dirt | 4yo+ (9.28pm BST, live on ATR)
A west-coast rivalry travels east for this $500,000 event, which sees a rematch between Denman's Call (Doug O'Neill/Tyler Baze) and Masochistic (Ron Ellis/Mike Smith), first and second in the Grade 1 Triple Bend at Santa Anita in March.
Churchill Downs: Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade 1) 1m1f | turf | 4yo+ (10.25pm BST, live on ATR)
Last year's winner Divisidero (Buff Bradley/Julien Leparoux) bids for a repeat success against ten opponents, among them west-coast raider Bal A Bali (Richard Mandella/Javier Castellano), who won the Kilroe Mile on his last start.
Belmont Park: Sheepshead Bay Stakes (Grade 2) 1m3f | turf | 4yo+ f/m (7.25pm BST, live on ATR)
A pair of top turf racemares clash here as Beverly D winner Sea Calisi (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz) makes her seasonal debut against Suffused (Bill Mott/Kendrick Carmouche), only a nose away from winning her last six. With an inch of rain forecast on Friday in New York, we can expect some give on the turf track.
Belmont Park: Westchester Stakes (Grade 3) 1m | dirt | 4yo+ (10.48pm BST, live on ATR)
Another eyecatching match-up as Connect (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz) and Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin/Manny Franco) both make their seasonal debuts. They went in opposite directions last term as three-year-olds: Connect won five out of six including the Cigar Mile against older horses, while last year's Kentucky Derby fourth Mohaymen lost his way after winning his first five career starts.
Belmont Park: Fort Marcy Stakes (Grade 3) 1m1f | turf | 4yo+ (12.07am Sun BST, live on ATR)
America's champion trainer Chad Brown seems impressed with his new recruit Time Test (Irad Ortiz), who won six of 11 career starts for Roger Charlton, including the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown and Group 2 York Stakes last term, when he was also third in the Coral-Eclipse.
"He’s a very promising horse with an excellent turn of foot," said Brown, speaking to the Daily Racing Form. "We took our time getting him ready. He trains like he has unlimited potential."