Triple Crown dreams in America as the north takes centre stage at home
The day in a nutshell
A greater contrast in racing on either side of the Atlantic would be hard to find. While Britain and Ireland have one of their quietest weekends of the summer, excitement is mounting in America.
Having waited 37 years for a Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah, Justify could become the second such champion in just three years.
But while international racing fans will be fixated on events at Belmont, New York, there is still ample action to get stuck into on this side of the pond, not least in the north and Scotland, where good meetings at Beverley, Haydock and Musselburgh form the core of the afternoon's action.
Sadly, ITV4 have not included Beverley in their free-to-air line up, but the track's dual two-year-old contests, the Brian Yeardley (2.40) for colts and Hilary Needler (3.15) for fillies, provide some sharp juveniles opportunities to burnish their credentials for Royal Ascot and other key contests.
Prince Of Lir, who won the Brian Yeardley in 2016, went on to land the Norfolk, while 2015 Hilary Needler winner Easton Angel found just the hulking Acapulco too good in the Queen Mary.
Haydock's brace of Group 3s and a Listed race represents the highest-grade card on offer and has attracted a few well-known names, such as Dutch Connection, a leading fancy for the John Of Gaunt Stakes at Royal Ascot whose jetset career has taken in many trips to America, Canada and France.
The six-year-old finished a commendable fourth in the Group 1 Lockinge last time out and will be joined on the card by Group 2 winner Muthmir, a veteran sprinter lining up in the Listed Achilles Stakes (3.25).
In France, it is like winter never ended with Graded action over hurdles and fences at Auteuil. As usual, Willie Mullins has shipped out in force, with Shaneshill, Yorkhill and Bapaume among a five-strong challenge in the Prix la Barka (5.45).
Whatever floats your boat during the afternoon, however, make sure you are sat in front of a screen at 11.46pm when Justify will bid to become just the 13th winner of the US Triple Crown.
Panamas and Pimm's
It may be only June but in Newmarket the annual migration across the Heath from the Rowley Mile to the July course takes place on Saturday, with a further 20 fixtures to be held at the summer track before an autumn return – a migration that will have racegoers rejoicing.
The imposing Rowley Mile is the home of the Guineas but its bleak and windswept site feels like more than just a mile removed from the glorious July course.
Where the Rowley Mile is exposed and austere, the July course is an oasis of colour, shade and sunshine, an explosion of scent after the barrenness of winter, loved by racegoers and professionals alike. Out come the panama hats and jugs of Pimm's – this is the start of summer.
A seven-race card featuring several competitive handicaps gets the action off to a flying start at the July course, two of them (3.05 and 3.40) on ITV4.
In the John Sunley Memorial Handicap, keep an eye out for Addicted To You, who made a scintillating seasonal debut at Chelmsford last month and is bidding to give trainer Mark Johnston back-to-back wins in the race.
As well as the action on the track, the unbeaten Dreamfield, who has entries in the Diamond Jubilee and Wokingham, will gallop before the action at 1pm.
The racing concludes with a concert from pop superstar Demi Lovato, whose hits include the appropriate number Cool for the Summer.
On a day when the north stages most of the best fixtures, Catterick puts its best foot forward too with one of its richest races, the £23,000 totescoop6 Handicap (3.30)
Among the runners is Mark Johnston's ultra-handy Poet's Society, who at the age of four has already made 43 starts, the same number as the oldest horse in the race, eight-year-old Rene Mathis.
"He's kept very busy and runs plenty, largely holds his form very well and ran well in defeat last week at Chelmsford," said assistant trainer Charlie Johnston. "It's a valuable prize for the grade and hopefully he'll go well."
Keep an eye on
It could be a big day for Johnston, whose 18 runners across the country include Sea Youmzain, a major eyecatcher on her handicap debut at Nottingham last month who runs in the ITV-broadcast opener (2.15).
She basically fell out the stalls on that occasion and ran green for most of the race, before building momentum and sweeping past the field, whereupon she idled but still came home with an impressive length and a half victory under her belt.
Expert verdict: can Justify do it at Belmont?
It takes a special horse to complete the US Triple Crown, hence only 12 have managed it, but Justify looks good enough to add his name to the list, writes Ron Wood.
Of course, a tough schedule could have exhausted him, and the trip is almost certainly further than he really wants, which is the main concern, but he looks the best of this generation – a top-class colt with the potential to be brilliant.
He finished slowly in the first two legs, but at Churchill Downs he helped force some of the fastest early splits recorded in the Kentucky Derby, and at Pimlico in the Preakness he duelled with, and put away, a Breeders' Cup winner in Good Magic.
None of his rivals in the Belmont Stakes can match his speed, and few of them really want this far either – you can get dubious stayers winning this race, notably Palace Malice for Justify's jockey Mike Smith in 2013.
The pace was bonkers that day, but there were no good mile-and-a-half horses in the race and the winner staggered home before later dropping back in trip to win a Grade 1 over a mile.
A Justified investment
To his admirers he is a democratic activist and philanthropist, to his enemies a manipulator who uses his fortune to meddle in the political affairs of countries, but there is no doubting that billionaire George Soros, who made his name and much of his fortune betting against the pound in the run up to Black Wednesday, is a shrewd investor.
While it is common to see his name associated with political and civic movements – he recently threw his support behind the anti-Brexit campaign – it emerged this week his reach may truly be as long as his detractors claim, as according to the New York Times Soros owns a share of the breeding rights to Justify.
His investment vehicle, Soros Fund Management, reportedly owns a 15 per cent stake in Justify through its racing operations, SF Bloodstock and SF Racing Group.
If Justify wins on Saturday, his worth at stud is likely to be in the same region as 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, whose stud fee started at a cool $200,000. Could this turn out to be another stunning bet for the legendary investor?
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