LEXINGTON, Ky. (October 11, 2019) – Each week, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full previews when available can be found through the link for each race.
Top-level action on the turf is this weekend’s theme with Woodbine hosting two Grade 1 tests over its E.P. Taylor course and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup highlighting Keeneland’s Saturday card.
Saturday’s America’s Day at the Races broadcast will feature live racing from Belmont Park highlighted by the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point and $100,000 Floral Park, with additional coverage north of the border including the trio of graded stakes from the Canadian International card at Woodbine. Saturday’s card from Belmont will be broadcast live from 1-5:30 p.m. on FS2 highlighted by bonus coverage of the Grade 1 Canadian International, Grade 1 E.P. Taylor and Grade 2 Nearctic from Woodbine.
Friday October 11
5:30 p.m.—$150,000 Grade 3 Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland on TVG
G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s durable mare Morticia will try to become a millionaire when she heads an overflow field for the 23rd running of the Franklin County going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Trained by Rusty Arnold, who is her co-breeder, Morticia has earnings of $989,669 while winning eight stakes, two of them graded, including a score in the Grade 3 Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs in her most recent start. The winner of the Franklin County in 2017, Morticia also won the Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland in April.
Saturday October 12
4:30 p.m.—$250,000 Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine on FS2 and TVG
Yorkton, an unlucky second in last year’s edition of the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes, will be looking for a happier ending in Saturday’s six-furlong turf test. Yorkton, a 5-year-old horse who races for Chiefswood Stables, comes into the Nearctic off his second consecutive win in the Grade 3 Bold Venture on the Tapeta surface. The Ontario-bred was making his first start in 11 weeks after weakening to finish sixth in the Highlander, a Grade 1 race over the Nearctic course and distance.
5:05 p.m.—$600,000 Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine on FS2 and TVG
Ten fillies and mares, including a pair of starters who have recorded high-profile victories at Woodbine, will contest the E.P. Taylor Stakes. Holy Helena, an eight-time winner from 19 starts, counts the 2017 Queen’s Plate, two editions of the Grade 3 The Very One, and the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay among her stakes triumphs. Blue Heaven Farm’s Starship Jubilee, trained by locally based Kevin Attard, arrives at the E.P. Taylor off an outstanding repeat score in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes. Under Luis Contreras, the ultra-consistent six-year-old daughter of Indy Wind romped to a 4 1/4-length triumph in the Canadian, a win that pushed Starship Jubilee’s record to 13-4-3 from 30 lifetime starts.
5:13 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes at Belmont Park on FS2 and TVG
Godolphin’s Romantic Pursuit will look to build on her first stakes appearance as part of a talented seven-horse field in the Sands Point at 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont Park inner turf. Romantic Pursuit, finished fourth in the 1 3/8-mile Jockey Club Oaks Invitational on September 7 at Saratoga Race Course and entered her stakes bow with two consecutive wins. The Kentucky homebred, 2-3-1 in eight career starts, ran her first three races on the main track before being moved to grass, where she has gone 2-2-0 in five starts. Her last-out start in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational was her only race on softer turf.
5:30 p.m.—$500,000 Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on TVG
OXO Equine’s Cambier Parc, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in her most recent start, tops a field of nine 3-year-old fillies entered for the 36th running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup contested at 1 1/8 miles on the Keeneland turf course. Cambier Parc is one of three fillies trained by two-time race winner Chad Brown. The others are Paul Pompa Jr.’s Regal Glory and Peter Brant’s Café Americano. Brown won the race last year with Rushing Fall and in 2012 with Dayatthespa. Regal Glory is the lone Brown runner to have run at Keeneland, having finished second in this spring’s Grade 2 Appalachian Stakes.
5:42 p.m.—$800,000 Grade 1 Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine on FS2 and TVG
Desert Encounter will be looking to become the first repeat winner of the Canadian International since Joshua Tree in 2012-2013 when he headlines a field of six. Desert Encounter went off at 8-1 when he captured last year’s Canadian International, defeating fellow English shipper and favorite Thundering Blue by a length. The Irish-bred gelding returns while riding the wave of three consecutive Group 3 turf stakes scores, all in England. His last success came at Newbury in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup, a 1 3/8-mile race in which he had finished a close third last year while prepping for the Canadian International.