Neige Blanche and Juan Hernandez win the Red Carpet.
This weekend’s stakes action features state-breds at both Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. and at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., with the lone graded stakes race on offer scheduled for Monday at Santa Anita.
The Grade 3 Astra is a 1 1/2-mile marathon turf contest for fillies and mares, and features a compact field of five runners. The morning-line favorite is Neige Blanche for trainer Leonard Powell. The winner of three of her six starts in her native France, Neige Blanche has won three of her nine stateside starts with Powell, including winning three out of six last year and a career-best $204,168.
Highlighting the California Cup card at Santa Anita is the $200,000 California Cup Derby, in which Straight Up G and his rivals attempt to follow in the footsteps of the Art Sherman-trained California Chrome, who used the 2014 Cal Cup Derby as a springboard to glory in the Santa Anita and Kentucky Derbies as well as the 2014 Preakness Stakes.
Saturday’s action is perhaps topped by the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which has drawn last year’s G2 Rebel winner Concert Tour in his debut for new trainer Brad Cox, as well as three millionaires (Rated R Superstar, Snapper Sinclair and Long Range Toddy), another Oaklawn stakes winner (Silver Prospector) and Mucho, who will be making his two-turn debut.
Overseas, the Dubai World Cup Carnival kicks off this weekend with the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, featuring an interesting full field of 14 locally-trained runners. Among the starters are 2021 Godolphin Mile (G2) winner Secret Ambition; Dubai World Cup fourth Hypothetical; Salute The Soldier, the Bahrain-owned gelding who won the second and third rounds of the series last season; two veteran former Al Maktoum Challenge winners, Kimbear (Round 1 2020) and Capezzano (Round 3, 2019); and four-time Meydan dirt scorer Thegreatcollection.
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