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Family: Final Kentucky Derby prep, great turf racing at Keeneland top weekend program

Police find some trophies stolen from Keeneland trainer; all heavily damaged or destroyed

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April 15 (UPI) -- The Easter Bunny left some nice goodies in the basket that is Friday's program at Keeneland, taking the edge off an otherwise slightly lean holiday weekend of horse racing.

The $600,000 Grade I Maker's Mark Mile is jam-packed with quality. A legitimate case could be made for any of the 11 -- a field that includes three returnees from the Breeders' Cup Mile. And that's just the tip of the iceberg in a program with allowance races that are stakes-quality.

There also is a little action on the Kentucky Derby scene, and it could affect the prospective field for the Run for the Roses. Jackie's Warrior returns at Oaklawn Park. Action returns to Woodbine after the long Canadian winter.

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Internationally, there's the Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2,000 Guineas, two more Group 1 races at Randwick in Australia starring a nice 2-year-old filly and the finals of the All-Weather Championships series in England.

Not so lean after all, right?

Happy Easter and let's hippity hop right to it.

Keeneland

There are 11 entries for Friday's Maker's Mark Mile and not a single one is an absolute throw-out.

Smooth Like Strait, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, and Ivar come straight from the Breeders' Cup Mile, where they finished second and third behind Godolphin's superior Space Blues.

In Love was sixth in the Breeders' Cup but won three straight before that, including the bookend to this event, the Grade I Keeneland Turf Mile in October.

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Count Again accounted for the Grade I Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in his last start. Shirl's Speight arrives off a win in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes.

Atone was a close-up fourth in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf.

Somelikeithotbrown was third in the Keeneland Turf Mile and seldom is out of the money these days.

Set Piece won the Grade II Wise Dan at Churchill Downs last spring, defeating Somelikeithotbrown.

Mira Mission was last seen winning the Grade III Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park last month. Masan won two in a row in Ireland last fall and now runs for trainer Chad Brown, whose record with this type is unparalleled. Brown also fields Public Sector, a three-time winner in New York graded stakes last summer.

The supporting stakes race is the $200,000 Limestone for 3-year-old fillies with three to be saddled by Wesley Ward. One of those, Her World, an Irish-bred miss by Caravaggio, has only one previous start but that was an auspicious one as she romped home first in the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth last August, first by 6 lengths.

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The others are Kaufymaker, third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, and Ruthin, who nearly pulled off a victory at Royal Ascot last June.

But wait! They may not be the best of this 10-filly field. Derrynane, an Elusive Quality filly from Christophe Clement's barn, makes her first start since that same Breeders' Cup race Kaufymaker contested.

In that, she was last early after bring checked, then got up to finish fourth, beaten by just 1 length. She has been working lights out in Florida for her return.

Fast Corey and Unbridled Mary also must be considered in the Limestone.

Then there's a $100,000 allowance affair on the grass for fillies and mares that drew Ocean Road, sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and multiple graded stakes-placed rivals Flown and Scarabea.

Speaking of Chad Brown, he runs out two more in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Jenny Wiley Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Shantisara, a 4-year-old Coulsty filly, wound up 2021 with consecutive victories in the Grade III Pucker Up at Arlington Park, the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks at Belmont Park and the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

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Regal Glory, a 6-year-old mare by Animal Kingdom, won the Grade I Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar in November and the Grade III Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park in her last two. The other four are nice horses but a bit less accomplished.

It's Wesley Ward again in Saturday's $200,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

This time, Ward tightens the girth on Campanelle, a 4-year-old Kodiac filly whose record already includes victories in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes at the 2020 Royal Ascot meeting, the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville two months later and the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup back at Royal Ascot last year.

Guess where she's headed with another good effort here. Watch out for Elle Z and Change of Control in a full field for Saturday's heat, though.

And for those with a few bucks left for Holy Saturday's last race, Highly Motivated returns in that for his first outing since an 11th-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby. And the opposition includes Soup and Sandwich, who was 10th in that Run for the Roses.

And speaking of ...

The Road to the Roses

The final stop on the Churchill Downs "Road to the Kentucky Derby" is Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Stonestreet Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and the results could affect the maximum 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

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Going in, the horses ranked No. 16 through 20 on the leaderboard each hold 40 points and are separated by the tiebreaker -- earnings. The Lexington confers 20 points on the winner with 8, 4 and 2 for the minor placings.

Tawny Port, who is entered in the Lexington, currently is No. 20 and could move up either through a placing or by virtue of added purse money. He was second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on the Turfway Park all-weather course.

Ethereal Road and In Due Time have 20 points each on the leaderboard and a win should be enough to get either into the Churchill Downs starting gate.

Ethereal Road was second in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park but seventh in last weekend's Blue Grass at Keeneland. In Due Time was second in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park.

Major General and Dash Attack each hold 10 points and, even with a win, would need major defections to make the Derby field.

We'll have an almost-final lineup for the Run for the Roses with the weekend roundup.

Meanwhile, looking two weeks farther down the May calendar to the Preakness Stakes, Saturday's $125,000 Federico Tessio Stakes at Laurel Park offers the winner a "new shooter" spot for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

The favorites in this year's edition are Shake Em Loose and Joe, who finished first and second in the local Private Terms Stakes in their last start.

Oaklawn Park

The 2021 Eclipse Award sprint champ, Jackie's Warrior, returns to action in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap.

The 4-year-old Maclean's Music colt, a multiple Grade I winner, ended 2021 on a down note, finishing a fading sixth as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

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There are five rivals, led by Bob's Edge, winner of the King Cotton Stakes and the Grade III Whitmore Stakes over the course and distance in his last two starts. If both run to form, look for Bob's Edge to be doing his best to chase down Jackie's Warrior in the final furlong.

Woodbine

Canada's premier track returns to action this weekend, featuring Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Long Branch Stakes, 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather for fillies and mares. Seven signed on for that heat. Sunday's companion Thorncliffe Stakes drew nine male contestants.

Around the world, around the clock:

Japan

Sunday's Group 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas), the first run of the Triple Crown, features the winners of last year's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, Killer Ability, and Grade I Asahi Hai Futurity, Do Deuce.

The full field includes plenty more prospects, too. Ask Victor More captured one of the key preps for this race, the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho, with Do Deuce second. Be Astonished won the other major steppingstone, the Grade 2 Fuji TV Spring Stakes.

The result will be a good indicator of what's in store for the summer. There have been 24 winners of both the Satsuki Sho and the Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby.

Not among them was last year's Satsuki Sho winner, Efforia, who was a heartbreaking second in the Derby en route to eventual Horse of the Year honors.

Australia

Top-level racing continues Saturday at Royal Randwick with a couple interesting sprints.

The Group 1 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes for 2-year-olds features classy fillies Fireburn and She's Extreme against four seemingly outclassed colts.

Fireburn, a daughter of Rebel Dane, has won five on the trot including the Golden Slipper and the ATC Sires Produce Stakes in her last two. She's Extreme was second in the latter. A win would make Fireburn just the seventh to sweep the Slipper-ATC-Champagne triple.

In the Congo, Mo'unga and Forbidden Love are among the fancied for the Group 1 Schweppes All-Aged Stakes. This is 1,400 meters, weight-for-age.

England

The ninth season of the All-Weather Championships wraps up on its traditional Good Friday date but moves this year from its former venue at Lingfield to Newcastle.

Six races pit the winners of Fast Track Qualifiers with international interest from Ireland and France.

The AWC program has grown over the years into a respected bridge from the end of flat turf racing in the autumn to its resumption in the springtime. And it now serves as a proving ground for the big-money races in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

The purses for the finals are big by British standards, especially for horses at this level of competition, and many top trainers and jockey are represented in the fields.

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