Looking for something new in a jam-packed weekend of stakes races, many of which serve as key steppingstones to the Breeders' Cup World Championships?
The three North American Breeders' Cup Challenge races to the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs will be contested this weekend at Santa Anita Park, Belmont Park, and Keeneland.
Santa Anita gets the ball rolling Oct. 6 with the five-furlong--yes five-furlong--Speakeasy Stakes on the turf. Santa Anita has traditionally run its turf sprints down the hill at 6 1/2 furlongs, but it recently added a five-furlong configuration that sticks to the main turf course.
That race will be followed Sunday by the Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland, 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, and the Futurity Stakes (G3T) at Belmont going six furlongs on the Widener course.
As you might guess, given his skills with both young horses and in turf sprints, trainer Wesley Ward will be well-represented in all three races.
In the Speakeasy, Ward has 2-1 morning-line favorite Mae Never No (IRE), a daughter of No Nay Never who enters off a seven-length romp in the five-furlong Colleen Stakes Aug. 4 at Monmouth Park. As the Colleen was scheduled for the turf but moved to the sloppy main track, the Speakeasy will mark the turf debut for Mae Never No.
But the filly would seem a good fit as a daughter of No Nay Never, who also was trained by Ward and finished second to stablemate Bobby's Kitten in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T) at Santa Anita. At 2, Ward shipped No Nay Never to Europe, where he won a pair of top turf sprints: the Norfolk Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot and the Darley Prix Morney (G1) at Deauville.
At his Keeneland base, Ward will saddle Chelsea Cloisters, a daughter of First Samurai who finished second in the Prix du Bois (G3) at Deauville, and impressive maiden winner Abaco Dream, by Bodemeister, in the Indian Summer. He also could send out Jo Jo Air, a maiden daughter of Scat Daddy who is on the also-eligible list.
In the Futurity, Ward has a pair of juveniles who prepped at Kentucky Downs in filly Dragic, a daughter of Broken Vow who finished third in the one-mile Kentucky Downs Juvenile Stakes (G3), and colt Fayette Warrior, a son of Exchange Rate who rolled to a 4 1/4-length maiden win there at 6 1/2 furlongs.
The only other Challenge race offered for this year's Juvenile Turf Sprint was the June 21 Norfolk Stakes at Ascot where Shang Shang Shang prevailed by a nose. Shang Shang Shang is trained by none other than ... Wesley Ward.