Turf Preview (9/12): Godolphin Positioned for Repeat

A quiet weekend upcoming for horses preparing for the 12-furlong John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf after major stakes races in New York, California and Ireland last weekend confirmed the status of some of the major players.

Godolphin Racing's Grandera put behind him a disappointing fifth in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in late July to get the better of favored Hawk Wing in the 10-furlong Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-IT) at Leopardstown. The head victory by the Saeed bin Suroor trainee moved Grandera into a tie with Sir Michael Stoute-conditioned Golan at the top of the Turf division in the World Thoroughbred Rankings, a table compiled by an international panel of handicappers.

Bin Suroor used the Irish Champion as a prep for the Turf last year, winning both races with Godolphin's Fantastic Light. Earlier this year, Grandera took the Singapore Airlines International Cup and Royal Ascot's Prince of Wales's Stakes (Eng-IT). The son of Grand Lodge was an approximate $40,000 yearling purchase at Goff's and has now earned nearly $2 million. Also moving into the top ten in the rankings after the Irish Champion was another Godolphin runner, Best of the Bests, who moved up on the strength of his close third, just a head and a neck behind the first two home.

Golan and Grandera, 127 pounds, both are trained in Europe as are the next two horses on the compilation, High Chaparral, trained by Aidan O'Brien, and Marcus Tregoning's Nayef, both on 126 pounds. The top-rated American Turf aspirants are Bobby Frankel-trained Beat Hollow and Jonathan Sheppard's With Anticipation, both tied on 125 pounds with France's Sulamani.

With Anticipation, a 7-year-old owned by Augustin Stable, won Belmont Park's Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT) at 11 furlongs last Saturday, rallying late to collar Balto Star who had set the moderate fractions. With Anticipation finished seventh in the Turf last year at Belmont after winning the Man o' War. Sheppard plans to run the near-white With Anticipation in Belmont's Turf Classic (gr. IT, Sept 29), a race he skipped last year. With Anticipation's dam, Fran's Valentine, was disqualified from victory in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1984.

Augustin (George Strawbridge) won the 1994 Turf with Tikkanen, trained in France by Jonathan Pease. Overall, Europe has won eight runnings of the Turf, the U.S. nine and Canada one. The sole American-based winner in the last six years has been George Bunn's Buck's Boy four years ago.

On the West Coast, Frankel-trained Inesperado went favored for the 9-furlong Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) and rallied from off the pace to win going away by one length from Johar and Rock Opera. The son of Zayyani, owned by the 3 Plus U Stable, came to Frankel in late spring after a career on the French provincial tracks and kept his U.S. slate clean with his third consecutive victory, all in graded stakes.

Recent works by intended Turf runners include a half-mile in 49.05 by Beat Hollow at Belmont, Sept 7, and five furlongs in 1:03.47 by Denon at the same track, Sept 8.