Woodbine takes centre stage this weekend, and there is plenty of European interest in the top races at Canada's premier racecourse on Sunday. David Simcock's Trade Storm would appear to have the toughest task, as he takes on the World's top-rated horse Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile (off 17.38 local time, 22.38 BST).
Wise Dan, of course, needs very little in the way of introduction. With the retirements of Frankel and Black Caviar, along with the regression in form of Cirrus Des Aigles, he is currently the best around. Having won thirteen of his last fourteen races, he seems to be almost invincible, though some would argue that he has rarely taken on the toughest challenges. When he did face some of the best, though, in last season's Breeders' Cup Mile, he emphatically proved that he deserves his place at the top table. His current Timeform rating of 134 was earned on polytrack at Keeneland last season, but he came very close to matching that on turf at Saratoga last time, giving a decent amount of weight and a sound beating to some smart opponents. In short, there is little reason to believe that Wise Dan isn't as good as ever.
Trade Storm gets 3 lb from Wise Dan in here, which gives him a small chance of an upset, but it would appear unlikely. It must be stressed, though, that Trade Storm is probably the best horse that Wise Dan will have faced since Santa Anita in November, and connections will be hoping that they catch the champ on a rare off-day. A sound pace would be beneficial to both Trade Storm and Wise Dan, although that isn't a given in this small field.
The remainder of the sextet are quite closely matched on Timeform ratings, with Za Approval heading them, though it would take a bit of a leap of faith to envisage any of them being good enough.
Of much more interest from a punting perspective is the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes (off 14.59 local time, 19.59 BST), in which there is UK representation in the form of Richard Fahey's tough filly Ladys First. The conditions of this race mean that she, along with likely favourite Solid Appeal, have to give weight to the rest of the field, although this isn't the toughest Grade 2 ever staged.
When weight adjustments are made, there are plenty in with chances, though the one that catches the eye is the ex-French trained three-year-old Meri Shika. She only joined top Canadian trainer Roger Attfield (who runs three in here) earlier this week, so this could well be a bit of a fact-finding mission, but the best of her form in Europe gives her a sound chance, getting a decent amount of weight from her older foes (although there is an element of weight-for-age factored in).
There is no European representation in the night's other Grade 1 race, the mile-and-a-half Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (off 16.32 local time, 21.32 BST), and that is somewhat mystifying as this $300,000 pot is there for the taking, as proved by Wigmore Hall (twice) and Redwood taking the spoils over the last three years. Good horses, but hardly world-beaters.
Any European-based trainer with a middle-distance horse rated in the 115 to 120 Timeform form rating bracket really needs to take a long hard look at themselves, as they are missing a real trick here. Not that the home contingent will be complaining, and this looks a good opportunity for a less-than-top-class horse to garner a Grade 1 victory.
Woodbine stalwart Forte Dei Marmi is the morning-line favourite, and he will be tough to beat on a track where he nearly always produces his best, though he does have to give 11 lb to Stormy Len, who could prove to be the value.
There is also Grade 1 action on Saturday at Belmont Park, where a field of eleven three-year-old fillies line up on the turf in the Garden City Stakes (off 17.47 local time, 22.47 BST), over a mile and a furlong. On turf form, there is little to choose between Emollient and Discreet Marq, though Emollient did put up a superb performance on the Keeneland polytrack back in April, when she dismantled a smart field of Grade 1 fillies. If she reproduced that form on this different surface then she would win comfortably, but there must be a slight doubt.
French import Alterite has joined the powerful Chad Brown stable, having shown a good level of form in Europe. Getting 6 lb from Emollient and Discreet Marq, any improvement that Brown can eke out will see her right in the mix. She could well have a decent chance of overturning the top two in the market.
Back Alterite in the Garden City (22.47 BST Belmont, Saturday)
Back Meri Shika in the Canadian Stakes (19.59 BST Woodbine, Sunday)
Back Stormy Len in the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes (21.32 BST Woodbine, Sunday)
Tried our new US site? Click HERE to find out more.