While all North American racing fans will be looking forward to Curlin’s Saratoga debut in the Woodward, we should be aware that there is an exciting clash developing Down Under. 4-year-old sensation (and Horse of the Year in waiting) Weekend Hussler is aiming for redemption after defeat in the Liston Stakes two weeks ago. He faces Tuesday Joy (pictured) in the Memsie Stakes; the 5-year-old mare is looking to follow in Makybe Diva’s footsteps to Melbourne Cup glory.
Weekend Hussler burst onto the scene last year, winning 9 of his 11 starts (six of them Group 1 races) and being proclaimed the best 3-year-old in the world by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities – he is currently tied for 5th place overall with a 122 rating (Curlin remains number one with a 130). He has run into some adversity of late, with a hoof abscess forcing him to miss some training before his last race (which was already coming off of a layoff). For that reason, some are making him a bet-against in the face of Tuesday Joy and a number of interesting horses from the barn of Mick Price, who beat him last time out.
Tuesday Joy is clearly the other headliner, however; she is trained by top Aussie conditioner Gai Waterhouse (whose deep and detailed website should inspire similar efforts from North American trainers). She is the New South Wales Horse of the Year (despite not winning in any long-distance races – imagine if that were part of the criteria for our version!) after a pair of Group 1 victories last season. If her campaign goes as planned, it will be something of a victory for nominative determinism — the Melbourne Cup is run on the first Tuesday in November, and her owner chose her name with that goal firmly in mind.
Sprint star Miss Andretti is also making her return to the races after some time off following a disappointing trip to Hong Kong. She was pointed to a race last week but bowed out due to a wet track, and as a result of the change she will be missing her regular jockey, Craig Newitt, who had already committed to ride one of her rivals in the race. Here’s hoping she rediscovers her best form.
It’s a shame we never see any of the top Australian horses here in America (since the Breeders’ Cup clashes with the Melbourne Cup, timing-wise), but in any case, their races this weekend should be well worth checking out as they lead up to the big day in November.