June brings us another great month of international racing, including the much-awaited Belmont Stakes where Justify bids to become the thirteenth horse to win the American Triple Crown. It also brings us the first leg of the US Triple Tiara in the form of the Acorn Stakes.
Meanwhile, other big races run at Belmont include the Belmont Gold Cup and the Metropolitan Handicap.
There’s also top racing in Australian where the highlights of the Queensland Winter Carnival include the Queensland Derby and the Stradbroke Handicap.
There’s also the second round of French Classics with the French Derby and the French Oaks.
Prix du Jockey Club (Sunday 3 June)
The Prix de Jockey Club, or French Derby as it is often called, is the third of the French Classics. It is run over a trip of 10½ furlongs, which is 1½ furlongs shorter than the 12-furlongs of both The Derby and the Irish Derby.
Therefore, it tends to attract a different type of horse. The 2016 winner was Almanzor who went on to prove himself as one of the top middle-distance horse before retiring. Meanwhile, last year’s winner was Brametot who also won the French 2,000 Guineas over a mile. This year’s French 2,000 Guineas winner Olmedo will be looking to replicate Brametot by completing the French colt’s Classic double.
The Belmont Gold Cup (Friday 8 June)
The Belmont Gold Cup is a relatively new race that was only introduced in 2014. It is run over two-miles at Belmont Park and is a Grade 3 Race open to horses aged four and older. Jockey John Velasquez has twice proved the man to have on board over this marathon trip, with wins on Charming Kitten and Da Big Hoss. However, last year’s renewal was won by the German-trained horse Red Cardinal.
J J Atkins Plate (Saturday 9 June)
The J J Atkins Plate is a prestigious Group 1 Race for two-year-olds. It is run over 1,600 metres at Eagle Farm Racecourse in Brisbane, where it forms part of the Queensland Winter Carnival. One of the race’s most famous winners is the 2005 winner Darci Brahma, a New Zealand trained horse that went on to record several Group 1 wins during his career. Those wins included the New Zealand 2,000 Guineas. This year’s ante-post favourite is The Autumn Sun who was a decent winner at Randwick over 1,400 metres on his last run. Next up are The Lean Machine and Zousain.
Queensland Derby (Saturday 9 June)
As the name suggests, the Queensland Derby is also part of the Queensland Winter Carnival. One of the highlights of the big meeting, it is open to three-year-old colts and run over a distance of 2,400 metres. It was first run in 1868 and it can count equine stars such as Tulloch, Kingston Town, Strawberry Road, and Rough Habit amongst its winners. It was won last year by Ruthven. Live For Free and Lucky For All are vying for favouritism in the early markets. Live For Free has won his last two starts at Royal Randwick and Rosehill, whilst Lucky For All must put a disappointing performance at Sandown last time behind him but won his previous three starts.
Stradbroke Handicap (Saturday 9 June)
It’s not often that a handicap is worth more than some of the group races on the card, but that’s the case with the Stradbroke Handicap. Established in 1890, it is run over 1,400 metres and carries a total purse of AUD1.5 Million. Rough Habit, who also won the Queenland Derby at the Queensland Winter Festival is a dual winner of the race. That feat was repeated by Black Piranha who won the 2009 and 2010 editions. Champagne Cuddles is amongst the early favourites after his hat-trick bid was just thwarted at Doomben last time, and he’s set to battle it out with his conqueror that day, Impending.
Acorn Stakes (Saturday 9 June)
The Acorn Stakes is the first leg of the US Triple Tiara and it is run over a one mile at Belmont Park. The winner must go on to win both the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama Stakes to write her name in the history books alongside Triple Tiara winners Dark Mirage, Shuveee, Chris Evert, Ruffian, Davona Dale, Mom’s Command, Open Mind, and Sky Beauty. However, Sky Beauty was the last filly to complete the feat 25-years ago in 1993. Jockey Mike E Smith is often the man to watch in the Acorn Stakes, as he’s the join all-time leading jockey with five wins, the last of which was when teaming up with trainer Bob Baffert’s Abel Tasman to win the 2017 edition. However, it is trainer Brad Cox who is favourite to win the 2018 Acorn Stakes with Monomoy Girl, who is already trading at odds-on for the first big test of America’s three-year-old fillies.
Just A Game Stakes (Saturday 9 June)
The Just A Game Stakes is another Group 1 race on the same card as the Belmont Stakes. It is open to fillies and mares who are aged four or older and has been won in recent years by the likes of Stephanie’s Kitten and Tepin, with the latter famous for coming over to England to win her only start there at Royal Ascot. Hoping to follow in their illustrious hoofprints is Sistercharlie who has been backed into a shade of odds-against after winning at Keenland last time. Her biggest rival could prove to her stablemate A Raving Beauty, who is an ex-German horse who won her latest start at Belmont Park. Both horses are trained by Chad Brown.
Metropolitan Handicap (Saturday 9 June)
The Metropolitan Handicap is one of the most prestigious races that has been incorporated onto the same card as the Belmont Stakes. First run in 1891, it has been affectionately nicknamed the “Met Mile”. It has been won by some star American milers such as Tom Fool, Native Dancer, Buckpasser, Fappiano, Gulch, and Ghostzapper, a sexy sextet who went onto to prove equally as good, if not better, at stud. Those hoping to follow in their footsteps by winning the 2018 Metropolitan Handicap include ante-post favourite Backyard Heaven and Mind Your Biscuits.
Belmont Stakes (Saturday 9 June)
It’s hard to believe that American horse racing fans had to wait 37 years after Affirmed completed the American Triple Crown in 1978 to witness the next Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015. However, after only two years without another Triple Crown winner, fans may get to witness the thirteenth Triple Crown winner in 2018 as Justify bids to add the Belmont Stakes to his wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. If successful, he’ll join a role of honour that is completed by Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and American Pharoah. However, he has to prove his stamina as he steps up in trip to a mile and a half after winning the Preakness over 1 mile and 3/16ths. Therefore, whether you can justify a bet on the favourite at odds-on is a different matter.
Prix de Diane (Sunday 17 June)
The Prix de Diane, or French Oaks as it is often referred to, is run over 2,100 metres at Chantilly. Only three-year-old fillies are eligible to run in this French Classic, and the best recent winner was the 2013 winner Treve who went on to win the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe twice. English raiders don’t have the best record in the race, having produced just two winners this century. However, that hasn’t stopped the money from pouring in for Laurens who won a Group 1 last time after finishing second in the English 1,000 Guineas.