Haras de Saint Pair and Monceaux Stable's Marbre Rose collared pacesetter Endless Light in the final strides and thrust out her nose on the finish line to win the $150,000 Seaway Stakes Aug. 8 at Woodbine.
The 4-year-old Smart Strike filly covered seven furlongs in 1:22.32 on the all-weather track in her main track debut after previouly racing exclusively on turf. Ridden by Alan Garcia for trainer Christophe Clement, Marbre Rose earned her first graded stakes triumph.
Endless Light, with Eurico Rosa da Silva up, set a moderate pace, clocking fractions of :23.22 and :46.06 while pressured by Skylander Girl. Pirate's Trove and the even-money favourite Hillaby stalked front-runners into the turn as Marbre Rose saved ground while next to last in the field of six.
Favorites Oh My Gravy, Rallydownthealley, and Net Gain won the featured events on Iowa Classic night for state-breds Aug. 8 at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and Iowa stallion Woke Up Dreamin was represented by two juvenile stakes winners on the card.
WinStar Farm's Net Gain powered into contention around the far turn, took charge at the three-sixteenths pole and scooted clear to a 6 1/4-length win in the $80,000 Iowa Breeders Derby.
Net Gain, who won his first stakes as the overwhelming favorite with Terry Thompson aboard, defeated Desanctus, who outfinished Bad Moon by nose for second. A son of Include , Net Gain was timed in 1:47.24 for 1 1/16 miles after a exiting a third-place finish in an allowance race at Belmont Park July 11. In March he was third in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park for trainer Bill Mott.
Net Gain, bred by Lane Thoroughbreds from the Elusive Quality mare Triple o' Five was a $325,000 purchase by Maverick Productions at the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. spring sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he was offered by Scanlon Training Center's agency.
Cheyenne Stables LLC’s Stormy Regatta stormed home down the middle of the stretch to take the first division of Sunday’s $60,000 Little Silver Stakes as Isabella Sings took her rivals wire-to-wire in the second division on Sunday at Monmouth Park.
Stormy Regatta had to track down a game Rachel Wall, who was trying to take the field wire-to-wire after a moderate pace of :24 1/5 for the quarter mile and :48 1/5 for the half, to score the victory by a nose. Trained by Christophe Clement, Stormy Regatta covered the mile and a sixteenth over the “firm” turf course in 1:41 3/5 and paid $4, $3 and $2.40. Rachel Wall completed the $59.60 exacta and paid $14, $7.20. It was another length and a half back to Kawfee Fa Marfa, who paid $3.60 to show.
“She is just a classy filly,” said winner jockey Joe Bravo. “We were sitting comfortable down the backside, but they were going so easy on the front end. We had to move a little sooner than I would like, but I knew she had a lot left coming down the stretch.”
The 3-year-old filly by Midshipman out of the A.P. Indy mare Storm Front now boasts a 3-0-1 record in her five career starts.
Two races later it was Isabella Sings’ turn in the Little Silver. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Isabella Sings went the same distance in 1:40 3/5 and paid $21.40, $7.80, $2.80. It was nearly a length back to Jaded Glory, who completed the $51.20 exacta and paid $3.20 and $2.10. It was nearly another length back to Kitten’s Roar, who paid $2.10 to show.
Speedway Stable's Hard Not to Like came flying late and secured her second consecutive grade I victory July 25, edging out Tepin in the final strides of the $500,000 TVG Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course while setting a turf course record.
The 6-year-old daughter of Hard Spun came off a victory in the May 25 Gamely Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park to win the 1 1/8-mile turf event in New York, finishing in a sparkling 1:45.22 on firm turf under Hall of Famer John Velazquez. She was the 123-pound topweight in a field of seven.
"I'm delighted she was ridden by Johnny Velazquez. He's a top jockey, and there's a reason why. He makes a difference," trainer Christophe Clement said. "She got a superb ride and she's also a very good filly."
Speedway Stable's Hard Not to Like came flying late and secured her second consecutive grade I victory July 25, edging out Tepin in the final strides of the $500,000 TVG Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course while setting a turf course record.
The 6-year-old daughter of Hard Spun came off a victory in the May 25 Gamely Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park to win the 1 1/8-mile turf event in New York, finishing in a sparkling 1:45.22 on firm turf under Hall of Famer John Velazquez. She was the 123-pound topweight in a field of seven.
"I'm delighted she was ridden by Johnny Velazquez. He's a top jockey, and there's a reason why. He makes a difference," trainer Christophe Clement said. "She got a superb ride and she's also a very good filly."
Triton Racing's Uchenna bided her time near the back of the pack and then pounced with a bold rail move July 25 to win the $160,200 Ontario Matron at Woodbine, taking her first graded stakes for trainer Roger Attfield.
The 4-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock (AUS) benefitted from a patient ground-saving ride by jockey Alan Garcia, who was content to rate inside off fractions of :24.55, :47.97, and 1:11.83 set by Skylander Girl. That 7-1 shot winged her way along on a 2 1/2-length lead, while pursued by Midnight Ballet, with a break of five lengths back to the rest of the six-horse field and Uchenna bringing up the rear trailed only by Copper Kitten.
The connections of Are You Kidding Me were feeling pretty good heading into the Nijinsky Stakes July 19 at Woodbine, and he rewarded their confidence with a second consecutive graded stakes win.
With Alan Garcia riding for Roger Attfield, the 2-1 favorite tracked about a length behind front-runners Platinum Glory and Excaper early, took charge in midstretch, and then kept unlucky runner-up Golden Sabre at bay in a half-length triumph.
The final time for 1 1/8 miles firm turf was 1:46.69.
Are You Kidding Me, a 5-year-old son of Run Away and Hide , came in off a sparkling score in the Eclipse Stakes (Can-II) June 7 on Woodbine's all-weather main track following his third off a five-month layoff in the San Francisco Stakes (gr. IIIT) April 25. With the Nijinsky win, his record improves to 5-3-4 from 20 career starts, which also includes his gate-to-wire triumph in the 2013 Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park among his three turf wins.
With two impressive, winning starts to her young career, it makes one wonder, Could Wonderment be one of horse racing’s up-and-coming stars?
It’s in her blood. Her grandpa is Lemon Drop Kid, whose grandpa happens to be the great Seattle Slew. In her line of fire, it may be that the bulk of them wondrous genes are skipping a generation. If that’s the case, then this pretty, dark filly may just be the next recipient of their horse racing greatness.
Or, at the very least, a notable Drama Queen title from me. Either way, she’s sure off to a great start.
Just ten days prior to the Lynbrook Stakes, she broke her maiden at Belmont Park with Joel Rosario in the saddle. It was a notably impressive win, mainly due to the obstacles she had to overcome.
First, she was as green as they come, and it showed when she lost ground after a “close call” check by Rosario.
Second, in the homestretch, fellow contender Frosty Margarita was swerving through traffic like she had one margarita too many. There was a near collision with Nolo Contendere, who made no contest, but instead, opted for the rail. Shortly afterwards, she swerved towards Firestar without a flicker from her. She then went wide towards Wonderment, but under Rosario’s steady composure, Wonderment was able to keep her focus without breaking stride. Wonderment then pulled away to take first place. She reached the finish line at 59.42, nearly two lengths ahead of the unsteady Frosty Margarita.
Jockey Jose Lezcano hasn't ridden much at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, but after watching races all day at the Midwest oval, he knew the outside path was the place to be aboard $500,000 Indiana Derby contender Tiz Shea D.
In looking over a field of eight sophomores for the 1 1/16-mile event, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and assistant Kenny McCarthy saw there wasn't much pace aside from speedball Mr. Z, and decided to let their contender wing right along up there with him if the race unfolded that way.
Both decisions proved fortuitous July 18, as Tiz Shea D tracked the pace set by Ohio Derby winner Mr. Z and then ran him down with a sweeping outside move en route to a 1 1/4-length victory, despite being floated wide around the turn by his erratic rival. The final time was 1:43.02 on a sloppy track.
Making the first stakes start of his career, Syntax took command in the stretch and held off Money Multiplier's closing run to register a half-length victory in the $200,250 Kent Stakes Saturday, July 18 on the Delaware Park turf.
Matthew Schera's Syntax rated off the lead as 2-1 All I Karabout pressed early leader My Team through a half mile in :49.79 and 1:13.87. Entering the stretch the complexion of the race would change, as jockey Junior Alvarado asked Syntax for his best and the son of Haatef responded, surging to the lead in early stretch and opening a clear advantage near the eighth pole.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Money Multiplier finished well but couldn't collar the victor while Tiz My Valentine, the longest shot in the race at 35-1, edged My Team for third. Syntax completed the 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds—his longest race to date—in 1:49.77.
Highland Yard's Walk Close bided her time off the pace in the $100,000 Modesty Handicap and then asserted herself in the stretch to win July 11 race for fillies and mares at Arlington International Racecourse.
Walk Close won by half length after charging past brief leader Mango Diva, who outfinished 3-1 favorite Gaga A by 1 3/4 lengths for second.
A daughter of leading sire Tapit , Walk Close was timed in 1:57.08 for 1 3/16 miles on good turf, taking her record to four wins and two thirds from 10 career starts.
Walk Close was coming off a third, beaten only a half-length after closing from nine back in the Keertana Stakes May 16 at Churchill Downs. Last year she ignited a three-race win streak in launching her career for trainer Christophe Clement, capped with a victory in her stakes debut in the Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont Park, her only previous stakes win
Tower of Texas stormed up the rail and won the $200,000 King Edward Stakes in his turf debut June 21 at Woodbine.
Eurico Rosa da Silva relaxed off a quick early pace with the 4-year-old son of Street Sense, who hugged the rail into the stretch to rally. He overtook dueling front-runners, Stacked Deck and Excaper, midway down the lane and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory.
Tower of Texas is perfect in three starts this year, all at Woodbine, and earned his first stakes win in the King Edward, finishing the mile race in 1:32.45 on a firm turf course.
Platinum Glory was all out to grab second in a three-horse race for the runner-up spot, just a nose in front of Stacked Deck, who bested 9-5 favorite Excaper by a head for third in the seven-horse field.
Celestine got her fourth straight win Sunday, edging Partisan Politics by a nose in the $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf at Belmont Park.
It was the deepest field she had faced, producing the tightest margin of the winning streak.
Celestine and jockey Rajiv Maragh vied with Lismore for the early lead before putting away that rival turning for home. Partisan Politics came charging late in her first race since running sixth last October in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita.
Celestine, trained by Bill Mott, prevailed in the head bob at the wire to return $4.40, $3.10 and $2.40 as the 6-5 favorite.
Partisan Politics returned $3.70 and $2.90 and Stormy Regatta paid $3.30 to show.
The time was 1:34.18 for the mile on the firm course.
Team Valor and Gary Barber’s Triple Threat sat near the back of the pack early on before unleashing a furious stretch rally to nail Middleburg at the wire, posting a nose victory in the $200,000 Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park before a Sunday afternoon crowd of 15,417. In the day’s undercard stakes, Dreamsgonewild proved best in the $60,000 John McSorley Stakes finishing a length better than his nearest rival.
In the Monmouth Stakes, the Bill Mott-trained Triple Threat covered the mile and an eighth over firm turf in 1:49 4/5 and paid $7.40, $4 and $3.20. Middleburg completed the $27.40 exacta and returned $3.60 and $3. It was a length and a half back to pacesetter Inchcape, who paid $4.60 to show.
“He had to take back going into the first turn,” said winning jockey Jose Lezcano. “That was fine because we were close to the pack anyway with the slow pace. We had to go a little wide, but once we hit the quarter pole, he had a lot of kick left for the stretch. That was my first time on the horse and he had a lot of power coming down the stretch.”
A 5-year-old homebred horse by Monsun from the Lyphard mare Drei, Triple Threat was making his U.S. debut in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes. He now sports a record of 4-2-2 from 14 starts, good for earnings of $370,648.
Two races before the main event on Belmont Stakes day on Saturday at Belmont Park, Honor Code dazzled the 90,000 fans in attendance with an electrifying turn of foot in the stretch of the Grade 1, $1,250,000 NYRA.com Metropolitan Handicap.
A two-time Grade 1 winner by 1992 Horse of the Year and Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, Honor Code rallied from last to first and streaked past pacesetter Private Zone in the stretch like the front-runner had galloped into quicksand. Honor Code surged to the lead and drove clear to win by 3 ¾ lengths for his first career Grade 1 win.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for owners Lane’s End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm, 4-year-old Honor Code won the Remsen Stakes at two but missed the Triple Crown trail with an injury. He returned with a victory in November 2014 and opened this year with a victory in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
Regis Racing's Zindaya earned her second straight stakes win when she pulled away from the pack to take the $150,000 Intercontinental Stakes at Belmont Park June 4.
Pressing the pace of longshot Believe in Charlie from the start, Zindaya opened up on the pack through the lane under Manuel Franco to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths over favored Marbre Rose, who had to steady in traffic on the turn for home. Both horses are trained by Christophe Clement.
Believe in Charlie ran the half-mile in :46.61 before Zindaya took command at the top of the stretch and finished off the seven-furlong grass test in 1:22.17 on a turf course rated good.
"I told (Franco) before the race to just be careful with the pace scenario. It's not the same—it's not a six-furlong race anymore," Clement said. "I thought seven-eighths was fine. She ran a mile last year in California. She almost got the mile, so I was pretty sure she could get the seven-eighths today."
Hard Not to Like moved into contention around the far turn and dug in for a neck victory in the $200,000 Gamely Stakes Monday at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Hard Not to Like ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:49.87 and paid $9.20, $5.40 and $4.40.
Fanticola returned $8.20 and $5.60, and Blingismything was another half-length back in third and paid $8.80 to show.
Fanticola set a moderate pace and then repelled a challenge from Blingismything with a sixteenth of a mile left, but couldn't hold off Hard Not to Like's rally along the rail.
"Tough beat, a real tough beat," Talamo said. "She ran her butt off."
A bit disrespected by the bettors, Aliyu Ben J Stables’ eight-year-old grass millionaire home-bred Lubash unleashed an incredible late kick to win the 37th running of the $125,000 Kingston Stakes by a length and a quarter under Junior Alvarado on all New York-bred Showcase Day on Memorial Day Monday at Belmont Park. Sent off as the 4-1 third choice in the distinguished field of nine, Lubash won in 1:33.07 by running his last quarter mile in a shade over 22 seconds flat.
Kharafa, the 4-5 favorite under Javier Castellano, finished second, a long neck in front of front-running King Kreesa, who was ridden by Joel Rosario and went off at 7-2. Kharafa and King Kreesa are both six-year-olds.
Christophe Clement trains Lubash, a son of Freud out of Nasty Cure by Cure the Blues who was bred by Aliyuee Ben J Stable Inc.
These three New York-bred turf titans had met many times previously with mixed results as each had beaten the other two on separate occasions. In last year’s Kingston Stakes, Kharafa won by a length over Lubash. King Kreesa missed that engagement.
Amerman Racing LLC's A Lot proved that he had more than enough, romping to a 5 ¾-length victory in the $100,000 Paradise Creek Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on the grass on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Favored at 1-2 in the field of six, the son of Tapit stalked a pace set Bridget's Big Luvy, following 24.27 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.91 after a half. A Lot, ridden by John Velazquez, seized command at the top of the stretch and easily pulled away from the field under a hand ride from the Hall of Famer.
In his last start in the Grade 2 1 1/16-mile American Turf at Churchill Downs on May 2, A Lot was outkicked in the final strides by a late-charging Divisidero, finishing second by three-quarters of a length.
"He has that kind of acceleration that he gives to you and he gives it quickly," Velazquez said. "Going seven furlongs, I didn't worry about it the way I would if he was going two turns if he was going more than a mile. I just decided to let him do it and that's the way he did it. I think he could be as effective [going up to a mile], but going 1 1/8 miles, 1 1/16 miles, you really have to worry about how much you use, because you have to be careful of the way you get into position for that last turn."
John and Sarah Kelly’s Red Vine moved past pacesetter Valid at the top of the stretch before reporting home a two length winner in the $75,000 Majestic Light Stakes at Monmouth Park before a Saturday crowd of 23,483.
The first of a three-day food truck festival brought a crowd of more than double over last year’s Memorial Day Saturday as the racetrack enjoyed sunlit skies throughout the afternoon.
“They came early and stayed late,” said Bob Kulina, president of Darby Development LLC, operators of the racetrack. “It was a great crowd and an even greater event. Everyone at Monmouth has worked hard to make these events into the success that we saw today and we will continue to work to bring even more fan-friendly festivals to the racetrack.”
In the day’s feature, Red Vine covered the mile and 70 yards over a fast main track in 1:40 2/5 and returned $3.80, $2.40 and $2.10 as the odds-on favorite in the field of five colts and geldings. Valid completed the $9 exacta and paid $3 and $2.10. It was another eight lengths back to Souper Lucky, who paid $2.40 to show.
Stuart Janney III's Ironicus made the best of his stakes debut, rifling through the stretch to claim the $300,000 Longines Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) May 16 at Pimlico Race Course.
The 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor is trained by Shug McGaughey. He was second in an allowance race last time out and only had an allowance win and maiden special weight victory to his credit prior to his performance in the Dixie, where he looked much the best under jockey Javier Castellano, pulling away to win by 2 3/4 lengths over longshot Cage Fighter. Up With the Birds was 1 1/4 lengths back in third.
Off at 7-1, the winner sat in ninth, more than seven lengths back of early leader Skyring through opening fractions of :23.69 and :48.14. Ironicus dropped back to 10th after six furlongs in 1:11.95, found space inside entering the lane then shifted out for a final surge. He finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.53 on a turf course rated firm.
James A. Bryan Jr.'s Celestine made her first start in a new barn a successful one, kicking clear to a 1 ½-length victory in the $100,000 Wait A While Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday at Belmont Park.
The sophomore daughter of Scat Daddy began her career last fall in South Florida for trainer Bill Kaplan, breaking her maiden in her fourth start and graduating into stakes company with a 3 1/4-length score in Gulfstream Park's Sanibel Island Stakes on March 29.
"She's just a lovely filly, a beautiful filly," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "She does everything right. She's pretty and she's fast. She came to us in very good shape. Mr. Kaplan had her down in Florida and he stays in Florida and I was the lucky recipient of her up here. But she came to us in good shape and we had just hoped she would run as well for us as she did for him."
Lady Shipman led the field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.77 seconds, 45.89 seconds after the half and 1:09.13 for three-quarters of a mile while Celestine tracked the pace alongside 6-5 wagering favorite Sunset Glow.
Ramona Bass’ Courtesan, ridden by Corey Lanerie and trained by Christophe Clement, tracked pacesetter First Romance and ran down that rival late to win Saturday’s first division of the $58,740 Keertana overnight stakes at Churchill Downs.
Courtesan, a 4-year-old Florida-bred daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, beat nine fillies and mares by running 1 3/8 miles in 2:17.11 over a Matt Winn Turf Course that was rated “good” after midday rain.
First Romance, a 23-1 outsider ridden by Francisco Torres, established a clear early lead and clicked off fractions of :25.71, :50.10, 1:39.59 and 2:04.31 with Courtesan, the 3-1 second betting choice, tracking in the clear in second. Courtesan ranged into contention at the head of the stretch, drew even and was a well-measured neck winner.
The victory was worth $32,580 and improved Courtesan’s earnings to $189,797 with a record of 10-3-1-2. At age 2 in 2013, Courtesan won the $100,000 Juvenile Filly Turf, a one-mile turf race at Gulfstream Park restricted to Florida-breds.
Moyglare Stud's Discreet Marq came out running in her 2015 debut May 9 at Belmont Park, making the pace and holding off several determined rivals to win the $150,000 Beaugay Stakes.
The 5-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat had a 1 1/2-length lead entering the stretch and clung on to her advantage to the finish line, as three opponents desperately closed in, but none could match strides with the winner.
Discreet Marq finished three-quarters of length in front of Photo Call, who in a near-blanket finish for second, bested Recepta by a half length, while J Wonder was a nose back in fourth in field of seven older fillies and mares.
"I had a perfect trip," winning jockey John Velasquez said. "She broke well and we weren't expecting much speed, so she ended up on the lead. I wanted to make sure to let her run from the gate since there wasn't any speed on paper."
Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Tonalist shrugged off a sluggish start with a closing drive to win the $150,000 Westchester Stakes (gr. III) in his 4-year-old debut May 2 at Belmont Park.
The Tapit colt owned by Robert S. Evans raced in last, well behind leader Juba in the early stages of the mile race, but rallied with jockey Joe Bravo to win comfortably by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:34.07. Confrontation was second, followed by Souper Lucky, another 3 3/4 lengths back. Juba, who set opening fractions of :23.08 and :45:91, tired to finish last in the four-horse field.
"He's a special horse," Bravo said. "Everybody knows he's the Belmont winner, (but) you just don't know with the time off, if he's gonna come back and (trainer) Christophe (Clement) warned me--he said, 'He might be a little slow leaving the gate. The hardest part (is) just (to) get him running (in) the first part.' Once that was all over, down the backside, he just pulled us to horses and it's just beautiful to ride good horses--it really is. He was a boy (when I rode him at Gulfstream) and it's funny to now see him as a man. He just completely grew into himself."
Zindaya quickly grabbed the lead under jockey Manuel Franco and never relinquished it to earn her first stakes win by 2 ¾ lengths.
A 4-year-old filly by More Than Ready, Zindaya, trained by Christophe Clement for Regis Racing, made her second start of the year coming off a troubled trip in an optional claiming race on April 2 at Gulfstream Park, where she raced three-wide most of the way to a fifth-place finish.
"She's a nice filly; she was unlucky at Gulfstream and she won very well today," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "Manny [Franco] gave us a great ride so I'm delighted. She belongs to Regis Farm, a new owner and I'm delighted to do well for them and aim for the long term so it's exciting."
Returning $7.30 to bettors for a $2 win wager, Zindaya boosted her career earnings to $196,740.
Devilish Love finished in second followed by Dauphine Russe, Annecdote, Belive in Charlie, Mah Jong Maddnes, Medaglia d'Argento, and Tea Time.
Given a perfect trip by jockey Joel Rosario, Mosler took the first stakes race of Belmont Park's Spring/Summer meet, winning the $100,000 Elusive Quality at seven furlongs on turf by 1 ¾ lengths.
Mosler, a $1 million yearling purchase, had shown promise on dirt early in his career, but earned his first stakes victory in the Elusive Quality. Two starts ago, the son of War Front contested the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Fort Lauderdale on turf, tiring to finish sixth after pressing the pace.
"We've considered turf in the past, but he'd run well enough on the dirt, so there wasn't really a reason to try it right away," said Leanna Willaford, assistant to winning trainer Bill Mott. "He was very impressive today."
Making his first turf start around one turn, Mosler proved his mettle. The Adele Dilschneider color-bearer sat a dream trip along the rail, tracking a sensible pace set by Plainview of 22.41 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.33 for the half.
Trapped behind horses in upper stretch, Rosario didn't panic, and eventually a seam opened. Mosler and Rosario shot through the gap and pulled away in the final furlong to win comfortably.
Despite not having started since Nov. 8, Christine Hayden's Unspurned finished full of run to take the $146,287 Whimsical Stakes (Can-III) April 18 at Woodbine.
Racing in fourth early on in the six-furlong race, while favored Executive Allure set the pace through a half mile in :44.82, Unspurned rallied through the stretch under Alan Garcia to prevail by a length over Skylander Girl. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Executive Allure who weakened to third.
Third-choice Skylander Girl pressed the pace of Executive Allure throughout and took the lead at the top of the stretch but couldn't hold off the furious late run from Unspurned, who a Canadian classic winner who notched her first career graded stakes win.
She didn’t put her best foot forward early, but Stellar Path certainly put several strong steps together late, winning her U.S. debut in Friday’s $95,000 Plenty of Grace Stakes at Aqueduct.
Lady Lara showed signs of quality last year as a 3-year-old when she came over from Europe and won a listed stakes at Belmont Park and placed in a graded race at Churchill Downs.
After a four-month freshening, Lady Lara showed she could be a player in the filly and mare turf division with a neck victory over Sandiva in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream Park. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Coffee Clique, the 2-1 favorite, in third.
The victory was the fourth win from 16 starts for Lady Lara, an Irish-bred daughter of Excellent Art owned by Swettenham Stud and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
Lady Lara was sent to Mott last October, and she won the Pebbles Stakes by a half-length. A month later, she finished second in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs. In both races, she came from well off the pace.
Watching the replay of War Correspondent’s last start, a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, jockey John Velazquez noticed that it took a little while for the 5-year-old horse to get going, but once he does, he really gets moving.
Velazquez rode War Correspondent for the first time in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and once the Hall of Fame jockey was able to get him in the clear, War Correspondent flew home to catch Aripeka to win the Appleton by a neck. It was three-quarters of a length back to Grand Tito in third.
The win was the fourth from eight starts for War Correspondent but his first in a graded stakes. War Correspondent is a full brother to the multiple Group 1 winner Declaration of War.
War Correspondent gave the jockey-trainer combination of Velazquez and Christophe Clement their fourth Grade 3 stakes victory of the meet.
Most of the focus of Saturday’s Grade 2 Pan American Stakes was on Twilight Eclipse, who figured to benefit by the fact that his nemesis, Main Sequence, was halfway around the world running in Dubai.
But Imagining fell victim to Main Sequence several times last year and he, too, figured to benefit from the absence of that horse.
Saturday, when Imagining and Twilight Eclipse hooked up for the final three furlongs 1 1/2-mile Pan American, it was the 7-year-old Imagining who got the better of the two, winning the $150,000 Pan Am by three-quarters of a length. Twilight Eclipse got caught in the final strides for second by Pyrite Mountain.
The win was the ninth in 22 career starts for Imagining, a son of Giant’s Causeway owned by the Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey.
If it were up to trainer Christophe Clement, they’d run the Grade 3 Orchid once a month at Gulfstream Park, not just once a year.
On Saturday, Clement won the race for a record seventh time when Beauty Parlor made her U.S. debut a winning one, outlasting her uncoupled stablemate, Tabreed, to register a half-length triumph in the 1 1/2-mile turf fixture for older fillies and mares.
Beauty Parlor is a homebred daughter of Elusive Quality out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Moon Queen. She was sent to the U.S. to join Clement’s barn by her owner, Joseph Allen, following the completion of a 3-year-old campaign during which she won two of six starts in France.
Beauty Parlor rated well, placed just off surprising pacesetter Photo Call until the field entered the stretch for the final time, quickly overtook the tiring leader near the furlong marker, surged clear, then held safe Tabreed. The latter raced near the rear of the field for more than a mile, advanced steadily on the final turn, split rivals to continue her bid near midstretch, and was gaining gradually on the winner at the end.
Trace Creek arguably is the most accomplished member of the $75,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes field at Oaklawn as a Grade 3-placed runner who has won allowance races at Churchill Downs and Keeneland. But his form has been built on turf, and he will be moving to dirt Friday for the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up bred in Arkansas.
Three Chimneys Farm and Besilu Stable's Dubai Sky collected his fourth straight victory and second straight stakes with an impressive win in the $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 21 at Turfway Park
With Jose Lezcano aboard for trainer Bill Mott, Dubai Sky earned 50 points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" standings board. The Kentucky-bred colt by Candy Ride out of the Chester House mare House of Danzing wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown through early nomination period.
Dubai Sky, whose first four races were on turf, broke well from post 11 on the far outside and landed good early position just off the leaders in the 1 1/8-mile Spiral. Watchyourownbobber and Wireless Future dueled through fractions of :22.99 for the opening quarter-mile and :47.57 for the half-mile with Royal Son not far behind and Dubai Sky to his outside.
Wireless Future held the lead through six furlongs in 1:12.09 as the field began to bunch up on the final turn. But it was Dubai Sky who swept past in the lane after one mile in 1:36.98 and pulled away to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Conquest Typhoon, who loomed large off the final turn but flattened out in the final sixteenth of a mile.
Trainer Shug McGaughey, after watching the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap on the television monitor and not seeing Honor Code in the picture down the backside, said, “I was about ready to go home.”
Fortunately, the Hall of Fame horseman stuck around to watch the rest of the race. Otherwise, he would have missed an incredible performance by Honor Code, who rallied down the center of the track from more than a dozen lengths behind to run down 6-5 favorite Private Zone and register a thrilling half-length decision in the Grade 2, one-mile fixture. Valid held on to finish third, a head in front of Wicked Strong.
Honor Code appeared to stumble briefly at the start, then dropped far off the early pace set by Private Zone and pressed from the outset by Valid. The leaders posted early splits of 23.51 and 45.96 seconds for the opening quarter- and half-mile, with Honor Code nearly 15 lengths behind at that point.
Long On Value surged to the front turning for home before turning back the favored Jack Milton and going on to a 10-1 upset Saturday in the 53rd running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park.
With Joel Rosario riding for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Long On Value won for the third time in his last four starts when finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Grand Tito, who was up in the final jumps to get second in a three-horse photo. Aripeka was third, while Jack Milton, the 19-10 favorite, had to settle for fourth after making a menacing run toward the lead in the upper stretch.
Long On Value, a 4-year-old Virginia-bred by Value Plus, returned $23.40 after finishing the one-mile distance in 1:34.26 over a firm course. The colt, now a winner of six of 15 starts and more than $500,000, is owned by Wachtel Stable and George Kerr.
Perhaps one good encore deserves another, because just as she’s getting set to be sent off to the breeding shed, Irish Mission is racing in the best form of her career.
Irish Mission will be bred this spring. Her trip to Kentucky was postponed so that she could run on Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and she responded by winning her second straight race and third in her last five starts. In the process, she may have delayed her retirement by another race.
“It’ll be up to Mr. Evans,” trainer Christophe Clement said, referring to owner Robert Evans, “but she can either go to Kentucky next week, where it’s very cold, awful weather, or she can stay here in the sunshine and run in the Orchid,” which is here on March 28.
On a day when she was unable to use her early speed, Isabelle confirmed that she can be equally effective from off the pace, rallying down the center of the snowy Aqueduct inner track to win Saturday’s $100,000 Broadway Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths.
In a similar result as 16 days ago when they met in an allowance race, Isabelle ran down Atlantic’s Smile for the victory. Atlantic’s Smile, who set the pace, held second by a neck over her stablemate Make the Moment. Both horses are trained by Charlton Baker.
Vicki’s Dancer, Blithely, Uncle Southern, and Pennymine completed the order of finish.
Isabelle, a daughter of Successful Appeal owned by William Schettine and trained by Bill Mott, is now 5 for 8 in her career with two stakes wins. Last year, when in the barn of Lisa Lewis, Isabelle won the Bouwerie Stakes at Belmont.
About the only one in the house who didn’t have to sweat out the photo finish for Saturday’s $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park was Bill Mott. That’s because the two horses involved in the tight picture, Dubai Sky and Courtier, are both trained by the Hall of Fame horseman.
In the end, it was Dubai Sky who proved a nose better than his uncoupled stablemate in the grassy Kitten’s Joy, the pair finishing one length in front of the late-running Croninthebarbarian, the 5-2 favorite in a field of 11 3-year-old turf specialists.
The two Mott runners pretty much controlled the one-mile Kitten’s Joy throughout. Courtier set the early pace before being joined by his stablemate midway down the backstretch. The pair then raced as a team through the final half-mile, the pair exchanging the lead several times inside the sixteenth pole before Dubai Sky won the head bob at the wire.
Lea left no doubts he's back, posting an impressive 1/2-length victory over Confrontation to take the $150,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 10.
Owned by Adele Dilschneider and Caliborne Farm, Lea was making his first start since taking last year's $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 9 at Gulfstream. Getting up in the final strides to post the decision in his return, the 6-year-old son of First Samurai proved he should be a strong factor in the handicap division if he stays healthy in 2015.
"On this track I think it was an exceptional race," winning trainer Bill Mott said. "Usually the speed horses turn for home and they get loose from you, but he obviously is a good horse. I thought he was pretty fit, but he'd still been off a year. There's nothing like having a race. You can train one all day long, but you have to give a lot of credit to the horse to be able to come off that kind of a layoff and get the job done."
After taking the Hal's Hope last year, Lea went on to take the 1 1/8-mile Donn in a track record time of 1:46.86, defeating Travers' winner Will Take Charge . He seemed poised to be a top threat among older horses until a virus sidelined him the entire year.
Parranda returned quick dividends after being purchased two months earlier at the Keeneland November Sale, parlaying her inherent class and a perfect ride by jockey John Velazquez into a popular three-length victory over Skylander Girl in Saturday’s Grade 3 Marshua’s River at Gulfstream Park.
Parranda was bought for $800,000 at Keeneland November by the China Horse Club and immediately transferred to the barn of trainer Christophe Clement at Payson Park. The daughter of English Channel was Grade 1 placed three times in 2014 while with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, concluding her campaign with a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. She started her career locally with Rodolfo Garcia.
Parranda raced well placed while saving ground from the outset behind the pace-setting Skylander Girl. Parranda went up to challenge the leader once settling into the stretch, readily assuming command inside the sixteenth pole, then drew off to a convincing win. Skylander narrowly held off the late-running Why Katherine to finish second in the field of 10 older fillies and mares.
NEW YORK (AP) — Celebrity chef Bobby Flay started the new year with a win as America captured the $100,000 Affectionately Stakes for fillies and mares on Monday at Aqueduct.
America rallied from last in the eight-horse field to edge Penwith by a nose for her first stakes victory. Flay owns and bred the 4-year-old who improved to 4 for 13.
Junior Alvarado was aboard for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott as America ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.68, paying $10.40, $3.90 and $3.30.
The entry of Penwith and Divided Attention finished 2-3, returning $4.60 and $4.60.
Belle Gallantey, the 3-5 favorite, faded to fifth.
WinStar Farm LLC and Gary Barber's Tourist ran his turf record to a perfect 3-for-3 in the $100,000 Sir Cat S. Friday at Saratoga, the first stakes win for the 3-year-old Tiznow colt.
Breaking from the center in the field of seven, Tourist was on a measured hold from Joel Rosario going into the first of two turns, just to the outside of Storming Inti. The dark bay colt opened up his margin to a length and half down the backstretch, getting a half-mile in :47.24.
Powering clear by three lengths in mid-stretch, Tourist coasted home in the final furlong to win by 1 3/4-lengths in a very fast 1:33.54, just missing the track record of 1:33.42 and getting a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102.
"It didn't surprise me (that he improved when switched to the turf)," said trainer Bill Mott of the winner. "The problem was, he ran just well enough on the dirt that we kind of kept trying him. We all want a Derby horse, right? We tried him one or two extra times on the dirt than, maybe, was to his benefit, but it's all coming together now."
As for Tourist's next start, Mott said, "There are a few 3-year-old races left for the year. I guess what we have got to decide is if he'll stretch out beyond a mile. We have to figure out what direction we want to go now."
The Finger Lakes card on Saturday concluded with a three horse photo finish in the 28th renewal of the $75,000 New York Oaks. Flipcup scored a narrow victory over a stubborn Alwaysinstilettos and a closing Storied Lady.
The bay filly trained by William Mott completed the one mile and one-sixteenth route in a time of 1:46.55 She was directed to the neck triumph by John Davila, Jr.
The $214,209 earner registered her fourth career victory and paid $4.30, $2.70 and $2.10. Alwaysinstilettos returned $6.80 and $3.50 for finishing second and Storied Lady paid $2.60 for third.
Team Penny Racing, Wachtel Sable and Brous Stable were the winning owners that were presented a trophy by trainer Eileen Muller. Muller won the 2013 running of the annual test for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies with Miss Rubycubes.
The stretch run of the inaugural Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby turned into an exhilarating showdown between the United States and Europe when Mr Speaker hooked up with the highly touted Irish-bred Adelaide midway through the lane, with Mr Speaker proving best by a neck after a stretch-long tussle.
The Belmont Derby headlined a quintet of graded stakes, including the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks and Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban Handicap, on the newly created Stars & Stripes Day card, which aimed to attract some of the best overseas horses to compete at Belmont.
Mr Speaker, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for Phipps Stable, rebounded strongly in the Belmont Derby. After finishing fifth in the Pennine Ridge, the local prep for the 1 ¼-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.
"I had a concrete reason [to dismiss his race in the Pennine Ridge], but you always have your doubts," said McGaughey. "Does he belong in the top layer of horses or not? I think today he proved he does. My confidence was shaken a little bit; he was a different horse [before the Pennine Ridge], it was like he had never been in the paddock before. He went to the post and was looking up into the crowd. But today, he was an entirely different horse."
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche had to call an audible aboard Aigue Marine in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Robert Dick Memorial at Delaware Park but his decision paid off as the Christophe Clement-trained favorite finished fastest to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
"I was much farther back early than Mr. Clement wanted me to be," Carmouche said after the race. "But when we were going to the first turn I saw I couldn't be up there with the top three so I just tucked her in."
Aigue Marine saved ground for much of the race but room opened up outside of her nearing the stretch and Carmouche was able to swing the 5-year-old Irish-bred mare well out in the course. She was moving to the lead in midstretch, when Topic, who had taken the lead with a bold move outside horses nearing the stretch came outward under jockey Jose Caraballo, tightening things up for Starstruck, who was trying to move up between the winner and Topic. Starstruck clipped heels and almost went down. After a stewards' inquiry and an objection by the rider of Starstruck, Kerwin Clark, Topic was disqualified and placed ninth behind Starstruck.
Concise, who was never far back, was elevated from third to second by the disqualification. Always a Kitten was moved up from fourth to third.
Riposte remained in top form on Saturday at Belmont Park with a 1 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 New York, a 1 ¼-mile turf race for fillies and mares.
Victorious in Belmont's Grade 2, 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay on May 22, Riposte was favored at 6-5 today to wrap up her Belmont spring/summer meet campaign with a second graded stakes victory.
Riposte set a dawdling pace in the Sheepshead Bay but used different tactics in the New York, racing in fourth through fractions of 49.86 seconds for a half-mile and three-quarters in 1:13.32 while being kept in the clear by jockey Joel Rosario. She began to inch her way to the leader with three furlongs to travel and claimed the lead while racing three-wide into the stretch, getting the jump on 3-2 second choice Tannery.
Never touched with the whip, Riposte spurted clear from the early leaders while staying well clear of Tannery, who finished second, three lengths clear of Viva Rafaela.
Riposte completed the distance in 1:59.71 and paid $4.60 for a $2 win wager.
"Last time, there was no speed, said Rosario. "Today, I just let her run her race. I rode her in Florida when she came from off the pace. She can do anything. She's a little filly, but it looks like she can do a lot of things. I tried to get on the outside. I didn't want to be caught wide, but I wanted a clean trip and not get stuck inside. She got the job done today."
Lightly raced Size splashed home on the far outside under jockey Junior Alvarado to win going away in the Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino on Saturday night.
Quickest into stride from the gate, Size led the field through the first turn but rescinded her lead to a keen Dream Spinner down the backstretch. After fractions of :23.41, :46.69, and 1:10.84, Size found her way back near the front, hooking up for a duel with Dream Spinner before pulling away in mid-stretch.
The 13-1 winner paid $28.00, $7.60, and $6.40. Ria Antonia, making her first start since a last-place performance in the Preakness Stakes, closed briskly to finish second and paid $3.60 and $3.20 to place. Dream Spinner ($4.80 to show) was just beaten for third. The final time for the mile and a sixteenth on a sloppy track was 1:43.64.
Tiz Windy finished fourth, followed by Awesome Jill and Senior Prom. Thank You Marylou, Designer Legs, and Sugar Shock completed the order of finish.
Trained by Bill Mott, Size has now made four starts, winning three of them. Last time out, she was second in the Jersey Girl Stakes at Belmont Park on May 26 behind Red Velvet.
Brookdale raised fillies Walk Close (3,f, Tapit/Spring Awakening) and Wave the Flag (3,f, Empire Maker/Dancing General) finished 1-2 on Saturday's Wild Applause Stakes (100k) at Belmont. The two fillies battled down the stretch with Walk Close winning by a nose.
Walk Close remains undefeated in 3 lifetime starts and was making her stakes debut on Saturday and now has updated earnings of $154,200. She was bred in Kentucky by Brookdale Farm, Jack Swain, and Jon and Sarah Kelly and was sold at the 2012 Keeneland September Sale for $180,000 to Highland Yard LLC.
Wave the Flag was also making her stakes debut for owner and breeder Jack Swain III after breaking her maiden at first asking at the end of May. In two starts the filly now has earnings of $41,600.
Jockey "Jersey Joe" Bravo angled Speaking of Which out for the drive at the top of the straight before drawing clear in the lane to capture the Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Stakes by a length and a half as Strong Impact went from last to first to take the $60,000 John McSorley Stakes at Monmouth Park before a Sunday crowd of 14,341.
Owned by Moyglare Stud Farm, Speaking of Which covered the mile and an eighth over firm turf in 1:46 1/5 and paid $9.60, $5.40 and $4. Hangover Kid rallied along the inside to complete the $130.40 exacta and returned $14.60 and $8.20. It was another half-length back to Winning Cause, who paid $7.20 to show. Lochte, the 2-1 favorite in the field of 14 never factored and finished 13th.
"I went over the race this morning with Christophe (trainer Clement)," said Bravo. "We wanted to sit close, but just off the pace. It worked out perfectly and we were able to sit the pocket right in behind. In this big field, it was all about getting the trip. Turning for home, we were able to split horses and he sure came running."
A 5-year-old trained by Christophe Clement, who won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday with Tonalist, Speaking of Which is an Irish-bred son of Invincible Spirit. Sunday's win was his fifth in 14 starts and boosted his earnings to $327,918.
Big Horse sire Tiznow lived up to his nickname once again on Saturday when Norumbega won a thriller in the $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational (G2) at Belmont Park. The victor became the 50th career stakes winner for Tiznow, whose progeny have now earned over $3.6 million this year, placing him third on the 2014 General Sire list.
Norumbega, a Stuart Janney III homebred 4-year-old, needed every bit of the Belmont stretch to earn his first graded stakes win the 1 and 1/2-mile marathon. After breaking fifth with Joel Rosario aboard, Norumbega was three wide in fifth, some five lengths back of the lead, for the first mile before making his move for the front.
Rosario went between horses on the turn, then set his sights on Micromanage, who had spurted clear by about two lengths inside the furlong marker. With one last surge, Norumbega powered to the lead in the final strides to win by a neck in 2:27.13.
"I had a really good trip and my horse ran great," added Rosario. I was aware they were going too fast in front of me. When I asked him, he had plenty to give."
Another Triple Crown down the drain.
Tonalist, with Joel Rosario riding, posted a narrow victory over Commissioner in the 146th Belmont Stakes before a packed house Saturday at Belmont Park as California Chrome faded in the final furlong to finish in a dead heat for fourth, becoming the 12th Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to fail in the Test of the Champion since Affirmed became the last horse to sweep the Triple Crown in 1978.
Tonalist, owned by Robert S. Evans and trained by Christophe Clement, returned $20.40 after finishing the 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:28.52 over a fast track. Commissioner, on the lead throughout under Javier Castellano at 28-1, gave way in the final yards. Medal Count, a 24-1 shot, was third, while California Chrome dead-heated for fourth with Medal Count.
California Chrome, the 4-5 favorite, made a menacing move in upper stretch but had no final punch. Eleven 3-year-olds started.
Sea Queen pulled an 18-1 upset Sunday in the $200,000 Wonder Again Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf at Belmont Park.
The longest price in the six-horse field, Sea Queen edged Minorette by a half-length for her third win in five starts for trainer Christophe Clement. Irad Ortiz, Jr. was aboard for the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.89 on the course rated good.
Sea Queen paid $39.60, $11 and $6.80. Minorette returned $7.10 and $4.90, and Recepta paid $5.50 to show.
Riposte, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for Juddmonte Farms, earned her first North American win in the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay on Saturday at Belmont Park.
The daughter of Dansili had been the favorite or second choice in all of her previous stateside outings, but some eventful trips from off the pace cost her a walk to the winner's circle. On Saturday, the Juddmonte homebred took matters into her own hands.
Riposte broke well from the rail under jockey Joel Rosario and assumed control of the early lead entering the clubhouse turn. After an opening quarter-mile in 24.95 seconds, Rosario backed down the pace, running a half in 51.75 and three-quarters in 1:17. Down the backstretch, the long-winded filly appeared very comfortable with her unlikely position on the lead.
"I think [her being on the lead] was just the way the race came up," said Mott. "I thought [Irish Mission] would show more speed, but the pace didn't really develop."
Turning for home, the 4-year-old filly had plenty left in the tank and bounded away from the field in the stretch to prevail by 1 ¾ lengths.
Magdalena Racing and Diamond M Stables' War Dancer grabbed leaving the final turn and turned back a fierce late charge from Suntracer to win Saturday's 77th running of the $110,200 Louisville Handicap (Grade III) by a head at Churchill Downs.
War Dancer, ridden by Alan Garcia and trained by Kenny McPeek, clocked 1 ½ miles over firm turf in a stakes record 2:28.23, besting the 2:28.35 by McPeek's 2007 winner Drilling for Oil.
This was McPeek's third win in the turf marathon. He also saddled Pisces to a dead-heat victory with Classic Par in the 2002 Louisville Handicap.
Through the first six furlongs of the race, War Dancer rated patiently behind pacesetter Tattenham, who clicked off fractions of :25.70, :51.67 and 1:16.88. Garcia asked War Dancer to draw even with the leader down the backstretch and forged command with a quarter mile left to run. Suntracer, the Chicago-based three-time stakes winner who loomed boldly from the outside entering the stretch, matched strides with War Dancer for three-sixteenths of a mile down the lane, only to be turned back in the final yards.
Praia grabbed the lead with an eighth of mile to run and turned back a late rally by Gulsary-IRE to prevail by a head and win Saturday's second running of the $64,549 Keertana overnight stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs.
Praia, ridden by Chris Landeros and trained by Kenny McPeek, ran 1 3/8 miles over firm turf in 2:16.92.
Through most of the race, Praia was rated in fourth along the inside behind pacesetter Honey Hues, who clicked off fractions of :25.37, :49.50, 1:14.56 and 1:39.23. With a quarter mile left to run, Landeros asked Praia for her run. She took the lead in deep stretch but had to hold back Gulsary-IRE, who rallied belated on the inside.
The victory was worth $39,720 to owner Julio Camargo's Haras Old Friends and improved Praia's earnings to $231,912 with a record of 14-3-5-0.
This was Praia's first career stakes triumph. As a 3-year-old, she was the bridesmaid in three consecutive stakes: the $173,400 Edgewood, $113,900 Regret (GIII) and $150,000 Virginia Oaks (GIII).
Imagining led all the way Sunday in the $400,000 Man o' War, giving Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey his third straight victory in the turf stakes at Belmont Park.
McGaughey previously took the 1 3/8-mile race with Point of Entry (2012) and Boisterous (2013). The trio were owned and bred by the Phipps Stable.
Joel Rosario sent the 6-year-old to the front and they controlled the pace over the course rated good. Real Solution rallied three wide to take aim at the leader, but the bid fell short by three-quarters of a length. The time was 2:14.33
Imagining paid $8.50, $4.50 and $2.90. Real Solution returned $5 and $3.50, and Grandeur paid $4 to show.
Grabbing the lead from Fabulous Kid after a quarter-mile, Tonalist skipped through the remaining seven furlongs of Belmont Park slop en route to a convincing win in the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Under Joel Rosario, Tonalist was only a head behind when Fabulous Kid passed the opening quarter in :23 3/5, but quickly seized control with an inside move. Extending his lead to 1 1/2 lengths after a half in :46 4/5, the Tapit colt continued to widen his advantage through six furlongs in 1:10 4/5 and finished four lengths in front at the wire to complete 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 1/5.
The 6-5 favorite in this traditional prep for the Belmont Stakes, Tonalist returned $4.40.
Phipps Stable's homebred Mr Speaker, under a ground-saving ride from Jose Lezcano, took command at the head of the stretch to score a four-length victory in the 33rd running of the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (G3) for 3-year-olds before a sun-drenched crowd of 34,933 on Saturday at Keeneland. It was the fourth-largest attendance in track history.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, Mr Speaker raced next to the rail while tracking early leaders Solitary Ranger and Supermonic, who raced through fractions of :24.13, :48.07 and 1:13.17.
Leaving the far turn, Lezcano moved Mr Speaker off the rail and surged around the leaders to quickly take over en route to completing the 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:44.18.
A Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit out of the Unbridled mare Salute, Mr Speaker improved his record to 7-3-1-1 and boosted his earnings to $269,880 with Saturday's $120,000 check.
As the favorite in the field of eight, Mr Speaker returned $6.20, $3.40 and $2.40. Divine Oath finished second under Javier Castellano to return $3.80 and $2.80 in finishing a head in front of stablemate Supermonic, who paid $3 to show under Joel Rosario.
Magic City Thoroughbred Partners' Frac Daddy blew away nine rivals to win the 84th running of the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland on Saturday by 4 3/4 lengths. The 2011 Keeneland sales graduate tracked pace-setting Red Rifle to the middle of the far turn, where he took command and then drew off unopposed to complete the 1 1/8 miles on the main track in 1:49.61.
Now undefeated in two starts on Polytrack, Frac Daddy boosted his record to 14-4-5-0 and hiked his earnings to $515,280 with Saturday's $90,000 check.
Ridden by Alan Garcia and trained by Ken McPeek, Frac Daddy is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Scat Daddy out of the Skip Away mare Skipper's Mate.
Frac Daddy returned $13.20, $6.80 and $5. Stealcase, ridden by Stewart Elliott, rallied to finish second and pay $13.20 and $9.60 while finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Nikki's Sandcastle, who paid $6.60 to show under Corey Lanerie.
Favored Newsdad finished another 2¼ lengths back and was followed in order by Farhaan, Joha, Winning Cause, Norumbega, Red Rifle and Hattaash.
Flashy American proved to have more staying power over nine furlongs than Sonja's Angel when rallying inside that rival to take the Grade 3, $150,000 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne on Saturday.
Tracking a couple of lengths behind Sonja's Angel, who set an uncontested pace of :24, :48 3/5 and 1:13 1/5 while racing well off the rail, Flashy American took advantage of that rival's wide drift into the stretch by surging up inside of her and pulling away in the final furlong to win by three-quarters of a length under Chris Emigh.
Owned by Preston Stables and trained by Kenny McPeek, Flashy American paid $7.80 as the 5-2 second choice after completing the distance in 1:50 1/5 over a fast track.
Sonja's Angel, the slight favorite at 5-2, finished 3 3/4 lengths clear of Gamay Noir, who was followed across the finish line by Ana Luisa, Dixie Strike, Imposing Grace, and Dress the Part. Distinctive Review was scratched.
A five-year-old gray daughter of Flashy Bull, Flashy American ran for claiming tags in two of her first four wins, but graduated to stakes company last summer. A romping 5 1/2-length scorer in the Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows in her stakes debut, she later added wins in the restricted Alada at Saratoga and the Locust Grove at Churchill Downs.
An audible called by owner Robert Trussell this week not only resulted in a win for Occasional View in Saturday's Grade 3, $175,000 Commonwealth at Keeneland, but in profitability for Trussell as well.
Re-routed to the Commonwealth from a Keeneland optional claimer on Thursday, for which he was entered for an $80,000 tag, Occasional View has now turned a profit for Trussell following his one-length score in the seven-furlong dash on Polytrack. Trussell claimed the six-year-old gelding for a hefty $100,000 last October out of a win over the same course and distance.
"We had done the nomination for this race, and we briefly thought about putting him in for $80,000 a couple of days ago. Then Bobby [owner Robert Trussell] calls and says, 'I don't know -- I kind of like the race on Saturday.' And I said, 'Well I have to get out of the race on Thursday, so yeah, it was not exactly as planned. It kind of happened," trainer Ken McPeek revealed.
Under Alan Garcia, Occasional View enjoyed an outside stalking trip down the backside as Dimension rattled off splits of :22 ⅘ seconds and :45 ⅘ seconds. Improving position around the turn while remaining in the clear, Occasional View made a six-wide bid turning for home and gradually wore down the long-time leader inside the final sixteenth. The son of Silver Deputy stopped the timer in 1:22 and paid $11 as the 9-2 third choice.
Dimension finished second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of 9-5 favorite Laugh Track. The order of finish was completed by Quiet Force, Undrafted, Longhunter, Piquant, Big Blue Spirit, Gunderson, and Spring to hte Sky. Carving and Ol Army were scratched.
Close Hatches will try to add a third top-level victory to her resume in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, in which she meets four opponents, including last year's winner On Fire Baby, April 11 at Oaklawn Park.
Juddmonte Farms' 4-year-old daughter of First Defence scored a comfortable win at the Arkansas oval in her most recent start. Leading all the way, she captured the March 15 Azeri Stakes, run at the Apple Blossom's 1 1/16-mile distance, by 1 ¼ lengths. It was her first start in 4 ½ months since finishing second to champion Beholder in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Park.
Close Hatches was among the best of her division last year, notching victories Mother Goose and Cotillion Stakes and taking the Gazelle Stakes for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. She will break from post one in the Apple Blossom under high weight of 121 pounds, including jockey Joel Rosario, while conceding from four to nine pounds to a quartet of challengers.
"She passed the first test and she's doing well, so we decided to send her back," Mott said. "I have no complaints about the weights. I hope she travels well and settles in well, and if she does that, I'm sure she'll run her race."
Anita Cauley's On Fire Baby was fourth in the Azeri after being off for more than five months. She won last year's Apple Blossom in her return from nearly a year on the sidelines, taking the race going wire to wire from Tiz Miz Sue. The 5-year-old Smoke Glacken mare owns a previous win at the distance at Oaklawn, capturing the 2012 Honeybee Stakes for trainer Gary "Red Dog" Hartlage, who enjoyed a breakthrough Grade 1 win with her Apple Blossom victory. Assigned 115 pounds, she will start from post 4 with Joe Johnson at the reins.
For the second time in three years, Newsdad rallied from last to win the Grade 2, $200,000 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The circumstances surrounding Saturday's victory were far different than they were in 2012.
That year, Newsdad was in excellent form and there were only four horses in the Pan Am.
Saturday, Newsdad was making his second start off a year layoff and facing 10 rivals that included his more highly regarded stablemate Slumber, who finished third as the 2-1 favorite.
Last of 10 under Joel Rosario early, Newsdad rallied wide down the backside and was widest of all again in the stretch to outfinish Veritformer - who was rallying along the rail - to win the Pan Am by a neck. Vertiformer was second by a half-length over Slumber.
Trainer Bill Mott said that after Newsdad finished third in this race last year, he was sidelined due to a tendon injury. He returned four weeks ago in an allowance race, where he finished seventh, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, a race one might suspect the horse needed to move forward.
"I thought he might need this race," Mott quipped afterward.
Reload parlayed a dream trip under a sizzling Javier Castellano to become a graded stakes winner for the first time when he slipped along the rail to wear down Mr. Online by a neck to capture Saturday's $150,000 Canadian Turf at Gulfstream Park.
The Canadian Turf was the sixth win of the day for Castellano, who also rode Onlyforyou to victory 30 minutes earlier in the Grade 2 Davona Dale.
Reload had made only one previous start on grass, leading throughout to capture a high-priced optional claiming race here last month. But with plenty of speed signed on for the Grade 3 Canadian Turf, Castellano opted to rate Reload off the early pace set by Mr. Online and forced by Rydilluc.
Reload saved ground while racing within easy striking distance of the leader and then found ample room along the fence to challenge and eventually overtake a game Mr. Online through the final furlong of the one-mile Canadian Turf. Salto rallied mildly to finish another 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third.
Rydilluc, the tepid 7-2 favorite, faltered down the stretch and finished a tiring fifth.
Lea stalked the early speed of Uncaptured, moved up to take the lead as the field entered the far turn, sprinted away from his rivals at the top of the stretch, and then had plenty of gas left in the tank to withstand a late charge from favorite Will Take Charge to win the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. At the wire, Lea stopped the timer in a Gulfstream Park track record 1:46.86. Longshot Viramundo got up to finish third while Bourbon Courage rounded out the superfecta.
Will Take Charge wasn't able to run down Lea in deep stretch but he ran a top-notch race given the huge performance by the winner. The favorite got a better pace to run at than what appeared to be possible on paper as Uncaptured and Lea carved out splits of 23.40, 47.21 and 1:10.90 through the first six furlongs. Lea began to take command at the midway point on the far turn and, from that point forward, Will Take Charge had the difficult task of trying to run down a very game winner.
Lea is a five-year-old horse by First Samurai out of a Galileo (IRE) mare (Greenery), trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Joel Rosario. His victory in the Donn is the first Grade 1 victory of his career following victories in the G3-Hal's Hope and G3-Commonwealth Turf.
Summer Front didn't get the kind of pace that a closer typically needs in the 60th running of the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. He almost didn't get the room, either.
After saving ground along the rail to the top of the stretch, Summer Front found enough of a seam turning for home to unleash his powerful late kick and catch stubborn pacesetter Tetradrachm to win the Fort Lauderdale by three-quarters of a length.
Ridden by Joe Bravo, Waterford Stable's Summer Front ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.24 on a firm turf course, paying $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite in a field of six. Tetradrachm was a clear second, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Nikki's Sandcastle. They were followed under the wire by Slumber, Utley, Hierro, Howe Great and defending race champion Mucho Mas Macho.
"If you look at his races, he gets in trouble," winning trainer Christophe Clement said. "You have to ride him that way, covered up, wait and make one run. Of course, you need a bit of racing luck. He's got a great turn of foot, as you can see. [Tetradrachm] ran a great race, and he really opened up at the quarter pole. I knew it would take a really good horse to get him, and he's a really good horse."
Jockey Luis Saez won a lot of big races in the past year for several trainers while emerging as a rising riding star, but Bill Mott wasn't one of them…until Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
"I think he's a good rider, a good young rider. I think he's going to be in the top echelon of the jocks," Mott said. "I actually hadn't had much luck with him up until today – maybe I just didn't put him on the right kind of horses – but I'm glad we've finally broke through in a graded stakes."
Saez, who had just missed pulling off a front-running upset aboard the Mott-trained Tetradrachm in the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) won by heavily favored Summer Front one race earlier, came through for the Hall of Fame trainer in a big way in the $100,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (G3). The 21-year-old jockey not only posted a 3 ¼-length victory aboard Lea, a $6.40-1 longshot, he registered a personal milestone by visiting the winner's circle for the 1000th time during his relatively brief career.
"It's amazing! I thank God," said Saez, whose most high-profile triumphs of 2013 came aboard Travers and Clark Handicap winner Will Take Charge. "I need to thank the trainers, the owners and my agent (Richard Depass) too."
Making his first start for Mott and only his third career start on dirt, Lea pressed the pace set by Csaba along the backstretch and around the final turn before taking over at the top of the stretch and continuing on to a convincing victory.
Winless in seven starts dating back to September 2012, Naples Bay got back on the right track both figuratively and literally when posting a mild 8-1 upset of Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Marshua's River at Gulfstream Park.
A perfect two-for-two over Gulfstream's turf course prior to the Marshua's River, the Edward Cox Jr.-owned six-year-old kept that flawless course record intact with a come-from-behind win under Joe Bravo. She paid $18.20 after completing 1 1/16 miles over firm ground in 1:41 3/5.
Tracking in sixth while saving ground, Naples Bay bided her time as Silverette carved out fractions of :24 3/5, :48 3/5 and 1:12 3/5. Coming under pressure from Somali Lemonade and Angelica Zapata at the top of the stretch, Silverette began to weaken while Naples Bay waited for running room. Splitting rivals past the eighth pole, Naples Bay forged clear to win by a length.
Tapicat, perfect in two previous starts over the Gulfstream sod, came through as the 4-5 favorite in the $75,000 Voodoo Dancer Stakes. Conceding six pounds to the rest of the field, the 123-pound highweight settled into stride early under jockey Joel Rosario, engaged the stubborn pacesetter She's Spooky in the stretch and edged ahead in the final strides.
"She broke a little bit slow, but I thought if somebody wanted to go in front of me, that's fine," Rosario said. "She can do anything. After she broke like that, I just kind of let her do her thing. She was probably the best horse. She kind of hung a little bit getting to the horse in front. The track was a little wet today, so that might be why, but she ran good. She got it done."
Purchased for $725,000 as a yearling at Keeneland by Ben Leon, Tapicat paired up victories over this turf course 12 months ago before winning the Florida Oaks (G3) in February. In her final start at three, she finished fifth in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) at Churchill on November 16.
"We know that when she takes off on the lead, she goes wire to wire," Leon explained. "We know that when she has run a mile and a sixteenth or a mile and an eighth, that she can come from behind.
Phipps Stable's homebred Mr Speaker rallied up the inside to strike the front in midstretch and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park. A maiden winner in his previous start, the two-year-old colt stamped himself as an exciting prospect for trainer Shug McGaughey with the authoritative score.
Jose Lezcano had the mount.
Mr Speaker was well-reserved near the back of the pack during the early stages as Bon Accord showed the way on the front end, pressured by Yes I'm Lucky through opening splits of :23 3/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 3/5. He began making headway along the rail on the far turn but was still fourth, about two lengths back, with a quarter-mile remaining. "Jose rode him really well, getting him into position," McGaughey said. "I thought he would break good; I thought he might be a little closer than he was."
Uno Duo easily won the $95,000 Fickle Fanny Stakes as the even-money favorite Thursday at Aqueduct.
The gray 3-year-old trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Junior Alvarado pulled clear in the stretch for a 3 1/2- length victory. Lady Gracenote and Carameaway finished in a dead heat for second.
Uno Duo ran six furlongs in 1:12.99 for her third win in seven starts. She paid $4 and $2.20 in the stakes for fillies and mares. Lady Gracenote paid $2.10, and Carameaway returned $3.
There was no show wagering on the four-horse field.
While Uno Duo prevailed as the public choice, long-shot players rejoiced when Front Cover captured the sixth race for maidens at 99-1. She paid $200 to win as jockey Men Chen won for the first time since 2009.
Moyglare Stud's homebred Speaking of Which had been something of an underachiever this season, but the Christophe Clement trainee finally broke through with his first American graded victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder. Well handled by Joe Bravo, the Irish Group 3 veteran swept down the center of the course to outkick hedge-skimming 2-1 favorite Tetradrachm by a length.
Speaking of Which was one of two Clement entrants, along with defending champion Philly Ace. But Philly Ace had not run since his victory in the 2012 Tropical Turf, and he ended up being scratched from this projected comeback.
The race that launched the career of the mighty Cigar - and was ultimately renamed for him - may prove to be quite the swan song for Flat Out, who rallied past the pacesetting Private Zone in deep stretch Saturday to win the Grade 1 Cigar Mile by 1 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct.
Private Zone, at 32-1 the longest shot in the field, held second by two lengths over Verrazano, who got third by a neck over Groupie Doll, the brilliant mare who encountered traffic trouble at the quarter pole.
Clearly Now, who stumbled when he clipped heels with Private Zone at the quarter pole, finished fifth and was followed in the order of finish by Forty Tales, Goldencents, the 3-1 favorite, Saratoga Snacks, Laugh Track, and Capo Bastone. Praetereo scratched.
Flat Out, a 7-year-old son of Flatter, won for the ninth time in 29 career starts and the $450,000 he earned pushed his lifetime earnings to $3,645,383.
In a strange, slowly run race, Honor Code showed a different dimension and that he has some guts to go with his talent, coming back on Cairo Prince, who had passed him in midstretch, to win Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen Stakes by a nose at Aqueduct.
Cairo Prince, who looked as though he was going to cruise by Honor Code in midstretch, had to settle for second, a half-length in front of the late-running Wicked Strong. Intense Holiday, Master Lightning, Matuszak, Afleet Accompli, and Mental Iceberg completed the order of finish.
The win was the second from three starts for Honor Code, a ridgling by A.P. Indy, who skipped the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after getting beat a neck by Havana in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park. In the Champagne – and in his eye-catching debut win at Saratoga – Honor Code rallied from last. Saturday, Honor Code stalked from second the glacial pace of Master Lightning, who went a half-mile in 52.74 seconds and six furlongs in 1:17.56.
The hot-riding Joel Rosario won his third grass stakes of the weekend when Chamois drew off to win Sunday's $100,000 Duluth overnight stakes as much the best.
Chamois, who garnered his maiden and first-level allowance victories over the Big A turf for trainer Christophe Clement, raced on a clear early lead but allowed Vinny Goodtimes to take over on the backstretch. Chamois regained command willingly turning for home and drew off to win the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds by 3 1/4 three lengths over 9-5 favorite Notacatbutallama.
Chamois ($12.60) finished in 1:43.93 and upped his record over the course to three wins from as many starts.
Rosario also won Saturday's Red Smith with Imagining and the Virgo Libra with So Lonesome.
The Phipps Stable and Shug McGaughey captured Saturday's $250,000 Red Smith Handicap for the third straight year when Imagining surged to the lead just inside the eighth pole and turned back late runs from Hangover Kid and Tannery to prevail by a half-length in the Grade 3 race.
Thought to be the potential pacesetter in the 1 3/8-mile turf race, Imagining broke a step slowly with Joel Rosario and raced in the middle of the pack while strung out wide, as Mission Approved ambled along on the lead for 1 1/4 miles before finally giving way.
Imagining briefly opened a daylight lead inside the eighth pole and held on to secure the victory for his connections, which won the last two Red Smith renewals with Boisterous.
"I thought he'd be racing on the lead or in second, but he broke a little slowly and I had to race behind horses," said Rosario. "They weren't going all that fast, and we were able to move up. I asked him turning for home, and he gave it to me."
Courtesan, a 2-year-old daughter of Street Sense, rallied from near the rear of the 11-horse field for owner Ramona Bass and trained Christophe Clement. Graded stakes-placed earlier this year, Courtesan was ridden to victory by Joe Bravo and paid $7.20. Super Fantasy, the tepid 2-1 favorite, finished a tiring seventh after taking a run at the leader approaching the stretch.
Abaco was the only major contender in the Cardinal Handicap without a graded victory on her resume, but the 5-year-old mare checked off that box when getting strong handling from Rosie Napravnik in capturing the 40th running of the Grade 3, $112,800 Cardinal on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Rallying from well back in a field of 10 fillies and mares, Abaco caught Miz Ida with about 40 yards to go in the 1 1/8-mile turf race before edging away for a one-length score. The winner returned $7.60 after finishing in 1:50.85 over a course rated good. Solid Appeal was a head back in third, while Starstruck, the 2-1 favorite, was fourth.
Abaco, a 5-year-old Phipps Stable homebred, had racked up four wins and seven seconds from 17 prior starts but had never won a stakes until Saturday.
"She'd been training real well and we thought we'd send her down here to take a shot," said Daisy Phipps Pulito, representing her family's stable. "She ran a big race."
Racing last month in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon, an early move leaving the turn might have cost Preferential a victory, as she weakened late to lose by a neck to Mystical Star.
On Sunday in the $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager at Keeneland, she never had the chance to move too soon. Blocked in traffic in fourth for much of the race behind a dawdling pace, she didn't get clear until midstretch and then surged to victory.
"I had nowhere to go," winning jockey Leandro Goncalves said. "I had to sit there and wait, and hope for the best, and try to get lucky, and I did today."
Left a Message rallied from seventh to grab second, a half-length behind Preferential, but never proved a significant danger to the winner. Angel's Terrace was two lengths farther back in third, a head in front over the slow-starting Beijoca.
Imagining held off Sky Blazer by a half-length Thursday in the $100,000 Bowl Game Stakes on the turf at Belmont Park.
John Velazquez was aboard the 3-5 favorite for trainer Shug McGaughey. A 5-year-old, Imagining improved to 6 for 13, paying $3.50, $2.80 and $2.20.
Sky Blazer returned $5.30 and $3.70, and Exclusive Strike paid $2.90 to show.
The time was 2:00.18 for 1 1/4 miles on the firm course.
The 10 trainers who entered New York-bred fillies and mares in Saturday's $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes at Belmont Park can be thankful that trainer Christophe Clement didn't enter his.
Instead, Clement opted for Monday's $200,000 Pebbles Stakes with his New York-bred 3-year-old filly Discreet Marq who outfinished Tapicat to win the listed Pebbles by three-quarters of a length at Belmont. It was 2 3/4 lengths back to Teen Pauline in third.
The win was the fourth from seven races this year and sixth from 12 lifetime starts for Discreet Marq, a daughter of Discreet Cat owned and bred by Patricia Generazio.
Clement said he opted for the Pebbles because he preferred to run the filly a mile -- the Ticonderoga is 1 1/16 miles -- with the idea of running her back in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 1.
Clement also thought there would be more pace in a one-mile race, and he wanted his filly to rate.
When Mother Nature proved kind to trainer Christophe Clement, his 5-year-old gelding Za Approval proved mean to his competition in Saturday's $200,000 Knickerbocker Stakes at Belmont Park.
When dire predictions of heavy rains proved inaccurate, Za Approval caught the firm turf course he prefers and scored a 1 1/4-length victory over pacesetter Plainview in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker. Plainview held on for second by a neck over Howe Great, who got third by a nose over Tetradrachm. Swift Warrior, Boisterously, Mr. Commons, and Paris Vegas completed the order of finish. London Lane and Exclusive Strike scratched.
In his first try at the distance, Za Approval ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.51, a stakes record for 23 runnings of the Knickerbocker at 1 1/8 miles on turf. He returned $5.50 as the favorite.
The win was the seventh from 16 starts for Za Approval, a son of Ghostzapper and a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winners Miesque's Approval and Revved Up. All were owned and bred by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Stud.
Emollient, had a triumphant return to Keeneland today but not before she had to go from worst to first to capture her 2nd GI of 2013 here with a 1 1/4 length win in the $500,000, GI Juddmonte Spinster Stakes, for the older gals, at 1 1/8 mile over the Keeneland poly.
Coming 2nd was Summer Applause, who also came late but was back that 1 1/4 length at the line, 3rd went to Wine Princess, back 3 1/2 lengths even further and 1/2 length in front of early speed Sisterly Love, who filled in that last super spot here today!
Emollient, also collected that ticket to ride in this year's B/C Ladies Classic that will be known as the Distaff once again this year!
Pure Fun, making her first start in five months, upset odds-on favorite Fiftyshadesofhay to win Saturday's $200,000 Indiana Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at Indiana Downs.
The Oaks was the co-feature on the card with the $500,000 Indiana Derby, both conducted at 1 1/16 miles.
Trained by Ken McPeek and ridden by Victor Lebron, Pure Fun trailed the field with Fiftyshadesofhay and jockey Martin Garcia setting the pace. With the 2-5 favorite still on the lead, Pure Fun moved four wide coming out of the backstretch and into the final turn.
Sent off as the 4-1 second pick in the seven-horse field, Pure Fun joined Fiftyshadesofhay and Oscar Party on the lead at the top of the stretch. The filly took the lead with 200 yards to run and was able to register a 1 3/4- length win over Oscar Party with Fiftyshadesofhay finishing third.
Plenty O'Toole was fourth followed by Seaneen Girl and Wild About Irene. Run Forestry Run was eased to the finish. Fully Living was an early scratch.
The time for the Indiana Oaks was 1:43.70 on a sloppy track.
Chamois came through as the 2-5 favorite in the $50,000 Stanton Stakes at Delaware Park on Wednesday, but only just.
In a scratch-reduced field of four 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on turf, Chamois got up by a neck over Smash and Grab, the longest shot on the board at 6.60-1. Cerro finished 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third, with Fredericksburg fourth and last.
Under Joe Bravo, Chamois covered the distance in 1:41.41 on firm turf and paid $2.80. There was no show wagering.
Chamois, a colt by Smart Strike, is owned by Jon and Sarah Kelly and trained by Christophe Clement.
Montana Native, one race removed from a run-in with Princess of Sylmar, won a tight photo over Gold Medal Dancer in the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks on Sunday. Marathon Lady, the 4-5 favorite, finished fourth in the race, which was one of six stakes on a card featuring the Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby.
Montana Native ($7) came into the Remington Park Oaks off a fifth-place finish behind Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 17. On Sunday, she moved to the lead soon after the start of the 1 1/16-mile stakes and into the first turn was joined by Gold Medal Dancer.
The fillies raced together through fractions of 46.93 seconds for the half-mile and 1:11.09 for six furlongs. Marathon Lady made a run at the pair three wide around the final turn, but Montana Native and Gold Medal Dancer continued on in tandem, with Montana Native, along the rail, winning by a nose in 1:43.68.
"She was push-button," said Terry Thompson, aboard Montana Native for trainer Ken McPeek. "I was able to sit pretty much to the head of the lane. [Gold Medal Dancer] was on me all the way. It was just a horse race from the eighth pole home. We were fortunate to get the head bob."
If Bill Mott had his druthers, he would have run Ron the Greek in Saturday's $400,000 Kelso Invitational going a mile at Belmont Park rather than the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles.
Mott had two-time defending Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out in the race, and with Ron the Greek having lost his last five starts, Mott thought it might be time to try something different with the 6-year-old son of Full Mandate.
"I thought maybe it's time to back Ron up to a mile," Mott said. "I really believe he can close and finish with milers if he gets the proper pace in front of him."
Mott's owners Adam Wachtel, Nils Brous and Gary Barber wanted to give Ron the Greek one more shot in a big race. That decision paid off huge as Ron the Greek delivered one of the best performances of his career, romping to a 6 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $1 million Gold Cup before 10,549 on a gorgeous afternoon.
Already good, Juddmonte Farms' 3-year-old filly Close Hatches appears to be taking things to another level as summer turns to fall. The First Defence filly registered her second straight grade I victory Saturday, Sept. 21 in the $1 million Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing.
Favored in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, Close Hatches passed Test Stakes winner Sweet Lulu turning for home and held off all challengers at the wire to register a 2-length win. Steve Beneto's Sweet Lulu, by Mr. Greeley, continued well to the wire to earn her first two-turn Grade 1 placing, edging third-place finisher Street Girl by a nose. Rontos Racing Stable's Street Girl, by Street Hero, secured her first Grade 1 placing.
Jockey Mike Smith and Close Hatches shadowed Sweet Lulu at every call as she led through a half-mile in :47.24 and six furlongs in 1:10.51. Close Hatches moved to the lead turning for home and opened a clear advantage mid-stretch on her way to her third career stakes victory and fifth win overall in seven starts.
Sky Girl came through for new connections and for the many horseplayers who backed her down to odds-on favoritism when posting a hard-earned, 1 1/2-length victory Saturday in a scratch-laden 38th running of the Grade 3, $110,000 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Corey Lanerie, Sky Girl came through a rail opening before finally getting the best of Irish Lute to prevail in the seven-furlong race. Elusive Fate was another neck back in a field of six 3-year-old fillies.
Sky Girl, purchased privately last month by New York City businessman John Clay under his Alpha Delta Stables banner, returned $3.80 with her third victory in as many starts over the Churchill main track. It was the 88th stakes victory at Churchill for its all-time leader in that category, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
"For a minute there I didn't think we were going to get there," said Lanerie, who had ridden the Sky Mesa filly in all four of her prior starts for her former owner, the Jay Em Ess Stable. "But she dug in and went on with it. What a nice filly."
Under a patient ride by Rosie Napravnik, Tricky Hat (CHI) took the short way home, arriving first at the finish in the 1-1/2 mile $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup.
Scoring his first stakes victory and fourth lifetime win for trainer Shug McGaughey, Tricky Hat stalked the eager pacesetters while saving ground during the marathon turf test contested under rainy conditions. When the field turned for home, Tricky Hat emerged from the pack along the rail, opened a short lead and held off late closer Eagle Poise to win by a neck, with Macho Mas Macho taking third.
"We had a great trip and he handled the wet turf well," said Napravnik. "We were sitting in a good spot and I was able to get through on the inside. The horse was the class of the race."
Napravnik began her career in Maryland as a 17-year-old apprentice rider in 2005.
Assistant-trainer Jenn Patterson said, "I talked to Rosie beforehand. This is the kind of horse you need to get into the race and she did that. He'd had a good run last time at Saratoga, so we decided to give him the opportunity to step up."
The winner is owned by Andrew Rosen, Robert Trussell & Gainesway Stable. He paid $9.80.
Forte Dei Marmi ($3.80) held off his Roger Attfield-trained stablemate, 16-1 shot Perfect Timber, to land his first Grade 1 stakes win Sunday at Woodbine in the $315,600 Northern Dancer Turf.
The diminutive Forte Dei Marmi raced in second on the backstretch under red-hot rider Eurico Rosa da Silva, as Stormy Len set moderate middle fractions in the 1 1/2-mile marathon. Forte Dei Marmi hit the front early in the stretch and then held a one-length lead that dwindled in the final sixteenth.
Forte Dei Marmi dug in gamely in deep stretch to prevail by a neck in 2:28.46 over firm ground. Stormy Len weakened to finish a length behind the winner in third and a nose ahead of the lone filly in the field, Irish Mission. Hampstead Heath, Hotep, and early pacesetter Turkish completed the order of finish.
The Northern Dancer was the third straight stakes score at the meet for Forte Dei Marmi, who also won the Grade 2 Sky Classic and the Grade 3 Singspiel. He earned $180,000 on Sunday for owner Stella Perdomo.
Llanarmon ($20.40) graduated in dramatic style Saturday at Woodbine in the Grade 2 Natalma Stakes, in which the favored Ready to Act unseated jockey Rajiv Maragh, who appeared to escape serious injury.
Ready to Act stalked the front-running Unspurned in the one-mile turf route for 2-year-old fillies before making the lead early in the stretch. Ready to Act ducked in at the eighth pole, and a trailing horse came over the top of the fallen Maragh. Ready to Act, a New York shipper trained by Chad Brown, came back fine.
Meanwhile, Llanarmon rallied wide from seventh to prevail by three-quarters of a length over another maiden, Spanish Flower. Appreciating, the 5-2 second choice in the eight-horse field, finished a neck farther back in third, a head in front of Madly Truly.
Emma-Jayne Wilson rode Llanarmon for Harlequin Ranches and trainer Roger Attfield.
A change of tactics by new rider Rajiv Maragh helped Are You Kidding Me win for the first time in more than a year Saturday at Delaware Park.
Unlike two of his last three starts, in which Are You Kidding Me was placed far back, Maragh sent the 3-year-old Woodbine-based colt to the front through slow early fractions of 25.20 and 48.69 seconds in the Grade 3, $200,000 Kent Stakes. Going slow early left Are You Kidding Me ($4.80) with plenty of energy for the stretch drive and he drew clear to win easily by four lengths while just missing the turf course record for 1 1/8 miles.
The Roger Attfield-trained Are You Kidding Me completed the distance in 1:47.61, just .34 of a second off the record of 1:47.27 set by Optimizer in last year's Kent. It was the first win for Are You Kidding Me since a seven-furlong allowance at Woodbine in August 2012. He is now 3 for 13 lifetime with earnings of $301,689.
Winless in eight races since capturing the Grade 2 New York Stakes last summer, Mystical Star emphatically returned to the winner's circle by taking Saturday's $150,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon in course-record time by a neck over Preferential.
The winner, a 5-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper, raced 1 5/16 miles on a firm turf course that played quickly in 2:11.30. Owned by Cheyenne Stables and trained by Christophe Clement, she paid $9.60.
Patience on the part of jockey Brice Blanc might have been the difference between victory and defeat in the Ladies Marathon. Unlike Preferential, who surged from a stalking position to take the lead at the top of the lane, Mystical Star was not asked until a bit later.
"It's a long stretch, and I didn't want to do a premature move, even with the ground being so firm," Blanc said. "I didn't want to make my move until we really got to the top of the lane."
Preferential, in easily her best start since being imported from France, finished a clear second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Angel Terrace. Left a Message was fourth.
Ten fillies and mares are entered in the Grade 3, $100,000 Locust Grove at 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs main track – conditions that play to the strength of favored Flashy American.
A late-developing filly who did not win a maiden race until her 11th start last July at Saratoga for a $25,000 claiming tag, Flashy American has since steadily moved up in class with success, becoming a multiple stakes winner and graded-placed.
The reason for her development? Trainer Ken McPeek found her niche.
"Going two turns on the dirt, she's hickory," McPeek said.
Although Flashy American has no listed workouts since winning the Alada Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 9, McPeek said she has breezed since her last race, but that track clockers missed her work, which came in the fog over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track.
Christophe Clement had been looking forward to running Mystical Star in Monday's $150,000 Glens Falls Stakes. But after heavy rain washed the closing-day turf fixture to a muddy main track, Clement withdrew Mystical Star and called upon Lady Cohiba, who led throughout under jockey Junior Alvarado to register a half-length decision over the late-charging White Rose.
Joe Bravo was aboard for his fourth win of the day and a sweep of the day's two stakes. He earlier captured the $72,750 Lady's Secret aboard Summer Applause.
Summer Front, a 4-year-old trained by Christophe Clement, got his seventh win in 13 starts. As usual, he was well off the early pace set by Tune Me In, the winner of last year's Cliff Hanger.
Even though the field was a compact six runners, Summer Front was in traffic much of the way as Hudson Steele kept him pinned to the rail. Summer Front angled out one path turning for home and finally shook loose in the lane. He then roared down the center of the course for a 1 1/4-length victory over a game Tune Me In.
It was the second straight Grade 3 triumph for Summer Front. He also rallied to take the Miami Mile Handicap in April with Bravo aboard for the first time.
Good Better Best earned his first stakes score with a determined stretch run in Wednesday's $125,000 Elgin Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Roger Attfield for owner Harlequin Ranches, the five-year-old son of Best of the Bests sat just off the pace of favoured Ultimate Destiny in the 1 1/16-mile ‘Poly' stake, was roused into contention by Luis Contreras at the top of the lane and powered home a 1 1/2-length winner. Ultimate Destiny held on for place over Aldous Snow.
The dark bay, bred in Ontario by Cavendish Investing Ltd., covered the 1 1/16-mile in 1:44.35.
Good Better Best banked $78,750 in victory while improving his record to 4-7-1 from 16 career starts.
He returned $5.10 and $2.60, pairing with Ultimate Destiny ($2.30) for an $8.40 (2-4) exactor. Pender Harbour and Renegade Man were scratched.
Two-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta left little doubt that she is indeed still the queen of her division and erased the memory of one of the few blemishes on her outstanding résume', cruising to a 4 1/2-length victory over Authenticity in Sunday's $600,000 Personal Ensign. Royal Delta finished second as the odds-on favorite in the 2012 Personal Ensign.
With Mike Smith aboard, Royal Delta seized control in the opening quarter-mile of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign and never looked back. Despite setting an honest pace of 23.56 seconds, 46.78, and 1:10.76 for the opening six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile fixture, Royal Delta had no problem dismissing a bid from Authenticity entering the stretch.
Royal Delta quickly opened a commanding advantage approaching the furlong marker and was being geared down by Smith with the issue no longer in doubt near the wire.
Authenticity, who won the Grade 1 Shuvee Handicap five weeks earlier, proved no match for the winner but was second-best, finishing 1 3/4 lengths in front of Centering. On Fire Baby and Open Water completed the order of finish.
Royal Delta, a 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker owned by Besilu Stables and trained by Bill Mott, completed the distance in 1:48.34 and paid $3.10.
Summer Front, the even-money favorite, uncorked an explosive stretch rally to win the Grade 3, $101,000 Cliff Hanger Stakes on the turf at Monmouth Park on Sunday.
Joe Bravo was aboard for his fourth win of the day and a sweep of the day's two stakes. He earlier captured the $72,750 Lady's Secret aboard Summer Applause.
Summer Front, a 4-year-old trained by Christophe Clement, got his seventh win in 13 starts. As usual, he was well off the early pace set by Tune Me In, the winner of last year's Cliff Hanger.
Even though the field was a compact six runners, Summer Front was in traffic much of the way as Hudson Steele kept him pinned to the rail. Summer Front angled out one path turning for home and finally shook loose in the lane. He then roared down the center of the course for a 1 1/4-length victory over a game Tune Me In.
It was the second straight Grade 3 triumph for Summer Front. He also rallied to take the Miami Mile Handicap in April with Bravo aboard for the first time.
The field for Sunday's sixth race, the $100,000 Idle Rich Stakes, was one of the strongest assembled for an overnight stakes this summer. Not all starters were having their best year in 2013, but 6-of-7 had at least a fair amount of experience at the graded-stakes level. Imagining, the 6-5 choice, was coming off an unplaced effort as the favorite in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico.
Imagining has been forwardly placed in all of his best races, and on Sunday he wasted no time getting to the front. The 5-year-old Giant's Causeway horse faced little pressure while covering a mile in 1:34.84. Atigun and Star Channel moved up as if to challenge on the turn, but Imagining straightened out with a two-length advantage. The Phipps Stable homebred drew off through the stretch, crossing under the wire |5 1/4 lengths in front.
Running time for 9 1/2 furlongs on a firm Mellon turf course was an extra-sharp 1:51.90, less than a second off the track record. Atigun, whose resume includes a fourth-place finish in last year's Travers, was second.
Javier Castellano was in the saddle for trainer Shug McGaughey. Imagining is now 5-3-0 in 11 starts, with lifetime earnings of $300,114. His resume includes a close second to Ultimate Eagle in the 2011 Hollywood Derby (Gr. 1).
The favored Forte Dei Marmi ($4.40) won the Grade 2 Sky Classic Stakes for the second year in a row Sunday at Woodbine and lowered the 1 1/4-mile course record under Eurico Rosa da Silva.
After racing in fifth on the backstretch, Forte Dei Marmi commenced a three-wide rally on the far turn and then hit the front near the eighth pole before drawing clear for a 2 1/4-length tally over Hampstead Heath.
After pressing a moderate early pace, Grand Arch wound up third. He was followed by Hotep, Irish Mission, Perfect Timber, Classic Bryce, and Peyton.
Over firm ground, the final time was 2:00.12, which was 0.48 seconds faster than the previous record set by Seaside Retreat in 2008.
"He's very professional," da Silva said. "I let him be very relaxed, and when he saw daylight, he started running, and he ran very fast."
Making her first start in a Grade 1, Discreet Marq closed from third in a field of 10 to win the Del Mar Oaks by three-quarters of a length over a determined Wishing Gate. The Del Mar Oaks was Discreet Marq's third consecutive win and the most prestigious of her 10-race career.
The Del Mar Oaks marked the first time Discreet Marq had won by running from off the pace.
Given a confident ride by Julien Leparoux, Discreet Marq took the lead with a three-wide move on the turn. She finished 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47.38.
"The plan before the race was to get her to relax behind horses," Leparoux said. "There was enough pace that I could place her behind and relax. When I got her outside and in the clear, she ran for me."
Flashy American rallied late but was second best in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap July 20 at Saratoga Race Course. Ran back at the same distance in the ungraded Alada Stakes, the 4-year-old filly used the same strategy to win on a sloppy main track Friday.
Jockey standings leader Joel Rosario had the mount and Ken McPeek trains for Preston Stables. Street Secret ran second and pace-setter Lady Cohiba was third.
Flashy American was last of six horses at the half-mile pole. That's when Rosario began to urge the Flashy Bull filly to chase the lead duo of Lady Cohiba and Street Secret.
Flashy American struck the front in deep-stretch and won by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:50.18. She now has a record of 6-3-2 in 21 career starts.
The classy Golden Ticket assumed command early and cruised to an eight-length victory in Saturday evening's $100,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap, a 1 1/4-mile test that attracted five runners.
Golden Ticket ($2.20), who dead-heated for the win in last August's Grade 1 Travers with Alpha and most recently ran second to Fort Larned in the June 15 Stephen Foster, was guided around the oval by Terry Thompson for trainer Ken McPeek.
Worldly, the 2011 Prairie Meadows Handicap champ who was making his debut for Brendan Walsh's Kentucky-based stable, made a bold move on the far turn to briefly reach contention but was brushed aside by Golden Ticket's instant acceleration. Worldly comfortably held second place, finishing eight lengths clear of Red Lead.
Montana Native may have earned herself a spot in the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 17 with a front-running, 3 1/2-length victory in Wednesday's $100,000 Broom Dance Stakes.
Under Joel Rosario, Montana Native dueled outside of Parc Monceau through comfortable fractions of 24.51, 48.50, and 1:12.41. She began to pull away approaching the quarter pole, and despite drifting out in the stretch, she won handily.
Montana Native, a daughter of Yes It's True, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.76 and returned $5.50.
"She had trained super since she's been here," winning trainer Ken McPeek said. "She's extremely confident right now. She did everything she was asked to do."
McPeek, who trains Montana Native for Ghostzapper Racing, said he definitely would consider the Alabama.
"It sets her up good for it," McPeek said. "Can she go that far [being] by Yes It's True? I don't know."
The opening of Saratoga and Del Mar, respectively, signaled an upturn in graded stakes action around North America that will last through Labor Day as the popular summer meets in upstate New York and Southern California kicked off with stellar racing. Perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend, however, came on Saturday at Delaware Park, as champion Royal Delta rebounded from a subpar performance last out with an absolutely dominating win in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap.
The Empire Maker mare, trained by Bill Mott for owner Ben Leon, took command from the outset and cruised through the backstretch unchallenged under Mike Smith. She extended her lead to an insurmountable margin over four overmatched opponents at the quarter pole and won by 10 3/4 lengths, covering 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.04 and earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure. Mott told Daily Racing Form's David Grening on Sunday that Royal Delta will point to the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 25 for her next start.
As he headed toward the Belmont Park winner's circle following Saturday's Grade 1 Man o' War, someone yelled to Shug McGaughey, the trainer of the victorious Boisterous, to smile.
"I said, ‘You know what? I am going to smile on this one because this horse deserved a Grade 1,' " McGaughey said.
Pinch hitting for his more celebrated but injured stablemate, Point of Entry, Boisterous finally got his first Grade 1 victory by running past Twilight Eclipse in the final furlong en route to a 2 1/4-length win in the $600,000 Man o' War at Belmont.
Twilight Eclipse, who wrested a short lead from Speaking of Which in upper stretch, finished second, a half-length in front of Exclusive Strike. Finnegans Wake, Optimizer, Al Khali, Speaking of Which, and Folk Singer completed the order of finish.
It was the 11th win from 25 starts for Boisterous, a 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor who has won eight stakes, seven of which are graded. However, he had been winless in four prior Grade 1 tries. The $360,000 first-place prize pushed his earnings to $1,297,910.
"I'm tickled to death, not for me, but for the horse," McGaughey said.
After leaving the winner's circle following Saturday's $350,750 American Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith took a moment to congratulate himself on his ride.
He had the right.
Riding Emollient, Smith made a decision on the backstretch to move the 6-5 favorite three wide and engage a slow pace set by Sarach. It turned out to be a vital move. Emollient ($4.40) had a clean trip through the final five furlongs and won the Grade 1 American Oaks by a half-length over a determined Emotional Kitten.
"I had a chance to get clear and make the pace go," Smith said of his backstretch move. "I thought if I stayed behind, I could have gotten out later, but if I didn't, the closers would be coming. Looking back, it was a good move, but then if I'd gotten beat a head, you could have said I moved too soon."
Making her turf debut, Emollient ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.38.
Even though Emollient is trained by Bill Mott in New York, Smith knows the filly. He rode Emollient to a nine-length win in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on the Polytrack synthetic surface at Keeneland in April and was aboard when she finished a disappointing sixth as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico on May 17. Emollient stumbled badly at the start of the Black-Eyed Susan on dirt, essentially losing all chance.
Soribel Stable's Al Qasr stayed on determinedly to prevail in Saturday's $50,000 Kitten's Joy Stakes, one of a trio of non-graded turf stakes on Virginia Derby Day at Colonial Downs, only to be pulled up abruptly afterward. Jockey Ben Creed dismounted the multiple Peruvian champion, who was vanned off the course.
Trainer Ken McPeek later reported that Al Qasr had sustained heat stroke, but was doing well after receiving fluids and cooling out back at the barn.
Peru's Horse of the Year in 2011-12, Al Qasr was making his fourth U.S. appearance in this spot, but broke through in this first try for McPeek. The 5-2 favorite tracked in second for much of the turf marathon, eyeing the front-running Bernie the Maestro through splits of :25 2/5, :50 2/5, 1:15 4/5 and 1:40 4/5 on the good inner turf course. Al Qasr accosted the leader at the 1 1/4-mile mark in 2:05 2/5, drew off and set sail for home, and repelled all challenges to complete 1 1/2 miles in 2:30 4/5.
Trainer Roger Attfield ran first and second in the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes for the second year in a row Sunday at Woodbine, with runaway winner Forte Dei Marmi and the up-and-coming Perfect Timber. It also was the fifth straight Singspiel score for Attfield, who has won the race a total of six times.
Joel Rosario rode Forte Dei Marmi, who saved ground most of the way in the 12-furlong turf marathon, which was run in a driving rainstorm. Forte Dei Marmi loomed into serious contention on the far turn, then hit the front early in the stretch before drawing away for a 6 1/4-length win in 2:41.85 over a course labeled "yielding."
Perfect Timber rallied outside to finish 3 3/4 lengths clear of Patrioticandproud, the third-place finisher in a field reduced to nine with the scratch of Pool Play.
Forte Dei Marmi ($4.70) banked $90,000 of the $159,100 purse for owner Stella Perdomo. In his first outing since a first-level allowance win last month, Perfect Timber earned $36,000 for owner Charles Fipke.
Even though his horse was the 7-5 second choice in the race, trainer Chad Brown knew the only real chance his Last Gunfighter had to win Saturday's Grade 2 Suburban was if the multiple Grade 1 winner Flat Out was off his game.Looking at Flat Out in the Belmont Park paddock before the race, Brown didn't see anything amiss with the favorite.
"Running against a horse of his quality, as a trainer, I'm observing him to see if there were any chinks in the armor," Brown said. "Bill [Mott] had him dead on today. The horse looked great, he acted good in the paddock, and he ran his ‘A' race."
As he always does at Belmont, Flat Out did run his ‘A' race, sitting a closer-than-usual second early on under Junior Alvarado before pulling away from the field in the stretch to win the Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths at sweaty Belmont Park. Last Gunfighter, who had won his last six races, got up by a nose for second over Fast Falcon. Alpha and the pacesetting Percussion completed the order of finish.
After getting away with an easy lead in winning the Grade 2 Sands Point on Memorial Day, Discreet Marq survived a tough pace battle up front en route to an impressive victory in Thursday's $100,000 Eventail Stakes for New York-bred fillies at Belmont Park.
Under Jose Lezcano, Discreet Marq battled Roses for Romney through a quarter-mile of 22.88 seconds, a half-mile in 45.32, and six furlongs in 1:09.15, yet still had enough left to draw clear and win by 6 1/4 lengths. She ran 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:41.02 and returned $4.70 as the 6-5 favorite.
Adriatic Dream rallied to get second by 1 1/2 lengths over Roses for Romney. Unbelievable Dream and Kelli Got Frosty completed the order of finish in the scratch-reduced field of five.
The win was the fourth from nine starts for Discreet Marq, a 3-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat owned and bred by Patricia Generazio and trained by Christophe Clement.
Switching to the inside at the top of the stretch and closing with determination under Joel Rosario, Waterville Lake Stable's Miss Valentine (Afleet Alex) outdueled Beautiful But Blue in the final furlong to capture the $100,000 Princess Dixie overnight stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares at Belmont on Wednesday.
The winner of three stakes in her last four starts, including the No Reason in her 5-year-old debut on May 10, Miss Valentine came up oddly flat in her most recent start, the 7-furlong Dancing Renee on Big Apple Showcase Day. Returning to her preferred distance of a mile (at which she recorded five prior victories) and reunited with Joel Rosario (her pilot in the No Reason) the chestnut went off slightly favored over Broman homebred Beautiful But Blue at odds of nearly 5-2.
A mare who typically does her best work late, Miss Valentine settled even further back than usual, running next-to-last, 9 lengths off the pace set by longshot Carameaway, who had Beautiful But Blue in pursuit a length behind.
After sharp early splits (22.81, 45.64), Miss Valentine began to make up ground rapidly in the two path and advanced into third in the far turn. Meanwhile, Beautiful But Blue made a two-wide move in the turn to take over the lead.
Stop us if you've heard this one before.
For the second straight Saturday, Bill Mott pulled off a stakes upset with a Juddmonte Farms-owned runner, reprising Close Hatches' shocker over 1-5 Dreaming of Julia in last week's Mother Goose with a similarly decisive triumph by Starformer in the $200,000 New York Stakes.
But while Close Hatches was second choice at 4-1, Starformer ($33.60) was the rank outsider among eight fillies and mares in the New York Stakes, which was her first victory at the Grade 2 level after three previous Grade 3 tallies.
Starformer won the R.G. Dick Memorial, Long Island Invitational, and The Very One in a five-race span from July of last year through February. Bettors, however, were thrown off the scent after she followed a fifth in the Orchid with a last-place finish in the Sheepshead Bay, in which she was beaten 32 lengths on soft turf at odds of 5-2.
Eleven months ago, Flashy American won her maiden while running for a $25,000 claiming tag. Friday night at Prairie Meadows, the much improved 4-year-old filly Flashy American was a dominant winner in a $100,000 Iowa Distaff.
Confidently ridden by Terry Thompson, favored Flashy American ($3.60) came from off the pace and was much the best in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for fillies and mares, crossing the wire 5 1/2 lengths in front. In winning the first stakes of her 19-race career, Flashy American completed the distance in 1:44.64. Magic Hour outfought 24-1 longshot Itsabeautifulthing by a nose for second.
"The race went pretty much the way I thought it would," said Thompson, whose second win on the card brought him to within seven of 3,000 for his career. He added that Ken McPeek, who trains Flashy American for Preston Stables, didn't have a whole lot to say before the race.
One week removed from watching his own heavily favored Royal Delta get upset in a graded stakes at Churchill Downs, trainer Bill Mott turned the tables on another heavy favorite, as Close Hatches rolled to a 7 1/4-length victory over 1-5 shot Dreaming of Julia in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park.
Dreaming of Julia, who got shuffled back to last on the far turn, rallied to get second by a half-length over Marathon Lady. Toasting and Sister State completed the order of finish.
After winning her first three starts, Close Hatches finished seventh in the Kentucky Oaks and second in the Acorn, but Mott felt confident enough to run her back in 26 days against the heavily favored Dreaming of Julia.
"All I know is our filly was doing good, maybe the other filly . . . shot her best race in the Gulfstream Park Oaks," Mott said, referring to Dreaming of Julia's 21 ¾-length win in that race. "One outstanding horse in the race, you don't want to avoid the race, you want to take your chance and run. That's what we did today, and it worked out."
After fighting with her rider early in the race, Maximova had some punch left to knock out Mariel N Kathy in the stretch and win Sunday's $90,000 Bit of Whimsy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a head at Belmont Park.
Mariel N Kathy, who set a tepid pace, held second by a nose over Caroline Thomas, a daughter of the Grade 1-winning mare Bit of Whimsy for whom Sunday's overnight stakes was named. With Sugar On Top, Magnificent Shirl, and Alternative Meds completed the order of finish.
The win was the third in as many starts for Maximova, a New York-bred daughter of Irish-bred stallion Danehill Dancer owned by Gallaghers Stud and trained by Christophe Clement.
Maximova was a bit rank early under Jose Lezcano, who tried to settle Maximova behind horses and behind a pedestrian pace.
Boisterous took the lead in the stretch and held on to win the $200,000 Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday, beating Big Blue Kitten by 1-1/4 lengths.
Trained by Shug McGaughey and ridden by John Velazquez, the 6-year-old ran 1 1/8 miles over a good turf course in 1:48 4-5 and returned $4, $2.40 and $2.20. The win in the Grade 2 race was his 10 in 24 career starts.
Earlier, Brave Dave went wire to-wire to win the $60,000 John McSorley Stakes, beating Perfect Officer by a neck.
Ridden by Elvis Trujillo and trained by Eddie Plesa Jr., the 3-year-old colt ran the 5½ furlongs on the turf course in 1:02 3-5 and paid $14.80, $6.80 and $4.40.
Point of Entry continued his march through the most prestigious turf races in the country on Saturday, circling outside on the far turn to the front and then holding off two determined challengers to win the 112th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.
The 5-year-old Phipps homebred, ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, took the 1 ¼-mile fixture for 3-year-olds and up under top weight of 124 pounds in a time of 2:02.55 over yielding ground.
With the victory, Point of Entry has now won seven of his past eight starts, five of them Grade 1 races, with his only defeat coming by a half-length last November in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Although he had not raced since February 9, when he won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Point of Entry proved fit and ready to run over the deep turf course to the delight of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
"For a horse who's only run one time since last November, carrying 124 pounds, I think it was probably starting to tell on him a little bit the last eighth," McGaughey said. "As I told Johnny [Velazquez] today, ‘It's going to be a grind for this horse today.' Soft turf, 124 pounds, hadn't run but one time last November. I'm very, very proud of what I saw today."
Scatman inspired considerable hope in the Hall of Fame barn of Bill Mott last fall in Kentucky, but the colt and his form went south – literally and figuratively – over the winter.
Back to his Kentucky-loving self, Scatman wore down Jasizzle in the final furlong Saturday for his first career stakes victory in the 25th running of the Grade 3, $106,800 Aristides over a sloppy Churchill Downs track.
Owned by the JEOG Racing of Jim and Ellen O'Grady, Scatman returned $9 as fourth choice in a field of five older horses after finishing the six-furlong distance in 1:10.56. Shaun Bridgmohan, the leading rider at the Churchill spring meet, was aboard.
"I can't really explain it," said Kenny McCarthy, the locally based assistant to Mott. "The owner said the horse just hated Florida. He trained well there but ran bad. He trained great once he got back here, too. I'm just glad to see him run like that."
Our Double Play, in his first start around two turns, put forth a strong effort on the front end and fended off a rallying Bashaar for a 1 1/2-length win in the $60,000 Prairie Mile on Saturday night.
The Churchill Downs shipper, trained by Ken McPeek, went straight to the front under jockey Shane Laviolette and put away his pursuers, Muppet Man and previously undefeated 7-5 favorite Black Bear, on the far turn. Bashaar, who had the length of the stretch to catch Our Double Play after advancing menacingly, was unable to get on even terms while finishing 14 lengths ahead of Black Bear, who held on for third.
Our Double Play ($6.60), a 3-year-old Grand Slam colt who won a seven-furlong allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths on the May 4 Kentucky Derby undercard, earned $36,000 on Saturday for his owners, J C M Racing. Laviolette's win left him just three shy of the 2,000-win milestone for his career going into Sunday's card. The pair covered the distance in 1:36.19 on a fast track.
Discreet Marq came out of her three-quarter-length victory in Monday's Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point Stakes in good order, said trainer Christophe Clement, who added he has not thought ahead to where the 3-year-old filly may run next.
"A mile and a sixteenth on turf, no problem," Clement said. "Would she like to go further? I don't know. She looked in complete control every step of the race, let's see how she trains. Most races are going a mile and a sixteenth."
If Clement wanted to try and stretch Discreet Marq out a little farther, there is the Grade 3, $150,000 Virginia Oaks going 1 1/8 miles at Colonial Downs on July 13.
Perhaps a more logical spot this summer is the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George going 1 1/16 miles at Saratoga on July 24.
Discreet Marq, a New York-bred daughter of Discreet Cat owned and bred by Patricia Generazio, is now 3 for 8 with two stakes wins.
Zucchini Flower and Ruthenia won the $75,000 distaff stakes Sunday before a crowd of 23,317 at Monmouth Park.
Switching to the turf for the Miss Liberty Stakes, Ruthenia got her first win since last year's Grade 3 Violet Stakes here last May.
Jockey Joe Bravo and trainer Christophe Clement, winners last weekend in the Grade 3 Red Bank with Za Approval, were again a potent force in a Monmouth grass stakes.
Ruthenia rallied from eighth to beat Namaskara by a length, denying the Rose-Motion team a sweep of both stakes. Street Secret and Dinner's Out dead-heated for third.
The 3-2 favorite, Ruthenia paid $5 to win. The time was 1:42.08 for the 1 1/16 miles on a course rated "good."
Glorious View became a graded stakes winner in her first try, gamely turning back a stretch-long bid from Fantasy of Flight to register a hard-fought, half-length decision in Saturday's $200,000 Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont Park. Withgreatpleasure finished third.
Glorious View, a 4-year-old daughter of Pleasant Tap, entered the Grade 2 Vagrancy off three consecutive one-sided victories at Aqueduct, all under regular rider Junior Alvarado. Each of those wins came at six furlongs. She stretched out to 6 1/2 furlongs for her stakes debut in the Vagrancy.
Using her inside post position to her advantage, Glorious View broke alertly to quickly strike the front while pressed on the lead by Spectacular Sky, the 118-pound highweight in a field of six older fillies and mares. Glorious View set an honest pace, posting splits of 22.14 and 45.04 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and half-mile, ultimately disposing of Spectacular Sky while leaving the turn.
Za Approval, a gray horse whose hair has gone nearly white, usually is not hard to pick out in a race, but so buried was he in traffic Saturday at Monmouth Park during the Red Bank Stakes that the striking coat was difficult to locate. But, finally extricated from trouble at the top of the stretch, there came Za Approval, running down another light gray horse, Tune Me In, to win the Red Bank in a game performance.
A 5-year-old gelding bred and owned by Live Oak Plantation and trained by Christophe Clement, Za Approval only graduated from allowance-class racing to stakes this past winter at Gulfstream Park, but now he has won back-to-back Grade 3s, having captured the Appleton in his start before the Red Bank.
Za Approval's win in the $100,000 Red Bank might well have been his best performance yet, with the Ghostzapper gelding forced to overcome multiple spots of traffic before finding space to launch a strong rally under Joe Bravo. Tune Me In had put away pacesetting Two Notch Road before turning for home and was clear a furlong from the finish, but he was no match for Za Approval's sharp move.
Waterville Lake Stable's homebred Miss Valentine took over the lead in the final sixteenth to score her seventh career stakes victory in Friday's $90,000 No Reason Stakes for older New York-bred fillies and mares run at one mile over Belmont's main track.
Miss Valentine (Afleet Alex) came into the No Reason after more than five months off with a history of running well fresh for trainer Christophe Clement. The chestnut was also looking for a third consecutive stakes victory, having wound up her 4-year-old season with back-to-back scores in the Chase the Dream and Lottsa Talc Stakes at Aqueduct in November and December.
Reunited for her 5-year-old debut with Kentucky Derby-winning rider Joel Rosario, who had piloted the filly to a runner-up finish behind runaway winner Willet in the Iroquois on Showcase Day last October and to victory in the Chase the Dream, Miss Valentine backed off the early pace set by Harbor Mist (23.86, 47.14) to race in fourth from post four, while Clear Pasaj (Smoke Glacken) pursued the pacesetter two lengths behind in second.
Around the far turn, Miss Valentine moved up into third, advancing steadily as Clear Pasaj took over the lead from Harbor Mist. Angled out three-wide Miss Valentine came under a ride in the stretch, passed Clear Pasaj around the sixteenth marker and edged ahead to get the win by a half-length. Clear Pasaj finished second, keeping a head in front of Lady On the Run, who ran last in the early stages but launched a bid in the turn and closed eagerly on the outside to get third. Erin Enchanted finished fourth, followed by Go Unbridled and Harbor Mist. Fiftyfour Forever was scratched.
There are times when horse racing can produce maddening, inexplicable results, waved away with a shrug and a common refrain, "That's horse racing."
Then there are times when everything comes together as if pre-ordained. The best jockey, on the best horse, prepared by the best trainer, bred by a family that has been competing at the top of racing for generations, wins the Kentucky Derby.
So it was Saturday at Churchill Downs, at the 139th Kentucky Derby, when Orb brought trainer Shug McGaughey, the nation's leading rider, Joel Rosario; and the families of Ogden Phipps and Stuart Janney III their first Derby victory with a convincing, 2 1/2-length win.
Orb ($12.80) went off the tepid favorite, the product of coming into the Derby with a four-race win streak and the positive impression he made all week here at Churchill Downs, including a sharp final workout Monday. Then he went out and ran like he trained.
Over a track rated sloppy after extensive rain earlier in the day, Orb completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.89. The pace was surprisingly fast early – a half-mile in 45.33 seconds, six furlongs in 1:09.80 – and resulted in horses who were well back early sweeping the first three spots.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was concerned when the meet began that the speed-favoring Gulfstream Park surface might not favor a late-running horse like Orb. But the ever-improving Orb put those fears to rest not once, not twice, but three times during the session, culminating a perfect winter in south Florida by rallying to a courageous 2 3/4-length victory over the 8-5 favorite Itsmyluckyday in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby.
Orb also gave jockey John Velazquez his fifth win on the card, four of those victories coming in graded stakes.
Orb, who already had 50 qualifying points by virtue of winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth here last month, earned 100 more for his triumph in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and will head to Churchill Downs as one of the favorites in the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Itsmyluckyday, who entered the race with only 10 points, picked up another 40 for finishing second and is also likely on his way to the Derby. Shanghai Bobby, the reigning 2-year-old champion, finished a tiring fifth and with only 24 points is in jeopardy of not qualifying for the Derby.
Cigar Street thrust himself into the picture in the handicap division while at the same time salvaging what had been up to that point a disappointing day for the Bill Mott barn when he rallied to a two-length victory over Take Charge Indy in Saturday's $100,000 Skip Away at Gulfstream Park. The win was the fourth on the card and third graded stakes tally on the day for jockey John Velazquez.
Cigar Street remained perfect in three starts since being transferred to Mott's barn last season by co-owners Jake Ballis and the Miami Heat's Rashard Lewis. A son of Street Sense, Cigar Street won a pair of allowance races in impressive fashion earlier in the session to earn a berth in the Grade 3 Skip Away.
Cigar Street was forced to race a bit wide around the opening bend of the one mile and three-sixteenths Skip Away while kept within easy striking distance of pacesetter Take Charge Indy. Cigar Street engaged the leader three wide nearing the quarter pole, forged to command in early stretch, and gradually edged away through the final furlong.
Za Approval took advantage of the presence of a fast pace and the absence of Data Link to win Saturday's Grade 2, $100,000 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Saving ground down the backside under Jose Lezcano, Za Approval was guided five wide on the far turn and rallied strongly down the stretch to beat Beaux Choix by two lengths. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to the pacesetting longshot King Kreesa in third.
The win was the fifth from 12 starts for Za Approval, a 5-year-old homebred gelding by Ghostzapper owned and bred by Live Oak Plantation and trained by Christophe Clement.
It was his first stakes win in only his second stakes attempt. He had finished fourth, beaten only two lengths by Data Link in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf last time out.
Irish-bred Amira's Prince moved to the lead around the first turn and never looked back, winning Saturday's $400,000 Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap (GII) by a half-lenth over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Owned by the partnership of Wachtel Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbreds and Gary Barber, the 4-year-old Irish-bred showed his impeccable turf breeding in his Fair Grounds debut. Ridden for the first time by Junior Alvarado, Amira's Prince looked very comfortable over the firm turf, setting the pace through fractions of :25.06, :50.82, 1:15.06 and 1:38.64. The bay colt held off a late charge from Willcox Inn, finishing 1 ½ lengths ahead in a final time of 1:49.76.
One visit to Payson Park and it's easy to see why Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has used the training center located approximately 90 miles north of Gulfstream Park as his major base of operations in south Florida for the past 30 years.
One horse who has enjoyed the wide-open spaces and crisp, clean air at Payson Park as much as any this winter has been Orb. Already virtually assured of a spot in this year's Kentucky Derby field as a result of the 50 points he earned for his victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, Orb will go off among the favorites along with Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby.
With co-owner Dinny Phipps in attendance, Orb had his final tune-up for the Florida Derby on Monday morning at Payson, breezing four furlongs under regular exercise rider Jenn Patterson in 48.89 seconds in company with stablemate Overwhelming. The pair went along as a team through a 24.68-second opening quarter-mile, with Orb asserting his superiority through the final furlong, finishing willingly without the need of any encouragement before galloping out a strong five-eighths in 1:01.29. He barely took a deep breath upon returning to the barn several minutes later, looking fresh, cool, and like he could go right back out and do it all over again.
"I was tickled to death with the work," said McGaughey. "He was just galloping, I thought he galloped out really, really well. I think we're in good shape."
McGaughey said being at Payson has been a big plus for Orb, who he says has grown and gotten even stronger since his victory in the Fountain of Youth.
"I think it's really helped him since he shipped down for the winter," said McGaughey. "I could see the difference the first time we worked him here. And the conditions are so good. It was already 77 degrees and humid when I left home early this morning, and now it's at least 10 degrees cooler with no humidity at all."
Mr Palmer overcame a sluggish start and passed all eight of his opponents in an emphatic victory Saturday in the $100,500 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park in Laurel, Md.
With Junior Alvarado riding for trainer Bill Mott, Mr Palmer prevailed by 3 1/2 lengths after rallying widest of all for the stretch run of the 1 1/8-mile Private Terms. He returned $5.60 as the favorite in a field of nine 3-year-olds after finishing in 1:51.35 over a fast track.
"You've got to get excited about a 3-year-old like this," said Mike Lauffer, who co-owns the son of Pulpit with Gregory McDonald. "We'll try to put this colt on the [Kentucky] Derby and Preakness trail – if he's good enough, you know."
Mr Palmer took six tries to win a maiden race before finally doing so last month at Aqueduct. In the Private Terms, he "broke like a step slow, but I wasn't worried," said Alvarado. "I was just trying to find a clean trip and I had to go a little bit wide. But he's got so much class, when I asked him, he definitely took off. He's a professional."
Unstoppable U overtook pacesetter Hurricane Ike in the stretch and went on to a one-length win in Saturday night's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park. Dreaming Blues rallied for second, with Hurricane Ike holding third in the richest of four stakes on the card.
In the $50,000 Texas Heritage, Departing remained undefeated in three starts in a win that could set him up for an appearance in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby.
Unstoppable U ($15.80) stalked Hurricane Ike through fractions of 23.88 seconds for the opening quarter, 48.48 for the half-mile, and 1:13.68 for six furlongs. Unstoppable U took over through a mile in 1:38.45, then went on to cover the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.96.
"I didn't have to push him, but wanted to get on Hurricane Ike's hip," said Chris Landeros, who rode Unstoppable U for trainer Ken McPeek. "I knew he was the horse to beat."
Trainer Shug McGaughey reported Sunday that Orb exited his stretch-running victory in Saturday's $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park in good order.
"He came back fine. He's at Payson Park – that's where he lives. I was with him when he got on the van (Saturday) night, and he was fine. And they tell me he's fine today."
Orb, who had won an entry-level allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 26, rallied from seventh under John Velazquez to capture his stakes debut with a half-length triumph over previously undefeated Violence, the 3-5 favorite.
Stuart S. Janney III's Kentucky homebred 5-year-old Data Link was sent off the 11-to-10 favorite in a solid field of 10 older horses to run in Saturday's $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park, and proved best, rallying down the outside to score by a length over Joseph Witek's 5-year-old Joes Blazing Aaron in the one mile turf test.
Making his first start since winning the Citation Handicap (G2) at Hollywood Park after shipping to California on Nov. 23, Data Link was ridden by leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano for trainer Shug McGaughey. The son of War Front rallied three-wide in the final turn and appeared to have his rivals measured to the wire.
"He's just a good horse," said McGaughey. "He had to go outside, but he's just better than these horses. We know it'll get tougher for him as we go along. He couldn't have trained any better at Payson (Park) this winter with one good breeze after another.
Looking more powerful than ever, two-time champion Royal Delta tuned up for a possible return trip to the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) with an easy five-length victory in the $98,000 Sabin Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park.
The Sabin was a race Royal Delta lost last year by eight lengths to Awesome Maria, and it was followed by her lackluster ninth-place showing in the World Cup. But trainer Bill Mott warned before this year's Sabin that Besilu Stables' 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker would be a more imposing runner this time around.
Royal Delta was making her first appearance since leading throughout en route to a 1 1/2-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. That victory wrapped up a second Eclipse Award for Royal Delta, who won four of her last five starts in 2012 to be named champion older mare.
Trainer Bill Mott was certainly expected to be a key figure at Gulfstream Park this weekend, considering that he is scheduled to saddle two-time Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta for Sunday's $100,000 Sabin Stakes (G3).
However, the Hall of Fame trainer never relied on just one horse – not even two-time Horse of the Year Cigar – to achieve success.
While Royal Delta's 2013 debut promises to be an electrifying occasion Sunday, Mott enjoyed a pretty exciting day at Gulfstream on Saturday, saddling three impressive winners on the card, including Amira's Prince, who captured the $150,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) by 3 ¾ lengths.
After saddling Starformer ($5) for a 3 ¼ -length victory in the $100,000 The Very One (G3) and Emollient ($3) for a ¾ - length triumph in an allowance race earlier on the card, Mott visited the Gulfstream Park winner's circle with Amira's Prince ($5.40) for his third victory in three starts during the current meeting. The Irish-bred 4-year-old colt had previously raced in Europe before Mott's longtime client Adam Wachtel invested in a partnership that includes Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber.
Juddmonte Farm's 5-year-old Kentucky homebred mare Starformer, making her first start since a wire-to-wire victory in the Long Island Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct in November, was much the best Saturday scoring a 3 1/4 lengths victory over Angegreen in the $100,000 The Very One (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Ridden by Edgar Prado for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Starformer, the 3-2 favorite, took a comfortable stalking position in third early in the race run over ground rated ‘good' until swinging out around the leaders in the upper stretch before drawing clear in the field of eight fillies and mares.
A daughter of Dynaformer, Starformer began her career in France winning one of three starts as a 3-year-old in 2011 before being sent to Mott that summer. She hit her best stride last year with three wins and two seconds in seven starts, including her first Graded stakes score in the 11-furlong R.G. Dick Memorial (G3) at Delaware Park in mid-July.
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom put on the show everybody had been waiting for in Saturday's $300,000 Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.
With jockey John Velazquez riding a patient and tactically perfect race, Point of Entry hooked up with Animal Kingdom on the final turn then gradually edged clear of the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner in late stretch, ultimately posting a 1 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Turf. Unbridled Command rallied mildly to finish third.
Both Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom were making their first starts since suffering unlucky setbacks within 80 minutes of one another on Breeders' Cup Day. Point of Entry finished second behind Little Mike in the BC Turf after encountering some traffic issues along the way, while Animal Kingdom suffered the same fate as the runner-up to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the BC Mile.
"When I started here 20 years ago I was all about a mile and one-half. Now I'm five furlongs in 54. That's what America has done to me."
So quipped trainer Christophe Clement with a smile on his face moments after his turf sprint specialist Varsity led from start to finish and completed five-eighths of a mile in 54.17 seconds to capture the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on Saturday.
Varsity, a 6-year-old homebred son of Indian Charlie owned by Bertram and Diana Firestone, broke alertly from the rail under regular rider Joe Bravo and never looked back. Varsity discouraged an early challenge from Silver Cloud before edging well clear at midstretch, then held safe Something Extra to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths. Great Attack, the 8-5 favorite in a field of six, finished a similar margin back in third.
In the 30th running of the Grade III, $150,000 Florida Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, Besilu Stables' chestnut beauty Tapicat lived up to her 9-10 odds, taking the lead quickly after the start and winning virtually uncontested by two-and-three-quarter lengths from Kitten's Dumplings. Wave Theory was third and supplemental entry Rusty Slipper fourth.
This was the third running of the Florida Oaks on the turf, and Tapicat's time of 1:39.78 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth was a stakes record and only .13 seconds off Legs Galore's previous track record of 1:39.65. Joel Rosario rode the winner, who won her third consecutive race on the turf and first in stakes company.
Tapicat, a daughter of Tapit-Zealous Cat, by Storm Cat, trained by Hall of Fame conditioner William Mott, was bred in Kentucky by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Gainesway Thoroughbreds. Besilu Stables owner Benjamin Leon, best known as the owner of Royal Delta, purchased Tapicat as a 2011 Keeneland September yearling for $725,000.
What was billed as a two-horse race turned into a one-sided victory for Ron the Greek, who cruised to a decisive 11 1/4-length triumph over Cash Rules in Saturday's $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic. Mucho Macho Man, the defending champ and 1-5 favorite in the Classic, stopped abruptly after racing forwardly for six furlongs and was ultimately eased to the wire by jockey Mike Smith.
Ron the Greek, who finished second behind Mucho Macho Man in the 2012 edition of the Sunshine Millions Classic, had not started since finishing a distant fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. But he returned fit and ready for a peak performance Saturday.
Racing closer to the pace than even trainer Bill Mott expected, Ron the Greek launched his bid just inside Cash Rules on the second turn, readily pulled away from that rival leaving the quarter pole, and then steadily extended his advantage under jockey Jose Lezcano. Cash Rules was easily second best, finishing two lengths clear of the tiring Fort Loudon.
Nicole H and Arena Elvira, a pair of odds-on favorites, kicked off the new year at Aqueduct with victories Tuesday in $75,000 stakes for fillies and mares.
Nicole H, the 1-5 choice, took the six-furlong Interborough for a third-straight year. Ramon Dominguez rode for trainer Mike Hushion as the 6-year-old improved to 5 for 5 over Aqueduct's winterized inner track. Nicole H beat Mildly Offensive by 1¼ lengths, paying $2.70 to win. The time was 1:11.01.
Arena Elvira, another 6-year-old, beat R Gypsy Gold by a neck at 3-5 in the four-horse Ladies Handicap. Junior Alvarado was aboard for trainer Bill Mott as she ran in the 1 1-8 miles in 1:51.53, paying $3.40 with her ninth victory in 17 starts.
Supplemented late at a total cost of $20,000, Pure Fun became a Grade I winner Saturday, rallying strongly in the final quarter of a mile to take the $500,000 Hollywood Starlet at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The 6-1 surprise came about 90 minutes after Lady of Fifty earned her first graded win in the $200,000 Bayakoa Stakes.
Trained by Ken McPeek for his family's Magdalena Racing, Pure Fun, a 2-year-old daughter of Pure Prize and the Key to the Mint mare Chelsea Green, was behind all seven of her opponents approaching the stretch.
Racing in the clear under jockey Garrett Gomez, the chestnut, who was making her first start outside Kentucky and first over a synthetic surface, quickly made up much ground, ultimately collaring pacesetter Blonde Fog with about a sixteenth of a mile to go.
Miss Valentine, who won for the seventh time in 18 career starts, was one of three winners on the program ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. She covered six furlongs in 1:11.38 and returned $3.80.
It was one of two winners on the day for trainer Christophe Clement, who also won the nightcap with Yes It's Ink.
Miss Valentine, a 4-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex, is owned by her breeder Waterville Lake Stables.
There were nine winning tickets sold on Sunday's pick six at Aqueduct, each worth $24,593.
Canadian champion Fifty Proof made a triumphant return to the races from a 16-month layoff Sunday at Woodbine, winning the $126,600 Sir Barton Stakes in front-running style under Justin Stein.
Trained by Ian Black, Fifty Proof set fractions of 24.39 and 48.38 seconds in the 1 1/16-mile event for Ontario-sired stock. He opened up a comfortable lead early in the stretch, before coasting home on top by a1 ¼ lengths, in 1:43.46. Bobcaygeon finished third in the 12-horse field.
Fifty Proof, last year's champion older runner in Canada, returned $5.50 as the favorite and banked $75,000 for the partnership of Kinghaven Farm, John Fielding, and Ben Hutzel.
The long drive up the turnpike from Calder Race Course to Payson Park didn't seem quite so bad on Friday night for trainer Philip Oliver – not after his 19-1 Closing Range had led throughout several hours earlier to upset the La Prevoyante Handicap for the first graded stakes win of her still young career.
Closing Range, a 3-year-old daughter of After Market, was allowed to set a relatively slow pace in the 1 1/2-mile La Prevoyante under jockey Elvis Trujillo, then had plenty left to register a 2 1/4-length victory over Ciao Bella, with Havant checking home third as the 4-5 favorite. The win was the fourth in just six starts for Closing Range, who was stretching beyond nine furlongs for the first time on Friday.
"I thought she'd run well. The question mark was the distance," Oliver said by phone from Payson Park on Saturday morning. "But I figured she'd handle three turns the way she had been galloping out in her previous races, since the outrider had to pick her up every time."
Philly Ace reeled in Hollinger in deep stretch to score a half-length victory in the $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Race Course.
The victory was the first graded stakes win for the 4-year-old gelded son of Smart Strike, who races as a home bred for Brushwood Stable.
Philly Ace, who entered the race off a third-place finish to Boisterous in the Red Smith Handicap (gr. II), was rated in mid-pack throughout much of the race by jockey Luis Saez. As the field entered the homestretch, Saez moved Philly Ace off the hedge and into the clear on the outside, and the gelding charged past longtime leader Hollinger for the victory.
Hollinger held on for second, with Empire Builder finishing third. Final time for the nine furlongs was 1:49.1 over the firm turf course.
Data Link had a perfect trip under red-hot jockey Garrett Gomez to win Saturday's $250,000 Citation Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park, the ideal finish to an already successful 2012 campaign for the 4-year-old colt.
The second choice in the betting, Data Link ($7) closed from fourth in a field of seven to win by a convincing 2 1/4 lengths over pacesetter, and 2-1 favorite, Ultimate Eagle. Doubles Partner finished third.
Gomez, who had four wins on Friday's 10-race program, brought Data Link to the outside in early stretch and got a quick response.
"When I said go, he said, how fast?" Gomez joked after the race.
Data Link ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:41. Owned by Stuart Janney III and trained by Shug McGaughey, Data Link won three stakes in 2012 – including the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes in June.
Among the attractions on an excellent Friday undercard is the $65,000 Dream Supreme, an overnight stakes slotted as the second of 12 races. Salty Strike, a winner in 4 of 8 starts this year, looks like the horse to beat in a field of seven fillies and mares going six furlongs.
"This looks like a really good spot for her," said trainer Ken McPeek. "She didn't run as well as we thought she would" when finishing third as the favorite in the Grade 2 Chilukki nearly three weeks ago, "but overall she's had a great year, and she loves Churchill."
Indeed, in eight career starts here, Salty Strike has posted 5 wins and 2 thirds.
Salty Strike will have Victor Lebron aboard when she breaks from post 4. Her chief threat could be Cheery, an up-and-coming 3-year-old seeking her fourth straight victory. Cheery, trained by the red-hot Al Stall Jr., will start from the outside post with Shaun Bridgmohan riding.
Nipissing, the 1-10 favorite, extended her unbeaten record to four races Sunday at Woodbine with an easy score in the $125,000 South Ocean Stakes.
Nipissing raced on the outside in third on the backstretch, as Seeking Toussaud set honest fractions in the 1 1/16-mile route for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.
Nipissing hit the front at the quarter pole, and then gradually drew away to prevail by four lengths over Otonabee, who like Nipissing, is owned by Chiefswood Stable. Dancing Bay finished third in the five-horse field.
Steve Bahen got a leg up from trainer Rachel Halden on Nipissing, who covered the distance in 1:45.79.
"She's always done everything I've asked her to do," said Halden. "She's just been a great filly to be around—very straightforward and uncomplicated. She's just a pleasure."
Seal Cove wins the If Winter Comes stakes race at Aqueduct for Trainer Shug McGaughey. View the full race results by following the lonk below.
Miss Valentine rallied from last to beat Beautiful But Blue, the 6-5 favorite, by 11/4 lengths on Friday in the $78,400 Chase the Dream Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares at Aqueduct.
Joel Rosario guided the 4-year-old trained by Christophe Clement to her sixth win in 17 starts. The time was 1:39 for the mile on the fast track.
Miss Valentine paid $7.40, $3.10 and $2.10. Beautiful But Blue returned $2.40 and $2.10 while Opus A paid $2.10 to show.
Maneuvered from her rail post to the middle of the snow-softened turf by Edgar Prado, Starformer set up shop in the four path and fended off all challenges to win Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct by a neck over Mystical Star.
Prado, a 2008 Hall of Fame inductee, took Starformer well off the inside soon after the start of the three-turn race, and was clear by a length or so while prompted by an even-wider Hit It Rich, the 2011 Long Island winner.
Starformer continued well out from the rail passing the stands for the first time, and got a breather through a second quarter-mile in a slow 27.10 seconds. From there, she dispensed three progressively faster quarters of 25.76, 25.04, and 24.58 seconds, and had sufficient reserves in the final furlong to repel Mystical Star and Aigue Marine, as Aigue Marine finished fastest of all in her United States debut to nose out Tannery for third.
Hit It Rich, Senada, Kissable and The West Rim completed the order of finish.
In yet another of the many spectacular performances in her career, the 4-year-old champion filly Royal Delta took command at the start of yesterday's Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and led all the way under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to win by 1 3/4 lengths over My Miss Aurelia before a crowd of 34,619 under sunny skies at Santa Anita.
Her victory concluded a pick-6 payout of $773,865 for one winning ticket that cost $288, placed through Xpressbet.
For Smith, who won the 2008 Ladies' Classic and 2009 Classic at Santa Anita aboard Zenyatta, it was his record 16th win in the Breeders' Cup, breaking a tie with retired Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey.
Royal Delta became the first back-to-back winner of the Ladies' Classic (formerly the Distaff) since Bayakoa in 1989-1990. The daughter of Empire Maker won last year's race at Churchill Downs by 2 1/2 lengths, and sold at auction after that race for $8.5 million to new owner Benjamin Leon. This year, she boasted scores in the Fleur de Lis, Delaware Handicap and Beldame.
Boisterous, who notched the first graded stakes victories of his career in the Knickerbocker Stakes and Red Smith Handicap last fall, completed a sweep of those races for a second straight year with a decisive triumph in Saturday's Grade 2 Red Smith at Aqueduct.
Toting top weight of 122 pounds, and conceding as much as seven pounds to five rivals, Boisterous ($2.70) rated patiently through the early stages as Bombaguia set moderate fractions while pressured by Westside Corral.
Boisterous, ridden by Edgar Prado, angled three wide and quickly pounced on the leaders coming off the third and final turn, briefly felt a challenge from Lake Drop a furlong out, and was widening his advantage again at the finish to score by three lengths.
"That horse ran huge," said Prado. "He showed up one more time and did it pretty easily. He was in control of the race most of the way. I eased him out, and when I turned him loose he leveled off."
Boisterous, who has posted all six of his stakes victories on non-firm turf, ran 1 3/8 miles in 2:19.38 seconds on a course labeled yielding. A Phipps Stable homebred, he earned $120,000and improved to 9-1-2 from 21 career starts for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Smart Sting ($9.70) came charging on the outside from mid-pack to take the $183,000 Maple Leaf Stakes under Eurico Da Silva at Woodbine on Saturday.
Moonlit Beauty set lively fractions on a clear lead in the 10-furlong route for fillies and mares, with second choice Stars to Shine in close proximity. Smart Sting bided here time early before closing strongly in the lane to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths, in 2:03.77.
Moonlit Beauty dug in gamely to hold off Moment of Majesty for third. Favored Dixie Strike checked in seventh in a field that was reduced to eight with the scratches of Lacara and Sky High Lady.
"She was in top shape, and very relaxed," said Da Silva. "She did everything right. She ran very well."
Trainer Roger Attfield said after the race that it might be the last start for Smart Sting, who earned $105,000 for Stronach Stable.
Nipissing, a long-striding daughter of the late Queen's Plate champion Niigon, got up in the final stride to defeat Strut the Course in the $250,800 Princess Elizabeth Stakes, at Woodbine.
The Chiefswood Stable homebred, trained by Rachel Halden and ridden to victory by Steve Bahen, maintained her perfect record in 2012 with a late run to take the 1 1/16-mile 'Poly' route.
Crysta's Court led the field through sharp splits of :24.63 and :49.21 with Smartfly watching from second position and Nipissing stalking from fourth.
James Karp's Newsdad closed from seventh in a field of 10 at the head of the stretch to wear down Take Charge Indy and win the 55th running of the $150,000 Fayette (G2) by two lengths over Nikki's Sandcastle before a closing-day crowd of 14,737 at Keeneland on Saturday.
Newsdad was ridden to victory by Julien Leparoux, who became the first jockey in the history of the race to win in three consecutive years. Leparoux won on Successful Dan in 2010 and Wise Dan in 2011.
The victory was the second in the Fayette for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who saddled Go Between to win the 2007 renewal.
Something Extra held off a surging Court of the Realm to take the $100,200 Mt. Sassafras, the first of two overnight stakes at Woodbine on Saturday.
Something Extra ($8.10) led all the way in the seven-furlong sprint, setting fractions of 22.65 and 44.64 seconds. He prevailed by three-quarters of a length, in a time of 1:22.22, over a Polytrack that took considerable rain throughout the day. Run to the Bank rallied for third in the six-horse field, while favored Big Band Sound faded to fifth after tracking Something Extra on the backstretch.
Eurico Da Silva rode Something Extra, who earned $60,000 for the partnership of John Menary and trainer Gail Cox.
Future Generation took charge on the turn and pulled away to a 5 3/4-length victory over Much Rejoicing on Thursday in the $80,000 Serena's Cat Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf.
Ramon Dominguez was aboard for trainer Christophe Clement as the Irish bred 4-year-old earned her sixth win in 13 starts. The time was 1:23.50 for the seven furlongs on the course rated good.
Future Generation paid $3.90, $2.80 and $2.30. Much Rejoicing returned $10 and $4.70, and Whipsaw City paid $2.40 to show.
Odds-on favorite Lunar Victory outkicked a game Saratoga Snacks in a dramatic stretch duel and hit the wire 1 ¼ lengths in front to take Saturday's $250,000 Empire Classic, the centerpiece of New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park.
Carrying the colors of Juddmonte Farms – which earlier in the day at Ascot Racecourse saw its homebred Frankel close out his career with a perfect 14-for-14 record – Lunar Victory raced in midpack as Saratoga Snacks carried the field of eight New York-breds through an opening half mile in 46.61 seconds. The 5-year-old son of Speightstown drew alongside the pacesetter on the turn and the two straightened for home in tandem, with Lunar Victory prevailing after a spirited tussle to the final sixteenth.
"[Lunar Victory] broke really good and then I just tried to settle him down and relax because I knew there would be a little speed in the race," said winning jockey Junior Alvarado. "He has so much class, though, turning for home I just tried to stay away from [Saratoga Snacks] and he gave me a nice kick at the end."
Lunar Victory's time for the 1 1/8-mile race was 1:49.70 over the "good" main track as he extended his American record to 6-2-0 in eight starts for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who earned his first victory in the race, one of seven stakes on the card for New York-breds.
Rebounding in a big way from an uncharacteristically dull effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Hymn Book ($3.50) responded to a drop in class with an easy victory in Friday's Frank "Pancho" Martin stakes, an overnight stakes worth $80,750 after two late scratches whittled the field to four.
Hymn Book took his customary spot at the back soon after the start, as the import Xin Xu Lin set early fractions of 22.67 and 45.56 seconds over the sloppy track, while pressed by Rule and Small Town.
Rule wrested the lead around the turn, but Hymn Book swung to the middle of the track while quickly gathering momentum, and surged past his three rivals easily through the upper stretch under Joel Rosario.
Hymn Book widened the lead with every stride under a hand ride, winning by 5 3/4 lengths after 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.31 in a sea of slop.
Hymn Book, who has never won on a fast track, was notching his first victory for trainer Shug McGaughey since the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 11. He improved to 5-0-1 from seven starts on wet tracks overall, and earned $51,000 for owner-breeder Stuart S. Janney III.
The recipient of a patient ride by Jose Lezcano, Boisterous rallied from next-to-last to win Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Knickerbocker Stakes by two lengths at Belmont Park.
It was the second straight year that Boisterous won the Knickerbocker, making him the third horse to win the race in consecutive years. Charge d'Affaries (1999-2000) and Shady Character (1974-75) were the others. Boisterous, like Shady Character, is owned by the Phipps family.
Boisterous, a 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor trained by Shug McGaughey, won for the eighth time in 20 starts. He is now 5 for 8 over the turf courses at Belmont Park. Two of his losses here were third-place finishes in Grade 1 races.
Salty Strike was kept mid-pack early by jockey Victor Lebron before rallying into the stretch and drawing off to win the $105,000 Mari Hulman George Stakes at Hoosier Park on Saturday. The Hillsdale was one of 10 stakes on the best card of the Hoosier meet, which was topped by the Indiana Derby.
Trained by Ken McPeek, Salty Strike won by a length and a half and ran the mile and a sixteenth in 1.43.14 over a good track. Brushed by a Star was second and Action Lady was third. Salty Strike returned $7.80 to win.
* Hurricane Ike prompted the early pace from the outside under jockey Terry Thompson to upper stretch before drawing off to win the $104,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial. Trained by Michael Stidham, Hurricane Ike ran the mile in 1.36.76 over a good track. Good Lord was second and post time favorite Hoorahforhollywood was third. Hurricane Ike returned $18.60 to win.
The $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) is a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Turf. A field of 6 older horses contested this 1 1/2 mile trip over Belmont Park's Widener Turf Course, with Point of Entry sent off as the 3-4 favorite off a four race winning streak including the Man O'War (G1) and Sword Dancer (G1). In to challenge him included 2-1 second choice Little Mike, winner of the Arlington Million last out, and 9-2 third choice Treasure Beach, 6th in the Arlington Million (G1) and winless since the 2011 Secretariat (G1).
Point of Entry leads down the stretch Jockey Ramon Dominguez sent Little Mike to the lead first time by and he set easy fractions of 25.70, 51.99, and 1:18.16 while pressed by Treasure Beach and Point of Entry. With 4 furlongs to go, Jamie Spencer sent Treasure Beach to the front through 1 mile in 1:43.67 and 10 furlongs in 2:08.29. At the 3/16 pole Point of Entry moved out for room and rallied, passing Treasure Beach with a furlong to go, winning by 1 3/4 lengths in 2:33.73 over the yielding course. It was a long 2 1/2 lengths back to 24-1 Kindergarden Kid third.
Royal Delta blew It's Tricky away in the $400,000 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park Sept. 29, drawing off to a 9 1/2-length victory under wraps.
Jockey Mike Smith perched quiet in the irons as the champion filly ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.80, dominating four other runners with an impressive display of talent while geared down the final sixteenth of a mile. She recovered from a runner-up finish in the Aug. 26 Personal Ensign at Saratoga Race Course to register her third victory from six starts in 2012 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and owner Benjamin Leon Jr.'s Besilu Stable.
"It's nice to win the race and turn it around a little bit," said Mott, who previously ran second in three editions of the Beldame with three Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winners, including Royal Delta in 2011. "I'm glad for Royal Delta; she got beat last time, came back, and avenged that loss today. She ran a super race -- broke well, took it to the horse on the lead and she was much the best today. Just a very impressive performance."
The $1 million TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (G1) is a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Classic and the highlight of the Belmont Park fall meeting. Just 8,639 fans came out on Saturday under overcast skies and temperatures in the mid 60's Whitney Handicap (G1) winner Fort Larned sent off as the 5-2 favorite in this 1 1/4 mile main track feature, over 3-1 second choice Ron the Greek, second in the Whitney after winning the Stephen Foster (G1), and 7-2 third choice and defending champion Flat Out, third in the Whitney last out.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez sent 11-1 Stay Thirsty to the lead and he set fractions of 23.49, 47.21, and 1:11.96 over the good track while stalked by 14-1 San Pablo and 35-1 Ruler on Ice. Entering the stretch, Ruler on Ice was eased as Stay Thirsty continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:36.41.
The first stakes race on Saturday was the $100,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap for older Pennsylvania-breds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Philly Ace, second in the Robellino Stakes at Penn National last out, was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the field of 8 over 3-1 Roadhog, winner of the Robellino, and 6-1 Winchill, fourth in the Lyman Handicap at Parx.
Jockey Stewart Elliott sent Winchill to the lead immediately and he set fractions of 25.78, 51.23, and 1:15.02 over the good course while pressed by 9-1 Sir Cadian to his outside. Into the stretch Winchill tired allowing Sir Cadian to inherit a short lead, but Philly Ace closed from 5th and held off late-running Roadhog by a nose for the win in 1:45.05. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Sir Cadian third.
Edward Cox Jr.'s Naples Bay rallied to the lead in midstretch and easily withstood the late rally of favored Dealbata in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont Park, registering her first stakes victory with a 1 1/2-length decision. She was overlooked at 13-1 odds among nine rivals, returning payouts of $28, $10.20 and $5.90, and Jose Lezcano had the mount for trainer Christophe Clement.
By leading sire Giant's Causeway, Naples Bay possesses a regal pedigree. The four-year-old is out of the stakes-winning Bailjumper mare Cappucino Bay, making her a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner and renowned sire Medaglia d' Oro, and Naples Bay sold for $350,000 as a weanling at the 2008 Keeneland November sale. The dark bay found little success from her first four stakes attempts, her lone placing coming as a third in last year's Dauphin Miss at Penn National, but the improving filly entered the Noble Damsel off a 4 1/4-length allowance thrashing at Monmouth Park and has now earned $210,170 from a 10-4-1-1 career record.
"I thought she was very impressive in the allowance at Monmouth, and I've got an owner (Edward Cox) who's got a very strong character," Clement said. "More often than not he's right, and he told me to think about this race and he was absolutely right. She's a bit tougher now (as a four-year-old), and also we got to know the filly better. We slightly under-train her now compared to what we used to do. She got better, without a doubt, with age."
Stormy Lord proved too classy for his rivals as he successfully defended his title in the $250,000 PTHA President's Cup, a race that was marred by a three-horse spill on the turf at Philadelphia's Parx Racing Sept. 15.
Stormy Lord, rated in third by James McAleney while about three lengths off the pace, avoided the trouble while racing three paths wide. He launched his bid on pacesetter Kara's Orientation and 5-2 favorite Cantonic midway on the far turn and quickly drew off in the stretch. Stormy Lord held sway by 2 3/4 lengths under mild handling.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event over a "good" turf course was 1:53 flat.
Lubash vaulted to the head of the class in the New York-bred turf male division with a head victory over defending statebred turf champion Compliance Officer in Sunday's $150,000 Ashley T. Cole Stakes at Belmont Park.
The win came 24 days after Lubash won the West Point Stakes at Saratoga, also defeating Compliance Officer, who has now lost three consecutive races after winning the Kingston Stakes in May.
Lubash's versatility has been key to his success this year. In the West Point, he rallied from last. Sunday, he was sitting second, albeit six lengths off the pacesetting Abilio, through pedestrian fractions of 26.52 seconds for the quarter, 51.57 for the half, and 1:16.50 for six furlongs over a yielding inner turf.
Lubash, under Jose Lezcano, poked his head in front at the quarter pole and outsprinted Compliance Officer to the wire. Street Game, who was kept off the pace by Ramon Dominguez, rallied to get third.
Ill-fated Widden Stud shuttler War Pass (USA) posted his first stakes-winner on the weekend when two year-old colt Java's War captured the $150,000 Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs.
Trained by Kenny McPeek, Java's War finished on strongly to beat the Big Brown colt Brown Almighty by a neck in the one mile contest on turf, his overall record now two wins from three starts.
A homebred for Charles Fipke, Java's War is a half-brother to stakes-placed Coffee Bar and is one of four winners from the Rainbow Quest mare Java, a full sister to dual Group I winner and Champion Turf Filly Fiji.
A Champion 2YO and Breeders Cup Juvenile winner, War Pass is the sire of three winners from his first US crop with Java's War the first stakes-winner.
Favored Air Support caught front-running Bombaguia in the final yards and got his head in front at the wire to win Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Bowling Green Handicap, the opening-day feature for Belmont Park's 37-day fall meet.
The 4-year-old Smart Strike colt, ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, tucked in third along the rail as Bombaguia led the tightly grouped field of five through an opening quarter-mile in 26.06 seconds, with the half going in 50.55 and three quarters in 1:14.90. Tipped to the outside as they straightened for home, Air Support caught up with the pacesetter inside the eighth pole and prevailed only after a tough battle to the wire.
"Behind the horses, I'm thinking ‘Oh, he's going to win easy.' Pull him out, ‘Oh, I guess not.' Big surprise!" said Velazquez. "He's competitive, definitely competitive; he just needs to put everything together on his way though."
At an age when most top-level thoroughbreds these days are either retired or winding down their careers, Hit It Rich continues to race in peak form. The 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, who has run big in six straight graded stakes, showed she may be ready for the next level Monday with a professional, front-running score in the $150,000 Grade 3 Glens Falls Stakes.
It was the third graded victory for the Stuart S. Janney III homebred, whose five turf wins have been at distances from 8 1/2 to 12 furlongs. All five have also come when Hit It Rich was either on or just off the pace.
"The game plan was if she could have the lead, it's perfect; if we have a target, that's fine too," said winning trainer Shug McGaughey. "[Jockey] Javier [Castellano] said she broke good, was relaxed, and they kind of gave him the lead even though [Bizzy Caroline] was sitting on her. When she came by me the first time, she was just galloping along, so that was fine with me."
Hit It Rich had no trouble making the front from her inside post but was unable to establish much distance between herself and Bizzy Caroline, who settled into a stalking position a length back in second, occasionally moving up alongside to apply extra pressure.
On a cool, comfortable summer day, To Honor and Serve found himself back in the winner's circle after holding off odds-on choice Mucho Macho Man to take the Grade I Woodward Stakes by a neck Saturday.
It was quite the contrast to when he last ran on July 7 in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park, when he finished fourth to Mucho Macho Man on a hot, sultry day, beaten by almost eight lengths.
"It was better," trainer Bill Mott said. "He got a little frantic the other day. It seemed like he was very agitated with the heat. It was a 97, almost 100-degree day, and I barely made it through the paddock procession myself."
It was just the second win of the year from four starts for the 4-year-old colt, who earlier won the Grade III Westchester Handicap.
"I knew he had it in him," said the Hall of Fame trainer. "He's been training well. He's a sound horse and there was no reason for him not to. I think he just threw a real stinker, but he did come back today and proved that he's a pretty darn good horse."
Dead heat! For the first time in the 143-year history of the storied Travers Stakes, two horses had their photos snapped at the exact same moment yesterday as 33-1 shot Golden Ticket, after slipping through up the rail under David Cohen to take the lead in the stretch, was overtaken by 2-1 favorite Alpha, Ramon Dominguez up, in the final strides of the 1 1/4-mile classic. But then Golden Ticket came right back at him as their noses bobbed on the finish line before a pumped-up crowd of 46,528.
Repeated viewings of the slow-motion replay were inconclusive. Finally, 2:02.74 minutes after the gates opened, not even the photo-finish camera could separate them. The New York Racing Association will have to get a second canoe, traditionally painted with the colors of the winning owner, for the infield lake as Golden Ticket and Alpha were both declared the official winners of the $1 million "Midsummer Derby."
"At the wire, it was too close to call," said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Alpha for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing. "I said ‘We'll take a dead-heat.' It was a great race. We thought he would run well, and he did.
"It's a dead-heat, but it goes in the ‘W' column. I'm wondering who gets the canoe, how they're going to paint it. That's very important at this time."
Trainer Roger Attfield took his time with Forte dei Marmi after the 6-year-old gelding finished sixth when traveling to Virginia for the 1 3/16-mile Colonial Turf Cup on June 16. On Sunday, Attfield's patience paid major dividends as Forte dei Marmi rallied to score by three-quarters of a length here in the Grade 2, $264,000 Sky Classic over 1 1/4 miles on the turf course.
"It all worked out nicely," Attfield said after watching Forte dei Marmi record the biggest win of his career with Alex Solis aboard for the first time. "I thought I had him back the way I had him in the spring. He ran his last couple of races on really brick-hard grass, and he didn't have a good experience in Virginia, so I freshened him up."
The Grade 1, $500,000 Northern Dancer at 1 1/2 miles here Sept. 16 is the next open turf stakes here for older males, and Attfield thinks the distance is within Forte dei Marmi's scope. But the owners of Forte dei Marmi have Musketier for that race, so Forte dei Marmi will run next in a spot to be determined, Attfield said.
When Point of Entry finished fourth in the Curlin Stakes on the Saratoga main track last summer, trainer Shug McGaughey decided it was time for the Phipps Stable homebred to make the permanent switch to grass.
"I thought he was a grass horse; I was just taking a shot," McGaughey said of the Curlin experiment. "If he'd run good, it might have given us a Travers horse. But he just ran O.K. so we went to the turf."
The rest, as they say, is history. Since the change of surface, Point of Entry has won 5-of-6 starts, including the last four in a row. The most recent victory came Saturday in the $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational when the son of Dynaformer, sent off as the 7-5 favorite, overpowered a solid field of older turfers to win the Grade 1 co-feature by four widening lengths.
Lady Cohiba rebounded from a seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Go for Wand Stakes at Delaware Park in June by running down Moment in Dixie inside the sixteenth pole to take Friday's $98,000 Summer Guest Stakes.
Moment in Dixie held second by 2 1/4 lengths over Harbor Mist. Ciao Bella, the 4-5 favorite, finished fourth.
Sent off the longest shot on the board in the five-horse field, Lady Cohiba returned $29.80 to win.
After attempting to make an early inside move down the backside aboard Lady Cohiba, Joel Rosario backed his filly up and circled wide in the stretch to run down Moment in Dixie, who had wrested the lead from pacesetting Harbor Mist.
Lady Cohiba, a daughter of Broken Vow owned by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation and trained by Christophe Clement, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.66.
Following a brief downpour late Thursday afternoon while the horses were being saddled for this year's renewal of Saratoga's $150,000 West Point presented by Trustco Bank, a double rainbow shone on Lubash (Freud) in the Saratoga winner's circle after he snapped a ten-race winless streak with an eye-catching last-to-first effort for trainer Christophe Clement.
Making his third start for the Clement barn, Aliyu Ben J Stable's Lubash has already been knocking on the door this year, running a close-up second in the Kingston on May 27 at Belmont to New York turf champion Compliance Officer, who was defending his West Point title on Thursday, and in his prior start, finishing only 1 3/4 lengths behind Get Serious in a lightning fast edition of the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth Park.
Jockey Joe Bravo and trainer Christophe Clement connected again at Monmouth Park, winning this time with Funfair in the $60,000 Colleen Stakes on Sunday.
The Bravo-Clement tandem is 6-1-1 in 10 starts at the meet. This was one of their easiest scores.
Funfair, the 3-5 favorite of the crowd of 13,751, rolled to a 3 1/4 length win over I Am Discreet in the five-furlong turf dash for 2-year-old fillies. The time was 56.68 over the course rated firm.
Those two hooked up right from the start with I Am Discreet taking the lead and Funfair stalking every step. Funfair took off in the lane when Bravo gave the signal.
"You got to be impressed with today's effort," said Bravo following the Colleen, his third win on the card. "That was gorgeous. I never did anything."
Funfair is unbeaten in two starts, having won her initial outing at Belmont Park by an almost identical margin, 3 1/2 lengths.
Salty Strike shook off a sustained bid from Joyful Victory before edging away for a 1 1/4-length triumph Saturday in the 31st running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Gardenia Stakes, the only graded race of the year at Ellis Park.
With Victor Lebron riding for trainer Ken McPeek, Salty Strike led throughout the one-mile race, returning $8.60 to win as co-second choice after finishing in 1:36.81 over a fast main track. Joyful Victory, the 7-5 favorite, had every opportunity but just couldn't get past, settling for second, another five lengths before 21-1 shot Ridgester in a field of nine fillies and mares. Holiday Soiree was fourth, while Sassy Image, the co-second choice at 3-1, was never close when finishing sixth after a stumbling start.
Salty Strike "broke really good," said Lebron. "After I shook her up a little at the quarter pole, I reached up and grabbed her and I said, ‘Let's wait ‘til I need you a little more.' At the eighth pole, I shook her up again, and I knew we were home free."
When a vintage summer storm hit Saratoga on Sunday evening, there was at least one person in town thrilled to hear the raindrops.
"That rain was music to our ears last night," said Three Chimneys Racing's Robert Clay. "Our filly likes the soft ground."
Kissable, owned by Three Chimneys Racing and Trevor Harris, demonstrated her liking for the soft surface when she won the Richmor Aviation Waya yesterday over yielding turf.
Kissable was ridden by John Velazquez and is trained by Roger Attfield, both of whom will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame on Friday.
Making only her second start in North America, Kissable raced next to last through much of the 12-furlong race, saving ground along the rail. Velazquez moved the four-year-old filly to the outside around the final turn, making steady progress on the leaders and pulling away to win by four lengths.
Even if the race didn't go as expected, the connections of Harrods Creek got the desired result in Friday's $100,000 John's Call Stakes at Saratoga.
Expected to be sitting first or second early, Harrods Creek, under Junior Alvarado, was actually fourth through the first mile of the 1 5/8-mile John's Call. Brought three wide with three furlongs to go, Harrods Creek took command inside the eighth pole and then drew clear to win the race by 3 3/4 lengths. Tahoe Lake, the 6-5 favorite, outlasted Hailstone for second by a neck. Game Ball, Inscrutable, and Ballet Boy completed the order of finish.
It was the first stakes victory for Harrods Creek, a 5-year-old son of Langfuhr owned by David Richardson and Hiram Polk Jr., and his fourth win from 21 career starts. He had been stakes placed several times, including a head loss in the Grade 3 Valedictory at Woodbine last fall and a third in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita in April. Read more
Away from the races for nearly 10 months, Alaura Michele was something of a question mark in the $100,000 Nani Rose, an overnight stakes carded as Sunday's ninth race. The 3-year-old Arch filly, however, turned out to have all the answers, wearing down pacesetter Sweet and Lovely in the final 50 yards to win the one-mile turf event by a length.
Alaura Michele had a couple of things going for her in this race. One, she had a win over the course (last summer's P. G. Johnson Stakes). And two, she is trained by Bill Mott, who almost always wins at least one race on his birthday. Sunday was the Hall of Fame trainer's 59, and Alaura Michele was his last chance for a win that day.
Trainer Christophe Clement passed on the opportunity for a big payday in lieu of pretty much a sure one this weekend with his 3-year-old turf specialist Summer Front. who rallied to a popular two-length victory over Lockout in Sunday's $100,000 Duluth Stakes at Saratoga.
Summer Front was also entered in Saturday's $600,000 Virginia Derby. But the prospect of less-than-firm ground and the 1 1/4-mile distance of that race prompted Clement to take the conservative route and keep War Front home for the weekend.
With jockey Ramon Dominguez putting up a confident ride, Summer Front rated in the middle of the field during the early stages of the one-mile Duluth. Summer Front commenced his rally leaving the backstretch, continued wide into the stretch and easily surged by the overmatched leaders at midstretch to win going away.
Class and courage carried Royal Delta to victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap.
Racing over a surface she appeared to be laboring over, Royal Delta, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, held off a late charge from Tiz Miz Sue to win the DelCap by a neck. It was 5 3/4 lengths back to Awesome Maria in third. She was followed by Love and Pride, Darling Reality, Pachattack, and Cash for Clunkers.
Royal Delta, owned by Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables, won for the seventh time in 12 starts. The $450,000 first-place purse increased her career earnings to $2,263,851. The win earned Royal Delta an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in November, as the Delaware Handicap was part of the "Win and You're In" program.
Volcat got a great trip under Robby Albarado before drawing clear and holding off a determined run from Filare L'Oro to win the Grade 3, $150,000 Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., on Saturday night.
Volcat had clear sailing throughout when relaxing just behind the longshot front-runner, Boastful Dancer, before zipping to the lead in the far turn of the 1 1/8-mile turf race. She opened a clear lead over Filare L'Oro in midstretch, but that rival fought back to make the final margin a half-length.
Owned by the Landaluce Educe Stables and trained by Ken McPeek, Volcat returned $5.80 as second choice in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies. A daughter of After Market, Volcat finished in 1:52 18 over a yielding course. She was coming off a first-level allowance victory over the Churchill Downs turf.
Point of Entry extended his winning streak to three on Saturday with the biggest score of his career, a 3½ length victory over Center Divider in the $600,000 Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park.
Point of Entry had a perfect trip, sitting second behind the pacesetting Center Divider. The 4-year-old trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey and ridden by Jose Lezcano pulled clear in mid stretch for his fifth win in 12 starts.
The winning streak started with a pair of victories at Keeneland, including the Elkhorn Stakes.
The time was 2:13.87 for the 1 3-8 miles on the firm turf course.
Juddmonte Farm's Starformer, far back in a Churchill Downs allowance race on the dirt in her last start, returned to the turf to win the $200,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park July 14.
Ridden by Edgar Prado for trainer Bill Mott, Starformer set the pace in the 1 3/8-mile turf stakes and easily held off a late rally by Bubbly Jane. Sikararallied for third in the eight-horse field of fillies and mares.
The fractions on the firm turf were :25.59 for the opening quarter-mile, :50.56 for a half-mile, 1:15.90 for six furlongs, and 1:40.10 for one mile. The final time was 2:15.19.
Starformer, third choice in the betting, paid $10 to win.
Starformer, a 4-year-old Kentucky homebred by Dynaformer, is now three-for-10 lifetime. She finished third in a Group 3 event in France at 3, and shipped to the United States for the Saratoga Race Course meet last summer.
Pam and Martin Wygod's Clear Attempt stalked a leisurely early pace and rolled home a winner in the $150,000 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) July 4 at Belmont Park, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and the owners consecutive victories in the one-mile turf event.
Mott and the Wygods won the 2011 Poker with Courageous Cat , and decided to enter Clear Attempt even though he was eligible for a second-level allowance. The 4-year-old homebred son of A.P. Indy rewarded their confidence with a 1 3/4-length score at odds of nearly 9-1.
Jockey Jose Lezcano kept Clear Attempt second behind frontrunning 15-1 shot Yield Bogey in the early going, as that one opened up a four-length advantage on the field while walking six other runners through a quarter in :24.78. Even-money favorite Compliance Officer was three-wide in pursuit in third, and pushed up the pressure after a half in :48.12. Those two loomed down on the pacesetter, who still had a one-length lead for three-quarters in 1:11.12 but lost it soon after.
Mystical Star, who was disqualified from third in a tough-trip Sheepshead Bay five weeks ago, enjoyed smoother sailing en route to her first career stakes victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 New York Stakes.
Mystical Star, a Ghostzapper filly who has been vastly improved in three starts as a 4-year-old for Christophe Clement, broke through the barrier an instant before the gates opened in the Sheepshead Bay and fell back nearly 20 lengths off the lead before rallying to finish third behind Aruna and Hit It Rich in the Sheepshead Bay.
After an uneventful start in the New York, Mystical Star moved up to take over from longshot The Underling down the backstretch under Jose Lezcano and repelled a stretch bid from Aruna to score by a length, with Hit It Rich another half-length behind in third.
Salty Strike, winner of last June's G3 Dogwood S., concluded 2011 with a win in the Dream Supreme S. Fourth in her return at Oaklawn in April got up in the final jump of the Prairie Rose S. at Prairie Meadows on May 25. The Craig Singer homebred raced in striking distance, hit her best stride when angled out and finished up nicely for the win for her trainer.
Blue Maiden beat Whipsaw City by a half-length on Thursday in the $80,750 Glowing Honor Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
Julien Leparoux was aboard for trainer Christophe Clement as the 5-year-old got her fourth win in 17 starts, finishing the seven furlongs on turf in 1:21.51.
Blue Maiden paid $6.40 and $2.70, and Whipsaw City returned $2.50. Trix in the City was third in the four-horse field ahead of Sure Route.
Ron the Greek rallied to overtake pacesetter Nate's Mineshaft near the finish line, then held off favorite Wise Dan by a head Saturday in the $437,200 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Ron the Greek, ridden by Jose Lezcano, earned the first automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic through the "Win and You're In" series. It was his second Grade 1 victory this year, following the Santa Anita Handicap in March.
Trained by Bill Mott and owned by Brous Stable, Watchtel Stable and Jack T. Hammer, Ron the Greek paid $20.80, $6.40 and $5.40. Wise Dan returned $3 and 2.80, and Nate's Mineshaft paid $8 to show.
Besilu Stables' Royal Delta dropped her initial two starts of 2012 but on Saturday returned to the form that saw her earn an Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old filly last year when drawing off under a hand ride to score by eight lengths in the Grade 2, $179,700 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Sent off the 3-5 favorite against her five opponents, the four-year-old daughter of Empire Maker tracked in third as Sterling Madame set opening fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12. Jockey Mike Smith, who was taking over from regular rider Jose Lezcano, hit the button nearing the turn and Royal Delta shot forward to draw even, and then off, rounding the turn.
The dark bay mare quickly opened up in the stretch and Smith began wrapping with a furlong to go, allowing his mount to still finish up 1 1/8 miles on the fast dirt in 1:49 2/5.
Waterford Stable's Summer Front found room late and exploded in the final yards to defeat Howe Great in the $150,000 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park June 16.
With Ramon Dominguez riding for trainer Christophe Clement, 13-10 favorite Summer Front raced in fourth from the inside for most of the one-mile turf stakes before easing out in mid-stretch and closing rapidly to catch Howe Great and pull away by a half-length. Howe Great, who sat in third throughout before taking a slim lead just past the eighth pole, finished one length ahead of Film Shot, who stalked pacesetter Spring to the Sky to mid-stretch.
Summer Front, a Kentucky-bred War Front colt bred by Graceville Breeding, paid $4.70 to win as the favorite. The final time was 1:33.74 over a firm Widener Turf Course. The bay colt is out the unraced mare Rose of Summer, by El Prado, and sold for $475,000 at Keeneland in April 2011.
Heavily favored Data Link, patiently ridden by John Velazquez, passed three horses in the final furlong to capture Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park.
In winning for the sixth time in 12 starts overall, the 4-year-old Data Link ($3.20) set a course record for 1 1/8 miles on turf with rails set at 0 feet. He completed the distance on a firm course in 1:45.93, breaking the record of 1:46.39 set by J' Ray on Aug. 3, 2008.
Data Link, who captured the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland in April but then encountered traffic trouble when fifth in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs last month, got an ideal setup for his closing kick by fast fractions of 46.15 seconds for a half-mile and 1:10.22 for the first six furlongs.
In the John McSorley Stakes, Varsity broke alertly and set all of the fractions to post a half-length victory over Triple E, who rallied late but failed to catch the winner.
Conditioned by Christophe Clement, Varsity covered 5 ½ furlongs on firm turf in 1:00 4/5, just one tick off the course record, and paid $4.20, $3 and $2.80 as the even-money favorite in the field of six. Triple E completed the $43.60 exacta and returned $8.40 and $4. Tune Me In was another length-and-a-quarter back in third, good for a $3.20 show mutuel.
"This horse is not a typical Christophe Clement horse. This horse is fast, fast, fast," said winning jockey Joe Bravo. "All I had to do was hold on for the ride and then smile."
The McSorley victory was the fourth in eight tries and the first stakes win for Varsity, a five-year-old son of Indian Charlie out of the Mt. Livermore mare Tears of Joy. The winner's share of the purse boosted the gelding's lifetime earnings to $130,675 for owners and breeder Diana and Bertram Firestone.
Catesby Clay's Bizzy Caroline charged furiously down the Matt Winn Turf Course and gave trainer Ken McPeek his 300th career win at Churchill Downs when she got up in the final jump to take the 36th running of the $111,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (Grade III) by a neck over pacesetter Heavenly Landing.
The Early Times Mint Julep was the last of three graded stakes races run under the lights as part of Churchill Downs' special "Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka" nighttime racing program. Earlier, Island Bound won the Grade III, $110,100 Winning Colors and Rothko prevailed in the Grade III, $109,400 Aristides. On-track attendance totaled 21,827.
McPeek is just the 13th trainer to reach the 300-win milestone at Churchill Downs. Bizzy Caroline was the second of three winners Saturday night for McPeek and jockey Manny Cruz, who also teamed to win with Colbert in Race 5 and Jazil's Song in the finale.
Ruthenia unleashed a powerful stretch rally to capture the Grade 3 $100,000 Violet Stakes as Maple Forest won the $60,000 Little Silver in gate-to-wire fashion at Monmouth Park on Monday. Trained by Christophe Clement, Ruthenia came from well off the pace before prevailing by a length, stopping the timer in 1:40.68 for the mile and one sixteenth over a firm turf course.
Sent off at 10-1 in the field of seven fillies and mares, Ruthenia returned $22.60, $9.00 and $4.60 across the board and topped the $108.80. Pinch Pie, who also made her move in the lane, paid $6.60 to place and $4.20 to show. It was a nose back to Unbridled Humor, who returned $3 to show.
"I thought they were going along pretty well up front and wasn't really concerned about them coming back to me," said winning jockey Kendrick Carmouche. "I thought Jeremy Rose (aboard Pinch Pie) was getting the absolute perfect trip. I followed him and when he got free, I got free. From there it was just pointing her in the right direction and she did the rest. She's pretty small, but she can run."
A 4-year-old filly by Pulpit from the Rahy mare Ruthian, Ruthenia improved her lifetime mark to 4-3-1 from 10 outings. The first time stakes winner has now earned $214,635 for owner and breeder Virginia Kraft Payson.
Malibu Way ($6.60) beat 9-10 favorite Heavy Breathing by a neck in the $60,000 Lamplighter Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.
Trainer Christophe Clement improved to 3 for 5 at the meet as Malibu Way ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 over the course rated good.
It was the third start for the colt, who won at first asking in March at Gulfstream Park before missing by a head in a first-level allowance at Keeneland.
Joe Bravo, aboard for the debut victory, happily reunited with Malibu Way. "When I rode him first time down at Gulfstream, Christophe was really excited about the horse," Bravo said. "He showed a lot of talent to win that day, overcoming a couple of things. What I liked today is that he relaxed. He sat quiet, very reserved."
Salty Strike's determined late bid was good enough for a nose victory over the game pacesetter Starlite Starbrite in Friday night's co-featured $60,000 Prairie Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows.
Under a stiff drive from jockey Shane Laviolette, favorite Salty Strike ($3.80) registered her fifth lifetime tally and her first outside of her favored Churchill Downs main track. Trained by Ken McPeek for owner Craig B. Singer, Salty Strike managed a rally over a sloppy track, covering the six furlongs in 1:09.85.
Starlite Starbrite blazed through fractions of 21.67 and 44.55 seconds on a clear lead from her five rivals. However, despite Glenn Corbett's strong right-handed drive, she tired in the last 40 yards and was nipped. It was 3 1/2 lengths back to the third-place finisher Yournotthebossofme.
Peter Deutsch's Summer Breezing, an improving 3-year-old half-brother to New York-bred stakes-winner Adirondack Summer, won the open co-featured $90,000 Tiller overnight stakes on Belmont's Sunday card to secure a first stakes victory for trainer Christophe Clement in his fifth career start.
Transitioning from Keeneland's Polytrack, where he romped against allowance foes on April 7, back to turf where he broke his maiden, Summer Breezing was the .55-1 favorite at post time to beat six rivals in the seven-furlong sprint in the on the Widener turf. He didn't disappoint his backers, but didn't have one-hundred percent smooth sailing either.
Out of the gate with good early speed from post one under Jose Lezcano, Summer Breezing was just outrun by Mr. Prankster to his outside, which left him in tight at the rail up the backstretch run. A half-mile out Summer Breezing checked, and then stumbled slightly off heels as Mr. Prankster moved to the rail.
Emory A. Hamilton's Hungry Island collared Tapitsfly in the final furlong and went on to score a one-length victory in the $223,400 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIT) May 5.
Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Shug McGaughey, Hungry Island was fifth early in the field of seven as Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IT) winner Daisy Devine, Tapitsfly, and 3-2 favorite Marketing Mix made the early running. Daisy Devine, leading by one length, got the first quarter on a turf course labeled good in :24.78 and half in :48.68. As the field raced into the stretch, 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Tapitsfly took over as the leaders began to back up.
Racing in mid-track, Hungry Island began a steady advance on Tapitsfly, continuing on gamely to wear down the leader. Hungry Island put her rival away in the closing strides after switching to her left lead. The final time for a mile on grass was 1:36.20.
Boisterous made his return to New York a winning one, closing resolutely through the stretch for a one-length victory over Desert Blanc in the $150,000 Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park May 5.
Sent off as the narrow 7-5 favorite in the field of six, the 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor stayed in mid-pack behind fractions of :25.68 and :50.89 set by Upgrade over the yielding turf course. Moving up on the turn, Boisterous hit his best stride once in the stretch and took the lead 110 yards from the wire.
"I know my horse can run the last part, so I wanted to be patient," said winning jockey Alan Garcia. "I was waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, and turning for home I let him run and he did really well."
"We originally were disappointed in his last race because he didn't finish, but looking further at it, he made an early move and then flattened out," said Robbie Medina, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. "That type of turf course with the short stretch doesn't suit him; he prefers making that one run through the stretch."
Making 3-5 look like a bargain, To Honor and Serve inhaled pacesetter Bold Deed approaching the stretch and ran away from three outclassed rivals in Saturday's scratch-riddled Westchester Stakes at Belmont Park.
In what resembled a public workout more than a graded stakes race, To Honor and Serve ($3.20) couldn't have been more impressive in his 4-year-old debut if he tried – and he didn't need to try too hard after Jersey Town, Marilyn's Guy, and Ponzi Scheme all were withdrawn.
Bold Deed sprinted to a long early lead under Javier Castellano through ambitious fractions of 22.95 and 45.05 seconds. Meanwhile, Jose Lezcano allowed To Honor and Serve to settle into stride down the backstretch.
To Honor and Serve quickly gained on the turn, took over readily just before six furlongs in 1:09.79, and drew away to win the mile race by five and one-quarter lengths in 1:34.84 while eased up the last sixteenth of a mile.
The Phipps family has long been known for producing quality horses whose pedigrees have a lasting impact on the racing industry.
The enduring nature of one of the sport's most famed breeding programs showed itself again on Friday as the Phipps Stable homebred Point of Entry, a half brother to the multiple Grade I winning filly Pine Island, came up four wide in the stretch to capture the Grade II, $150,000 Elkhorn Stakes on the closing day of Keeneland's Spring Meeting.
Though Pine Island made her name on the dirt, winning the Grade I Alabama and Gazelle in 2006 before fatally breaking down in that year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, there just weren't as many main-track options for the 4-year-old Point of Entry and his stamina-laden style.
After making five of his first six career starts on the dirt, the son of Dynaformer switched to grass exclusively for his last five outings and won a 11/2-mile allowance test over the Keeneland surface on April 12.
Even as Bill Mott tries to explain that Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester is just a prep for To Honor and Serve to get to next month's Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap, it's hard to believe the Hall of Fame trainer won't have his horse ready for a big effort.
And even though the seven-horse field for the Westchester includes fellow Grade 1 winners Boys At Tosconova and Jersey Town – both with recent good form – it's hard to believe To Honor and Serve isn't still the horse to beat in the first graded event of the Belmont spring/summer meet.
The Westchester, a one-turn mile, will be To Honor and Serve's first race since he won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last Nov. 26. It will be To Honor and Serve's first race at Belmont since he won a 1 1/16-mile maiden event here by 8 3/4 lengths in Oct. 2010.
Incredicat passed his first serious Queen's Plate test with flying colors with a 1 3/4-length score here in last Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Wando Stakes.
Incredicat had won his maiden over 5 1/2 furlongs at first asking here last Dec. 4, but then got caught up in a speed duel when finishing third in a 6 1/2-furlong first-level allowance at Gulfstream on March 24.
Racing last Saturday with blinkers off, Incredicat relaxed nicely under Luis Contreras and turned back a couple of challenges while leading at every call.
"He might have exceeded our expectations, with the fact that he would go his first quarter in 25 and one," said Ian Black, who trains Incredicat for a high-powered partnership that includes Woodbine's chairman of the board David Willmot and directors John Fielding, Ben Hutzel, Clay Horner, and Doug Murphy. "It's not that there was real pressure but they were sitting outside him, and that could have made him keen. We'd been working on getting him to relax behind horses. And, Luis gave him a very, very good ride."
Waterville Lake Stable's multiple stakes-winning and Grade 3-placed homebred Miss Valentine came back a winner at four on Saturday, going from last to first to capture the $75,000 Northern Willy Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares on Aqueduct's closing weekend.
Paired for the first time with Cornelio Velasquez to go the mile on the Aqueduct main, Miss Valentine was coming off a five-month vacation following a successful sophomore campaign for trainer Christophe Clement. The late-running daughter of Afleet Alex went off as the 4-5 post-time favorite.
Breaking in a leisurely way from post two, Miss Valentine may have given her backers pause in the early stages of the running, as she raced fifth and last, and further off the pace than usual, traveling as much as nine lengths behind Risk a Chance, who won the battle for the lead from Lady Gracenote and set the early fractions (23.62 and 47.13).
The road to the June 24 Queen's Plate begins in earnest Saturday at Woodbine in the $100,000 Wando, and the promising Perfect Tay will make his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack route for 3-year-olds.
Perfect Tay has made both of his starts over 1 1/16 miles on the grass at Gulfstream. He was based at the Payson Park Training Center with trainer Roger Attfield prior to his debut for a $75,000 tag on Feb. 18, in which he rallied strongly for second.
Trainer Lorne Richards claimed Perfect Tay from his opener on behalf of True North Stable, and then ran him back a month later in a maiden special. After a stalking trip, Perfect Tay came along the rail in the stretch to edge out the blue-blooded Bill Mott trainee Night Site for the win.
Stuart Janney III's homebred Data Link came from off the pace to run down favored Turallure in the final jumps, capturing the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) at odds of 12-1 April 13 at Keeneland.
Making his first grade I start against a good field that included TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) runner-up Turallure and defending Maker's Mark Mile winner Get Stormy, Data Link was sent off as the second longest chance in a field of six turf milers. The 4-year-old son of War Front trailed for six furlongs before launching his winning move while racing wide on the final turn. He passed a trio of horses inside the sixteenth pole to win for the first time this year.
Trainer Ian Black admitted to being pleasantly surprised when Fifty Proof was named Canada's champion older male at the 2011 Sovereign Awards ceremony.
"I thought it was a very open category," said Black, whose horse was a finalist along with Don Cavallo and James Street. "All three finalists had won one stake. But, I was worried that we'd been gone so long and people tend to forget."
Fifty Proof, owned by David Willmot, John Fielding ,and Ben Hutzel, had won his first two starts of 2011 on the main track, including the Grade 3 Eclipse, and then finished second in back-to-back Grade 2 stakes on the turf when his campaign came to a halt in late July.
"We found a small tear in a suspensory," said Black. "We just sent him to the farm, and gave him the time.
"The last time we ultrasounded it, in January, it was okay."
Fifty Proof started up at Willmot's Kinghaven Farm and trained there for a couple of weeks before shipping to Florida to join Black at Payson Park.
Race to Urga made it three-for-three at Gulfstream Park this winter and four-straight going back to November at Aqueduct in winning Sunday's Wait a While Stakes on closing day.
Trained by Christophe Clement for Castleton Lyons, Race to Urga won her first stakes race in the Wait a While after winning two optional claiming races at Gulfstream and an allowance race at Aqueduct after breaking her maiden at Belmont Park in July.
The 4-year-old daughter of Bernstein sat just off of pacesetter Frontside through fractions of :24.07, :47.75 and 1:34.67 in the Wait a While, then caught her at the top of the stretch. The two raced together with Frontside on the rail, but Race to Urga began to draw away inside the final furlong and went on to a three-length victory with jockey Jose Lezcano aboard. Race to Urga covered the 1 1⁄16 miles in 1:40.55.
Trainer Shug McGaughey had toyed with the idea of flying to New Orleans to watch his beloved Kentucky Wildcats play their arch rival Louisvile Cardinals in the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament instead of staying in town to saddle Hit It Rich in Saturday's $150,000 Orchid at Gulfstream Park. As things turned out, the Hall of Fame horseman was glad he decided not to make the trip.
In a race that unfolded in a surprising and somewhat unorthodox manner, Hit It Rich outfinished the pacesetting Aqsaam to register a half-length victory under leading rider Javier Castellano in the Grade 3 Orchid. Keertana, the 6-5 favorite, rallied belatedly to finish another head further back in third.
Hit It Rich, who is owned by his breeder Stuart Janney III, settled off the early pace of Aqsaam who sprinted more than a dozen lengths clear of the field before completing the opening half mile of the 1 1/2-milefurlong Orchid. Hit It Rich, winner of the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap in his 2011 finale, began to advance around the final turn before finally overtaking the game leader in late stretch.
Bill Mott arrived in Dubai on Tuesday morning, reuniting with the filly, Royal Delta, he had shipped here from Florida a week ago. It was a trip he had first thought about taking four months ago. It was a trip he wondered for some time if he would be permitted to make.
In the four days between the time Royal Delta won the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and went through the auction ring at Keeneland Nov. 8, Mott said he thought about the prospects of running Royal Delta, the 2011 3-year-old filly champion, in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan, which will be run Saturday night.
"Just because you think, what do you do with one like this?" said Mott, who won the inaugural running of the World Cup in 1996 with Cigar, the 1995 Horse of the Year. "What's the next challenge? If she's that good you got to think about the big races."
Extra distance was the key for James Karp's homebred Newsdad to exact revenge on Simmard, as the son of Arch came from off the pace to win the $150,000 Pan American against a short field March 24 at Gulfstream Park.
The 4-year-old colt was stretching back out to 1 1/2 miles on the Gulfstream turf after being beaten a nose by Simmard at 1 3/8 miles in the Feb. 26 Mac Diarmida in his last start. After trailing for most of the way in a field of four, he made his winning move on the final turn under Julien Leparoux and had plenty left in the stretch en route to his two-length victory.
It was the first graded stakes win for Newsdad, who was bred in Kentucky and is out of the Pulpit mare Storm Tracer. It was also his second win this season over the Gulfstream turf course, as he romped in a 1 7/16-mile optional claimer on Jan. 28. The colt is trained by Bill Mott.
The final time over the firm turf was 2:24.93. Hailstone finished second, a neck in front of Simmard. Harrods Creek was last.
Arena Elvira posted her fifth straight victory by edging out R Gypsy Gold in the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.
With the track's leading rider, Leandro Goncalves, aboard, Arena Elvira raced in mid-pack before getting up in the final strides to win the 1 1/16-mile race by a head as the odds-on favorite. R Gypsy Gold, the 5-2 second choice, finished six lengths ahead of Dash Dot Dash in a field of seven fillies and mares.
Arena Elvira, a 5-year-old mare by Ghostzapper, was making her first start since ending the 2011 season with a victory in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. She returned $3.80 after finishing in 1:44.57 over a fast track.
Arena Elvira will attempt to start off 2012 just the way she ended 2011 and keep her winning streak intact Saturday in the $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Fla.
Eight older fillies and mares, including a Marty Wolfson entry, are entered in the Wayward Lass, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race that anchors an 11-race Saturday card. First post is 12:27 p.m. Eastern, with the Wayward Lass going at 4:10.
Arena Elvira, owned by Carolyn Wilson and trained by Bill Mott, has been training smartly at Payson Park in recent weeks since concluding her 4-year-old season with a gritty victory as the favorite in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs last Thanksgiving. That triumph was her fourth in a row, and her seventh from her last nine starts, and it gave her Hall of Fame trainer hope that further development could make her one of the top older mares in North America this year.
Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta remains on target for her main goal for the opening half of her 2012 campaign, the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31.
Trainer Bill Mott said Royal Delta is "doing wonderful" and on schedule for the World Cup. Winner of the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, she has started once this winter, finishing a distant second behind Awesome Maria in the Grade 3 Sabin here on Feb. 25. She has worked once since the Sabin, going five furlongs in 1:03 last Saturday at Payson Park.
"It certainly doesn't appear like her first race set her back any. Sometimes you never know," said Mott, who trained Royal Delta during her championship season, when she was owned by the late Saud bin Khaled's Palides Investments, and continues to guide her fortunes for Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stables, which bought her for $8.5 million at the Keeneland November sale. "She'll work again here this weekend and fly out on Tuesday night. I might do a little something with her over there but nothing serious. We're going where we want to go. So far everything is on schedule."
The migration of better horses to New York from south Florida is still several weeks away. One horse getting a head start on his brethren, however, is Birdrun, who arrived at Belmont Park over the weekend and will start in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct.
Birdrun, who won last year's Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont, has not run since finishing second to longshot Afleet Again in the Breeder' Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs last November.
Bill Mott, who trains Birdrun for the Preston Stables, had the 6-year-old son of Birdstone at Payson Park all winter and was contemplating staring him in last month's Stymie at Aqueduct, but that race didn't draw enough entries to be carded.
Dixie Strike, who is a half-sister to last year's Queen's Plate winner Inglorious, has been made the 4-1 favorite in this year's Queen's Plate winter book.
The hypothetical winter book, compiled for the first time by Daily Racing Form 's Ron Gierkink and Bill Tallon, lists odds for the 117 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds who remained eligible for the Queen's Plate as of Feb. 1.
Hard Not to Like, a homebred filly who races for Garland Williamson and is trained by Gail Cox, is the third choice at 6-1. Although all five of her juvenile starts came on turf, Hard Not to Like showed considerable ability with wins over males in two races, including Woodbine's Cup and Saucer and a close fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs. Hard Not to Like is preparing for her 3-year-old campaign at Payson Park in Florida.
Ron the Greek scored the biggest win of his career Saturday at Santa Anita where he won the historic 75th running of the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. 1), the first race to carry a $100,000 purse back in the 1930s.
Since being transferred to trainer Bill Mott's barn, Ron the Greek has won three of five starts including Saturday's grade-one victory, his first graded stakes win since winning the Le Comte Stakes in 2010. Prior to joining Mott's barn, Ron the Greek had won three races in 11 starts. Not only was Ron the Greek bred in Florida, but he shipped in to California from Mott's winter base at Payson Park Training Center, near Indiantown, Fla.
Named for breeder-owner Jack T. Hammer's late friend, Ron Skrumbellos, Ron the Greek now joins the venerated list of "Big Cap" winners that includes Seabiscuit, Round Table, Nodouble, Ack Ack, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, Broad Brush, Alysheba, Tiznow and Lava Man.
Trainer Bill Mott's team swooped into Southern California with Ron the Greek to snare the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) in convincing style March 3.
The 3 1/2-length triumph was the first graded stakes win in more than two years for the 5-year-old son of Full Mandate owned by Jack T. Hammer, Nils Brous, and Adam Wachtel.
The big-striding bay, ridden by Jose Lezcano, lost ground on the far turn when he was hemmed inside behind traffic by jockey Victor Espinoza aboard Setsuko. But Ron the Greek would re-gather himself to rally impressivley in the lane, sweeping past Setsuko in the middle of the track to score easily as the 7-2 third choice.
"I didn't want to be on the inside so I had to use him the whole way to make him keep going," Lezcano said. "At the half-mile pole I had a lot of horse, but I had to keep asking my horse. My horse is like a bicycle, you keep asking and he will keep running."
In February, some 397 three-year-olds were nominated to the 2012 U.S. Triple Crown, (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes) including seven horses trained by Woodbine's leading trainer Mark Casse.
The 2012 Kentucky Derby, which will be held on May 5 at Churchill Downs, is limited to 20 starters. Should more than 20 horses enter, the entries will be determined by the amount of graded stakes earnings accumulated by each horse.
Ian Black's Excaper ($240,736), who currently sits in ninth position in the graded earnings list topped by Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile champ Hansen ($1,160,000), will not be among the starters expected to break from the gate on the first Saturday in May.
"We had to stop on him for a little while and it's (the Derby) not in our plans," confirms Black, from Payson Park in Florida. "We gave him a break after the last time he ran and hopefully by the time the turf starts (at Woodbine), we'll be ready to go."
Trainer Roger Attfield and William Werner's Simmard would not be denied in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park, just getting his nose down on the wire ahead of game rival and 2-1 favorite Newsdad.
Simmard was never far back as Center Divider and Mambo Meister battled it out for the lead in the 1 3/8-mile turf contest. The three hit the half-mile point separated by only two heads when a time of :49 2/5 was flashed on the tote board, but jockey Javier Castellano quickly settled Simmard a little bit behind by the time Mambo Meister had registered six furlongs in 1:13 3/5.
Castellano finally gave Simmard his cue and the Dixieland Band horse took off to circle the leaders rounding the final turn about three wide. He hit the stretch in front by a half-length, but suddenly had to contend with Newsdad, who had bided his time running in the second flight of horses down the backstretch.
With the elation of her Breeders' Cup victory and disappointment of her aborted trip to Argentina now in the rearview mirror, Perfect Shirl will finally begin her 2012 campaign when she takes on a full field of long-distance, filly and mare turf specialists in Saturday's $100,000 The Very One at Gulfstream Park.
Perfect Shirl has not started since pulling off a 27-1 shocker in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. That was the only victory of the season for Perfect Shirl, a daughter of Perfect Soul who was graded stakes placed on two other occasions in 2011. She was scheduled to conclude the campaign in the Group 1 Gran Premio Internacional Pelligrini in Argentina but never made the trip because of a series of canceled flights.
In an era when even smaller tracks such as Delta Downs and Charles Town are hosting million dollar races, a $100,000 purse rarely buys more than a field of allowance-type horses no matter the venue. So it's all the more amazing that for a mere 100 grand Gulfstream Park has managed to attract an Eclipse Award champion, Royal Delta, and a Grade 1 winner riding the crest of a four-race victory streak, Awesome Maria, for Saturday's Grade 3 Sabin.
The match between two of the leading members of the filly and mare handicap division in the 1 1/16-mile Sabin highlights an outstanding 12-race program that also includes the $250,000 Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies and the $100,000 The Very One on the turf, featuring the 2012 debut of Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Perfect Shirl.
Michael Dubb and partners' Grace Hall, last seen finishing second to the brilliant My Miss Aurelia in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 for trainer Anthony Dutrow, is set to launch a new campaign Saturday as the favorite and horse to beat in the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles will share the spotlight on an outstanding card Saturday with the highly-anticipated match-up of 2011 Eclipse champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta and Awesome Maria in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles and Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Perfect Shirl returning in the $100,000 The Very One Stakes (G3) at 1 3/8 miles on turf.
Despite carrying purse money of only $100,000, the field for Saturday's Grade 3 Sabin at Gulfstream Park couldn't have turned out much better. The 1 1/16-mile event features the return to action of two of racing's top fillies from last season, the three-year-old champion Royal Delta and Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria, who won all of her 2011 starts in an abbreviated campaign. They will face three others, including Grade 3 winner Groupie Doll.
Royal Delta, who cemented championship honors with a 2 1/2-length score in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic in November, will use the Sabin as a stepping-stone for the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31. Days after her Breeders' Cup triumph, the filly went through the sales ring at Keeneland November and brought $8.5 million from Benjamin Leon, who operates Besilu Stables. Leon eventually allowed trainer Bill Mott to resume training the filly, who also captured the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan last season for the late Saud bin Khaled's Palides Investments.
Barring any complications, Royal Delta will make her much anticipated 2012 debut in the Grade 3 Sabin here at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 25.
Trainer Bill Mott confirmed that's the race he has picked out for Royal Delta's first start since her easy victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and to use as a prep prior to her current goal, the $10 million Dubai World Classic, on March 31. The Sabin is carded at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Royal Delta was purchased privately by Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stable for $8.5 million at the Keeneland November sales just four days after her Breeders' Cup victory and returned to Mott's care later that month at Payson Park.
Shug McGaughey's been here before. He wouldn't have become a member of the Racing Hall of Fame if he and his horses didn't show up in big spots.
But having been here and done that, he used to winning and takes it in stride. McGaughey took the heart stopping victory of Hymn Book in the storied Donn Handicap Donn Handicap in stride, an excited, wide grin notwithstanding.
McGaughey had to know he did something a little out of the ordinary, beating the deepest field of handicappers assembled this year, including the 2011 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winners, and did so off the bench.
"What happened, Shug, couldn't find an allowance race for him?"
That's when McGaughey really began to smile. "The way he finished up in the Cigar Mile, I said to myself this is what I want to do right here. But I didn't know it would come up this strong."
"So we decided to give him a little blow, came down here [Payson Park Training Center], trained well and blew out real good. When I saw him in the receiving barn before the race he was tearing it down." Spoken like a proud papa and Hall of Famer.
The Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner, Royal Delta, has been working toward her initial start of the new campaign under the banner of Besilu Stables, as Benjamin Leon Jr. purchased the daughter of Empire Maker, out of A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess, following her emphatic win in the Breeders' Cup for a whopping $8.5 million in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Trained by Bill Mott, the Kentucky bred 4-year-old filly is expected to get her 2012 season underway in the Group 1 $10 million Dubai World Cup at the Meydan, over a distance of 1 ¼ miles over the venue's synthetic surface, against a massive star studded lineup which include the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic runner up, Game on Dude, the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, Europe's top horse, So You Think, and many others.
Royal Delta on 9 February, 2012, at Payson Park worked six furlongs in 1 minute and 16.30 seconds, and the last year's champion 3-year-old filly, downed five races so far in her eight starts with the earnings of $1,694,600.
Trainer Bill Mott saved the best for last in 2011, and it helped him capture his third Eclipse Award as champion trainer in a tight race. He received 83 first-place votes while Bob Baffert garnered 60 votes. Third-place finisher Todd Pletcher landed 57 first-place votes.
Mott, 58, was the man at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs. He won the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) with Palides Investments’ 3-year-old filly Royal Delta Nov. 4, and the following day won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) with WinStar Farm’s 4-year-old colt Drosselmeyer.
It was the start of a big November for Mott as six of his 15 graded-stakes victories on the year came during the month. He capped things off when Live Oak Plantation’s 3-year-old colt To Honor and Serve, seventh behind Drosselmeyer in the Classic, returned to win the grade I Cigar Mile Handicap in New York.
The serious Fort Lauderdale horses, in terms of surface and prevailing conditions, are Silver Medallion and Teaks North. That was until Bill Mott dropped the name of Mutual Trust (3-1) into the entry box.
The Juddmonte import has been hacking around at Payson Park since early November and it’s a tough read on his level of condition. This certainly cannot be a serious winter objective.
A multiple winner of four straight in France including a Group 3 and the G1 Jean Prat, he certainly has demonstrated ability but this is a salty group—no pun intended—if he doesn’t have his Air Nikes on.
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Scooter Dickey will kill two birds with one stone when he tries his Grade 1 winner Flat Out on the grass for the first time Saturday in Gulfstream Park’s $100,000 Fort Lauderdale.
A son of Flatter owned by Preston Stable LLC, Flat Out won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park and finished second in both the Grade 1 Woodward and Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga to rise to the top of his division in 2011. He went postward the tepid 7-2 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but finished a disappointing fifth, although only three lengths behind upset winner Drosselmeyer.
Mutual Trust, who has never raced beyond a mile, will compete with Lasix for the first time in the Fort Lauderdale. He has worked steadily over the main track at Payson Park since early December in preparation for his return.
Royal Delta, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and the heavy favorite to be named champion older female at Monday’s Eclipse Award ceremonies, also had her first work of the winter on Tuesday, going three-eighths in 36 at Payson Park. Trainer Bill Mott said last month that Royal Delta’s first major objective in 2012 will be the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 24.
Likely three-year-old female champion Royal Delta got back into the swing of things Tuesday with her first official work of her four-year-old season. The daughter of Empire Maker went an easy three furlongs in :36 at Payson Park Training Center in Florida for trainer Bill Mott.
Mott says the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner will either train up to or have a prep race for the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.
“The World Cup is the goal for the first half of the year," Mott tells the Blood-Horse. "We’ll move in that direction. If all is well we’d love to run back in the Breeders’ Cup in the fall. She would obviously have a break after Dubai if we do go, and then we’ll start up the second half of the year and hit some of the nicer filly races.”
Summer Front stumbled badly leaving the starting gate but was able to overcome his adversity and remain undefeated after rallying to a game 1 1/2-length victory over the 8-5 Finale in Sunday’s $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Summer Front, who had won his two previous starts, including the King Cugat overnight stakes at Aqueduct, recovered quickly following his unlucky start to race within easy striking range albeit in tough position between horses down the backstretch. With regular rider Ramon Dominguez aboard, Summer Front angled wider to commence his rally on the final turn and then outkicked Finale to the wire in the final furlong.
Richard Kaster and Frederick Wietling's 2-year-old Kentucky homebred colt Excaper finished a game second as a 33-to-1 longshot behind Aidan O'Brien-trained Irish invader Wrote in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, and appears set to resume his promising career in the $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Sun. Dec. 18.
"He's (Excaper) been training right along at Payson Park and we're seriously looking at the race (Dania Beach)," said trainer Ian Black. "He'll work on Monday and if that goes well he'll likely run."
A roan/gray son of Exchange Rate, Excaper made each of his three career starts prior to the Breeders' Cup at Woodbine where Black is based for most of the year. After winning his debut sprinting on Polytrack in early August, he finished a close-up second on turf in the $250,000 Summer Stakes (G3) in mid-September and fourth back on Polytrack in the $200,000 Gray Stakes (G3) in early October..
Chad Brown said he had a pretty good teacher when it came to taking European imports and winning races in the U.S. That teacher was the late Bobby Frankel and he would have been proud of the job Brown has done with Thai Haku, an Irish-bred filly who rallied to a 1 /4-length victory over the 45-1 Hooh Why in Sunday’s $60,000 South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Brown took over Thai Haku’s training from Mikel Delzangles following her second-place finish in Belmont’s Grade 3 Noble Damsel late this past summer in New York. Thai Haku had made one previous start for Brown prior to the 7 1/2-furlong South Beach, finishing third over a yielding course in Belmont’s Athenia on Oct. 15.
Thai Haku benefitted from a perfectly judged ride from Julien Leparoux, rating within easy striking distance just off the early pace before angling three wide into the stretch and readily wearing down Hooh Why near midstretch. Hooh Why attended the pace from the outset, took control in early stretch, but proved no match for the winner while finishing a half-length in front of Trip for A.J.
Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Perfect Shirl is heading to South America to complete her 2011 campaign Saturday in the Group 1 Gran Premio Internacional Pellegrini at San Isidro Race Course in Buenos Aires.
Perfect Shirl, a 4-year-old homebred daughter of Perfect Soul, is trained by Roger Attfield for owner-breeder Charles Fipke. She has not started since registering her only victory of the year, a shocking three-quarter-length triumph at odds of 27-1 in the Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 4.
Perfect Shirl had originally been scheduled to compete last Saturday in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, but her itinerary changed suddenly last week.
"We weren't able to get all the blood work and some other necessary paperwork done in time to make the trip to Honk Kong," Attfield said by phone from his winter base at Payson Park on Monday morning. "So we decided to go to Argentina instead."
Adam Wachtel had wanted to buy Ron the Greek for more than a year when he finally got his chance in July. Thus far, Ron the Greek has proven worth the wait.
A Kentucky Derby prospect in 2010, Ron the Greek on Saturday recorded his second consecutive stakes victory as a 4-year-old, rolling to a front-running 2 1/4-length victory over odds-on favorite Inherit the Gold in the $65,000 Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct. It was one length back in third to Arson Squad, who finished 3 1/2 lengths clear of stablemate Ea. Fonda Ronda Won finished last in the compact field.
The win was the fifth from 15 starts for Ron the Greek, a Florida-bred son of Full Mandate bred by Jack Hammer, who at first rebuked Wachtel's offers to buy the colt. In three starts for Wachtel and his partner Nils Brous - and since being transferred to trainer Bill Mott - Ron the Greek has a second and two stakes wins.
Royal Delta, sold for $8.5 million after her Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic victory, has been returned to trainer Bill Mott with the Dubai World Cup as her target.
The three-year-old filly was purchased by Benjamin Leon's Besilu Stable at the Keeneland November sales four days after winning at Churchill Downs.
Leon has most of his horses with Todd Pletcher but has sent her back to Mott, whom she has joined in Florida at the Payson Park training centre.
"The plans are to go to the Dubai World Cup with a possibility that she'll have a race at Gulfstream first," said Mott, speaking to the Daily Racing Form.
"It's difficult to top what she's already accomplished, but I won't say it can't be done. It's going to be a big challenge for us to do well for her and for her new owner again next year.
Trainer Shug McGaughey proved once again why he is in the Hall of Fame after bringing Casbalanca Smile back from an 11-month layoff to win the 1 1/2-mile La Prevoyante Handicap on Friday's closing-day program at Calder.
Casablanca Smile had been idle since finishing second behind Changing Skies in the first edition of the Grade 2 La Prevoyante run in 2011 on Jan. 2. With Javier Castellano doing a masterful job of rating the Chilean-bred on the lead, Casablanca Smile coasted through early fractions of 25.31 seconds, 51.63, and 1:18.01 for the first six furlongs and then had more than enough left in the tank to hold off the 5-2 favorite, Mr. Ryder, to post a 1 1/2-length decision. Mr. Ryder, the tepid favorite in a field of 11 long-winded fillies and mares, chased the winner from flagfall to finish but was not good enough while finishing nearly three lengths clear of longshot Tesoro de Amor to be second.
Trainer Bill Mott’s November to remember concluded Saturday at Aqueduct with To Honor and Serve recording a 1 3/4-length victory over the late-running Hymn Book in the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap.
While To Honor and Serve was registering the first Grade 1 stakes victory of his career, he gave Mott his sixth graded stakes win this month, third in a Grade 1. Mott, who also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Drosselmeyer and Ladies’ Classic with Royal Delta, had won nine graded stakes from January through October and only two Grade 1’s.
“What started out as a very slow year as I said before has ended up good,” Mott said. “This is probably one of the last stakes we’ll run for the year, and it’s a great way to top it off.”
Roger Attfield completed a perfect Thanksgiving weekend at Calder on Saturday by sending out his uncoupled duo of Musketier and Simmard to finish first and second, respectively, in the Grade 2, $150,000, W.L. McKnight Handicap.
The McKnight ended a memorable month for Attfield, which began Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs where Perfect Shirl gave him his first Breeders’ Cup victory in the Filly and Mare Turf and continued here last Thursday when Oregon Lady rallied to capture the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap.
Musketier parlayed a perfect trip under jockey Luis Saez into a half-length decision over his unlucky stablemate Simmard, who was hung wide throughout the 1 1/2-mile McKnight. Musketier saved ground behind the early leaders, then was able to slip through along the hedge when launching his winning bid turning for home.
The debate over the Horse-of-the-Year title, which inspired such passion at the end of the last two racing seasons, will be muted in the wake of the 2011 Breeders' Cup. With the world's best Thoroughbreds gathered at Churchill Downs, not a single one could muster a performance that would merit the sport's highest honor.
While the Breeders' Cup was a compelling event, filled with exciting finishes, human drama, and astronomical parimutuel payoffs, it hardly lived up to its purpose of showcasing the American Thoroughbred at his best. On a day when several horses had the chance to become the Horse of the Year by winning the main event, the $5 million Classic, all of them flopped and finished behind the long-shot Drosselmeyer, who had not won a race of consequence in 17 months.
The annual Breeders' Cup just completed Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the World Championships of thoroughbred horse racing. There are 15 different races over two days finishing with the Breeders' Cup Classic with a $5,000,000 purse.
Payson Park trainers took nine of their Payson Park trained horses to the Breeders' Cup and came home with seven paychecks totaling $13,500,00, and recording 78% of its entrants in the money. The onslaught was led by Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, whose Royal Delta won the $2,000,000 Ladies' Classic on Friday followed by Drosselmeyers' stirring win in the $5,000,000 Breeders' Cup Classic in Saturday's finale.
Canadian Hall of Famer, Roger Attfield's, Perfect Shirl, won the $2,000,000 Filly and Mare Turf Championship on Friday.
Bill Mott also scored big with Birdrun's second place showing in the $500,000 Marathon, and Christophe Clement's Gio Ponti finished with a fourth in the $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Mile.
Gail Cox's, Hard Not to Like, finished fifth in the $1,000,000 Juvenile Fillies Turf and Roger Attfield's fellow Canadian trainer, Ian Black, placed second in the $1,000,000 Juvenile Turf with Excaper.
Payson Park's motto is "Happy Horses Win". These outstanding finishes have made these horses, their trainers, and their owners very happy indeed!
Carolyn Wilson’s Arena Elvira won her fourth straight start as she captured the $193,725 Falls City Handicap (G2) on Thursday at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Bill Mott, Arena Elvira collared eventual runner-up Afleeting Lady in the final furlong to win as the even-money favorite under jockey Junior Alvarado. Arena Elvira covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.76 on a track rated as fast to win by a neck.
“When we turned for home, she switched leads and I knew I had plenty of horse, but when she got real close to [Afleeting Lady] she didn’t really want to go by her,” Alvarado said. “I always thought I had enough horse to get there by the wire, though. She’s a nice filly. She ran great last time and ran well today.”
Trainer Roger Attfield’s November roll with filly and mare turf horses continued Thanksgiving Day at Calder, where Orgeon Lady rallied to a neck victory over Trip for A. J. in the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap. Attfield was rewarded with his first Breeders’ Cup victory less than three weeks ago when Perfect Shirl upset the Filly and Mare Turf.
Oregon Lady, an Irish-bred daughter of Oregon Trail, rallied off a slow pace to outfinish a game Trip for A. J. in the final yards of the 1 1/8-mile My Charmer. Trip for A. J., ridden for the first time by owner Peter Fuller’s daughter, Abigail Fuller, recovered after bobbling at the start to slip inside the odds-on Denomination to move clear in early stretch, before proving no match for the winner. Snow Top Mountain rallied belatedly from last to finish another half-length further back in third.
Trainer Christophe Clement has been a major supporter of the Tropical Meet program since the mid-90s when the French-born horseman began shipping from New York into Payson Park winter quarters, and appears set to move toward the top of the all-time Tropical stakes victory list in several of the five Graded stakes to be run in the final days of this session.
Clement went into this meet Tropical Meet with 16 stakes victories to rank sixth on the all-time list led by Marty Wolfson with 28, followed by Luis Olivares second with 21 and Manny Tortora, Frank Gomez and Eddie Plesa, Jr. tied for third at 17 apiece.
Clement could jump into third with a big Thanksgiving holiday weekend performance by contenders in two stakes with Ghislaine Head’s 5-year-old mare Denomination the morning-line favorite in Thursday’s $100,000 My Charmer Handicap (G3) and Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s 6-year-old Winchester, a multiple Grade 1 winner, among the choices in the $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (G2) on Saturday.
Roan Inish, who has been off since finishing third in last year’s Queen’s Plate, has been retired and is at Mill Ridge Farm in Kentucky awaiting a date with the stallion Arch.
Carolyn Costigan, who sent out Roan Inish to win the Woodbine Oaks and the previous year’s Princess Elizabeth, had given the homebred filly every chance to return to the races, but a comeback now has been ruled out.
“She had a ligament injury, which we’d thought would heal in time, but then arthritis set in,” said Costigan, who trained Roan Inish for her father, Bob Costigan.
Roan Inish, a daughter of Elusive Quality and the two-time Sovereign Award-winning turf female Inish Glora, retires with her two stakes wins, three seconds, and a third for earnings of $628,329 from eight starts.
“She’s going to be bred to Arch,” said Costigan, who will be setting up shop at Florida’s Payson Park for the first time during the off season.
Ron the Greek took advantage of a bad stumble by 2-5 favorite Rail Trip to post an easy win Thursday in the $60,000 Sunny and Mild Stakes on Thursday at Aqueduct.
Rail Trip dumped rider Ramon Dominguez as the field broke from the starting gate. Dominguez, apparently unharmed, quickly bounced up from the muddy track and walked off while the riderless Rail Trip ran with the pack.
The mishap by the heavy choice opened the door for Ron the Greek to post a five length victory over Bigger Is Bettor. Jose Lezcano was aboard for trainer Bill Mott as Ron the Greek, a 4-year-old, got his fourth win in 14 starts. The time was 1:51.83 for the 1 1-8 miles.
Lady Cohiba, the 2-5 favorite, splashed to a 3Â½-length victory in the slop over Lasamanamama in the $58,800 May Night Stakes for 2-year-old fillies originally scheduled for the turf at Aqueduct. Lady Cohiba, an also-eligible who would not have run had the race remained on the grass, improved to 2 for 2 for trainer Christophe Clement. Jose Lezcano was aboard as she ran the mile in 1:41.38, paying $2.80, $2.10 and $2.10. Lasamanamama returned $3.30 and $2.50 while Court of Dreams returned $3.30.
Hit It Rich stalked the early pace, wrested command on the third and final turn, and drove clear to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap, completing a sweep of Aqueduct’s graded turf stakes for Shug McGaughey.
Sent off as the third choice in a field of eight fillies and mares, Hit It Rich ($10.80) bided her time in second position under Javier Castellano as longshot Unbridled Essence took the lead from her inside post. Hit It Rich took over nearing the quarter pole and remained clear through the lane to win by a length and a half.
“It looked like there wasn’t much speed at all, but [Unbridled Essence] rushed and wanted to dictate the pace,” said Castellano. “The pace was very slow and my filly loved to gallop right next to the lead.”
The six Woodbine-based horses who participated in the Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs last Friday and Saturday typified the highs and lows and everything in between.
Trainer Roger Attfield hadn’t pulled any punches heading into Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares Turf, telling all and sundry that he didn’t believe the conditions would suit Perfect Shirl.
“I was just terrified about the going,” said Attfield, back at his Woodbine headquarters this week. “I was actually distraught, the day before the race, with the amount of rain we were getting. I thought I had no chance to show how good this filly was becoming. I knew she was sitting on a big race.”
Second-crop sire WAR FRONT sired his 11th stakes winner November 6 as SUMMER FRONT stayed unbeaten in the King Cugat S. at Aqueduct. The 2-year-old colt was an impressive debut winner going six furlongs at Belmont in mid-October, and continued with his winning ways in his stakes debut. In the one mile turf race SUMMER FRONT settled just off the pace to stalk leaders. He began to make his move at the eighth pole and took over in the stretch to post a strong win under jockey Ramon Dominguez. It was the second start for the colt.
Bred by Graceville Breeding, SUMMER FRONT is owned by Waterford Stable and trained by Christophe Clement. He is a half-brother to Grade 1 winer Laragh, by PULPIT's son Tapit. The colt was a $475,000 2-year-old purchase at the Keeneland April Sale this year.
King's Best was the sire of his second Stakes winner of the day November 6 as Wallis impressed in the Spice Island Stakes at Aqueduct by a strong five lengths. The four-year-old filly was previously second in the Stormy West Stakes at Belmont in early October. She was a winner in England already this year.
During the one mile turf event Wallis settled slightly off the pace in third. She took off coming around the final turn and swept past the competition en route to the powerful victory.
Bred by Fittocks Stud, Wallis is out of the Sadler's Wells mare Frangy. She is a half-sister to Stakes winner Savarain and Group-placed Forte Dei Marmi.
King's Best was the Leading Sire in Europe by worldwide earnings in 2010. His six G1 winners include Derby and Arc hero Workforce, and he is the sire of 43 Stakes winners to date.
Boisterous, fresh off a win in the Knickerbocker three weeks ago for Shug McGaughey, caught Harrods Creek in midstretch and drove clear to score right back in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Red Smith Handicap, New York’s final graded turf stakes of the season for older males.
Boisterous ($6), the second choice in a field of seven, was about eighth lengths back in fifth position as Harrods Creek loped along through a half-mile in 52.56 seconds and a mile in 1:44.56. He moved smartly to contention three wide on the far turn turn, struck the front just inside the eighth pole, and drew off as the third winner on the card for Alan Garcia.
“He makes one run,” Garcia said. “At the three-eighths, I asked him a little bit to see what he had. I was watching for the favorite [Grassy] to come to me, but he never showed up and I said, ‘This horse is going to win.’ ”
Trainer Bill Mott put an exclamation point on his big Breeders' Cup weekend at Churchill Downs when the regally-bred Deluxe held on for a half-length victory in the $109,900 Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 6
Mott, Churchill's all-time leading trainer, saddled both Ladies' Classic (gr. I) winner Royal Delta and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) victor Drosselmeyer in the preceding two days.
Juddmonte Farms' Deluxe, by Storm Cat out of the great Kahyasi mare Hasili--a producer of five grade I winners--registered her first graded stakes win as the 3-2 favorite facing six rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Cardinal. Deluxe is a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) winners Banks Hill and Intercontinental.
Arena Elvira notched her third straight victory and first in a graded stakes when she pulled away to a 6 ¾-length triumph in the $98,000 Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) Nov. 4, the opening-day feature at Aqueduct Racetrack.
With Junior Alvarado in the irons, the 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper tracked Banker's Buy through an opening quarter-mile in :25.17 and a half in :50.71, then moved alongside the pacesetter on the far turn. Straightening for home after six furlongs in 1:16.21, Arena Elvira began opening up through the stretch under a hand ride. She hit the wire in 1:51.59 for the 1 1/8 miles.
“My filly didn’t break and I got stuck behind the horse in front (Banker’s Buy), but the rest was easy,” said Alvarado. “I asked her, and she responded right away. In the end, I was just keeping her straight. I wasn’t asking for much.”
A resilient Stormy Lord denied the advances of an onrushing Hollinger, in a stirring stretch battle, to capture Sunday’s $116,800 Labeeb Stakes at Woodbine.
It was the fourth added-money score of a six-race campaign for the four-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic-Lady Auchamore, and the seventh stakes victory of the season for trainer Ian Black.
As expected, Kara’s Orientation sprinted to the lead from the Post 11 in the one-mile turf tilt over an E.P Taylor Turf Course rated as, ‘yielding’. Stormy Lord, under a confident ride from jockey Justin Stein, settled into third position as Kara’s Orientation marked an opening quarter in :24.30 and a half in :48.80.
Oregon Lady, trained by Roger Attfield, opened up down the lane to capture the $105,200 River Memories, on Saturday at Woodbine.
The four-year-old bay filly, owned by Harlequin Ranches, picked up her first added-money score with the victory under a masterful ride by Patrick Husbands in the one-mile turf tilt over an E.P Taylor Turf Course rated as 'soft'.
Moonlit Beauty led the field through moderate opening fractions of :24.50 and :49.15 with Moment of Majesty hot on her heels. Moonlit Beauty maintained her lead through three-quarters, but Oregon Lady, travelling swiftly from fifth-position, took the lead at the top of the stretch, angled in to the rail, and drove clear for a four and a quarter length score, in a final running time of 1:39.59. Moment of Majesty held on gamely for place, three and a half lengths clear of the favoured Magic Broomstick.
Hymn Book, the 1-5 favorite, rallied to beat Cactus Charlie by 21/4 lengths on Thursday in the $60,000 Firethorn Stakes at Belmont Park.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, Hymn Book improved to 2-1-0 in three starts on Belmont’s main track. He was sixth in his prior race, the Bernard Baruch Handicap on the turf at Saratoga.
Miss Keller, runner-up in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes last year, prevailed in a thrilling three-horse finish in Sunday’s running of the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares.
Trained by Roger Attfield and ridden by John Velazquez, Miss Keller was up in time for a head victory over I’m A Dreamer with the favored Dream Peace another nose back in the field of 11 fillies and mares for the 1 1/4-mile turf stakes.
By capturing the Breeders' Cup Win and You’re In event, Miss Keller received a fees-paid berth into the BC Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.
Denomination may have made the last start of her career on Saturday, and if it was, she went out in style, rallying under Joe Bravo for a 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3, $100,000 Athenia Stakes at Belmont Park.
Unbridled Humor, the even-money favorite, finished second by two lengths over Countess Lemonade. Thai Haku, Nefertiti, Thundering Emilia, and Stormy Dixie completed the order of finish. Aquitaine was scratched.
Denomination, a 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, won for the seventh time in 22 starts. Denomination added the Athenia to earlier Grade 3 stakes wins in the Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs and the Violet at Monmouth in May.
Seemingly one-paced throughout the majority of the race, Boisterous kicked into another gear in the final sixteenth of a mile and was able to run down Sleepless Knight to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Knickerbocker Stakes by a half-length at blustery Belmont Park.
Sleepless Knight, who made the lead above the eighth pole, had to settle for second, a neck in front of the hard-charging Mr. Ryder. Mata Keranjang, Boots Ahead, Followmyfootsteps, and Yummy With Butter completed the order of finish.
The win was the fifth from 13 career starts for Boisterous, a 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor owned by the Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey. It was his first triumph in a graded stakes after two failed attempts in Grade 1 company.
Hard Not to Like beat the boys convincingly Saturday at Woodbine in the $250,800 Cup and Saucer Stakes, a race in which two of the nine 2-year-olds were pulled over the soft turf course.
Hard Not to Like ($7) tracked the front-running Stormy Revenge on the backstretch of the mile and a sixteenth route for Canadian-breds. She hit the front late on the turn, and then drew away in the stretch to score by 4 3/4 lengths, in 1:48. Hampstead Heath was a prominent second, and Jomelo rallied for third. Dead On, Prince Raphael, and Maritimer were scratched.
Patrick Husbands rode Hard Not to Like, who earned $150,000 for Hillsbrook Farm and trainer Gail Cox.
Castleton Lyons Farm’s Gio Ponti rallied past Get Stormy and Sidney's Candy in deep stretch to win the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) for the second consecutive year Oct. 8 at Keeneland, breaking a five-race losing streak in the process.
The three-time champion earned a trip back to the winner's circle for the first time since taking the 2010 Turf Mile. It was a little tougher this time around, as he had to wait for room in upper stretch and then run down Get Stormy, who had taken the lead from the pacesetting Sidney's Candy. The final margin of victory was a half-length.
Quantum Racing Team #1’s 6-year-old gelding Mambo Meister is a longtime fan favorite at Calder Casino & Race Course and Leo Azpurua, Jr.’s 3-year-old Manicero is building an impressive resume with each start, both multiple stakes-winners expected to see action in stakes to be run on the track’s $850,000 Festival of the Sun program on Sat., Oct. 15.
The $300,000 In Reality and $300,000 My Dear Girl division finales of the Florida Stallion Stakes series for 2-year-olds lead the Festival card that also will include renewals of the $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles and the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby and $75,000 Frances A. Genter Stakes for 3-year-olds to be run on turf at 1 1/8 miles and one mile, respectively, the latter for fillies.
Mambo Meister won the 2009 edition of the Spend a Buck for trainer Phil Gleaves and finished second in the race last year. The son of King Cugat went on to a strong fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita in 2009 and has run well in other Graded stakes on the road, but has posted all of his 11 career wins on turf and dirt at Calder while earning over $660,000.
Gio Ponti and Get Stormy head what might be the deepest field in years in the Grade 1, $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile, the last of five straight graded stakes set for a blockbuster Saturday card at Keeneland.
Gio Ponti, winner of the Shadwell last year, was assigned post 5 in a field of eight in the Shadwell, a Win and You’re In race toward the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Ramon Dominguez will ride 6-year-old Gio Ponti for owner Castleton Lyons and trainer Christophe Clement.
Get Stormy won the premier turf race at the Keeneland spring meet, the Maker’s Mark Mile, and was assigned the outside post with Garrett Gomez getting the call.
Waterville Lake Stable’s homebred Miss Valentine was all heart winning the $60,000 open Mom’s Command Stakes for thee-year-old fillies at Belmont on Wednesday, getting the decision by a head bob over a determined Draw It after a nip and tuck duel in the final furlong.
Making her sixth start of the year and ninth start lifetime for trainer Christophe Clement in the one-mile Mom’s Command, Miss Valentine appeared to be in peak form going in. The chestnut daughter of Afleet Alex was last seen finishing second in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks on August 13. This followed directly on the heels of an impressive three-length victory in the Serena’s Song at Monmouth on July 16. Miss Valentine’s most recent workout prior to Wednesday’s race was a four-furlong bullet in 47 seconds flat at Belmont on September 18, the best of 56 at the distance that day.
Trainer Roger Attfield and jockey Eurico Da Silva combined to sweep both stakes at Woodbine on Sunday, most notably the Grade 3, $255,500 Selene for 3-year-old fillies with Smart Sting.
Smart Sting ($13.70) led most of the way through slow fractions in the Selene, before drawing off in the stretch to score by 3 1/2 lengths, in a time of 1:43.73 for the 1 1/16 miles. Left in her wake were the two favorites, Anne’s Beauty and Inglorious, who fought for second, which Anne’s Beauty secured by a neck. Inglorious’s rider claimed foul on Anne’s Beauty for interference in the stretch, but the result stood.
Smart Sting, owned by Stronach Stable, had competed exclusively on turf prior to the Grade 3 Selene.
“She’d been working great on the Polytrack,” Attfield said. “She’s very, very well right now. I told Eurico in the paddock to just let her run her race, and he gave her a great ride. The filly has a big future.”
Honimiere went wire-to-wire for the victory in Sunday's off-the-turf $103,400 Flaming Page Stakes for older fillies and mares at Woodbine.
Honimiere, who hadn't raced since July 9 when fifth at Delaware Park in the Grade 3 Robert G Dick, was quickest from the gate and never looked back, crossing the wire 7 1/2 lengths the best in a time of 2:31.25.
Ridden by Eurico Rosa da Silva, trained by Roger Attfield and owned by Stella Perdomo, the five-year-old Irish-bred earned her fifth lifetime win from 25 career starts.
Honimiere paid $4.90, $3.50 and $2.50 across the board, combining with Oregon Lady ($4.50, $2.40) for a $13.60 exactor. Happy Clapper ($2.30) completed a $26.20 triactor.
To Honor and Serve provided a not-so-subtle reminder why he entered the year ranked so high on many handicappers' Kentucky Derby lists with an authoritative victory, running stakes-record time, in Saturday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.
Taking over from pacesetting Rush Now with three furlongs remaining, To Honor and Serve, under Jose Lezcano, scored a 2 1/4-length victory over Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice. It was 3 1/2 lengths back to Rattlesnake Bridge in third.
To Honor and Serve ($5.20) ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:47.34, the fastest clocking for the Pennsylvania Derby in 32 runnings. The previous stakes record was 1:47.60 established by Western Playboy in 1989, though times were not recorded in hundredths back then. Timber Reserve ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.67 in 2007.
Canadian invader Stormy Lord pulled a 9-1 upset Saturday when rallying from just off the pace to win the $250,000 President’s Cup at Parx Racing in suburban Philadelphia.
Ridden by Justin Stein for trainer Ian Black, Stormy Lord edged clear late to win the 1 1/8-mile turf race by 1 1/4 lengths over Citrus Kid, the 5-1 third choice. Lubash, a 54-1 shot, led most of the way when finishing a neck back in third, with Bim Bam finishing fourth.
Smart Bid, the even-money favorite in the field of 10 older horses, had no mishap when finishing eighth in his first time out of the money in eight 2011 starts for trainer Graham Motion. Violon Sacre, the 9-2 second choice, ran ninth.
Trainer Roger Attfield and jockey Eurico Da Silva combined to sweep both stakes at Woodbine on Sunday, most notably the Grade 3, $255,500 Selene for 3-year-old fillies with Smart Sting.
Smart Sting ($13.70) led most of the way through slow fractions in the Selene, before drawing off in the stretch to score by 3 1/2 lengths, in a time of 1:43.73 for the 1 1/16 miles. Left in her wake were the two favorites, Anne’s Beauty and Inglorious, who fought for second, which Anne’s Beauty secured by a neck. Inglorious’s rider claimed foul on Anne’s Beauty for interference in the stretch, but the result stood.
Grassy satisfied his hunger for victory Saturday at Belmont Park, first by nearly taking a bite out of one of his rivals, then by outkicking the rest of them to take the Grade 2, $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap on opening day at Belmont Park.
Despite a wide trip under Garrett Gomez, Grassy overtook Center Divider just outside the sixteenth pole and outlasted that one to the wire to win by a half-length. It was a neck back to Bold Hawk in third. He was followed in the order of finish by Sanagas, the 3-2 favorite, Kindergarden Kid, Colonialism, and Sal the Barber.
The win was the fifth from 15 starts, but first in five outings this year for Grassy, a 5-year-old son of El Prado owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. It was Grassy’s first win since he took the Grade 2 Red Smith at Aqueduct last November.
Seruni won the $75,000 Labor Day Stakes and Grecian Maiden took the $75,0000 Summer Finale at Mountaineer Race Track on Monday.
Seruni, ridden by Jon Court, won the mile and 70-yard Labor Day by 4 3/4 lengths over 9-10 favorite Cryptolight, with Sneakin Thru third in the field of seven older horses. Owned by G. Watts Humhrey Jr. and St George Racing Farm, Seruni paid $6 to win and covered the distance on a muddy, sealed track in 1:41.98.
Grecian Maiden drew off by 6 3/4 lengths under Scott Spieth in the Summer Finale, a mile and 70-yard race for fillies and mares. American Romance rallied for second, and favored Kiss Mine took third. Grecian Maiden, owned by Marathon Farms and trained by Michael Trombetta, covered the distance in 1:42.86. She paid $12 to win.
Odds-on favorite Arena Elvira, under Jose Lezcano, rallied three wide leaving the five-sixteenths pole, took command in upper stretch and easily held Satans Quick Chick at bay to win the $75,000 Sightseek Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths.
Satans Quick Chick finished second by two lengths over Lacie Slew. Connie and Michael and All About Alex completed the order of finish.
It was the second overnight stakes victory for Arena Elvira, a 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper who earlier in the meet won the Madam Jumel by 1 1/4 lengths.
Arena Elvira, owned by Carolyn Wilson and trained by Bill Mott, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.41 and returned $3.
After a sparkling maiden victory in her turf debut at Belmont Park on June 29, Alaura Michele surged to a dominant stakes victory at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday.
The two-year-old filly by Arch rated in fifth early and flashed an impressive turn of foot in the stretch to win the $75,000 P. G. Johnson Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths.
Bill Mott trains the bark bay or brown filly for owner-breeder Siena Farms.
“We didn’t know we’d be quite back that far, but she handled it well,” Mott said. “When she broke her maiden at Belmont, she was very keen. We didn’t know how well it would transfer to today.”
Alaura Michele covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.95 on turf rated as good to prevail at 3.20-to-1 odds. She was bred in Kentucky out of stakes-placed winner Isobel Baillie (GB), by Lomitas (GB).
[Owner Siena Farm] bred and raised her. Greg Fox [the prior trainer] is kind of retired. I just inherited her,” Mott said. “Greg deserves a lot of credit for getting her ready over the winter. We believed she had the mechanics to stretch out but were not sure [if it would be] this time.”
For most of the year, it seems like Royal Delta has been playing catch-up in the 3-year-old filly division. By virtue of her dominant performance in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Alabama Stakes before 33,380 at balmy Saratoga, it seems safe to say she has ascended to the level of the elite in the division.
After stalking the Grade 1 winners Plum Pretty and It’s Tricky for more than a mile, Royal Delta was guided off the rail by Jose Lezcano in upper stretch and blew past those two accomplished opponents to win the 131st Alabama by 5 1/2 lengths. It’s Tricky, the Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks winner, finished second as the slight 2-1 favorite by one length over longshot Pinch Pie. Plum Pretty, the Kentucky Oaks winner, finished fourth followed by St. John’s River and Inglorious, the surprising second choice at 2-1.
Hungry Island parlayed her own talents and the misfortune of the 2-5 favorite Winter Memories, who suffered through a second straight eventful trip, to register a convincing 2 1/2-length victory over Kathmanblu in Sunday’s $150,000 Lake Placid Stakes decided over a yielding course at Saratoga.
Winter Memories finished fourth, 3 1/4 lengths behind Hungry Island, in the scratched reduced field of seven 3-year-old fillies who contested the 1 1/8-mile Lake Placid.
Hungry Island, a homebred daughter of More Than Ready owned by Emory Hamilton, posted her fourth consecutive win and first graded stakes victory while benefitting from a patient ride by her regular jockey, Alex Solis. Rating kindly near the rear of the pack off a slow pace set by Bellamy Star, Hungry Island finished full of run down the center of the course once settling into the stretch to readily overtake the leaders near the sixteenth pole and win going away.
Before the July 23 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), Bill Mott hinted that Royal Delta might not be ready to fire her best effort. Recovering from a minor foot bruise, the Empire Maker filly went on to finish a distant third behind It's Tricky and Plum Pretty, who were separated by less than a length.
With a race under her belt, Royal Delta was primed for a monster run in the $500,000 TVG Alabama (gr. I) (VIDEO) Aug. 20 and she did just that, blowing by It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty at the eighth pole and powering home for a impressive 5 1/2-length victory at Saratoga. It was the first grade I win for the dark bay/brown filly and the victory put her right into the thick of things in a suddenly wide-open 3-year-old filly division.
With Jose Lezcano aboard, Royal Delta covered 1 1/4 miles on the fast dirt in 2:03.13. It was the third win in five starts this year for the Palides Investments N. V. homebred, who captured the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) in May at Pimlico Race Course.
Impossible Time, defending her title in the Victoriana Stakes, capped a 3-for-3 day for trainer Roger Attfield here at Woodbine last Sunday.
“A perfect day is always okay, and it had been kind of slow for a while,” said Attfield, who also sent out Smart Penny to win her maiden and Mobilizer to score under second-level allowance terms to run his record to 5 for 8 here for the week.
Attfield conditions Impossible Time, who is a 6-year-old mare, for her owner and breeder Chuck Fipke.
Mobilizer, a 4-year-old colt, and Smart Penny, a 3-year-old filly, are homebreds who race for Stronach Stable.
“I’m so proud of all of them,” said Attfield. “That filly has been so good to me; I kind of have a soft spot for her.”
Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone's homebred Winchester delivered the fourth grade I victory of his career Aug. 13 when he rallied from last to take the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) (VIDEO) by three-quarters of a length at Saratoga.
With Cornelio Velasquez in the irons for Christophe Clement, 6-year-old Winchester trailed the field for a mile and was still near the back when they turned for home, but was able to run down pacesetter Rahy's Attorney in the final yards to earn the win. It was the first triumph of the season for the son of Theatrical, who posted grade I victories in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in 2010 at Belmont Park. He also won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) as a 3-year-old.
Cascadilla Falls won the $75,000 Lucy Scribner Stakes for 3-year-old female sprinters at Saratoga on Thursday, a race marred by the fatality of Doing Great, who was leading at the three-furlong pole when she collapsed and fell heavily to the turf, unseating jockey Javier Castellano.
Doing Great died of "cardiovascular collapse," according to Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association.
Castellano was removed in an ambulance and taken to track first aid, where he said he merely had the wind knocked out of him. He did take off his lone remaining mount of the day, Smart Enuf in the 10th race.
Seal Cove remained unbeaten on turf and got the first stakes win of his brief career by rallying to take the $78,000 Gleaming Stakes, an overnight race for 3-year-olds, on Monday at Saratoga.
Sent off as the favorite, Seal Cove ($6.50), sixth in the eight-horse field for the first six furlongs, roared down the center of the course to beat Canaveral by 1 3/4 lengths. Eternal Ruler, the early leader, was 2 3/4 lengths farther back in third.
Seal Cove, under jockey Javier Castellano, completed 1 3/16 miles on a course rated yielding in 2:01.75.
The win was the third in four starts for Seal Cove, whose only loss came in a race at Keeneland that was rained off the turf. He beat maiden-claimers in his debut at Gulfstream in March, and won a first-level allowance at Belmont in June.
“This is a pleasant surprise,” said Shug McGaughey, who trains Seal Cove, a colt by Strong Hope, for owner-breeder Stuart Janney III.
Unbridled's Song's 4-year-old colt Mystic pulled some late-race heroics for a hard-fought neck victory in the $85,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup Aug. 6 at Mountaineer Park, and in the process became the newest stakes winner for his top 15-ranked sire.
Mystic was in the back half of the eight horse field for the first six furlongs of the 1 mile and 70 yard contest on the turf. With a late surge in the stretch under strong handling from James Graham, the chestnut nipped even-money favorite Strike Impact on the wire in a time of 1:38.90 on the firm going. The final clocking was just a second off the track record and scored him a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.
Mystic, who races for Sequoia Racing, is now 4-0-3 in 15 starts and has amassed $181,573. He was bred in Kentucky by Sha-Li Leasing Associates and is one of three winners from as many starters out of Mayville's Magic.
Arena Elvira, under Jose Lezcano, rallied past stablemate Acronym to win the $77,000 Madame Jumel Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/4 lengths. Both Arena Elvira and Acronym are trained by Bill Mott.
Arena Elivra, a daughter of Ghostzapper owned by Carolyn Wilson, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.48 and returned $5.70 as the 9-5 favorite.
Brushwood Stable’s Mr. Ryder notched his first career stake victory in the Sussex Stakes at Delaware Park today. With Ramon Dominguez aboard, the 4-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway posted a neck victory over Bim Bam, with David Cohen. It was another 3 ¼-lengths back to Mikoshi, with Garrett Gomez, in third. Mr. Ryder returned $5.00 as the favorite in the field of six and covered the mile and a sixteenth over a firm turf course in 1:40.82.
The Kentucky-bred conditioned by Christophe Clement raised his career record to five wins from eight starts with earnings of $165,480.
Stuart Janney had a feeling his horse would enjoy stretching his legs with a longer race in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs.
Janney is a darn fine read. Air Support took to the 1 1/4-mile distance a little better than his biggest rivals.
After staring at the hind parts of Banned and Street Game in the closing moments of recent graded stakes races, Air Support finally got his revenge Saturday with a photo finish win by a neck over Banned in the $600,000 Virginia Derby, a Grade II turf race.
"This was a race we've been pointing to all season, so everything he's done prior to (the Virginia Derby) was to get us here," said Janney, who owns Air Support. "We thought he would like a little more distance, which he clearly did."
None of the 12 horses in the field had run in a race longer than 1 3/16 miles, but Janney and jockey Alex Solis had a little added motivation with Air Support, which went off at 7-1 odds.
Birdrun, winner of the Brooklyn H. (G2) in June, earned his second stakes win of 2011 when the 5-year-old son of Birdstone was awarded first place in the $250,000 Greenwood Cup on Oct. 12.
The Greenwood Cup, run at Parx Racing on July 16, was originally won by A. U. Miner, but was subsequently disqualified from the first-place purse earned in that victory as a result of a positive drug finding. Birdrun, who finished second, was declared the winner by the Pennsylvania track's stewards.
Besides Birdrun, Birdstone is the sire of S. S. Stone, winner of this year's Grade 3 Skip Away S. and the promising stakes-placed 2-year-old Little Bird.
French import Right One lived up to his name as made a late run from the rear and got up in the last jump to nip Yield Bogey in the $100,000 Jaipur Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park July 16.
The victory was the third in four U.S. starts for Right One, one of two Jaipur starters for trainer Christophe Clement, and one of four winners on the card for jockey Javier Castellano.
A homebred for Ghislaine Head, who bred the gelded son of Anabaa in France along with her husband Alec, Right One was trained in his native country by his owner-breeder’s daughter, Criquette Head-Maarek, before coming to the U.S. at the end of his 2010 campaign. Previous to the Jaipur, Right One took the Island Sun Stakes in his second U.S. start and finished second behind Courageous Cat and Yield Bogey in the Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont June 10.
Miss Valentine made her first road trip a winning one, beating Withgreatpleasure by three lengths on Saturday in the $76,350 Serena's Song Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park.
The Serena's Song is the prep for the Grade 3, $150,000 Monmouth Oaks on Aug. 13.
Miss Valentine, a New York-bred who had not previously raced outside her native state for trainer Christophe Clement, settled not far off the pace with Joe Bravo aboard while Coco Ecolo set the pace. "There was a good honest pace," Bravo said.
Miss Valentine ranged into contention on the final turn and pulled clear with a furlong to go. Withgreatpleasure came on to get second while Coco Ecolo held on for third.
The 2-1 favorite, Miss Valentine paid $6.40 to win as she ran the one mile, 70 yards in 1:41.35.
Shug McGaughey sounded some awfully optimistic notes this past week about Air Support’s chances in the Grade 2, $600,000 Virginia Derby, and the colt backed his trainer up, gamely holding off Banned to score a narrow victory in an exciting finish Saturday evening at Colonial Downs.
Jockey Alex Solis, who has regularly teamed with McGaughey since coming to New York this spring, did his part, too, giving Air Support a perfect ground-saving trip while getting a clean run from the back of bulky field. Banned ran well in defeat, losing by a neck, as did longshot Casino Host, who finished another three-quarters back in third.
Air Support ($15.60) had finished a distant second to Virginia Derby starter Street Game last month in the Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont, but that race came over one mile, and McGaughey forecast a stronger performance at the Virginia Derby’s 1 1/4-mile distance, while also speaking in glowing terms of Air Support’s turf work on Sunday in New York.
Stormy Lord, under a confident ride from Jim McAleney, took Wednesday evening's feature race, the $100,000 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes, at Woodbine.
The gelded chestnut son of Stormy Atlantic, trained by Ian Black, took aim at the leaders just before the turn for home in the seven-furlong turf stake, held a one-length advantage at the stretch call, then kept his rivals at bay to triumph by the same margin.
Officeinthevalley was second, while Hollinger was third. Cross Every Bridge and Sand Cove were scratched.
Now a six-time winner, along with five seconds and one third from 17 starts, Stormy Lord came into the race off a tenth-place finish in the Grade 2 Highlander Stakes on June 26. On this picture-perfect night, however, he was at the top of his game.
It was the second win from three starts in 2011 by the Ontario-bred, who kicked-off his campaign with a three-length score in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup Stakes on May 29. The final time over a 'firm' E.P. Taylor Turf Course was 1:21.90.
Stormy Lord paid $5, $2.60 and $2.50, combining with Officeinthevalley ($3.90, $2.90) for a $16.30 exactor. Hollinger ($2.70) completed a $30.40 triactor.
Pender Harbour, third in the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate on June 26, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 on the dirt training track Monday at Woodbine in preparation for Fort Erie's Prince of Wales Stakes.
The field for Sunday's $500,000 Prince of Wales, which is run over 1 3/16 miles of Fort Erie's dirt oval and is the second leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be announced 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Pender Harbour will be among the choices in the Prince of Wales, with his appeal being enhanced by the presence of Luis Contreras, who had piloted Inglorious to victory in the Queen's Plate but was open after that filly's connections opted to head for the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.
Robert Scarborough’s Cheetah came from the back of the pack and used an inside stretch move to score the $202,450 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes (gr. IIIT) July 9 at Delaware Park.
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite in a field of 12, the 4-year-old Tiger Hill filly trailed for six furlongs before launching her winning move coming off the final turn. Under Jose Lezcano, she finally overtook pacesetter Ainamaa approaching mid-stretch with a quick burst along the hedge and went on to win by 3 3/4 lengths.
The final time for 1 3/8 miles on the good turf was 2:13.13. Bubbly Jane rallied on the outside to get second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Dyna Waltz. Ainamaa settled for fourth.
Cheetah won for the second time in three United States starts. The gray/roan filly won two of six starts in England before being shipped to Christophe Clement’s New York barn earlier this season. She won in her stateside debut April 23 on the Keeneland Polytrack, easily taking an allowance race before finishing third in the Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT) in her most recent start May 28 at Belmont Park.
Devil by Design, making her season debut for trainer Bill Mott, overcame early trouble to take control in the final furlong, winning the $100,000 Chicago Handicap (gr. III) July 3 at Arlington Park.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Devil by Design was in tight quarters early before working her way clear on the turn and into contention in upper stretch. After angling out three wide for the drive, she put a head in front of favored Tidal Pool and Dr. Zic approaching the eighth pole and prevailed by 1 3/4 lengths under strong urging.
Devil by Design, now five-for-seven at the seven-furlong distance, was working impressively at Churchill for her 2011 bow.
Courageous Cat’s gritty win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park left winning jockey Patrick Valenzuela in a forecasting mood after the race.
“This horse is so much better than when I rode him in the Shadwell Mile,” Valenzuela said, referring to a third-place finish in the Grade 1 race at Keeneland last fall. “I can almost guarantee he’ll win the Breeders’ Cup Mile, even if they bring that filly over.”
Hungry Island, last until the quarter pole, was spun five-wide by Alex Solis turning for home and rocketed past her seven rivals in the stretch to win the $60,000 Recording Stakes by three lengths over My Redbyrd. It was a length back to Parting Words in third. Hungry Island, a daughter of More Than Ready, won for the third consecutive time for owner Emory Hamilton and trainer Shug McGaughey. She covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.59 and returned $15.60 to win.
After tracking a swift early pace set by Longboarder, Stronach Stables’ homebred Don Cavallo opened a clear lead on the turn and cruised to a five-length win in the $209,260 Dominion Day Handicap (Can-G3) on Friday at Woodbine.
The four-year-old El Prado (Ire) colt secured his first stakes win, covering 1¼ miles on the synthetic Polytrack surface in 2:03.47. James Street closed well for second, followed by 2010 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner Stately Victor in third.
Don Cavallo entered off a solid runner-up finish, beaten a half-length by Fifty Proof, in the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse Stakes (Can-G3) on May 28 at Woodbine.
Musketier, the senior member of the field at age 9, successfully defended his title for trainer Roger Attfield in Sunday’s Singspiel as he rallied to post a neck victory in the Grade 3, $151,200 supporting feature on the Queen’s Plate card at Woodbine.
Rahy’s Attorney, the 2-1 choice in the field of seven for the 1 1/2-mile turf race, lead through slow fractions over a course rated firm, but was joined by Simmard with about a half-mile to run.
Simmard and Rahy’s Attorney dueled into the stretch, but Grassy and Musketier were coming hard and wound up fighting it out for the win in the closing yards.
“I had to get after him a little bit earlier than I wanted to,” said jockey John Velazquez, who had ridden Musketier to victory in the last two runnings of Keeneland’s Grade 2 Elkhorn over 1 1/2 miles of turf.
Florida-bred Clement Rock improved to 2-for-2 on Woodbine’s turf course Saturday, rallying for a 2 ¼-length victory in his stakes debut, the $101,585 Charlie Barley. The colt is a homebred for Eugene Melnyk of Ocala’s Winding Oaks Farm, which stands Clement Rock’s sire, Strong Hope.
Clement Rock made his career debut for trainer Malcolm Pierce on a sloppy Fair Grounds track in March and finished last of 11. He was then transferred to trainer Mark Casse and won in his next start, taking a $61,000 maiden special weight race by half a length on the Woodbine lawn June 10.
That performance made Clement Rock the 3-1 second choice in a field of eight 3-year-olds for the Charlie Barley, but the colt ran like a favorite. With Woodbine’s leading rider, Luis Contreras, aboard for the second straight race, Clement Rock raced in midpack as Something Extra led the field through a quarter-mile in 24.26 seconds and a half-mile in 48.27.
Giants Play (Giant's Causeway) set a glacial tempo while racing on a relaxed lead and held off a late charge from Zagora to win Belmont Park’s Grade Two New York for fillies and mares on Saturday.
The Newsells Park Stud color-bearer dictated fractions of 52.99 and 1:17.65, opened a 1 ½-length advantage on the far turn, and dug in late to prevail by a diminishing head and earn her first victory in the United States.
Off as the 7-2 third choice, Giants Play returned $9.20 for a $2 win wager and completed 1 ¼ miles over the firm inner turf course in 2:04.76, running the final quarter-mile in 23.33.
Sand Cove’s victory here in last Sunday’s Steady Growth boosted his career earnings to $1,039,732.
But, if there is a way to make a million the hard way, Sand Cove’s workmanlike victory in the $125,000 Steady Growth continued a case in point, as the Ontario-sired 6-year-old horse was making his 34th career start and winning his ninth stakes race for trainer Roger Attfield and owner Ralph Johnson.
“What a tough little campaigner he is,” said Attfield, who had watched Sand Cove tote highweight of 126 pounds including regular rider Richard Dos Ramos and prevail by a neck over a game J J for Dave, who carried 117 pounds.
“It’s tough, to give that kind of weight away. I have a lot of admiration for this horse.”
Birdrun, taking a page from the playbook Shackleford is likely to use on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes, led from start to finish going 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park on Friday in the Grade 2, $150,000 Brooklyn Handicap for older horses.
In doing so, Birdrun beat last year’s Belmont winner, Drosselmeyer, who finished about three lengths back in second after being on nearly even terms at the top of the stretch. But the result was a dream scenario for trainer Bill Mott, who sent out both Birdrun and Drosselmeyer in the five-horse field. Mott also won the Grade 3 Poker Stakes, which immediately preceded the Brooklyn, with Courageous Cat.
Pam and Martin Wygod’s homebred Courageous Cat took over from pacesetter Yield Bogey nearing the eighth-pole and cruised to a 2 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) June 10 at Belmont Park.
The 5-year-old son of Storm Cat notched his third graded stakes victory in his season debut. The bay horse had not raced since finishing third in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) last October at Keeneland. That did not stop bettors from sending him off as the 4-5 choice in a field of five turf milers.
Jose Lezcano guided Courageous Cat to victory for trainer Bill Mott. The final time for a mile over the good turf course was 1:36.69.
John Kimmel came to work Monday morning and found a pleasant note from his night watchman as it pertained to the trainer's 4-year-old colt Friend Or Foe.
"The chart from the night watchman said ‘He ate everything,' " Kimmel said Monday morning. "I don't know if I believe him, but that's what it said."
Kimmel wouldn't have been surprised if Friend Or Foe had left some feed Sunday night. Earlier that day, Friend Or Foe had run a hard and fast 1 1/16 miles to run down the Grade 1 winner Rail Trip and take the $60,000 Easy Goer Stakes by a neck. His final time of 1:40.13 was only .75 of a second off the track record of 1:39.38 set by Birdrun in October 2009. Friend Or Foe earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the performance.
"It was more than I really wanted to get from the race, but hopefully he'll move forward," Kimmel said.