At Sam Houston Race Park in Texas, Candid Glen battled to the wire with Even The Score in Saturday's $200,000 John B. Connally Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap, with Candid Glen prevailing by a nose.
The stewards then set Even The Score down to fifth for interference. That moved up Nat's Big Party to second and El Gran Papa, the favorite, to third.
Lonnie Meche, who rode Even The Score, said his mount "was all over the place" after getting to the lead in the stretch, speculating he might have been distracted by the lights. "He would have won easy if he would have kept a straight path," Meche said.
Candid Glen, a 5-year-old son of El Gran Senor, covered the 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:50.38. He shipped in from Fair Grounds after running third in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap in his last start -- behind Mystery Giver and Even The Score.
"He's been running super all year long," said winning trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. "He has hit the board in many of his races." He said he expects to ship Candid Glen back to Louisiana for the Explosive Bid Handicap.
Candid Glen won the Connolly last year, then finished 10th in the Explosive Bid.
The weekend's other big turf event, the $150,000 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, was washed off the turf and onto the main track. When the sratches were done, only four horses went to the post, with North East Bound the easy, 4 ¾-length winner on the front end.
Capsized was second, Flying Avie third and Galic Boy last. North East Bound, a 5-year-old D'Accord gelding, almost didn't start, according to trainer Bill Perry.
"I almost scratched him because he hasn't fared so well over this track in the past. But it came up a short field and that looked pretty good. Plus, he's doing really well right now," Perry said. He said North East Bound will return to the green course next time out.
On Friday, the 3-year-olds found firm turf at Gulfstream for the $100,000 Palm Beach Stakes. Orchard Park, with Jerry Bailey in the irons, rallied from well back on the turn for home and worked clear to win by 1 ¾ lengths over Lord Juban. Red's Top Gun was third.
Orchard Park, a Florida-bred son of Hennessy, finished the 9 furlongs in 1:49.80. Said winning owner Peter Vegso: "This is a thrill. I bred this horse and I own the whole family, I think. I have some brothers to this horse."
In Kentucky Derby doin's:
--Smooth Jazz took command in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $75,000 Best Turn Stakes at Aqueduct by 2 ¾ length over Tank's Expectation. President Butler was third. The 6 furlongs took 1:10.76 and owner/trainer Anthony Dutrow said he will be stretching out with Smooth Jazz, a son of Storm Boot, with the 1-mile Gotham on March 17 or the 7-furlong Bay Shore on April 13 as possibilities.
--Bunk N Ted won Saturday's $50,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by 1 length over Tails Of The Crypt. The victory was his third in as many tries but his first stakes effort. Trainer Kenny Wirth said the son of Belong To Me "is right on course to run in the Tampa Bay Derby" on March 17. Derek Bell steered Bunk N Ted over 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:49.86.
--Breeders' Cup Juvenile third-place finisher Siphonic worked 5 furlongs at Hollywood Park on Saturday in 1:00.20, preparing for the March 17 San Felipe at Santa Anita. Trainer David Hofmans said Siphonic, a son of Siphon, missed a scheduled work a week earlier with a fever. But, Hofmans added, "He went real well" in Saturday's effort. He was second in the Santa Catalina last month after a nearly disastrous stumble at the start.
--Juvenile winner Johannesburg reportedly will make only one start in Ireland before shipping to Louisville for the Derby.
--Trainer Todd Pletcher said Nokoma, who won a 1-mile, 70-yard allowance race on Saturday, earned his ticket back onto the Road to the Roses. "He came back in good shape this morning," Pletcher said Sunday of the Pulpit colt, "and our plans are to run him in the Florida Derby (March 16). That's what we came down here for." The Florida Derby also is expected to feature a third matchup between Booklet and Harlan's Holiday, with Blue Burner and High Star other confirmed starters.
Next weekend: Came Home is expected to be the headliner in Saturday's San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita. The colt won the Feb. 2 San Vicente impressively. Also likely are Hollywood Futurity runner-up Fonz's and trainer D. Wayne Lukas' multimillion-dollar underperformer Shah Jehan. Also Saturday, the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park is the final local prep for the March 23 Spiral Stakes, the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park points the way to the Arkansas Derby, and the Deputed Testamony Stakes at Laurel might turn up a Maryland-bred contender.
In other weekend racing:
Sam Houston Race Park
Pleasant State challenged for the lead out of the far turn in Saturday night's $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares, then drew out to win by 2 ½ lengths over Zamba Canuta. Solo Attack was third in a parade of longshots that returned a $2 trifecta payoff of $12,187.80. The favorite, Silent Emotion, led into the stretch but faded to finish fifth. The 1 1/16 mile on the grass took 1:44.29
Boots On Sunday won a three-horse charge to the wire in the $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup Handicap. Jockey Roman Chapa saved ground in the early going aboard Boots On Sunday, came wide for room and finished ¾ length ahead of Morluc. Kentucky Bay was a head farther back in third. Boots On Sunday, a 5-year-old son of Pine Bluff, ran 5 furlongs in 57.80 seconds.
Descapate, in her stakes debut, dominated Saturday's $150,000 Chou Croute Handicap. The 4-year-old Dehere filly exploded to the lead in the stretch and extended the advantage to the wire, winning by 7 lengths over Mimi's Tizzy. Gal On The Goal was third. The 1 1/16 mile went in stakes-record time of 1:42 4/5. "That was the kind of performance we were hoping for from her today," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen, "and she came through for us." Descapate now has won four of six lifetime starts.
Above Perfection dueled inside Kalookan Queen from the backstretch almost to the wire in Saturday's $125,000 Las Flores Handicap, then edged clear to win by 1 length. Enchanted Woods was 3 lengths farther back in third with Warren's Whistle fourth and last. Above Perfection, a 4-year-old In Excess filly, got 6 furlongs in 1:08.65. "I kind of expected (Kalookan Queen) to come up to me," said winning jockey Corey Nakatani. "And if that happened, I was going to take the race to her and make it a two-horse race from there. My filly did what she needed to do to win the race."
Shuffling Kid upset Sunday's $100,000 Baldwin Stakes for 3-year-olds down the hillside turf course, leading all the way under Patrick Valenzuela. At the line, Shuffling Kid held on to win by a head over Red Briar, with Dark Sorcerer a neck farther back in third. The favorite, Roman Dancer, was another head back in fourth. The 6 ½ furlongs took 1:13.30. "I let him break on his own and he broke on top," Valenzuela said. "So I was happy with my position." Shuffling Kid, a British-bred son of Rock City, improved his record to 2-for-2 in the United States. As a 2-year-old in England, he went 1-for-9.
Ms Brookski came between the leaders in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Devona Dale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew off to win by 3 ¾ lengths over Colonial Glitter. French Satin was third and the favorite, Smok'n Frolic, faded through the final furlong to finish seventh. Rosemary Homeister Jr. rode Ms Brookski over the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.14. "I was a little worried when she was in between horses in traffic on the backstretch," said winning trainer Reed Combest. "But she found room in the 2 path in the stretch and it was a fantastic finish." He said he would "be crazy if I didn't run her back" in the Bonnie Miss Stakes.
Golden Gate Fields
With Men's Exclusive scratched, Echo Eddie was the big favorite and the winner in Saturday's $100,000 Ken Maddy Handicap. Jockey Patrick Valenzuela hustled the 5-year-old son of Restless Con inside pace-setting Gibson County on the turn and rolled home. "I barely even tapped him today and he went on and won it," said Valenzuela. Radar Contact was third, followed by Hoovergotthekeys and El Dorado Shooter. The 6 furlongs on a fast track took 1:08.61. Men's Exclusive was scratched by trainer Wesley Ward with a cough and a fever of 102 degrees. Ward said, however, he still hopes to get the 9-year-old gelding to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen on March 23. "Now I'll just have to bring him up to the Dubai race on works," Ward said. "I didn't want to do it that way." Trainer Darrell Vienna said he hopes Saturday's win will earn a Golden Shaheen invitation for Echo Eddie, too. "The problem is, he doesn't have graded stakes form," Vienna said.
Crafty Shaw shot to a 6-length lead halfway through Saturday's $75,000 Essex Handicap, then coasted home first, 4 ¾ lengths in front of Kiss Of Lion. Remington Rock was third. "He pulled me all the way around today," said winning rider James Lopez, who was under orders from trainer Peter Vestal not to force Crafty Shaw to the lead. Said Vestal, "I had hoped we could slow the pace down a bit. We will come back for the Razorback, then the Oaklawn Handicap." Crafty Shaw, a 4-year-old Crafty Prospector colt, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.14.
Irving's Baby took the point in Saturday's $50,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap and rolled off to an 8-length victory. Maria was second and Double Trick was third. The 9 furlongs took 1:50 1/5. "She is the smartest horse that I've ever ridden," said winning jockey Ramon Dominguez. "I feel she enjoys what she's doing and she's so relaxed." Assistant trainer John Hasset said Irving's Baby will be pointed for the Gala Lil Stakes here on March 23.
Ideveter surged to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Valdale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, hugged the rail and got home first despite drifting out a bit in the stretch. Art Fair was second, 1 ½ lengths back, with Raise a Roar third. The favorite, Emeraldforajudge, never challenged and finished fifth. Greta Kuntzweiler rode Ideveter, a daughter of Ide, over 1 mile in 1:38.95.
Tampa Bay Downs
Romancing Dixie took charge in the stretch run to capture Saturday's $50,000 Suncoast Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3 ½ lengths over Ease Ahead, who didn't. Quick Bird wasn't quick enough to do any better than third and Expected Roll lacked one, finishing fourth. Romancing Dixie, a Florida-bred daughter of Dove Hunt, raced 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:50.03. Winning rider Dale Lynch said Romancing Dixie "was blasted by the 5 horse (Out of Pride) at the start, but it was nobody's fault."
Around the world, around the track
When odds-on favorite Electronic Unicorn wasn't able to last out the 2000 meters of Sunday's Hong Kong Gold Cup, it opened the door for Industrial Pioneer, as the last horse with a run, to take first-place money. Helene Vitality, who led 200 meters out, was second. Cheers Hong Kong was third. Industrial Pioneer was last year's Hong Kong Derby winner. Helene Vitality took the 1999 New Zealand Derby. With the win, Industrial Pioneer becomes a top choice to win the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup on April 21. "I always keep my promise," said winning trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee, who predicted three weeks ago that Industrial Pioneer was the pick in the Gold Cup.