First it was Sarava, winning the Belmont Stakes at 70-1. Then Sunday it was T J's Lucky Moon going one better, upsetting the $1 million Queen's Plate as the longest shot on the Woodbine tote board at 82-1.
Sarava was the longest price ever to win the Belmont in its 134 runnings. T J's Lucky Moon was the second-longest in the 143-year history of the Queen's Plate -- the oldest continuously run stake in North America.
"We took a shot at the Plate," said owner Gino Molinaro.
Indeed he was, as the Tejano colt was coming off his maiden win, posted a month ago in his fifth try. The only real indication was the the maiden score came in the first two-turn race for T J's Lucky Moon -- at 1 1/16 mile.
Jockey Steven Bahen said trainer Vito Armata "just said to let him run his own race. Don't worry where he is, as long as you don't have to hold him....And when you want him, just pick him up and call on him and he'll come running for you."
That's how the race unfolded. Despite a stumble at the start -- another Belmont déjà vu -- T J's Lucky Moon got to the rail and saved ground while letting Streakin Rob set the pace. He went to the front with 3 furlongs left but was headed by Forever Grand on the turn. He fought back from that challenge and then held off Anglian Prince, who finished second. Forever Grand was third under the wire, completing a $2 triactor worth $15,375.50.
Said Aramata, "I had the fresh horse of the bunch. I really don't know what to say. The horse worked awesome at the training track and we took it from there."
The next step likely will be the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes at 1 3/16 mile on July 21 at Fort Erie. The final leg is the Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine on Aug. 10 at 1 1/2 mile on the grass.
Should T J's Lucky Moon prove that Sunday's victory was not a fluke, he could be a factor late in the year in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, at Arlington Park near Chicago.
Much of the past week's action in Breeders' Cup early preps was among the top-hatted nobility at Royal Ascot. Those and other results, by division:
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf
Michael Kinane got Sophisticat up in the final yards to win Friday's Coronation Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile at Royal Ascot. Zenda was a stubborn second. Michael Tabor, a part-owner of Sophisticat, said the somewhat firmer ground "was just what she wanted. It had lots of pace. She can be a bit of a madam but we always knew she had a big race in her." Banks Hill won the Coronation last year and went on to win the Filly & Mare Turf at Belmont Park last fall.
Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile
The Richard Hannon-trained Baron's Pit, trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by Richard Hughes, got home first in Thursday's Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, a head in front of The Bonus King. "He's got bags of speed and is a very good one," said the trainer's son, Richard Hannon Jr. "Wherever we go, they'll have to fear him. This is the hardest place in the world to win. You can be top class and still get beaten here." Hughes said Baron's Pit does nothing at home but is good when we need him." Johannesburg won the Norfolk last year en route to his victory in the Juvenile.
In Tuesday's Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, Aiden O'Brien trainee Statue of Liberty got home a neck in front of Pakhoes as the 5-2 favorite. Statue of Liberty is a half brother to Lemon Drop Kid. "We have always thought a lot of him and he shows a lot of natural speed," O'Brien said. "He was still very green and started pricking his ears but he has a lot of class."
John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf
Last year, Fantastic Light won the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and went on to carry the Godolphin Racing banner into the winner's circle after the Breeders' Cup Turf. Godolphin is on its way to a repeat after Grandera scored a five-length victory over Indian Creek in Wednesday's renewal of the Prince of Wales's. "I came here confident that he would run a really big race," said winning rider Frankie Dettori. "He has been working really well and he is very much on the up. Maybe some of the others were not progressing quite like that and the race could not have gone better for him. He is a really good horse. Racing Manager Simon Crisford said he had considered starting Noverre in the Prince of Wales's. "But he has not been training that well and last week we decided that Grandera was to be our runner," Crisford said. He added the horse has overcome adversity. "It is only six weeks since he won in Singapore and it is very hard on the horses having to travel and race all over the world, in different climates and often different conditions." Godolphin's now has won the Prince Of Wales's Stakes three straight years. Dubai Millennium won in 2000.
Two years ago, Kalanisi won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and went on to win the Turf for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. Now, No Excuse Needed has a chance to repise that double after winning this year's edition of the Queen Anne by a head over the onrushing Tillerman. "He has always been a good horse, but things have gone wrong for him this year," Stoute said, citing a lost shoe in Dubai, and short preparation for Lockinge. Tillerman's close call also could be prophetic. Dansili ran second in the Queen Anne two years ago and came back to finish third in the Breeders' Cup Mile, beaten just a neck and a nose.
Long John Silver's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies
Handpainted picked up her second victory in as many tries in winning Saturday's $125,000 My Dear Stakes at Woodbine near Toronto. The A.P. Indy filly, with Todd Kabel up, stalked the early pace and drew off to win by 4 lengths over Short Shadown with only minor urging. She ran 5 furlongs in 58.55 seconds. Trainer Josie Carroll said Handpainted will be better as the distances get longer. "We never thought she wanted to sprint and she's showing that (galloping out)," he said. "She was ready to run and when they're ready to run, it won't hurt to bring them over and let them run." Kabel said he "never really asked for run. This filly's got a lot in her."
Trainer Brian Meehan says he feels Romantic Liason, winner of Wednesday's Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot, is not only the best of the 2-year-old fillies he has seen so far this year, but also, "the colts as well maybe!" Romantic Liason won by 3 1/2 lengths over Never A Doubt. "She's a lovely filly and I've always thought very, very highly of her," Meehan said. "She just had the one run on the all-weather at Lingfield before this and she was in front a little bit long there." He said he doesn't think increasing distances will be a problem "as long as she's got another horse to lead her." Romantic Liason's half sister, Romantic Myth, won the race two years ago.
Breeders' Cup Mile
Del Mar Show put on a show in Saturday's $200,000 New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham Park in New Hampshire. The 5-year-old son of Theatrical rated behind the early leader, took charge in the stretch and wasn't fully extended to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Mus-If. Dr. Kashnikow was third. "It doesn't get much easier than that," said winning rider Jerry Bailey. "He's very talented." Bailey added his second-place finish in the Dixie at Pimlico might have been due in part to a soft course. "This time I knew it was probably safe to leave him up near the front and he would do the rest." But Bailey said the 9 furlongs "is pretty much his limit."
Rock Of Gibraltar claimed his fifth straight Group 1 win in Tuesday's St. James's Palace at Royal Ascot, beating stablemate Landseer. But Coolmore's John Magnier said he doesen't yet know whether trainer Aiden O'Brien will move the horse back to sprinting, up to the 10-furlong events or just like what he saw in the St. James's. "It will all depend on what Aidan feels at the time and how the horses are going," he said. Winning rider Michael Kinane had his own view after the 1-mile St. James's. "He looks pretty good at this trip," Kinane said. The race has a mixed-bag history in the Breeders' Cup Championships. Daylami ran third in the 1999 renewal, then went on to win the Turf at 1 1/2 mile. Giant's Causeway won in 2000, then switched surfaces to run second behind Tiznow in the Classic.
Breeders' Cup Distaff
Azeri's victory in Saturday's $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park that trainer Laura De Seroux summarized, "It was basically another exercise with a big paycheck." The 4-year-old daugter of Jade Hunter pulled Mike Smith quickly to the lead and won by 3 lengths over Affluent, who had a similar view of Azeri's hindquarters in each of their last two races. Azeri ran the 9 furlongs in 1:48.88 and now has seven wins from eight starts, including four straight Grade I wins. "I've run out of words to describe her," said Smith. "I said she was scary good after her last race and she's gotten better." De Seroux said she will consider "one or two" of the Clement Hirsch, Ruffian and the Lady's Secret as preps for the Distaff.
Jockey Jose Santos had no trouble helping Voodoo Dancer negotiate the traffic in Saturday's $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs. At the end, he had the 4-year-old daughter of Kingmambo out front, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Blue Moon. Moreover, Voodoo Dancer finished in stakes-record time of 1:46.91. Solvig was third. "In the last turn, everybody went to the inside and I went to the outside," Santos said. "I had a clear trip and when I asked my mare to go, she just went." Voodoo Dancer is trained by Christophe Clement.
Breeders' Cup Sprint
Raging Fever sat off the pace early in Saturday's $300,000 inaugural running of the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park, took the lead and opened up daylight at the top of the lane and held off Transcendental by 3/4 length for the win. Two Item Limit was third. Raging Fever, a 4-year-old daughter of Storm Cat from the Seattle Slew mare Pennant Fever, moved past the $1 million mark in earnings with the winner's share. Although she won the Phipps at 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.75, trainer Mark Hennig said she probably will cut back in distance, with the 7-furlong Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 25 her next try. "I think she can sprint with the best of them," he said. "She's a pretty darn good sprinter."
On Thursday at Belmont, Say Florida Sandy came from behind the leaders to win a tough allowance event by 1/2 length over Marshall Greeley. The 8-year-old son of Personal Flag picked up his 29th win in his 84th career start, finishing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.91. "I don't know how many more races he has in him," said winning rider Aaron Gryder. "But not too many horses can run 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 and four."
In other weekend racing:
Came Home brought jockey Chris McCarron home first in the last ride of his career in Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap. High-weighted at 124 pounds, McCarron nonetheless let Came Home go to the front and trhe tactic worked. The Gone West colt, who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, romped home in front, 2 lengths ahead of Tracemark. Calkins Road was third. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:41.99. McCarron said he discussed the pace situation with trainer Paco Gonzalez. "I had it in my mind. I asked Paco the other day as I blew him out, if it was okay if I just let him run his race. I wasn't going to take him back. I wasn't going to send him."
McCarron retired with 7,141 wins, sixth on the all-time jockey list. His mounts earned $264,351,579. The Affirmed was his 285th stakes win at Hollywood Park, tying him in that category with Laffit Pincay Jr. Said Gonzalez: "I run horses in million-dollar races and today I was more nervous than any other race, believe me. I wanted Chris to go out winning. I know the horse was ready but he was carrying 124 pounds. That's carrying a lot of weight."
Nuclear Debate will need more than one line to list the trouble he overcame in winning Sunday's $250,000 Neartic Stakes -- a 6-furlong turf test on the Queen's Plate program. Running on the inside, Nuclear Debate was checked hard on the turn, then found himself in tight quarters. When jockey David Flores did get him running room, he had to move outside of Joe's Son Joey when that rival jumed a shadow in the final furlong. At the end, Nuclear Debate was 1 length ahead of Joe's Son Joey, with Texas Glitter a nose back in third. Nuclear Debate, a 7-year-old gelding by Geiger Counter, was clocked in 1:07.86.
Also Sunday, Portcullis came from last in a field of 10 to win the $100,000 Charlie Barley Stakes by 2 lengths over Classic Case. Funny Soldier was third. Portcullis swung to the far outside heading into the stretch and finished full of run. The Ontario-bred gelding by Smart Strike ran 1 mile on the grass in 1:33.92.
Rare Friends survived a couple of bumping matches, then led by as much as 6 lengths in Saturday's $100,000 Afleet Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds before holding on to win by a narrowing head over Akbar. Dilinger was third. Rare friends, a son of Helmsman, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.75.
Calder Race Course
Puck led from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Unbridled Stakes, winning by 1 length over The Judge Sez Who. Rocker was third. Buck, trained by Bill White and ridden by Cornelio Velazquez, finished in 1:44 4/5 over a sloppy track. White said he told Velazquez to do his best to get to the lead and the rail -- at tactic that was helped when Kingmaker tossed his rider at the start. "I think it caused some of them inside to hesitate and we were able to get over in front," White said. He said Puck may go to Monmouth to try the Long Branch on July 13, a prep for the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 4.
Your Out scored a last-to-first victory in Saturday's $100,000 Obeah Stakes, setting up a possible run at the July 21 Delaware Handicap. The 4-year-old daughter of Allen's Prospect, with Ramon Dominguez up, jetted off to win by 4 lengths once she got to the lead. Quiet Lake was second and Shag was third. Trainer H. Graham Motion said the win, in 1:52.24, has him thinking about Delaware Park's $600,000, Grade III signature event. "When you win the way she did, which I thought was one of the most competitive fields she has run against, you have to give serious consideration to the Del Cap," he said.
Lone Star Park
Leslie's Love picked up an easy, 2 1/2-length victory in Saturday's $75,000 Miller Lite Stakes, leading from the start. The 5-year-old, Louisiana-bred daughter of Combat Ready finished the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.72 seconds. Asheville was second and Southern Tour third. "It's her first stakes win but I don't think it'll be her last," said winning rider David Guillory.
On Friday night, jockey Chris McCarron kicked off he last weekend of his riding career on a high note by winning the sixth annual NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship with a victory in the fourth and final race. McCarron also won the first race of the event. "There's no way you can even dream it'd work out this good," McCarron said. "That would be awfully greedy." McCarron announced after the Belmont Stakes he would retire after Sunday's last ride at Hollywood Park. Edgar Prado was second in the Championship, followed by Mike Smith, Jorge Chavez and Laffit Pincay Jr.
Trainer Chris Block, normally well represented at "festival" days for Illinois-breds, had a tough loss and a sweet win in Saturday's Prairie State Festival of $75,000 events. Ioya Two, a two-time winner of the Lincoln Heritage Handicap, couldn't get it done in Saturday's renewal, finishing fourth as the odds-on favorite. Ellie's Rose, claimed last fall for $25,000, was the winner, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of M and M Machine. "We'll scope her and see if she's clean," Block said of Ioya Two. "If she is, I don't have any excuse." Winning trainer Michele Boyce said she expected her mare to win. "I know Ioya Two is a good horse and I'm not taking anything away from her. But I knew my filly was good," Boyce said.
Block rebounded nicely as Mystery Giver scored a 1/2-length victory in the Cardinal Handicap. The son of Dynaformer, also dispatched as the favorite, "is a very difficult horse to train," Block said. He said Mystery Giver loses weight if he is trained too hard. "There was no question this was the toughest race to get ready for," he added.
Colorful Tour, last year's champion Illinois 2-year-old, continued his winning ways in the Springfield Stakes. The Tour d'Or colt got home 1 1/2 lengths ahead of favorite Medlin Road, running 1 mile in 1:36.21. Come September rolled from off he pace to win the 6-furlong Isaac Murphy Handicap by 2 lengths over Faccia Bella in 1:10.64. Tic N Tin won the White Oak Handicap for thesecond straight year, rallying on the inside to catch Too Many Bucks in the final yards. And Summer Mis drew off in the stretch run of the Purple Violet Stakes, winning by 4 lengths.
Shopping for Love and Eventail ran almost identical races to win the $75,000 divisions of Sunday's Mount Vernon Handicap for NY-breds. Shopping for Love, 5-year-old daughter of Not For Love, came three-wide on the turn for home and won by 4 lengths over Indy Mood for Luv -- which should have been a Valentine's Day exacta. Jerry Bailey steered the winner in 1:35.12 on a firm inner turf course. Eventail, a 5-year-old Lear Fan mare, also took the overland route on the second turn and won by 3 3/4 length over Lovely Amanda. Edgar Prado rode Eventail in 1:34.71.
Delray Dew romped to a 6-length win in Saturday's $60,000 Wild Rose Handicap, setting her up for a try in the $125,000 Iowa Distaff on the meeting's getaway day, July 6. The 4-year-old daughter of Devil His Due was left alone on the lead and worked through easy fractions under jockey Glenn Corbett. She finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42 4/5. "She keeps getting better," said owner Maggi Moss. "She ran a great race tonight and I'm going to miss her," Moss added, referring to trainer Dick Clark's plan to take the filly to Saratoga later in the summer. She ran earlier in New York and was claimed at the Big A earlier this year.
Sixtyone Margaux lead all the way in Saturday's $50,000 Serena's Song Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, but had to work at the end to hold off Dubai Fall by a head. Sixtyone Margaux, a daughter of Cozzene, finished the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42 1/5. "She broke real sharp and put me in the game right out of the gate," said winning rider Julian Pimentel.
Sunday, Kris's Prayer survived a rough start to win the $50,000 Choice Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3/4 length over Alphabetical. Emergency Status was third. Kris's Prayer, a Virginia-bred son of Kris S., hit the gate at the break. Jockey Eibar Coa settled him in a ground-saving position until he made the winning bid. He finished the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.15.
Chicago-based shipper Extended View was the front-running winner of Saturday's $35,000 Hoist Her Flag Stakes, scoring by 4 1/2 lengths over Feminine Fury. Kimme A Star was third. Extended View, a 4-year-old daughter of Allen's Prospect, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09 1/5. "She's naturally that fast, so all I had to do is hang on," said winning rider Derek Bell, Canterbury's leading rider at the meet.
Always A Dixie stumbled at the start of Saturday's $40,000 King County Handicap but rallied three-wide into the stretch to win by 3/4 length over Neon Queen. The favorite, Graceful Cat, held third. The final time was 1:36. "I got great instructions," said winning jockey Ricky Frazier. "She stumbled out of the gate but I was told that she could overcome anything and she definitely did today." Always A Dixie is a BC-bred, 5-year-old daughter of Dixieland Brass.
Sunday, Flying Notes led all the way to a 5-length score in the $45,000 Seattle Slew Handicap for 3-year-old colts and geldings. Salt Grinder was a non-threatening second and Vernon Lodge finished third. Flying Notes, a Kentucky-bred French Deputy gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35 2/5.
Oak Hall took charge a sixteenth from the finish and posted a handy, 1/2-length victory in Saturday's $30,000 Evangeline Downs Sprint Championship. No Its Not was second and Samlot third after leading. Oak Hall, a 6-year-old Olympio gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.