Godolphin Racing, a dominant force in Thoroughbred competition worldwide, still has two major mountains to climb in North America: the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic.
The Godolphin blue silks haven't come close in the Derby. Last year, they just missed in the Classic as Tiznow overhauled Sakhee in the final strides at Churchill Downs to win by a nose.
Sakhee currently is ranked No. 1 in the division and another Godolphin runner, Street Cry, is ranked No. 2. By next week, the Middle Eastern combine could be holding the trifecta atop the rankings after sending out E Dubai to win Saturday's $500,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park in a front-running effort.
With John Velazquez up, the 4-year-old Mr. Prospector colt set a comfortable pace, then came home in 23 4/5 seconds, winning by ¾ length over Lido Palace. The favorite, Macho Uno, was third. E Dubai finished the 1 ¼ mile in 2:00.95.
Velazquez said he just let the colt relax until the quarter pole. "Then I asked him to run and he really responded.
"Once he opened up two or three lengths at the quarter pole, I didn't think he would get caught," said Tom Albertrani, assistant to winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "We're going to have to sit down and work out a program for him."
E Dubai now has won half his 10 lifetime starts. However, this was his first visit to the winner's circle since the Dwyer, almost exactly a year ago. After that, he ran second in the Travers and the Super Derby last year and fourth in his 2002 debut in the Brooklyn Handicap three weeks ago.
As they say in poker, while the winners counted their money, the losers sat around grumbling, "Shut up and deal."
"E Dubai came home in 23 4/5," Lido Palace's trainer, Bobby Frankel, said Sunday. "How's Lido going to catch him? It was a speed track and a speed horse beat us."
Macho Uno's trainer, Joe Orseno, said on the Belmont main track, "speed has been good for the last two weeks. I was impressed my horse made up as much ground as he did from the sixteenth pole."
Both Lido Palace and Macho Uno are expected to run in the $750,000 Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 3. Lido Palace won that race last year, beating Albert the Great and Gander. Street Cry also is expected for the Whitney.
While attention focused on the East Coast, some talented horses showed up in Altoona, Iowa, on Saturday to contest the $400,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup. The upset winner was Mr. John, who benefited from a pace-stalking trip under Mark Guidry.
Mr. John, a 4-year-old son of Golden Gear trained by Elliott Walden, got the lead in the lane and held off Unshaded for the win.
"He really stepped up," said Walden assistant David Fortner. "It was a pretty tough race. The defending champion was here. Unshaded is a very nice horse....We've been waiting for a while. He finally put a really good effort together.
In other races with potential implications for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park:
Good Journey won his third straight race in Thursday's $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. The 6-year-old son of Nureyev, trained by Wally Dollase for Flaxman Holdings Ltd., covered the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.83 under Pat Day. Dollase said the Firecracker was something of a prep race that turned out better than expected. "Sometimes you need a Plan B. But not today," he said. "Now we're looking at having one or two races and hopefully racing him in the Breeders' Cup."
Saturday, Surya rallied five-wide into the stretch and rolled home a 2-lengths winner in the $100,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park. Angel Gift, who got the lead briefly turning for home, held second and Reine de Romance was third. Surya, a 4-year-old Unbridled filly, ran the 1 mile on firm footing in 1:34.73. "She's just getting better and better," said Humberto Ascanio, assistant to winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "It's scary how good she could be."
The Tin Man led most of the way around in Thursday's $150,000 American Handicap at Hollywood Park, then held on to beat Devine Wind by a neck. Kappa King was third as the even-money favorite. The Tin Man, a 4-year-old son of Affirmed, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.82. "I'm not sure what's next but we're going to keep testing him," said winning trainer Richard Mandella.
John Deere Turf
With Anticipation not only won Saturday's $500,000 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park - he did so in course-record time of 2:12 4/5, shaving three ticks off the record he set a year earlier. After a long stretch drive, With Anticipation held off Denon by a neck with Sarafan another ½ length back in third. Last year, With Anticipation was disqualified from the win. "I'm very proud of this horse," said winning trainer Johathan Sheppard." He ran a magnificent race. He vindicated himself after what happened last year." With Anticipation was seventh in last year's Turf.
Cetewayo became a millionaire in earnings and proved he can handle the Arlington Park turf course with an off-the-pace victory in Saturday's $200,000 Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf in course-record time of 2:27.50. With Rene Douglas in the irons, the 8-year-old son of His Majesty was far behind the leaders and facing traffic problems until the turn. "It was hard to make a run at first," said Douglas. "I was so far back and I kept watching in front of me. I was kind of worried but there was nothing I could do....He exploded like a good horse in the stretch." Owner/breeder Dr. John Chandler said the Sword Dancer at Saratoga on Aug. 10 is a likely next start but the Breeders' Cup is a possibility, too. "He seemed to like the turf course here. I don't see why not," he said.
Volponi posted a mild upset in Friday's $100,000 Poker Handicap at Belmont, coming from off the pace to win by 2 ¼ length over Saint Verre. Navesink was third and the favorite, Shibboleth, faded throughout to finish fifth. Volponi, a 4-year-old son of Cryptoclearance, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.24 but trainer Phil Johnson added, "I love a mile and a half (for Volponi)."
At Sandown in England, Hawk Wing picked up his first Group 1 win, capturing Saturday's Eclipse Stakes by 2 ½ lengths over stablemate Sholokhov. Earlier, Hawk Wing was second in both the English Derby and the 2,000 Guineas. He is ranked No. 5 in the Turf division.
Filly & Mare Turf
Sweetest Thing kicked in around the far turn in Saturday's $200,000 Dance Smartly Stakes at Woobine and roared down the lane to beat Mountain Angel by a nose. The time for 9 furlongs on firm turf was 1:45.72, just 2/5 of a second off the E.P. Taylor course record. "The filly ran as we hoped," said winning rider Jim McAleney. "She was a sweet thing today." Last year, the Canadian-bred daughter of Candy Spots finished in the money in six consecutive graded stakes events in the States.
Trainer Jenine Sahadi shipped La Martina to Texas for Thursday's $125,000 Walmac Lone Star Oaks and was rewarded with a ¾-length victory over Dyna Penny. Academic Angel was third. La Martina, toting Corey Lanerie, ran 1 1/16 mile on yielding turf in 1:48.91. "She deserved to win a race with some decent money because she's so honest," Sahadi said from California. "I'm going to bring her home right now and kick back." After that, Del Mar "and see what comes up."
Owsley came from last in a field of seven to win Thursday's $250,000 New York Handicap at Belmont by a neck over Volga. Janet was third. Owsley, a 4-year-old Harlan filly, ran 1 ¼ mile on firm turf in a quick 1:59.81. This win opens up a lot of options for us," said winning trainer Randy Schulhofer. "The Beverly D. is a nice race (Arlington Park, Aug. 17), and then the races at Saratoga would fit her, also."
Sunday, Clearly a Queen got past pace-setting Platinum Tiara in the $100,000 Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth and scored by 2 lengths over the favorite, Siringas. Platinum Tiara was third. "I'm not sure where we'll go next," said winning trainer Teresa Pompay. "She's got a lot of class." The 5-year-old Lucky North mare has won eight of 27 career starts. She ran 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:47 3/5.
Left Bank, ranked No. 8 in the Sprint division, got to the front on the turn in Thursday's $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont and cruised home first, 6 ¼ lengths ahead of fifth-ranked Affirmed Success, who had some traffic isses. Summer Note was third. Left Bank, a 5-year-old son of French Deputy, finished 7 furlongs in track-record time of 1:20.17. "We have been kicking around the idea of stretching him out," said winning conditioner Todd Pletcher. "He has won from 6 furlongs to a mile and an eighth." He said he might consider the 9-furlong Whitney at the Spa on Aug. 3.
Disturbingthepeace got the early lead in Saturday's $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park and made the advantage stand up. At the wire, the 4-year-old son of Bold Badgett won by 3 lengths over D'wildcat, with Mellow Fellow third. The favorite, Kona Gold, put in a bid but faded to finish sixth. Winning trainer Darrell Vienna said Disturbingthepeace is "turning it around" but admitted the lightweight of 113 pounds helped. Kona Gold toted 126 and trainer Bruce Headley commented, "That's what weight does." Kona Gold is rated No. 5 in the Sprint division.
In another 3-year-old filly race Saturday, the $200,000 Prioress at Belmont Park, Carson Hollow got to the lead under John Velazquez and rolled home a 2-length winner over Spring Meadow. Proper Gamble was third while the favorite, Drippingindiamonds, got wiped out at the start and couldn't recover. Carson Hollow, a daughter of Carson City, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.79. Trainer Richard Dutrow said he may try her in the 7-furlong Test at Saratoga on July 27. "She breaks like one of the fastest horses I've ever ridden," said Velazquez.
Dublino and Megahertz battled through the stretch in Saturday's $500,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park. Dublino got home first, by ½ length, only to have the stewards reverse the order of finish. Steward Pete Pederson said Dublino came out "several lanes" and bumped with Megahertz, "turning her sideways and costing her a chance for her rightful position. Alex Solis, who rode Megahertz, said the daughter of Pivotal also was hit in the face by the other rider's whip. "She ran a great race," he said.
Long John Silver Juvenile Fillies
Awesome Humor, starting for the first time since breaking her maiden at Keeneland on April 11, caught Vibs in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $100,000 Debutante at Churchill Downs. The daughter of Distorted Humor, with Calvin Borel up, ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.45. Vibs held on for second and Attemptress was third. Favorite Blues in Seattle tired to finish fourth. Winning trainer RonnyWerner said: "When a horse is that smart and has the talent and everything, she could go places - I hope."
Buffythecenterfold dueled for the early lead in Thursday's $100,000 Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park, then held off a trio of challengers in the final strides to win by 1 length. Two necks and a nose separated the next three - Tricks Her, Little Bit a Swiss and Bartok's Blithe. Buffythecenterfold, by Capote, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.51 and trainer Mel Stutesaid, "I do believe she will go on and at this stage of the game she is better than Brave Raj." Stute trained Brave Raj to victory in the 1986 Juvenile and earned that year's Eclipse Award.
North of the border, Appleby Gardens copped Sunday's $150,000 Shady Well Stakes at Woodbine in her first start. The A.P. Indy filly got the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:05.93 under Robert Landry, winning by a nose over Mountain Dawn. "She was strong and had a lot of fight in her," he said.
Lone Star Sky powered by heavy favorite Posse inside the eighth pole in Sunday's $125,000 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs and went on to win by 3 lengths. Lone Star Sky, a son of Conquistador Cielo, finished in stakes-record time of 1:09.68. The Florida-bred now is 2-for-2. He broke his maiden in his first race June 13 at Arlington Park. "He's bred to go further and he sure runs like he wants to go further," said winning trainer Tom Amoss.
Hear no Evil opened a lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Criterium Stakes at Calder Race Course, then held off Supah Blitz by ½ length at the wire. Lex Luthier was third. Hear No Evil, a Florida-bred son of Carson City, ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:06.02. Winning trainer Jim Hatchett said Hear No Evil will be considered for the Sapling at Monmouth on Aug. 10 and the Sanford at Saratoga on July 25.
In other holiday weekend racing:
Minister's Baby came three-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $125,000 Iowa Distaff and outsprinted Caressing to the wire by a nose. With Craig Perret up, Minister's Baby finished in stakes-record time of 1:41 4/5. Netherland, the early leader, faded to finish third. "The pace was coming hot," Perret said. "I just let her relax and let her gradually start picking her horses up.
Easyfromthegitgo had problems from the gitgo in Friday's $250,000 Iowa Derby. Pinned on the rail, jockey Donnie Meche needed a break and got it. As the field headed into the stretch, a small hole developed on the rail and Easyfromthegitgo went through it. At the wire, he beat Pass Rush by a neck, with Thunderpumper third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:42 2/5. Meche said he saw Pass Rush, with Pat Day up, "trying to get out around the first turn, so I stayed tucked in behind them. Around the far turn, I stayed tucked in instead of trying to move early and take a chance of getting shut off. At the head of the lane, it worked out perfect." Trainer Steve Asmussen said Easyfromthegitgo has been knocking on the door in top company all year. "Hopefully this will put him over the edge," he said.
Sweet Nanette fought to the wire to win Friday's $125,000 Saylorville Stakes for fillies and mares, beating Iowa-bred rival Trisha Runs by ½ length. Miss Seffens was third. With Perrett up, Sweet Nanette finished 6 furlongs in 1:09 4/5. "It looked like she was beaten and she found more," said Perrett. "She just finds ways to win."
Sand Ridge turned back the invaders in Thursday's $150,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap. With Ken Shino riding for trainer Don Von Hemel, the 7-year-old sat just off the pace in a four-horse field, then was just up at the wire to win by a nose over Boots On Sunday. The favorites, Bonapaw and Men's Exclusive, dueled each other into submission. Sand Ridge got the 6 furlongs in 1:08 3/5. "The speed went out there and we ran them down," said Shino.
On Wednesday, Jerry Hollendorfer sent Lost At Sea to win the $150,000 Iowa Oaks by a head bob over See How She Runs, ending that rival's five-race win streak. Don't Ruffle Me was third. Lost At Sea rated well off the hot early pace before making her winning move.
Gygistar had a 6-length lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $150,000 Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds but had to dig in during the final yards to hold on to a ½-length victory over Nothing Flat. American Style was third. Gygistar, a Kentucky-bred son of Prospector's Music, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.59. Trainer Mark Hennig said he hadn't planned for his colt to be on the lead and didn't like the way the race was run. "We've got plenty of time to think about his future," Hennig said.
Calder Race Course
Dancing Guy rallied from well back to win Thursday's $100,000 Americana Handicap by 3 ¼ lengths over Sir Bear. Wirtz was third. Dancing Guy, a 7-year-old gelding by Robyn Dancer, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.26. The race was moved off the turf, prompting four scratches. "I wouldn't have run him if the race had stayed on the turf," said trainer Newcomb Green. "There aren't a lot of races for him on the schedule for a while. But we'll stay here and wait for the next opportunity."
Mandy's Gold took charge on the turn for home in Saturday's $100,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes for fillies and mares and won by 8 ¼ lengths over the favorite, Madame Roar. Outstanding Info was third with a late effort. Mandy's Gold, a 4-year-old daughter of Gilded Time, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.21. Trainer Mike Gorham said he hasn't yet decided where to take the Virginia-bred winner next.
Go Go dueled outside Dyna's Club through most of Sunday's $75,000 Great Lady M. Handicap and just held on to win by a neck. Brocky's Dream was third. Go Go, a 5-year-old Falstaff mare, ran 5 ½ furlongs on the grass in 1:01.99.
Bells for Marlin used a powerful stretch run to win Saturday's $50,000 Twin Lights Stakes. The Elliott Walden trainee, with Pat Day up, got home 1 ½ lengths ahead of Once Around, running 9 furlongs on the grass in 1:48 1/5. The 3-year-old daughter of Marlin ran last year in England and France.
Lady of Peace rallied from last to capture Thursday's $45,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes by a neck over Applesolutely. Golden Antigua was third. Lady of Peace, a daughter of Lord At War, finished the 9 furlongs on the grass in 1:50.90. "I had the perfect trip," said winning jockey Larry Sterling Jr.
Sunday, Galic Boy saved ground during the early stages of the $45,000 Bowl Game Stakes, came out for room in the stretch and got to the line first, 1 length to the good of Just Like Jimmy. Promise of War was third. The son of Irish River, coming off a 4 ½-month vacation, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.09.
For the second year in a row, Maysville Slew has won the $100,000 Independence Breeders' Cup Handicap and, for the second year in a row, he did so by a nose. Last year, Maysville Slew took the outside route. Thursday, he sat far back in the pack until the stretch run when jockey Austin Lovelace found running room on the rail just in time to beat Candid Glen. Rebridled was third. "I had the opportunity to get through and on the last jump, got up," Lovelace said.
Walk in the Snow made up 3 lengths on pace-setting Hail to Bag in the final furlong of Saturday's $40,000 Arcadia, winning by a neck. Won Better was third. With Guy Smith up, Walk in the Snow avenged a loss to Hail to Bag in last year's Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile at Fair Grounds.
Ashar rallied from well back in the field to win Thursday's $35,000 Blair's Cove Stakes by 1 length over Bleu Victoriate. Ashar, with Derek Bell up, came wide around the final turn and finished the 1 1/16 mile turf event in 1:44.36. Now Playing was third.