Falbrav was the dominating winner in Sunday's Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin, ending his career and the international racing season with an exclamation point.
With Frankie Dettori up, Falbrav came to the inside as the field hit the stretch and he immediately hit a new gear. At the wire, he was 2 lengths ahead of Rakti for the victory. Local favorite Elegant Fashion was third and the French filly, Bright Sky, was fourth.
"I was 100 percent confident even when we were so far back," said Dettori. "When I pressed the button, he exploded. ... It took my breath away, the way he quickened."
The 5-year-old, Irish-bred son of Fairy King came into the race after a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf, which he led at midstretch. The win was his fifth of the year - all Group 1 events.
"He won this like he is the best horse in the world," said winning trainer Luca Cumani. "I am so pleased that he goes out on a winning note." He added, "It was almost like watching Seabiscuit."
The race also was the final leg of the World Series Racing Championship and Falbrav fell one point short of catching High Chaparral for the title in that series. High Chaparral beat Falbrav in both the Irish Champion Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Turf.
For those not keeping track of such things, the top five horses in the final WSRC standings -- High Chaparral, Falbrav, Sulamani, Alamshar and Phoenix Reach -- were all bred in Ireland. Of the top 11 (there was a tie for 10th and 11th), seven were Irish-bred and only two -- Pleasantly Perfect and Eishin Preston -- were bred in the United States. The other two are products of Japan and Australia.
The Hong Kong Mile went to a local runner, Lucky Owners. Taking the lead nearing the wire, he scored by 1/2 length over Bowman's Crossing. Lohengrin, a Japanese-based invader, finished third.
Trained by Felix Coetzee and ridden by Tony Cruz, Lucky Owners finished the 1600 meters in 1:34 3/5. He is a 4-year-old Danehill colt and has never run anywhere other than Sha Tin.
If you look at Lucky Owners' form, he's a winner," said Coetzee. "He's very gutsy. He just keeps on improving. He relaxed well in the run, sat on the rail and accelerated very, very well."
Coetzee and Cruz also accounted for the Hong Kong Sprint as Silent Witness chased the early speed of South African challenger National Currency, then drew off to win by 1 length over that rival. Hong Kong-based Cape of Good Hope and Firebolt finished 3-4.
"He's definitely the best sprinter in the world," said Cruz. "He has proven what we all felt he was capable of. He will stay here for the Champion Sprint Series." But he did not rule out the possibility of sending Silent Witness overseas to prove his international prowess.
In the Hong Kong Vase, Vallee Enchantee, the only filly in the 14-horse field, rallied from mid-pack in the stretch, got to the front with 50 meters to go and won by 3/4 length over fellow French runner Polish Summer. The favorite, Warrsan, representing England, was third.
The victory was the first for Vallee Enchantee in a Group 1 event. "I don't think it will be her last, regardless of whether it's females or male horses she's taking on," said winning rider Dominick Boeuf.
Calder Race Course
When odds-on favorite Chatter Chatter faded from contention in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Three Ring Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, the bridge jumpers were jumping. Ender's Sister, a Kentucky-bred daughter of A.P. Indy, came from a stalking position to win by 2 lengths with Marina de Chavon second and Runaway Rizzi a distant third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:48.32 and the $2 show payoffs down the right side of the tote board read $19.20, $26.60 and $33.60, reflecting huge wagers on the favorite. Ender's Sister had just broken her maiden in her last start -- her fourth try -- at Aqueduct. The Three Ring was her first start around two turns. Trainer Rusty Arnold said, "Basically, she was just waiting for two turns." He said she will get a break until spring.
In the companion $100,000 What A Pleasure Stakes for 2-year-olds, Second of June scored a mild upset, taking charge in the stretch to win by 5 lengths over Twice as Bad. The odds-on choice, Hopeful Stakes winner Silver Wagon, was a head farther back in third. Second of June, a Florida-bred son of Louis Quatorze out of the Spectacular Bid mare Whow, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.79 with Cornelio Velasquez up. He now has won three of five starts. Trainer Bill Cesare said both he and the colt were born on June 2. He said he will point Second of June to the Florida Derby preps at Gulfstream Park. Jerry Bailey, who rode Silver Wagon, said his problem was not distance but a long layoff. "He wasn't 100 percent fit. It's a long way until May," Bailey added.
California invader Hasty Kris was on the rail all the way from the inside post position in Saturday's $100,000 Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap -- not the place jockey Rene Douglas wanted the 6-year-old Kissin Kris gelding. But he made the most of it, getting up in the final yards to win by a head over pace-setting Wake At Noon, with Tour of the Cat third. The 7 furlongs took 1:23.82. "He was inside and he wasn't happy there but I had no choice," said Douglas. "It seemed like the track was dead on the inside, like all day they've been getting tired there." Trainer Larry Benavidez said Hasty Kris will head back to California.
Barbara O'Brien got clear of 11 rivals at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Chaposa Springs Handicap for fillies and mares and romped home a winner by 5 1/4 lengths over favorite Holy Bubbette. Splasha was third. Barbara O'Brien, a 4-year-old Eltish filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.51. Before the race, the filly reared up and flipped while being saddled -- a bad habit. "The two times she's been really bad, though, she's won," noted trainer Harry Benson.
Sprightly Walker got by Prince Slew in the final yards of Saturday's $150,000 Champions Day Classic to win by 3/4 length. Mr. Archibald faded in the stretch run and finished third. Sprightly Walker, a son of 1986 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Skywalker, switched to the rail for the stretch run. "I thought I'd have to go around the leaders but the rail opened and that's when I moved," said winning jockey Corie Lanerie. Saturday's victory followed a win in the Louisiana Breeders' Derby and a second behind Zarb's Luck in the Gold Cup at Delta Downs.
Cute N Noble took charge in the stretch run of the $100,000 Ladies, winning by 4 lengths over Autobesarah. Cute N Noble, a daughter of Noble Assembly, won for just the fourth time in her career. "I just stayed patient because this filly moves when she sees a hole," said winning jockey Guy Smith. "A hole opened up and she exploded."
The $100,000 Turf was moved off the turf. Silky Zarb, toting Gerard Melancon, was the winner, finishing the 1 1/16 mile on the main track in 1:47.38 and beating Mr. Sulu by 1 3/4 lengths. "I didn't mind seeing all the rain this morning," said Melancon.
Zarb's Luck was near the lead throughout the $100,000 Sprint and won a race to the wire, beating Go Rail Go to become the first back-to-back winner of this event in a decade. The 6-year-old son of Zarbyev was ridden by Robby Albarado.
Walk This Way parlayed his maiden win two weeks ago into a stakes victory, taking the $100,000 Juvenile by 1 1/4 lengths with Shane Sellers up. And Rose of Sophia, stepping up from the claiming ranks, won the $100,000 Lassie by 1 1/2 lengths.
Even the official Equibase chart footnotes say Ciento "looked hopelessly beaten at the furlong marker" in Sunday's $125,000 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap for New Mexico-breds. But the son of Prospector Jones then launched a furious bid that saw him finish first, a neck in front of pace-setting Hesa Bad Cat. Urlacher, named for the former University of New Mexico linebacker now with the Chicago Bears, finished third. Ciento ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16 2/5.
This Cat's for You took the lead with a furlong to run in Saturday's $50,000 Sunland Yuletide Derby and surged to a 4-length victory with Grand Steal second and Herecomesthemannow third. This Cat's for You, a Colorado-bred son of Just a Cat, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.78.
Valentine Dancer put in a late run between rivals to win Sunday's $95,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap for Cal-bred fillies and mares by a head over Super High. Cee's Valley Girl was just another nose back in third. Valentine Dancer, a 3-year-old In Excess filly, ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:27.97 with Victor Espinosa up. "She'll go through any hole," said Espinosa. "She opened it up and got there. It worked out perfectly." Trainer Craig Lewis said the filly will point to the California half of the Sunshine Millions next month.
Excess Summer dueled for the lead until the top of the stretch in Saturday's $95,000 On Trust Handicap for Cal-breds, then got clear and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Green Team. Kedington was third and Spinelessjellyfish fourth. The favorite, Hot Market, faded to finish fifth. Excess Summer, a 3-year-old son of In Excess, ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:27.13 with Gary Stevens in the irons, replacing Julie Krone, who was injured in a spill during Friday's racing. "It seems like every time I get back up and rolling, something happens to her and vice versa," said Stevens, who was returning from a six-week hiatus.
Thunder Blitz stayed close to the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 Queens County Handicap, then edged clear on the lead in the final furlong, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Evening Attire. Seattle Fitz was third. Thunder Blitz, who carried 114 pounds to Evening Attire's 123, ran the 1 3/16 mile in 1:55.90. "I was expecting the pace to be a little faster but it wasn't," said winning rider Jorge Chavez. "But that was okay. I had plenty of horse through the stretch." It was the second straight tough loss for Evening Attire, who was disqualified from the win in the $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs two week earlier.
Also Saturday, Balmy held on in the final strides to post a big upset victory in the $75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap for fillies and mares. Sent off at 25-1, the 4-year-old Salt Lake filly ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.32, finishing a head in front of Gazillion. Bonefide Reason was third and the favorite, Wilzada, never fired, getting home seventh. "She was sitting on a big race," said winning trainer John Servis, "although I wasn't sure if we could beat a few of those. Gazillion and Wilzada are monsters."
Leedle Dee led all the way to a 5 1/4-length upset victory in Wednesday's $75,000 East View Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies. The daughter of Distinctive Pro ran 1 1/16 mile with Charles Lopez aboard in 1:48.01. Gold Flinger was second and the favorite, French Dish was third in the field of six. Capeside Lady was a late scratch. Trainer Bobby Barbara said Leedle Dee needs the lead. "I couldn't wait to get her around two turns," he said. "We'll figure out what's next for her."
Hawthorne Race Course
Journey Fever moved into contention as the field hit the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante and went on to win by 1 length over Defuhr. Zitlaly was more than 10 lengths farther back in third. Journey Fever, with Iram Diego in the irons, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.29. "I would like to lay her off for the remainder of the year," said winning trainer Brian Williamson. "She has had a tough campaign. I would like to bring her back in the spring for the Illinois stakes races."
Golden Gate Fields
Skipaslew moved to contention for the lead on the turn for home in Saturday's $75,000 Gold Rush Stakes for 2-year-olds, caught pace-setting The Hero early in the stretch run and won a long battle to the wire by a neck. O.K.Mikie was third, 2 lengths farther back. Skipaslew, a Virgina-bred son of Skip Away out of the Seattle Slew mare Slew Me, ran 1 mile in 1:36.12. "He's not easy but he's got some talent," said winning rider Eric Saint-Martin. "He tried to jump on the pony a couple of times in the post parade." Trainer Doug O'Neill said, "You have to stay active on this horse. If you stop riding him for a second, he'll quit running. Eric really got his workout for the day in this race."
Tampa Bay Downs
Tricks of Glory lived up to his name in spades in Saturday's $60,000 Inaugural Stakes. Unraced since breaking his maiden at first asking 103 days earlier, the son of Favorite Trick started from post No. 14 but still managed to get to winner's circle glory at 34-1, heading a parade of longshots. Aloha Mya was second and Misguided Left third. The $2 trifecta paid $18,180.20 and the superfecta payoff was on "all-all" in the last two positions. "He really showed a lot of heart," trainer Ron Allen Sr. said of Tricks of Glory. "I knew he had to be getting tired. He fought one horse off and then took on some more coming down the stretch."
Ask the Lord battled down the stretch with Sonic West in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes before winning by a head. Doc D was third, 4 1/4 lengths farther back. Ask the Lord finished the 9 furlongs in 1:53.27 on a fast track, through snow. Jockey Rafael Bejarano had ridden Sonic West to three stakes wins during the past four months but committed to ride Ask the Lord when it appeared Sonic West would not run in the Prairie Bayou. Ask the Lord is trained by Bernie Flint.
Worldly Pleasure took the lead with only a sixteenth of a mile to run in Saturday's $60,000 Politely Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-old fillies, and just held off Allens Blessing by a head for the victory. Bamba was third. Worldly Pleasure, by Devil His Due, finished in 1:24.72. Owner/trainer John Alecci claimed the filly for $25,000 at Pimlico in May. "She's turned out to be a very profitable claim," Alecci said.
News and Notes
The New York Racing Association entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office, resolving a long investigation into improprieties by mutual clerks at NYRA race tracks. In addition to paying $3 million and implementing reforms, NYRA's operations will be under federal monitoring for 18 months. If no further violations are detected, the indictment will be dismissed. NYRA Chairman and CEO Barry Schwartz said NYRA accepted responsibility for the actions of the clerks and noted the settlement will allow resumption of construction of a gaming facility at Aqueduct in partnership with MGM Mirage ... Sackatoga Stable, owner of Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide, has been named winner of the Turf Publicists of America's "Big Sport of Turfdom" award. TPA President Michele Blanco of Calder Race Course said the award, among other things, recognizes the "unflinching cooperation" of Sackatoga's members to accommodate "countless media requests from all over the state, the nation and even the world" during Funny Cide's assault on the Triple Crown ... TPA also announced Mandy Minger of Daily Racing Form, Susy Sourwine of Emerald Downs and Eric Wing of NTRA have been re-elected vice presidents while G.D. Hieronymus of Keeneland Association was elected vice president for the Central region. Blanco and NYRA's Bruno Zalubil begin the second year of two-year terms as president and secretary-treasurer, respectively ... NYRA has renamed the Turf Classic, run during its Fall Championship Meet, the "Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational," honoring the retiring executive columnist of Daily Racing Form. "It is a Grade I race for a Grade I guy," said Schwartz ... Eusebio Razo Jr. picked up his 2,000th career win Friday at Hawthorne Race Course. Razo, 37, started riding in Mexico in 1980 and won his first race three years later at Hawthorne.