Another Kentucky Derby hopeful returned from a vacation during the weekend, only to come up a bit short of a winning effort.
Many of last year's top 2-year-olds skipped the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in October, resting for a spring push at the Triple Crown. The Cliff's Edge also skipped the Juvenile, instead winning the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29.
Starting for the first time since that victory, The Cliff's Edge finished second, 1 3/4 lengths behind longshot Kaufy Mate in Saturday's $100,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Kaufy Mate, a son of Diligence, had worked diligently in the gate since losing his last start, the Jan. 17 Pasco Stakes, by 15 lengths. "It made all the difference," said winning trainer Kirk Ziadie. "He broke sharp today and ran big. I'm just so pleased with his race. We're Tampa Bay Derby bound."
Kaufy Mate finished the 1 1/16 mile in stakes-record time of 1:44.60.
Nick Zito, who conditions The Cliff's Edge, said his charge "didn't run that bad," considering he broke from post position No. 11. "A better post might have made a difference and he might not have been as fit as he could have been," Zito added.
In other potential preps for the May 1 Kentucky Derby:
--At Aqueduct in New York, Redskin Warrior sat right behind the early pace in Saturday's $75,000 Best Turn Stakes, then responded willingly when asked by jockey Richard Migliore to win by 5 lengths over Scary Bob. Matsui was third. Redskin Warrior is a Kentucky-bred son of Indian Charlie, who ran third as the favorite in the 1998 Kentucky Derby behind Real Quiet and Victory Gallop. The Best Turn was just 6 furlongs but trainer Jennifer Pedersen said she is looking forward to trying Redskin Warrior around two turns. "That's obviously the big thing," she said. Pederson said the March 20 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, which she won last year with New York Hero, is a potential next step.
In Kentucky Oaks preps
--At Tampa Bay Downs, Ender's Sister had to fight through rivals to win Saturday's $60,000 Suncoast Stakes. But the daughter of A.P. Indy proved up to the task, scoring her second straight stakes victory. After tracking the pace, jockey Brian Peck was about ready to make his move with Ender's Sister when a rival ranged up alongside. Peck had to wait for room between horses before he could send Ender's Sister through to win by 3/4 length over Fall Fashion. Ladyinareddress was third with a late move.
--Slewpy's Storm made her move at the quarter pole in Saturday's $50,000 Valdale Stakes at Turfway Park in Kentucky, then charged down the stretch to win by 8 1/2 lengths over Plumlake Lady. The favorite, Tarrah Trick, finished third. Slewpy's Storm, a Texas-bred daughter of Storm Creek, got the 1 mile in 1:37.87. "She was fifth, and then she just drug (jockey Tony D'Amico) up to third down the backside," said winning trainer Edward Frederick. "About the sixteenth pole, she just took over."
In other weekend racing:
Fun House rallied to the outside in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap for fillies and mares, got the lead with a sixteenth to go and won by 2 3/4 lengths over Katdogawn. Fudge Fatale was third and the favorite, Maiden Tower, could do no better than fifth. Fun House, a 5-year-old daughter of Prized, ran 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:36.13 with Gary Stevens aboard. Stevens said the course was soft. "She loved that stuff," he added. Ron McAnally trains Fun House for Winchell Thoroughbreds. The victory was Fun House's fifth win in her 22nd start. She has eight seconds and five thirds.
Sunday, Ema Bovary got the lead entering the stretch run in the $100,000 Las Flores Handicap for fillies and mares and won by 3 1/4 lengths over Buffythecenterfold. Coconut Girl finished third. Ema Bovary, a Chilean-bred daughter of Edgy Diplomat, ran 6 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:08.02 with Roberto Gonzalez up. The time was a stakes record.
Balto Star made all the going in Sunday's $250,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap - until the last few yards. Then, Hard Buck just got up on the outside to score by a head. Kickin Kris also was running well at the end to finish third, 1/2 length farther back. Hard Buck, a 4-year-old Brazilian-bred by Spend a Buck, ran the 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:11.56. "We want to go to Dubai," said winning trainer Kenny McPeek. "I'm not sure which distance I would want to go in, but I'm leaning toward the mile and a half." Winning jockey Edgar Prado said Hard Buck "responded the way I thought he would. The way he was running, I had a good feeling all the way around."
Kitten's Joy, the odds-on favorite, was sweaty in the paddock before Saturday's $100,000 Palm Beach Stakes, then was jumpy in the post parade. But when jockey Jerry Bailey sent him out of the gate, the El Prado colt was all business. After stalking the pace and working through some traffic on the turn, Kitten's Joy got the lead in the stretch and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Prince Arch. Pa Pa Da was third. The 9-furlong turf test for 3-year-olds went in 1:48.76 over firm going. "Really, the most anxious moments were in the post parade," Bailey said. Trainer Dale Romans said the plan is to run in the Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill Down on Kentucky Oaks Day April 30, and then the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Arlington Million Day, Aug. 15.
Spectacular Lisa seized the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Chou Croute Handicap for fillies and mares, got clear and won off by 1 1/2 lengths over Tropical Blossom. Princess Pelona finished third in the 1 1/16-mile event, clocked in 1:43.55. Spectacular Lisa is a 4-year-old daughter of Formal Gold. "I had a good trip," said winning rider Robby Albarado. "She relaxed fine and when I called on her, she responded well."
Sunday, Out of My Way upset the $75,000 Taylor's Special Handicap with a late move on the outside. Never far back, the 7-year-old Jolie's Halo gelding closed on the leaders on the turn and won by a nose over pace-setting Cat Genius. Aloha Bid was third and the favorite, Mountain General, finished seventh. Out of My Way ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.57.
Private Emblem contested the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 Essex Handicap, went past pace-setting Pie N Burger when asked by jockey Tim Doocy and won by a comfortable 1 1/4 length. Pie N Burger, the favorite, held second and Crafty Shaw was third with an even trip. Private Emblem, a 5-year-old son of Our Emblem, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.66.
Golden Gate Fields
Giovannetti put away El Dorado Shooter early in Saturday's $100,000 Ken Maddy Sprint Handicap, then easily held off pari-mutuel favorite Green Team, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Debonair Joe was third with a late run. Giovannetti, a 5-year-old Memo gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.49. In last year's running, El Dorado Shooter beat Giovannetti by a head. Trainer Frank Monteleone said Giovannetti has had some health problems, including bleeding ulcers, but has responded to treatment. "I hope his next start is the (March 13) Phoenix Gold Cup," Monteleone said.
Undercover took charge on the backstretch in Saturday's $75,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap, drew off to a clear lead and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Friel's For Real. Database was third. Undercover, a daughter of Allen's Prospect, finished the 9 furlongs in 1:52.91. "Every time she is calm like that, she runs a big race," said winning rider Mario Pino.
Fit Performer battled for the early lead in Sunday's $60,000 Carson Hollow Stakes for fillies and mares, finally got to the lead and then had to hold off a late charge by Lavender Lass to win by 3/4 length. Chirimoya was third. Fit Performer, a 7-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Fit to Fight, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.13. Winning jockey Julian Pimentel noted his mare carried top weight of 124 pounds "and that probably helped the other horses. But she didn't have a problem with it."
Ask the Lord rallied from nearly 10 lengths off the pace to win Saturday's rescheduled $50,000 Dust Commander Stakes. At the wire, the 7-year-old won by nearly one length over Doc D. Twin Talk finished third. Ask the Lord finished the mile in 1:37.38. "It's typical of him to come from behind like that," winning trainer Bernie Flint said from Oaklawn Park. "He's been doing it that way a long time." The Dust Commander originally was scheduled for last weekend's card, which was weathered out.
Kodema, the odds-on favorite, ran to his notices in Saturday's $50,000 Delta Mile. After trailing the early speed, the 5-year-old Seeking the Gold gelding switched to the outside on the stretch turn and scooted off to win by 4 lengths over Parrott Bay. Mr. Archibald was another 4 lengths back in third. Kodema finished in 1:40.09 over a fast track.
Bullish Kid, a 20-1 longshot, caught odds-on favorite Elegant Fashion in the final strides of Sunday's HK$8 million CSL Hong Kong Gold Cup. After turning for home last, jockey Felix Coetzee sent Bullish Kid after the leaders as Elegant Fashion was surging to the front. "He kicked very hard for me. I wasn't sure if I was going to catch Elegant Fashion because she is so tough," Coetzee said. "But he got there in the end."
Trainer Tony Cruz said he considered running Bullish Kid, a 5-year-old Royal Academy gelding, in last weekend's Hong Kong Macau Trophy. "But we felt that he had a chance in the Gold Cup so we decided to try it," he said. Elegant Fashion's trainer, David Hayes, said he now will scrap plans to send his mare to Dubai and insead prepare her for the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup at Sha Tin in April.
Trainer Mike de Kock acquired Right Approach in England especially to run in Dubai's International Racing Carnival. The purchase paid an initial dividend Saturday as the son of Machiavellian rallied in the final jumps to win the $140,000 Al Rashidiya over the Nad Al Sheba turf course. With Kerrin McEvoy up, Right Approach rallied from near the rear of the field. "He was given a great ride by Kerrin and we will now look to the Dubai Duty Free," said de Kock.
Rawyaan, with Richard Hills up, came wide for room and went on to win Saturday's $100,000 Aljabr Stakes by 3/4 length. Kayseri was second and Classical Act finished third after leading the way. "We will look at another race in the carnival or go straight to the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night," said winning trainer John Gosden.
And, coincidentally, on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, Big Easy led throughout to win the Bani Yas, leading the parade throughout.