Niigon scored a mild upset in Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine -- the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America and Canada's most prestigious racing event.
At odds of nearly 6-1, jockey Robert Landry took the son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled to the lead late in the run down the backstretch. He opened up a 2-length margin and then held on to beat the favorite, A Bit O'Gold, by 3/4 length. Will He Crow was third with a late run from the back of the 13-horse field.
Niigon, trained by Eric Coatrieux, broke from the No. 13 post position. He finished the 1 1/4 mile in 2:04.72. The result was the reverse of the Plate Trial on June 6, when it was A Bit O'Gold who caught Niigon at the top of the stretch en route to victory.
"I thought he had a great trip," said winning owner Robert Krembil. "I was a little anxious when I saw A Bit O'Gold coming on. But we had confidence. This horse can run all day. It was a test to see how good the other horse was and today we got the job done."
Both of the top finishers are expected to continue along the Canadian Triple Crown trail, with the next stop the Prince of Wales Stakes on July 18 at Fort Erie. The final leg is the Breeders' Stakes on the turf, back at Woodbine on Aug. 8. Wando captured the Triple Crown last year, the first to do so since Peteski in 1993.
Should either continue to develop, they also might have potential for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic this fall.
In other weekend races that might impact the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park in Texas:
$2 million John Deere Turf
-- Bago remained unbeaten in six starts by winning Sunday's Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. The Nashwan colt, trained by Jonathan Pease, rallied in mid-stretch to catch front-running Cacique for a 1/2 length victory. Pease, who also trained the likes of Spinning World and Act One, said Bago may be the best horse he has handled. He said the Breeders' Cup is the longer-range goal for the colt. Meantime, he is eyeing the Juddmonte at York in England or the Irish Champion Stakes.
-- At the Curragh, Grey Swallow beat Epsom Derby winner North Light in Sunday's Irish Derby. Held back in mid-field by jockey Pat Smullen despite a slow pace, Grey Swallow shifted to the outside for running room with about half the race to run. North Light took the lead from the tiring pace-setters but did not have enough left to withstand the late run of Grey Swallow, who won by 1/2 length. Tycoon was third at a huge price. Grey Swallow is trained by Dermot Weld.
$2 million Distaff
Kentucky Oaks winner Ashado returned to the races in Saturday's $300,000 Mother Goose at Belmont Park but couldn't quite repeat her winning effort. Stellar Jayne, a tiring seventh in the Oaks, dueled with Ashado through much of the Mother Goose, then put her away in the final furlong and won by 2 1/2 lengths. Ashado held second and Island Sand, second in the Oaks and winner of the Acorn in her last outing, finished third. Stellar Jayne, a gray daughter of Wild Rush, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:48.13 with Robby Albarado up. "She didn't break that alertly so I jumped on her right away," Albarado said. "Then she put herself in the race and from there on, she was comfortable." Peter Hutton, assistant to winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas, said Lukas "expected her to be in the top three. "Obviously, coming in, you don't expect to beat Ashado. But as well as she was doing, she had to have a shot."
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Greek Sun, recovered from surgery to repair bone chips in his knees, rallied from just behind the pace to win Saturday's $150,000 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park by 2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Laura's Lucky Boy. Whilly was third. Greek Sun is a Kentucky-bred son of Danzig from the Trempolino mare Sunlit Silence. He covered 9 furlongs of firm turf in 1:48.40 with Alex Solis riding for trainer Bobby Frankel. "This was a real good start back for this colt after his surgery," Solis said. "He ran incredible -- real strong. I had a really good position and he did the job. He's still undefeated." Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio added, "It came out good. What can I say? He ran good. He's healthy right now. I hope he stays like this."
-- Timo posted his fourth turf stakes victory by winning Saturday's $100,000 Kent Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park. The son of El Prado just beat Icy Atlantic by a nose. Commendation was third. The favorite, Master David, checked in sixth. Timo got the 9 furlongs in 1:55.75 on turf rated "soft." He earlier won the Transylvania at Keeneland, the Mecke Stakes at Caldere and the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont. "I am thinking maybe Saratoga and the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes," said winning trainer William Badgett. "I will plan it out."
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
-- Shaconage took the long way around in Saturday's $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs but got the job done, scoring an upset victory by 1 1/4 length over Halory Leigh. Sand Springs was third. The favorite, Riskaverse, who was sixth in last year's "DisTurf" at Santa Anita, threatened at the top of the stretch but flattened out and finished next-last of six. Shaconage, a 4-year-old daughter of El Prado, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.75. The victory was her second in six starts this year, following a 20-1 upset victory on Derby Day. She is trained by Mitch Shirota and was ridden by Brice Blanc.
-- Light Jig got running room on the outside in the stretch drive of Sunday's $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park and rallied to win by 1 length over Moscow Burning. Noches De Rosa was third in the 1 1/4-mile event, clocked in 2:01.52 on firm turf. Light Jig, a 4-year-old Danehill filly, was ridden by Alex Solis for trainer Bobby Frankel. Solis said his only concern was getting running room early enough because, "She has such a long stride and it takes her a little while to get going." Light Jig raced in France last year, winning once in seven starts. With Frankel in California, she has three wins and a second from four starts this year. The Beverly Hills was her first U.S. stakes effort.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Saturday at Woodbine, Flamenco drew clear in the stretch to win the $125,000 Victoria Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths over Wholelottabourbon. Da Cardinal was third. With Robert Landry riding, Flemenco led all the way, finishing 5 furlongs in 57.9 seconds. The son of Dance Master now has won both his starts. "He broke well and went on his way," Landry said. "I just kind of pointed him towards the wire and he did the rest."
-- Gold Joy trailed all three rivals early in Saturday's $100,000 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park, then came around them to win by 1 1/2 lengths as the longest shot in the race. Well-beaten in the Flash Stakes in his last outing, Gold Joy won for the second time in four outings. He ran the 5 1/2 furlongs of the Tremont in 1:04.89 on a muddy track. The colt is by Joyeaux Danseur and trained by Timothy Salzman. "He winds up and he runs," said winning jockey Mike Luzzi. Salzman added, "The farther he goes, the better he's going to be."
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Punch Appeal upset Saturday's $100,000 J j'sdream Stakes at Calder Race Course, tracking down pace-setter My Kip to take the lead in the stretch and then easily holding off favorite Aclassysassylassy to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Punch Appeal, a daughter of Successful Appeal, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:06 4/5. She won her first race, then ran third in an allowance event earlier this month. "She's not eligible for the (Florida) Stallion Stakes, so it was very important to do something today," said winning trainer Bill White. "She's had three races and I'll probably back off of her for a while."
-- Broadway Gold bobbled at the start of Sunday's $100,000 Astorita Stakes at Belmont Park, but recovered in time to take charge in the stretch and win by a comfortable 3 lengths, under wraps. Lady Glade was second with a late move and Comacina was third. Broadway Gold, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Seeking the Gold from the Storm Cat mare Miss Doolittle, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.41 for Jerry Bailey. "She's not super fast," said Bailey. "But she's quick enough to be in the hunt, which is probably good as they go farther."
In other weekend racing:
Soaring Free, the odds-on favorite, led every step of the way to win Sunday's $200,000 (US$144,624) Scotts Highlander Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths over Open Concert. Take Achance On Me was third. Soaring Free, a 5-year-old Smart Strike gelding, clicked off moderate fractions en route to a 1:08.72 clocking for the 6 furlongs on firm turf.
Dalavin trailed the field early in Sunday's $100,000 (US$72,311) Charlie Barley Stakes for 3-year-olds, came four-wide into the stretch and won off by 6 lengths over Burst of Fire. The favorite, Bachelor Blues, ran third after dueling for the lead on the turn. Dalavin, a Florida-bred gelding by Native Regent, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.02 with Patrick Husbands up.
In Saturday's $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes for 3-year-olds, Multiplication proved that "1" is the right number for horses. The son of Subordination was "1" at every call, winning by 1/2 length over Work With Me. Swinging Ghost was third. Multiplication, with Edgar Prado riding, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.56.
Ebony Breeze blew by pace-setting She Is Raging in the stretch drive to win Saturday's $100,000 My Juliet Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length. Balmy was third in the five-horse field. Ebony Breeze, a 4-year-old Belong to Me filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.62 under Herbert Castillo Jr.
Schedule crossed the line first in Sunday's $60,000 Dearly Precious Stakes for 3-year-old fillies but then was set down to second for interfering with Cherish Destiny near the wire. Dreamadreamforme was third. Cherish Destiny is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Grand Slam. The 6 furlongs went in 1:10.28.
Britt's Jules stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Excalibur Stakes for 3-year-olds, went to the lead as the field turned for home and exploded through the stretch to win by 6 3/4 lengths. Mr. Devious was second and Foxtrot Oscar danced home third. Britt's Jules, a Florida-bred son of Jules finished 1 mile and 70 yards on a good track in 1:42.46.
Sunday, Yoursmineours went quickly to the lead in the $50,000 Lorelei Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, opened a daylight lead at the top of the stretch and held on to beat Josie G. by 3/4 length. Lucky Tunnel was third Yoursmineours, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Belong to Me, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.96 for Don Pettinger.
Lone Star Park
Fleeta Dif got the lead with a furlong to run in Saturday's $50,000 Miller Lite Stakes, then dueled with odds-on favorite Leslie's Love through the stretch before winning by 1/2 length. Big Score was 2 1/2 lengths behind Leslie's Love in third at the end of the 5 furlongs, timed in 58.06 seconds on a sloppy track. Fleeta Dif is a 5-year-old, Texas-bred mare by Hadif.
Mt. Carson drew off in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Da Hoss Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning by 7 lengths over Duvalier. Access Approved was third in the five-horse field. Mt Carson, a Kentucky-bred son of Lord Carson, finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.07. Six of the original starters were scratched when the race was moved off the turf.
Saturday's Prairie State Festival -- six $75,000 stakes for Illinois-breds -- found almost equal shares of upsetters and favorites in the winner's circle. But the upsets were substantial, including a sixth-place finish by Mystery Giver in the Cardinal Handicap for older horses at 1 1/16 mile on the turf. Mystery Giver was the odds-on favorite after winning two stakes at Fair Grounds and finishing a close-up third in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. Saturday, the Dynaformer gelding mailed in a performance, never reaching contention. The winner was Runaway Victor, claimed for $4,000 in December (this is why they run these races), who sat just behind Colorful Tour before putting a head in front at the wire. Home of the Stars completed a boxcar trifecta. Runaway Victor, an 8-year-old son of Runaway Groom, won for just the seventh time in his 72nd start. "I always have felt that this horse will run with the competition no matter where you put him," said trainer Doug Matthews. "He just tries really hard."
In other Praire Festival races: Silver Bid stalked the pace and rallied through the stretch to win the White Oak Handicap by 3/4 length over Manitowish, running 6 furlongs in 1:09.70; Dharma Girl scored a 17-1 upset in the Isaac Murphy Handicap for fillies and mares, rallying from mid-pack to win by 1 length over Jaguar City in 1:10.28.
Also, Lighthouse Lil came from last of 10 to win the Lincoln Heritage Handicap for fillies and mares by a neck over long shot pace-setter I Can Fan Fan, finishing 1 1/16 mile of "good" turf in 1:44.39; Fort Prado came from well back to upset the Springfield Stakes for 3-year-olds, beating Jaguar Friend by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:36.31; and Slewville captured the Purple Violet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by 3/4 length over Ms. Lydonia, who then was disqualified to fourth.
Sharky's Review reeled in loose-on-the-lead One Fine Shweetie to win Saturday's $70,000 Hawkeyes Handicap by 2 lengths. One Fine Shweetie just held off O U Bet for second. It was the third straight year Sharky's Review won the Hawkeyes. Sharky's Review is a 6-year-old daughter of Sharkey. She finished in 1:45.62 under Perry Compton, who was subbing for the absent Luis Quinonez. "One Fine Shweetie ran a monster race last time," said Sharky's Review's trainer, Mark Bader. "I knew she'd go to the front this time....I was very concerned. I thought we'd be a little closer because we haven't run in seven weeks"
Random Memo led all the way to a 4 1/4-length victory over the favorite, Pool Boy, in Sunday's $50,000 Tacoma Handicap for 3-year-olds. Random Memo, a California-bred son of Memo, was under pressure most of the way to the quarter pole, then drew off. He finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.80.
Vazandar, based at Canterbury, slipped through on the rail on the turn for home in Saturday's $50,000 Come Summer Stakes for 3-year-olds and went on to post an 8-1 upset victory. Lucky was second and Sultan of Spin third.
News and Notes
Three Chimneys Farm, near Midway, Ky., the long-time home of the late Seattle Slew, has won the right to stand Smarty Jones when he retires from racing. Three Chimneys currently is home to such racing and breeding stars as Silver Charm, Point Given, Dynaformer and Rahy. The agreement calls for owners Roy and Pat Chapman to make the decision about when to retire the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, that his book of mares will be limited to 110 per year, that he will not shuttle to the Southern Hemisphere and that fans will be allowed to visit the farm and see him. "We're excited about him as a stallion," said Three Chimneys President Dan Rosenberg. "I can't wait to see what Smarty does next on the race track. But I also can'to wait to see his babies." Three Chimneys owner Robert N. Clay said his farm has experience with fans visiting superstar horses. "We have always welcomed fans to Three Chimneys Farm and look forward to sharing Smarty Jones with his public," said Clay.