Her Majesty wasn't in attendance at Keeneland for Saturday's $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies but merry old England was well represented by the winner, Ticker Tape.
The British-bred daughter of Royal Applause has been a major force in California since arriving a year ago, finishing first or second in all but one of eight starts there. In her last outing, she won the Grade III Pucker Up Stakes on the Arlington Park turf.
Saturday, Kent Desormeaux let the bay filly lope along well out from the rail, surged to the front as the seven-filly field straighted out into the stretch and held off French-bred rival Barancella by 1/2 length at the wire. River Belle, another British-bred filly, was third.
Ticker Tape ran 9 furlongs of "good" turf in 1:51.35 after tracking a pedestrian pace.
Desormeaux said he was concerned he might be caught behind a rival who was going nowhere on the turn. "Just when I thought I was out of time, the horse in front of me started to progress. Finally, when I showed her a clear path, she took off."
Trainer Jim Cassidy said he was concerned about the soft turf. "But she did the same thing she always does -- make that huge run. We talked about running her in the Breeders' Cup but I told her owners, 'She will run her eyeballs out and she still might get beat.' I was glad to be able to run her against 3-year-olds."
The race was named for the English monarch when she visited Keeneland 20 years ago.
In other weekend racing:
Hawthorne Race Course
Cool Conductor barely had a chance to cool out from his last race before he loaded in the gate for Saturday's $250,000 Hawthorne Derby. No matter. Trainer Bill Mott knows what he's doing. The Stravinsky colt, who tired to finish fourth in the Storm Cat at Keeneland on Oct. 10 found room along the inside and rallied from mid-pack to win Saturday's turf feature by a neck over Bankruptcy Court. Crown Prince was third. Cool Conductor, with Jose Santos riding, got the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.89. He now has five wins from 11 starts this year and also was second in the American Derby at Arlington and third in both the Arlington Classic and the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs. Mott's assistant, Mark Schreiber, said Cool Conductor "ran great. He came back after only six days. I have seen Billy do that a lot over the years. He puts a good tightener in them before a big race."
Saturday was Cal Cup day at the Oak Tree meeting, with Cozy Guy posting a huge upset in the $250,000 Classic. Under Corey Nakatani, the 3-year-old Alphabet Soup gelding rallied past the leaders as the field turned for home and held sway by 3/4 length at the wire. The 9 furlongs took 1:47.70. Lava Man, another double-digits longshot, was second and Anziyan Royalty was third. Tizbud finished fifth and the favorite, Excess Summer, was last of 10.
"I've always just stayed out of his way and let him do what he wanted to do in races," said Nakatani. "Today he was so handy and was right where I wanted him to be the whole race. I set him down at about the eighth pole and he just scooted away from them."
Winning trainer Dan Hendricks, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a motorbike accident last July 7, said the win "really picks us up .... My owners have been great to me. They've stood behind me from the beginning of this problem and it's great to have them here and to win this big race for them." Cozy Guy is owned by two brother teams -- Jeff and Lance Hayes of San Diego and Jerry and Dan Higman of Huntington Beach.
The $150,000 Distaff produced another bonanza for the plungers as Our Mango, at 49-1, nosed out favorite Western Hemisphere at the wire. Market Garden was third. Our Mango, a 5-year-old Bold Badgett mare, ran the about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12.73 with Russell Baze up. The $100.20 win payoff was a Cal Cup record.
A semblance of order prevailed in the other races. Areyoutalkintome put a head in front of Full Moon Madness at the wire to win the $150,000 Sprint as the favorite, running 6 furlongs in 1:08.94 with Nakatani up. Dream of Summer was only a mild upset in beating favorite Yearly Report by a nose in the $150,000 Matron. Dream of Summer, a 5-year-old daughter of Siberian Summer, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.36 under Mike Smith. In the $175,000 Mile, A to the Z rallied sharply through the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Hemet Thought with Stage Player Third. A to the Z is a 4-year-old Benchmark gelding. He ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.44.
The $125,000 Juvenile went to Texess, an In Reality Gelding, by 6 lengths over Generalist, with Tizmanian Devil third and the favorite, Lucky J.H., fifth of six. And Lady Truffles held off Cee's Irish by a nose to win the $125,000 Juvenile Fillies. She is a daughter of Candi's Gold.
Sunday, Greek Sun dawdled near the back of the pack in the $150,000 Oak Tree Derby, then swung five-wide into the stretch and got up to win by 3/4 length over Laura's Lucky Boy. Hendrix was third. Greek Sun, a son of Danzig, ran 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:48.08 with Edgar Prado aboard. The colt is trained by Bobby Frankel for owner Peter Angelos.
B.A. Way ran past pace-setting Gran Cesare en route to a 2 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $200,000 Caesar Rodney Handicap. Foufa's Warrior was third, another 2 1/4 lengths back of the winner. B.A. Way, a 4-year-old son of Lasting Approval, ran the 1 1/8 mile on yielding turf in 1:53.43 with Abel Castellano up. The Kentucky-bred, trained by Richard Violette, now has five wins from 16 starts.
Slew's Saga upset Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Cup and Saucer Stakes in a big way. At odds of nearly 10-1, the Ontario-bred son of Seattle Slew went quickly out to fore and cruised home first, by 9 3/4 lengths, followed by a pair of even bigger longshots --Kalyptic (38-1) and Area Limits (27-1). Slew's Saga ran the 1 1/16 mile on "good" turf in 1:44.14. "He ran that way the last time," said winning rider Steven Bahen. Bahen said trainer Bob Tiller "just said to let him be happy, wherever he is." But even Tiller said he was surprised by the outcome. "I've got to be truthful," he said. "I wasn't expecting this kind of performance today. But, hey -- on to the Coronation." Favorite Go to the Sun finished fifth in the Cup and Saucer after some traffic problems.
Norfolk Knight went right to the front in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Durham Cup Stakes and held on to beat heavily favored Mobil by a neck at the wire. Sky Diamond was third. Norfolk Knight, a 5-year-old Tejabo gelding, ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:51.56 with Jillian Scharfstein aboard. "We had a perfect trip," Scharfstein said. "He got out there early, relaxed once he cleared the other horses and had a lot left down the lane," she added. Norfolk Knight did not race until he was 4 and now "is a late bloomer," said trainer Hugo Dittfach.
Molto Vita led from gate to wire in winning Sunday's $125,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes for fillies and mares. My Trusty Cat, the mutuel favorite, was second, with My Boston Gal third. Molto Vita is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Carson City. She negotiated the 6 furlongs in 1:09.92.
Gunning For came from well back in the field to nip favorite Rousing Victory in Saturday's $100,000 Lawrence Realization for 3-year-olds on the grass. Gunning For, a Florida-bred son of Dove Hunt, rallied four-wide to take the lead and just held on under jockey Joe Bravo to win by 1/2 length. Second Performance was third. The 1 1/2 mile took 2:29.91. Gunning For is only slowly gaining respect despite having been on the board in five straight races. Two starts back, he won the Stanton at Delaware Park at odds of 35-1. Saturday, he was 16-1 while running with only a week's rest. "He only ran the last quarter in his last race," said winning trainer Tim Walsh. "So, we figured we would take a shot while he was doing good. I thought he would like the distance." He said the $500,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 28 might be the next target.
Sunday, Flamenco survived a late run by Better Than Bonds to win the $75,000 Cowdin Stakes by 3/4 length. Upscaled was third. Flemenco, derailed from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile trail by a slight fever a few weeks back, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.20. In the $100,000 Astarita Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Toll Taker drew off in the stretch to upset favorite I'm a Dixie Girl by 3 1/4 lengths. Summer Raven was third. Toll Taker, an Illinois-bred daughter of Bernstein, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.16 with Eibar Coa up.
All Hail Stormy dueled for the lead in Saturday's $55,000 Bergen County Stakes for 3-year-olds, got to the front with a sixteenth to go and then survived a late bid by Anaf to win by 1/2 length. Exploit Lad was third and the persistent early leader, Cat Buster, faded to finish fourth. All Hail Stormy, a Florida-bred son of Stormy Atlantic, ran 5 furlongs on good turf in 57.55 seconds with Eibar Coa in the irons.
Also Saturday, Picnic Theme rallied three-wide into the stretch to win the $60,000 Queen Lib Handicap for fillies and mares by 3/4 length over Totally Precious. Uphill Skier, the favorite, led but finished third. Picnic Theme, a 6-year-old Northern Idol mare, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:40.53.
Move to Strike opened up a 6-length lead with a furlong to go in Saturday's $50,000 Sonny Hine Stakes but was all out in the final jumps to hold off Wimplestiltskin and win by a nose. On Thin Ice was third in the 6-furlong event, named for the late Hall of Fame trainer of Skip Away. Move to Strike, with Erick Rodriguez aboard, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.59. "This was a nice way to come back," said Rodriguez, who had been sidelined with a broken hand.
While most eyes centered on preparations for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships two weeks down the road, Nicole's Dream led most of the way through Saturday's $50,000 Wild Flower Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 3/4 length over Leslie's Love. Seneca Song was another 1/2 length farther back in third. Nicole's Dream, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Northern Trend, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.09 seconds.
Stormy but Crafty overhauled pace-setting favorite Leon's Best to win Saturday's $40,000 Razorback Futurity by 2 lengths, running 6 furlongs in 1:11.30. In the companion $40,000 Lady Razorback Futurity, Half a Storm went to the front on the turn and shook loose to win by 2 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Doll and a Half. Both winners are by Storm and a Half, a 7-year-old son of Storm Cat who stands for $1,000 at McDowell Farm in Sparkman, Ark. Storm and a Half sold for $1.2 million at Keeneland but never raced.
-- Haafhd, winner of the 2000 Guineas back in May, returned to the winner's enclosure Saturday with a convincing victory over soggy going in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket in England. In the interim, the son of Alhaarth was a disappointment for his owner, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rasheed al Maktoum, finishing fourth in the St. James's Palace and ninth in the Sussex Stakes. Saturday, with Richard Hills up, the colt advanced to second position behind Chorist with 3 furlongs to go and went past to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Chorist, a 5-year-old Pivotal filly, held on for second and Azamour was third. The 1 1/4 mile over saturated turf took 2:06.90.
-- Newmarket's Saturday card also featured two juvenile events. Shamardal, a Kentucky-bred son of Giants' Causeway, led throughout the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Oratorio, who won the Prix Jean-Luc Legardere at Longchamp in his last outing and had been considered for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Shamardal won his maiden outing at Ayr in July and captured a Group 2 event at Goodwood later that same month. Another progeny of Giant's Causeway, Maid's Causeway, won the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes for juvenile fillies by a head over Penkenna's Princess. Vavourita was third. She has three wins from seven starts. Giant's Causeway was a multiple Group 1 winner in England and Ireland and finished second in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic to Tiznow. The son of Storm Cat out of the outstanding racemare Mariah's Storm stands at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky.
-- Elvstroem scored a pace-setting victory in Saturday's Caulfield Cup at Melbourne, Australia. After taking a clear lead into the stretch, the favored 4-year-old son of Danehill barely held off a challenge by the filly Makybe Diva to win by a short head. Grey Song was third. The victory was Elvstroem's third straight in Group 1 competition.
-- Latency won Saturday's 121st running of the Gran Premio Jockey Club at the Hippodromo San Isidro in Buenos Aires, the second leg of the Argentine Triple Crown. Shaggadelic was second and the favorite, Don Incauto, third. Latency, by Slew Gin Fizz, ran 2000 meters of soft turf in 1:59.80.