Some tricks and treats from Saturday's 21st running of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships:
Treat: Racing fans, in Texas, California and even Chicago. Lone Star Park staged a highly successful Breeders' Cup in its first visit to Texas. Little Red Feather Racing won the $1 million NetJets Mile with a horse the syndicate bought for $3,200, showing lightning can strike. The horse is named Singletary, after one-time Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, which is about as close as Bears' fans will get to a winner this year.
Trick: Veteran riders like Jerry Bailey and Pat Day being shut out. Bailey, however, did have three second-place finishes and two show placings, with his mounts earning $1,436,800 in treats.
Treat: All 91 horses returned from the eight races healthy.
Trick: The great race mare Azeri ran her heart out in the $4 million Classic, only to finish fifth when she could have had a much easier time in the $2 million Distaff earlier on the card.
Trick or Treat (depending on your point of view): Although European and British connections were skeptical about shipping to Texas, British horses won two of the eight Championship races for the first time in the 21 runnings of the Breeders' Cup.
Treat: The only two horses on the card with "hunch" Halloween names won their races -- Ouija Board in the Filly & Mare Turf and Ghostzapper in the Classic. And, yes, they were both favorites.
$2 million Distaff
Ashado bulled her way into contention on the turn for home and went on to win the Distaff by 1 1/4 lengths in track-record time. Storm Flag Flying made a good late run to take second in the first of eight championship races at Lone Star Park. Stellar Jayne was third. Ashado, a 3-year-old daughter of St. Ballado, won for the fifth time in eight starts this year -- a string that included the Kentucky Oaks. Her time of 1:48.26 easily eclipsed the track record of 1:49.69 for 1 1/8 mile, despite the fact the surface was rated "good," rather than fast, after overnight rains. Lone Star officials immediately upgraded the track condition after the Distaff. Jockey John Velazquez won his fifth Breeders' Cup race after squeezing Ashado between horses on the turn to get running room into the stretch. Ashado is trained by Todd Pletcher.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
Sweet Catomine fought through heavy traffic to win Saturday's $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies by a dominating 3 3/4 lengths. Racing in the middle of the pack under jockey Corey Nakatani, the Storm Cat filly was caught amid rivals at the middle of the final turn and taken up sharply. Rallying, she got through and ran past the leaders to an easy victory. Balletto was second and Runway Model was third. Sweet Catomine, who ran the 1 1/16 mile in a quick 1:41.65, now has won three straight races after a career-opening loss for trainer Julio Canani. She becomes a leading candidate for next May's Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The two European starters in the Juvenile Fillies, Mona Lisa and Sense of Style, both missed the start badly and neither was a factor in the race.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
Singletary got through between horses on the turn in Saturday's $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Mile and just held off European rival Antonius Pius for the win. French-based defending champion Six Perfections was third and the pace-setting Canadian contender Soaring Free was fourth in the most multinational event of the eight-race championship program at Lone Star Park. Run over a yielding turf course, the Mile went in a slow 1:36.90, which suited winning jockey David Flores perfectly. After staying close to the pace, he had no trouble getting Singletary to the lead at the top of the stretch and held on. Singletary is as all-American as his beaten rivals are foreign. A Kentucky-bred son of Sultry Song, he is named for former Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary and Flores wore silks bearing the Bears' orange-and-blue "C" logo. He is owned by a 15-partner syndicate and trained by Don Chatlos, a Chicago native who saddled his first Breeders' Cup starter.
$1 million Sprint
Speightstown took the shortest way home to a 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint. With jockey John Velazquez at the controls, Speightstown skimmed the rail, right behind a blistering early pace. As the field turned into the Lone Star Park stretch, front-runner Abbondanza left running room on the inside and that was all Speightstown needed. He spurted through, opened up a quick lead and was a clear winner. Kela made a late run from the back of the 13-horse field, followed home by two longshots, My Cousin Matt and Bwana Charlie. Speightstown's final time for 6 furlongs was 1:08.11, just shy of the track record. Before finishing third in his last start, the 6-year-old son of Gone West had won eight of his last 10 races, finishing second in the other two. Neither of the two horses who beat him last time was entered Saturday. The victory was the second of the day for trainer Todd Pletcher, who had not won a Breeders' Cup race before. It was also Velazquez' second win of the day.
$1 million Filly and Mare Turf
Ouija Board, owned by the legendary Lord Derby, swept to victory as the heavy favorite in Saturday's $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Jockey Kieren Fallon kept the 3-year-old daughter of Cape Cross behind a very slow pace set by Moscow Burning. As the field turned for home, he asked Ouija Board to run and she responded quickly, surging to the front and scoring by 1 1/2 lengths over Film Maker. Wonder Again was third and Moscow Burning held on for fourth. Ouija Board finished third in the Arc d'Triomphe against males in her last start. Earlier, she won both the English and Irish Oaks. She now has five wins from eight lifetime starts for her noble British owner, whose ancestors gave their family's name to classic races for 3-year-olds. Saturday's effort was made more difficult by a yielding turf course and a slow pace. Moscow Burning ran the first mile in a plodding 1:42.36 and Ouija Board completed the 1 3/8 mile in 2:18.25, nearly 5 seconds slower than the track record.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
Wilko, making his first start in the United Stakes and first on dirt, won Saturday's $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile with a gutsy stretch run. Wilko, a Kentucky-bred son of Awesome Again, had 10 starts earlier this year on the turf in England, winning only two minor races. Saturday, jockey Frankie Dettori kept the chestnut colt up with the leaders until the turn, then dropped back and swung to the outside for room. He then easily ran by and won by 3/4 length over Afleet Alex. Sun King was third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:42.09. Roman Ruler, the favorite and only starter of the day for trainer Bob Baffert, never reached contention after a slow start and finished fifth. The result casts doubt on the 2-year-old championship for 2004. And none of the previous 20 Juvenile winners has ever come back the following year to win the Kentucky Derby.
$2 million John Deere Turf
Better Talk Now got the best of a rough race to win Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Kitten's Joy. After crossing the line first, Better Talk Now had to survive a claim of foul by the jockey of Kitten's Joy, John Velazquez. Velazquez said Better Talk Now came in on his mount, forcing him off stride. While there clearly was an incident at mid-stretch, the stewards ruled it was not significant enough to affect the outcome. Powerscourt, who ironically was disqualified out of a victory in the Arlington Million in August, finished third. Magistretti was fourth. Better Talk Now, a 5-year-old son of Talkin Man, ran the 1 1/2 mile in 2:29.70 -- commendable time over a yielding Lone Star Park turf course. The victory was just his second in seven starts this year, justifying his 27-1 odds in Saturday's race. The Turf lacked its usual European influence this year as most of the foreign stars either stayed home or contested the Canadian International at Woodbine last weekend.
$4 million Classic - Powered by Dodge
More than just a hunch bet the day before Halloween, Ghostzapper zapped a dozen rivals Saturday in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic. On the lead but tracked all the way by Roses In May, Ghostzapper never seemed threatened and drew off to win by three lengths in both track and Breeders' Cup record time of 1:59.02. Roses In May held second and last year's Classic winner, Pleasantly Perfect, ran third. Ghostzapper, with Javier Castellano up, was expected to race on the lead but did so unexpectedly easily. When he got the first half mile in 47 seconds, there was little chance of catching him. The victory caps a perfect four-race season for the lightly raced, 4-year-old son of Awesome Again and boosts him into serious contention for Horse of the Year honors. Last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide, finished 10th. This year's Belmont Stakes winner, Birdstone, finished seventh. The top race mare Azeri was a creditable fifth under the wire.
Other weekend racing, briefly:
For those not satisfied with eight exciting Breeders' Cup events, look Down Under. Monday evening is the Melbourne Cup -- a race that occasions a national holiday and almost universal attention from the population of Australia. As usual, this year's renewal features the cream of the crop from the island continent and surrounding racing jurisdictions and a smattering of talent from farther away.
Lone Star Park
Illinois Derby winner Pollard's Vision roared down the stretch in Friday's $250,000 Lone Star Derby, caught the leaders and went on to win by 1/2 length over Cryptograph. Flamethrowintexan was third and the favorite, Brass Hat, finished ninth of 12. Pollard's Vision, a son of Carson City, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.10 with John Velazquez getting a preview of the winner's circle.
Also Friday, Yearly Report rolled through the lane to a dominating, 9 1/4-length victory in the $150,000 Stonerside Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Homemaker was second and Angelica Slew third. Yearly Report, a Golden Eagle Farm homebred by General Meeting, ran 7 furlongs in 1:20.67. Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Jerry Bailey, who were shut out on Saturday, picked up this win.
Sunday, My Misty Princess came from last of eight to win the $100,000 Bluebonnet Stakes for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old Acceptable filly ran 1 1/16 mile on "good" turf in 1:45.19. Queena Corrina was second and Bonnie J. was a longshot third.
Sir Cherokee drew clear in the stretch to upset Sunday's opening-day feature, the $150,000 Ack Ack Handicap. With Calvin Borel up, the 4-year-old Cherokee Run colt scored by 5 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Fire Slam. Slate Run was third. Sir Cherokee got the 7 furlongs in 1:29.48.
Saturday's $60,000 Witches Brew Stakes for fillies and mares at 5 furlongs on the turf went to Kiss Me Katie, by a nose over Tight Spin. The time was 57.33. In the $60,000 Accordant Handicap, Our Wildcat got home a head in front of Jay's Wish, running 6 furlongs in 1:09.58.
Appropriately named Monster Chaser chased the leaders in Saturday's $75,000 Rollicking Stakes for 2-year-olds, then went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Bank On the Champ. Monster Chaser, by Meadow Monster, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.50. In the companion $75,000 Heavenly Cause Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Golden Malibu came from off the pace to beat Take a Check by 1 1/2 lengths, getting the same distance in 1:11.94. She is by Malibu Moon.
Last Answer rallied turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Chief Bearheart Stakes and held off Rainbows for Luck to win by 1/2 length. Last Answer, a 4-year-old son of Langfuhr, got the 10 furlongs on yielding turf in 2:09.67.
Sunday, Millfleet scored a mild upset in the $125,000 (Canadian) Bunty Lawless Stakes, beating favorite Tusayan by 3/4 length. Millfleet, a 3-year-old son of Compadre, ran the 1 mile on yielding turf in 1:39.07.
Leroidesanimaux drew clear in the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Morvich Handicap by 1 1/4 length over De Valmont, with Cayoke third of six. Leroidesanimaux, a Brazilian-bred, ran the about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:11.76. The six-horse field also included two Australian-breds, two French-breds and one from Chile.
Sunday, Theater R.N. rallied from mid-pack to win the $150,000 Las Palmas Handicap for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over Lots of Hope. The favorite, Good Student, was third. Theater R.N., one of only two U.S. bred horses in the seven-horse field, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:47.81 on firm turf.
Midway Road led from gate to wire winning the $150,000 Fayette Stakes on getaway day at Keeneland. Total Impact ran second all the way. Midway Road, a 4-year-old son of Jade Hunter, finished the 9 furlongs in 1:50.39 under Calvin Borel.
Host came from the far back of the field to win Saturday's $150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Evening Attire. Sailaway was third. Host, a Chilean-bred 4-year-old, ran 9 furlongs on the firm turf in 1:49.95.
Sunday, Finery just got past pace-setting Madeira Mist in the final yards to win the $100,000 Athenia Handicap for fillies and mares by 1/2 length. With Patience was third. The 1 1/16 mile on firm turf took 1:43.73.
Also Sunday, Mass Media stayed close to the lead in the $100,000 Sport Page Handicap, came three-wide to take over and won off by 3 1/2 lengths over Lion Tamer, with Gygistar third. Mass Media, a 3-year-old son of Touch Gold, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:21.10.
News and notes:
Equibase and Keeneland say they are "encouraged with the results" of an automated tracking system used during the first two weeks of the fall meeting to track horses during the various points of call in races. The system uses a transmitter in the horses' saddle towels and multiple antennae around the track to gather information now judged by Equibase chartcallers using binoculars from race track press boxes ... 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner and 1998 Dubai World Cup winner Silver Charm has been sold to the Japan Racing Association by principal owners Bob and Beverly Lewis. Silver Charm had been standing at Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky.