The Breeders' Cup is over and Bobby Frankel says the Horse of the Year voting is a "no brainer," so about all that's left for Thoroughbred racing fans is to start looking at the 2-year-old races in search of next spring's Kentucky Derby or Oaks winner.
Fortunately, the past week featured some pretty good juvenile races -- including one at Aqueduct that provided a post-Halloween sense of déjà vu.
Early this year, trainer John Service traveled from Philadelphia Park to New York with a colt named Smarty Jones, who won the Count Fleet and then went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes before just missing in the Belmont.
Last Tuesday, Servis and jockey Stewart Elliott were back at Aqueduct with another undefeated 2-year-old, this time in the $100,000 Nashua Stakes. The newcomer is Rockport Harbor, a gray son of Unbridled's Song. He went quickly to the lead and never looked back, winning by 6 1/4 lengths over Defer, with Better than Bonds third. Rockport Harbor, now 3-for-3, ran 1 mile in 1:36.67.
"I was really impressed," Servis said. "This was a good test for him. There were some nice horses in here. The way he did it, to me, was very impressive. ... I think now we will start looking for a long-term goal and getting him ready for next year."
The plan could mirror Smarty Jones's part through the Oaklawn Park stakes to Churchill Downs.
And speaking of Smarty Jones: Mr. Frankel, there are some folks who think Smarty Jones is competition for your fine colt, Ghostzapper, for year-end honors.
In other weekend races for 2-year-olds:
-- Straight Line sat behind the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, then took charge in the stretch and drew off to win by 5 lengths. Social Probation was second and Greater Good was third. Straight Line, a Kentucky-bred son of Boundary, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.62 under Brice Blanc. Straight Line came into the race off a second-place finish in the Arlington-Washington Futurity.
-- Leaving On My Mind left seven rivals gasping in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs. Kicking in with an outside move, the Texas-bred son of Valid Expectations won by 5 lengths, finishing 1 mile in 1:40.61. Rubialedo was second and My Parade was third.
-- Accurate rallied from far back in the field to win Sunday's $125,000 Great White Way Division of the New York Stallion Stakes by a neck over Summerland. Distinctive Trick was third and the favorite, Western Galaxy, finished fifth after stumbling and the start and bumping with a rival. Accurate, a son of Precise End, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.22.
On paper, Salute looked like the filly to beat in Tuesday's $100,000 Tempted Stakes at Aqueduct. She is by Unbridled, out of Personal Ensign. And she finished third, behind Summer Raven and K.D.'s Shady Lady. And Summer Raven wasn't even supposed to be in the race.
"I have got to give this trophy to (Aqueduct stakes coordinator) Andrew Byrnes because I wasn't planning on running," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "He called down a couple of days ahead of time and said this race was coming up real light."
Stewart Elliott, who got the mount when jockey Richard Migliori was injured, said the Summer Squall filly rose to the occasion. "I knew I had some horse left" after showing the way," Ellliott said. "I knew she was going to be tough to beat. She dug in and was able to win it."
Summer Raven now is 2-1-1 from six starts and appears to be improving with distance. She finished the 1-mile Tempted in 1:36.09.
In other weekend races for 2-year-old fillies:
-- Punch Appeal dueled down the stretch with Aspen Tree in Saturday's $100,000 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs, then stuck a nose in front under the wire. Kota was third. Pocahontas, with Pat Day in the irons, ran 1 mile in 1:37.77. Punch Appeal is a Florida-bred daughter of Successful Appeal, trained by Harvey Vanier.
-- Karakorum Splendor led most of the way to a 3 3/4-length score in Sunday's $125,000 New York Stallion Stakes Fifth Avenue Division at Aqueduct. The bay daughter of A.P. Jet ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.94. Avery Hall was second and Brassy Boots third, another 4 lengths farther back.
-- Simply Lovely lived up to her name in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Franfreluche Stakes at Woodbine. The Bold Executive filly tracked the pace, got to a short lead at the top of the stretch and extended that margin to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Silver Impulse was second and Susur third. Simply Lovely, trained by Robert Tiller, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.41.
-- At Sunland Park in New Mexico, Coronado Rose caught pace-setting Time to Divorce in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $50,000 Princess Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths. Star of Gold Fever was third. Coronado Rose, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Coronado's Quest, out of the Nureyev mare Lakabi, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.71.
In other racing:
Makybe Diva became the first distaffer to post back-to-back victories in Australia's greatest race as she won Tuesday's $4.6 million (Australian) Melbourne Cup under Glenn Boss. Vinnie Roe was second, 1 1/2 lengths back, and Zazzman finished third at 99-1 odds. Makybe Diva is a 6-year-old daughter of Desert King. "She went from champion to legend with this win today," said trainer Lee Freedman. The race was run in a steady downpour over a Flemington Racecourse surface described as "dead." Champion British jockey Frankie Dettori was handed a one-month suspension a day after the race for careless riding aboard Godolphin's entry, Mamool.
Heavy favorite Lady Tak got caught in a speed duel with longshot Revolutionary Act in Sunday's $200,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap and it cost her. After battling for the lead, Lady Tak didn't have enough left in the stretch to hold off the late run of Halory Leigh, who raced wide into the stretch and easily drew clear to win by 5 lengths. Lady Tak held second and Susan's Angel was third. Halory Leigh, a 4-year-old daughter of Halory Hunter, ran the 1 mile in 1:35.05 under Craig Perret.
Eleusis, making her first start in North America, rallied by the early leaders to win Saturday's $150,000 Long Island Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths over Literacy. The favorite, Arvada, checked in third. Eleusis, a 3-year-old daughter of Dieesis, ran 1 1/2 mile on "good" turf in 2:31.51 under Jose Santos. "She could be a very good mare next year," said winning trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. "She got a late start this year. She started in April and was all backwards. I did a progressive program with her, looking toward next year." He said the filly, winner of six of her seven lifetime starts, will return to France.
Personal Legend saved ground into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Turnback the Alarm Handicap and beat Roar Emotion to the line by 1/2 length for the victory. Fast Cookie was third. Personal Legend, with Jerry Bailey riding, got 9 furlongs in 1:51.27 on the fast main track -- a change of surfaces for the 4-year-old Awesome Again filly. "She was losing her turn of foot, so I decided to put her back on the dirt," said trainer Bobby Frankel. He said she now will winter in Florida.
In Sunday's $100,000 Cormorant Division of the New York Stallion Stakes, Pa Pa Da won a stretch duel and then held on to beat Thanasi by 1/2 length. Unnerving was third and the favorite, Theconfidenceman, got home seventh. Pa Pa Da, a 3-year-old son of Incurable Optimist, ran 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:37.65
Also Sunday, Kevin's Decision won the Perfect Arc Division of the NYSS, rallying nicely through the stretch to beat Expect Nothing by 2 1/4 lengths. South Wing was third and the favorite, Beautiful America, beat only one of nine rivals. Kevin's Decision, a 4-year-old daughter of Expensive Decision, ran 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:37.04.
Congressionalhonor upset Saturday's $100,000 Bay Meadows Derby. With Russell Baze up, the Kentucky-bred Forestry colt circled four-wide on the final turn and got home 2 1/4 lengths in front of Talaris. Hendrix finished third but was disqualified to last for forcing his way through traffic on the final turn. On the Acorn was promoted to show money. Congressionalhonor ran the 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:48.92.
Winter Garden moved to the front along the rail on the turn in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Fashion Handicap, then opened up and won by 3 3/4 lengths over El Prado Essence. Big Cheque got a smaller cheque for finishing third. Winter Garden, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Roy, went off as the even-money favorite and ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.35. "I didn't like the way the race was unfolding," said winning rider David Clark. "So I just asked her to pick it up a little bit and she did the rest on her own."
Clark also captured the second feature on the card, winning the $100,000 River Memories Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths aboard My Pal Lena. Ginger Gold was second and Always Awesome third. My Pal Lena was running back on just a week's rest after finishing fifth against colts in the Chief Bearheart Stakes. The 4-year-old daughter of Kris S. was clocked in 1:39.49 over yielding turf.
Whilly stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Bien Bien Stakes, saving ground into the final turn. Then the Irish-bred 3-year-old came out for the drive and got home first, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Perfect Moon. We All Love Aleyna was third. Whilly ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.23.
Sunday, Penny's Fortune got the jump on a half-dozen rivals in the $60,000 Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes and never looked back, winning by 1/2 length. Seeking the Heart was second and the favorite, Sweet Win, settled for a bittersweet third. Penny's Fortune, a 3-year-old daughter of Storm Cat, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:51.40.
Aggadan dawdled well off the pace in the early going in Saturday's $75,000 Challedon Stakes. But when jockey Eibar Coa asked the 5-year-old son of Carnivalay for run, he provided it, rallying to outfinish Private Opening by 1 1/4 lengths. Crossing Point finished third after setting the pace. Aggadan, who finished second to Ghostzapper in the Tom Fool earlier this year, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.03. Coa admitted the field got away from him a bit more than he might have liked. "But in the stretch, when he switched leads, he gave me a good kick -- good enough to go by them," he added.
Unforgettable Max led from gate to wire in winning Saturday's $50,000 Shecky Greene Stakes by 3 lengths over Hydrogen. Spicy Stuff was another 9 lengths back in third. Unforgettable Max, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred son of Northern Afleet, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.02 with Roberto Alvarado aboard. It was the colt's first win from eight tries this year and his fourth overall.
Day Trader got a clear lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 KLAQ Handicap, then held on to beat Cheyenne Breeze by a neck under the wire. Cat Buster was third and the favorite, Bang, ran fifth. Day Trader, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Phone Trick, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.74.
News and notes:
Last Saturday's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Lone Star Park set records for total handle, Breeders' Cup-only handle, simulcast handle and international handle. Total all-sources handle on the 12-race card was $120,863,117, eclipsing the mark of $120,631,437, set last year at Santa Anita. The all-sources total on the eight Championship races was $109,838,668, breaking the record of $108,578,049, set in 2002 at Arlington Park. International handle made up 13.6 percent of the total handle, with France and Canada leading the way among overseas wagering. The Ultra Pick 6 pool was $4,466,837. There were no perfect tickets and 61 with five winners paid $56,149 each.