Is there another Smarty Jones on the racing horizon? Who's the fastest sprinter around? Will the final major international meeting of the year in Hong Kong set the stage for 2005?
Those and other questions were on this weekend's racing quiz. Here, some answers:
The final weekend of racing under the twin spires included a potential look at some of the contenders for the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby. But other races around the country also may have some bearing on the May 7, 2005, Run for the Roses.
It was echoes of Smarty Jones in Aqueduct's $200,000 Remsen on Saturday. One of two horses entering the race undefeated was Rockport Harbor -- trained by John Servis and ridden by Stewart Elliott, the pair who handled this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner. His undefeated rival was Galloping Grocer. After the race, only Rockport Harbor was undefeated -- but only by the length of his neck. The duo battled down the stretch before the outcome was decided. The son of Unbridled's Song now has four wins for as many starts but will need some down time to repair damage to his right hind foot. "This was going to be his last race until next year anyway," said winning trainer John Servis. "The way it looks, we're probably going to have to sew it back. It was pretty nasty looking." Both Servis and Galloping Grocer's trainer, Dominick Schettino, said their horses should get a lot from the tough race and will be back for more next year.
At Churchill Downs, Greater Good led a trio of late-runners to the wire in Saturday's $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The son of Intidab, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park earlier this year, scored by 1 3/4 lengths over Rush Bay with Wild Desert third. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:45.14. Trainer Bob Holthus is thinking Kentucky Derby. "I believe that it will be to his advantage that he's trained at Churchill practically his whole life," Holthus said. "He knows this track very well." He said Greater Good will have a short break in Arkansas. "We'll start him out around the first of the year," he added, with the Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby as the early targets.
At Woodbine in Canada, One Smooth Ride upset Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes, advancing from last to first before finishing 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Radical Right. Accountforthegold was third. One Smooth Ride, a Kentucky-bred son of Victory Gallop, covered 9 furlongs in 1:47.92 with Constant Montpellier up.
At Hollywood Park in California, Dubleo collared front-running Littlebitofzip in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $100,000 Generous Stakes by 3/4 length. Sunny Sky was third with a belated rush. Dubleo, a Kentucky-bred son of Southern Halo, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.21 with Corey Nakatani up for trainer Todd Pletcher.
And, because you never know where a Derby contender might be developing, note that Blazing Exploit dominated Friday's $40,000 Delta Beau Stakes at Delta Downs in Louisiana. The Kentucky-bred son of Exploit, trained by Tom Amoss, led from the gate and won by 6 lengths, handily. He finished 5 furlongs in 59.57 seconds.
The 2-year-old fillies
Runway Model, third in the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, drew clear in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs and won by 3 lengths over Kota. Runway Model, a daughter of Petionville, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.97 after tracking the leaders through much of the race. "Times have come and times have gone," said winning trainer Bernie Flint. "But she's a throwback to the old days where you could take a 2-year-old and they'd stay together for you. ... If God's good to me and everything else, come next year on the first Friday in May, she'll be there."
Sis City, fourth in the recent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, led most of the way to an easy 3 3/4-length victory over Salute in Saturday's $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct. Winning Season was third. Sis City, a daughter of Slew City Slew, owned in part by New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.39 with John Velazquez up. She has won three of her six starts. Another part owner, Sanford Goldfarb, said Sis City will winter in Florida. "We want to have her fresh for the big races next year," he said.
At Hollywood Park, European imports filled out the trifecta in Friday's $75,000 first division of the Miesque Stakes on turf. Louvain, never out of the money in five starts in Europe, was home first, leading Royal Copenhagen and La Maitresse across the line. In the second division, Paddy's Daisy won for the third straight time, backing up her previous efforts at Meadowlands and Keeneland. Conveyor's Angel was second and Kenza third.
Pico Central could have made a case as the year's top sprinter had he won Saturday's $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. The 5-year-old son of Spend a Buck had beaten Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Speightstown rather handily in the Vosburgh in his last outing but then skipped the Breeders' Cup because he wasn't nominated. Sent off the favorite in the Cigar Mile, Pico Central jumped to the lead but couldn't carry his speed. Lion Tamer came from well back to win by 1 1/4 length and Badge of Silver beat Pico Central by a nose for second. Lion Tamer, a 12-1 long shot, was clocked in 1:33.46 under Jose Santos. He is a 4-year-old son of Will's Way. Todd Pletcher trains both Lion Tamer and Speightstown and was lobbying for year-end honors for the latter. "I think the one race that really solidifies the championship is the Breeders' Cup," he said. "When you show up on a neutral playing field against everybody and win, if it is close, that's what separates the closeness." Pico Central's trainer, Paul Lobo, also was working the voters, lamenting that he had to take the lead from the No. 1 post position. "Pico won the Vosburgh, Carter and the Met Mile," he said.
At Hollywood Park, Cajun Beat switched to the turf after finishing fifth in last month's Breeders' Cup Sprint and found the grass to his liking. Rallying from well back, he rallied from second-last of nine to win Friday's $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express by 3 lengths over Geronimo. Mighty Beau was third. Cajun Beat, a 4-year-old, with Ramon Dominguez in from Maryland for the ride, finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.08. "He found his best stride around the quarter pole and came home very strongly," Dominguez said.
The International Scene
It's pretty tough to beat the Japanese on their home field -- especially in the Japan Cup. Sunday's $4.6 million edition of the Japan Cup was no exception, with local starters filling the top three spots on the board. Zenno Rob Roy, with Olivier Peslier riding, was first, 3 lengths ahead of Cosmo Bulk. Delta Blues was third. The 1 1/2 mile race, run on firm turf, was clocked in 2:24 1/5. French hopeful Policy Maker was fourth but highly regarded Powerscourt was 10th and Warrsan 15th.
The home team also had its way in the $2.5 million Japan Cup Dirt, with Time Paradox the winner in a minor upset over Admire Don, who had beaten him three times earlier in the year. Foreign starters were missing in action at the finish of the Japan Cup Dirt.
With the Japan Cup in the books, only the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races on Dec. 12 remain on the World Series Racing Championship Card. The Hong Kong Cup -- one of four races on the program -- is the final event in that series.
The four races, worth HK$56 million, attracted champions from four continents, including 19 individual Group 1 winners. "Considering this depth and the strength of the Hong Kong horses, the meeting certainly has the feel of a Turf World Championships," said Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, executive director of racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
In other weekend racing:
Saint Liam was bumped coming out of the starting gate in Friday's $500,000 Clark Handicap, but held his ground to take up a pace-stalking position behind Lundy's Liability. When asked by jockey Edgar Prado, Saint Liam got to the lead with a quarter mile to go and held on to defeat the horse that bumped him at the start, Seek Gold, by 1 1/4 length. Perfect Drift was third as his rally fizzled. Saint Liam, a 4-year-old son of Saint Ballado, ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.81. "The other horse almost knocked me off my horse," said Prado. "I'm lucky it didn't happen." Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Saint Liam will winter in Florida and prepare for the Donn Handicap on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream Park.
Halory Leigh drew clear in the stretch run to win Thursday's $300,000 Falls City Handicap for fillies and mares by 2 3/4 lengths over Susan's Angel, who led until the top of the stretch. Miss Fortunate was third. Halory Leigh, a 4-year-old daughter of Halory Hunter and a former claimer, won the Churchill Downs Distaff in her last outing, becoming only the third horse to win both races in the same year. "By the half-mile pole, she had jumped into the bridle and had just started to drag me," said winning rider Eddie Martin Jr. "If I had let her go, she could have opened up at any time on them." Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent out Susan's Angel as a sub for Azeri when he didn't like the weight assigned to his star. "I have no horse remorse," he said -- the same words he uttered after running Azeri in the Breeders' Cup Classic last month.
In Friday's $70,000 Dream Supreme Handicap for fillies and mares, Savorthetime took the lead from Hippogator at the top of the stretch and went on to beat that rival by 2 1/2 lengths. Souris was third as the favorite. Savorthetime, a 5-year-old Gilded Time mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.94.
Saturday, Strength and Honor out dueled Coach Jimi Lee to the wire in the $70,800 Distorted Humor Handicap. At the line, the margin was a neck with Level Playingfield third. Strength and Honor, a 5-year-old Carson City gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.44.
Intercontinental rallied through the lane to win Sunday's $500,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 lengths over Etoile Montante. Ticker Tape was third and the favorite, Musical Chimes, checked in sixth. Intercontinental, a 4-year-old, British-bred daughter of Danehill, is a Juddmonte Farms homebred, trained by Bobby Frankel. Jerry Bailey applied the winning ride, covering 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.87. "We wanted to get a Grade I win for this filly because the whole family is Grade I winners," Frankel said. Intercontinental has won four of six starts this year, missing the board only once.
Bailey made it a Grade I stakes double by riding 16-1 long shot Good Reward to a 1/2-length victory in Sunday's $500,000 Hollywood Derby. Fast and Furious was second with a late bid and Imperialism finished third. The favorite, Blackdoun, turned in his second disappointing effort in a row, finishing ninth. He was 7th in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Good Reward, a Storm Cat colt trained by Shug McGaughey for Ogden Mills Phipps, sat well back of the leaders until the final turn, then swung four-wide to gain room and survived some bumping in the stretch before the wire. He covered the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 2:01.53. The win was only his third in eight starts this year and his first in a graded stake. "Usually, with these horses, the horse that gets the best trip wins," Bailey said. "They're pretty evenly matched and I got a good trip today."
Leroidesanimaux advanced to the lead leaving the second turn in Saturday's $400,000 Citation Handicap, then held on to beat A to the Z by 1/2 length. Three Valleys was third. Leroidesanimaux, a 4-year-old Brazilian-bred, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.36. The favorite, Nothing to Lose, 11th in the Breeders' Cup Mile, finished sixth in the Citation. Special Ring, next-to-last in the Mile, was home last in the Citation.
The $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap was weathered out on Thanksgiving Day and postponed to Sunday. That was no problem for Thunder Touch, who got past the leaders in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Papua. Eavesdropper was third. Thunder Touch, a son of Gulch, ran 6 furlongs through the slop in 1:09.83. The point of the event is to make the starters carry weight but Thunder Touch was co-lightweight in the nine-horse field, toting 126 pounds. The favorite, Medallist, struggled home fifth under 134 pounds.
Board Eligible won Sunday's regularly scheduled feature, the $75,000 Montauk Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares. The 4-year-old daughter of Goldminers Gold shot to the lead on the second turn and drew off to win by 5 lengths over South Wing. Bundle of Roses was third. Board Eligible ran 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:51.07.
Daydreaming, with Jerry Bailey aboard, took the lead at mid-stretch and held off Bending Strings by a nose to win Friday's $150,000 Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares. Roar Emotion was third. Daydreaming, a 3-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy from the Mr. Prospector mare Get Lucky, ran 1 mile in 1:35.29, backing up her victory last time out in the Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks at Hoosier Park. "I think the filly might have a chance to be pretty good," understated trainer Shug McGaughey
Miss Grindstone got the lead on the backstretch in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Bessarabian Handicap for fillies and mares and went on to win by 3 lengths over El Prado Essence. Surprised Humor was third. Miss Grindstone, a Kentucky-bred daughter of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.21 over a sloppy track. Ginger Gold was a late scratch. "She broke great, she was comfortable where she was and she kicked on when she needed to," said winning rider Ray Sabourin.
Calder Race Course
Saturday, R Obsession used a late move to win the $100,000 Frances A. Genter Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Our Exploit. Marina de Chavon edged Capeside Lady for third. R Obsession, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Notebook, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass in 1:28 under Manoel Cruz. "She'll be turning 4, so we'll just look at what's available for her at Gulfstream," said winning trainer Tim Ritvo.
D'Wildcat Speed picked up her first U.S. victory in Friday's $40,000 Pocahontas Stakes, drawing off in deep stretch to defeat Kuanyan. Crafty Brat was third. D'Wildcat Speed, a 4-year-old Forest Wildcat filly, was 12-for-12 last year in Puerto Rico but was 0-2 this year in the United States.
Ole Rebel, owned by Dr. Glen Warren and trained by Andrew Leggio Jr., fought through and around traffic to win the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on Opening Day of the 133rd season of the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred track. The 5-year-old son of Carson City, with Corey Lanerie up, started through a hole on the rail, was blocked and swung wide before winning by a nose over Wildcat Shoes. Beau's Town was another nose back in third. The 6 furlongs went in 1:10.38. "I took my chances, whether it be a loss or not, and swung him out," Lanerie said. "That way, I had a clear path."
Pimlico Race Course
Play Bingo scored his fifth straight win in Saturday's $100,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, closing with a rush through the stretch to catch the front runners. At the line, the 3-year-old, Maryland-bred son of Polish Numbers was 5 1/4 lengths to the good of Water Cannon. Hastego was third. Play Bingo finished the 9 furlongs in 1:52.34. "I've been training many years and this is the first time I've ever won five in a row," said Play Bingo's conditioner, John R.S. Fisher.
Rocky Gulch battled for the lead early in Saturday's $125,000 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap for New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, got it and then drew clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Values of the Hunt. Some Ghost and B.G. Tiger dead-heated for third. Rocky Gulch, a son of Dry Gulch, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.82.
Golden Gate Fields
Yougottawanna opened up a daylight lead in the upper stretch in Friday's $75,000 Forty Niner Handicap, then held on to win by a neck over the favorite, Adreamisborn. My Creed was well back in third. Yougottawanna, with Chad Schvaneveldt aboard, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.16. He is a 5-year-old, California-bred gelding by Candi's Gold.
Very Vegas led early in Saturday's $50,000 Queen of the Green Handicap, dropped back into a cavalry charge to the wire and then prevailed by a neck over Muir Beach. Cal's Baby and Shezsospiritual dead-heated for third. Very Vegas, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Storm Boot, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.19.