Once again, Hong Kong's International Races were truly international, with the four victors coming from stables based in Ireland, England, Dubai and Hong Kong.
The biggest prize of Sunday's four races -- sponsored by Cathay Pacific -- went to Alexander Goldrun, an Irish-trained filly who became the first distaffer ever to win the Hong Kong Cup.
Breaking from Gate 12, Alexander Goldrun worked into a good position and just got home first, a head in front of Hong Kong runner Bullish Luck. Relatively lightly raced, the filly came into the Gold Cup off a victory in the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp in Paris.
"After France, there were no options for her to have a prep race," said trainer Jim Bolger. "But this was always the plan. She will now stay in training for next season."
Firebreak, from the Dubai-based Godolphin Racing stable, scored his first Group 1 victory in the Hong Kong Mile. The fifth-place finisher in this race last year, the 5-year-old sat behind the leaders under Frankie Dettori, went by the leader with 200 meters to go and held off Perfect Partner to win by 3/4 length. The Duke finished third.
"He can maybe only run four times a year," Dettori said. "But you know when he comes to the races, he will give you a run for your money and he certainly did that today."
Phoenix Reach went the the post at 26-1 in the Hong Kong Vase, despite finishing a good sixth in the Japan Cup two weeks ago. Unfazed, Phoenix Reach rallied from fifth position to win by 1/2 length over Godolphin's entry, Sights On Gold. Vallee Enchantee was 1 1/2 length further back. The race went in a slow 2:29 4/5.
"They went very slow," said winning jockey Martin Dwyer, "so I wanted to be near the pace and at the (700 meter) pole, I quickened and he was electric. I was aware of Frankie looming up on my outside and I can tell you that's not a nice sight. But my lad just kept pulling out more. He had a strong finishing burst."
The local team scored in the Hong Kong Sprint as Silent Witness became the first Hong Kong-based horse to defend an international title. Extending his winning skein to 13, Silent Witness came home first by 1 3/4 over Cape Of Good Hope, full of run. Natural Blitz was third.
"It was a very, very easy win," said jockey Felix Coetzee. "Perhaps one of the easiest I've ever had on him. Against that kind of opposition, it says so much about his quality."
Trainer Tony Cruz said he will keep Silent Witness in Hong Kong for a while to "hopefully clean up the three legs of the Champion Sprint Series and that will bring us up to Cigar's (and Citation's) winning record of 16 wins in a row." Then, he said, he may target something overseas if all goes well.
In other weekend racing:
Hollywood Story swung four-wide into the stretch and went on to win Sunday's $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap for fillies and mares by 1 length over Royally Chosen. The favorite, A.P. Adventure, was third under the wire. Hollywood Story, a 3-year-old daughter of Wild Rush, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track under Victor Espinoza in 1:41.11. It was her first start since finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. A.P. Adventure was making her first start since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Oaks April 30.
Truly A Judge went quickly to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap, extended the lead in the stretch and held on well to win by 2 lengths over the favorite, Dynever. Calkins Road was third and Tisbud was fourth. Truly A Judge, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Judge T C, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.06 with Martin Pedroza aboard.
Also Saturday, a promising son of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus went his old man one better in a maiden race. Fusaichi Samurai, with Victor Espinoza up, coasted to a handy 2-length victory over five rivals. The dark bay colt, out of the Storm Cat mare Hidden Storm, was sold to Fusao Sekiguchi for $4.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale in February. Fusaichi Pegasus finished second to David Copperfield in his first outing -- also with Espinoza aboard. Neil Drysdale trains Fusaichi Samurai.
Calder Race Course
Wire Bound lived up to his name in Saturday's $100,000 Pete Axthelm Stakes for 3-year-olds. Reserved in the early running of the 7 1/2-furlong turf race, the Hesabull gelding rallied 4-wide on the turn and was just up in the final yards to win by 1/2 length over the favorite, Caballero Negro. More Bourb was third. Wire Bound finished in 1:27.90. "The race came out like I wanted it," said winning jockey Eduardo Nunez. "The speed went out. When I was ready to make a move, he went on and did it." Trainer Manuel Criollo said he will look at the Jan. 29 Sunshine Millions for Wire Bound.
Sunday, Dansetta Light eased past favorite Aclassysassylassy in the final sixteenth to win the $50,000 Georgia Debutante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 1 3/4 lengths. Stavinsky's Gal was third. Dansetta Light, a Florida-bred daughter of Colony Light, ran 1 1/16 mile on the turf in 1:42.37. Aclassysassylassy, making her first start on the green course, was forced wide on the first turn but still got to the lead on the backstretch but couldn't hold on.
Enough Is Enough had just enough to win Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Kingarvie Stakes for Ontario-bred 2-year-olds. With Todd Kabel in the irons, the son of Porto Foricos tracked pace-setting favorite Dave the Knave until the final turn, then dueled with that rival until the wire, winning by a neck. It was 14 3/4 lengths back to El Gran Andre in third. Enough Is Enough ran the 1 1/16 mile on a muddy track in 1:46.06.
And in the final stakes event of the year at the Canadian oval, Daddy Cool rolled to a 9 1/2-length score over Jambalar in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Valedictory Handicap. Solihull was third. Daddy Cool, a 6-year-old Capote gelding, stalked the pace, went to the front midway down the backstretch and was never challenged thereafter. He finished the 1 3/4-mile marathon in 3:03.52 on a muddy track.
Witt Ante went quickly to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, drew off to a big lead and coasted home first, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Screen Idol. Spritely Walker was third. Witt Ante, under Tracy Hebert, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.00. Witt Ante has not been off the board in eight starts dating back to February and won the Gold Cup at Delta Downs in his last previous start.
Mr. Sulu won the Champions Day Turf for the second time, scoring by 3 1/2 lengths. The 6-year-old son of Rail finished in 1:43.86. Happy Ticket remained undefeated by winning the Champions Day Ladies. The 3-year-old Anet filly got through an opening in the stretch and went on to win by 4 lengths. The Champions Day Sprint went to 32-1 shot Archival, a 4-year-old son of Bayou Hebert. Archival came into the event off a quarter horse heat at Louisiana Downs in his last start.
In the Champions Day Juvenile, Crimson Stag rolled to a 3 1/2-length victory. The Glitterman Colt drew off after dueling for the lead and finished in 1:10.76. Equestrian Girls, a daughter of Leestown, won the Champions Day Juvenile Fillies, coming from just off the pace and stopping the timer at 1:11.78.
Travelator won a three-way charge to the finish in Saturday's $75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap for fillies and mares. Both Travelator and Sensibly Chic sat off the brisk pace set by Forest Music. In the lane, Travelator took the outside course, Sensibly Chic raced in the middle and Forest Music held the rail. At the wire, Travelator was first by a head, Sensibly Chic second by a neck and Forest Music held third by 1/2 length over Mariakel. The favorite, Cologny, contested the pace but then faded steadily to finish last of six. Travelator, a 4-year-old A.P. Jet filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.64.
Sunday, Naughty New Yorker rallied from near the back of a big field to win the $75,000 Damon Runyan Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds. The bay son of Quiet American circled the field four-wide, then roared down the stretch to win by 8 1/2 lengths over Sort It Out. Summerland was third and the favorite, Up Like Thunder, struggled home seventh. Naughty New Yorker, with Jean-Luc Samyn in the irons, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.48.
Hawthorne Race Course
Meadow Bride was easily the best in Saturday's $100,000 Pat Whitworth Debutante Stakes for Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies. Staying close to the early pace, the daughter of Runaway Groom steadied during the run down the backstretch but recovered and drew off to win by 5 3/4 lengths under Carlos Silva. You Heard Me Cart was second and Capistrano had to swallow a third-place finish after winning her debut race just a week earlier. "I didn't want to push her (Meadow Bride) too hard early," said Silva. "It was her first time going two turns but she ran well on her own." He said he had some trouble with the traffic on the backstretch, "but she settled down nicely."
Silmaril came off the rail to make her bid into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Geisha Handicap for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, got clear and lasted to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Pour It On. Chrusciki was third. Silmaril, the pari-mutuel pick, got the 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:53.89. She is a 3-year-old daughter of Diamond. "She really took hold of it when I asked her to run," said winning rider Abel Castellano. Trainer Chris Grove said Silmaril will be considered for some out-of-town spots. "She's really good right now," Grove added.
Hat Creek rallied through the stretch to win Saturday's $125,000 La Coneja Handicap for New Mexico-bred 3-year-old fillies by 2 lengths over the favorite, Latenite Special. Janna's Gold was third. Hat Creek, a daughter of Prospector Jones, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.94 over a fast track..
Tampa Bay Downs
Hostile Witness was a willing runner in Saturday's $60,000 Inaugural Stakes for 2-year-olds, advancing steadily around the field to reach contention in the lane, then winning off by 1 1/2 lengths. Sounds Impossible was second and Captain Lindsay was third. The favorite, Get Wild, led but faded to finish fourth. Hostile Witness, a New York-bred colt by Successful Appeal, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.23. "The outside post was a good one for him," said winning jockey Cecilio Penalba. "There was less traffic and he could lay back." Hostile Witness now has two wins from seven starts and might make a Gulfstream Park appearance next month.
Two Mile Hill stayed close to the early pace in Saturday's $50,000 My Charmer Stakes, went to the lead as the field turned for home and drew clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Red Cell. Dick's Chick was third. Two Mile Hill, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy filly, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.40 over a muddy track. "Coming off the pace like this just seems to be here most effective style," said Leslie Davis, assistant to winning trainer Tony Reinstedler. "We wanted her to sit off the pace. We wanted somebody to go. ... This is what she likes to do."
Golden Gate Fields
Green Team sat on dead red to beat Bluesthestandard in Saturday's $50,000 Oakland Handicap. Green Team, a 5-year-old Huddle Up gelding, shot right to the lead and set a brisk pace, then had plenty left in the stretch, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Onebadshark was a colorless third. The 6 furlongs took 1:07.77 over a wet-fast track.
Smoking Wise came from off the pace to win Saturday's $50,000 Snow White Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 3 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Bluesdancing. Rush to Glory was third. Smoking Wise, a Maryland-bred daughter of Smoke Glacken, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:29.90 despite a wide trip.
News and Notes
The 2005 Claiming Crown will be expanded to include the $100,000 Tiara -- a grass event for fillies and mares. That makes seven races worth $650,000 for one-time claimers when the series returns to Canterbury Park next July 16 ... The 2004 "Big Sport of Turfdom" is John Servis, who served faithfully and patiently in dealing with the media while training Smarty Jones to an "almost" Triple Crown. The "Big Sport of Turfdom" is an annual recognition and thanks from the members of the Turf Publicists of America, who wish all trainers were so accommodating. The TPA also announced new officers, including incoming President John Lee, director of broadcasting for NYRA, who succeeds Calder's Michele Blanco.