The Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is known as a last chance for Kentucky Derby hopefuls to earn their way into the big race. And that's how it was Saturday at Keeneland for the talented Rockport Harbor, who entered the starting gate as the odds-on favorite.
But a mile and a sixteenth later, it was Coin Silver who earned a trip to Louisville by winning his first stakes try for trainer Todd Pletcher. The upset win gives Pletcher three prospective starters in this year's Run for the Roses.
Rockport Harbor, meanwhile, was never in the race and finished next-to-last of seven.
Coin Silver, with Javier Castellano up, didn't have an easy time of it, either. He was bumped out of the gate, squeezed halfway through the race and forced four-wide into the stretch. With all of that, he easily got to the front in the stretch run and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Sort It Out, with Storm Surge third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:45.76 on a sloppy track.
Coin Silver, a Kentucky-bred son of Anees, had only one victory in four previous starts. He was third in a conditioned allowance event at Gulfstream Park in his last outing.
"It was a big move forward for him today," said Pletcher, who also trains Lane's End winner Flower Alley and Toyota Blue Grass winner Bandini. "Anytime a horse comes around this time of the year, you've gotta love it. If he comes out of it well, we'll see if he can bounce back in two weeks."
-- At Pimlico, Malibu Moonshine came from off the pace to win Saturday's $150,000 Federico Tessio Stakes by 3/4 length over Hello Jerry. The favorite, Byanosejoe, was third. Malibu Moonshine, a Florida-bred son of Malibu Moon, ran 9 furlongs in 1:53.31. Trainer King Leatherbury is pointing the colt to the Preakness. Leatherbury said he will wait to make a decision about the Preakness but was confident about Saturday's race. "People said 'good luck' to me. I told them, 'I don't want to use my luck on this race,'" he said. But, he added, "It's a whole lot different class of horses in the Peakness."
Races for 3-year-old fillies:
-- Only in Philly went to the lead early in Saturday's $100,000 Country Life Farms Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then opened up a big advantage and won by 6 1/2 lengths. Hear Us Roar was second and Lucky Slevin was third. Only in Philly, a Pennsylvania-bred filly by Polish Numbers, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:48.06.
-- In Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Star Shoot Stakes at Woodbine, Lemon Maid got the lead at the top of the stretch and drove to a 3 1/4-length victory over Gold Strike. Hatpin was third. Lemon Maid, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, was sent to the post as odds-on favorite. She ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.60 for Todd Kabel. She is now 2-for-2 and trainer Malcolm Pierce said she may go next in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes at 1 1/16 mile. "She's really matured," he said.
In other weekend racing:
Local color-bearer Vengeance of Rain got a picture-perfect trip to win Sunday's Audemars Piguet QE II Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong. The Mercedes Benz Hong Kong Derby winner sat behind the pace set by Perfect Partner and German-based globetrotter Epalo. When asked by jockey Anthony Delpech, the 4-year-old New Zealand-bred got the lead with 300 meters to go. He finished 3/4 of a length to the good of Greys Inn, a South African import. Russian Pearl saved third for the locals. "He'd come along so nicely from the Derby," said Delpech. "I was confident before the race and even more so in the run. He traveled so well. I know he had the ones in front of him covered a long way from home. He showed today what a good horse he is." Trainer David Ferraris said Vengeance of Rain has an international future -- but not immediately. "I'm not going to burn him out," Ferraris said. "I've no doubt he's good enough to win overseas. But we won't be rushing that. Probably not until next season (fall)." Phoenix Reach finished fifth, Epalo seventh, Elvstroem ninth and Grand Armee 11th among those well-fancied in the run up to the race.
Also Sunday, Hong Kong's wonder horse, Silent Witness, won his record 17th straight race, capturing the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup by an easy 1 3/4 lengths. The victory bettered the North American records of Citation and Cigar and the European mark of Ribot, who is in Silent Witness's pedigree. He raced on the lead in his first try at 1,400 meters and could have won by more if asked. "He was just cruising and turning for home I was very, very confident," said winning rider Felix Coetzee. "I didn't get to the bottom of him in the straight. He just did it very easily." Owner Archie da Silva said he is hoping to arrange a showdown between Silent Witness and North American champ Ghostzapper. "We have yet to meet with the American representatives so we don't know what distance it would be at or the surface," da Silva said. "If it's turf, we'll beat him. But if it was on dirt, we could run that, too." Meanwhile, Silent Witness goes next in the Champions Mile on May 14.
Hawthorne Race Course
Trainer Todd Pletcher was at Keeneland Saturday, upsetting the Lexington Stakes with Coin Silver. But, in his absence, it was Pletcher Day at Hawthorne, too.
Pollard's Vision, winner of the Illinois Derby last year, returned to the scene of that triumph to win the $250,000 National Jockey Club Handicap. After stalking the pace under John Velazquez, Pollard's Vision went after pace-setting, odds-on favorite Badge of Silver at the top of the lane and got by without much trouble, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Badge of Silver held second and Lord of the Game was third. Freefourinternet, upset winner of the Hawthorne Gold Cup last fall, completed the order of finish. Pollard's Vision ran the 9 furlongs on a "good" main track in 1:49.12. Pollard's Vision, a son of Carson City, was fourth in his last previous start, the New Orleans Handicap, won by Badge of Silver. "What can I say? It worked out perfectly," said Velazquez. "The two speed horses went after each other. I was a little closer than I thought I would be up the backside, then I swung him out and got busy on him. Once I got him in the clear, he started rolling."
Also Saturday, Isola Piu Bella rallied nicely through the stretch to win the $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap for fillies and mares by 2 lengths over Rare Gift. Ghostly Gate was third and the favorite, Personal Legend, finished fourth after hopping at the start. The 9 furlongs took 1:49.58 on a "good" track. Isola Piu Bella, a 5-year-old daughter of Rich Man's Gold, picked up her second win in four starts in the United States after a successful career in her native land. "She was on cruising speed the whole time," said Velazquez, who also had a nice day at the races. "I wish they were all like her."
Presidentialaffair posted a landslide victory in Saturday's $200,000 Jim McKay Breeders' Cup Handicap, leading most of the way to a 7 1/2-length victory over the favorite, Classic Endeavor. Hydrogen was third. Presidentialaffair, a 6-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred son of Not For Love, ran 9 furlongs in 1:49.62. "He felt 10 feet tall," said winning jockey Todd Glasser. "He did exactly how we wanted him to do." Trainer Marty Ciresa said Presidentialaffair has caught on to racing. "If I can keep him like this, he's as good as anybody in the country," he said.
Celtic Innis stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Stallion Station Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, then rallied to win by 3/4 length over Mojodajo, with Monster Chaser third. The favorite, Maddy's Lion, checked in fourth. Celtic Innis, by Yarrow Brae, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.30.
Silmaril, with Ryan Folgelsonger aboard, saved ground through most of Saturday's $100,000 Northview Stallion Station Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, then went to the lead with a furlong to go and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Grant's Moon. Chrusciki was third. Silmaril, a daughter of Diamond, ran 9 furlongs in 1:53.71.
Tara's Touch rallied from ninth in a 12-horse field to win Saturday's $100,000 Stravinsky Stakes for fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs over yielding turf. The 6-year-old, South African-bred mare found room between the leaders at the top of the lane and won by 3/4 length over Shaunavon. Singit was third. Tara's Touch, with Mike Smith aboard, finished in 1:04.52 in her third U.S. start.
Sunday, Melhor Ainda rallied from near the back of the pack to win the $100,000 Appalachian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the grass. The daughter of Pulpit, with John Velazquez up, had a wide trip all the way, swinging into the seven path at the quarter pole before getting to the front. There, she drew clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Paddy's Daisy. Sweet Talker was third. Melhor Ainda, trained by Bobby Frankel, ran the 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:37.69.
Pickle was up just in time to win Saturday's $100,000 Wiltshire Handicap by a nose over Makeup Artist. Amorama was third in a battle of closers and the favorite, Mea Domina, got home fourth. Pickle, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Piccolo, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.85 with Jon Court aboard. "I knew I had some horse turning for home," said Court. "But I was surprised Makeup Artist made such a valid run at me." Pickle now has won two of her three U.S. starts.
Sunday, Alphabet Kisses set the pace in the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, turned back a challenge at mid-race and went on to win by 2 lengths over Thunder's Echo. Tucked Away was third after racing last of eight. Alphabet Kisses, a 4-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.06 under Gary Stevens.
Castledale had to work for running room at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile. But when the 4-year-old Peintre Celebre colt got room, the made the most of it, driving to a 1/2-length victory over Adreamisborn. Aly Bubba was third. Castledale, an Irish-bred, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.40 for jockey Rene Douglas.
Trainer Graham Motion thought Better Talk Now had a chance for an Eclipse Award after the gelding upset Kitten's Joy in last fall's Breeders' Cup Turf. But if there was any doubt in voters' minds, it was erased with Better Talk Now finished sixth in his last start of 2004 -- the Hollywood Turf Cup. Saturday, the 6-year-old son of Talkin Man returned to the turf wars with a hard-won, neck victory over Remind in the $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap. Ecclesiastic was third. Better Talk Now, with Ramon Dominguez up, started fifth of five, angled out in the stretch and was just up in time to nip the leader. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:42.74.
In Saturday's $150,000 Bed o'Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares, Pleasant Home came from off the pace to post a 5 1/4-length, upset win. Traci Girl was second and the even-money favorite, Cativa, was third. Pleasant Home, a 4-year-old Seeking the Gold filly, ran 1 mile in 1:36.72.
Sunday, Gold and Roses pulled off a minor upset in winning the $150,000 New York Stallion Stakes Times Square Division by state-bred 3-year-olds by 1/2 length over Big Apple Daddy. Galloping Grocer, a Kentucky Derby prospect just a few weeks ago, finished a nose farther back in third. Gold and Roses, a son of Gold Token, ran 1 mile in 1:36.05, under pressure all the way.
In the companion $150,000 Park Avenue Division for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies, Pretty Suzi gave up the lead to favorite Dynamo Hum in the stretch drive but came back to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Dynamo Hum held second and Ms Litigator finished third. Pretty Suzi, a daughter of Dixie Brass, ran 1 mile in 1:36.75.
Wholelottabourbon, last year's champion 2-year-old in Canada, got his 3-year-old campaign off to a rousing start with a hard-fought victory in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Woodstock Stakes. Taking a pressured lead down the backstretch, Wholelottabourbon first fought off Kruel Intention, then survived a late bid by Accountforthegold to win by 1/2 length. Promontory was third. Wholelottabourbon, a Kentucky-bred son of Foxtrail, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.89. He now has five wins and a second from six lifetime starts. "We were a little concerned today," said trainer Nick Gonzalez, "because we had winter-raced and winter-trained horses against us. "He's grown up to be quite a racehorse."
Stormy Impact found a hole on the rail with a furlong to go in Saturday's $100,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes, got through it to the lead and held on to win by 3/4 length over Skip and Go. Robin Zee was third. Stormy Impact, a 6-year-old Major Impact gelding, trained by Frank Kirby, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.60 on a fast track as the favorite.
Winsome won one in Saturday's $75,000 Cellars Shiraz Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 5 furlongs on the turf. After pressing the pace, the Kentucky-bred daughter of War Chant edged clear in the late going to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Memories of Pa. Lady in Pink was third. Winsome finished the 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.74 seconds.
Raving Rocket rocketed to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds and didn't look back, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over odds-on favorite Semaphore Man. S C King was third. Raving Rocket, a Kentucky-bred colt by Lil's Lad, completed the 6 furlongs in 1:10.05 for E.T. Baird. "He ran a real good race," said Baird. "He was into the bridle the whole way. He was always underneath me."
Lone Star Park
True Tails showed hers to a half-dozen rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Wafare Farm Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Breaking on top, the Florida-bred daughter of Yes It's True quickly opened up a 10-length lead and sailed home first by 7 3/4 lengths. She ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.76 as the odds-on favorite. Ketchmewhereyoucan was second and Lady Carmen third.