The "turf wars" heated up on the east coast during the weekend, with Delaware Park and Colonial Downs each offering a $500,000 turf race for 3-year-olds.
Despite Colonial Downs' offering its Colonial Turf Cup as the lead race in a four-event series carrying a potential $3 million bonus, Delaware got the best of the day numerically. Eleven went to the post in the Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes at Delaware; six at the Virginia track. And, two of the six horses who scratched from Colonial to run up north finished 1-2 at Delaware, although both were disqualified from top money for interference.
After the scratches, English Channel went to the post as the odds-on favorite in the Colonial Turf Cup and lived up to his billing. The Kentucky-bred son of Smart Strike prompted the early pace, got the lead with a quarter-mile to run and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Exceptional Ride. Interpatation was third. With John Velazquez up, English Channel ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:57.37.
The new turf series, designed in part to lure more Europeans to American grass racing, continues with the Virginia Derby, also at Colonial, on June 16, followed by the Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 13 at Arlington Park and the Breeders' Cup Turf.
The Delaware race was a bit more wild and wooly and a lot less clear-cut at the end. Touched by Madness, an 11-1 longshot, led all the way to cross the line first, 1/2 length ahead of Spring House. But both those contenders were set down for separate instances of interference -- Touched by Madness to fourth and Spring House to third.
The penalties for all that left the order of finish: Seeking Slew, Chattahoochee War and Spring House.
Seeking Slew is a son of Seeking the Gold from the Seattle Slew mare Borodislew. The 9 furlongs went in 1:47.32.
With continued development, several of those horses could be contenders in the $2 million John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park. In other races that could impact the event:
-- Hurricane Run, purchased by Coolmore Stud just a week ago, survived a battle with stablemate Scorpion to win Sunday's Irish Derby at the Curragh by 1/2 length. Shalapour was third. Gypsy King, fifth in the Epsom Derby three weeks ago, suffered a shoulder fracture and was euthanized. Trainer Andre Fabre said the Arc is the "long-range" goal for Hurricane Run, who now has four wins from five career starts.
-- Alkaased, with Frankie Dettori up, upset Sunday's Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in France, moving past the leader at mid-stretch and holding off Policy Maker to win by a neck. Bago, winner of last year's Arc de Triomphe, made a late run to take third. Alkaased is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Kingmambo.
In other weekend racing with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships:
$4 million Classic, Powered by Dodge
Wild Desert, a defector from the Triple Crown trail in the United States, returned to action in style north of the border Sunday, winning Canada's most prestigious race, the $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate by 1/2 length over King of Jazz. Gold Strike, a filly, was third. Wild Desert finished second in the Lane's End at Turfway Park but then got home eighth in the Arkansas Derby and was put on the shelf. The son of Wild Rush sat well off the pace in Sunday's race and rallied around the turn and through the stretch under jockey Patrick Valenzuela. "I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd win the Queen's Plate," said the California-based rider. "It's an honor to be here and a privilege." Wild Desert was trained by Ken McPeek through the Arkansas Derby, transferred to Richard Dutrow and transferred again to Bobby Frankel before starting in the Queen's Plate.
$2 million Distaff
Smuggler got to the outside turning for home in Saturday's $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, then just beat Spun Sugar at the wire by a neck. Summerly, the favorite, led early but weakened to finish third. Smuggler, with Edgar Prado riding for trainer Shug McGaughey, got the 9 furlongs over a fast track in 1:48.55. She is a Phipps Stables homebred daughter of Unbridled, out of Inside Information. "This is pretty exciting for me, having never won this race," said McGaughey. "We have run in it a bunch of times and have been second and third." Smuggler now has four wins and two seconds from six starts.
$1 million TVG Sprint
-- Kelly's Landing, a 12-1 longshot, broke the Churchill Downs track record for 6 furlongs in winning Saturday's $150,000 Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap in 1:07.59. The favorite, Battle Won, never got to the lead and finished second, 1 3/4 lengths back. Jet Prospector completed the trifecta. Kelly's Landing, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Patton, was ridden by Gary Stevens. Kelly's Landing now has five wins from nine starts. "He's the kind of horse that might step up and improve again," said Stevens. Trainer Eddie Kenneally said he laments the end of the Churchill Downs meet. "He likes this track....We'll pick out a sprint somewhere down the road -- just pick a spot. We don't know where yet." Charles Simon, trainer of Battle Won, said, "He gave it a shot. It's hard to shade 1:08 and still lose."
--In Sunday's $200,000 Scotts Highlander Handicap at Woodbine, Soaring Free stalked the pace, got to the fore with a furlong to go and coasted home a 2-lengths winner over Worldwind Romance. All Star Lover was third. Soaring Free, a 6-year-old son of Smart Strike, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.03 for jockey Todd Kabel.
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
Megahertz, the heavy favorite, bided her time and saved ground through most of Saturday's $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park. When roused by jockey Alex Solis, the 6-year-old British-bred mare split horses at the top of the stretch and drove home first, 3/4 length ahead of Winendynme. Halo Ola was third. Megahertz ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 2:01.78. Despite falling behind, Solis said he kept Megahertz closer to the pace than in previous starts "and she was a lot more aggressive herself. It might have been because she has been off a while." Humberto Ascanio, assistant to winning trainer Bobby Frankel, said Megahertz could point to the Ramona at Del Mar "or Bobby might look at the Beverly D" at Arlington Park.
At the Curragh in Ireland, Alexander Goldrun rallied from well back in the field to win Saturday's Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes by 1 1/2 length over Red Bloom. Elopa, invading from Germany, was third. Alexander Goldrun, winner of the Hong Kong Cup last December, ran the 1 1/4 mile in 2:05.70. Trainer Jim Bolger said the 4-year-old daughter of Gold Away will point for the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp and then a return engagement in Hong Kong, if invited.
$1 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Willow O Wisp led from gate to wire in Sunday's $150,000 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park in California, winning by 2 lengths over the favorite, Osidy. Honorable Coach was third, 2 lengths farther back. The finish reversed the result of the Will Rogers, which found Osidy a head better than Willow O Wisp. Willow O Wisp, a Florida-bred son of Misnomer, finished 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.59 with Garrett Gomez aboard. "He was running all over the place in those last couple races," Gomez said of Willow O Wisp. "He was picture perfect today." The trainers of the top two finishers said they will be pointing for the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5.
-- Gamblers Slew led most of the way around in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Charlie Barley Stakes at Woodbine, winning by 2 lengths over Stag Nation with Silver Charades third. The favorite, Accountforthegold, was seventh of 20. Gamblers Slew, a Florida-bred son of Metfield, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.64.
In other weekend racing:
In Saturday's Prairie State Festival, the winners came from the back of the pack, mid-pack and from gate to wire; from a variety of jockeys; from a smattering of barns. But wherever they came from or whatever the style of their running, the punters had their number - favorites and near-favorites dominated the stakes card, worth $75,000 a race.
High Expectations came from near-last to win the Springfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 mile on the main track. With Jesse Campbell aboard for his 1,000th career victory, the son of Peaks and Valleys worked through the field to get the lead at the top of the stretch and won off by 6 lengths in 1:36.09. The favorite, Northern Gent, was second. "To have a day like this on our state's day," said Campbell. I've come such a long way ... .It's just the best feeling in the world."
Pretty Jenny, the favorite, led most of the way to win the Purple Violet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile, drawing off at the end to finish 5 1/2 lengths to the good of her closest rival, Meadow Bride, in 1:37.07.
Jaguar City, the odds-on favorite, stayed close in the Isaac Murphy Handicap for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs, then rallied in deep stretch to win by 1 length over Miss Outrageous, finishing in 1:10.82. Take Achance On Me, the favorite, led from gate to wire in the White Oak Handicap at 6 furlongs, beating Big Bold Sweep by a head in 1:09.60.
Fort Prado, the even-money favorite, angled out for the stretch run and went on to win the Black Tie Affair Handicap at 1 1/16 mile on the turf by 1 3/4 lengths over Scooter Roach in 1:41.72. And Beau Happy got up to win the Lincoln Heritage Handicap for distaffers by a nose over Arsen Annie with the favorite, Sara's Shadow, fading to finish fourth. The 1 1/6 mile on the grass took 1:43.17.
Lemon Maid, the prohibitive favorite in a field of just four starters, lived up to her billing in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Hill 'N' Dale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rallying from off the pace to win by 4 lengths over Warm Rain. Charming Ruckus and Simply Again completed the order of finish. Lemon Maid, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, completed 1 1/16 mile in 1:47.81 with Todd Kabel in the irons. "I know it was a small field today but I got lucky here," said winning trainer Malcolm Pierce.
Naughty New Yorker rallied from last to win Sunday's $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths over Sort It Out. The favorite, Blue Sunday, was third under the wire. Naughty New Yorker, a son of Quiet American, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.05 under Jean-Luc Samyn.
Ebony Breeze went to the leaders at mid-stretch in Saturday's $100,000 My Juliet Stakes for fillies and mares and got to the wire first, a neck better than Storm Minstrel. Umpateedle was third. Ebony Breeze, the even-money favorite, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.43 for jockey Herbert Castillo Jr.
Gamblers Passion stalked the early pace in Saturday's $70,000 Hawkeyes Handicap for Iowa-bred fillies and mares, challenged the leaders on the turn and got clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Traveler. Hollywood and Wine was third. Gamblers Passion, a 5-year-old daughter of Prospectors Gamble, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:44.21. "The post position I had was outside both the leaders and I could do what I wanted," said winning rider Mike Allen. "I just stayed back a little bit. I just stayed out of the dirt and it really worked out well."
Travelator caught Fortress Hill in the final jumps to win Saturday's $65,000 West Long Branch Stakes for fillies and mares by a nose. Areek was third with a late effort. Travelator, a 5-year-old, New York-bred daughter of A.P. Jet, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.79 under Joe Bravo.
Also Saturday, Concorde's Edge led from the start in the $55,000 Gilded Time Stakes for 3-year-olds and held on to win by a neck over Silver Moose and another nose over Yes Yes Yes. Concorde's Edge, a Florida-bred son of Concorde's Tune, ran 5 furlongs on the firm turf in 55.17.
Sunday, Ready's Gal won a battle for the early lead in the $60,000 Little Silver Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and never looked back, winning by 1 length over Who's Cozy. Connie Belle was third. Ready's Gal is a Kentucky-bred daughter of More Than Ready. She got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.49.
Bright Gold rallied from the back of the pack to win Saturday's $60,000 Buckland Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 3/4 lengths over Tight Spin. Spring Kitten was third. Bright Gold, a 5-year-old, Virginia-bred mare by Hold for Gold, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.21.
Thirsty Guy's battled several challengers for the lead in Sunday's $60,000 Tacoma Handicap for 3-year-olds before finally winning by a neck over Datzig. Confidential Call finished third. Thirsty Guy's, a California-bred son of Kahuna Jack, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37 4/5.
Lone Star Park
Queena Corrina closed sharply through the turn and down the stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 Miller Lite Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over Our Love. Our Love then was DQ'ed to fifth, elevating Timeless Dreamer to second and Twice a Deelite to third. Queena Corrina, with Don Pettinger riding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.21 seconds. "I knew she'd bekicking it late," said Pettinger. "It was just a question of where she'd settle herself early in the running."