Before Saturday's Arlington Million, Kitten's Joy was being heralded as one of the best turf runners ever, headed for the Arc d'Triomphe, the Breeders' Cup Turf and the Japan Cup.
After the Million, the colt's trainer and jockey were explaining away his decidedly second-best finish -- 3 lengths behind British invader Powerscourt.
Kitten's Joy had the lead at the top of the stretch and there was nothing between him and victory but an open expanse of Arlington greensward. But then Kieren Fallon found room between horses for Powerscourt and suddenly the race was no contest. Passing Kitten's Joy without apparent effort, Powerscourt was an easy winner.
Kitten's Joy barely held on to hit the board, finishing a nose in front of Fourty Niners Son, who was just a nose in front of Better Talk Now, who defeated Kitten's Joy in last fall's John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park.
Certainly, Kitten's Joy had an excuse. After recovering from surgery to remove a bone chip, he was caught in a quarantine situation earlier this year. The result: He came into the Million off a single prep -- a victory in the Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs on the Fourth of July.
"He'll be better off this race," said trainer Dale Romans. "I wish we could have had another race in him. I'm not going to make any excuses. He ran a super race. Powerscourt ran a great race."
In fact, Fallon kept the 5-year-old son of Sadler's Wells well off the early pace, then found himself behind a wall of horses as the field turned for home. But when a seam opened and Fallon asked him to run, Powerscourt accelerated instantly and took full advantage.
"When the splits came in the stretch, he went right through them," Fallon said. "I was lucky enough to get the splits right through the middle."
Powerscourt finished first in the Million last year, but then was disqualified to fourth for interference in the stretch. He went on to finish third in last year's Turf after a bad start.
Several other races on the weekend card could impact the $4 million John Deere Turf, part of this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 29 at Belmont Park in New York:
-- At Saratoga, King's Drama got the lead after a mile in Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational, was challenged at mid-stretch by Relaxed Gesture and then edged clear again to win by 3/4 length. Vangelis was third. With Jorge Chavez aboard, King's Drama, an Irish-bred son of King's Theatre, ran 1 1/2 miles on the inner turf course in 2:27.38. "I was surprised when I saw that King's Drama didn't get the lead immediately," winning trainer Bobby Frankel said from Arlington Park. "I was wondering when Jorge was going to take the lead but obviously he knew what he was doing because he won the race."
-- Saturday's $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington gave English Channel a chance to move three-fourths of the way to a $5 million paycheck (purses and bonuses). After winning the two big grass races at Colonial Downs, all the 3-year-old son of Smart Strike needed to do was win the Secretariat and then go on to beat older horses in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Well, now he won't have to face that daunting task since Gun Salute came along in the furlong to soundly defeat English Channel in the Secretariat, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Chattahoochee War was third, 5 lengths behind English Channel. Gun Salute, who won the American Derby at Arlington in his last start, is a son of Military. He got the 1 1/4 miles on yielding turf in 2:03.79 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons. "Maybe next year we'll be back for the Arlington Million," said winning trainer Bill Mott. But, for the time being, "He's probably due for a little bit of a break. Then we'll research what comes up in the fall." Mott mentioned the Hollywood Derby as a possibility.
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Oct. 29 card at Belmont Park:
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
-- Angara and Megahertz came from the back of the pack on the far outside to finish 1-2 in Saturday's $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park. The favorite, Melhor Ainda, was third, another head back, and Wonder Again was just another neck back in fourth.With Gary Stevens aboard, Angara ran the 1 3/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:40.68. Megahertz, with Alex Solis aboard, dropped far back of the field going into the first turn and didn't get rolling until the field approached the stretch turn after a slow-paced mile of running. By then, Angara had already started her move right to her inside and the two dueled to the wire. "My feeling is," Stevens said, "the slower they go, the more trouble they're in for the last eighth of a mile ... . I heard Megahertz coming at the quarter pole and I kind of eased out and tried to be patient. That carried her out of trouble." Solis said Megahertz didn't like the yielding surface. "The whole backstretch, she was switching leads," he said. Parker Schwartz, son of owner Martin Schwartz, said he "can't wait for the Breeders' Cup. This horse is certainly worth it." Megahertz finished 11th in last year's Filly & Mare Turf -- an unusual dismal outing for the normally dependable mare.
$1 million Mile (turf)
-- At Deauville in France, Dubawi pulled off a mild upset in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois. The 3-year-old son of Dubai Millennium got home 1 1/4 lengths in front of Whipper. Valixir was third and the previously undefeated filly Divine Proportions, taking on males for the first time, was fourth. "He showed them today. He's a great little horse," said winning rider K. McEvoy. Dubawi now has five wins from seven starts, including a victory in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas and a third in the Epsom Derby. He ran the 1 mile in 1:37.90.
$2 million Distaff
Flying Glitter came flying out of the gate in Sunday's $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks at Monmouth Park and flew on home, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Shebelongstoyou. Toll Taker was third and the favorite, Culinary, settled for fourth after fading in the late going. Flying Glitter, a daughter of Glitterman, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.60. Trainer Ronny Werner said he had some question whether Flying Glitter could carry her speed over two turns after an unsuccessful attempt earlier at Turfway Park. "But that track was really muddy that day," he said. "It was still a question today on distance."
$4 million Classic, Powered by Dodge
Real Dandy came from the clouds to upset Sunday's $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Race Track. With Mark Guidry at the controls, the Kentucky-bred son of Yankee Victor raced last on the rail until the half-mile pole, swung out with 2 furlongs to go and circled the field, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Magna Graduate. Anthony J. finished third and the favorite, Devilment, faded badly to finish ninth. Real Dandy ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.29. Real Dandy came into the race off a second-place finish behind Devilment in the Round Table at Arlington. The victory was his first since an optional claimer at Fair Grounds back in January.
$1 million Sprint
-- Pomeroy was a handful for the starters before Saturday's $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga -- and a handful for his half-dozen rivals thereafter. The 4-year-old Boundary colt jumped out to the lead under Eibar Coa and never looked back, winning off by 4 lengths over I'm the Tiger. Voodoo was third while the favorite, Kelly's Landing, struggled home sixth, never in the mix. Pomeroy ran the 6 furlongs in 1:08.69. He's trained by Patrick Biancone. "He's a very good horse," Biancone said. "Hopefully, we'll get him ready for the Forego (Saratoga, Sept. 3) and then the Breeders' Cup Sprint." Coa said Pomeroy "ran big today. He really wanted to run."
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- In Summation remained undefeated in four starts by winning Saturday's $75,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder Race Course. The son of Put It Back, went quickly to the fore and extended the lead to a 6-length victory over B L's a Runner. Old Town Pond was third. In Summation ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.90. "I see no reason why he won't go longer," said winning trainer Frank Gomez, adding he plans to go on to the 7-furlong Affirmed Division on Sept. 3.
-- What a Song battled for the lead in Sunday's $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar, got the advantage and drew clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Bashert. Plug Me In was third and Corazondelcampeon completed the order of finish. Owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis and trained by Bob Baffert, What a Song ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.64 under Victor Espinoza. He is a Florida-bred son of Songandaprayer. "He's very professional. He never turns a hair," said Baffert." That's the way Silver Charm was. He never got rattled about anything. He just did his job. He's a very gifted horse."
-- Edenwold led most of the way in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Vandal Stakes for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds at Woodbine and got home 2 1/4 length ahead of Victoria's Boy. Moon Worship was third. Edenwold, a son of Southern Halo, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.29. "We drew the one-hole again, which kind of limits your options," said winning rider David Clark. "He was very comfortable where he was. When I called on him, he punched home."
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Running Lass demolished six rivals in Saturday's $75,000 Florida Stallion Stakes Desert Vixen Division, drawing off in the stretch to win by 7 1/4 lengths. Siren Cove was second and Five Star Susan third. Running Lass ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.45, slowing significantly in the final furlong after setting a hot early pace. Trainer Angel Salinas said eventually Running Lass will go long on the grass. In the meantime, he said, she will pursue the remainder of the FSS filly races.
In other weekend racing:
Willow O Wisp ran down pace-setting Juliesugardaddy in the final strides to win Saturday's $150,000 La Jolla Stakes for 3-year-olds by a head. El Roblar was third. Willow O Wisp, a Florida-bred gelding by Misnomer, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.45. "I'd like to see what he'd do when he goes a mile and a half," said winning trainer Vladimir Cerin. "It's been on my mind since we first got him. Let's take it one step at a time. The Del Mar Derby's a mile and an eighth and if we can do well there, we can look at the Hollywood Derby, which is a mile and a quarter." Winning rider Garrett Gomez said his mount "did everything I asked him to."
Dave, making his second start in just four days, picked up his second win in the same time frame by getting home first in Sunday's $100,000 West Point Handicap for New York-breds. Benefiting from some traffic problems that plagued his rivals, the 4-year-old son of Ends Well got a picture-perfect trip and beat Provincetown to the line by 1 length. Certifiably Craze, the favorite, went wide on the first turn, carrying rivals with him, and could recover only enough to finish third. Dave ran 9 furlongs on the inner turf in 1:48.11 under Jose Santos. "It's obvious he was still sharp off that win four days ago," said Santos.
Lemon Maid, the odds-on favorite, rallied nicely through the stretch to reward her supporters with a 2 1/2-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Duchess Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Hatpin was second and Roving Angel third. Lemon Maid, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.03 for Todd Kabel.
Jazzy Okie drove to a 6-length lead early in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Iowa Stallion Futurity, then held on to win by a comfortable 3 3/4 lengths over Concert King. Hesluckytoo finished third. Jazzy Okie, an Oklahoma-bred daughter of King of Scat, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.18. Trainer Kelly Von Hemel said the filly could go on to the Prairie Meadows Debutante on Sept. 3. Added winning jockey Joel Campbell, "She's a very talented 2-year-old. "We've always thought a lot of her."
Learning gave six rivals a lesson in running in Saturday's $50,000 Humphrey S. Finney Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds. Breaking to the lead on the outside, the Lear Fan colt set slow fractions over the yielding turf, then hit the accelerator in the stretch, winning by 3 lengths over Easy Red. Seize was third. Learning ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:56.66.
Tacirring had things all his own way in Saturday's $55,000 Sneakbox Stakes. The 6-year-old End Sweep gelding surged to the lead and held it, winning off by 5 3/4 lengths over Midwatch. Gulch Approval was third in the 5-furlong event, run over firm turf in 56.26 seconds.
Premier Dance waltzed clear in the stretch run to win Saturday's $50,000 Minstrel Stakes for 2-year-olds by 6 lengths over Smart 'n Salty. Noble Texas was third. Premier Dance, a Florida-bred colt by Premiership, ran the 6 furlongs under Luis Quinonez in 1:10.71.
Gotta Rush had to do just that in the stretch run of Saturday's $55,000 Polly's Jet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. After trailing much of the field early, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Wild Rush got going on the turn for home and was up in time to win by 3/4 length over Redaspen. Ebony Star was third and the favorite, All Platinum, finished seventh. Gotta Rush finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.86.
Shaky Town shook free to the middle of the track for the stretch drive in Saturday's $100,000 Evangeline Mile Handicap and was along in time to win by 3/4 length over Drill Hall, who led at mid-stretch. Chippewa Trail finished third. Shaky Town, a 5-year-old, New York-bred gelding by Peaks and Valleys, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.60.
A R Crackers caught Waupaca in the final strides to win Saturday's $50,000 Retama Park Breeders' Cup Handicap by a head. Seainsky came from last to take third, another 1 length back. South Africa finished fourth. A R Crackers, a 4-year-old son of With Approval, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:45.14.
Wild Bender dueled through the stretch before beating Secrets Galore to the wire by 3/4 length in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Alberta Centennial Handicap for 3-year-old fillies. After the Knight was just a neck farther back in third. Wild Bender, an Alberta-bred daughter of Stephanotis, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:45.60.