Nick Zito has had a tough year training horses. With a barn full of talent at the beginning of the year, he came up empty in many of the big races, including the Kentucky Derby. Now, the early dark clouds are starting to develop a silver lining.
Monday, Zito sent out Sun King, once a top Kentucky Derby prospect, to win the $750,000 Pennsylvania Derby by 4 1/2 lengths over Southern Africa. The well-bred son of Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic, ran a model race from the outside post in a big field of 14 under Rafael Bejarnao.
"Great, great ride," Zito said of the effort. "The horse is a terrific horse. On a lot of people's charts, he was the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby." Sun King finished 15th in the Run for the Roses and a well-beaten fourth in the Preakness. After a rest, however, he came back to win two straight stakes.
"It's great to see him put three races together like that," Zito said.
With a winning streak going, Zito might see Sun King's way clear to a shot at the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 29 at Belmont Park.
In other weekend racing that might impact the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships card:
$2 million John Deere Turf
-- Only four horses answered the call for Saturday's $200,000 Caesar Rodney Handicap at Delaware Park and the favorite, Ay Caramba, was the best of 'em. Trailing until the second turn, the 5-year-old, Brazilian-bred son of Roi Normand moved into contention and then drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Irish-bred Mr O'Brien. Cottage, an Argentine-bred, was third and Keep Cool trailed. Ay Caramba ran 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:48.05, toting Robby Albarado.
-- Revved Up was just that in the late stages of Monday's $200,000 (Canadian) Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap at Woodbine, coming from behind a good pace to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Strut the Stage. A Bit O'Gold, the favorite, checked in third. Revved Up, a 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Sultry Song, ran the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:27.13 with Brice Blanc aboard. "He was traveling comfortably all the way around," Blanc said. "In the turn, when I found an opening, he really finished up strongly for me." Nicholas Bachalard, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement, said Revved Up might return to the suburban Toronto oval for the Pattison Canadian International on Oct. 23.
-- Meanwhile, Jambalaya shipped out of Canada for the first time to run in Sunday's $100,000 Sarnac Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga and came away with the big prize. Sitting right behind the pace set by Chestertown Slew, Jambalaya went to the front at the top of the stretch and held on in a long stretch battle with Silver Whistle to win by a nose. Woodlander was third. Jerry Bailey, aboard Silver Whistle, said Jambalaya came out repeatedly during the stretch run but a claim of foul was not allowed by the stewards. "We'll go back to Woodbine and reorganize and see where we will go next," said winning owner/trainer Catherine Day Phillips.
-- Willow O Wisp sped to the lead in Monday's $400,000 Del Mar Derby and wasn't seriously threatened. At the wire, he held on well to win by 1 length over German-bred Tedo, with Osidy third. Willow O Wisp, a Florida-bred son of Misnomer, ran 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:45.85 with Garrett Gomez up. Willow O Wisp now has four wins from five starts since he was bought by Robert Alexander and moved from Florida. Among those wins were the Cinema Breeder's Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park and the La Jolla Handicap earlier in the Del Mar meeting.
-- At Baden Baden in Germany, Warrsan moved to the lead at the top of the stretch and went on to win the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden by 1 1/4 lengths over the filly Gonbarda. Westerner was third and the favorite, Cherry Mix, lead early but tired to finish fifth. Warrsan, who had not won since last October, finished the 1 1/2 mile on "good" turf in 2:34.42 with Kerrin McEvoy aboard.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Three Valleys was just up at the wire to win Sunday's $350,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap by a nose over We All Love Aleyna. Wild Buddy, the long shot leader most of the way, held on for third. Three Valleys, a Juddmonte Farms homebred by Diesis, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in course-record time of 1:32.21 for Patrick Valenzuela. "I thought I really didn't do enough with him," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel, despite the competitive race and record time. "I thought he might get a little tired. ... I don't think you've seen the best of this horse."
-- Starcraft led most of the way to a 2 1/2-length victory in Sunday's Prix du Moulin de Longchamp in Paris. The 5-year-old son of Soviet Star was returning from a layoff of two months due to injury. Starcraft was Australia's champion 3-year-old male in 2004.
$2 million Emirates Airline Distaff
-- Indy Groove, with Mark Guidry up, took the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Arlington Matron Handicap, held the advantage under pressure into the stretch turn, then went on to win easily, finishing 4 1/2 lengths ahead of the place horse, Quick Temper. Diavla was third and the even-money fave, Miss Terrible, faded in the late going to get home last of seven. Indy Groove, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by A.P. Indy, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.87. Indy Groove won her second straight stakes at Arlington. "She seems to get better later in the year," said winning trainer Tom Proctor. "This race was probably a little easier this year than it was last year. We might look at a race at Keeneland down the road."
-- Amazing Buy led from the git-go of Monday's $100,000 Pennsylvania Oaks at Philadelphia Park, winning by 1 length over odds-on favorite Hide and Chic. Cozy Gain was third. Amazing Buy, a Kentucky-bred by High Yield, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.19. Private Gift, with Robby Albarado up, was still behind the gate when the starter sent the field on its way and was declared a non-starter.
$1 million TVG Sprint
-- Forest Danger, the favorite, never fired in Saturday's $250,000 Forego Stakes at Keeneland and longshot Mass Media took advantage. With Javier Castellano aboard, the 4-year-old son of Touch Gold stayed close to the pace set by Battle Won, then came alongside that rival in the stretch and edged clear to win by 1/2 length. Battle Won held second, Silver Wagon was third and Yankee Mon was fourth with a long way back to Forest Danger. Mass Media ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.59. He had not won a race since the Sports Page Handicap at Aqueduct last October and now has six wins from 15 starts. Trainer Bobby Frankel added blinkers for the Forego.
-- Sheikh Mohammed is loading up for the Breeders' Cup. Goodricke, a 3-year-old son of Bahamian Bounty, scored his first stakes victory Saturday in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock Park in England. Coming from off the pace under Jamie Spencer, the colt scored by 1 length and finished in 1:10.87 over turf rated "good." La Cucaracha was second and will point to the Hong Kong Sprint in December. Ashdown Express was third in the 17-horse field. Winning trainer David Loder is eyeing retirement but could exit with a bang as Sheikh Mohammed told England's Press Association he will consider the Breeders' Cup for Goodricke.
$1 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
-- Intercontinental made life easy for jockey Jerry Bailey by going right to the front in Saturday's $200,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar. On the lead, the 5-year-old Danehill mare coasted along and had plenty left at the end to beat Amorama by 1 1/4 length with Ticker Tape third. The 1 1/16 mile on firm turf took a stakes-record 1:39.84. "I've been up rear ends with her and I've been in front," Bailey said. "I prefer being up front." Winning trainer Bobby Frankel said Intercontinental "could have been a super, super star because she has the ability. But she's a hard filly to ride. If she was easy to ride, she might be undefeated."
-- Honey Ryder, named for the first James Bond movie heroine, combined with Film Maker for a hunch-bet exacta payoff in Monday's $100,000 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga. Racing from behind the leaders, Honey Ryder, a 4-year-old daughter of Lasting Approval, got room on the rail and just got home first by a neck. Banyu Dewi, a German-bred mare, was third. The 1 3/8 mile went in 2:14.51 on firm going.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Laity, a Claiborne Farm home bred trained by Frank Brothers, found no challenge at Monday's $200,000 Miller Lite Cradle Stakes at River Downs in Cincinnati. Quickly to the fore, the Pulpit colt extended his advantage throughout the 1 1/16 mile, finishing 11 3/4 lengths ahead of the favorite, Dawn of War. Acts Like a King was third. Laity, with Corie Lanerie up, finished in 1:43.60, driving - a stakes record. He came into the race off a 1-mile win at Arlington. "The Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland would be the logical next step," said Brothers.
-- In Summation, the overwhelming favorite, took the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $125,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes and cruised home first by 2 3/4 lengths. Blazing Rate was second and Old Town Road third. In Summation, a son of Put It Back from the Dayjur mare Fiesta Baby, ran 7 furlongs on the sloppy track in 1:24.87. In Summation remains undefeated after five starts. "He's coming along the way you would want to see a horse develop," said winning trainer Frank Gomez. "You never know if they'll go a distance until they try it. But you can see that he will rate." Gomez said In Summation will go on to the In Reality Division Oct. 15.
-- Almost Certain didn't seem so to the bettors before Saturday's $100,000 Ketel One El Jovan Stakes at Retama Park in Texas. Dispatched at odds of nearly 10-1, the Favorite Trick gelding survived a bump at the start, tracked the leaders, shifted out for room at the three-sixteenths pole and drove to the lead. He won by 1 1/4 lengths over Desert Wheat with the favorite, Counterfeit Gold fading to finish third after leading at the eighth pole. Almost Certain, a Kentucky-bred, ran 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:40.37.
-- Kingsfield won Monday's $40,000 Prairie Meadows Freshman by 2 lengths, covering 6 furlongs in 1:10.33 and part-owner Gary Hess says that's enough to earn the Ecton Park colt a shot at the big-time. "We're going to take him to Hot Springs. He's hopefully going to run in the prep races for the Arkansas Derby," Hess said. "That's our goal. And then, after that, we'd like to have a Kentucky Derby horse." Well, as the man said, the definition of hope is a 2-year-old in the barn.
$1 million Alberto VO5 Juvenile Fillies
-- Rumplestiltskin might be a popular pick for this race if trainer Aidan O'Brien chose to send her after winning Sunday's Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland. The filly was hung up in traffic early, got to the front and held on to win by a neck, running 7 furlongs in 1:25 4/5. But O'Brien said the filly, winner of four of five starts, likely is done for the year and will point to the One Thousand Guineas next spring.
-- Running Lass led from the start in Saturday's $125,000 Susan's Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes, then held off the late rush of Prospect of Love to win by a head. Siren Cove was third. Running Lass, a daughter of Running Stag, now has two-thirds of the series under her girth. "She got tired in the end," said winning trainer Manoel Cruz, "and I just hope she can carry her speed in the longer race," referring to the 1 1/16 mile My Dear Girl Division Oct. 15. Owner Mike Sherman noted, "Running Stag went long. You just don't know until they try it."
-- Dixie Dreamer, winless in two tries since breaking her maiden at Mountaineer two months ago, won a sprint to the wire to upset Saturday's $100,000 Pepsi Bassinet Stakes at River Downs in Ohio. The Florida-bred daughter of Mutakddim pushed pace-setter She Says It Best through much of the race, hooked up with her in the stretch and just put a head in front at the wire. High Heritage was third and the odds-on favorite, previously undefeated Readyforcocktails, finished fourth. The 6 furlongs went in 1:09.60. "I had no idea we were going that fast," said winning rider Marco Ccmaque (cq). "But that other filly kept digging in and I just pushed and pushed on my horse and she showed a lot of heart."
--Keeneland Kat got off a step slowly in Saturday's $100,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park, raced outside around the turn but then closed well to pass the leaders and win by 2 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Unobstructed View. Pure Disco was a long shot third. Keeneland Kat, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Hennessy, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.23.
--Jb's Golden Regret dominated 10 rivals in Saturday's $100,000 M2 Technology La Senorita Stakes at Retama Park in Texas. After being bumped and stumbling at the start, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Banker's Gold tracked the pace, went to the front on the second turn and won off by 2 1/4 lengths. Cancel the Wedding was the bridesmaid and Lady Cosmo was third. Jb's Golden Regret ran the 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:42.79.
In other racing on the long holiday weekend:
Follow the Rainbow followed Khyber Pass early on in Saturday's $100,000 El Cajon Stakes, went to the lead on the turn and then held on to beat Chips Are Down by a neck. Khyber Pass held on for third. Follow the Rainbow, with Victor Espinoza up for trainer Bob Baffert, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.34. The win was Baffert's 74th in Del Mar stakes, tying him with Charlie Whittingham. "It's a salute to our operation, the owners I've had and the powerful horses," Baffert said. "It's a lot of hard work for everybody. I have a great staff, all my assistants through the years have been great and the grooms and all the help. But you can't do it without good owners." Follow the Rainbow is owned by Ed Friendly.
Sunday, Candy Factory rallied from last to win the $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares by 2 lengths over Valentine Dancer. Smokegetsinyoureyes was third. Candy Factory, a 4-year-old daughter of Seattle Bound, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.36. "I won't put her on the dirt for a while," said winning trainer Mike Machowsky. "She's four-for-four on the turf."
Monday, Bro Lo dominated four rivals in the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for Cal-bred 2-year-olds. The son of In Excess drew off smartly to win by 7 1/2 lengths over Moonlite Romance with Brother Derek third. Bro Lo covered 6 furlongs in 1:08.78.
Dontbotherknocking ran by the leaders along the rail in the stretch run of Monday's $125,000 Edward J. Debartolo Sr. Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap and got home first, 1/2 length to the good of Waupaca. Runaway Choice was third. Dontbotherknocking, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Farma Way (a force in the short-lived ACRS series a decade ago), ran 9furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.46.
Stream Cat pulled off a mild upset in Saturday's $65,000 With Anticipation Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 mile on the grass. After sticking close to the pace under Gary Stevens, the Black Minnaloushe colt came around the leaders and got clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Metro Meteor. Immersed in Gold was third. Stream Cat finished in 1:45.20.
Elle Runaway didn't exactly run away with Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Colleen Stakes but she did come from well back, took the lead turning for home and held on to win by 3/4 length over Count to Three. Playwild was third. Elle Runaway, a Kentucky-bred, 3-year-old daughter of El Prado, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.11 for Emile Ramsammy. "She's definitely panning out to be the filly we expected her to be last year," said Ramsammy.
El Don rallied from last in a field of five to win Monday's $100,000 California Turf Championship by 3 lengths from Shadow Raider, with Helmet Thought third. El Don, a 4-year-old, California-bred gelding by Cee's Tizzy, circled the field to get room and finished the 1 mile on firm footing in 1:36.48 under Russell Baze.
Thirsty Guy's sucked up the leaders in the stretch run to win Sunday's $70,000 Earlene McCabe Derby by 3 lengths. Funny Flyer was second and Wind Water finished third after leading briefly. Thirsty Guy's, a Cal-bred gelding by Kahuna Jack, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.94.
Penny Ante blasted to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Hillsborough Handicap, slowed down the pace and held off the favorite, Pickle, by 1 1/4 lengths at the wire. Lucky Sabre was third. Penny Ante, a 4-year-old daughter of Fabulous Champ, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.77.
Calder Race Course
Chancey Light, with Eddie Castro at the controls, rallied on the outside down the stretch to win Monday's $100,000 Aspidistra Handicap by 1/2 length over Skip Command. Silver Lace was third. Chancey Light, a 4-year-old filly by Colony Light, ran 1 mile on yielding turf in 1:39.39. "She loves soft ground," said winning trainer David Brownlee. He said he has no plans for the filly's next start.
Bob's Proud Moment caught pace-setting Southern Cal in the stretch drive of Monday's $150,000 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap, then held on to beat Dancing Master by a neck. Southern Cal held third. Bob's Proud Moment, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt by Proud and True, finished the mile on yielding grass in 1:38.18. "I think my horse likes the turf soft, so that helped a lot," said winning rider Manoel Cruz.
Weekend Weather wore down Gin Rummy King in the stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 Seacliff Stakes for 2-year-olds by 1/2 length. He's a Lumberjack lumbered home third and the favorite, Thanks Dubya, was a sluggish seventh. Weekend Weather, a Florida-bred son of Tiger Ridge, ran 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:42.91.
In the fourth stakes event in Calder's festival for juveniles, Forest Danz broke right to the lead from the outside postposition and went on to win the $50,000 Fasig Tipton Turf Dash by 12 lengths over Connoisseur. Golden Flame finished third and the favorite, Mr. Silver, was home fifth. Forest Danz, a Kentucky-bred Forestry gelding, ran 5 furlongs on a sloppy main track in 58.97 seconds.
Classic Pack led from the start in Monday's $250,000 New York Breeders' Futurity for New York-breds and took off in the stretch to win by 9 1/4 lengths over Fly to Me. The favorite, Sharp Humor, was third. Classic Pack, a son of Regal Classic, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.85.
In Monday's $75,000 New York Oaks, Carlow put a head in front of Line Memory at the wire while extreme long shot Milly La Foret BB rallied to take third. Favorite Brushme On was fourth in a fade job. Carlow, a daughter of Forever Silver, completed 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:45.59.
Alexandersrun did most of his running in the late stages of Monday's $100,000 Emerald Downs Breeders' Cup Derby but it was enough to get the job done. At the wire, the Florida-bred son of Sweetsouthernsaint nipped Norm's Nephew by 3/4 length, with Timeless Passion third. Alexandersrun finished 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.
Hunch bet? How about Tempus Fugit winning Monday's $75,000 Summer Finale Stakes? The 5-year-old daughter of 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup tracked the pace and went on to win by 2 lengths over Rue des Rives, finishing 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.27.
Also Monday, Spruce Run came from behind the leaders to take the $75,000 Labor Day Stakes by 2 lengths from Beau Classic with Midnight Arrival arriving home third. Spruce Run, a 7-year-old Repriced gelding got 1 mile on the turf in 1:33.74.
Stormy Roman came from near the back of the pack to win Monday's $60,000 Bob Harding Stakes by a head over Ballonenostrikes. Foreverness was third. Stormy Roman, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred son of Future Storm, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.38.
Also Monday, Forest Park got the lead at the quarter pole and went on to win the $75,000 Icecapade Stakes by 2 lengths over Spooky Mulder. Abbondanza was third and Rockin On Ready was fourth and last. Forest Park is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Forest Wildcat.
Sunday, Reaffirmed rallied in the stretch to win the $60,000 Continental Mile for 2-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths over First Class Guy. That Magic Moment was third while the favorite, Tompest, finished last of eight. Reaffirmed is a Florida-bred son of Quaker Ridge. He ran the 1 mile in 1:39.43 for Aaron Gryder.
Also Sunday, Coastal Strike came three-wide on the turn to take the lead in the $55,000 Thomas J. Malley Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Lady Dynasty. Water Walker was third. Coastal Strike is a California-bred daughter of Smart Strike. She finished 5 furlongs in 57.89 seconds.
Grant's Moon sat off the early pace duel in Saturday's $50,000 Alma North Stakes for fillies and mares, then passed the leaders and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Niclie. Leavn Ona Jetplane won a four-horse photo for third. Grant's Moon is a 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon. She covered the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs on the fair grounds track in 1:17.73. "That was pretty easy," said winning rider Alberto Delgado.
My Desert Lady, the big favorite, took charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Aztec Oaks Stakes for New Mexico-breds, running away from six rivals to win by 5 lengths. La Mamie was best of the rest and Slewsflight finished third. My Desert Lady, a daughter of Desert God, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17 2/5.
Monday, Mr. Trieste came from off the pace to win the $75,000 San Juan County Commission Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths over Suspicious Minds. Skip and Go was third. Mr. Trieste, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Old Trieste, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.
Onthedeanslist got an A-plus in Monday's $50,000 Tri-State Handicap, leading most of the way to defeat Mighty Military by 1 length. Saturday Deelites was third. Onthedeanslist, a 6-year-old son of Honor Grades, ran 1 1/16 mile on the firm grass in 1:39.11.
Malika's Gold sat right off the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Lyrique Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, got by on the outside turning for home and worked clear to win by 1 1/4 length over fellow pace-stalker Prospectors Spirit. Where's Bailey was third as the odds-on favorite. Malika's Gold, a Florida-bred daughter of Gold Case, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.21.
Sunday, Middleweight scored a knockout in the $50,000 Sport City Handicap with a late run that got him home 1 length to the good of Crowned King. Tromp was third. Middleweight, a 5-year-old son of Grand Slam, ran 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 2:02.76 under Gerard Melancon.
Monday, Royal Saint won a stretch battle with Key Issues to take the $50,000 Prelude Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3/4 length. The Kentucky-bred son of Saint Ballado ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:44.17.
Thekatcamehome returned to her Iowa home Saturday to win the $40,000 Prairie Meadows Debutante. After tracking the pace, the filly kicked into gear and got home first, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of the favorite, Buontempo. Sentimental Charm was third. Thekatcamehome has made all five of her starts in Iowa -- she was third in the Iowa Sorority last week -- but detoured to the sales barn in Kentucky before Saturday's start. "The younger Iowa horses are very competitive," said jockey Glenn Corbett. "There are a few standouts that I think would be competitive on the open market. This filly is one of them right here, for sure."
Misty Glo put in a three-wide bid late in Saturday's $50,000 Matron Handicap and just nipped Phone Affair at the wire by a nose. Leestown Lib was third and the favorite, Keep This Cat, faded in the final sixteenth to finish fifth of six. Misty Glo, a 4-year-old, Louisiana-bred daughter of Sanctuary, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:41.66 with Sylvester Carmouche Jr. up.