The Breeders' Cup Classic frequently has been a right of passage for 3-year-olds racing against their elders and many of the successful youngsters have used the Super Derby as a springboard.
If that pattern, established by the likes of Sunday Silence, Alysheba and Tiznow, is to repeat this year, put check marks by the names of Strong Contender and Lawyer Ron -- the 1-2 finishers in Saturday's XXVIIth renewal of the Louisiana Downs fixture.
Lawyer Ron, making his second start after surgery for a bone chip, was a bit eager, dragging jockey Robby Albarado to the lead. Strong Contender moved up into contention on the turn for home, got the outside position in the stretch and was up in time to pass the tiring Lawyer Ron and win by 1 length, finishing the 9 furlongs in 1:48.60.
Lawyer Ron, whose only previous loss on the main track was his injury-marred 12th in the Kentucky Derby, held on for second and Louisborg was third. Point Determined showed little and finished last of seven.
Strong Contender, who bypassed the Triple Crown races, won the Dwyer at Belmont in July but then was a well-beaten third in the Haskell last month at Monmouth Park.
"When he was about 2 1/2 lengths from Lawyer Ron, Robbie hit him with the stick right-handed a couple of times," said trainer John Ward. "He really put his head down and accelerated and that's when he really takes off. That's the true horse right there."
In other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs:
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Expectations were high for King of the Roxy entering Saturday's $250,000 Futurity at Belmont Park, even though the Ohio-bred colt is an Ohio-bred son of Littleexpectations. Coming off a close second in the Saratoga Special in his last race, King of the Roxy was sent off the favorite in a six-horse field in the Futurity. And, despite racing wide all the way, the colt justified the confidence of the bettors, seizing the lead in the stretch and holding off C P West to win by 3/4 length. Kong's Revenge was third. King of the Roxy, with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.09. Velazquez said the horse tends to wait on rivals. "I think he can be better if he puts it all together," he said. "I would think we will go right to the Breeders' Cup," Pletcher said.
-- Green Vegas rallied three-wide at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Foolish Pleasure Breeders' Cup at Calder Race Course and drove clear, winning by 2 lengths over Imawildandcrazyguy. The favorite, Yesbyjimminy, finished third. Green Vegas, a Florida-bred colt by Trippi, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:45.19 with Julio Garcia up for trainer Luis Olivares. Olivares said Green Vegas is ticketed for the $400,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes on Oct. 14.
-- Reata's Rocket raced with the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Monmouth Park NATC Futurity, got a narrow lead with a quarter mile to run and held well to win by 1 length over Ice Man Cometh. Actin Good finished third. Reata's Rocket, an Ontario-bred son of Cape Canaveral, ran the 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:09.44 with Christopher DeCarlo up for trainer Joseph Orseno. "He's done everything we've asked of him," Orseno said. "He has gone forward in leaps and bounds." He said he will ship to Woodbine for an overnight stakes there on Breeders' Cup day. "Next year, we'll point him to the Queen's Plate."
-- Birdbirdistheword sprinted to the lead on the turn for home in Saturday's $100,000 Harrah's Juvenile at Louisiana Downs, drew clear and held off favorite Going Ballistic at the wire by 1/2 length. Western Prize was third. Birdbirdistheword (isn't there a "bird" missing there?) ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.93 with Robby Albarado riding for trainer Ken McPeek. The winner is a Florida-bred son of Pure Prize.
$2 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Meadow Breeze stalked the pace early in Saturday's $250,000 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park, gave up some ground on the turn but rallied through the stretch to win by a head over Featherbed and Octave, who dead-heated for second and third. Meadow Breeze, a Florida-bred filly by Meadowlake, went to the post at odds of nearly 35-1 after recent unimpressive efforts at Mountaineer and Saratoga. Saturday, the powerfully built filly ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.82 with Kent Desormeaux up for the first time. Carl Deville trains Meadow Breeze. "We had been thinking about the Breeders' Cup," Deville said. "And we think she will stretch out. I don't know what our plans are."
-- Cat On a Cloud survived a three-filly speed duel in the early stages of Saturday's $200,000 Monmouth Park NATC Futurity, then drew off in the stretch to win easily. Angel Island, the early leader, was 4 1/2 lengths back in second with Dinner Break running well late to take third. Cat On a Cloud, a Kentucky-bred filly by Smoke Glacken, ran 6 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:09.88. Eddie Castro was up for trainer Ronny Werner. "She showed us a lot in her first start (a win at Ellis Park)," said assistant trainer Rody Werner. "We were expecting a lot from her today, to see what she could do in stakes company. We've been very high on her from the start."
-- Gal Wonder, with Rosemary Homeister Jr. in the irons, jumped right to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Brave Raj Breeders' Cup Stakes, set a meandering pace and had no trouble holding on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Silkily. Wise Beauty was third with the favorite, Post Invader, fourth. Gal Wonder, a Florida-bred daughter of Three Wonders, got the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:47.33. The filly was sold in the days prior to the race and trainer Larry Pilotti said he doesn't know "what's next or where she'll go until I talk to the new owners." The Brave Raj was Homeister's first major stakes victory since returning from a premature retirement earlier this year.
$3 million John Deere Turf
-- Better Talk Now, the winner of the 2004 Turf, showed up in prime form for Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine. After stalking the pace, the 7-year-old Talkin Man gelding came four-wide into the stretch, got the lead with 1-16th to go and won by a head over Jambalaya. Last Answer was third, just a head farther back. Better Talk Now ran the 1 3/8 mile over yielding turf in 2:18.50 with Ramon Dominguez up for trainer H. Graham Motion. "I've said all along this year, I think this horse is every bit as good as he was when he won the Breeders' Cup," Motion said. He said Better Talk Now may go on to the $2 million (Canadian) Pattison Canadian International on Oct. 22. "The International is a very prestigious race in its own right," Motion said. "We're going to have to get together and decide whether to choose that or the Breeders' Cup."
-- Bastille saved ground through most of Saturday's $200,000 John D. Schapiro Memorial Breeders' Cup at Laurel Park in Maryland, eased outside the leader in the stretch and went on to win by a neck. Fishy Advice held on for second and Dreadnaught was third. Bastille, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Quiet American, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.28. Joe Rocco Jr. was up for trainer James Murphy, who is sidelined with heart problems. "This really meant a lot for me to win this race for him," Rocco said. "It's nice that his barn is moving forward after his health scare."
-- Youmzain, a British invader, found room on the inside at mid-stretch in Sunday's Preis von Europa at Weidenpesch Racecourse in Germany and went on to win by 1/2 length over local hopeful Egerton. Enforcer was third, just beating Oriental Tiger, the second-place finisher in the Grosser Preis von Baden, who bore out badly on the first turn. Youmzain ran the 2400 meters in 2:28.51 under Kieren Fallon.
$2 million NetJets Mile (Turf)
-- George Washington, winless since the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket in May, was a relatively easy winner in Sunday's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. After letting several rivals contest the lead, George Washington swept by in the final furlong, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Araafa. Court Masterpiece was third and previously undefeated Librettist finished sixth. George Washington, a 3-year-old son of Danehill, ran the 1 mile in 1:40.06 over a "soft" turf under Mick Kinane. "What can you say?" trainer Aidan O'Brien told the Press Association. "Mick said he was just half-speeding." O'Brien said the Breeders' Cup is under consideration for George Washington.
-- Karen's Caper came from mid-pack, took the outside line around the stretch turn and went on to win Saturday's $150,000 Noble Damsel Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park by 3/4 length over Pommes Frites. Mauralakana was third. Karen's Caper, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by War Chant, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.91 with Edgar Prado up. Raced in England and Ireland earlier in her career, Karen's Caper has been a tough-luck story in American racing, showing a pair of nice seconds in graded stakes but never before entering the winner's circle. "She broke well but she doesn't have the speed to be right up there," Prado said. "You've just got to let her relax and let the race develop. She's got a real nice kick and she was there when I asked her."
-- Somethinaboutlaura jumped out to set an easy pace in Saturday's $75,000 Pacific Heights Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares and never was challenged. At the wire, the 4-year-old Dance Floor filly won by 4 lengths over Royal Kleven, with Chelcee's Hope third. Somethinaboutlaura, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.95 under Russell Baze.
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
-- Brownie Points began a rally toward the leaders on the turn for home in Saturday's $200,000 Marie P. DeBartolo Oaks at Louisiana Downs, wore down the pace-setter at mid-stretch and held on to win by 1 length over Aly's Vow. Charming N Loveable finished third. Brownie Points, a Kentucky-bred filly by Forest Wildcat, finished the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.30 after tracking a relatively soft pace. Luis Quinonez applied the winning ride.
Murani jumped out to a daylight lead in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Flaming Page Stakes at Woodbine, was headed at the top of the stretch by the favorite, Noble Stella, but regained the lead and prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths. Noble Stella held second and Foamy Water was a non-threatening third. Murani, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Distorted Humor, ran the 1 1/2 mile on yielding turf in 2:33.81 with Emile Ramsammy aboard for trainer Michael Keogh. "When Noble Stella drew up to her, I thought she was going to go by us," Keogh said. "But this filly showed a lot of guts."
In other weekend racing:
Calder Race Course
Jet Propulsion, breaking from the far outside, stumbled badly at the start of Saturday's $100,000 Needles Stakes for 3-year-olds, rushed into a tracking position down the backstretch and surged to the lead on the turn. At the wire, the Florida-bred Double Honor gelding had just enough to hold off the favorite, Croton Road, by 1/2 length. Fancy Silver finished third. Jet Proulsion was ridden by Elvis Trujillo. Trujillo said he moved out for room at the half-mile pole "because he was telling me it was time to go. When I did that, he hit his stride and then it was just a matter of holding off that late run from the favorite."
Bayou's Lassie led from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Judy's Red Shoes for 3-year-old fillies, finishing 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Silversider with Kicks third. Bayou's Lassie, a Florida-bred filly by Outflanker, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:44.55 under Elvis Trujillo. Trainer Stan Gold said Bayou's Lassie was hurt last year and given time to recover. "When she came to me, they had this stakes in mind and the (Calder) Oaks. So far, it's worked," he added.
Vestrey Lady was the early leader in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) La Lorgnette Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and eventually held on to be the winner. At the wire, Vestrey Lady was 1/2 length the best, holding off the late charge of Gold Fish. Sweet Breanna was third. Vestrey Lady, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Vicar, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the new all-weather surface in 1:44.91 for jockey James McAleney. Kimchi was a late scratch. "She did it well," said winning trainer Reade Baker. "I was just worried about somebody chasing her early. I thought if nobody chased her, she could win." He said he now may look for a race "out of town."
Hastings Race Course
Real Candy wore down the pace-setters in deep stretch to win Saturday's $130,000 British Columbia Breeders' Cup Oaks by a nose over Hurry an Notis. Langara Lass finished third. The 9 furlongs over a fast track took 1:50.53. Real Candy, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Real Quiet, now has two wins from eight career starts.
In Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Derby, Halo Steven was on the lead and under pressure all the way but survived to win a four-horse blanket finish by a nose over Head Chopper. Ok Nothanksforaskn was a neck farther back in third and Raise the Bluff another neck back in fourth. Halo Steven, a Florida-bred gelding by Halo's Image, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.96 with Pedro Alvarado in the irons.
Orphan Brigade stalked the pace in Sunday's $160,000 Premiere Breeders' Cup Stakes, came wide into the stretch to get the lead and battled to a neck victory over Keep On Punching. Go Kitty Go finished third and the favorite, Stone Rain, faded badly to finish 11th of 12. Orphan Brigade, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Roar, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10 4/5. Zia is in Hobbs, N.M., and its purses are fueled by an increased number of slot machines.
Sensational Score rallied from last to upset Saturday's $100,000 Pomona Derby, drawing clear in the final furlong and winning by 3 1/2 lengths over Quebec Citizen. The favorite, Northern Soldier, led early and got home third. Sensational Score, a Florida-bred colt by Wild Rush, ran the "about" 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.47. Martin Pedroza rode for trainer Michael Machowsky.
Sunday, Southern Africa came from off the pace to win the $125,000 Ralph M. Hinds Invitational Handicap by 1/2 length over Top This and That. Itstufftobegood finished third. Southern Africa, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Cape Town, ran "about" 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.19 for jockey Jon Court.
Malibu Mint came five-wide around the leaders and drew off to win Saturday's $75,000 Weekend Delight Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Morner. Hot Storm finished third. Malibu Mint, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Malibu Moon, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.40 with Kyle Kaenel aboard. Trainer James Chapman said he brought Malibu Mint to Turfway because of the Polytrack surface - now also a fixture at Keeneland. "That was the game plan," he said. "To come here and see if she liked it."
Interpatation ran last of eight down the backstretch in Saturday's $100,000 Larry R. Riviello President's Cup Stakes, rallied on the outside on the turn and was along in plenty of time to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Key Event got the lead at the top of the lane and held on for second and Just Thunder was third. Interpatation, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Langfuhr, ran the 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:51.95 with Tom Turner up.
Kingship sat in a stalking position until the far turn in Saturday's $75,000 Donnie Wilhite Memorial Handicap for 3-year-olds, took the lead when asked by jockey Robby Albarado and drove clear, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Electric Chant. Danseur's Gold finished third. Kingship, a Kentucky-bred colt by King Cougat, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.09.
Dream Lady let the field go in Saturday's $65,000 Omnibus Stakes for fillies and mares, advanced on the outside down the backstretch and around the turn, then was best of the closers, winning by 1/2 length over Rahys' Appeal. Gisellous was third. Dream Lady is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Old Trieste. With Jose Lezcano up, she ran the 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:49.24.
Empress Pegasus sat behind the dueling leaders through the early furlongs of Saturday's $65,000 Matron Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares, came between horses to challenge for the lead and ran off to win by 5 lengths. Vicar's Daughter was second after leading and Remiewaterbluz finished third. The favorite, Hey Hey Renee, faded badly to finish sixth. Empress Pegasus, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52 1/5 under Paul Leacock.
In Sunday's $65,000 Gold Breeders' Cup Stakes, Elite Mercedes led from gate to wire, winning by 2 lengths over The Max. Albarino was third, 2 1/4 lengths farther in arrears. Elite Mercedes, a 9-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Mercedes Won, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51 3/5 under Alan Cuthbertson.