One of the youngsters eyeing the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Discreet Cat, made a strong case for himself in Sunday's Jerome Stakes at Belmont Park. But one of the veterans, Invasor, picked up a big question mark with a minor illness that upset his training regimen.
The Classic, Powered by Dodge, headlines the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
Discreet Cat, one of the more lightly raced stars in the Godolphin Racing stable, had things all his own way in the $150,000 Jerome. Facing just four rivals, the 3-year-old Forestry colt simply tugged jockey Garrett Gomez to the lead and ran away from the field. At the wire, he was 10 1/4 lengths ahead of runner-up Valid Notebook. Nar was third.
Discreet Cat ran the 1 mile on the "good" main track in 1:36.46 and trainer Saeed bin Suroor said the Classic is only one of the options under consideration for the colt.
"We're very happy with the way he finished this race," said Suroor. "We'll keep our options open for the Breeders' Cup Classic or the Cigar Mile. This horse has the class to run in big Group I races. Everything we've asked, he's done so easily."
Adding he will consult with Sheik Mohammed bin Rasheed al Maktoum, Suroor said a mile may be Discreet Cat's "favorite distance." But, he said, "I think he will stay a mile and a quarter."
Meanwhile, a fever forced trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to remove his star runner, Invasor, from contention in next weekend's $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, where he was expected to meet 3-year-old superstar Bernardini. The pair are regarded as the top two candidates for the Nov. 4 Classic.
"The timing is just terrible," said McLaughlin. "We're going to have to pass Saturday and point to the Breeders' Cup." If he trains up to that race, it will be a 91-day gap since Invasor's last race.
"Maybe it's a blessing in disguise," McLaughlin said. "If we have a knockdown fight with Bernardini this Saturday, it may be tough to recover."
In other races leading up to the Classic:
-- Trainer Rebecca Maker opted at the last possible moment to bring It's No Joke to Chicago for Saturday's $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup, rather than staying home for the Kentucky Cup Classic. That proved an excellent decision as It's No Joke came from a pace-pressing trip to take the lead entering the stretch and held on gamely to beat A.P. Arrow, the favorite, by 1 length. Kid Grindstone finished third. It's No Joke, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Distorted Humor, ran the 1 1/4 mile -- his first race at that distance -- in 2:03.89 on a track rated "wet fast" after an early afternoon downpour. Maker said she gained confidence in her colt's ability to go a distance of ground when he finished a close third this spring in the Gulfstream Park Handicap at 1 3/16 mile. In his last start, It's No Joke was second to Gouldings Green in the Turfway Park Fall Championship. "I always thought he would go a mile and a quarter," said Maker, who jumped for joy at her "biggest ever" win. "It was basically 12 hours ago that I made up my mind" to come to Hawthorne. She said she "certainly" will consider the Breeders' Cup Classic for It's No Joke. If he comes out of the Gold Cup well, "He deserves the chance," she said. John Velazquez, who rode A.P. Arrow, said his mount "just got there and kind of hung a little bit. At the quarter pole I thought I was the winner. At the eighth pole, I said, 'Uh, oh!.'"
-- As they say, a walk's as good as a base on balls. And Ball Four walked to the winner's circle Saturday as the long-shot winner of the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. Breaking sharply, the 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Grand Slam went quickly to the fore and maintained the advantage to the wire. Perfect Drift was blocked at a critical junction in the stretch run and missed catching the winner by 1/2 length. Good Reward was third and the favorite, Premium Tap, got home fifth with a rough trip. Ball Four, runner-up in this race last year, finished the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.29 under Willie Martinez. He has five wins from 16 career starts. "Obviously, the plan was to put him on the lead," said Martinez. "I was able to control the pace and once I got him comfortable, I knew he would be very tough to beat."
-- Misto Quente got to the leader, Angelic Aura, at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Kelso Stakes at Delaware Park, then won a stretch-long duel, scoring by a head. We Can Seek launched a late rally to finish third, just another nose back. Misto Quente, a 5-year-old, Brazilian-bred son of Royal Academy, ran the 1 3/16 mile on a "wet fast" track in 1:57.82 with Jose Lezcano aboard for trainer Bobby Frankel.
-- Shillelagh Slew sat behind the pace early in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian) Ontario Derby at Woodbine, took over late on the stretch turn and jetted off to win by 7 1/4 lengths. Royal Challenger was second and Storm Caller third. Shillelagh Slew, with Dino Luciani up, ran the 1 1/8 mile on the all-weather track in 1:51.65. "We've got a really nice horse," said Luciani. "Hopefully, we're going to continue."
In other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championship events:
$3 million John Deere Turf
-- The Tin Man quickly ran to the lead in Saturday's $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship at the Santa Anita Oak Tree meeting, then was all out to hold off T.H. Approval in the final yards, winning by a head. Artiste Royale finished third. The Tin Man, an 8-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Affirmed, finished the 1 1/4 mile in 2:00.12 under Victor Espinioza. The Tin Man has finished fourth in each of two tries in the Turf -- 2002 at Arlington Park and 2003 at Santa Anita. Espinoza said the finish was not as desperate as it appeared. "He was kind of waiting for the other horses," the rider explained. Asked about a third try, trainer Richard Mandella said, "Surely. As long as he comes out in good shape, that would be the plan."
-- Embossed posted a huge upset in Tuesday's weather-delayed $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs. After pressing the early pace, the 4-year-old, Irish-bred son of Mark of Esteem got to the lead at the head of the long stretch and battled gamely to win by a nose over another long shot, Lord Carmen. Rochester was third and the favorite, Silverfoot, finished fifth. Embossed, with Larry Melancon up for trainer Niall O'Callaghan, ran the 1 1/2 mile on the oddly shaped, undulating course in 2:36.92 (hand timed).
-- Rail Link was the upsetter in Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris, winning by a neck over the mare Pride, with Deep Impact third. The superstars followed, with Hurricane Run fourth. Shirocco, the German star, finished last of eight -- marking the smallest field for the Arc since 1941. Rail Link finished the 2,400 meters in 2:31.70 on "good" turf. The 3-year-old, British-bred son of Dansili, had won four straight races coming into the Arc but none indicated superiority of some of those he beat on Sunday at Longchamp. The colt now has won five of seven starts, all this year.
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
-- Wait a While waited behind pace-setting Dancing Edie until midway around the far turn in Saturday's $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. Then, the 3-year-old Maria's Mon filly easily went to the lead and drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Dancing Edie held second and Three Degrees was third. Wait a While ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 1:59.52 with Garrett Gomez aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. Gomez said he would have waited a while to take the lead but Wait a While didn't want to wait. "I would have preferred to have had a target at that point. But it didn't work out that way," he said. "She just drug me by (Dancing Edie)." Pletcher assistant Ginny dePasquale said Wait a While is "going back to Churchill on Monday and be there until the Breeders' Cup."
-- Mandesha caught pace-setting Satwa Queen with a rail-skimming move late in Sunday's Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp and sent on to win by 3/4 length. Alexandrova finished third. Mandesha is not expected to race again this year. The others who raced well are eyeing a variety of international engagements, from Canada to Hong Kong.
$2 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Ashkal Way rallied four-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park, then battled to the wire to beat Free Thinking by a head. Art Master finished third. Ashkal Way, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred gelding by Ashkalani, owned by Godolphin Racing, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.07. Mike Luzzi was up for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Since coming to the United States this spring, Ashkal Way has five wins and one second from six starts. In his last start, he copped the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga. "I think the mile really suits him," said Suroor. "Firmer ground really suits him. If Ashkal Way is sound after this race, it will be possible for him to go to the Breeders' Cup."
-- Godolphin validated another Mile contender in Saturday's Prix de la Foret at Longchamp in Paris. Caradak, winner last month of the Celebration Mile at Goodwood in England, came from the middle of the pack, got the lead with 100 yards to run and got home first, 3/4 length ahead of Welsh Empereor. Linngari was a close third. With Frankie Dettori up, the 5-year-old son of Desert Style finished the 1,400 meters in 1:20.90 on "good" turf. Godolphin's racing manager, Simon Crisford, confirmed that Caradak will be considered for the Mile, though adding the Hong Kong Mile on Dec. 10 at Sha Tin is the ultimate goal for the year.
-- Good Luck making handicapping sense of Saturday's Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket in England. Spinning Queen, right overlooked by the bookmakers and punters alike, ran away to win by 9 lengths over multiple Group 1 winner Soviet Song, with multiple international winner Alexander Goldrun third, a neck further back. Spinning Queen, with Michael Hills up for trainer Barry Hills, ran the 1 mile in 1:38.83 on "soft" turf. Barry Hills said the Breeders' Cup now is in his sights for Spinning Queen.
-- Precious Kitten rallied smartly to the front at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Martha Washington Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Laurel Park in Maryland, then won a long stretch battle, scoring by a neck over Meribel. Gasia finished third and the favorite, Amansara, finished fifth. Precious Kitten, a Kentucky-bred filly by Catienus, got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.22 under Erick Rodriguez. She is a half-sister to male turf champion Kitten's Joy.
-- Dash of Humor justified her favorite's status with a close victory in Tuesday's weather-delayed $100,000 Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs. The 6-year-old Distorted Humor mare saved ground behind the leaders, rallied to the lead with 1-16th to run and won by a neck over Honey Rose. Victory Lap finished third in the 1-mile event, clocked in 1:41.99 over the undulating course. Calvin Borel rode the winner for trainer Hal Wiggins.
-- Stormina pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Indian Maid Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hawthorne Race Course, moved to the front at the top of the stretch and got home 3/4 length ahead of the favorite, Rich in Spirit. Miss Mambo danced home third. Stormina, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Gulch, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.75 with John Velazquez aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher.
$2 million Emirates Airline Distaff
-- Trainer John Sadler said its' "60-40" that Healthy Addiction will go on to the Distaff off a convincing victory in Sunday's $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. The 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Boston Harbor stalked the pace set by Downthedustyroad, took command nearing the stretch and worked clear for a 1 1/2-length victory over that rival. Hollywood Story was third. Healthy Addiction ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.60 with Victor Espinoza up. "I'd say it's 60-40 she'll run in the Breeders' Cup," Sadler said, noting the $500,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24 is the alternative. "I have to study those eastern mares again a little bit and then we'll make a choice." Last year, Healthy Addiction finished last of 13 in the Distaff, beaten 57 1/4 lengths.
-- Beautiful Bets rallied wide around the turn in Saturday's $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares, wore down the leaders through the stretch and was there at the end by a neck over La Reason. Slew Peg finished third and the favorite, Splended Blended, was fourth. Beautiful Bets, a well-traveled, 6-year-old mare by Alphabet Soup, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:42.79 for Willie Martinez. Since finishing fourth in the Grade II Madison at Keeneland this spring, trainer Glenn Wismer has taken the Kentucky-bred mare has to Colonial Downs, Thistledown, Mountaineer and Woodbine, finishing in the money at each stop. However, she has only seven wins from 44 career starts.
$2 million TVG Sprint
-- Reigning Court returned to Kentucky after a summer in Chicago, moved up to stakes company in Saturday's $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park and posted a 25-1 upset victory. After racing right behind the leaders, Reigning Court moved to challenge with a furlong to go, got to the front and held on to win by 1/2 length over Island Warrior. Hallowed Flag was third and the favorite, Likely, was sixth. Reigning Court, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Glitterman, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.13 with Corey Lanerie up.
$2 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Cash Included stalked the pace early in Saturday's $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, got to the fore on the turn for home and drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Point Ashley. Quick Little Miss was quick enough to pick up third-place money. Cash Included, a Kentucky-bred filly by Include, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:42.86 with Corey Nakatani up for trainer Craig Dollase. Cash Included was making her first stakes start, coming off her maiden win at Del Mar. Point Ashley won the Del Mar Debutante in her last outing. Dollase said he is eager for the Breeders' Cup. "She looks like she's the real deal. Just watching her run today and not really having experience yet, I think she'll be just that much better next time," he said. Point Ashley's trainer, Bob Baffert, said his filly's effort was "disappointing. ... It wasn't her day." But he said she will go on to the Breeders' Cup anyway.
-- Coy Coyote rallied from mid-pack to upset Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Mazarine Breeders' Cup Stakes at Woodbine near Toronto. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Honour and Glory rallied three-wide into the stretch and caught the leaders inside the final 16th. She won by 1 1/2 lengths over A.P. Reality, who ran greenly in the stretch, likely costing her the win. My List was third and the favorite, Chaneisgonnacome, a fading seventh at the end. Coy Coyte ran the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:47.30 under Corey Frasier.
-- Cohiba Miss got the cigar at the end of Saturday's $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies at Turfway Park. Breaking first from the rail, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Cat Thief set a brisk pace without much challenge and coasted home first, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Whatadreamsmadeof, the favorite. Expertise finished third. Cohiba Miss, with Willie Martinez up for trainer Bernie Flint, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:36.68. Fifth in the Pepsi Bassinet in her last outing, Cohiba Miss has three wins from eight trips to the track. "The reason I put her on the front end is she loves to run hooked," said Flint. "She just likes competition."
--Finsceal Beo, an Irish-trained daughter of Mr. Greeley, had no trouble winning Sunday's Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp in Paris. At the end, Finsceal Beo was 5 lengths to the good of Darrfonah, finishing the 1 mile in 1:34.90.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- U D Ghetto stepped up to stakes company for the first time in Saturday's $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park and likely punched his ticket for the Breeders Cup with a spanking upset. After stalking a moderate pace, the Kentucky-bred Honour and Glory gelding came wide around the stretch turn to take the lead and won by 1 1/4 lengths despite drifting out late. His stablemate, Shermanesque, rallied for second and Son of the West finished third. The favorite, Izzy's Hero, finished fourth. U D Ghetto, with Mike Smith aboard, ran 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather surface in 1:43.86, picking up his second win in four career starts. "This horse is a handful all the time," said winning trainer Tony Reinstedler. "At any given moment, he's liable to rear up or flip over. But he can run. The Breeders' Cup will be (owner) Michael Mackin's decision. But he's from Louisville, so I have a feeling we'll be going."
-- Pirates Deputy took charge with a half mile to run in Saturday's $99,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs in Washington, drew off easily and won by 4 3/4 lengths over Wild Cycle. Templeton was third. Pirates Deputy, a California-bred gelding by Bertrando, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:42 2/5 with Nathan Chaves in the irons.
-- Holy Roman Emperor, a son of Danehill, won Sunday's Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp by 2 lengths over Battle Point, finishing 7 furlongs in stakes-record time of 1:18.60. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said he might at some point try Holy Roman Emperor on dirt but did not commit to any schedule for the colt's future.
In other racing:
Takeover Target moved closer to a $1.3 million bonus from the Global Sprint Challenge with one race to go when he roared to a convincing, pace-setting victory in Sunday's Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse. Takeover Target, an Australian-bred, 7-year-old gelding by Celtic Swing, Takeover Target battled defending champion Silent Witness for the lead in Sunday's event, then kicked clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Meisho Bowler. Gagano Bastille was up for third and Silent Witness faded to finish fourth. "After being in England, where the course is much harder" said winning trainer Joseph Janiak, "I knew he could handle this course well. ... We have a lot of time between now and Hong Kong (the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 10) and if he's fit enough coming out of this race, he'll be competitive." Takeover Target started the series with a victory in the Lightning Stakes in Australia in February. He won the King's Stand in England in June and came back on just four days' rest to run third in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. He also was second in the Centaur Stakes in Japan.
Hawthorne Race Course
No Tolerance led from gate to wire in Saturday's $150,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap, battling gamely down the stretch with Rapid Proof before crossing the wire a head in front. Come On Jazz finished third and the favorite, Therecomesatiger, ran sluggishly and got home seventh of eight. No Tolerance is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Afternoon Deelites. He ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.54 with Jesse Campbell up for trainer Michael Campbell.
Kentucky Downs (Dueling Grounds)
Atticus Kristy led from gate to wire in Tuesday's weather-delayed $100,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Dash, scoring by 2 1/2 lengths over Mocha Queen. Actual was third. Atticus Kristy, with Jesus Castanon aboard, ran the 6 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:12.64.
Carolina Sky jumped quickly to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 River Cities Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares, fought off a challenge from Candy Ball, and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over that rival. More Than Promised finished third. Carolina Sky, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Sky Classic, ran the "about" 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.72 with Lonnie Meche in the irons.
News and notes...
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has been named chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, succeeding Lawrence T. Wong, who retires after 11 years in the position. Engelbrecht-Bresges is the HKJC's executive director, a position he has had since 2000. He joined the Hong Kong Jockey Club in 1998 as director of Racing. During his tenure in Hong Kong, he has been a key player in the development of Asian racing on the international scene. Engelbrecht-Bresges said the appointment as CEO represents "one of the major challenges in life."