It's a shame Discreet Cat didn't get a chance to show what he could do at the absolute pinnacle of racing competition this year because he sure showed every sign he could do anything asked of him.
After winning the UAE Derby in Dubai in March, the Forestry colt looked like the best bet ever to give Godolphin Racing its first Kentucky Derby victory.
Instead, the blue machine took the conservative course, shelving Discreet Cat until August, when he won a tune-up allowance race at Saratoga by 11 lengths, for fun. Then the Sheikh again ducked the heavyweights in the major Breeders' Cup tune-ups, instead sending Discreet Cat to the 1-mile Jerome Handicap, where he won by 10 1/2 lengths, again without being asked for much.
On to the Breeders' Cup anyway? Nope. Although he was entered in the Classic as a backup should anything happen to Bernardini, Discreet Cat was scratched in favor of Saturday's $300,000 Hill N Dale Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, which he won by 3 1/4 lengths, going away, missing Easy Goer's track record by just 0.06 second despite a bumpy start. In his wake, the bay colt left Badge of Silver, Silver Train, Dixie Meister and Sharp Humor.
Given that he easily beat Invasor, the Breeders Cup Classic winner and likely Horse of the Year, in the UAE Derby, there's no telling where Discreet Cat would be ranked now if he'd been given the right opportunities.
What could he have done against Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby or against Bernardini in the Travers or the Jockey Club Gold Cup?
Still, here's hope for the future, if trainer Saeed bin Suror's thoughts after the Cigar Mile are any indication.
"The horse ran this time against older horses," Suroor said of Discreet Cat's 1:32.46 mile at Aqueduct. "This gives us confidence for the future to see if he is good enough to run in the Dubai World Cup. We'll keep our options open for next year."
In other weekend racing, by championship division:
Premium Tap, third behind Invasor and Bernardini in the Breeders' Cup Classic, had things all his own way in Friday's $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. After stalking the pace under a patient Kent Desormeaux, Premium Tap went for the lead with a quarter mile to run and left 11 rivals in his dust, winning by 7 1/4 lengths. Wild Desert was second and A.P. Arrow was third. Premium Tap, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Pleasant Tap, finished the 9 furlongs in 1:47.39. Trainer John Kimmel said Premium Tap had a skin disease and a minor infection in his respiratory system before the Breeders' Cup. "But, ever since then, he hasn't been on any medication. His skin is great. He's training great. He's eating great. And, at some point, you just have to figure, 'I think he did run his race that day.'"
-- Ermine, a 3-year-old filly running against older rivals, won a tight stretch duel with Joint Effort in Thursday's $300,000 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. Under the wire, Ermine was in front by a head, with Cursora third. Ermine, a Florida-bred filly sired by Exchange Rate, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.90 with Eddie Castro riding for trainer Ronny Werner. "We may run her at Oaklawn in the Apple Blossom," Werner said. "She did run good there, as well. We have some options. We'll keep swinging."
-- Malibu Mint yielded the lead to Rahy's Appeal in the stretch run of Friday's $150,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct and finished 3 lengths in arrears. But the stewards then reversed the order of finish after finding that Malibu Mint was struck by the whip of Alan Garcia, who rode Rahy's Appeal. The infraction did not impact Miss Shop, who finished third. The 1 mile took 1:36.15. Eibar Coa rode Malibu Mint, a 4-year-old Malibu Moon filly, for trainer Thomas Bush.
-- Okay, okay! He's the best. Thor's Echo, fresh from his 4-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, sat behind a hotly contested pace in Saturday's $300,000 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park, came around the leaders into the stretch and beat Diabolical by 3/4 length in a sprint to the wire. Nightmare Affair finished third, as he did at Churchill Downs. Thor's Echo, a 4-year-old, California-bred son of Swiss Yodler, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.71 with Corey Nakatani up. The victory was only the second of the year for Thor's Echo, who obviously peaked at the right time for trainer Doug O'Neill. "We knew we had to do one more thing to be in contention for Sprinter of the Year," O'Neill said. "Hopefully, his effort will make him one of the three and we'll see what happens." He said he hopes to take Thor's Echo to Dubai in March.
-- In Thursday's $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct, Afrashad went to the lead early and held on nicely to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Sir Greeley. Introspect finished third. Afrashad, a 4-year-old, Texas-bred son of Smoke Glacken, ran the 6 furlongs toting 132 pounds including Richard Migliore, in 1:11.05 on a sloppy, sealed track. Saeed bin Suroor trains the winner for Godolphin.
-- Ashkal Way established outside position in the stretch run of Friday's $400,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park and drove to a 1-length victory over Hendrix. Three Valleys finished third and the favorite, Rob Roy, checked in fifth. Ashkal Way, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred son of Ashkalani, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:39.67 with Garrett Gomez up for the Godolphin Racing team. It was the colt's sixth win in seven U.S. starts. "I'm happy with this result," said winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "This is a Grade I for him and he won the last two in Grade II. And we were confident that he would win a Grade I."
-- Showing Up showed up nicely in Sunday's $500,000 Hollywood Derby. Racing just behind the leaders, the 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Strategic Mission came four-wide into the stretch and won off by 2 1/4 lengths over Obrigado. Ivan Denisovich finished third. Showing Up, with Cornelio Velasquez up, ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 1:59.35. He won for the seventh time in nine starts, losing only in the Kentucky Derby and the Man O' War. "Fortunately, he seems to be getting better," said winning trainer Barclay Tagg. "I haven't seen any signs of wear. He was bucking and playing in the barn this morning. He just keeps showing up."
Price Tag came from near-last to win Sunday's $500,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park, scoring by 1/2 length over Three Degrees. Pommes Frites finished third. Price Tag, a 3-year-old, British-bred filly by Dansili, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.70 with Edgar Prado riding for trainer Bobby Frankel. "I thought they would come back to us and I was just looking for a place to go," said Prado. "I was pretty comfortable every step of the way." Frankel has trained seven of the last 10 Matriarch winners, five of them for Juddmonte Farms, owner of Price Tag.
Leah's Secret rallied smartly through the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Anne Arundel Stakes by 3/4 length over Baby Bird, the favorite. Les Ry Leigh finished third. Leah's Secret, a Florida-bred filly by Tiger Ridge, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.79 under Mark Guidry.
-- Champagne Stakes winner Nobiz Like Shobiz, who skipped the Breeders Cup, had no trouble at all winning Saturday's $200,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct, rambling down the stretch to beat Zanjero by 6 1/2 lengths. Kong the King finished third. Nobiz Like Shobiz, a Kentucky-bred colt by Albert the Great, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:48.82 under Cornelio Velazquez. Barclay Tagg trains the colt. "The last part of the race, he won easily," Velazquez said. "I just had a lot of horse. I think he is the best 2-year-old now."
-- Tiz Wonderful remained undefeated in three starts by rallying down the stretch to post a tough win in Saturday's $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. With John Velazquez up for trainer Scott Blasi, the Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow finished the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:42.84. Any Given Sunday finished second and Dominican was third. "He's just learning to run," said Blasi. "He's still trying to put it all together. I think when he learns to relax a little more off the pace, we'll know a lot more about him." He said the colt will winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
-- Jiggs Coz pulled off a mild upset in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes at Woodbine, getting first run at the leaders and then holding off the favorite, Acoustic Shadow, to score by 1 3/4 lengths. Approval Rating was home third. Jiggs Coz, an Ontario-bred colt by Cozzene, got the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:45.90 under David Clark.
-- Strike a Deal raced close to the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Laurel Futurity, had to wait for running room and, when he found it, drew clear and won by 1 1/4 length over Rutledge Cat. The favorite, Brainy Benny, was smart enough to find third. Strike a Deal is a Kentucky-bred son of Smart Strike. With Ramon Dominguez up, the colt ran 1 1/16 mile on yielding turf in 1:45.94.
-- Lady Joanne battled with the favorite, Change Up, through most of Saturday's $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs, finally getting the edge and drawing clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Change Up held second by 2 lengths over High Heels. Lady Joanne, a Kentucky-bred filly by Orientate, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.12 under John McKee. Carl Nafzger trains the filly. Lady Joanne now has two wins and two thirds from four starts. "She was ready to go today," said McKee. "There was no pace in this race and she just kind of drug me around there. Turning for home, she gave me that extra push that I needed." Ian Wilkes, who saddled Lady Joanne for Nafzger, said the filly will go to the Palm Meadows training center. "We may look for some races at Gulfstream," he added.
-- Valbenny, a French-bred filly, trailed most of the field in Saturday's $100,000 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park, came five-wide into the stretch and just got up in time to win by 3/4 length over the favorite, Mystic Soul. Speditallbaby was third. Valbenny, by Val Royal, finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.58 with Alex Solis up for trainer Patrick Gallagher.
-- Boca Grande shot through a hole on the rail as the field turned for home in Saturday's $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct and ran off in the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Get Ready Bertie. Successful Outlook finished third. Boca Grande, a Kentucky-bred filly by A.P. Indy, is a Phipps Stable homebred, trained by Shug McGaughey. She completed the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.17 under Mike Smith. "There is a lot to look forward to," McGaughey said of Boca Grande's effort. "She'll go to Gulfstream on Tuesday. We'll see what their program is down there and figure out something."
-- Street Sounds staked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Selima Stakes at Laurel Park in Maryland, took the lead at the top of the stretch and drew clear, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Changeisgonnnacome. Bitter Lemon finished third. Street Sounds, an Ontario-bred miss by Street Cry, ran 1 1/16 mile on yielding turf in 1:46.35 with Ramon Dominguez aboard.
In other racing:
Deep Impact roared down the stretch from far back to win Sunday's $4 million Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse by 2 lengths over Dream Passport. Ouija Board, the globetrotting mare who won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in her last outing and also has been crowned Cartier Horse of the Year in Europe, also put in a late bid but tired to finish third. Deep Impact, winner of the 2005 Japanese Triple Crown, was third in the Arc de Triomphe in his last outing but recently was disqualified from that placing because of a medication issue. Deep Impact is a 4-year-old son of Sunday Silence, slated for breeding after making his final start in the Dec. 24 Arima Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse.
In the $2 million Japan Cup Dirt, Alondite picked up his fifth straight win, finishing resolutely to win by 1 1/4 length over Seeking the Dia. The 3-year-old son of El Condor Pasa has not lost since finishing third in his first race of the year in May. Trainer Sei Ishizaka said he is thinking about the Dubai World Cup -- but only after at least one more convincing prep race.
Calder's "Extreme Day at the Races" came off without a glitch -- but with a lot of wrinkles -- on Saturday. The card included the "World's Fastest Daily Double," with two races running simultaneously; the "King George's Wrong-Way Stakes, the 2-furlong "Fast N' Furious; and a jockeys' foot race. The day of unusual events attracted 7,195 fans and Calder President Ken Dunn pronounced himself, "pleased with how everything went." He added, "We have Extreme Day on the working schedule for next year and I hope to maybe add some non-racing extreme events to the day as well." Special kudos to track announcer Bobby Neuman, who called both "ends" of the simultaneous double. "I just went back and forth as much as I could," Newman said. "I wanted to have fun with it and be as confusing as possible."
Financingavailable sat at mid-pack through the early furlongs of Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Bessarabian Stakes for fillies and mares, closed the gap as the field turned for home and went on to win by 1/2 length over Hatpin and Roving Angel, who dead-heated for second and third. Financingavailable, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred mare by Kiridashi, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.82 with James McAleney up.
Jungle Prince fought for the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express, got the advantage and then held on to best In Summation by 1/2 length. Moth Ball was third and the favorite, Captain Kurt, finished seventh of eight. Jungle Prince, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Sir Cat, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.76 for jockey Agapito Delgadilio. "I really didn't want to go to the lead but he was comfortable there," said Delgadilio. "We planned on laying second or third."
Plata came from well back to win Saturday's $75,000 Stefanita Stakes for fillies and mares by a neck over Miss Elsie. The favorite, Miraculous Miss, was 1 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Plata, a 5-year-old daughter of Skip Away, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.54 under Ryan Fogelsonger.
Art Fan raced near the back of the pack early in Saturday's $75,000 April Run Stakes for fillies and mares, made up ground on the turn, collared pace-setting, 100-1 longshot Sassy Love at mid-stretch and beat that one to the wire by 1 length. Humoristic finished third, completing a $9,658.60 trifecta. The 9 furlongs on yielding turf took 1:51.83.
In the $75,000 Laurel Turf Cup, Fishy Advice came from last of 12 to win by a head in a five-horse blanket finish. My Dream, at 97-1 odds, was second by a neck over Dreadnaught, who was a head in front of Private Scandal, who was a neck in front of Gray Suitor. Fishy Advice, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Woodman, got the 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:51.77 under Mario Pino.
Plaid took charge in the late going of Saturday's $75,000 Chaves County Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Show Me Your Glory. Visual Effect finished third. Plaid, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Deputy Commander, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38 1/5 for Roman Chapa.