The World Cup program at Nad Al Sheeba Racecourse in Dubai also proved again that Lava Man, unbeatable in California, can't run anywhere else ... that top-level racing truly is international as horses from the United States, Japan and Hong Kong also won ... and that no matter how much money he spends, Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing operation will have bad times to go with the good.
Although Dubai once again put on a world-class show, Godolphin was shut out on the World Cup program, capping an extremely disappointing winter season on its home track. Typically, the sheik's royal blue silks make up any early deficiencies as the Godolphin herd disperses to other racing venues around the world.
But it was Sheikh Mohammed's brother, Sheik Hamdan al Rasheed al Maktoum who hoisted the World Cup after Ivasor won his stretch duel with Premium Tap to capture the $6 million feature race on the program.
The race was oddly run. Godolphin's unbeaten star, Discreet Cat, was an unwilling participant, breaking oddly under jockey Frankie Dettori and never reaching contention. The speedster, who won last year's UAE Derby, finished last of seven. Bullish Luck finished third, capping an outstanding evening for Hong Kong's racing program.
"It looked like it would be a tough race," said 19-year-old Fernando Jara, who rode Invasor to victory. "And Premium Tap made it difficult for us. I thought Discreet Cat would lead, but I did not see him and I just concentrated on my horse."
Frankie Dettori, who rode Discreet Cat, said his mount "was beaten a long way and I can't tell you why." Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin, echoed the sentiment. "Discreet Cat has run way below form. I don't know why," Crisford said. "He was never going a yard. It was a big surprise to us. But that's racing."
Sunday, Godolphin said in a statement posted on its Web site that an endoscopic exam found Discreet Cat had "an obstructive granulomatous mass within his throat, in addition to significant swelling of the underlying throat wall." The statement said the mass would have affected his performance and that the colt "is now undergoing appropriate treatment and assessments."
Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Invasor, said he "might look to the Suburban Handicap at Belmont on June 30 next." But, he added, "This was the real aim."
Winner of last year's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Invasor could soar past Cigar's career earnings mark of just under $10 million with a repeat in the November renewal at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
In other Dubai races:
-- Admire Moon, with Yutaka Take up, won the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, holding on to score by 1/2 length over hard-charging Linngari. Another Japanese shipper, Daiwa Major, was third. Admire Moon last December finished second to Pride and ahead of Vengeance of Rain, in the Hong Kong Cup, so Saturday's win was no shock. "This horse is getting better with every race," Take said, "He is definitely one of the best horses in the world and I would like to race him in Europe." The top U.S. hopefuls, Lava Man and English Channel, showed nothing. Corey Nakatani, aboard Lava Man, said, "With about 3 1/2 furlongs left to run, he said, 'I've had enough.'" And English Channel's rider, John Velazquez, said his mount "never gave me any indication that he was going to run. He fell asleep in the gate."
-- As usual, the United States took care of the program's sprint, the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen. Kelly's Landing, well placed early, got through on the inside in the late going and held on to beat fellow American Friendly Island by 1/2 length. Dettori rode Kelly's Landing for trainer Eddie Kenneally. "American horses always handle the straight," Dettori said. "The trainer told me to get the rail and the plan worked out. He was getting a little leg-weary at the end but the winning post came in time."
-- The Hong Kong-based Vengeance of Rain, starting for the first time outside his home jurisdiction, split horses at mid-stretch and went on to win the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic at 2.400 meters on the turf. Oracle West, out of South Africa, finished second and Youmzain was third. Said winning jockey Anthony Delpech: "That was fantastic, taking on such good horses. We were confident after he traveled so well from Hong Kong." Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said success of Vengeance of Rain and Bullish Luck showed the HKJC "strategy is working and our horses are winning all over the world. Everyone in Hong Kong is extremely proud of them." Breeders' Cup champion Red Rocks, who showed little, "got a little tired, so no disgrace," said jockey Corey Nakatani. "He is going to move forward off this race. We will get them next time."
-- Asiatic Boy completed a sweep of the UAE's version of the Triple Crown by taking the $2 million UAE Derby at 1,800 meters on the dirt, crossing the finish line 9 1/2 lengths ahead of Jack Junior. Adil was third. "It was awesome," said winning rider Weichong Marwing. "It was a competitive field and he has come out on top and he is the best horse I have ridden." Trainer Mike de Kock, asked where the colt is likely to go next, quipped, "I'd like to send him to the Kentucky Derby but they' won't let me." As a Southern Hemisphere-bred, he was eligible for the UAE Derby at age 4 but ineligible for derbies in the United States, which admit only 3-year-olds no matter where they are foaled.
-- Spring at Last, another American, took the $1 million Godolphin Mile. With Garret Gomez up, the 4-year-old was always at the fore and survived multiple challenges before pulling away to win by daylight. Parole Board was second and Mullins Bay third. "We were really confident going into the race," Gomez said. "The race went absolutely perfectly for him. This victory will hopefully take him to the Breeders' Cup."
Meanwhile, back on the Kentucky Derby trail:
-- Scat Daddy stalked the pace in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, swept to the lead with about a quarter mile to run and was all-out to hold off Notional until the final yards, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Chelokee ran well to finish third despite some traffic problems on the turn. Stormello was fourth after leading most of the way. Scat Daddy, a Kentucky-bred son of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49 with Edgar Prado up for trainer Todd Pletcher. The bay colt went to the post as the favorite after winning the Fountain of Youth in his last start. He now has five wins from eight career starts but finished fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup. "It went exactly as we planned," Pletcher assistant Tristan Barry said. "When they broke from the gate, Edgar was able to hold him off the speed. And from there, the race was his." Owner Michael Tabor, who also has an interest in Johannesburg, said he is not concerned about the five-week layoff until the Kentucky Derby. "We know it can work after last year," he said, referring to Barbaro's victories at both Gulfstream and Churchill Downs. All four top finishers in Saturday's race still would be potential Kentucky Derby candidates although Chelokee might not have enough graded stakes earnings to get into an oversubscribed field.
-- Street Magician, fresh off his maiden win last time out, stayed close all the way in Saturday's $175,000 Aventura Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park and held on well at the end to win by 1/2 length over Yesbyjimminy. Our Sacred Honor was third. Street Magician, a Kentucky-bred colt by Street Cry, got the 7 furlongs on the main track in 1:22.38 under Rafael Bejarano. Trainer Michael Trombetta said he will take the colt to the Withers on April 28 at Aqueduct. "He was slow to mature but he's really changed a lot this winter," Trombetta said, hinting the colt might surface later in the Triple Crown series. "We all got to see what Bernardini did with a similar background to this colt," he said.
In other weekend racing:
A.P. Arrow, the odds-on favorite, rallied from a pace-stalking position to win Saturday's $150,000 Skip Away Handicap by a head over Rehoboth. Political Force finished third. A.P. Arrow, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy from the Mr. Prospector mare Garimpeiro, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:49.70. Edgar Prado had the winning ride for trainer Todd Pletcher. Owner Michael Paulson said the team will look at the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 16 or the Suburban at Belmont on June 30. "He can run all day and he's got some good speed," Paulson said. "But he's a grinder and a closer."
Jambalaya, winner of the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup in his last start, reprised in Saturday's $150,000 Bulleit Bourbon Pan American Handicap. Sticking close to the pace, the 5-year-old, Ontario-bred gelding by Langfuhr got to the lead at mid-stretch and held well to win by 1/2 length over Hotstuffantehnsome. Fri Guy finished third. Jambalaya ran the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:24.98 with Javier Castellano aboard for trainer Catherine Day Phillips. "He loves it down here and thrives," the trainer said. "We'll take him back to Ocala and then back to Canada."
Safari Queen scored yet another win for Pletcher, coming from just off the pace to take Saturday's $150,000 Orchid Handicap for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over Almonsoon. La Dolce Vita was third. Safari Queen, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred mare by Lode, ran the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:25.17 with Christopher DeCarlo in the irons. "When they learn how to relax, you can bide your time," DeCarlo said. "She broke sharp and I was able to sit behind the leaders."
In Sunday's $75,000 Magna Distaff, Vacare stalked the pace three-wide, went to the leaders on the turn and raced on to win by 1 length over Aunt Henny. Pictavia was third. Vacare, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Lear Fan, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the firm turf in 1:40.23 with Edgar Prado up for trainer Christophe Clement.
In Sunday's $75,000 Lure Stakes, Ashkal Way rallied from well back to win by a head over Classic Campaign, with Electric Light third. Ashkal Way, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred gelding by Ashkalani, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.36 for jockey Jose Velez Jr.
Fairbanks raced to the early lead in Saturday's $100,000 Tokyo City Handicap, opened up a big lead and kept on going, winning by 6 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Neko Bay. Racketeer was third. Fairbanks, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Giant's Causeway, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.87 with Richard Migliore up for trainer Todd Pletcher. "My horse broke cleanly and I liked the way he was doing it," Migliore said. "I just decided to go with the flow and he ran a great race." Pletcher assistant Michael McCarthy said the colt is headed to Keeneland.
Sunday, Magnificience stalked the pace-setter, Coco Belle, into the stretch of the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then went on to win by 5 lengths. Swiss Diva rallied to take second and Coco Belle held on for third. Magnificience, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.61 under Alex Solis.
Indian Vale had things all her own way in Saturday's $100,000 Next Move Handicap for fillies and mares. Quickly in front, the 5-year-old, Ontario-bred daughter of A.P. Indy never looked back and won by 5 1/2 lengths over A True Pussycat, with Daytime Promise third in the field of just five starters. Indian Vale, the odds-on favorite, ran the 9 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:50.51. Michael Luzzi rode for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Bonfante rallied from near the back of the seven-horse field to win Saturday's $100,000 California Turf Sprint Championship by a length over No Derby. Vaderator finished third. Bonfante, with Russell Baze up for trainer Ron McAnally, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.3 seconds.
Laila's Punch got a bad start in Saturday's $50,000 Smart Halo Stakes for 3-year-old fillies but quickly got into the mix, then won a hot, three-way battle to the wire. At the end, the Maryland-bred daughter of Two Punch was a head better than Paying Off, who in turn was a nose in front of Now It Begins. Laila's Punch, under Jeremy Rose, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.39.
Half Heaven rallied down the stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 Fairway Fun Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over Sassy Skipper, with My Chickadee third. Half Heaven, a 5-year-old, New York-bred mare by Regal Classic, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:45.16 under Miguel Mena.
Folsum battled all 6 furlongs of Saturday's $50,000 Daylight Sprint Stakes for 3-year-olds, surrendering the lead to two different foes before fighting back to win by a neck over odds-on favorite Sir Five Star. Game of Skill was third. Sent off at odds of nearly 50-1, Folsum, a Colorado-bred gelding by Twining, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.63.
Miss Macy Sue got to the front with a furlong to run in Saturday's $50,000 Carousel Stakes for fillies and mares and drew off easily, winning by 6 lengths over True Tails. Wildcat Bettie B, the odds-on favorite, ran evenly to finish third. Miss Macy Sue, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Trippi, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.29 under Eusebio Razo Jr. Kelly Von Hemel trains the winner.
In Sunday's $50,000 Rainbow Stakes for Arkansas-bred 3-year-olds, Elite Etbauer came from last of six to win by 3/4 length with a nice outside move down the stretch under Seth Martinez. Cinnamonsluckypic had the lead briefly in the stretch and settled for second while Eagle Town finished third. Elite Etbauer, a gelded son of Etbauer, got the 6 furlongs in 1:12.46.
Silent Pleasure rallied by pace-setting High Strike Zone to win Saturday's $100,000 Gulf Coast Classic Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths, with More Than Regal racing evenly to take third. Silent Pleasure, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Real Quiet, ran 1 1/16 mile on a muddy, sealed track in 1:44.07 with Tracy Hebert up.
In Saturday's $100,000 Goddess Stakes for fillies and mares, Delicate Dynamite took the lead entering the stretch and drew off easily to win by 2 lengths over Plaid. Game for More was game enough to take third. Delicate Dynamite is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Old Trieste. She ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.78 under Gerard Melancon.
In Saturday's $100,000 Sportsman's Paradise Stakes for 3-year-olds, Beta Capo wrested the lead from Wannabeincluded turning for home and rolled on to beat that rival by 2 lengths with Mr. Unstoppable third. Beta Capo, a Kentucky-bred colt by Langfuhr, ran 1 mile in 1:39.19. Tracy Hebert rode.
And in the $100,000 Green Oaks, Alba Dabas Secret dueled most of the way with Magnetic Miss and prevailed by a head. Acrosstheborder finished third. Alba Dabas Secret, a West Virginia-bred filly by Madraar, ran 1 mile in 1:40.24 under Marlon St. Julien.