While Lawyer Ron was staking his claim as the best older horse in the United States by easily winning the Woodward at Saratoga, the younger set was jockeying for position at tracks all around the country during the holiday weekend -- many with eyes on the Breeders' Cup juvenile races next month and potential year-end honors.
Among those prepping for the $2 million Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile, for 2-year-old colts and geldings, Lantana Mob may be the "horse for the course."
Winner of the Tyro Stakes earlier in the season, the Posse colt was a convincing winner again in Sunday's Sapling at Monmouth -- the course that will host next month's Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Lantana Mob stalked the early pace in the $150,000 Sapling, came three-wide to take the lead turning for home and dominated the stretch run, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. Preachin Man was second. Z Humor, the even-money favorite, bobbled at the start and rallied to finish third.
Lantana Mob, with Stewart Elliott riding for trainer Steve Asmussen, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.97. "Once I eased him out," said Elliott, "he knew exactly what to do and just took off."
-- Majestic Warrior was last of four as the field entered the stretch in Monday's $250,000 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, 10 lengths off the lead. But with jockey Garrett Gomez urging him on, the Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy made up all that ground and more, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Ready's Image. Pace-setter Maimonides was third and Georgetown completed the order of finish. Majestic Warrior ran the 7 furlongs in 1:23.04. "He was 10 out of it when they turned for home, and he rolled by them," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "He ran very professionally the first time. He's the perfect student. You can't ask for a nicer, better horse to train." He said the Champagne at Belmont Park on Oct. 6 is the likely next race for Majestic Warrior, now 2-for-2.
-- Wicked Style was right alongside pace-setting favorite Gold Coyote early in Saturday's $200,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park, got to the front on the turn, surrendered the lead to Riley Tucker briefly but came back to win by a head over that rival. Sebastian County ran late to take third and Gold Coyote faded to finish fifth. Wicked Style, a Florida-bred colt by Macho Uno, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:36.52 under Robby Albarado. Albarado said Wicked Style was keyed up before the race, but "finally relaxed for me the last couple of minutes" before the start. "Circumstances forced me to keep him closer than I wanted early," he added. "He's a nice colt."
-- Wise Answer was a dominating winner of Saturday's $150,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder Race Course, leading from the early going and kept to his task by jockey Raymundo Fuentes. Hey Byrn was second and Dynhocracy finished third. Wise Answer, a son of Wised Up, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:24.17. The colt was second to Big City Man in the first leg of the FSS. Big City Man was a late scratch Saturday. Trainer David Brownlee said he won't run Wise Answer again until the final leg of the series, the In Reality Division on Oct. 13.
-- Law Enforcement drew off to an easy, 7 1/2-length victory in Monday's $100,000 Aspirant Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes. Spanky Fischbein was second and Piquante Cat finished third. Law Enforcement, a son of Posse, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.09 with Alan Garcia up for trainer Mark Hennig.
-- House Mouse would be a good name for a Derby horse. That's the name of the winner of Monday's $75,000 (Canadian) Canadian Juvenile Stakes at Northlands Park. The Ontario-bred Cat's At Home gelding stalked the pace, then simply took over and won off by 6 1/4 lengths over Devonaire Joe. He completed the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:43.
Among the 2-year-old fillies who could be prepping for the $2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies:
-- Irish Smoke, the wagering favorite, rallied three-wide into the stretch and went on to win Sunday's $250,000 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga by 3 1/4 lengths. A to the Croft was second and 55-1 longshot Yonagucci rallied from far back to spoil a lot of trifecta tickets. Irish Smoke, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Smoke Glacken, finished the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.25 with Julien Leparoux up for trainer Patrick Biancone. "She stands today to be one of the best fillies in the country," said Biancone. Hopefully, she takes this race well and then, maybe, she will run once more before the Breeders' Cup." Trainer Ken McPeek said he was pleased with A to the Croft's effort and plans to send her to the Alcibiades at Keeneland.
-- Set Play rallied to the lead at the top of the stretch in Monday's $250,000 Del Mar Debutante and went on to post a 2-length upset win over Spring Awakening. Izarra finished third. Set Play, a Florida-bred daughter of Van Nistelrooy, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:26.79 with Brice Blanc up for trainer Peter Miller. "When the leaders started to come back to us, she was ready to go," Blanc said. "I waited as long as I could, then I asked her and she was very game."
-- Old Man Buck took charge in the stretch run in Monday's $200,000 Miller Lite Cradle Stakes at River Downs in Ohio and prevailed by 1 length over Cherokee Triangle. Caberneigh rallied five-wide from well back to finish third. Old Man Buck, a Kentucky-bred colt by Hold That Tiger, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42 2/5 with Perry Ouzts in the irons for trainer Ken McPeek.
-- A Little Gem came four-wide on the turn in Sunday's $120,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park, got the lead at the quarter pole and surged clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Bold Child. Reata's Quick Punch finished third and the favorite, New York City Girl, faded to finish fourth after leading in the early going. A Little Gem is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Yonaguska. Trainer Steve Margolis said he may try A Little Gem in the Frizette at Belmont on Oct. 6 and, "if all goes well, maybe we'll be looking at the Breeders' Cup."
-- You never know where a good youngster might come from. At Northlands Park in Canada, Littlemiss Allison drew off in the stretch to win Sunday's $50,000 Freedom of the City Stakes by 8 lengths. Bears Ariste was second and Testy Hussy finished third. Littlemiss Allison, a Kentucky-bred filly by Jump Start, out of the Bertrando mare Fancy Prancer, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.6.
-- Kadira sat close in behind the early leaders in Saturday's $100,000 Coca-Cola Bassinet Stakes at River Downs in Ohio, came to the outside for the stretch run and fought to the wire with Dreabons Legacy before prevailing by a nose. Palanka City finished third as the favorite, 1 1/4 lengths farther back. Kadira, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Kafwain out of the Rahy mare Raw Gold, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13 under Larry Melancon. David Vance is the trainer.
-- Silk Ridge had no trouble winning the second leg of the Florida Stallion Stakes, taking Saturday's $150,000 Susan's Girl Division at Calder Race Course by 8 3/4 lengths over Calico Bay. Bond Princess finished third. Silk Ridge, a daughter of Eltish, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:24.61 and trainer Gordon Potter said she will go for the series sweep in the Oct. 13 My Dear Girl Division. "She overcame a lot of trouble to win her last start," he said. "All we did with her since then was to just keep her happy."
-- By the Light was an easy, 5 1/4-length winner in Monday's $100,000 Lady Finger Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes. Canadian Ballet finished second and Beam of Love was third. By the Light, a Malibu Moon filly, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.10 under John Grabowski. Richard Dutrow Jr. is the trainer.
-- Dill or No Dill led almost all the way to a 3 3/4-lengths win over Ling Ling Qi in Monday's $50,000 Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park. Dill or No Dill, a Kentucky-bred filly by Evansville Slew, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.88 under Quincy Hamilton.
$5 million Classic, Powered by Dodge
-- Lawyer Ron, the easy winner of the Whitney in his last previous start, was an even easier winner in Saturday's $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. After stalking the early pace while nicely relaxed for jockey John Velazquez, Lawyer Ron easily took charge turning for home and won off by 8 1/4 lengths. Sun King was best of the rest with Diamond Stripes third. Lawyer Ron, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Langfuhr, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.6, toting 126 pounds -- 10 more than in his Whitney win. "He was picking up a lot of weight on a track that wasn't as fast as on Whitney Day," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "I thought he was every bit as good today as he was the other day." The win automatically qualified Lawyer Ron for the Classic and he looks qualified on his record, too. Since finishing ninth in last year's Classic at Churchill Downs, the chestnut colt has won four of six starts. His only question mark: He hasn't yet won beyond the 9-furlong distance. He might get a chance to try the Classic's 10 furlongs again in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 30. "I think he has established himself as the top older horse in training," Pletcher said. "Now, we have to see how he matches up against some of the 3-year-olds. There is a chance we'll meet some of those in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, if we decided to go there."
-- Monday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby was a wide-open affair from the start, with Illinois Derby winner Cowtown Cat as the nearly 4-1 favorite. At the end, however, it was lightly raced Timber Reserve the winner, holding on to beat Xchanger by a neck, with Zanjero third. Cowtown Cat was never in the mix, finishing eighth. Timber Reserve, a Kentucky-bred son of Forest Wildcat, was making only his second stakes start, following a fourth-place showing in the Remsen at Belmont last fall. Overall, he has won three of six races. In Monday's race, he needed 1:47.67 to complete the 9 furlongs on a fast track.
$3 million John Deere Turf
-- Nobiz Like Shobiz wasn't bad on the main track, winning the Wood Memorial this spring and finishing second in the Dwyer during the Belmont meet. But when trainer Barclay Tagg switched him to the green course for the Hall of Fame early in the Saratoga meet, the bay son of Albert the Great ran beautifully to a narrow win. And Saturday, in the $500,000 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes at Delaware Park, he reprised that effort, dueling down the stretch to win by a nose over Twilight Meteor. Strike a Deal faded in the final yards to settle for third. Nobiz Like Shobiz ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.6 under Javier Castellano. "He has showed up on the turf both times," Tagg said. "We will probably run him next in the (Oct. 7) Jamaica in New York. If he wins that, we could go to the Hollywood Derby."
-- Medici Code stalked the pace from mid-pack early in Sunday's $400,000 Del Mar Derby, swung out four-wide to put in his bid entering the stretch and outran longshot pace-setter Augment to win by a hard-fought 3/4 length. Worldly finished third. With Martin Pedroza up for trainer Darrell Vienna, Medici Code, a British-bred son of Medicean, ran 9 furlongs on a firm course in 1:47.1. The victory was the fifth in 10 starts for the colt, who won the La Jolla Handicap in his last start. Pedroza said he hoped to take an inside route but couldn’t find room. "So I went three wide because I didn't have any choice. But he's got a great kick and I knew we'd be firing."
-- Rosinka stalked a longshot leader in Monday's $100,000 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga, then surged out to a huge lead at the top of the lane. After taking a misstep a furlong out, she just held on at the end to win by a neck over Mauralakana. Pictavia finished third. Rosinka, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Soviet Star, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:13 under Jeremy Rose. "This is a very good filly," said winning trainer H. Graham Motion. "I thought she was a little disrespected. The filly she beat at Delaware (Palmilla) came back and won the Beverly D." He asid Rosinka will go on to the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont on Sept. 29.
-- Mission Approved set his own mission in Sunday's $100,000 Sarnac Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga: Go to the front and keep on going. Mission accomplished. The New York-bred With Approval colt established a good pace, survived some pressure and held well at the end to win by 3/4 length over Distorted Reality. Pays to Dream finished third. Mission Approved, with Eibar Coa up for trainer Gary Contessa, got the 1 3/16 miles on firm turf in 1:53.81. "It wasn't our plan to take the lead but it worked out that way," Coa said. "When we took the lead and no one was going after us, I wanted to see how this was going to work. After the half mile, I knew we were going easy."
$2 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Icy Atlantic settled last of seven in Saturday's $150,000 Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park, saved ground until the turn, then swung wide and passed them all, winning by a neck over Touched by Madness. Baron Von Tap was third, just another head back. Icy Atlantic is a 6-year-old, Florida-bred son of Stormy Atlantic out of the Frosty the Snowman mare Frosty Promise. With Joe Bravo in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher, Icy Atlantic covered the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.42. "He's trained great for both races that he's run here this year," said winning owner Anthony Sciametta Jr. "He's run very well all year."
-- Precious Kitten led throughout Saturday's $250,000 Palomar Handicap for fillies and mares at Del Mar, working clear at the top of the stretch and holding on to win by 3/4 length over Black Mamba. Kris' Sis was third. Precious Kitten, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Catienus, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.42 with Julien Leparoux aboard for trainer Bobby Frankel. Precious Kitten now hasn't been worse than second in nine straight races. "I didn't expect to be on the lead," Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio said. "But I noticed the filly was on the muscle in the paddock. But then she settled down after the pony took her to the gate. But then, when she broke so sharply, I was worried that she might think she was running 6 furlongs." Leparoux added, "I trusted her all the way. You can do that with a horse like her."
$2 million TVG Sprint
-- Midnight Lute came into Saturday's $250,000 Forego Stakes at Saratoga off a four-month layoff following a fourth-place finish in the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. "I've been waiting for a race like this," said trainer Bob Baffert. "He needed to show off and he did it at the right place -- Saratoga." For Midnight Lute, showing off involved a four-wide, pace-stalking early trip, then a quick move to the front on the turn. After that, the 4-year-old Real Quiet colt accelerated to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Benny the Bull, with Attila's Storm third and the favorite, High Finance, faded to finish eighth. The 7 furlongs went in 1:21.06 with Shaun Bridgmohan up on the winner. "I've been bragging on this horse," Baffert said. "He was in my top 10. Now he's in my top eight." But, he said, "I don't think he's a (Breeders' Cup) Sprint horse. Three-quarters might be too short for him."
-- Smokey Stover went to the post at odds of a dime to a dollar in Saturday's $100,000 Icecapade Stakes at Monmouth Park and ran to his odds, winning by 2 lengths over Park Avenue Ball. Cougar Cat was third and High Blitz completed the order of finish. Smokey Stover, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Put It Back, dueled for the lead with Cougar Cat before taking control and finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.82 under Aaron Gryder. "I usually give it 48 hours before making plans," said winning trainer Greg Gilchrist. "But the Breeders' Cup is the plan right now." He said he will take the horse back to his northern California base and may or may not give him a start before returning to Monmouth.
-- Smart Enough was also fast enough in Monday's $200,000 Turf Monster Handicap at Philadelphia Park -- a grass sprint. After rating right behind the pace, Smart Enough was sent to the lead on the turn and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Heros Reward, with Gaff third. The 5 grassy furlongs took 55.53 seconds. Joe Bravo rode Smart Enough for trainer John Fisher.
In other weekend racing:
Seaside Affair, apparently loving the seaside track, came off a pace-pressing trip turning for home in Sunday's $125,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Romance is Diane finished second and Silver Swallow was third. Seaside Affair, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Sea of Secrets, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:41.04 with Richard Migliore aboard.
In Monday's $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for 2-year-old, California-breds, Topper Shopper led throughout, winning by 1/2 length over Raise the River. My Redeemer finished third. Topper Shopper, a son of Old Topper, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:13.76 under Isaias Enriquez. Doug O'Neill trains the colt.
Brego led a parade of double-digit longshots across the finish line in Monday's $150,000 Edward J. Debartolo Sr. Memorial, keying an $8,505.40 trifecta payout. The 5-year-old, California-bred son of In Excess had to work through traffic to get to the front entering the stretch, then won by 1 length over Almost Certain. Smooth Bid finished third. Brego, with Richard Eramia up, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.51.
My Three Sisters rallied from seventh to win Monday's $50,000 Ricks Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares by a head over the favorite, D Fine Okie. My Three Sisters, a 5-year-old Defrere mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.73.
Presque Isle Downs
Wecome to the new Pennsylvania track, which opened with Saturday's $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for 3-year-old fillies as its first race. Miss A. Bomb was the first winner, rallying from just behind the pace to score by a nose over Tres Dream. Unforgotten was third while the favorite, Cantrel, pulled up on the turn and was vanned off. Miss A. Bomb, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.34 under Miguel Mena.
Monday, Elite Squadron dueled for the lead before making one last run to win the $100,000 Tom Ridge Labor Day Stakes for 3-year-olds by a 1/2 length over Cherokee Country. Front Court was third. Elite Squadron, a Kentucky-bred colt by Officer, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.69 under Dana Whitney.
Rahy's Attorney aggressively went to the lead in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Vice Regent Stakes for Ontario-bred 3-year-olds, dictated a measured pace and rolled home an easy winner, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Red Raffles. Oma finished third. Rahy's Attorney, a gelded son of Crown Attorney, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.2 under Robert Landry. "It just goes to show you that when you're on the best horse, you can do anything," Landry said.
Speak Wisely ran well in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Colleen Stakes, stalking the early pace and then drawing off in the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Sprung rallied from far back in the field of 14 3-year-old fillies to take second and Audacious Chloe, the favorite, finished third. Speak Wisely, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Smart Strike, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.71 under Todd Kabel. "This filly's just starting to figure out the game," Kabel said. "Hopefully we'll see an even better horse down the road."
Lemon Drop Mom stalked the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 Go for Wand Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, moved to the leaders turning for home and won a long stretch battle by a head over Coy Coyote. Paying Off rallied late to take third. Lemon Drop Mom, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.13. The victory was her second straight after some struggles earlier in the Delaware Park meeting. She now is 4-for-10 in her career.
Mulcahy, last of six after three-quarters of a mile in Monday's $100,000 Emerald Downs Derby, rallied to pass them all and win by 1 length over Jamaica Bound. The favorite, Song of Pirates, ran evenly to finish third. Mulcahy, a Washington-bred Tribunal gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:47.2 under Jennifer Whitaker.
Pay the Man led from gate to wire in Saturday's $75,000 Rose DeBartolo Memorial Stakes for Ohio-bred fillies and mares and easily drew off in the stretch, winning by 11 1/2 lengths. Cryptoquip was second and Bright Pyrite finished third. Pay the Man, a 3-year-old daughter of Bernstein, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.88.
Rockella swung wide for running room entering the stretch in Monday's $75,000 Palo Alto Handicap for 3-year-old fillies and ran off to a 4 1/2-length win. Macadamia was second and Forest Huntress finished third. Rockella, a California-bred daughter of Tribal Rule, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:31.5 under Alex Bisono.
Obi Wan Kenobi drew off in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Tri-State Handicap, winning by 5 lengths over Cat Shaker. Cat and a Half finished third. Obi Wan Kenobi, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Skywalker, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.35.
Talking Treasure was never asked to run in Sunday's $75,000 New York Oaks and really didn't need to. Leading all the way, the Catienus filly led by 15 lengths turning into the stretch and won by 11 1/4 lengths. My Kitty was best of the rest and Laurentide Ice finished third. Talking Treasure, with Robert Messina aboard, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.09. Charlton Baker trains the filly for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
Western Prize came from near the back of a 10-horse field in Sunday's $50,000 Ruidoso Thoroughbred Derby, taking the widest course around the far turn, and surged to the front in the stretch, winning by 5 1/2 lengths. Folsum finished second and One Tough Hombre third. With Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons, Western Prize ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.2. The colt is a Kentucky-bred son of Pure Prize.
Pistol Creek stalked the pace in Monday's $50,000 Ruidoso Thoroughbred Championship Stakes, surged to the lead at the quarter pole and drove home, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Homemaker. Dear Bull was third. With Jorge Espitia up, Pistol Creek ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45. He is a Jersey-bred son of Forest Wildcat.