Turkey was on the dinner menu and 2-year-olds were on the racing menu during the holiday weekend, with major juvenile races contested from coast to coast and north into Canada.
-- Anak Nakal upset Saturday's $250,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, taking the lead with 1/16 of a mile to run and then holding on gamely to win by a 1/2 length over Blackberry Road. Racecar Rhapsody was third and the favorite, Halo Najib, was fifth. Anak Nakal, a Kentucky-bred colt by Victory Gallop, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.16 with Julien Leparoux up for trainer Nick Zito. "He reminds me a lot of The Cliff's Edge," said Zito. The trainer saddled The Cliff's Edge to win the 2003 Kentucky Jockey Club. "When you win a race like this, you just want to have your eyes on the (Kentucky) Derby," he added. "You just hope you have a good winter." The colt will ship to Florida.
-- Court Vision won a bumper-cars version of the $200,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct Saturday. After the contenders bumped and jostled down the lane, Court Vision got home first by a neck over Atoned, followed by Trust N Dustan and Big Truck. Big Truck took the worst of the mayhem in the stretch but after an objection by his rider and a stewards' inquiry, the result was allowed to stand. Court Vision, a Kentucky-bred son of Gulch, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:52.48 under Eibar Coa. Bill Mott trains. "I was getting bounced all over from the 5/16 pole to the 3/16 pole," Coa said. "He fought back and pushed them out because they were trying to push him in. To overcome that, you saw the way he kicked. He was just … the best."
-- In Thursday's $100,000 Hollywood Prevue, Massive Drama set the pace, turned back a stretch bid by the favorite, Into Mischief, and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Meal Penalty was third. Massive Drama, who broke his maiden on Breeders' Cup weekend at Monmouth Park in the slop, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.48 for jockey Kent Desormeaux. The colt is a Kentucky-bred son of Kafwain, trained by Bob Baffert. "He's got that stride -- that lovely, lengthy stride," Desormeaux said. "He goes fast easy."
-- In Friday's $100,000 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park, The Leopard rallied four-wide into the stretch, went by the early leaders and drew clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Indian Sun. Meer Kat was third. The Leopard, a Kentucky-bred colt by Storm Cat out of the Mr. Prospector mare Moon Safari, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.28. He finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in his last outing over Monmouth's yielding turf course. Garrett Gomez rode for trainer Todd Pletcher, pushing the trainer's seasonal earnings to $26,820,243 and topping his own record in that department. Pletcher-trained horses Friday also won the Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct and the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. "It was a good day," Pletcher said. "It's nice to break the record with some important wins. It's been a good year for the whole team."
-- Discreet Commander, at odds of nearly 42-1, held on to win a three-way photo in Saturday's $125,000 Display Stakes at Woodbine in Canada. The Kentucky-bred Deputy Commander gelding dueled for the lead early, opened up a clear advantage at mid-stretch, then just survived the late run of Briarwood Circle and Mighty Vow, who missed by two noses. The favorite Globetrotter, ran fourth. Discreet Commander, with Constant Montpellier up, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.20. Trainer said the pace-setting trip was planned. "On form, this field lacked pace," he said. "Things worked out really well."
-- Cowboy Cal drew off easily in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Laurel Futurity to win by 6 1/4 lengths over Casanova Jack. Titan of Industry ran third. Cowboy Cal, a Kentucky-bred colt by Giant's Causeway out of the Seeking the Gold mare Texas Tammy, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.8 for jockey Edgar Prado and trainer Todd Pletcher. The win was his first added-money triumph. "He broke real nice and we saved some ground going to the first turn and when I asked him, he really took off."
Among the 2-year-old fillies:
-- Pure Clan remained undefeated with a 2-lengths victory over C J's Leelee in Saturday's $250,000 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs. After a troubled trip in traffic, jockey Julien Leparoux swung the Gather The Clan filly four-wide for room entering the stretch and drew off. Turn Away finished third as the even-money favorite. Pure Clan is trained by Bob Holthus. "She has really been a surprise," Holthus said. "When she came from the farm, no one really had a lot of high hopes for her. But she turned into a good one." He said he will send Pure Clan to Oaklawn for the winter and early spring.
-- Mushka, a $1.6 million yearling purchase, rallied impressively through the stretch to win Saturday's $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct, beating the favorite, Elusive Lady, by 4 1/2 lengths. Melissa Jo finished third. Mushka, a Kentucky-bred filly by Empire Maker from the Seeking the Gold mare Sluice, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.61 with John Velazquez in the irons for trainer Bill Mott. Zayat Stables is the owner. "Johnny said she had a little bit of a mind of her own today," Mott said. "She didn't want to go early. When she decided to go, she pretty much did it on her own. She'll go next week to Florida and we'll freshen her up a bit." The filly now has two straight wins after finishing third in her debut, on the grass.
-- Bsharpsonata upset Saturday's $100,000 Selima Stakes at Laurel Park, rallying from a pace-pressing position to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Grace and Power. Fareena was third and the favorite, The Cat's Affair, dragged in fifth. Bsharpsonata, a Florida-bred daughter of Pulpit, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.66 under Eric Camacho. "As soon as I hit the lane, I thought I needed a seat belt to hold on," Camacho said.
-- Sea Chanter raced in mid-pack early in Saturday's $100,000 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park, got through between horses entering the turn and rallied on the outside to win by 3/4 length over Macellya. Golden Doc A and Set Play dead-heated for third and fourth. Sea Chanter, a Kentucky-bred War Chant filly, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.84 with Mike Smith riding for trainer Todd Pletcher. "I'm not convinced she has to have turf, although she's obviously doing well on it," Pletcher said. He said he might consider the Hollywood Starlet.
In other weekend racing:
Kettleoneup came from last of six to upset Thursday's $300,000 Falls City Handicap for fillies and mares, drawing off in the final 1/16 to win by 3 3/4 lengths over High Heels. The favorite, Panty Raid, faded to finish third. Kettleoneup, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Victory Gallop, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.28 under Calvin Borel. Michael Tomlinson trains her. "This is it for the year," the trainer said. "She will be looking at the series of filly and mare races right in to the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn."
A.P. Arrow reached contention at mid-stretch in Friday's $500,000 Clark Handicap, survived a bit of bumping with Brass Hat and went on to win by 3/4 length. Diamond Stripes rallied mildly to finish third. A.P. Arrow, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Garimperio, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.66. Ramon Dominguez rode for trainer Todd Pletcher. "I was able to split horses to get in front and just make sure that he was going to stay there," Dominguez said. "He wasn't opening up on the field but they weren't making up any ground on him, either." Pletcher said A.P. Arrow will journey to Florida and prepare for the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. It was the 133rd running of the Clark -- a race equally as old as the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, dating back to the inaugural meeting at Churchill Downs.
In Friday's $200,000 River City Handicap at 9 furlongs on the grass, Thorn Song caught pace-setting favorite Cosmonaut in the final furlong and won by 1/2 length. Gun Salute ran evenly to finish third. Thorn Song, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Unbridled's Song, finished in 1:51.37 over yielding turf. Kent Desormeaux rode for trainer Dale Romans. "This horse is a grinder," Desormeaux said. "A slow, deep, tasking turf is good for him."
Lang Field stalked the pace in Friday's $400,000 Citation Handicap, got to the front outside fading pace-setter Willow O Wisp at mid-stretch and won the sprint to the wire by a neck over the favorite, Zann. Proudinsky was another 1/2 length back in third. Lang Field, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Landfuhr, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:39.72 with Jon Court in the irons. Lang Field, set off at 19-1, scored his sixth victory in 20 career starts. "This is just a good horse," said winning trainer Art Sherman, 70, enjoying just his second career Grade I winner. The other was Siren Lure in the 2006 Triple Bend Handicap.
Unusual Suspect rallied from last, coming around a traffic jam at the top of the lane, to upset Saturday's $150,000 Turf Express, winning by a nose in a four-way photo. Bonfante was second, just a nose to the good of Desert Code, who was a neck in front of Quietly Mine. Unusual Suspect, a 3-year-old, California-bred colt by Unusual Heat, ran the 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.06 under Tyler Baze. "I got the perfect trip down on the inside and my horse made a huge run," Baze said. Others were less fortunate as tiring pace-setter Fast Parade drifted out, carrying much of the field with him.
Benny the Bull sat off the early pace in Saturday's $250,000 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash, came four-wide into the turn to challenge for the lead and took charge in the lane, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over the early speed, Talent Search. Miraculous Miss was third. Benny the Bull, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred son of Lucky Lionel, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.86 on a fast track with Edgar Prado riding for trainer Dick Dutrow Jr. "Sometimes I have to ride him very hard but today I didn't," Prado said. "He did it all on his own." Benny the Bull ran fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last month at Monmouth Park.
Daaher upset Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute in Saturday's $300,000 Hill 'N' Dale Cigar Mile, leading all the way to a 2 1/2-lengths victory. Midnight Lute used a wide move into the turn to get up for second, with Naughty New Yorker a distant third. Daaher, an Ontario-bred Awesome Again colt, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:33.79 with Mike Luzzi up for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner Shadwell Stable. Take a long look at the colt, since McLaughlin said he's headed to the Mideast and preparation for either the Dubai World Cup or the Godolphin Mile. "We were lucky there was no on to take us on" in the scratch-shortened, five-horse field, the trainer said. "The pace wasn't very fast for him."
Also Saturday, Now a Victor stalked the pace in the $100,000 Discovery Handicap for 3-year-olds, went on as the field entered the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Shopton Lane. Dr. V's Magic finished third. Now a Victor, a Kentucky-bred colt by Yankee Victor, got the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.15 for jockey John Velazquez. "He's gotten to this point pretty quick," said winning trainer Michael Trombetta, "from a maiden special at Saratoga to winning a Grade III in a handful of starts." He said he may keep Now a Victor in New York or send him to Florida. "He'll either be warm -- or cold," he quipped.
Grand Champion, toting 130 pounds, won a long battle to the wire in Thursday's $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap, beating Joey P. by a head. City Attraction was only a neck farther back in third. Grand Champion, a 4-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding by Two Punch, got the 6 furlongs on a "good" main track in 1:09.9. Eibar Coa rode for trainer James Jerkens. Jerkens said he hopes to stretch Grand Champion out to longer distances and will winter him in Florida.
In Friday's $150,000 Top Flight Handicap, Mini Sermon rallied from a pace-stalking position to nip pace-setter Lady Marlboro by a nose. Golden Velvet finished third. Mini Sermon, a 3-year-old, Virginia-bred daughter of Pulpit, ran the 1 mile on a "good" main track in 1:37.29 with Eibar Coa in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher. Coa said he wasn't sure entering the turn how much horse he had. "But she kept digging and digging and digging and finally put a head in front." Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel said he's not sure where the winner will run next.