Weekend racing featured a dramatic ending to the Hong Kong season, a rich Opening Day on the turf at Calder Race Course and the calm before the storm at Churchill Downs with less than a week remaining before the Kentucky Derby.
In Hong Kong, Archipenko rebounded from a third-place finish in Dubai a month ago to win Sunday's Audemars Piguet QEII Cup and Good Ba Ba completed a sweep of the HKJC's mile races by dominating the Champions Mile.
Archipenko, with Kevin Shea in the irons for South African trainer Mike de Kock, dominated the stretch run in the QEII Cup, getting home first, 1 3/4 lengths to the good of Balius. Viva Pataca was third. Archipenko, a 4-year-old son of Kingmambo, was third in the Dubai Duty Free in his last outing and de Kock predicted he would race well in Honk Kong.
"I know it might sound crazy after winning a Group 1 race," de Kock said. "But I think he is still improving and can go and win another one. We'll be thinking about him in terms of Royal Ascot. But I'm not sure what race we will target there."
In the Champions Mile, local favorite Good Ba Ba captured his fourth straight Group 1 race for trainer Andreas Schutz and jockey Olivier Doleuze.
After racing near the back of the field, Good Ba Ba accelerated sharply when Doleuze asked him to go and he won easily over Armada, with Bullish Luck running on well to take third.
Schutz said it's unlikely he will take the offer from Breeders' Cup of an automatic berth for Good Ba Ba in this fall's World Championships in California -- or that he will seek a $1 million bonus on offer should the horse win the Yasuda Kinen in Japan. "If we don't make this horse completely empty by pushing him too hard, then we can keep him going season after season. So why not?" he asked. "He's enjoying running and winning."
In other weekend racing:
Calder Race Course
Calder kicked off its stakes schedule with Saturday's Turf Million.
In the featured, $400,000 Calder Derby, Sporting Art rated off the pace, advanced on the turn despite some traffic problems, came wide into the stretch and rallied by Tour Ireland to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. El Sultry Sun was third with a late surge. Sporting Art, a Kentucky-bred colt by Donerail Court, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.93 with Javier Castellano handling the reins. Trained by Christophe Clement, Sporting Art started his racing in England and came into Saturday's race off a victory in the Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream. Clement said he was impressed that Sporting Art was able to win despite a rough trip. "There are the races this summer at Arlington and Virginia," he said. "We'll look at those." Sporting Art now has two wins and a show for his three U.S. starts. In England, he was 2-for-4.
In the $250,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint Championship, Lookinforthesecret found it with a pace-setting, hedge-skimming trip. Going right for the lead under Daniel Centero, the 6-year-old, Florida-bred horse set a quick pace and coasted home first, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Not Acclaim. Heros Reward was third and the favorite, In Summation, finished sixth. Lookinforthesecret finished the 5 furlongs in 0:55.17 seconds. "I claimed him for $12,500 (in December 2006) and he has been first or second in all but one start since then," said winning trainer Jamie Ness. "I didn't think they would catch him." He said Lookinforthesecret is headed for the Honor the Hero Stakes on May 26 at Canterbury Downs.
Ginger Brew stalked the pace in the $200,000 Calder Oaks, rallied wide to the lead with a furlong to run and drew clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Life Is Sweet. Encanto Park set the early pace and then held on to finish third at a big price. Ginger Brew, an Ontario-bred daughter of Milwaukee Brew, got the 9 furlongs on the firm green in 1:47.24. Javier Castellano rode for trainer Brian Lynch. "She'll go back to Canada," said Lynch, "where the goal for her is the Woodbine Oaks ($500,000 Canadian on June 8), although she'll fun in the Selene Stakes before that."
Mauralakana had to wait for racing room at the top of the stretch in the $300,000 Mairzy Doates Handicap for fillies and mares and outsprinted J'ray to the wire, winning by 3/4 length. Leap in the Sun finished third, 5 1/4 lengths farther back. Mauralakana, a 5-year-old, French-bred mare by Muhtathir, ran the 1 3/8 miles in 2:13.83 with Rene Douglas in the irons. Winning trainer Christophe Clement said Mauralakana will go to New York and target the Sheepshead Bay at Belmont on May 24. "After that, we'll have to see," he added, suggesting the mare might go to Australia to be bred.
Lone Star Park
Monterey Jazz, the odds-on favorite, turned Saturday's $300,000 Texas Mile into a rich workout, leading all the way, largely unchallenged, and won by 8 lengths. Zanjero was second, well clear of Beta Capo in third. Monterey Jazz, shipped in from California for the event by trainer Craig Dollase, finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.25 with David Flores along for the ride. "I didn't have to rush him to the lead," Flores said, "and once he got around the first turn, I didn't want to look back." Part-owner Joe Masino said part of Saturday's goal was to see how the 4-year-old Thunderello colt would handle a dirt surface. "He ran a great race and this gives us a lot of options," he said.
Tears I Cry had the chalk players weeping after Saturday's $50,000 Irving Distaff. The 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Chester House filly rallied from a pace-stalking trip to win by 3 1/2 lengths over My Three Sisters, with Emma Grace third. The favorite, Elliecat, faded steadily to finish last of 11. Tears I Cry finished the 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:29.87.
Timely Reflection rallied to the lead on the turn in Saturday's $50,000 Richland Hills Farm Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Twisted Tale. Ruffaroundtheedges finished third. Timely Reflections, a Kentucky-bred Yankee Victor filly, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.46 with Bobby Walker Jr. up.
Lee's Spirit, at 26-1 odds, won a spirited stretch duel in Saturday's $50,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge for 3-year-olds, besting Cape Time by a neck at the wire. The odds-on favorite, Bullet Brew, was 1/2 length farther back with a belated bid. Lee's Spirit, a Louisiana-bred Leestown gelding, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.19 with Eguard Tejera in the irons.
In Sunday's Gold Rush day for California-breds:
Gambler's Justice led all the way in the $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, finishing first, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Bel Air Sizzle. But the filly then was set down to third for interference in the stretch run, advancing Bel Air Sizzle to first and Final Fling, the victim of the problems, to second. Bel Air Sizzle is a daughter of Unusual Heat. Rafael Bejarano rode for trainer Bill Spawr. The 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track took 1:43.38.
Harlene had to weave through traffic in the $250,000 Cal National Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds before getting up in the final yards to win by a neck over Dewey's Special. One Chin Again finished third. Harlene, a Decarchy gelding, ran the 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:49.96 under Michael Baze.
Stella Mark took charge in the stretch run to upset the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Cost of Freedom, with the favorite, Medzendeekron, taking third. Stella Mark, a 4-year-old Benchmark gelding, ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:27.1. Brice Blanc rode the winner for trainer Ted West.
Mr. Wolverine came three-wide into the stretch in the $150,000 TVG Khaled Stakes and drew off to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Epic Power. Lava Man, well placed but punchless in the stretch, was third and the favorite, Celtic Dreamin, finished last of six. Mr. Wolverine, a 6-year-old Last Lion gelding, ran the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.51 under Michael Baze.
Spenditallbaby rallied from last of six to win the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for fillies and mares, defeating the odds-on favorite, Tiz Elemental, by 1 length. Chosen Royalty was third. Spenditallbaby, a 4-year-old Unusual Heat filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.04 with Michael Baze in the irons.
Tutta Bella led all the way in the $150,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes for fillies and mares and held on at the end to win by a neck over Comedy Girl. Swiss Current was third and the favorite, Tiz a Blend, was a nose off the board in fourth. Tutta Bella, a 5-year-old Holy Bull mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.87 for Garrett Gomez.
In Saturday's $150,000 Mervyn Leroy Handicap, Surf Cat rallied along the outside in the stretch run, caught pace-setting Desert Code in the final yards and won by 1/2 length. Global Hunter was third and the favorite, Monzante, settled for sixth. Surf Cat, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Sir Cat, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:41.13. Alex Solis rode for trainer Bruce Headley. "I thought this race set up perfect because he had a couple of nice speed horses out in front of him," Headley said. "Alex got him to relax and it seems like that's his best race when he relaxes like that." Headley said Surf Cat will resurface in the Californian or the Met Mile. "It depends on the weights."
Bold Chieftain stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Bay Meadows Handicap, went to the lead a furlong from home and drew clear to win by 2 lengths. Early leader Our Partner held on for second and Boboman was third. Bold Chieftain, a 5-year-old, California-bred son of Chief Seattle, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.36. Russell Baze had the mount for trainer William Morey Jr.
Harlem Rocker came to pace-setting favorite J Be K on the turn in Saturday's $150,000 Withers Stakes for 3-year-olds, went on by and won by 2 1/2 lengths. J Be K held on for second with Double Or Nothing third and Face the Cat completing the order of finish. Harlem Rocker, an Ontario-bred colt by Macho Uno, finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.5 with Eibar Coa up for trainer Todd Pletcher, remaining undefeated in three lifetime starts. The Withers was his first stakes try. "He's still green but he's one of those improving horses," said Coa. "Every time he runs, he just gets better. He's not 100 percent yet, which is kind of scary."
Criminologist came from off the pace to win Saturday's $100,000 Beaugay Handicap for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over pace-setting All Is Vanity. Factual Contender finished third. Criminologist, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Maria's Mon, completed the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.44 with John Velazquez up. The winner is a Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney homebred, trained by Shug McGaughey. "This should set her up for the rest of the summer," McGaughey said. "Our main objective is to win a Grade I with her."
In Sunday's $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap, Silver Tree stalked the pace into the turn, went to the lead when asked by jockey Edgar Prado and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Operation Red Dawn. Twilight Meteor was third. Silver Tree, an 8-year-old, Florida-bred son of Hennessey, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.07. Bill Mott train.
Dancing Forever rallied from well back in Friday's $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes and wore down Drilling For Oil in the final furlong to win by 1 length. Brass Hat finished third in the 1 1/2-mile turf marathon, which went in 2:29.79. Dancing Forever is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Rahy. Rene Douglas rode the Phipps Stable homebred for trainer Shug McGaughey. "I had a perfect trip," Douglas said. "He's a horse who gets better with distance. I just had patience."
Communique got the message from jockey Garrett Gomez about halfway through Thursday's $150,000 Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes for fillies and mares, came wide with a furlong to run and went on to win by 1/2 length over the favorite, Tejida. Rising Cross was third. Communique, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Smart Strike, finished the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:28.91. "When I showed her some daylight, she did what she's supposed to do and she did it nicely for us," Gomez said.
Macho Again rallied in the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Derby Trial by 1/2 length over the favorite, Kodiak Kowby. Fujita led briefly and then settled for third. Macho Again, a Florida-bred son of Macho Uno, finished the 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:28.45 under Julien Leparoux. Dallas Stewart trains the colt for West Point Thoroughbreds. "Can we get him in the Derby?" joked winning trainer Dallas Stewart. "Make this race $300,000 ... There are a ton of good 3-year-old races coming up, so we'll see. This horse still has to mature a little bit, but he's got a lot of fight in him."
Shilla caught pace-setting Gloriously in the late going of Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Fury Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by neck. Dowd Chapel was far up the stretch in third. Shilla, an Ontario-bred daughter of Marquetry, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:24.02 with David Clark in the irons.
Legal Move put in a nice move on the turn in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Jacques Cartier Stakes, rolling by the leaders en route to a 1 3/4-lengths victory. Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk was second, a head in front of Sail From Seattle. Legal Move, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred colt by Bold Executive, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.63 under Simon Husbands.
In Friday's $100,000 (Canadian) Wando Stakes for 3-year-olds, Bonanza broke poorly, chased the leaders much of the way and then took complete charge in the stretch, winning off by 3 1/4 lengths over Giquere. Niagara Thunder was third. Bonanza, a Kentucky-bred colt by Jump Start, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.99 with Patrick Husbands in the irons. Bonanza finished ninth, behind Pyro, in the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 9 at Fair Grounds. "He never relaxed" in that race, said Husbands, adding that trainer Mark Casse "decided to take the blinkers off, which was the best thing. He really ran a nice race today."
Go Go Shoot got the jump on three rivals in Saturday's $75,000 Francis "Jock" LaBelle Memorial for 3-year-olds and held on at the end to win by 1 length over Loveyouintheworld. Bang Bang Bang was third and Warm Climate completed the order of finish. Go Go Shoot, the odds-on favorite, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.44 under Ramon Dominguez. The gelding is a Florida-bred product of Songandaprayer.
Peppers Pride, the odds-on favorite, took total charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Russell and Helen Foutz Distaff Handicap, winning off by 2 lengths over Bossy Bush. Let the Musicbegin finished third. Peppers Pride, a 5-year-old, New Mexico-bred mare by Desert God, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.01.
Maya's Storm stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds, then drew off in the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Grand Sensation. Shadowbdancing was third home. Maya's Storm, an Iowa-bred colt by Stormy Atlantic, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.37 under Eusebio Razo Jr. Kelly Von Hemel trains.
Lindsey's Wish, also toting Razo for Von Hemel, was just up in time to win Saturday's $50,000 Goldfinch Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a neck over pace-setting Amazing Tale. Capricious dueled for the lead, then faded to finish third. Lindsey's Wish, a Florida-bred daughter of Trippi, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.12.
Stay Close didn't in Saturday's $50,000 Henry S. Clark Stakes, then rallied in the final furlong to win by a neck over Forty Crowns. Headsandtails finished third. Stay Close, with Rosie Napravnik up, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.82. The winner is a 6-year-old, British-bred gelding by Belong to Me.
Hawthorne Race Course
It was Illinois Champions Day at Hawthorne, with six races for Illinois-breds, each worth $100,000.
Instill stalked the pace set by odds-on favorite Stonehouse in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap for 3-year-olds and up, hooked up in a stretch duel and prevailed by a neck. Batten was third, 8 3/4 lengths up the stretch. Instill, a son of Proud Citizen, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.98 with Jesse Campbell up for trainer John Wainwright.
Silver Stairs won a stretch battle with Carts Italian Rose in the Lady Hallie Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, putting her nose in front at the wire. The odds-on favorite, Big Lou, led into the turn before giving way, then held on for third. Silver Stairs, a daughter of Demidoff, got the 6 furlongs in 1:11.37 under Tanner Riggs. Andrew Hansen trains Silver Stairs.
High Expectations came from near the back of the pack to win the Chicagoland Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Mighty Rule. Holy Thursday finished third. High Expectations, a 6-year-old gelding by Peaks and Valleys, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.18. Chris Emigh rode for trainer Christine Janks.
In the Governor's Lady Handicap for distaffers at 6 furlongs, Secret Kin dominated in the lane, drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Pretty Jenny. Magnetic Miss finished third. Secret Kin, trained by Chris Block for Team Block, finished in 1:10.87 under Eduardo Perez. Secret Kin is a 4-year-old daughter of Sea of Secrets.
Stop a Train was unstoppable in the Peach of It Handicap for fillies and mares, stalking the pace, taking the lead into the stretch and holding on to win by 3/4 lengths over Copper State. Home's the Best finished third. Stop a Train, a 6-year-old Devil His Due mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:46.73 with Chris Emigh up for trainer Christine Janks.
Classic R.J. led all the way to a 3-lengths victory in the Land of Lincoln Stakes for 3-year-olds, finishing the 6 furlongs in 1:10.77 under James Graham. Brixton's Connie was second, a nose in front of River Bear. Classic R.J., a chestnut son of Sky Classic, is trained by Tom Amoss.
The Nutz rallied four-wide to challenge for the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes, then got clear to post a big upset by 1 length over odds-on favorite Wayzata Bay. Habaneros finished third. The Nutz, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Chester House, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:47.40 with Donald Herber aboard.
Ronaldino scored on a breakaway in Saturday's $50,000 Stampede Park Sprint Championship. Going right to the lead, the 4-year-old, British Columbia-bred Katahaula County gelding set a pressured pace, then drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Laketon. Sir Gallant was third. Ronaldino, with Quincy Welch up, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.
In Sunday's $50,000 M.R. Jenkins Memorial Handicap for fillies and mares, Beth's Best Bet drew clear of her four rivals down the backstretch, opened up a big lead and coasted home first, 1 length ahead of Tanika. Debie Ginsburg finished third. Beth's Best Bet, a 4-year-old, California-bred daughter of Valid Wager, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.80 with Rickehy Walcott in the irons.