Euro runners were staking out their midseason claim at Royal Ascot while American grasscutters were taking on fixtures at Colonial Downs in Virginia and at Belmont Park in New York.
With luck, the best of the best may meet in the fall -- perhaps in the turf races at the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
And in Canada, Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate finished much as expected in a tight finish between Not Bourbon and Ginger Brew.
Sailor's Cap, the lukewarm favorite, rallied impressively through the stretch to win Saturday's $600,000 Colonial Turf Cup for 3-year-olds by 6 3/4 lengths. Nistle's Crunch finished second with longshot Year Round rallying from last to take third. Sailor's Cap, a Kentucky-bred colt by Distant View, ran the 1 3/16 miles on soft turf in 2:04.42 and obviously enjoyed the soggy footing. "The wetter it got, the more we liked it," said part-owner Nick Benmeir. "If you look at his last two races, they were both on yielding tracks and he ran brilliantly." Winning jockey Alan Garcia agreed. "I was confident. He loves the turf kind of soft." In his last two races, Sailor's Cap won on off going in an allowance event at Keeneland and finished second to Tizdejavu in the Crown Royal American Turf.
On Colonial's undercard, Lady Digby came from off the pace to win the $150,000 All Along Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over Eclisse with the favorite, Rutherienne, settling for third. Lady Digby, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Grand Slam, ran the 9 furlongs on a course rated "good" in 1:52.19 under Jeremy Rose.
In other major grass races:
-- At Hollywood Park in California, in Saturday's $150,000 Cinema Handicap for 3-year-olds, Tiz West engaged the leaders on the turn, fought to gain the advantage and then prevailed through a long drive. At the wire, the Kentucky-bred Gone West colt was a nose in front of Ez Dreamer, with Liberian Freighter well back in third. Tiz West got the 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:47.24. Victor Espinoza rode for trainer Richard Mandella and it was a bit of an adventure as Tiz West ran a bit erratically, resulting in an unsuccessful claim of foul by Ez Dreamer's rider, Corey Nakatani. "He's getting a little more professional," Mandella argued. "He has run enough times now he's learning how to start and stop and do the things you usually have to do running on the turf."
-- Mission Approved led all the way to a 1 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $100,000 Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine. Setting a measured pace under jockey Ramon Dominguez, the 4-year-old, New York-bred With Approval colt completed the 1 1/2 miles on "good" turf in 2:30.63. Rahy's Attorney finished second and Dubai Gold was third.
Is Henrythenavigator really better than Rock of Gibraltar or Giant's Causeway? That's what trainer Aiden O'Brien told Daily Racing Form after his Kingmambo colt set a course record on Tuesday in winning the Group I St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Calling Henrythenavigator "the best miler I've ever trained," O'Brien watched the colt roar from near the rear to take charge with a quarter mile to run and then win off by 3/4 length over Raven's Pass. Twice Over was third. With Johnny Murtagh up, the winner of both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas ran the mile in 1:38.7.
O'Brien also saddled Haradasun to victory in Tuesday's Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. Haradasun, a 5-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus, was just up in time to win by a head over the French filly, Darjina. Finsceal Beo was third as the 1 mile for older horses went in 1:38.98.
In Tuesday's Group 1 King's Stand Stakes, Equiano, with Olivier Peslier up, pulled off a 22-1 upset, making all the going and holding on at the end to win by 1/2 length over defending champion Takeover Target. Fleeting Spirit, the favorite, was third. Equiano, trained in Spain, finished the 5 furlongs in 59.34 seconds.
O'Brien's mastery continued as the races got longer on Wednesday, as his Duke of Marmalade spread his undefeated season to a third straight Group 1 race by scoring easily in the Prince of Wales Stakes. A 4-year-old son of Danehill, Duke of Marmalade rallied in the final furlong to win by 4 lengths over Phoenix Tower, with Pipedreamer a head farther back in third. John Murtagh rode the winner over 1 1/2 miles of "good to firm" going in 2:05.35. Earlier this year, Duke of Marmalade captured the Tattersall's Gold Cup at the Curragh and Prix Ganay at Longchamp.
On Thursday, Yeats won the Gold Cup for a third straight year, drawing off in the late going to win by a comfortable 5 lengths over Geordieland. Coastal Path was another 4 1/2 lengths in arrears. Yeats, a 7-year-old son of Sadlers's Wells, appeared to be under pressure on the final turn as jockey Johnny Murtagh had Yeats well engaged with both Geordieland and Coastal Path. The winner then found another gear, however, and kept going while the others faltered. "He stays the trip well. He has the heart of a lion," the Racing Post quoted Murtagh. Yeats became the second horse to win the fixture three years running, following Sagaro, who won in 1975 and the two subsequent renewals.
Also Thursday, Michita won the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths, rebounding from a seventh-place finish in the Epsom Oaks. The Dynaformer filly was ridden by Jimmy Fortune.
Friday's card featured a short-turnaround rebound by Kingsgate Native. Tenth in Tuesday's Kings Stand Stakes, the 3-year-old son of Mujadil defeated War Artist by 1 1/4 lengths in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes. Sir Gerry was third and Takeover Target finished fourth. Stretching out from Tuesday's 5 furlongs to 6 panels, Kingsgate Native finished in 1:13.33 over "good to firm" turf.
Lush Lashes drew off in the stretch to win Friday's Coronation Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Infallible. Caribbean Sunset was third and the favorite, Spacious, finished fourth. Lush Lashes, a daughter of Galileo, is expected to stretch out beyond the Coronation's 1-mile distance and trainer Jim Bolger said the Irish Oaks is a potential target a month down the road.
In other weekend racing:
Not Bourbon tracked close to the pace in Sunday's $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate, surged to a clear lead at the top of the stretch and held on at the end to win by a head over the favorite, Ginger Brew. Solitare was the best of 12 others, finishing 4 1/2 lengths behind Ginger Brew. Not Bourbon, a chestnut son of Not Impossible, ran the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:03.59. Jono Jones rode for trainer Roger Attfield in the 149th renewal of the Queen's Plate. Not Bourbon became the first horse since Alydeed in 1992 to win both the Plate Trial and the Plate. "Well, I know he won't lie down on me," said an elated Attfield, about the stretch battle with Ginger Brew. "He'll run his heart out and that's exactly what he did. He had to move a little earlier than he wanted to. But he just gutted it out. He's just a very good horse." Ginger Brew was bidding to become just the fifth filly to win the race. Ginger Brew's rider, Javier Castellano, said his filly was "second-best today, that's all. She was perfect. She had a good trip following the winner. She showed up today. I'm happy for that."
Heros Reward led all the way to a 3/4-lengths victory in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian) Scotts Highlander Stakes. The Great Caruso was second with a late run and Wollemi Pine was third. Heros Reward, a 6-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding by Partner's Hero, ran the 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.02 under Javier Castellano.
Mauralakana charged to the lead three-wide entering the stretch run in Saturday's $250,000 New York Stakes for fillies and mares and won a three-way battle to the wire by a neck. Dynaforce just missed and just beat Hostess by another neck. Mauralakana, a 5-year-old, French-bred mare by Muhtathir, got the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.31. Kent Desormeaux rode for trainer Christophe Clement. The victory followed up an easier win in the Sheepshead Bay last month. "We got a little spoiled because last time she won by 3 lengths," Clement said. "Today, she won the race in a matter of strides. Kent knows her well and rides her with a lot of confidence."
Tin Cup Chalice survived some bumping at the start of Sunday's $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds, went right to the lead and held on well to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Groomedforvictory. Megapixel didn't need a photo to finish third. Tin Cup Chalice, a Crusader Sword gelding, got the 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:24.12 with Pedro Rodriguez riding.
Charles Town, an impoverished backwater of racing until slots were added to the program, offered $500,000 in purses for speedballs on Saturday -- ungraded races but worth enough money to attract some quality sprinters
Joey P. hustled to the lead in the day's feature, the $200,000 Charles Town Dash Handicap, and extended the lead to win by 3 lengths over Lacewell. Love's Strong Hart finished third while the favorite, Sir Silver Fox, settled for fourth after some traffic issues. Joey P., a 6-year-old, New Jersey-bred gelding by Close Up, ran the 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 50.75 seconds. Travis Dunkelberger rode for trainer Benjamin Perkins Jr.
Grand Obsession rallied on the outside in the final furlong to win the $100,000 Lady Charles Town Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a neck. Hadavision and Story of a Lion dead-heated for second and third. Casanova Killer was fourth. Grand Obsession is a Kentucky-bred Shore Breeze filly. With Jesus Castanon up, she ran the 4 1/2 furlongs in 52.07 seconds.
Devereux stalked the pace set by M J's Enchanteur in the $100,000 Red Legend Stakes for 3-year-olds, got the lead on the turn and easily drew off to win by 7 lengths. M J's Enchanteur held second, 10 1/4 lengths better than Ghostly Thunder. Devereux, a Florida-bred Forestry colt, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.23 with Larry Sterling Jr. aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen.
So So was better than his name implied in the $100,000 West Virginia Sprint Derby, leading all the way to a 2 3/4-lengths victory over Token Essence. Hotrail finished third but was disqualified to fifth, advancing Military Courage to show money. So So, a Kentucky-bred colt by Yankee Gentleman, ran 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.69 seconds under Paul Nicol Jr.
Bear Now was out quickly on the lead in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Hill 'n' Dale Farms Stakes for fillies and mares and just held on at the end to win by a head over Serenading. Lomaki stalked the pace and salvaged third. Bear Now, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Tiznow, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.49. Jerry Baird had the mount for trainer Reade Baker.
Marlang stalked the pace set by Gun Highway in Saturday's $100,000 Charlie Barley Stakes for 3-year-olds, came to even terms at the top of the stretch and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Gun Highway held second, 3/4 length to the good of Discreet Commander. Marlang, an Ontario-bred colt by Langfuhr, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.66.
J Z Warrior was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $70,000 Dearly Precious Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew off at the end to win by 4 lengths over Irish Smoke. D'wild Ride finished third. J Z Warrior, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Harlan's Holiday, finished 6 furlongs in 1:09.86 under Joe Bravo.
Coli Bear pressed the pace set by My Sister Sue in Sunday's $70,000 Blue Sparkler Stakes for fillies and mares, then finished well to win by 1/2 length over that rival. Princess Janie finished third. Coli Bear, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Formal Dinner, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.68.
Chitoz led from gate to wire in Sunday's $60,000 Anderson Fowler Stakes for 3-year-olds, defeating Dicey D J by 1 1/2 lengths at the wire. Sheer Faith finished third. Chitoz, a Kentucky-bred colt by Forest Wildcat, got the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.85.
Golden Gate Fields
Bellsblade set a brisk but sensible pace in Saturday's $75,000 Work the Crowd Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares and held on well at the end, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Lightmyfirebaby ran second all the way and Andover the Cash finished third. Bellsblade, a 4-year-old daughter of Broad Blade, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.09. Catalino Martinez had the ride.
Maidens Justice came from last of seven to win Sunday's $75,000 Lost in the Fog Stakes for 2-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths over Lightning Diablo. Seismometer finished third. Maidens Justice, a California-bred colt by Lit de Justice, ran 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 58.71 seconds under Juan Ochoa.
Only three faced the starter in Saturday's $75,000 Vincent A. Moscarelli Memorial and the prohibitive, odds-on favorite, Fabulous Strike, was by far the best. Leading all the way, the 5-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred gelding by Smart Strike won by 3 1/4 lengths in a hand ride by Ramon Dominguez. Joey Carson was second and The Vin Man finished third, another 12 3/4 lengths back, earning $8,250 for the jog. Fabulous Strike, doing it mostly on his own, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.56.
Smart and Fancy rallied from near the back of the field to win Saturday's $60,000 Buckland Stakes for fillies and mares by 4 lengths over Ride Em Cowgirl. Tiger Fever was third. Smart and Fancy, a 5-year-old, Maryland-bred mare by Not For Love, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the firm outer turf course in 1:04.26 with Edgar Prado in the irons.
Three Graces tracked the early leaders in Saturday's $50,000 Northbound Pride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, challenged three-wide early in the stretch run and got clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Fabulous Babe. Nijinsky Ballet rallied from near last to finish third. Three Graces, a Kentucky-bred Doneraile Court filly, got the "about" 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.35 with Paul Nolan in the irons.
Lone Star Special battled for the lead through the early furlongs of Saturday's $50,000 Pair of Deuces Stakes for 3-year-olds, opened a big lead at the top of the stretch and held on to win by 3/4 length over Lee's Spirit. Pursue a Dream finished third. Lone Star Special, a Kentucky-bred Malabar Gold colt, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:30.43 under Quincy Hamilton.
Greeley's Conquest came from well back to take Saturday's $50,000 Temperence Hill Stakes by a neck over pace-setting Wind Water. Cougar Cat rallied to finish third. Greeley's Conquest is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Mr. Greeley. With Quincy Hamilton riding, he got 6 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:09.46.
Love to Tell came four-wide into the stretch to take the lead and went on to win Saturday's $50,000 Little Treasure Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/4 lengths over Euphony. Oh Baby Oh Baby Oh finished third. Love to Tell, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stage Colony, ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:30.16 under Larry Taylor.
Trainer Chris Block won two and came close with another in Saturday's Prairie State Festival of six $100,000 races for Illinois-breds.
Training for the family's "Team Block," Block saddled Amazing Results to a less-than-amazing (he was the favorite) victory in the Springfield Stakes for 3-year-olds. After rating in mid-pack under Rene Douglas, the Grand Slam colt split horses in the stretch and got up to win by 1 length over Mr. Mischief, covering 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:35.48. Block also saddled Apple Martini to a 3/4-length victory in the Purple Violet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. A daughter of Giant's Causeway, Apple Martini saved ground until Douglas got her out for the stretch run and she beat Sun for Fun to the wire by 3/4 length in 1:36.76.
One of Block's old warriors, Fort Prado, came up 1 3/4 lengths short in the Black Tie Affair Handicap, not quite good enough to catch Gentleman Chester in the late going. Majestic Zeal, the early leader, held on to finish third. Gentleman Chester, a 4-year-old Chester House colt, got the 1 1/16 mile on "good" turf in 1:43.09 with Jesse Campbell handling the reins for trainer Ralph Nicks.
Lady Lionel rallied from well back to win the Lincoln Heritage Handicap for fillies and mares by 1 3/4 lengths over Royal Leah. Lady Lionel, a 6-year-old daughter of Lucky Lionel, ran 1 1/16 miles on the green course in 1:44.48 for jockey Junior Alvarado and trainer Moises Yanez.
Mighty Rule stalked the pace set by Classic R. J. in the White Oak Handicap, then went by and won by 1/2 length over that rival with Last Gran Standing only a head farther back in third. Mighty Rule, a 5-year-old Gilded Time gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.27 with James Graham up for trainer Christine Janks.
Majestic Miss led most of the way to a 1 3/4-lengths win over Taylor Madison in the Isaac Murphy Handicap for fillies and mares, with Modjadji finishing third. Majestic Miss, a 4-year-old Artax filly, completed 6 furlongs in 1:09.78 for jockey Earlie Fires and trainer Joseph Broussard.
In Sunday's $50,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes for fillies and mares, Barbette stalked the pace, surged to the lead in the stretch and won by 2 lengths over Demisemiquaver. May Night was third. Barbette, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by High Yield, ran 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:50.2 under Rene Douglas.
Enumclaw Girl led from gate to wire under pressure in Sunday's $50,000 Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies and then drew off at the end to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Naturally Perfect. Light Up the Lane finished third. Enumclaw Girl, a Washington-bred daughter of Katowice, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37 with Gailyn Mitchell in the irons.
Calder Race Course
Thunder Louie rumbled down the stretch in Saturday's $36,000 Lord Juban Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning by 4 3/4 lengths over early leader Unbridled Heat. The odds-on favorite, Mambo Meister, put in a bid at the top of the lane but tired to dance home third. Thunder Louie, a Florida-bred colt by Skip to the Stone, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.25 with Juan Leyva in the irons.
Annabill rallied from a pace-stalking position to win Sunday's $36,000 Sambacarioca Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length over Joffe's Run. Cat Can Do settled for third. Annabill, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred mare by outflanker, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a sloppy track in 1:43.62 with Javier Santiago up.
Askmetodance led all the way to a 1/2-length victory in Saturday's $75,000 Aztec Oaks for New Mexico-breds. Etoile de Dome ran second virtually all the way and Straight Set Win rallied to take third. Askmetodance, a daughter of Ghostly Moves, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.7 under Joe Martinez.
Leading Moves also used a pace-setting trip to win Saturday's $75,000 Ken Kendrick Memorial Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies. Dome Shadows rallied for second and Dream Kin came late to take third. Leading Moves, also a Ghostly Moves filly, got the 4 1/2 furlongs in 52.22 seconds with Quyet Bui in the irons.
High Ridge Runner did all his running late in Sunday's $100,000 Thoroughbred Sale Futurity, a restricted race for 2-year-olds. After sitting well back, the Dome gelding circled the field in a rush and just got up to win by a neck over Batty Bull. Masons World finished third. High Ridge Runner, under Mark Villa, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 1:00.2.