There was talk in the Godolphin barn about running Music Note against the boys in next weekend's Travers Stakes rather than in Saturday's $600,000 Alabama. Her dominating size and strength, the theory had it, would make her tough in any company.
Perhaps trainer Saeed bin Suroor should have saved Music Note for the Travers because she never could get past the diminutive but determined Proud Spell in the Alabama -- and looked unlikely to do so even if they had run another lap.
Little Belle set the pace in the historic Saratoga fixture, with jockey Gabriel Saez keeping Proud Spell up close. On the turn, Saez sent Proud Spell to the lead and Javier Castellano put Music Note right outside her.
The fillies battled most of the length of the stretch and Proud Spell simply refused to allow her rival to take the lead. At the wire, it was Proud Spell by a head, with Little Belle third and two pretenders still halfway up the stretch. Proud Spell, a daughter of Proud Citizen, ran the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:04.08.
"When I saw Music Note come alongside of us, I told my filly, 'C'mon, let's start running,'" said Saez. "It was an exciting finish."
Proud Spell now has won four of seven starts, including the Kentucky Oaks and Delaware Oaks. She also was the first filly to beat then-undefeated Indian Blessing in the Fair Grounds Oaks early this year. She finished second to Music Note in the Mother Goose, enduring a rough trip and then was set down to third for interference in that race -- a controversial decision.
"I don't think there's any doubt she's the leading 3-year-old filly," said winning trainer Larry Jones. He wouldn't say where Proud Spell might race next but it's not a stretch to imagine she and Music Note will wind up in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in October.
In other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 24 and 25 at Santa Anita:
$5 million Classic
Honest Man sat behind the early leaders in Saturday's $300,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park, caught up turning for home and finished strongly to win by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Grasshopper. Kiss the Kid was third. Honest Man, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Unbridled's Song colt, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.12. Terry Thompson had the mount for trainer Larry Jones. Honest Man won his first stakes victory last month at Monmouth in the Salvator Mile. "It sure looks like the Salvator Mile set him up perfectly for this," Jones said. "I told Terry to just let him break and play it from there. We were able to stalk the early pace and go after the leaders turning for home."
Star Production stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Super Derby Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs, got the lead early in the stretch run and held on to win by a nose over Numismatist. Golden Yank was another nose back in third. Star Production, a Louisiana-bred Run Production gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.58 with Carlos Gonzales up.
$3 million Emirates Airline Turf
Grand Couturier was shut off suddenly at mid-stretch of Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga, just as jockey Alan Garcia was making his move. Undaunted, Garcia gathered up the 5-year-old, British-bred son of Grand Lodge, found another path and got Grand Couturier home first, 2 lengths ahead of the venerable Better Talk Now. Interpatation was third. The 1 1/2 miles on "good" turf went in 2:32.21. It was the second straight win for Grand Couturier in the Sword Dancer and qualified him for an automatic bid to the Breeders' Cup Turf. But trainer Robert Ribaudo, who pointed to this race all year, said he's not sure about the Breeders' Cup. "California is a little different than Monmouth (last year's venue, where Grand Couturier finished sixth)," he said. "We'll take it one race at a time. We have to get something in between. We haven't looked that far ahead. We are certainly eligible and ready."
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
Longshots Magical Fantasy and Bel Air Sizzle finished 1-2 in Saturday's $350,000 Del Mar Oaks with late runs. Lethal Heat led briefly and held third while the favorite, Satan's Circus, ran late to salvage fourth. Magical Fantasy, a Kentucky-bred Kissing Gate filly, got the 9 furlongs in 1:46.73 under Alex Solis. After starting her career in England, Magical Fantasy had run second, fifth and sixth in three previous starts in California -- all graded stakes. "She won well and she trained nice," said winning trainer Patrick Gallagher. "I know she was a longshot, but I guess we were hopeful because of the way she was training. I think you have to take a shot when they're doing as well as she was. Today they went a little quick the first part and that gave her a chance to relax."
Friday's victory in the $150,000 Lake Placid Stakes for 3-year-old fillies was only the third of Backseat Rhythm's career. But all three have come on the turf and now trainer Patrick Reynolds is convinced the El Corredor filly has a big future on the green. Backseat Rhythm stumbled out of the gate and had to go very wide around the turn to get the lead before winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Rosa Grace, with Raw Silk third. Under Javier Castellano, she ran the 9 furlongs on the yielding inner turf in 1:50.69. "The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup sounds very tempting," Reynolds said, referring to the Oct. 11 Grade I event at Keeneland.
$1 million Turf Sprint
Get Funky made it 4-for-4 as a turf sprinter with a 1/2-length victory in Wednesday's $90,000 Green Flash Handicap on the Del Mar lawn. Coming between horses in the final sixteenth, Get Funky got the better of the favorite, Idiot Proof, making his first start since finishing second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March. Magic Texan was third as the 5 furlongs went in 55.39 seconds. Jose Valdivia Jr. applied the winning ride.
$1 million Sentient Flight Group Filly & Mare Sprint
La Chica Rica got the lead in the final sixteenth in Saturday's $100,000 Charles Town Distaff Sprint in West Virginia and edged clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Story of a Lion was second and Circuit Breaker third. La Chica Rica, a 5-year-old, Maryland-bred mare by Disco Rico, ran the 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.83 seconds under Travis Dunkelberger.
$1 million Dirt Mile
Wasserman rallied wide into the stretch in Sunday's $300,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs near Seattle, then won a three-way sprint to the wire. At the end, Wasserman was a neck ahead of True Metropolitan with the favorite, Tropic Storm, another neck back in third. Wasserman, a 6-year-old, Washington-bred gelding by Cahill Road, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35. Jennifer Whitaker rode for trainer Howard Belvoir.
Ide Like a Double rallied around the turn and through the stretch to win Saturday night's $200,000 Evangeline Mile Handicap at Evangeline Downs by 1 length, setting a track record of 1:36.28 over a wet-fast track. Marvel Wood was second and Missed the Prom finished third. Ide Like a Double, a 3-year-old, Louisiana-bred colt by Ide, now has won half his 12 lifetime starts. Kerwin Clark rode for trainer Byron Gilbert.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
Big Drama took command in the stretch run to upset Saturday's $100,000 Florida Stallion Stakes Dr. Fagar Divison, winning by 3 lengths over Bee Cee Cee. The odds-on favorite, You Luckie Mann, settled for third, another neck back. Big Drama, a Montbrook colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.7. Big Drama finished third in his first start, then came back to win easily on Aug. 2. "He showed ability from the beginning," said winning trainer David Fawkes. "I was surprised he was such a big price today. He'll go in the Affirmed (Division) next. More distance should be no problem for him."
Bunker Hill was in a tussle through every step of Saturday's $60,000 Continental Mile at Monmouth Park, gave up the lead at mid-stretch and finally rallied one last time to win by a nose over Uncle T Seven. Aspiring Nick finished third. Bunker Hill, a Florida-bred son of Trippi, finished in 1:39.43 on the fast main track with Jose Lezcano riding for trainer Derek Ryan. The race originally was scheduled for the grass and two of the original starters were scratched.
Colonel Rutledge caught pace-setting favorite Ready Racer in the final yards in Saturday's $50,000 James C. Ellis Juvenile at Ellis Park, winning by 3/4 length. Citizen finished third. Colonel Rutledge, a Kentucky-bred colt by Orientate, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:23.92 under Victor Lebron. Kenny McPeek is the trainer.
Ice Rocket rallied from far back to win Sunday's $60,000 Northern Lights Futurity for Minnesota-breds at Canterbury Park, scoring by 2 lengths over Supreme Warrior at odds of more than 50-1. First Captain ran third. Ice Rocket, a son of Cape Canaveral, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:13.84 with Glenn Corbett up.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies
La Chica Sensual was fairly sensational in Saturday's $100,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes, winning by 8 1/4 lengths over Black Russian. Aroma de Mujer was third. La Chica Sensual, a daughter of Lightnin N Thunder out of the Unbridled mare Lerma, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.61 under Raymundo Fuentes. La Chica Sensual came into the race off a second place finish in the J J's Dream Stakes, following two previous victories. "This was the best race she has run so far," said Fuentes. "The way she relaxed early in the race was perfect, that's why she took off so well in the stretch. The way she ran today, she showed me that she is ready to handle going the longer distances of the Stallion Stakes."
Juliet's Spirit rallied to the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Debutante Stakes, then held on to win by a head over After the Applause. C Karma finished third. Juliet's Spirit, a Florida-bred Exchange Rate filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.17 with James McAleney up, remaining perfect in three starts. "She knew what she was here for," McAleney said. "She did settle. When it was time to go, I let her go. I wound up going a little bit sooner than I wanted to because I didn't want to get into a wrestling match with her." Steve Asmussen trains the filly for Padua Stables.
Partners Star won a stretch battle with Shadow of the Storm in Saturday's $50,000 Anna M. Fisher Debutante Stakes at Ellis Park, winning by 3/4 length. Splash of Roses finished third. Partners Star, a Kentucky-bred daughter of City Zip, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.11. Victor Lebron rode for trainer Michael Maker.
Chick Fight extended her early lead throughout Sunday's $60,000 Northern Lights Debutante Stakes for Minnesota-breds at Canterbury Park, drawing well clear at the end to win by 10 lengths. Bob's Marley was a groovy second and Special Occasion finished third. Chick Flight, a daughter of Fit to Fight, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12.57 under Derek Bell.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Turf
Valid Message ran second-last of 11 through the early stages of Saturday's $75,000 Sunny's Halo Stakes at Louisiana Downs, switched to the far outside for the stretch run and passed them all, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Marquee Event. Bertsgoldenmissile finished third. Valid Message, a Texas-bred colt by Valid Expectations, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.9. Curt Borque rode for trainer Ellen Williams.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies Turf
Enjoy the Score rallied from the back of the field to win Saturday's $75,000 Donnie Wilhite Memorial at Louisiana Downs by 3/4 length over Noble Bandit. My Spanx was another neck back in third. Enjoy the Score, a Louisiana-bred daughter of Even the Score, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:39.82. Donald Simington rode for trainer Jerry Hardin.
In other weekend racing:
Sweeter Still caught pace-setter Dawn Before Dawn a mid-stretch in Friday's $80,000 Sandy Blue Handicap for 3-year-old fillies and won off by 1 1/2 lengths. Dawn Before Dawn held second, a head better than Gorgeous Goose. Sweeter Still, an Irish-bred daughter of Rock of Gibraltar, ran the 1 mile on the turf in 1:34.25. Garrett Gomez rode for trainer Jeff Mullins.
In Sunday's $100,000 Solana Beach Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares, America's Friend came four-wide into the lane and drew clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Lightmyfirebaby. Bachelorette One was third. America's Friend, a 4-year-old Unusual Heat filly, ran the 1mile on firm turf in stakes-record time of 1:32.98 under Alex Solis. Barry Abrams trains the first- and second-place finishers.
Swift Temper, the longest chance on the tote board, surged to a big lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Gardenia Handicap for fillies and mares and went on to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Marquee Delivery was second, Unforgotten third and the odds-on favorite, Fancy Fusaichi, settled for fourth. Swift Temper, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Giant's Causeway, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.55. Victor Lebron had the mount for trainer Dale Romans.
Serenading rallied from last to win Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahone Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over My List. The odds-on favorite, Bear Now, led briefly before fading to finish third. Serenading, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of A.P. Indy, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.14 under David Clark.
You Will Love Me stayed close to the pace in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victoriana Stakes for Ontario-bred fillies and mares, then was just up in the final yards to win by 1/2 length. Executive Flight, the favorite, led briefly in the stretch but couldn't hold off the winner. Bold Corky was third. You Will Love Me, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred daughter of One Way Love, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.02 with Eurico Da Silva riding.
Elusive Horizon led from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Washington Oaks, scoring by 1 3/4 lengths over Christmas Ship. Sweetheart Deal finished third. Elusive Horizon, a Kentucky-bred filly by Elusive Quality, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.6 with Juan Gutierrez up.
Lemon Kiss took a clear lead with a half mile to run in Sunday's $100,000 Emerald Distaff Handicap, turned back a challenge from Shampoo, then went on to defeat that rival by 1/2 length. Beaulena finished third. Lemon Kiss, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Lemon Drop Kid filly, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49 with Russell Baze up for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Presque Isle Downs
Drop a Line dropped her nose on the wire in Saturday's $100,000 Windward Stakes for fillies and mares, beating Spectacular Malibu by that margin. Trainee was another head back in third. Drop a Line, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, rallied from well back to complete the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37 under Jesus Castanon.
Shot Gun Ela pressed the pace early in Sunday's $125,000 Rainbow Connection Stakes for fillies and mares, then got to the fore and drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Early leader Only If Split held on for second, 2 1/4 lengths to the good of the favorite, Miss Juicy. Shot Gun Ela, a 7-year-old, Ontario-bred mare by Elajjud, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 56.69 seconds with Roderick Dacosta aboard. Ross Armata trains.
Calder Race Course
Hypocrite closed sharply in Saturday's $55,000 Donthelumbertrader Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning by 3/4 lengths over He's Eze. Dynhocracy finished third. Hypocrite, a Florida-bred colt by Outofthebox, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.43 with Pedro Monterrey Jr. in the irons.
Finallymadeit surged to a huge early lead in Saturday's $55,000 Band Is Passing Stakes and was never challenged, winning by 4 lengths over the favorite, Soldier's Dancer. Imawildandcrazyguy was third and Rehoboth completed the order of finish. Finallymadeit, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Concerto, ran 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:45.94 under Pascacio Lopez.
Silversider rallied from a pace-stalking trip to win Sunday's $55,000 Magel Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length. Cher Ami, who led the middle furlongs, held on for second while Hap E to Run took third. Silversider is a 5-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Wekiva Springs. She ran the 5 furlongs on yielding turf in 56.89 seconds with Manuel Aguilar in the irons.
General Charley stalked the pace and pounced in the stretch to post a mild upset victory in Saturday's $50,000 Tin Man Stakes. At the wire, the 6-year-old, Texas-bred Truluck gelding was 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Yankee Injunuity. The favorite, Demarcation, finished third. General Charley, with Eduardo Perez in the irons for trainer Chris Block, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.65.
Classify rallied in the final furlong to win Sunday's $60,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes for fillies and mares by a neck over pace-setting favorite Beau Dare. Pure Disco was 8 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Classify, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Unbridled's Song, got the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.65. David Cohen rode the winner for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Pretty Jenny stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Iowa State Fair Stakes, rallied to the lead in the stretch and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Modjadji. Princess Bianconi finished third. Pretty Jenny, a 5-year-old, Illinois-bred daughter of Pioneering, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.84 with Perry Compton in the irons.
Love to Tell led all the way to a 1 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $75,000 Honeymoon Stakes for fillies and mares. Pleasantly Blessed was second, a head in front of the even-money favorite, Candy Ball. Love to Tell, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Stage Colony, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.66 with Justin Shepherd in the irons.
Fuhrever Dancing set a pressured pace in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Westerner Handicap until he hit the stretch. Then the 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Langfuhr gelding downshifted, accelerated and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Test Boy came from last of four to take second while Shacane was third. Father Jones pressed the pace, then faded to finish fourth and last. Fuhrever Dancing, with Quincy Welch up, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.6.
Bay Meadows Fair
You Lift Me Up stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Last Dance Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then closed to the leader and drew off in the stretch, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Joyful Me. My Maloof Rocker finished third. You Lift Me Up, a California-bred filly by Lord Carson, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.44 with Frank Alvarado in the irons.