Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year, survived the "Graveyard of Champions" with a workman-like victory in Saturday's $500,000 Woodward, closing in on Cigar's career earnings record and moving closer to a second straight Breeders' Cup Classic.
Jockey Robby Albarado let Curlin run with the traffic through much of the Woodward as 40-1 longshot Past the Point set a fast pace. After getting clear, Curlin challenged the leader in the stretch and had to do some work to get to the front. Once there, he drew clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Past the Point held second and Wanderin Boy finished third. Curlin, a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.34.
It was his first try at Saratoga, which has a long history of upsets, including such champions as Secretariat and Man o'War.
"The mystique of Saratoga, wining a Grade 1 here, the Graveyard of Champions, all of that works into your head leading up to this," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "But he came through like Curlin does and we're extremely proud of him."
Albarado said the trip wasn't easy but that Curlin has become smarter about how he runs his races.
"I was little wider than I wanted to be around the first turn, but he gave me an indication on the backside that he would be there for me," the rider said. "We were between two horses and getting bounced around a little, but he is a big horse and he handled it."
Asmussen said he's mulling options as Curlin, now the winner of $9,796,800, chases Cigar's record of $9,999,815.
"The perfect scenario," he said, "would be to run in the best races, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup, and then go overseas to the Japan Cup. But that will be hard to press into a four-week schedule. We'll wait and see."
Other races pointing to the $5 million Classic, Oct. 25 at Santa Anita:
-- Anak Nakal, coming into Monday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby riding a six-game losing streak, found a path through traffic on the turn and ran down Acai in the final sixteenth to win by a neck. The Victory Gallop colt, trained by Nick Zito and ridden by Joe Bravo, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast Pennsylvania Park strip in 1:36.01. The favorite, Smooth Air, was third. Anak Nakal finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby and a well-beaten third in the Belmont Stakes. After a freshening, Zito brought him back in the Jim Dandy five weeks ago, where he finished fifth, beaten 13 lengths. He was sent to the post Monday at odds of 16-1.
-- Judith's Wild Rush moved three-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Waquoit Stakes at Suffolk Downs and caught pace-setting Riversrunrylee to win by 3/4 length. Jalil, a disappointment for the Godolphin team since shipping to the United States, finished third as the odds-on favorite, 4 lengths farther back. Judith's Wild Rush, a 7-year-old son of Wild Rush from the Black Tie Affair mare Tie Talk, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.62. The three-time Canadian champion was ridden by Orlando Bocachica. Rick Mettee, assistant trainer for Jalil, said the Godolphin horse "ran like he trained. He didn't show much on the Belmont or Saratoga dirt track."
In other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 24 and 25 at Santa Anita:
$2 million Sentient Flight Group Sprint
Odds-on favorite Lucky Island stumbled at the start of Saturday's $250,000 Forego at Saratoga, then was blocked, opening the way for First Defence to run on to a 6 3/4-lengths victory. Greeley's Conquest was second and Ferocious Fires finished third. First Defence, a Juddmonte Farms homebred colt by Unbridled's Song, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:21.55 on a fast track under Channing Hill. "He ran like we always thought he could run," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "I was shocked that he ran as good as he did. He has been stopping in his last two races. I was waiting for him to start slowing down, but he kept on going. As fast as he is today, he'll go probably go right to the Breeders' Cup." The victory was the sixth from 12 starts for First Defence and his first Grade I win.
$2 million Ladies' Classic
Seattle Smooth kicked clear at the top of the lane in Saturday's $100,000 Go For Wand Stakes at Delaware Park and drew off handily to win by 7 1/4 lengths. My Main Starr was second with My Heavenly Sign third. Seattle Smooth, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Quiet American, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.38. She is trained by Anthony Dutrow.
Dawn Before Dawn led all the way to a 1-length, upset victory in Sunday's $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar. Miss Singsix was second and Distant Victory was third. The favorite, Golden Doc A, broke slowly, got a wide trip and finished fourth. Dawn Before Dawn, a Kentucky-bred daughter of High Yield, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.1 under Garrett Gomez.
$3 million Emirates Airline Turf
Adriano rallied along the outside in the final furlong of Saturday's $500,000 Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park and was just up to win by 1/2 length over Roman Tiger. Mr Maccool finished third and the pace-setter, Seeyouinthecity, got home fourth. Adriano, a Kentucky-bred colt by A.P. Indy, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:52.54. Kent Desormeaux rode for trainer Bill Mott. It was the fourth win from 11 starts for Adriano, who earlier this year has contested some of the toughest 3-year-old turf events on the East Coast. "Mr. Mott has him pegged perfectly," Desormeaux said.
"He told me a little about him and that was exactly how I was able to ride him. He got the job done. He is a nice horse."
Madeo came three-wide into the stretch in Sunday's $350,000 Del Mar Derby, caught pace-setting Tangled Tango and went on to win by 1/2 length. The favorite, Virginia Derby winner Gio Ponti, was second with a late run after being forced wide on the turn and Tangled Tango held third. Madeo, a Kentucky-bred Mizzen Mast colt, finished the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.68 under Mike Smith, picking up his third win in seven starts. "He's matured a lot," said winning trainer John Shirreffs. "He was very immature early and was a problem when he shipped. But he's begun to settle down now."
Marlang, making his first start outside Canada, led virtually all the way to a 1 3/4-lengths victory in Sunday's $100,000 Sarnac Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. Vacation was second and Nistle's Crunch third. The favorite, Ready's Echo, settled for fourth. Marlang, a Gustav Schickendanz homebred son of Langfuhr, ran the 1 3/16 miles on firm turf in 1:53.1 under Richard Dos Ramos. "I was a little concerned because he never shipped before and he heard the races over at the stakes barn," said winning trainer Deborah England. "I was worried about him settling down. He has gotten better at everything."
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
Vacare came from nearly last to win Saturday's $200,000 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar by 1.2 length over the dead-heating pair of Kris' Sis and Gotta Have Her. Vacare, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Lear Fan mare, finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.64. Corey Nakatani rode for trainer Christophe Clement. Vacare now has won seven of 11 lifetime starts. Clement assistant Nicholas Bachalard said he hoped to see Nakatani sitting fourth or fifth with Vacare. "He was a little farther back than we expected but she was traveling well. Coming eight-wide into the stretch wasn't great but I don't think Corey had much choice. She ran game right to the end."
Brownie Points stalked the pace in Monday's $150,000 Edward J. Debartolo Memorial at Remington Park, then got by Tricky Causeway in the late going to win by 1/2 length. Brego finished third. Brownie Points, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Forest Wildcat, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.37 under Luis Quinonez. Donnie Von Hemel trains the mare for Pin Oak Stable.
Hostess surged to the front a furlong from home in Monday's $100,000 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga and ran on to win by a neck over Palmilla. Jade Queen was third. Hostess, a 5-year-old Chester House mare, ran the 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:11.66. Rajiv Maragh rode for trainer H. James Bond.
$2 million Mile (turf)
Buffalo Man and Icy Atlantic rallied from the rear of the field to finish 1-2 in Saturday's $150,000 Red Bank at Monmouth Park. At the wire, Buffalo Man was 3/4 length to the good of the favorite, with Giant Wrecker another head back in third. Buffalo Man, an Ontario-bred El Prado gelding, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.5. Carlos Marquez Jr. rode for trainer Cam Gambolati.
Sand Cove rallied to the lead early in the stretch run in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Vice Regent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Woodbine and held off Delaforce at the end to win by 1/2 length. Cappal Mor was third. Queen's Plate winner Not Bourbon was scratched with a minor injury. Sand Cove, an Ontario-bred Bold Executive colt, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in stakes-record time of 1:33.76 in his turf debut. ""He had a work over it and he worked very well," said Roger Attfield, who trains both Sand Cove and Not Bourbon. "I wasn't really sure if I was going to run him against Not Bourbon, to be honest. It was only a couple of hours ago that they told me that the horse had hurt himself in the stall. I said, 'Well, it's a good thing I hadn't taken him out.'"
$1 million Turf Sprint
True to Tradition raced with the early pace in Monday's $250,000 Turf Monster Handicap at Philadelphia Park, took the lead a furlong out and drew clear to win by 4 lengths over the favorite, Heros Reward. Rouse the Cat ran well late to finish third. True to Tradition, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Rahy, got the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.17 seconds. Kendrick Carmouche rode for trainer Scott Lake.
Salute the Count on the outside, Kingship on the inside and Hellvelyn between them hit the line together in Monday's $80,000 Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga and the camera needed a sharp focus to separate them in that order, a pair of noses apart. The early pace-setter, Natural Seven, was only a neck farther back in fourth. Salute the Count, an 8-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Count the Time, counted 1:01.24 of time for the grassy 5 1/2 furlongs with Eibar Coa riding for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
Vineyard Haven was the front-running upset winner of Monday's $250,000 Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga but second- and third-place finishers Cribnote and Munnings both had valid excuses. Cribnote appeared set to challenge Vineyard Haven on the stretch bend but blew the turn, carrying jockey Rajiv Maragh out past the middle of the track. Munnings, meanwhile, stumbled out of the gate and started last. Vineyard Haven, a Florida-bred colt by Lido Palace, took full advantage, setting a moderate pace en route to finishing the 7 furlongs in 1:23.4 under Alan Garcia. Bobby Frankel trains the gray colt.
Silent Valor rallied four-wide into the lane and went on to win Sunday's $150,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park by 1 1/2 lengths over Officer Ipod. Rereadthefootnotes was third. Silent Valor, a Kentucky-bred son of Lion Heart, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.26 with Stewart Elliott aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. He picked up his second win in three tries. "He's a real easy horse to ride. He does whatever you ask him to," Elliott said. "This colt really has a nice future ahead of him."
-- Babs Moosa rallied form near the rear to win Monday's $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for Cal-breds at Del Mar by a head over Control Seeker. Lucky Primo finished third. Babs Moosa, a Crowning Storm gelding, got the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.39 with Garrett Gomez up for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
-- Hoya stalked the pace in Monday's $50,000 Dale Wood Stakes at Ruidoso Downs, then put his nose in front at the wire. Quindici Man just missed as Hoya, a Florida-bred Cat Thief colt, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12 for Casey Lambert.
-- King Gulch came from last to win Monday's $50,000 Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Seacrettina. Early Final was third. King Gulch, a Kentucky-bred Gulch colt, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.33 with Luis Quinonez up for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Dagnabit led all the way to a 5 1/2-lengths victory as the odds-on favorite in Monday's $144,000 Aspirant Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes. Momsboy was second and Lookin At Her finished third. Dagnabit, a son of Freud out of the Silver Ghost mare Cool Ghoul, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.02. Richard Dutrow Jr. trains.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies
Stardom Bound entered Monday's $250,000 Del Mar Debutante as a maiden, having finished second in her first two races. After breaking last of 12, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit moved up on the turn, came wide into the lane and ran down pace-setter Palacio de Amor to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Will O Way finished third, a neck farther back. Stardom Bound, trained by Christopher Paasch and ridden by Mike Smith, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.5. Paasch said Smith told him after the race he "couldn't believe how explosive she was. We'll be looking at the Oak Leaf at Oak Tree now."
Mani Bhavan remained undefeated in three starts with a front-running win in Sunday's $250,000 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga. Making her second start in just 18 days, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Storm Boot ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.23 under Alan Garcia. Jardin was second, 1 1/4 lengths back, and Collegiate was a distant third. Trainer Steve Klesaris called the race "a gutsy performance. The runner-up ran a great race, and Mani Bhavan dug in to fight her off. Midway down the stretch, I was concerned. Jardin was coming relentlessly. My filly was digging down and had enough to hold her off. I don't know what's next. Today was a good test. We'll go back to the drawing board and evaluate."
Again posted her third straight win in Sunday's Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland, moving from the middle of the field to win by 1/2 length over Shimah. Beyond Our Reach finished third. Again, a daughter of Danehill Dancer, ran 7 furlongs on "soft" turf in 1:28.8. "She's really a horse for next year because she's still big and weak," winning trainer David Wachman told the British Press Association.
Selva raced close to the lead into the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park, then battled to the wire, winning by 1/2 length over Fools in Love. Smokin Bayour was third and the favorite, Mine All Mine, faded to finish sixth. Selva, a Kentucky-bred Forest Wildcat filly, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.63 for Eddie Castro, remaining undefeated in two starts for trainer David Carroll. "I knew this filly had early speed because of the way she won first out at Saratoga," Castro said. "The plan was to sit close to the early leaders throughout and we wound up getting a good stalking trip."
Afternoon Stroll set a pressured pace in Saturday's $100,000 Coca-Cola Bassinet Stakes at River Downs in Ohio, then got away in the stretch run to win by 3 lengths over More of the Best. Robin My Girl finished third. Afternoon Stroll, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stroll, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12.2 under Azael De Leon. She now has won half of her four starts.
-- Shining Moment battled for the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Opelousas at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana, then got clear in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over HumbleStormKathy. Shutupanddance finished third. Shining Moment, a Florida-bred Padua Stables homebred daughter of Yes It's True, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:12.6. Steve Asmussen saddled the exacta.
-- Mother Russia rallied from a pace-pressing position to win Monday's $156,000 Lady Finger Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes. At the wire, the Mayakovsky filly was 3/4 length better than Fabulous Florence. Trained by Linda Rice, Mother Russia ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.21.
-- First Class Fever rallied by pace-setting favorite Sky Haven in the final strides to win Monday's $75,000 Channel Three Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds at Presque Isle Downs by a nose. The Stormin Fever filly ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.15.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Turf
Night Action led all the way to a 4-lengths, upset victory in Monday's $200,000 Miller Lite Cradle Stakes at River Downs in Ohio. Bourbon Bay rallied late to take second and Appalachian Trail was third. The favorite, Fitzaslew, fizzled, finishing sixth. Night Action, a Kentucky-bred son of Action This Day, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42 2/5 under Victor Lebron.
In other weekend racing:
Sugar Bay rallied to the lead entering the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Colleen for 3-year-old fillies by 4 1/2 lengths over Fareena. Lickety Lemon finished third as the favorite. Sugar Bay, an Ontario-bred daughter of Syncline, ran the 1 mile of "good" turf in 1:34.44 under Jono Jones. MacDonald Benson trains the filly. "She was relaxed perfectly," Jones said. "When I asked her to make her move, it was a matter of how much she was going to win by. The crowd started to roar and she started to look at them. But she was good enough to win."
Presque Isle Downs
Fatal Bullet dueled for the early lead in Monday's $100,000 Tom Ridge Labor Day Stakes for 3-year-olds, went to the front and won by 1 3/4 lengths. M J's Enchanteur held second and Honest Trip was third. Fatal Bullet, a Florida-bred son of Red Bullet, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.6 under Eurico Da Silva.
Remarkable Remy rated behind the pace in Sunday's $80,000 Caveat Competor Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then had the best kick in the stretch, winning by 1/2 length over Mousse Au Chocolat. Receipt finished third. Remarkable Remy, a New York-bred daughter of Hennessey, ran 1 mile on the inner turf course in 1:35.55 for jockey Rajiv Maragh.
Albertus Maximus drew off in the stretch to win Monday's $80,000 Windy Sands Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths over Add Heat. Perfect Drift finished third. Albertus Maximus, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Albert the Great, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:35.37 for Rafael Bejarano.
Thiscatsgotcharm got home first in Monday's $100,000 Emerald Downs Derby but couldn't charm the stewards, who set him down to second for stretch interference. That elevated Gallon to the win. Fear No Evil was third. Gallon is a Kentucky-bred Victory Gallop gelding. The 9 furlongs on a fast track took 1:49.2.
Suzy Zip rallied from near the rear to win Saturday's $150,000 Elge Rasberry Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Vickies In Town. Riina finished third. Suzy Zip, a state-bred filly by City Zip, ran the "about" 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.62.
Allnightdance trailed most of the field into the turn in Monday night's $75,000 Summer Finale for fillies and mares, then rallied to win by a head over Cat Hop. Beautiful Venue was third. Allnightdance, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Wild Event filly, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on the turf in 1:37.94.
Media Play came from mid-pack to take Monday night's $75,000 Labor Day Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Buckeye Buddy with Crimson Canyon third. Media Play, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Alphabet Soup gelding, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on the grass in 1:38.19.
Tribesman led throughout and won Saturday's $75,000 California State Fair Sprint Handicap by 4 1/2 lengths. Jack Hes Tops was second and Victory Kid completed the trifecta. Tribesman, a Cal-bred son of Tribal Rule, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:07.61 under Russell Baze.
Pay the Man led all the way in Saturday's $75,000 Rose DeBartolo Memorial for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, strolling home first by 8 lengths. Pyrite Gem was best of the rest with Casey's Jet third. Pay the Man, a daughter of Bernstein, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.32.
Julia Tuttle made all the going in Saturday's $65,000 Twin Lights Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, holding on at the end to win by 1 length over One Man to Beat. Sales Tax was third. Julia Tuttle, a Florida-bred filly by Giant's Causeway, ran the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.32.
Who's the Cowboy rallied in the deep stretch to win Monday's $75,000 Icecapade Stakes by a neck over Joey P. Maddy's Lion was third. Who's the Cowboy, a 6-year-old, Jersey-bred gelding by Intensity, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.46.
Run Sully Run did all his running in the stretch in Monday's $60,000 Gilded Time Stakes for 3-year-olds, coming from last of four to win by 1 1/2 lengths. X-Rated Cat was second but was disqualified to third for interference with Chiloz, who was moved up a placing. Run Sully Run, a Kentucky-bred son of Cherokee Run, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:10.89.
Fullofenergy was all of that in Saturday's $67,500 Land of Enchantment Handicap for New Mexico-breds, leading most of the way to a 2 1/4-lengths victory over Ty's Pache. Alex's Ragtimeband was third. Fullofenergy, a gelded son of Desert God, got the 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:32.8.
Quiet Again drew off in the stretch to win Sunday's $50,000 Ruidoso Thoroughbred Derby by 3 3/4 lengths over pace-setting Youarefun. Lord Gallop was third and My Dear Country completed the order of finish. Quiet Again, a Texas-bred Real Quiet gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:47 1/5 under Duane Sterling.
In Monday's $60,000 Ruidoso Thoroughbred Championship, One Lucky Buck led "from go to whoa" and got home 8 1/4 lengths ahead of runner-up Funny Justice. Broke Sharply chased the leader but tired to finish third. One Lucky Buck, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Thats Our Buck, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.
My Three Sisters had to wait for room at the top of the stretch in Monday's $50,000 Ricks Memorial Stakes but once she got room, the 6-year-old Defrere mare rocketed through to win by a neck over Song Cat. Prospectors Spirit finished third. My Three Sisters ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.18.
B R Remark collared pace-setting And All That Jazz in the final furlong of Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) PHE President's Speed Stakes and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. Fuhrever Dancing finished third. B R Remark ran the 6 furlongs in track-record time of 1:09.44.
Lecturing Lynn battled for the lead in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Hong Kong Jockey Club Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, got a clear advantage in the stretch and held on to win by 1 length over Blue Sky Holiday. Remarkable Miss finished third. Lecturing Lynn, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Pulpit, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.27.
In Sunday's $50,000 Richmond Derby Trial, Krazy Koffee got the best of four rivals with a bold stretch move, winning by 3/4 length over Forest Prince. Iceman was third. Kraze Koffee, a British Columbia-bred Regal intention gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.42.
Calder Race Course
Malitzin came from last of 10 to win Saturday's $55,000 Noble Robyn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3/4 length over Glotona. Ashley River was third. Malitzin, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Dynaformer out of the Rahy mare Secret Partner, ran the 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:44.92.
Dubai Distinction took the lead entering the turn in Saturday's $55,000 Eillo Stakes for 3-year-olds and was all out to hold off Flatter Me Blue and win by a neck. Casino Gambler finished third. Dubai Distinction, a Kentucky-bred E Dubai gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:10.97.
Saratoga Tango rated off the pace early in Sunday's $55,000 Barb's Dancer Stakes for fillies and mares, then danced down the stretch best of all to win by 8 lengths over Rgirldoesn'tbluff. Precisely That finished third. Saratoga Tango, a 4-year-old, Texas-bred Successful Appeal filly, ran 7 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:23.82.
Quiet Approach ran from last to win Monday's $50,000 (Canadian) Canadian Juvenile Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over It's Good to Be Me. Rodo Willie finished third. Quiet Approach, a Maryland-bred son of Cuvee, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.