The biggest race of the weekend, however, was the $5.5 million Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris, where the Aga Khan's filly, Zarkava, rallied from a slow start to win by 2 lengths over Youmzain. Soldier of Fortune and It's Gino dead-heated for third and fourth. Duke of Marmalade finished seventh.
Zarkava, with Christophe Soumillon in the irons, remained near the back of the 16-horse field entering the stretch run. Working through traffic, she was able to hit the front in the final 100 meters and went on to the win in 2:28.8 over "good to soft" turf, becoming the first filly winner of the Arc since Urban Sea turned the trick 15 years earlier.
Zarkava, a daughter of Zamindar, now is unbeaten in seven starts. "We had no worries," said winning trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre. "She is certainly the best horse I have ever trained."
The Aga Khan, visibly pleased with his filly's victory, said she will not race again this year and no decision has been made about whether to keep her in training in 2009.
In other Longchamp races:
Lady Marian caught front-running favorite Lush Lashes in the stretch drive of the Prix de l'Opera and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The 3-year-old Nayef filly got by on the outside and ran best in the final 100 meters. Jim Bolger, trainer of Lush Lashes, told the British Press Association plans for that filly to attend the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf may be compromised by an injury in Sunday's race. He said the filly "returned with cut on the outside of her off-fore. I think that will be quite sore and we'll have to see how long that holds her up for before making a plan."
Marchand d'Or rushed to the lead in the final 500 meters of Sunday's Qatar Prix de l'Abbaye Sunday at Longchamp and won easily by 1 1/2 lengths over Moorhouse Lad. Borderlescott was third. Winning trainer Freddie Head said he will consider Marchand d'Or, who ran the 1,000 meters in 54.4 seconds, for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong races in December.
Naaqoos made all the pace in the Grand Criterium for 2-year-olds and held on to win by a neck over Milanais. Previously undefeated Mastercraftsman finished fourth. Trained by Freddy Head for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Naaquoos won for the third time in four starts. Head said he will recommend the colt for the Two Thousand Guineas next year at Newmarket.
Proportional upset the Criterium des Pouliches, beating Marquesa by 3 lengths. Entered off a maiden win in her second career start, the daughter of Beat Hollow finished in 1:36. Trainer Criquette Head-Maarek said Proportional will be entered for the English One Thousand Guineas.
While the French races may not impact the Breeders' Cup in three weeks' time in California, many other weekend events will. And they were not all clear-cut indicators.
Saturday's $2 million Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine, for example, found a pair of extreme longshots -- Marsh Side and Spice Route -- cross the finish line 1-2, producing a $2 exactor worth more than $1,000. Champs Elysees was third and the favorite, Doctor Dino, struggled home fifth. Little more than 4 lengths separated the first six finishers.
Marsh Side, a 5-year-old Gone West mare, is trained by California-based Neil Drysdale and was ridden by Javier Castellano. Marsh Side came into the Pattison with only four career wins in 17 career starts. The Pattison win carried $1.2 million in earnings and an automatic berth in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf.
"He knows the track and he's done so well here, we knew we were on a winner," said Patrick Lawley-Wakelin, Racing Manager for owner Robert Evans. "He ran in the Northern Dancer and was just 3/4 of a length off winner Champs Elysees, so we all decided to come back and give it another try. The ground was a little firmer today than it was in the Northern Dancer. I think, California, here we come."
In other races that might impact the Breeders' Cup Turf:
Court Vision rallied from well back in a field of seven to win Saturday's $250,000 Jamaica Handicap for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park by 3/4 length over the odds-on favorite, Gio Ponte. Ready's Echo was 5 lengths farther back in third. Gio Ponte had the lead at the top of the stretch after some traffic cleared, but couldn't hold the advantage. Court Vision, a Kentucky-bred colt by Gulch, covered the 1 1/8 miles on the "good" inner turf course in 1:49.75 with Ramon Dominguez up for trainer Bill Mott. Both Court Vision and Gio Ponte are likely headed to the Hollywood Derby on Nov. 30 rather than the Breeders' Cup.
Other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 24 and 25 at Santa Anita:
$5 million Classic
The results of the $350,000 Meadowlands Cup illustrate perfectly the issues facing trainers considering the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita. Arson Squad posed in the winner's circle at the Meadowlands after his first win since the last time he ran on dirt. In the interim, he suffered seven defeats on the synthetic tracks in Southern California. Arson Squad "didn't like the synthetics," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow. "I can't see him going back to California." Instead, Dutrow said, the 5-year-old gelding is likely to resurface in the $500,000 Clark Handicap in a month's time at Churchill Downs. The story of the Meadowlands Cup was told on the front end as the favorite, Past the Point, hooked up in a pace duel with Timber Reserve through a quick 6 furlongs. As that duo tired, Edgar Prado moved arson squad through traffic and on to a 2 1/2-lengths victory. They finished the 9 furlongs in 1:48.81 on a fast track. Anak Nakal was second, just beating Timber Reserve.
Tin Cup Chalice continued to advance toward the top of the 3-year-old division with a front-running, 1-length victory over Pyro in Saturday's $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park. Acai was third. Tin Cup Chalice, a New York-bred gelding by Crusader Sword, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45 with Pedro Rodriguez up for trainer Michael Lecesse. He advanced his career record to eight wins in nine starts. "This horse has been training well over the track," said Lecesse. "Even better than when he was prepping for the New York Triple Crown. The rider did an excellent job today putting him on the lead early. He rode him perfectly."
$2 million Ladies Classic
Carriage Trail took the lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland and, despite drifting out in the stretch, held on to win by 7 3/4 lengths over Model. Rosinka led briefly but faded to finish third. The favorite, Unbridled Belle, was never in the mix, finishing ninth. Carriage Trail, a 5-year-old Giant's Causeway filly, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:47.97 under Kent Desormeaux. "She will drift out in her races a little bit," said winning trainer Shug McGaughey. "I talked to Kent about that in the paddock." Desormeaux said he was ready for the behavior but, "I wasn't going to hinder her by correcting her path. I just let her drift and she was happy and she was going fast."
Skylighter stayed close to the pace in Friday's $400,000 Indiana Oaks at Hoosier Park, then accelerated past Shining Image in the stretch run and went on to win by 3 lengths over that rival. Dubai Majesty was third and the favorite, Sky Mom, finished fourth, 10 3/4 lengths farther up the track. Skylighter, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Sky Mesa, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44 4/5. Eddie Castro rode for trainer Bobby Frankel. "I stayed on the inside until the final turn and then got to make my move on the outside," Castro said. "She responded well and moved past the leaders in the lane." She now has three straight wins for Frankel.
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
Folk Opera led from the early jumps to the last in Saturday's $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, winning by 1 3/4 lengths as the favorite. Callwood Dancer was second and Sealy Hill third. Folk Opera, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Singspiel, ran the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:03.7. Frankie Dettori had the mount on the Godolphin filly for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Folk Opera now has five wins from 11 starts. "Folk Opera is a different class, really, than all of the fillies in this race," said bin Suroor. "She ran and won a Group 2 in France last time. Today was perfect for her -- the ground and the distance. We told Frankie just to keep her close because that is what she likes." He added, "We could take the filly to the Breeders' Cup after this. It will depend how she comes out of the race."
Forever Together caught pace-setting favorite Precious Kitten in the stretch run of Friday's $400,000 First lady Stakes at Keeneland and ran on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Rutherienne finished third. Forever Together, a 4-year-old Belong to Me filly, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. Jonathan Sheppard trains the filly. Forever Together ran her career record to six wins in 13 starts with three of those victories coming on the turf in five starts. "We were pretty confident that she would do better on the grass today," Sheppard said. "But it's such a tough race. You never really know and she was dropping back a little bit in distance."
$2 million Mile (turf)
Thorn Song made all the pace in Saturday's $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, then had plenty left in the lane, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Shakis. War Monger finished third. Sent to the post as the 3-1 favorite, Thorn Song ran the 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.97 with Robby Albarado up for trainer Dale Romans. The 5-year-old son of Unbridled's Song also won the 1-mile Firecracker at Churchill Downs on the Fourth of July. "He's got a high cruising speed," said Albarado. "Dale said to open up 2 lengths and see where you're at. I know I was awfully quick on the backside. But I felt like he was doing it within himself."
$1 million Turf Sprint
True to Tradition stalked a brisk pace in Saturday's $500,000 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine, then engaged the leader, Rouse the Cat, midway down the stretch and won by a desperate nose over that 52-1 shot. Starticus was third and the favorite, Hellvelyn, ran evenly to finish sixth. True to Tradition, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Rahy, got the 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.11. Kendrick Carmouche rode for trainer Scott Lake. Lake said, "When he ran in Maryland and got beat a head (by Hero's Reward) … he kind of hung a little bit at the end, so we decided to put the blinkers on him and he's just really responded to it and he's been very focused since then." Asked about the Breeders' Cup, he said, "We're very excited about the Breeders' Cup. I've been dying to get back there."
Chamberlain Bridge shot to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, turned back a challenge from Magic Texan and cruised on home a winner by 1 1/2 lengths over Smart Enough. The venerable Fort Prado, last year's winner, was third after experiencing traffic issues in the stretch run. Chamberlain Bridge, a 4-year-old War Chant gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.39 with Jamie Theriot up. He was claimed in March for $35,000 by trainer Brett Calhoun and earned $93,000 for Saturday's effort. "We wanted to be on the lead," Theriot said. "My horse put me there and I just rode him from there." Calhoun also trains Mr. Nightlinger, who has won five straight turf sprints and is headed for the Breeders' Cup. Assistant Dennis Geier said Sunday he believes Chamberlain Bridge "will go back to Churchill Downs for their turf sprint," referring to the the Cherokee Run on Nov. 16.
Queen ofthe Castle rallied to the lead with a sixteenth of a mile to run in Saturday's $100,000 Senator Ken Maddy Handicap at Santa Anita and went on to win by 1 length over La Tee. Victorina was third and the favorite, Silky Smooth, finished sixth. Queen ofthe Castle, a 4-year-old Tale of the Cat filly, ran the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside in 1:12.84 under Mike Smith.
$2 million Sentient Flight Group Sprint
New Mexico racing continued its ascendance as Sing Baby Sing, last seen running in the Land of Enchantment, rallied to win Saturday's $250,000 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland by 3/4 length over the favorite, Talent Search. Carnacks Choice was third. Sing Baby Sing, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled's Song, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.48 after pressing the rapid pace cut by Talent Search. Justin Shepherd rode the winner for trainer Jack Bruner. "They were going fast in front of us," said Shepherd. "My main concern, really, was if he'd like this track and he seemed to love it."
$1 million Sentient Flight Group Filly & Mare Sprint
Indyanne made all the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland and just held on at the end to win by a head over Wild Games. Sugar Swirl was third. Indyanne, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Indian Charlie filly, completed the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.5 with Robby Albarado up for trainer Greg Gilchrist. She now has won five of her six starts, with her lone defeat being a second-place finish in the Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga in August. "She should really have been undefeated," said Gilchrist. "She got left (at the gate) up there in Saratoga." Gilchrist said Sunday morning he "probably won't make a decision on the Breeders' Cup until next week." But he said he has no doubts Indyanne can get the 7 furlongs of this year's Filly & Mare Sprint.
$1 million Dirt Mile
Tale of Ekati tracked the lead through the early furlongs of Sunday's $150,000 Jerome Handicap for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, then went on to win by 1 length over You and I Forever. The victory was the first for the Tale of the Cat colt since he won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5, five starts back. With Cornelio Velasquez aboard, Tale of Ekati ran the 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:36.17. Harlem Rocker was third, followed by one-time Road to the Roses travelers Z Humor, Cool Coal Man, Da'Tara and Visionaire. "I knew he was dead-right for the race," said winning trainer Barclay Tagg. "And I thought it was a good spot for him, although I knew it was very, very tough … I really have no idea what's next for him."
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
Square Eddie shipped in from England on Wednesday and Saturday slipped around the leaders at the top of the stretch in Keeneland's $500,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity and went on to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Terrain, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity by disqualification in his last outing, rallied late to take second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Pioneerof the Nile. Square Eddie, an Ontario-bred colt by Smart Strike, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.04. Rafael Bejarano rode for trainer John Best. "The horse was very comfortable in the race," Bejarano said. "He was very professional. I was right next to the speed and when it came to the turn, I felt like I had a lot of speed." The colt had made his first four career starts in England after selling at the September 2007 Keeneland yearling sale. Best is turning Square Eddie over to trainer Doug O'Neill. Best's assistant, Donna Brincat, reflecting Sunday on the Futurity, said, "That was easy. It was a piece of cake. He's ready for the Breeders' Cup. I can't wait to see that."
Vineyard Haven won Saturday's $400,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park by 5 3/4 lengths and jockey Edgar Prado was easing him up in the late going "because he was opening up too much on the group." The Florida-bred Lido Palace colt fought for the lead, got clear around the turn and wasn't asked or challenged thereafter. Munnings was second and Cribnote, who bolted on the turn and lost the Hopeful at Saratoga to Vineyard Haven, got a clean trip this time in blinkers but still could do no better than third. "How many horses do you know," Prado asked, "that can go fast, relax on the turn and then find another gear?" Despite being geared down late, Vineyard Haven finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.06. Since he is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, trainer and part-owner Bobby Frankel would have to pony up $180,000 to get him into the Juvenile.
Mine That Bird stalked the pace in Sunday's $250,000 Grey Breeders' Cup at Woodbine in Canada, engaged the leaders in the stretch and was up just in time to win by 1/2 length over Bear's Conductor. Stimulus Plan was third. Mine That Bird, a Kentucky-bred Birdstone gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic surface in 1:44.45 under Chantal Sutherland. Trainer David Cotey said he is not planning on sending Mine That Bird to California. "There are other places to go," he said. "I'm just happy for the horse and all the help and happy to get the money."
Legal Consent came six-wide around the turn to take the lead in Saturday's $318,525 New York Breeders' Futurity at Finger Lakes and went on to win by 3 lengths over Dagnabit. The two were coupled through joint ownership. Mother Russia was third and Momsboy completed the trifecta. Legal Consent, a colt by Officer, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.59. Dennis Carr rode for trainer Carlos Martin.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Turf
Great Adventure had a bit of an adventure at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $300,000 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, swinging six-wide into contention. After gaining the lead, the Kentucky-bred Grand Slam colt held on to win by a head over Skipadate. Star of David was third and the odds-on favorite, Utterly Cool, flattened out in the late going to finish fourth. Great Adventure, with Eurico Da Silva in the irons, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.86. Asked if the run justified taking the automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup, trainer Mark Frostad said, "Absolutely … If he comes out of the race in good shape, sure."
Bittel Road rallied from next-last in a field of 12 to win Sunday's $200,000 Woodford Reserve Bourbon at Keeneland in the final strides and now has three wins from three career starts. With Rajiv Maragh pinch-hitting for the injured John Velazquez, the son of Stormy Atlantic ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.29. Driving Snow, who made his first four starts in Europe, was second and Ninth Client was the third finisher. "This colt is one we liked all along," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "He was able to break his maiden going three-quarters and go to the front doing that and overcame some adversity at Saratoga to win. So we knew he was a quality colt but I thought today he was very, very good." Bittel Road won an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup with the victory.
Elusive Bluff caught the longshot leader, Show Me the Cash, in the final strides of Wednesday's $150,000 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont, winning by a neck. Relatively Ready was 1 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Elusive Bluff, a Kentucky-bred colt by Elusive Quality, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a yielding inner turf course in 1:47.91. Michael Baze rode for trainer Eric Guilot. "I was waiting for an opening and, when I got it, he went through and blew by them," Baze said. "He's a pretty smart horse." Owner Michael Mareno said even though Elusive Bluff earned an automatic berth in the Juvenile Turf, he may instead run in the Juvenile, on the Santa Anita artificial surface.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies
Dream Empress came from off the pace, then drew off in the stretch to win Friday's $500,000 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland by 4 1/4 lengths over Be Smart. With Robby Albarado up, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Bernstein ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.82. Kenny McPeek trains Dream Empress, who picked up her second win in three starts and an automatic berth in the Juvenile Fillies. "We expected her to run well, hoping for third or better," McPeek said. "We didn't know how she'd handle the Polytrack. She's worked good over it … She's all class. Lovely filly."
Sky Diva ran her record to 2-for-2 with a 3 3/4-lengths victory over the favorite, Persistently, in Saturday's $400,000 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park. After tracking the pace, jockey Ramon Dominguez swung the Kentucky-bred daughter of Sky Mesa to the outside at the top of the lane and she proved clearly the best. Persistently put in a good run once she got clear but couldn't gain on the leader. Gemswick Park led the way early and held third. The 1 mile on a fast track took 1:37.4. "I felt I was on the best horse by far, judging by how she was moving," said Dominguez. "I really didn't want to go to the inside so I took my time to get out and it worked well." Trainers Steve Klesaris and Shug McGaughey said Sky Diva and Persistently are both possible for the Breeders' Cup although Klesaris expressed concern about the Santa Anita surface. "Synthetic surface is something we're all up against. It's just a big unknown factor," he said.
Van Lear Rose came from well back to win Sunday's $250,000 Mazarine Breeders' Cup at Woodbine by 1/2 length over the favorite, Livin Lovin. Georgia Song finished third. Van Lear Rose, an Ontario-bred filly by Stroll, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.69 with Chantal Sutherland up for trainer Catherine Day Phillips. "I've really liked this filly for a long time," said Day Phillips. "The Princess Elizabeth would be a logical next step."
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies Turf
Maram came into Wednesday's $150,000 Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park the winner of her only start, a claiming event at Keeneland. The Kentucky punters disregarded the lowly nature of the win at their peril as the Kentucky-bred Sahm filly was just up at the wire to win by a neck, followed by Freedom Rings. My Magic Moment was another head back with the favorite, Consequence, only another neck back in fourth. Maram ran the 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:46.12 with Jose Lezcano up for trainer Chad Brown. "I ran her in a maiden claiming race at Saratoga because she's got a marginal pedigree and I thought I could get away with it," Brown said. He said he will consider the Breeders' Cup, adding, "I don't know about the Europeans but she seems as good as anything here."
Elsewhere around the world:
Sleepless Night posted a 1 1/4-lengths victory in Sunday's Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse in Japan. Taking the lead turning for home, Sleepless Night ran the 1,200 meters in 1:08 over firm turf. Trainer Kojiro Hashiguchi said he may take Sleepless Night to the Hong Kong Sprint in December and might try Dubai in the spring. The Sprinters Stakes was the sixth of eight races in the Global Sprint Challenge, currently led by Takeover Target. The Patinack Farm Classic in Australia on Nov. 6 and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 14 at Sha Tin remain on that schedule.
Other weekend racing featured state-bred festivals on each coast:
Cuba was claimed for $18,000 last winter at Gulfstream Park, got really good for new trainer Bobby Dibona and culminated his progression with a 4-lengths victory over Diamond David in Saturday's $300,000 Maryland Million Classic -- highlight of Maryland Million Day. "He has never run a bad race since I claimed him," said Dibona. "He is the coolest horse."
Celtic Innis dueled for the lead in the $150,000 Sprint Handicap, then took over and won by 2 1/2 lengths over Lemons of Love with odds-on favorite Grand Champion third; Broadway Producer was just up to win by a neck in the $200,000 Turf over Dr Rico; Juke Joint led much of the way to a 4 1/4-lengths win in the $150,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds; Kosmo's Buddy put a nose in front of odds-on favorite Natural Seven to win the $100,000 Turf Sprint.
Also, Miss Lombardi rallied from next-last of 12 to win the $200,000 Ladies on the grass by 3/4 length over Debbie Sue; Miss Charm City led most of the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory over Fools In Love in the $150,000 Lassie for juvenile fillies; Sweet Goodbye said goodbye early in a front-running, 3-lengths victory in the $150,000 Oaks; and Spectacular Malibu came from off the pace and dominated the stretch run to win the $150,000 Distaff Handicap on the turf by 2 1/2 lengths over All Giving.
Mr. Chairman caught Romance Is Diane in the final strides of Sunday's $250,000 California Cup Classic -- the highlight of California Cup Day for state-breds. Ridden by Michael Baze, Mr. Chairman barely succeeded in preventing the first-ever win by a filly in the Classic. "The filly was digging in," Baze said. "But I had a lot of confidence we were going to get by her." The win gave sire Unusual Heat his third triumph on the card.
Famous Ruby won the $150,000 Matron by a neck over Barbara's Love in a five-horse blanket finish; Distant Victory came from well off the pace to win the $100,000 Distance Handicap for fillies and mares on the grass by 1 1/4 lengths over pace-setter Rushen Heat; Saucey Evening rallied in the stretch to win the $125,000 Juvenile Fillies by 2 3/4 length over Ten Churros; Swift Winds won a stretch battle with odds-on favorite Bold Chieftain to upset the $175,000 Mile Handicap on the turf by 1 length.
Also, Tribesman led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths win over Johnny Eyes in the $150,000 Sprint in 1:07.85; Lightmyfirebaby got home 1/2 length ahead of Christiana's Heat in the $150,000 Distaff Handicap down the hillside turf; and Lucky Primo accelerated through the stretch to win the $125,000 Juvenile by 1 1/2 lengths over Triumphant Flight.
And, speaking of New Mexico, Peppers Pride set a North American record with her 17th straight victory Saturday at Zia Park in the Land of Enchantment. Raced exclusively in New Mexico, the Desert God mare eclipsed the mark of 16 wins in a row shared by Cigar, Mister Frisky and Hallowed Dreams. Carlos Madeira has ridden all 17 of the wins, including Saturday's victory in a $38,000 allowance event. Joel Marr trains the mare.
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