With the Breeders' Cup races in the record books, attention turns to the spring and the Triple Crown races. And historically, many of the contestants in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont rise to attention as winter sets in.
Weekend racing provided some peeks at potential 2009 competitors from New York to California and from Canada to Florida.
At Hollywood Park, for example, a late-bloomer named Chocolate Candy sweetened the pot for his believers by upsetting Saturday's $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over J P Jammer. The favorite, Charlie's Moment, was another 1/2 length back in third.
Chocolate Candy, a Kentucky-bred colt by Candy Ride out of the Seattle Slew mare Crownette, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.25 with Garrett Gomez in the irons for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. It took Chocolate Candy four tries to break his maiden. He now has two straight wins.
"It took him a while to figure things out but now that he's routing I think he's doing very well," Hollendorfer said. "We'll be shooting for the Hollywood Futurity. I did nominate him to that race in Louisiana (Delta Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs), so I guess we'll take a look at that, too."
At Woodbine, near Toronto, Shut It Down rallied from last to upset Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Frost King Stakes for 2-year-olds, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Wildcat Fashion. Win and Reign was third and the favorite, Mean Green, settled for fourth. Shut It Down, an Ontario-bred Porto Foricos gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.21 under Tyler Pizarro. Loren Richards trains. "Lorne told me he's a little nervous, so just sit on him and take it easy," Pizarro said. "He just broke a little slowly. There was a lot of speed, so if we could sit off it, we would sit off."
The Florida Million card at Calder Race Course featured rich events for Florida-bred juvenile males and fillies.
Salo Jack dawdled near the rear through the early furlongs of the $150,000 Jack Price Juvenile, then came three-wide around the turn, dropped back to the rail to take the lead and edged clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths even though jockey Javier Santiago dropped his whip nearing the line. Three Part Harmony, the favorite, was second and Bidham finished third. Said winning trainer Gilberto Zerpa: "He came with the same rush in the stretch that he did last time with speed in front of him. When he changed leads, he just took off. I think he'll do well going longer distances. We'll look at the schedule and find the race that fits him."
Frolic's Dream was quickly on the lead in the $150,000 Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies Stakes, opened up a big lead and held on well to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Trippi's Greatstar. Tiger's Song completed the all-possessive trifecta. Frolic's Dream, a daughter of Smoke Glacken, finished the 7 furlongs in 1:24.95 with Jermaine Bridgmohan riding for trainer Marty Wolfson. "She's just naturally fast, but she relaxes on the lead," Wolfson said. "The jock knows her well and didn't need to use her in the last eighth. I'm thinking about the Sunshine Millions race ($250,000 Oaks at Santa Anita Jan. 24)."
Lookin At Her led seven rivals around the Aqueduct in Sunday's $75,000 Great White Way Division of the New York Stallion Stakes, wining by 5 1/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Tall Poppi. Lookin At Her, a gray son of Hook and Ladder out of the Silver Ghost mare Absolutely Lovely, ran the 6 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:11.09 with Cornelio Velasquez riding.
In Sunday's $75,000 Fifth Avenue Division for juvenile fillies, Sarah Accomplished rallied past pace-setting favorite Mother Russia to win by 3/4 length with She's Prime finishing third. Sarah Accomplished, a daughter of Performing Magic, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.54 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
There's an old saying that no horseman ever committed suicide with a promising 2-year-old in the barn, And, since most 2-year-olds are promising, here's a look at some juvenile races elsewhere around the country:
-- Kick On did just that in Friday night's $150,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs, winning by 3/4 length over He's Boy Wonder. I Come From Behind rallied but couldn't menace the top two. Kick On, a Florida-bred colt by Wiseman's Ferry, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:41.21 under Ken Tohill.
-- Lefty Who was right on target in Sunday's $152,690 Colt and Gelding Divison of the New Mexico Cup at Zia Park, rallying through the lane to win by 2 lengths over Waymore's Blues. Lesters Secret finished third. Lefty Who, a son of Quinton's Gold, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10 under Carlos Madeira.
-- Blue Eyed Bella took command in the stretch to win Sunday's $152,690 New Mexico Cup Juvenile Fillies Division by 3 1/2 lengths over Dream Kin. Prairie Moonlight finished third. Blue Eyed Bella, a daughter of Le Grande Danseur, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.4 with Ken Tohill in the irons.
-- Russell Road stalked the pace in the early furlongs of Saturday night's $100,000 Tri-State Futurity for horses bred in Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia, then went on to win handily as the heavy favorite. Royal Stare was second, 6 1/4 lengths in arrears, with Pagan Cat third. Russell Road, a West Virginia-bred gelding by Wheaton, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.09. Luis Perez had the mount for trainer James Casey.
-- Southern Yankee rallied from mid-pack to upset Friday night's My Trusty Cat Stakes for juvenile fillies at Delta Downs. With Carlos Lozada in the irons, the Florida-bred daughter of Yankee Gentleman drew off in the final sixteenth to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Smokin Again was second and Seven Seventythree took third. Southern Yankee ran the 7 furlongs in 1:27.53.
-- In the $60,000 New Jersey Juvenile for state-breds at Meadowlands Friday, A Dynamite Time stalked the pace, came to the leaders at the quarter pole and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Trust Luc. Shipwreckstreasure led, then salvaged third. A Dynamite Time, a Defrere colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a muddy, sealed track in 1:11.2 under Carlos Marquez Jr.
-- Love That Dance drew off in the stretch to win the New Jersey Juvenile filly division by 5 lengths Friday night. Easta Monsta was second and No No Magic finished third. Love That Dance, a daughter of Not For Love, got the 6 furlongs on the muddy track in 1:10.65 with Joe Bravo riding.
In other weekend racing:
Acoma came from well back in the field in Saturday's $175,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got to the leaders at the quarter pole and drew clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. My Baby Baby showed the way and held on for second, 1 length better than Scolara. Acoma, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Empire Maker out of the Danzig mare Aurora, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.52. Julien Leparoux had the mount for trainer David Carroll. "It was just an awesome performance," Carroll said. "This fall, she's gone from strength to strength." After the Valley View at Keeneland Oct. 17, he said, Acoma gained weight and trained well. "I told Julien in the paddock to ride her with confidence and that he'd have more horse than he did at Keeneland, which he'd need today. We thought she was sitting on a big race."
Nistle's Crunch was all over the course, looking for running room, in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes for 3-year-olds. But once jockey Robby Albarado found a lane for the New Jersey-bred son of Van Nistelrooy, he went on to post a 1/2-length upset over favored Seaspeak. Jimmy Simms led the field into the stretch and held on for third. Nistle's Crunch finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.48. "He was dressed and ready every point down the lane," Albarado said. "I just bided my time and waited for some room. I had some opening at the eighth pole and tried to dive in there but got squeezed out. Fortunately I got out late and he came home nice. It was a nice finish."
Strike a Deal came five-wide into the stretch run in Saturday's $150,000 Red Smith Handicap, then quickly dominated six rivals when set down for the drive by jockey Charles Lopez. At the wire, the closest challenger was the favorite, Lauro, 7 lengths back. Banrock finished third. Strike a Deal, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Smart Strike, ran the 11 furlongs on yielding turf in 2:23.28. The win broke a 10-race snapping a 10-race losing streak that included six second-place finishes. "He pretty much finishes every race," said winning trainer Alan Goldberg. "He's just had some bad racing luck. With this group, he was able to overcome."
Sunday was New York Stallion Stakes day at the Big A. In addition to the juvenile races recounted above:
Mor Chances came from last of eight to win the $75,000 Thunder Rumble Stakes for colts and geldings by 3/4 length over Good Card. Mor Chances, a 4-year-old American Chance colt, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.68 for Jose Lezcano.
Classic Pack came from well back in the field to win the $75,000 Cormorant Stakes for colts and geldings on the grass, beating Pennington by 2 1/2 lengths. Classic Pack ran the 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:45.56 under Cornelio Velasquez.
Under Serviced went quickly to the lead in the $75,000 Staten Island Stakes for fillies and mares and led the rest of the way home, beating Point Me to It by a nose. Under Serviced, a 3-year-old Hook and Ladder filly, got the 7 furlongs in 1:23.54 with John Velazquez riding.
Follow My Dream stalked the pace in the $75,000 Perfect Arc Stakes for distaffers on the green course, got the lead in the stretch and held off Sax in the City to win by 1/2 length. Borrowing Base was just another nose back in third. Follow My Dream, a 5-year-old daughter of Freud, got the 1 1/16 miles on yielding going in 1:49.22 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Marchfield overcame some traffic problems early in the stretch run in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Autumn Stakes and was just up in time to win by 1/2 length over Stunning Stag. The favorite, Ice Bear, led for a time but couldn't hold and finished third, another neck back. Marchfield, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred colt by A.P. Indy, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.28. Patrick Husbands rode for trainer Mark Casse.
Also Sunday, odds-on favorite Ginger Brew had to battle for the lead in the $150,000 (Canadian) Jammed Lovely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. But once the daughter of Milwaukee Brew got to the front, she drew off nicely and won by 4 1/4 lengths over Authenticat. Nicki Knew was third. Ginger Brew, with Patrick Husbands up for trainer Brian Lynch, covered the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.75.
Calder Race Course
Finallymadeit led all the way to a 6 1/4-length upset win in Saturday's $200,000 Carl G. Rose Classic, the headline event of the Florida Million Day card. Dream Maestro closed to finish second and Actin Good was third. Finallymadeit, a 4-year-old son of Concerto, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.15. Wining owner/breeder Rolando Rodriguez said the horse made it clear he no longer wanted to sprint, which had been his game as a 3-year-old. "So we changed strategy and trained him to go long and he loves it," Rodriguez said. "We'll run him in the Sunshine Millions ($1 million Classic at Gulfstream Park Jan. 24) and he'll win it."
Amazing also led from gate to wire in winning the $200,000 Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap by a nose over Ammabill. Christmas Ship finished third. Amazing, a 3-year-old daughter of Greatness, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.89 with Jermaine Bridgmohan riding. The stewards rejected a foul claim by the rider of Annabill. Winning trainer Terry Oliver said Amazing had some health issues that prevented her from running as a 2-year-old. "But she's over that now. I'll look at the schedule and see what options are available. I don't have anything in particular in mind right now," he said.
Yesbyjimminy stalked the pace in the $150,000 Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap, caught the pace-setting Ruby's Red Socks with a sixteenth to run and went on to win by 3/4 length over Hypocrite. How's Your Halo finished third with the early leader fading to get home fourth. Yesbyjimminy, a 4-year-old Yes It's True colt, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.09 under Paco Lopez. "There was a solid pace to run at and Paco rode a great race," said winning trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "I think he is going to be a top rider. We're going to look at the Sunshine Millions Sprint ($300,000 at Santa Anita on Jan. 24)."
Icy Atlantic came three-wide around the turn to gain the lead in the $150,000 Bonnie Heath Turf Cup and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Magic Mecke. Fair Weather Stan was third. The favorite, Soldier's Dancer, stumbled at the start and unseated Manoel Cruz. Icy Atlantic, a 7-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.32 with Cornelio Velasquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher assistant Tristan Barry said Icy Atlantic has had some unlucky races he might have won. "He proved that today and deserved to win a race like this. He got to the front and then waited on horses, but he had plenty left in the tank," Barry said.
Tamborim got the lead with a sixteenth of a mile to run in Saturday's $100,000 Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf Stakes, then just held on to win by a neck over Adari. This Ones for Phil finished third. Tamborim, a Belong To Me colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.24 under Edgar Prado. Assistant trainer Kristin Lindsey said blinkers were added to Tamborim's equipment before his last race because, "He can get a little lazy on the lead … I'm not sure what's next for him down here."
Exe came from mid-pack to challenge for the lead in Saturday's $100,000 John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes, then battled to the wire with Ameribelle before prevailing by 1/2 length. Cumana finished third. Exe, a daughter of Exchange Rate out of the Cat Thief mare Exaggerate, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the green course in 1:44.56 under Manoel Cruz. Eddie Plesa trains the top two finishers. "They both ran great," he said. "We worked Exe on the turf and she liked it. We knew Ameribelle liked it. They both have futures, although we don't know what's next yet."
Researcher dueled down the lane with early pace-setter Ravalo in Saturday night's $125,000 Mountaineer Mile, then edged in front in the final strides to win by 3/4 length. Head Chopper finished third, well back. Researcher, a 4-year-old, Virginia-bred gelding by Two Smart, ran the 1 mile on a "good" track in 1:39.8. Deshawn Parker had the mount for trainer Jeff Runco.
High Heel Sneakers got the lead turning for home in Sunday's $65,000 Hermosa Beach Stakes for fillies and mares and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Brushed Gold was second and Caprice third. High Heel Sneakers, a 5-year-old, British-bred mare by Dansili, ran the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:28.58 with Victor Espinoza up for trainer Ben Cecil.
Spritely led from gate to wire in Saturday night's $60,000 Honey Bee Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by 3 lengths over favorite Hamsa. Sky Copper was 9 lengths farther back in third. Spritely, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Touch Gold, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:43.84 with Mike Luzzi in the irons. Todd Pletcher trains Spritely.
One Lucky Buck rallied from a pace-stalking position to take the lead on the backstretch in Saturday's $55,000 Veteran Stakes and went on to win by a comfortable 3 3/4 lengths over Sumac. Taziano was third. One Lucky Buck, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Thats Our Buck, got the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.8.
Came to Pass pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Caballos Del Sol Handicap, then came to pass pace-setting Bobadieu at the top of the lane and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. Red Sky finished third. Came to Pass, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Came Home, completed the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.54 under Ry Eikleberry.
Snowdrop got to the lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Chamisa Handicap for fillies and mares and won by 1 length over Victorious Vee. Lauras Last Music was third. Snowdrop, a 5-year-old, California-bred daughter of Beau Genius, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.39 with Glenn Corbett up.