A favorite and a longshot won the weekend's major Kentucky Derby preps, with another pair of races set for Presidents' Day competition.
The upset came at Tampa Bay Downs as General Quarters, at odds of 13-1, stalked the pace and then drew off easily in the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths over an even longer chance, Sumo. Musket Man finished third. General Quarters, a Kentucky-bred colt by Sky Mesa, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.54. James Lopez rode for trainer Mark Miller.
The favorite, Free Country, checked in fourth and showed no punch in the lane. Highly regarded A.P. Cardinal and Atomic Rain finished fifth and seventh, respectively.
Lopez said he got a perfect trip, sitting behind pace-setting A.P. Cardinal until he set General Quarters down for the stretch drive. "He had stopped on me sprinting in the last two races but I probably had him on the lead too soon," the rider said. "So I learned something and he learned something. He was just reaching out at the end, and yes, I am sure he can get the next sixteenth. This guy has a big future!"
Winning owner Thomas R. McCarthy has that future all mapped out for General Quarters, declaring, "The next step will possibly be the Tampa Bay Derby, then the Bluegrass, and then hopefully to the (Kentucky) Derby."
In northern California, Chocolate Candy justified his odds-on status in Saturday's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, advancing from mid-pack to win by 1/2 length over Massone. Rendezvous was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third.
With Russell Baze up for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer Chocolate Candy covered the 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.54. The colt is by Candy Ride out of the Seattle Slew mare Crownette.
Baze said he was concerned about the way the race unfolded. "I wanted to tuck in behind and save a little ground but he was too fresh and wouldn't let me do it," Baze asid. "When he took the lead, I was a little concerned if I had enough horse left but when I asked him, he responded and that was good enough for me. He would have held off (Massone) even if we went around again."
Hollendorfer said he wants to run Chocolate Candy in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4 but also will consider the $200,000 San Felipe on March 14. "There are different approaches to the Kentucky Derby," he added. "But I think the fitter the horse, the better his chance to win. A lot of people go in there with fewer races but most horses that do well have a foundation under them."
Chocolate Candy took four tries to break his maiden last year, then won the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park in November and finished a close third in the Cash Call Futurity, behind Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge. He opened his 3-year-old campaign with a win in the California Derby at Golden Gate last month.
In other weekend events for 3-year-olds:
-- Valid Stripes pressed the pace in Saturday night's $125,000 Jim's Orbit Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park, then went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Come On Flyer. Valid Performance was third in the event, restricted to colts and geldings nominated to the Stallion series. Valid Stripes, a Valid Expectations gelding, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.41 under Corey Lanerie.
-- On Sunday at Aqueduct in New York, Not for Silver rallied three-wide into the stretch in Sunday's $65,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes and shook clear, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Wildcat Brief. The Prince was third. Not for Silver, a Maryland-bred colt by Not For Love, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:10.38 under Ramon Dominguez. Not for Silver now is 3-for-3, all sprints, with the first two wins coming at Laurel Park in Maryland. "We were hoping he would take his Laurel form with him," said winning trainer Michael Trombetta. "I have no idea what's next."
Coming up Monday are the San Vicente at Santa Anita and the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
The San Vicente features a filly, Evita Argentina, who arguably is the most accomplished member of the prospective 10-horse field. Like Chocolate Candy, she is by the Argentine-bred stallion Candy Ride and comes off a win and a second in California stakes events. "She's a late-running sprinter," said trainer John Sadler." This was really the only race for her and so we're going to give it a try." Several of the other nine have a chance to move along the Derby trail.
At Oaklawn, 11 are scheduled to face the starter in the Southwest Stakes but all eyes will be on No. 5, Old Fashioned. The Unbridled's Song colt was undefeated in three starts last year, including the Remsen at Aqueduct in November and is one of the most highly regarded Derby contenders.
The field, however, is competitive and should Old Fashioned win convincingly, the Louisiana-Arkansas route to Churchill Downs could come down to Old Fashioned and his partner in trainer Larry Jones's barn, Friesan Fire, who won last weekend's $200,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds and is a favorite for the Louisiana Derby.
Kentucky Oaks trail:
-- Rachel Alexandra drew clear in the stretch in Sunday's $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park and showed her heels to eight rivals, winning by 8 lengths. Afleet Deceit was the best of the rest, with Peach Brew finishing third. Rachel Alexandra, a Kentucky-bred Medaglia d'Oro filly, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.4 with Calvin Borel in to ride for trainer Hal Wiggins.
-- Rock Candy won a three-horse duel to the wire in Saturday's $75,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, getting home a neck to the good of Ameribelle with the favorite, Don't Forget Gil, settling for third. Rock Candy, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Mineshaft, ran the 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:41.22 with Carlos Montalva up for trainer Michael Zwiesler. "It was a very competitive field, and she's just progressing," Zwiesler said. "She showed her determination today. She ran hard. We'll definitely nominate her for the Oaks."
-- Tiffany Royal led from gate to wire in Saturday night's $125,000 Two Altazano Stakes at Retama Park, a race restricted to fillies nominated to the Texas Stallion Series. At the wire, the daughter of Seneca Jones was 7 1/2 lengths in front of her closest rival, The Cat Who, with Monica's Skirmish third. Tiffany Royal, with Justin Shepherd in the irons, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.06.
-- Dream Play fought for the lead in Saturday's $65,000 Dearly Precious Stakes at Aqueduct, then forged out to a clear advantage and coasted home a winner by 8 1/4 lengths over Chattertown. Liza Too was third as the odds-on favorite. Dream Play, a Kentucky-bred filly by Hennessey, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:10.86. Eddie Castro rode for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
In other weekend racing:
Santa Teresita stalked the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Maria Handicap, surged to the lead on the second turn and drew clear in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths over the dead-heat pair of Marzelline and Model. Leah's Secret was fourth and the favorite, Visit, was never in the mix, finishing sixth. Santa Teresita, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Lemon Drop Kid, got the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:41.88. Joseph Talamo rode for trainer Eric Guillot. "She just had a beautiful trip," said Talamo. "She's a stalking kind of filly and I was able to keep her relaxed outside of (Briecat), and that helped her to stay relaxed. At the quarter-pole, I said, 'Okay, mama, let's go,' and she really gave it to me. She was striding out great, and this was a great way to finish up the day." He won three straight to finish the card.
Life Is Sweet settled near the back of the field through the early furlongs of Sunday's $200,000 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies, came four-wide into the stretch around the leaders and rallied in time to win by 3/4 length over Magical Fantasy. Bsharpsonata led most of the way, setting an extremely slow pace, and lost second by just a neck. Modification was a nose farther back in fourth. Life Is Sweet, a Kentucky-bred filly by Storm Cat out of the Kris S. mare Sweet Life, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:49.7. Garrett Gomez had the ride. "As we went down the backstretch, I just tried to inch up a little closer," Gomez said. "At the three-eighths pole, we were closer, but I didn't know if she could quicken enough to catch those other fillies. She really showed a great turn of foot, and to be able to overcome that slow pace like we did is amazing. You can see her stride gets longer as she gets closer to the wire."
Desert Code jumped quickly to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Daytona Handicap down the hillside turf course, held the advantage and then got clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Euroglide. Guns On the Table finished third. Desert Code, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of E Dubai, finished the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.58 with Aaron Gryder handling the reins.
Tampa Bay Downs
Ballymore Lady came from far back in Saturday's $125,000 Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares and was just up in time to catch Elusive Lady in the final strides, winning by a neck. Sousaphone was third, only a nose farther behind and a head to the good of Audacious Chloe. Ballymore Lady, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by War Chant out of the Alydar mare Basking, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.37 under Jose Lezcano.
Royale Michele saved ground early in Saturday's $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap for fillies and mares, came wide around the leaders and won off by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Seventh Street, who reared at the start. Fascinatin' Rhythm finished third. Royale Michele, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Elusive Quality, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.33 with Geovany Garcia in the irons. "She's a nice horse," Garcia said. "I got behind three horses and just came on a little bit between the quarter pole and the wire and she gave me everything."
Richard's Kid came from last of nine to win Saurday's $50,000 John B. Campbell Handicap by 1 length over the odds-on favorite, Bullsbay. P V Lightening was third, Richard's Kid, a 4-year-old, Maryland-bred colt by Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.01 with Jenna Joubert riding.
How's Your Halo probably looked like the devil to chalk players after Saturday's $150,000 Richter Scale Sprint Stakes. At odds of nearly 50-1, the 6-year-old son of Halo's Image ran down pace-setting Ikigai in the late going to win by 1/2 length. Bold Start was third and the favorite, Tale of Ekati was fourth after an awkward start. How's Your Halo, with Juan Leyva up for trainer Brian Prichard, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.16. The upset wasn't such a surprise to Prichard. "He's run big races before, like finishing second to Benny the Bull in the Smile last summer at Calder," the trainer said. "I told Juan to put him into the race. I thought we were the only horse in there that could put any pressure on Ikigai. I haven't thought about what's next. He might need a little break."
Duke of Homberg took the early lead in Saturday's $125,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes for 3-year-olds, dropped back to second, then came again in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Lime Rickey. The favorite, Into My Soul, finished third. Duke of Homberg, a British-bred colt by Dynaformer, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.3. Alan Garcia rode for trainer Thomas Albertrani and owner Padua Stables. "He trains like a turf horse, but that's not to say that somewhere down the line we might not try him in a race that comes off turf," Albertrani said. "He might get a little time now. It's a long season ahead."
Any Limit shot to the lead in Sunday's $125,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes for fillies and mares and wasn't caught, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over the odds-on choice, Game Face. Lovely Isle was up the track in third. Any Limit, a 6-year-old Limit Out mare, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.95 under Cornelio Velasquez. The outcome reversed the order of finish in the Jan. 18 First Lady Stakes, which Game Face won by 2 3/4 lengths over Any Limit. "Turnabout is fair play," said winning trainer Alan Jerkens. "She missed this meet last year. She had a cut that just wouldn't heal properly but she's doing good now, and as long she's okay, she'll go on" to the 7-furlong Inside Information Stakes on March 15.
Gozzip Girl was off last of 11 in Sunday's $125,000 Coconut Grove Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, circled the leaders around the final turn and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Oilgonewile. Obsequious was third and the favorite, Habaya, finished a disappointing eighth. Gozzip Girl, a Kentucky-bred filly by Dynaformer, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.8. Kent Desormeaux had the mount for trainer Thomas Albertrani.
Peace Chant rallied from near the back of the pack to win Saturday's $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup going away, by 1 3/4 length over Ducky Drake. Twin Sparks, part of the mutual field, finished third. Peace Chant, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of War Chant, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:08.2 with Alonso Quinonez aboard for trainer Doug O'Neill.
Bingham pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Turf Paradise Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the grass, then just put a head in front of pace-setting Zappa. Canard was third. Bingham, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Monarchos, finished in 1:42.59 under Glenn Corbett.
She's Sensational rallied through the lane to post a mild upset in Saturday's $50,000 Sun City Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf. After coming four-wide into the stretch, the 5-year-old Point Given mare got away to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Star of Whitney with La Tee third. Kyle Kaenel rode the winner over 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.83.
French Kiss came from last of nine to win Saturday's $50,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares, beating Day of Victory to the wire by a neck. Color Me Up cashed out for third, another neck back. French Kiss, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Hussonet, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.38 under Joe Johnson.
Smart Surprise pressed the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Chou Croute Handicap for fillies and mares, got the lead on the turn for home and drew off to win by 6 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Rolling Sea, saved second and She's Indy Money just barely was, finishing third. Smart Surprise, a 5-year-old Smart Strike mare, completed the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:44.84 under Robby Albarado.
Timeless Fashion won Saturday's $50,000 Dust Commander Stakes in front-running fashion, dictating a slow pace despite pressure most of the way before accelerating to draw clear in the stretch and win by 2 lengths. Your Round was second and Matty's Trail held on for third after pushing the winner along. Timeless Fashion, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Sky Classic gelding, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.13 under Hector Rosario Jr.
Stealth Cat snuck up on the leaders entering the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Santa Teresa Handicap for fillies and mares, then drew off to win by 2 /2 lengths over R Charlie's Angel. The early leader, Petition the Lady, settled for third. Stealth Cat, a 5-year-old, Texas-bred mare by Magic Cat, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.34 under Luis Contreras.
Song of Navarone tracked the pace through the early furlongs in Sunday's $50,000 Curribot Handicap, came to the lead early in the stretch run and got home 3/4 length to the good of the early leader, One Lucky Buck. Quiet Again finished third. Song of Navarone, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Sultry Song, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.91 under Antonio Castanon.
In Dubai, Godolphin's Desert Party charged to the lead with about 400 meters to run in Thursday's UAE 2000 Guineas and drew off to win going away. "We knew he had come out of his last race very well and improved with that run," said trainer Saeed Bin Suroor. "This extra distance was never going to be a concern and, all being well, he will be UAE Derby-bound." Frankie Dettori had the mount.