Advice surged from last after a half mile to win Saturday's $300,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, adding perhaps the final piece of the puzzle for the May 2 Kentucky Derby.
After trailing the field, the Florida-bred son of Chapel Royal swung to the outside and ran by the field, drawing clear at the end to win by 1 length over fellow longshot Conservative. Square Eddie, runner-up in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, returned from an injury layoff to finish third as the favorite, 1 length behind Conservative.
Advice, owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.33 under Garrett Gomez.
Advice is the third WinStar contender for the Kentucky Derby. The others: Hold Me Back finished second to General Quarters in last week's Toyota Blue Grass and Mr. Hot Stuff finished third in the Santa Anita Derby.
The best previous finish for Advice was a third-place effort in last fall's Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park, where a disqualification moved him up to second.
Pletcher, speaking from Florida, said Advice is "still kind of putting it all together. I thought he was still just a touch green when he made the lead. He's a horse that's shown a lot of ability."
Square Eddie broke in the air at the start of Saturday's race, then put in a big run on the turn to take the lead before tiring. "We just didn't get lucky today," said jockey Edgar Prado. "He broke a little flat footed and I had to make a move and go wide because I didn't want to wait for something to open up on the inside. He made a great run and was trying really hard." He remains a Derby contender based on his career earnings. Trainer Doug O'Neil said he was "very proud" of Square Eddie's effort. "With a clean break, I think he'd be right there," the trainer said.
Advice came into the race off a fifth-place finish in the March 29 Sunland Park Derby. He now has two wins from six starts and the Victory in the Lexington gives jockey Garrett Gomez some options. He also rides Derby contenders. Dunkirk and Pioneerof the Nile. "Just throw another log on the fire," the jockey said. "It's good to be in that position." Better if you jump the right way.
In other weekend racing:
Midships led the field on a stroll through Sunday's $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap, winning by 3/4 length over Spring House and taking 2:49.26 to complete the 1 3/4 miles of turf. It was the slowest running of North America's longest graded stakes since 1989. Victor Espinoza rode Midships for trainer Bobby Frankel, setting fractions of 51.9, 1:17.37 and 1:44.17. Spring House closed into that glacial pace but couldn't challenge the winner. Obrigado finished third. "This is the longest race ever," Espinoza said, "and you have to take your time and be patient." It was the second win for Midships in four U.S. starts since he was shipped from England.
Magical Fantasy had to weave through traffic and endure some bumping but was still able to get up in time to win Saturday's $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap for fillies and mares by a nose over Black Mamba. Toque de Queda finished third as the favorite. Magical Fantasy, with Alex Solis up for trainer Paddy Gallagher, ran the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 1:59.83. She is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Diesis. "I felt like the other filly had it right before the finish," Gallagher said. "Then my filly came on. I would have taken a dead heat. It doesn't get much better than this."
Mr Gruff led from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 San Simeon Handicap, winning by 3/4 length over Dopio. Euroglide was third. Mr Gruff, by Mr. Greely out of the Clever Trick mare Ruff, ran the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:11.88 with Joel Rosario at the controls. It was the second straight year Black Mamba has been beaten by a nose in the Santa Barbara.
Researcher, defending the local honor against some Grade 1 winners from around the area, pressed the pace set by the favorite, Commentator, in Saturday's $500,000 Charles Town Classic, moved by and to the lead on the final turn and drew off in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Ea rallied from far back to finish second and Dry Martini came from even farther back to take third. Commentator held fourth. Researcher, a 5-year-old, Virginia-bred son of Two Smart, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.86 with Kendrick Carmouche riding. The race drew some of the nation's top trainers and jockeys to a track that, before the advent of slot machine revenue sharing, was running for purses barely in four figures and in danger of going belly-up. "This is a big deal," Researcher trainer Jeff Runco told The Blood-Horse. "It's as big a deal as winning the grade III in New York. When he came back in the prep, he ran great, and he came into this race perfectly. I didn't know he'd win, but I thought he'd be right there … Commentator, what can you say? He's a super horse. But our horse got a good trip, and Kendrick rides here a lot and knows the track." Commentator won last year's Whitney at Saragota.
In the companion $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes for fillies and mares, Spritely dueled for the lead, got clear and drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Choragus. Weathered was third as the favorite and Cowgirls Don't Cry finished fourth. Spritely, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Touch Gold, finished the 7 furlongs in 1:24.44 under jockey John Velazquez.
Trust or Bust rallied from a pace-stalking position to win Saturday's $100,000 Webb Snyder Stakes by 1/2 length over Love's Strong Heart, hustling the 4 1/2 furlongs in 50.93 seconds under Gerald Almodovar. And Russell Road came from just behind the leaders to take the $100,000 Blue and Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds by a neck over Bunker Hill, running 7 furlongs in 1:24.88 with Eric Camacho up.
Parading drew off in the stretch to win Sunday's $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes by 7 1/2 lengths over Your Round. The favorite, Monba, finished third. Parading, a 6-year-old son of Pulpit, was in a three-way battle for the lead before Kent Desormeaux sent him on his solitary way to the wire. He covered the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:47.82, picking up his sixth career win for the Phipps Stable. "He's a pleasure to ride," Desormeaux said. "He sits in the bridle and rides right off my fingertips, he's so well trained. I just get to sit on him. I'm the lucky one." Eleven of Parading's previous 15 starts were on the turf but trainer Shug McGaughey said he was encouraged to try the surface switch when he came out of his last race well and trained forwardly. "So I thought I would try him on the Polytrack. Now he's won on both turf and Polytrack, so that will help him in his career," the trainer added.
Afternoon Stroll pressed the early pace in Thursday's $100,000 Appalachian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then challenged for the lead on the turn for home and won a protracted stretch duel with Hot Cha Cha to post the 50-1 upset by a nose. Fast Tigress finished third and the favorite, Obsequious, was seventh. Afternoon Stroll, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stroll, strolled the 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:36.67. Jamie Theriot had the mount for trainer Timothy Hamm.
Indescribable stalked the pace in Friday's $100,000 Doubledogdare Stakes for fillies and mares, took the lead at the top of the stretch and drew clear, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Serenading. Tejida finished third. Indescribable, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Pleasant Tap, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.4 under Kent Desormeaux. Bill Mott is the winning trainer.
Diamondrella rallied from far back to win Saturday's $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length over pace-setting Marina Ballerina. Lady Chase was third. Diamondrella, a 5-year-old, British-bred daughter of Rock of Gibraltar, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.71 under Rajiv Maragh.
Seattle Smooth got by pace-setting Are We Dreamin at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Bed o'Roses Handicap and drew off smartly to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Are We Dreamin held third with Distorted Passion and Awesome Am I completing the order of finish. Seattle Smooth, a Kentucky-bred, 4-year-old daughter of Quiet American, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.48 with Ramon Dominguez up. Seattle Smooth, making her seasonal debut, was not fully cranked up by trainer Anthony Dutrow. "Once again, at the top of the stretch, I said to myself, 'This is a very good filly,' because I know she was not at her best today," Dutrow said. Seattle Smooth now has won five of 11 starts and Dutrow said she will point to the Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 16.
Hawthorne Race Course
Swift Temper set the early pace in Saturday's $200,000 Sixty Sails Handicap, turned back a bid from Quick Notice turning for home, then held on to win by a head over the favorite, California invader Santa Teresita. Quick Notice held third. Swift Temper, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway mare, got the 9 furlongs in 1:51.7 with Chris Emigh up for trainer Dale Romans. "Mr. Romans said to just get him out of the gate and go with wherever you're sitting," Emigh said. "We hooked up with the outside horse and my horse wanted to run off a little bit but then she relaxed on the backside. I was hoping that she was fit enough but she was. She really dug in and didn't give up." Joe Talamo, aboard Santa Teresita, said, "Without a doubt, she's a totally different filly on the dirt. I thought she was going to run third but then finally she got going … She just couldn't quicken fast enough to catch the winner."
Dancing Allstar was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Whimsical Stakes for fillies and mares and held sway, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Smart Surprise. Proud Heiress finished third. Dancing Allstar, a 4-year-old, British Columbia-bred filly by Millennium Allstar, was Canada's champion 2-year-old filly in 2007. She ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.16. James McAleney had the mount for trainer Terry Jordan. "I was really happy with this filly," said McAleney. "Terry always brings them over at 110 percent. She ran back to her old races. She's just a brilliant filly."
Milwaukee Appeal rallied from close off the pace to win Saturday's $150,000 Star Shoot Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Deeveetee. Sans Sousi was third. Milwaukke Appeal, a daughter of Milwaukee Brew, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.9 with Na Somsanith aboard. "She came out beautifully," the rider said. "I was closer than I expected. She wanted to go to the front so I let her go." She is being pointed to the Woodbine Oaks on June 7.
Explosive Mine chased the leaders through the opening furlongs of Saturday's $200,000 Copper Top Futurity for New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds, came out into the stretch and determinedly battled to the front, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Marquee Avenue was second and Hollywood Showbiz third. Explosive Mine, a Ghostly Moves colt, ran the 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.55 seconds with Alejandro Medellin in the irons.
Song of Navarone rallied from last to win Sunday's $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap by 1/2 length over Lobo Country. Quiet Again was third. Song of Navarone, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Sultry Song, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.78 with Antonio Castanon handling the reins.
Unrivaled went to the lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $2.3 million Japanese 2000 Guineas (Satsuki Sho), then held on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Triumph March. Seiun Wonder finished third. The winning time for the first leg of the Japanese Triple Crown was 1:58.7 over firm going, just 0.2 second off the stakes record. "When I gave him the green light at the last turn, he passed everyone in a heartbeat," said winning jockey Yasanuri Iwata. "It was the strongest race he's run yet. I was just trying to get him into a good rhythm. I hope we can get him to the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) fit." Unrivaled came into the race off a victory in the Fuji TV Sho Spring Stakes at Nakayama. He now has four wins from five starts.