Memorial Day traditionally is one of the most important dates on the Thoroughbred calendar, establishing early favorites for divisional contenders. This year's edition was a case in point.
Bribon stamped himself one of the nation's best dirt milers with a win in the Met Mile at Belmont. Thorn Song made a case as one of the top grass milers with a victory in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park. And Zenyatta remained undefeated in her seasonal debut and got fans thinking about a year-end showdown with Preakness Stakes filly winner Rachel Alexandra.
And scattered around North America, from New York to California and from Ontario to Texas, with Chicago in between, a bevy of grass races set up some early contenders for the other turf divisions.
Bribon posted his second straight victory on the one-turn Belont mile course, winning Monday's $600,000 Shadwell Metropolitan Mile by a hard-fought 1/2 length over Smooth Air. Driven by Success set the pace and held on gamely to finish third, a nose in front of My Pal Charlie. Bribon, a 6-year-old, French-bred gelding by Mark of Esteem, finished in 1:34.15 with Alan Garcia in the irons for trainer Robert Ribaudo. In his last previous outing, Bribon won the Westchester Handicap with a similar trip, beating horses perhaps a cut below Monday's Grade I company. "I had a good trip all the way around," Garcia said. "I didn't want to be too far back. At the quarter pole, my horse put his head down and ran." Ribaudo said he had no questions about running Bribon right back after his April 29 Westchester win. "There was no reason not to run him. The horse was doing good. This was the logical spot to run him and it's a credit to the horse," the trainer said. He added there aren't many straight mile races in the near future, and, anyway, "he deserves a little break. Maybe we'll come back in Saratoga at seven-eighths."
Criticism picked up her third win in four starts this year, leading all the way to a comfortable victory in Saturday's $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes for fillies and mares. With pressure, the 5-year-old, British-bred Machiavellian mare set a comfortable pace under Javier Castellano, repelled a mild bid by Mushka at the top of the lane and won by 2 1/4 lengths over that rival. Caprice finished third. Criticism, trained by Tom Albertrani for Darley Stable, ran the 1 3/8 miles on the firm inner turf course in 2:13.96. "That's kind of the way we thought the race would unfold," Albertrani said. "There wasn't a whole lot of speed in there. She doesn't have to be on the lead, but if it happens that way, she's happy to be there." Albertrani said he is pointing Criticism to the June 27 New York Handicap for fillies and mares at a mile and a quarter on the turf.
Carolyn's Cat jumped out to the lead in Sunday's $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap and never looked back, drawing off at the end to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Porte Bonheur. Are We Dreamin was third and the favorite, Game Face, checked in last of five. Carolyn's Cat, a 4-year-old Forestry filly, went the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.34. Alan Garcia rode for Kiaran McLaughlin. "It was a very easy trip," Garcia said. "She broke good, and then I decided I would take advantage of my break and take the lead, and my filly just kept going."
Zenyatta, defending Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic champ and a finalist for last year's Horse of the Year award, returned to the races Saturday in the $150,000 Milady Handicap, convincingly beat her talented stablemate Life is Sweet, and set racing fans drooling at the thought of a showdown this fall with Preakness Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra. Trainer John Shirreffs had tried to get a race for his undefeated superstar on Derby week at Churchill Downs but scrapped that plan when the track came up wet. That forced him to put Zenyatta and Life is Sweet in the same starting gate Saturday. The duo ran last of six, well back of the leaders, until midway down the backstretch. Then, after briefly getting in each other's way, jockey Mike Smith got Zenyatta loose and outside. She quickly circled the leaders and drew clear. Life is Sweet, under Garrett Gomez, dived to the rail and easily finished second without threatening Zenyatta. The final margin was 1 3/4 lengths and Smith wasn't doing much riding. The 1 1/16 miles went in 1:42.3. "Garrett and I were playing some serious jockey games out there," Smith said of the backstretch issue. "It was all clean and fair. She's so handy that when I eased up on the pedal she backed up for me, came around and it was over." Smith, who rode Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird to finish second behind Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, also was looking down the road at another chance at the 3-year-old filly sensation. "As far as Rachel Alexandra, she's such a great filly and I don't want to ruin what she did," Smith said. "But Zenyatta is Zenyatta. When the match comes up down the road, it's going to be exciting for racing."
Thorn Song led a half dozen rivals around the course in Monday's $250,000 Shoemaker Mile, then won a long stretch battle, winning by a head over Hyperbaric. Storm Military was a neck farther back in third, a neck in front of the favorite, Whatsthescript. The morning-line favorite, Ventura, was a late scratch with what trainer Bobby Frankel described as a "foot problem." Thorn Song, a 6-year-old, gray son of Unbridled's Song, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.33. Mike Smith had the mount for trainer Dale Romans. Thorn Song had not won in four starts since taking the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in October. "He broke sharp and I was able to get the easy lead and he never stopped trying," Smith said. "He's a fighting little dude. At one point they may have got a jump or two in front, but he came back."
Charlie's Moment dueled for the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Lazaro S. Barrera Memorial for 3-year-olds, took a clear lead turning for home and prevailed by 2 lengths over Bet On Victor. The odds-on favorite, previously undefeated Canonize, was 1 1/4 lengths farther back in third, unable to capitalize on an opening along the rail. Charlie's Moment, a Florida-bred Indian Charlie gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather surface in 1:21.89 under Alex Solis. "I think people will start respecting this horse more after today's race," Solis said. "Coming into this race I'd been working him and he's been working incredible."
Lone Star Park
It's a Bird and Jonesboro hooked up in a tight stretch duel to culminate Monday's $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap with It's a Bird getting home a head in front. Song of Navarone was 1/2 length farther back in third. It's a Bird, a 6-year-old son of Birdonthewire, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.83 under Julien Leparoux. Earlier this spring, It's a Bird was the easy winner of the Oaklawn Park Handicap, with Jonesboro making a late run to finish third. "Julian has a lot to do with it," said winning trainer Martin Wolfson. "He just gets along great with the horse. I thought he'd be closer up early on, but I don't worry when Julian is on him. The races he's won with Julian have been very easy. Today really tested him and he impressed me with what he did."
Seaspeak stalked the pace in Monday's $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap, then easily drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths, eased up by jockey Julien Leparoux. Ernesto was second and Red Rock Creek got home third. Seaspeak, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Mizzen Mast, ran the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.23. Ralph Nicks trains the winner.
Wasted Tears wasted no time getting to the front in Monday's $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff, gave up the lead briefly nearing the stretch, then battled back to win by 1 length over Superior Storm. Love to Tell finished third. The favorite, Flibberjibit, was pulled up on the first turn and vanned off. Wasted Tears, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Najran, ran the 1 mile on firm going in 1:32.81. Eguard Tejera had the mount for breeder, owner and trainer Bart Evans.
Jake Wil Gallop put a head in front of pace-setting Southern Region at the top of the stretch in Monday's $100,000 USA Stakes for 3-year-old and got clear to win by 1 length. The favorite, Ticfaw, ran well late to take second, 2 1/4 lengths better than Southern Region. Jake Wil Gallop, a Kentucky-bred Victory Gallop gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.09.
Sweet Relish came wide into the stretch in Monday's $100,000 Cinemine Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, closed well and won by 1 length over the favorite, Simplify. Sundayville Break was third. Sweet Relish, a Kentucky-bred Smoke Glacken filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.31.
Pious Ashley came from last of 10 to win Monday's $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 3/4 lengths over P.S.U. Grad. Pious Ashley, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Include, got the 6 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:09.43 with Julien Leparoux riding.
Giant Oak highlighted Arlington's first big stakes day of the season. Trained by local stalwart Chris Block, the Illinois-bred son of Giant's Causeway rallied between horses at the top of the stretch and went on to win the $150,000 Arlington Classic -- first leg of the track's grassy Mid American Triple for 3-year-olds, by 1 length over No Inflation. El Crespo got home third. Earlier this year. Giant Oak appeared to be Block's hope to break into the Triple Crown picture. But after running second to Musket Man in the Illinois Derby, the trainer decided the home field turf course was the best option. With Eusebio Razo Jr. up, Giant Oak closed into a slow pace and finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.59. "I was a little worried when I saw the quarter in :25," Block said. "I thought 'Oh my, this horse needs a quicker pace.' When he was on the rail, I got a little nervous, but I saw Eddie drafting around the far turn, finding a spot and opening up turning for home. I was more worried about the distance, to be honest with you. Eddie did a great job, the horse kicked into high gear and had been training great."
Consequence stalked the pace in Saturday's $200,000 American 1000 Guineas, got past pace-setting Afternoon Stroll at the top of the stretch and held on to win by 1/2 length over an onrushing Excelente. Afternoon Stroll held third. Consquence, a Kentucky-bred daughter of El Prado, finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.59 with John Velazquez in to ride for trainer Shug McGaughey and Phipps Stable. The victory was the first for Consequence since she broke her maiden last summer at Saratoga. She was third in her last start, the Beaumont, contested over Keeneland's Polytrack. "I was proud of the way she sprinted home," Velazquez said.
Euphony broke on top in Saturday's $150,000 Arlington Matron, took back and then came again to win by 3/4 length over Kiss With a Twist. The odds-on favorite, Indescribable, finished third. Euphony, a 4-year-old Forest Wildcat filly, ran the 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.72 under Cliff Berry. "She is just a wonderful filly," said winning trainer Donnie Von Hemel. "Cliff rode a wonderful race. I thought she might be behind a few more horses, but the way she broke, and the way the pace was, he did what a good rider does in a race and took advantage of it. He rode a great race."
The McGaughey-Velazquez combo hit again in the $100,000 Hanshin Cup as Vacation rallied nicely through the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Dominican. Cherokee Artist finished third as the favorite. Vacation, a 4-year-old Dynaformer colt, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:36.56. "He broke really well," Velazquez said. "so I wanted to get position and keep him closer than normal. Then when I was ready to go, I asked him and he responded."
Brass Hat rallied five-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Louisville Handicap and caught the favorite, Spice Route in the late going to win by 1/2 length. Spice Route, who got the first move and surged to the lead at the top of the stretch, easily held second, 2 1/4 lengths to the good of Thabazimbi. Brass Hat, an 8-year-old Prized gelding, finished the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:28.44 under Calvin Borel, who picked up his fifth win on the day. Brass Hat, who posted his first victory in eight starts on grass and notched his first win since taking the Massachusetts Handicap on Sept. 22, 2007, at Suffolk Downs. Trainer William "Buff" Bradley said he's unsure where Brass Hat will surface next. "Right now, we've got to drink some Coronas and think about it," he said, mentioning the United Nations at Moumouth Park on the Fourth of July. "The timing would be pretty good on that one. Of course, we'd love to stay at Churchill, our home track, but the (Stephen) Foster is in three weeks and it'd be awfully tough. We'd have to run against Einstein." Asked about his five-winner day, Borel said, "It's all in the hands."
Dubai Majesty dueled with Lady Chace through most of Monday's $100,000 Winning Colors Stakes for fillies and mares, then finally got clear to win by a neck. Lady Chace finished second but was disqualified to third for interfering with Keep the Peace in the final sixteenth. Dubai Majesty, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Essence of Dubai filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.61 with Jamie Theriot in the irons. "She put us in the game early and I knew I had to keep her there to keep her happy," Theriot said. "When I called on her, she sprinted away and the horse on the outside fought back. But then she dug back in the last sixteenth and showed a lot of heart and game today."
Sans Sousi settled near the back of the pack in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Lady Angela Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, advance on the turn an rallied in the stretch to win by 1/2 length over Koonunga Hill. The favorite, Minkredible, set the early pace and faded in the final furlong but held third. Sans Sousi, an Ontario-bred Bold Executive filly, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:24.97 with Chantal Sutherland riding. "Every race is different," Sutherland said. "Last race I rode her, everybody kind of moved early and she's only got this short little spurt. I kind of need the race to set up for her and today it did."
Sterwins came from last in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Connaught Cup, engaged pace-setting Rahy's Attorney down the stretch and came away with the victory, by a head. Rahy's Attorney held second, 1 1/2 lengths to the good of Society's Chairman. Sterwins, a 6-year-old, Ontario-bred gelding by Runaway Groom, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:38.99 with Patrick Husbands in the irons. The Connaught Cup was the first stakes victory for Sterwins since last April's Ben Ali at Keeneland. Trainer Malcolm Pierce entered the six-year-old gelding in the same event this year, but was disappointed with the result. "He trained well into the race. I expected a lot bigger race from him. He ran fifth and not a super effort. We had a lot of time between races coming into that spot. I was hoping that race would move him forward for today," the trainer said.
Indian Way showed the way in Saturday's $250,000 My Juliet Stakes for fillies and mares, then turned back stubborn pressure from Sunday Geisha and edged clear to win by 3/4 length. Jet Away finished third. Indian Way, a 4-year-old Indian Charlie filly, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.61. David Cohen rode for trainer Anthony Dutrow.
Get Serious got to the front as the field hit the backstretch in Saturday's $70,000 Elkwood Stakes, then opened up a comfortable lead and went on to post the upset, beating favored Carson Hall by 2 3/4 length. The latter rallied from mid-pack to get home 1/2 length better than Silver Tree. Get Serious, a 5-year-old, New York-bred City Zip gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.78 with Pablo Fragoso up.
Solar Flare drew off easily in the stretch to win Sunday's $70,000 Frisk Me Now Stakes by 9 lengths over the favorite, Nite Light. Formal King was third and Understatement completed the order of finish. Solar Flare, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred son of Salt Lake, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.08 with Gabriel Saez.
Platinum Girl was quickly on the lead in Sunday's $65,000 Little Silver Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, turned back a challenge at the top of the stretch and again got clear, winning by 1 1/2 lengths at odds of 20-1. The favorite, LaRocca, was best of the rest with My Magic Moment third. Platinum Girl, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Mineshaft, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.75 under Eddie Castro.
Sleepless Knight rallied wide into the lane in Monday's $65,000 Lamplighter Stakes for 3-year-olds and drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Tamborim. Sal the Barber was third. Sleepless Knight, a Kentucky-bred colt by War Chant, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.39 for jockey Joe Bravo.
Maren's Meadow set all the pace in Monday's $70,000 Monmouth Beach Stakes for fillies and mares, then won a prolonged duel with All Night Labor to score by a head. You Asked was third. Maren's Meadow, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred filly by Meadowlake, finished 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:40.53.
Golden Gate Fields
Autism Awareness raced in mid-field until the turn in Monday's $150,000 Berkeley Stakes, came four-wide to contention and then was just up in time to win by a head over Bold Chieftain in a four-horse blanket finish. Awesome Gem, the favorite, was third and Medzendeekron was fourth. Autism Awareness, a 4-year-old, Cal-bred colt by Tannersmyman, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.12 with David Lopez in the irons.
Run It prompted the pace into the stretch turn in Saturday's $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes for 3-year-olds, got to the lead turning for home and then held off Arden Park to win by 1 length. The favorite, Massone, came from last of seven to finish third, a nose farther back. Run It, a Kentucky-bred colt by Cherokee Run, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:46.2 under Chad Schvaneveldt.
Calder Race Course
Livingston Street came from last of six to win Saturday's $55,000 Ride the Rails Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3/4 length over Powerchord. The favorite, Miles and Miles, was third. Livingston Street, a Florida-bred Mr. Livingston gelding, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a sloppy track in 1:46.19 with Manoel Cruz up.
Finallymadeit led the way in Monday's $100,000 Memorial Day Handicap and coasted home first, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Motovato. Dream Maestro finished third. Finallymadeit, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Concerto, got the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:45.55 with Eduardo Nunez up.
Kruger Park got to the front at the top of the lane in Monday's $50,000 Fox Sports Network Handicap and held well to win by 3/4 length over Assessment. Kruger Park, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Johannesburg, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.8.
Blues Street took command in the stretch to win Monday night's $75,000 Memorial Day Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths over Ghost Hour. Blues Street, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Street Cry, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.69.
Lindelaan came at the leaders along the rail in Monday night's $75,000 Decoration Day Handicap for fillies and mares and was just up in time to win by 1/2 length over Beautiful Venue. Lindelaan, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Rahy filly, ran the 1 mile on the grass in 1:34.48.
Mastercraftsman attoned for a disappointing, fifth-place performance in the English Two Thousand Guineas earlier in the month with a resounding, 4 1/2-lengths win Saturday in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas at the Curragh. Always close under John Murtagh, the son of Danehill Dancer advanced to the lead at the quarter pole and was unchallenged thereafter. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said he now is eyeing the St. James Palace at the Royal Ascot meeting next month. The colt is out the Black Tie Affair mare Starlight Dreams.
In Sunday's One Thousand Guineas, Again rallied from well back, got to contention inside the half-mile marker and was just up to beat Lahaleeb by a neck under the wire. The Danehill Dancer filly also was ridden by Murtagh, for trainer David Wachman. She did not contest the English One Thousand Guineas but Wachman said the Epsom Oaks on June 5 may be her next try.
Buena Vista caught Red Desire in the shadow of the wire to win Sunday's Yushun Himba for 3-year-old fillies at Tokyo Racecourse. Sent off as the heavy favorite, the daughter of Special Week had to race very wide around the turn before jockey Katsumi Ando could get her in gear for the stretch run. The finish was a replay of the Japanese One Thousand Guineas on April 15.
Casual Conquest led all the way to a convincing, 5 1/2-lengths victory over stablemate Famous Name in Sunday's Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. Lush Lashes was third. Pat Smullen rode the winner for trainer Dermott Weld. Weld said Casual Conquest will take the summer off, then train to the Prix de 'l Arc de Triomphe, with the Irish Champion Stakes another target.
The Japan Racing Association announced Friday the winner of the Aug. 8 Arlington Million will earn an automatic invitation to contest the Nov. 29 Japan Cup at Tokyo Racecourse. The Million thus joins the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Prix de 'l Arc de Triomphe, the Grosser Preis von Baden and the Irish Champion Stakes as a qualifying event. The Million was inaugurated in 1981 as the first $1 million Thoroughbred purse. Golden Pheasant won the Million in 1990 and the Japan Cup in 1991 -- the only horse to complete that "double." "The Million is North America's premier turf race and we trust this opportunity will encourage the best horses in North America to make the trip to the Far East and compete in the premier race in Asia," said Arlington President Roy Arnold.