Wednesday's Del Mar opening and the prospect of Saratoga's inaugural this week kicked the racing season in mid-summer full throttle. Meanwhile, turf battles and some early skirmishes for 2-year-olds highlighted the weekend's events.
A rundown of races likely to impact the $25.5 million Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita:
$3 million Emirates Airline Turf
Conduit, defending champion in the Turf, returned to the winner's circle for the first time since that triumph as winner of Saturday's prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. With Ryan Moore in the irons, Conduit got into the mix entering the stretch, took the lead with a furlong to run and got home first, 1 3/4 lengths to the good of Tartan Bearer. Ask was third. All three are trained by Michael Stoute, who told the Racing Post the sweep "rank(s) very high" among his many accomplishments. Prior to Saturday's start, Conduit had been second and third in two tries. Conduit now has won half his 12 career starts.
Global Hunter let favorite Monterey Jazz set an unpressured pace in Saturday's $350,000 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar, kicked into gear turning into the stretch and went by to win by 1 length over Awesome Gem. Whatsthescript was up for third and Monterey Jazz faded to finish fifth. Global Hunter, a 6-year-old, Argentine-bred son of Jade Hunter, got the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.24 with Corey Nakatani up. "He came running and that was that," Nakatani said. "I thought he'd run a big one today and I rode him with confidence." Even though Global Hunter went off at odds of 14-1, winning trainer A.C. Avila said he has "always had high expectations for this horse ever since he came to America. But one thing, then another happened to keep him from doing those things. I thought he had a good chance here. He had been training super."
Rahy's Attorney stalked the pace in Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine, shot to the lead at the top of the stretch and cruised home first, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Marchfield. Champs Elysees was third, another 5 3/4 lengths back. Spice Route finished fifth with no late punch. Rahy's Attorney, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred Crown Attorney gelding, finished the 1 1/4 miles on "soft" turf in 2:08.42 under Slade Callaghan. "My main job was to get my horse to relax today," Callaghan said. "He ran really good over a soft turf. I wouldn't necessarily say that might be his best going." Winning trainer Ian Black said he is "in awe of the horse. He's wonderful. He loves to race. He loves to win. He has so much desire and a great mind. I'm honored to be around him."
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
Tasty Temptation rallied between the leaders in the stretch run in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Wonder Where Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine and went on to win by 1/2 length over First Circle. Forest Uproar finished third. Tasty Temptation, a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, ran the 1 1/4 miles on "soft" turf in 2:10.81 with Patrick Husbands in the irons for trainer Mark Casse. It was her first stakes victory. Previously, she had been second to Hooh Why in the La Lorgnette and second in the Woodbine Oaks. "I'm just glad she won so I don't have to hear that she's only a one-time winner," Casse said. "I'm so tired of hearing that. I've trained a lot of horses that don't like to win. She isn't one of them. It's just been a matter of bad circumstances. She's run against some of the best 3-year-old fillies in North America. She showed her class today."
Final Refrain had the last word in Saturday's $100,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes, rallying from mid-pack and taking charge in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Whirlie Bertie led the way and held on for second, a neck better than Kiss Mine. Final Refrain, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Lion Cavern, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "soft" turf in 1:44.49 with Victor Lebron up for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Lemonette rated well off the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Gaily Gaily Stakes at Arlington Park, advanced toward the leaders on the turn and wore down Cavan Thunder in the late going to win by 2lengths. Ballynoe finished third. Lemonette, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Lemon Drop Kid, ran the 1 1/2 miles on "good" turf in 2:35.89 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
$2 million Ladies' Classic
Funny Moon raced at the back of the field in Saturday's $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park, got going around the stretch turn when asked by jockey Alan Garcia and finished best of all to win by a neck over Don't Forget Gil. Wynning Ride was third after leading at the top of the stretch and the favorite, Livin Lovin, was fifth. Funny Moon, a Kentucky-bred Malibu Moon filly, ran the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:02.44. Funny Moon now has four wins and a second in six starts but was coming off an eighth-place finish in the Acorn last month. "It's still a bit of a puzzle why she ran the way she did in the Acorn," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "But it doesn't matter because she's a Grade 1 winner now." He said he hasn't yet decided where the filly will race next.
$1 million Sentient Filly & Mare Sprint
Excessive Blend stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar, dueled through the stretch and came out a winner by 1 length over Chalula One. Ultra Blend finished third. Excessive Blend, a California-bred daughter of In Excess, got the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.43 under Mike Smith. "She's very talented, but not very focused," said winning trainer Carla Gaines. "I don't know just what we'll do next. With her, I take it race by race."
$1 million Turf Mile
Happiness Is stalked the pace in the $100,00 Breeders' Cup Lady Canterbury Stakes at Canterbury Park, surged to the lead at the top of the lane and held on to beat an onrushing Euphony by a nose. Lady Carlock finished third. Happiness Is, a 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.59 under Rosemary Homeister.
$1 million Turf Sprint
Double Malt came out in the stretch for running room in Wednesday's $125,000 (Canadian) Passing Mood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine and ran down Executive Deed in the late going to win by 1/2 length. Sans Sousi was third and the favorite, Cawaja Beach, was fourth. Double Malt, an Ontario-bred daughter of Whiskey Wisdom, got the 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:22.53 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
Phil's Prospect rode the rail to a 1/2-length victory in Sunday's $65,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park. El Rocco, who grabbed the lead briefly at the top of the lane, held on for second and Dahlgren Chapel finished third. Phil's Prospect, a Maryland-bred Soto gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.13 under Tony Maragh. "I just sat in behind the early leader waiting for a hole to open up," Maragh said. "My horse hesitated a little bit before I finally got him through the hole. Once we got through, he kicked into another gear." Phil's Prospect now is 2-for-2 for trainer Gary Capuano.
Grand Slam Andre drew off in the stretch to win Sunday's $75,000 Middleground Stakes at Lone Star Park in Texas by 3 lengths over Lone Star Cowboy. Western Forum finished third. Grand Slam Andre, a Kentucky-bred colt by Grand Slam, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.48 with Eguard Tejera up for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Train Rider Blues came from last of 10 to win Sunday's $100,000 Rio Grande Senor Futurity for New Mexico-breds at Ruisdoso Downs by 3 lengths. Fourteen Kt. Gold was second and Dinkers finished third. Train Rider Blues, a Desert God colt, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:04.91 under Carlos Rivas, advancing along the rail past most of his foes.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Turf
Alfred Nobel was all out to beat longshot stablemate Air Chief Marshall in Sunday's Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland. One of four entered by Ballydoyle, Alfred Nobel went to the post as the favorite but barely prevailed, winning by 1/2 length with a late effort. He now has three straight wins and trainer Aidan O' Brien said he likely will try the National Stakes on Sept. 12.
Strike the Tiger struck the lead early in Saturday's $50,000 Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs, extended the lead and won by 3 1/4 lengths over Red Rally. Clever Ralph finished third. Strike the Tiger, a California-bred Tiger Ridge gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on the firm outer turf course in 1:03.74 under Ariel Smith. It was his third straight win without a loss.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile Fillies
Repo stalked the pace in Friday's $100,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Stakes for state-breds at Del Mar, got a short lead in the stretch and prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. La Nez came from last of five to finish second and the pace-setter, Unbridled Meeting, finished third. Repo, a daughter of In Excess, got the 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:04.57. Earlier this month, she won the Landaluce Stakes against open company at Hollywood Park. Corey Nakatani rode the J. Paul Reddam filly for trainer Doug O'Neill.
Glory Be Mine found room at the rail on the turn in Sunday's $125,000 Rio Grande Senorita Futurity for New Mexico-bred fillies at Ruidoso Downs, then dueled favorite Elvira Who into submission in the stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. I Am Lesters Gal finished third. Glory Be Mine, a daughter of Dome, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:04.09 with Jorge Bourdieu up.
$1 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies Turf
Oceans of Honey led all the way in Saturday's $50,000 Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs, then held on at the end to win by 1/2 length over Taking a Chance. Maddie's Odyssey was third and the favorite, Ally Bear, faded to finish seventh. Oceans of Honey, a Florida-bred Indian Ocean filly, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on the firm outer turf course in 1:05.11 under Jorge Rivera. She now has two wins from two starts.
In other racing:
Saturday was Claiming Crown day at the Minnesota oval -- a day when horses who have run for a tag during the previous year get to vie for gelt and glory.
Antrim County won the $150,000 Jewel, rallying to the lead at the top of the stretch and holding on to win by a neck over Fancy Runner. Glamour Guy was third. Antrim Country, with Jamie Theriot up for trainer Bret Calhoun, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.77.
Gran Estreno used a pace-stalking trip to win the $100,000 Emerald at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, beating Hard Top by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:41.33. Mizzcan'tbewrong led early in the $100,000 Tiara for fillies and mares at the same distance on the grass, gave up the lead to Love To Tell, then came back to beat that foe by a neck in 1:41.97. And in the $50,000 Emerald at 1 1/16 miles on the Canterbury green, Bright Hall led all the way to win by 5 1/4 lengths over Calm and Collected, finishing in 1:44.89.
You're My Boy won the $75,000 Rapid Transit at 6 furlongs on the main track, rallying to beat Grand Traverse by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:10.81. Frisco Fox rallied from a pace-stalking position to upset the $75,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares, beating Thunder and Belle by 3 lengths in 1:11.04. And Chasing the Prize rallied stoutly to win the $50,000 Express by 3/4 length over Norjac, finishing in 1:10.99.
Afleet Eagle stalked the pace into the second turn in Wednesday's $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds, took the lead and held on, beating Mark S the Cooler by 2 1/2 lengths. Rendezvous was third. Afleet Eagle, a Kentucky-bred Northern Afleet colt, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.35 under Tyler Baze.
Dewey's Special stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 California Dreamin' Handicap for California-breds, took the lead nearing mid-stretch and held on to win by 3/4 length over Nitro Active. Bert's Law finished third. Dewey's Special, a 4-year-old Skimming gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.85 with Jose Valdivia Jr. up.
Exotic Bloom saved her best for the final yards of Saturday's $100,000 Windward Stakes for fillies and mares, splitting rivals and catching pace-setting Rollicking Affair in the final yards, winning by a neck. Valley Loot was third and it must be admitted the favorite, No Use Denying, finished last of eight. Exotic Bloom, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred mare by Montbrook, got the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.35 with Dale Beckner aboard.
Frisky Thunder stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Leeward Stakes, advanced to contention entering the stretch and fought gamely to the wire, winning by a head over Cherokee Artist. Xela was another head back in third. Frisky Thunder, a 5-year-old, Virginia-bred gelding by Thunder Rumble, got the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.73. Erick Rodriguez had the mount.
Auction Watch rallied from last of seven to win by a nose in Saturday's $75,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap for state-breds. El Churruca was second after leading most of the way and only a neck in front of Always for Love. Auction Watch, a 6-year-old Belong to Me gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:45.66 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons.
Becky's Exchange raced in second, well behind the early leader, in Saturday's $65,000 Desert Vixen Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, dropped back around the turn and then accelerated through the stretch to win by a neck. Fast Tigress was second and Lady Kafca finished third. Becky's Exchange, a Florida-bred Exchange Rate filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:42.49 under Elvis Trujillo.
Calder Race Course
Jessica Is Back led throughout Saturday's $75,000 Nancy's Glitter Handicap, winning by a comfortable 5 1/2 lengths as the favorite. Miss Singhsix was second and Sweetsouthernqueen finished third. Jessica Is Back, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred mare by Put It Back, got the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:45.96 for jockey Javier Santiago.
Assessment rallied to the lead nearing the stretch in Sunday's $50,000 Mount Rainier Handicap and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Elusive Schemes. Gallon finished third. Assessment, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Jump Start, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47 under Gallyn Mitchell.
Elusive Horizon led the way in Sunday's $50,000 Boeing Handicap for fillies and mares but was caught at the wire by Holy Nova and after taking a look at the picture, the stewards posted a dead heat. Gadget Queen finished third. Holy Nova is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Pure Prize. Elusive Horizon is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Elusive Quality filly. Mario Gutierrez rode Holy Nova. Juan Gutierrez handled the reins for Elusive Horizon.
Kalookan Dancer was out front early in Saturday's $50,000 Vacaville Handicap for fillies and mares and coasted home a 2-lengths winner over Testify to Love. Inspiration Within finished third. Kalookan Dancer, a 6-year-old, California-bred mare by Olympio, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.75 with William Antonogeorgi III riding.
Meetingwithdestiny, stakes-placed in his last outing, posted a gritty, hard-fought win in Sunday's featured optional claiming event. Despite being bounced around a bit and running under pressure every step of the way, the 4-year-old Belong to Me gelding got home 1/2 length in front of Captain Roy with Chestnut Touch another head back and Dance Chief another neck in arrears. With Russell Baze riding, the Bongo Racing Stable colorbearer got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.83.