Indian Blessing and Sara Louise battled head-to-head down the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap before Indian Blessing got the nod in a potential preview of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
The result was so close that the difference may have been the traffic. John Velazquez steered Indian Blessing between pace-setting rivals entering the stretch while Sara Louise, under Edgar Prado, had to go around.
Sky Haven came from well back to finish third as the 6 1/2 furlongs went in 1:15.29 on a fast track. Indian Blessing is a 4-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie.
"She put up a really good fight today," Velazquez said, adding Indian Blessing missed the start by a step, "and I had to use her a little bit to get position. I let her be comfortable and wait. When the hole opened up, I took the spot, and went on with her … The more I asked my filly, the more the other one kept coming back. It was a good effort for both fillies."
Tonja Terranova, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert, said Indian Blessin "ran incredibly today." She said Baffert and owner Hal Ernhardt will discuss the possibility of a return trip to the Filly & Mare Sprint, where Indian Blessing last year finished second to Ventura. "I'm just savoring the moment," she added.
The weekend also featured a slew of stakes races for Juveniles. Some were for state-breds and in states not traditionally considered breeding grounds for the Breeders' Cup. But since Mine That Bird came from New Mexico to win the Kentucky Derby, we've been casting our net a bit wider in seeking contenders.
$2 million Grey Goose Juvenile
Joshua Tree rallied stoutly along the outside to win Saturday's Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Juvenile but trainer Aiden O'Brien said if the upset winner runs again this year, it likely would be in the Oct. 24 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
Make Note overhauled Come From Behind in the late going in Sunday's $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes for New York-breds at Belmont Park and went on to win by 2 lengths over that rival. City Trooper was third and the favorite, One Note Samba, bossa nova'ed home last of seven. Make Note, a Read the Footnotes colt, took 1:24.45 to cover the 7 furlongs on a sloppy track. Edgar Prado rode.
Toboggan Slide dominated Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Million Nursery Stakes, drawing off at the tend to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Petecarol. Cactus Charlie was third. Toboggan Slide, a Maryland-bred colt by Rock Slide, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.22 under Walter Llagas. "He ran his race today," Llagas said. "The last three-eighths, I asked him to go and I just hoped that I would win." Owner/trainer Daniel Ryan said he probably will nominate Toboggan Slide to the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.
Three Day Rush was in no rush to take the lead in Saturday's $180,030 Monmouth Park NATC Futurity but prompted the pace until the turn, then battled with Enumerate before winning by a neck. Chief Counsel finished third. Three Day Rush, a Kentucky-bred Harlan's Holiday colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.85 with Brian Hernandez Jr. up for trainer Ronny Werner.
Noble's Promise stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial at Presque Isle Downs, then dominated the stretch run, winning off by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Grand Slam Andre. Peppi Knows finished third. Noble's Promise, a Kentucky-bred Cuvee colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:15.87 with Willie Martinez up for trainer Kenny McPeek.
Bim Bam stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes at Calder Race Course, dueled pace-setter Bernie the Maestro into submission, then won by 2 1/2 lengths. Allez Reef edged Bernie the Maestro for second. Bim Bam, a Florida-bred colt by Deputy Wild Cat, got the 1 miles and 70 yards in 1:45.66 with Luis Arango up.
Koala Beach led from go to whoa in Saturday's $75,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs, scoring by a comfortable 8 lengths over Have'n a Wild Time. Pistolpackin'gal finished third. Koala Beach, a Washington-bred Harbor the Gold gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42 4/5. Gallyn Mitchell rode for trainer Doris Harwood.
Oak Motte rallied from next-to-last to win Saturday's $125,000 My Dandy Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park by 1 1/4 lengths over Big Texas Daddy. Set Expectations finished third. Oak Motte, a Texas-bred Valid Expectations colt, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.08 with Larry Taylor aboard.
Son of a Bear dueled Showmethetrick into submission in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Dr. Ernest Benner Stakes for West Virginia-breds at Charles Town and drew clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths over that rival. The Bowman's Band gelding finished 6 1/2 furlongs in the slop in 1:21.92 with Jesus Sanchez up.
And, since it's New Mexico, Rig's Runner stalked the pace in Sunday's $40,000 George Maloof Futurity for state-breds at Albuquerque, then dominated the stretch run, winning by 6 3/4 lengths over Seeking a Mint. The Ghostly Moves colt ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.24 with Travis Wales up.
$2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies
Habaayeb beat Lady Darshaan by 3/4 length in Saturday's Group 1 Fillies Mile at Ascot, earning an automatic bid to the Breeders' Cup. But trainer Clive Brittain said he is not looking to an American start and, in fact, suggested the Ascot win could wrap up his filly's season.
Aurora Lights lit up the tote board after upsetting odds-on favorite Milwaukee Appeal in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Selene Stakes at Woodbine. After trailing the field, Aurora Lights came around the leaders, dropped to the rail and surged to the lead. At the wire, the Kentucky-bred Pulpit filly was 1 3/4 lengths ahead. Hooh Why finished third. Aurora Lights, with James McAleney up for trainer Eric Coatrieux, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.37. She now has two wins and two seconds from seven starts. "I worked this filly in Florida," McAleney said. "Even then I had high hopes for her. Unfortunately, it took time to get her there. There's more to come. She is a very talented filly."
Proud Zoe stalked the pace in Saturday's $180,030 Monmouth Park NATC Futurity, then drew off easily in the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. All Due Respect was second and early pace-setter Encore Saritta held third. Proud Zoe, a Florida-bred Proud Accolade filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.82 with Javier Castellano up for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Truth and Justice romped in Saturday's $100,000 Presque Isle Debutante, setting a quick pace and then opening up at the end to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Greeley's Rocket. Jonmil's Edge finished third. Truth and Justice, a Kentucky-bred Yes It's True filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09;17. Joe Bravo rode for trainer Kelly Breen.
Mineralogist surged to the lead with a quarter mile to run in Sunday's $100,000 Joseph A. Gimma Stakes for New York-breds at Belmont Park and never looked back, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Sugar Trade. Raffie's Rose finished third. Minerologist, a Mineshaft filly, ran the 7 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:25.20 with Kent Desormeaux handling the reins.
Joanie's Catch pushed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Brave Raj Stakes at Calder Race Course, then opened up a big lead at the top of the stretch and held well to win by 4 1/2 lengths. The Isabella Angel was second and Successful Song succeeded in taking third. The favorite, Sweetlalabye, had traffic problems in the stretch and finished fourth. Joanie's Catch, a Florida-bred daughter of First Tour, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:45.80 under Daniel Coa.
Lil Kiara rallied strongly down the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie Stakes at Laurel Park by a neck over Ben's Boots. Jim's Prospect, making her first start, finished third. Lil Kiara, a New Jersey-bred daughter of Lion Hearted, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.82 under Carlos Marquez Jr. "I took her back because I rode her the last two starts and I knew she could come from off the pace," said Marquez.
Camille's Appeal broke last of 10 in Saturday's $125,000 Darby's Daughter Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park, came five-wide around the leaders on the turn and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Bud's Little Edge. Legendary Day was a longshot third. Camille's Appeal, a Texas-bred daughter of Valid Expectations, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.04 under Shaun Bridgmohan.
Silver Cub led from gate to wire in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Gull Chris Brown Memorial for West Virginia-breds at Charles Town, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite Down Town Allen. The 4 1/2 furlongs went in 52.49 seconds on a sloppy track. Travis Dunkelberger rode the winner.
And, since it's New Mexico, Silver Jonesy pressed the pace in Sunday's $40,000 Dessie and Fern Sawyer Futurity at Albuquerque, then opened up in the stretch and won by 6 3/4 lengths over Wild Time Tonight. The Silver Season filly got the 6 furlongs in 1:11.57 for Don Frazier.
In other weekend races with potential implications for the $25.5 million Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita:
$5 million Classic
Rip Van Winkle shook off a late challenge from longshot Zacinto and went on to win Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot by 1 1/4 lengths and now is poised for a try at the Breeders' Cup Classic. The 3-year-old Galileo colt picked up his fourth victory in eight starts, finishing in 1:38.82 over a course rated "good to firm." Trainer Aidan O'Brien saddled Henrythenavigator to a runner-up finish in the Classic last year and Giant's Causeway to a similar finish in 2000. Delegator, who finished third in the QE II, still may represent Godolphin in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
$1 million Turf Sprint
Canadian Ballet set all the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap for fillies and mares at Philadelphia Park, then won a stretch-long duel with Queen of the Catsle before prevailing by a head. Dubai Majesty was a neck farther back in third and the favorite, Smart and Fancy, finished fourth. Canadian Ballet, a 4-year-old, New York-bred City Zip filly, got the 5 furlongs on yielding turf in 57.78 seconds. Stewart Elliott rode for trainer Linda Rice.
In other weekend racing:
Garrett Gomez rode the winners in all three Kentucky Cup events, capping his day with an upset win aboard Furthest Land in the $200,000 Classic. After stalking the pace, Furthest Land hit a new gear when he straightened out for the stretch run and went on to win by a neck over Dubious Miss. Sligovitz was third with a late run and the favorite, Hold Me Back, never fired, finishing sixth. Furthest Land, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Smart Strike gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.41. Winning owner Kenneth Ramsey was at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington for the Florida-Kentucky football game. "Don't read anything into it," he said. "We had a VIP suite set up for this game and it's the No. 1 team. But to tell you the truth, if I had known I was going to win, I would have canceled the football. I hope Kentucky can upset Florida but I regret not going now. We really like this horse." He probably regretted his choice even more after Florida thrashed the Wildcats, 41-7.
Canadian-based El Brujo showed no early speed in the $100,000 Sprint for 3 year olds, but rallied smartly through the stretch and was up in time to win by 1/2 length over Brass Bay. Turfiste finished third. El Brujo, an Ontario-bred Candy Ride gelding, covered the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.04. Earlier this year up north at Woodbine, he won the Achievement and the Queenston. "He ran huge," said winning trainer Malcolm Pierce, who watched the race from Woodbine. "I guess Garrett knew what he was doing because he did a great job getting him up." He said if El Brujo bounces back well, he would "probably look" at the Oct. 17 Perryville at Keeneland.
Indescribable finished full of run in the $100,000 Distaff, drawing clear at the end to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Unforgotten. Whirlie Bertie showed the way and held on to finish third. Indescribable, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Pleasant Tap mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.92. "That was a nice race," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "She looked comfortable down the backstretch. She was in the bridle and traveling nicely." He said Indescribable appears to thrive on the artificial surfaces and, as a result, the Spinster at Keeneland "is definitely a race we'll consider."
Sumacha'hot, a one-time $5,000 claimer, upset Saturday's $200,000 Maryland Million Classic, the highlight of the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day card. Last until the field turned for home, jockey Gant Whitacre booted the 4-year-old Mojave Moon gelding by them all and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over last year's winner, Cuba. Regal Solo was third and the favorite, Broadway Producer, faded to finish fourth after leading briefly in the stretch. Sumacha'hot, trained by Hubert Cave, ran the 9 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:50.26. In was the ninth straight race, dating back to January, that Sumacha'hot has been in the exacta.
In other Maryland Million results, Target Sighted rallied four-wide in the $125,000 Turf and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Moon Ala Mode, finishing the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.03 under Jeremy Rose; Roaring Lion posted his third straight win off a layoff in the $125,000 Sprint, leading most of the way and scoring by 3 1/2 lengths over Celtic Innis in 1:08.68 with Ramon Dominguez up; All Giving drew clear in the lane to win the $125,000 Distaff by 2 3/4 lengths over Saxet Heights, covering 7 furlongs in 1:23.34 with Jonathan Joyce in the irons.
Also, Natural Seven got through between horses in the stretch run of the $100,000 Turf Sprint and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Citifest with odds-on favorite Heros Reward third; Talkin About Love came from last of six to win the $125,000 Ladies by 2 lengths over Beau's Trip, covering the 9 furlongs on the lawn in 1:47.85; and Love That Dance led all the way in the $100,000 Oaks and won by a head over Blind Date, finishing the 1 mile in 1:36.40.
Peyote Patty led from gate to wire in Sunday's $100,000 Virginia H. Tarra Illinois Owners Stakes, scoring by 1 3/4 lengths over fellow long shot Chantilly Lady. Never Retreat was third and the odds-on choice, Closeout, got home fifth. Peyote Patty, a 4-year-old, Illinois-bred daughter of Cactus Ridge, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:44.94 for jockey Timothy Thornton.
Mekong Melody opened up a lead in the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Flaming Page Stakes for fillies and mares, then held on and won by 3/4 length over Fortune or Folly. Avie's Tale was third. Mekong Melody, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred Cape Cross filly, got the 1 1/2 miles on yielding turf in 2:31.91 under Chantal Sutherland.
Crown Isle did his running in the stretch in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Derby, getting home 1 length ahead of Eagle Poise. Tutti Buona Gente was third and the favorite, Queen's Plate winner Eye of the Leopard, settled for sixth. Emile Ramsammy rode Crown Isle over 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.79.
Calder Race Course
Temo's Dream got home first in Saturday's $75,000 Needles Stakes for 3 year olds but was set down to second for stretch interference with Cinnamon Road, who was moved up to the win. Quiet Emarati finished third. Cinnamon Road, a Florida-bred Delaware Township gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:48.95 under Paco Lopez. Two scratched when the race was switched from the turf course.
Sweet Repent caught odds-on favorite Royal Card in the final jumps to win Saturday's $75,000 Judy's Red Shoes for 3-year-old fillies by a nose. Who Plays Brahms finished third. Sweet Repent, a Florida-bred daughter of Repent, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.93. Manoel Cruz handled the reins. Six of the original starters were scratched when the race came off the turf.
Marq French pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Oklahoma Classics Classic, then got by pace-setter J J's Indy to win by 3/4 length. Regent Leader finished third in the marquee event of Oklahoma Classics night. Marq French, a 7-year-old Marquetry gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.48.
Skedee drew off smartly in the stretch to win the $85,000 Filly & Mare Turf by 6 1/4 lengths over Garbu and She; Peach Brew stalked the pace, then went on to win the $75,000 Distaff by 2 1/2 lengths over Bar Babe; Fanci Candi also stalked and pounced to win the $75,000 Filly Sprint by 3 1/4 lengths over Miranda Diane; Herecomesthemannow used similar tactics to win the $75,000 Sprint Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths over Steal Your Face; and Strategic Leader came from last of seven with a five-wide rush to win the $85,000 Turf Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Must Be He.
Presque Isle Downs
Rollicking Affair stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 H.B.P.A Stakes, moved up around the turn and drew off in the stretch, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over Little B Rosson. Kelowna was third and the favorite, Dreaming of Liz, finished eighth. Rollicking Affair, a 4-year-old, Virginia-bred daughter of the venerable Black Tie Affair, got the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:40.41 under Dana Whitney.
Winning Machine lived up to his name in Sunday's $300,000 British Columbia Derby, chasing the leaders into the stretch, then rallying three wide to take the lead nearing the wire. The Kentucky-bred Toccet gelding won driving, by 1 length, over the pace-setter, Jersey Town. Noosa Beach was third and the favorite, Tommy Danziger, checked in seventh. Winning Machine, with Gallyn Mitchell up, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.57.
La Rocca was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Oaks and easily held the advantage, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Ochoa. Miss Kay Dee Raine finished third. La Rocca, a Kentucky-bred Toccet filly, covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.90. Fernando Perez had the mount for trainer Terry Jordan.
Z Humor led all the way to an upset win in Sunday's $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Invitational Handicap, winning by 1 length over the favorite, Acclamation. Racketeer finished third. Z Humor, with Marlin Garcia up for trainer Mike Mitchell, ran the "about" 9 furlongs in 1:51.43. The colt is a 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor.
Lord Justice made all the going in Sunday's $70,000 Big Brown Stakes for 3 year olds and held on at the end to win by 1/2 length over Bunker Hill. Precursor finished third. Lord Justice, a Kentucky-bred A.P. Indy colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:44.97. Christopher DeCarlo had the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher.