Kentucky Derby hopefuls couldn't run in Southern California Saturday because of bad weather. In Kentucky and New Mexico, they ran – but they couldn't run straight.
Stewards disqualified the first finishers in both the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky and the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico. In each case, the winner was set down to second for stretch interference.
In the Battaglia, Codoy returned to the scene of his only career victory after trying the turf in California with limited success. The Bernstein colt, running from far off the pace, seemed poised to get the job done, finding a big hole between horses on the turn and getting home first by 1 length.
But the replay showed Codoy first came out on the turn, then came over to the inside in deep stretch. The latter move forced Vow to Wager to take up briefly and resulted in the disqualification. Vow to Wager rallied to finish second and was placed first. In the Paint finished third and the favorite, Kera's Kitten, faded to finish last of eight.
Codoy ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:48.94. Vow to Wager's trainer Dale Romans said the colt now "has figured out racing. He's figured out how to run and he should keep moving forward."
Romans said Vow to Wager will contest the Lane's End Stakes, Turfway's final Kentucky Derby prep, on March 27.
In New Mexico, Raise the Bridle bumped hard with Storming Saint turning for home in the Borderland Derby, then exchanged bumps down the lane before Raise the Bridle prevailed by a neck. The stewards reversed that order of finish. Amen Baby, the early leader, finished third.
Storming Saint, a Florida-bred colt by Sweetsouthernsaint, was coming off a third-place finish in his last outing at Sunland.
In other weekend action with potential Derby implications:
-- Heavy rains made Santa Anita's track unsafe for racing on Saturday, forcing cancellation of the card, including the $150,000 Sham Stakes, featuring several late-blooming Derby contenders who could ill-afford a delay in their forward progress. The race was rescheduled for this coming Saturday.
-- Don't Blame the Cat raced in mid-pack down the backstretch in Saturday's $50,000 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park, advanced around the turn and prevailed in a long stretch drive to win by 1 length over Regal Warrior. Cole T finished third. Don't Blame the Cat, a New York-bred Catienus gelding, finished the 7 furlongs in 1:23.62 with Erick Rodriguez riding for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. Four of the previous 14 winners of the Miracle Wood started in a Triple Crown race, including 2006 winner Sweetnorthernsaint, who was the betting favorite in the Kentucky Derby and finished second in the Preakness.
-- Comedero dueled for the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Mountain Valley Stakes at Oaklawn Park, gradually increased his advantage and got home first, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Backwater Blues. Activity Report reported home third. Comedero, an Arkansas-bred Posse gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.22.
-- Radiohead, making his first start since a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup and his first start on a dirt track, drew away from Homeboykris to win a hot allowance event Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Radiohead, a British-bred Johannesburg colt, pressed the pace, took over easily and wasn't challenged in the stretch. Homeboykris finished 3 1/4 lengths back. Richard Dutrow, who trains both, said he hasn't yet formulated plans for Radiohead, who got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.90 for jockey Edgar Prado. It was his first win since the Norfolk Stakes at Ascot last June.
-- Miner's Reserve, a Nick Zito trainee, gave his rivals the slip in the stretch run in a maiden event on Saturday's Gulfstream program, drawing clear to win by 5 1/2 lengths. The Mineshaft colt ran the 1 mile in 1:35.87 with Kent Desormeaux up. Zito said he has no immediate plans for Miner's Reserve, adding, "It's a long year." The colt finished fourth in his debut in January.
-- Backtalk was a promising star as a 2-year-old but overlooked in much of this year's Derby speculation. After a nice win in Friday night's $75,000 Sportsman's Paradise at Delta Downs, he's back in a big way. After tracking the pace, the Florida-bred Smarty Jones colt got by pace-setting Royal Express in the late going to win by 1/2 length. He finished 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:40.36 under Miguel Mena. "We're looking at one of the bigger Derby preps," said trainer Tom Amoss, "and we'd like to stay on a traditional surface." Last year, Backtalk won the Sanford at Saratoga and the Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, both graded stakes. Amoss mothballed the colt after he finished eighth as the favorite in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland and Friday's race was his comeback after two months of impressive works at Fair Grounds.
Kentucky Oaks preps
-- Amen Hallelujah pressed the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Davona Dale Stake at Gulfstream Park, got to the lead with a quarter mile to run and shook clear easily when roused by jockey Julien Leparoux to win by 6 1/4 lengths. Joanie's Catch was best of the rest with Mambo Fever a head back in third. Amen Hallelujah, a Florida-bred Montbrook filly trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.16. The Davona Dale was her first start on dirt after seven races on artificial surfaces, most recently in California. "I brought her back from California just to run in this race," Dutrow said. "I've always thought she'd be better on dirt … I really haven't thought about what might be next."
-- Sheer Beauty tracked the pace in Friday night's $75,000 Green Oaks at Delta Downs, then won a sprint to the wire by a neck over Jill Marie. The favorite, Laheen, tired to finish fourth. Sheer Beauty, a Kentucky-bred Mizzen Mast filly, ran the 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:42.36 with James Graham in the irons.
-- Queen Greeley dominated the stretch run in Sunday's $50,000 Island Fashion Stakes at Sunland Park, winning off by 4 1/4 lengths after a pace-stalking trip. Pyrite On My Mind was second and Facil Catana finished third. Queen Greeley, a Kentucky-bred Mr. Greeley filly, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.20.
Dubai (By RICHARD GROSS)
With one big-week doubleheader left in the Dubai International Racing Carnival, World Cup horses are beginning to stamp their tickets to The Big Dance.
Raihana scored for South African Trainer Mike de Kock in the $250,000 featured UAE Oaks with Christophe Soumillon aboard after a disappointing fourth two weeks ago. "This was the Raihana we know," said de Kock. "She''ll go for the UAE Derby now."
Ireland's Deem partnered with Olivier Peslier and danced to victory in the last stride on the turf in the G3, $200,000 co-feature Balanchine for fillies and mares. "Hopefully, we can get her back to World Cup night," said Trainer Jerry Barton, "as we did last year when she ran a great race in defeat."
America's Midshipman was captained by Godolphin's Frankie Dettori over the Tapeta as he cruised to a 3-lengths victory in a 7-furlong conditions sprint and a likely World Cup berth. "We think he is a World Cup night horse, so we had to get him back to winning ways," said trainer Saeed bin Suroor of the Group 1 winner, a placer at last year's Breeders' Cup Championships at Santa Anita.
Sabotage, with Carnival newcomer Mickael Barzalona up, destroyed the evening by a neck for favored placer Age of Reason in the $175,000 DRC Cup.
Mr. Brock started the evening's winning ways for de Kock's stable in the 1 1/4-mile, $175,000 Meydan Horizons. The trainer completed a hat trick with Lucky Find in the evening's final race.
Elsewhere on the international front:
-- Collection won Sunday's Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup with relative ease but then had to withstand an objection before the result was posted official. Collection, who won by 1 3/4 lengths, came out into the path of second-place finisher Thumbs Up with less than a furlong to run. Jockey Darren Beadman admitted his mount drifted but, pointing out the eventual margin of victory, argued successfully the mishap did not affect the outcome. Mr. Medici finished third and two of Hong Kong's stars of the past decade, Good Ba Ba and Viva Pataca, finished fourth and sixth, respectively. Winning trainer John Moore said Collection will tackle the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup Day, March 27, then return for a shot at the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup at Sha Tin a month later.
--Gitano Hernando returned to the races successfully on Saturday at Lingfield in England – his first start since winning the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita last October. Sent off as the prohibitive favorite in the Winter Derby Trial, the 4-year-old Hernando colt cruised home comfortably ahead of a half-dozen rivals. He is undefeated in four starts on artificial surfaces.
-- Twice Over, the third-place finisher in last fall's Breeders' Cup Classic, worked on Saturday at Lingfield but trainer Henry Cecil said he will go to the World Cup off works. The Racing Post quoted Cecil as saying Twice Over also is being considered for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong on April 25 and the Singapore International Cup May 23.
-- Typhoon Tracy swept past the leaders in the stretch to win Saturday's Rokk Ebony Futurity at Caulfield, the opening leg of the Asian Mile Challenge. The 4-year-old daughter of Red Ransom finished the 1,600 meters in 1:34.43 and now has four straight wins for trainer Peter Moody. Moody said the filly will have one more start in Australia and could go from there to the Champions Mile in Hong Kong, another stop on the Asian Mile series.
In other weekend racing:
In Sunday's $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes, Presious Passion did what Presious Passion does best – open up a big early lead and hang on at the end. After leading by as much as 7 lengths, the 7-year-old Royal Anthem gelding cruised home first, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Winchester. Feels All Right was third. With Elvis Trujillo up, Presious Passion covered the 1 3/8 miles on "good" turf in 2:13.49. The victory was redemption after a fifth-place finish in the W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder on Dec. 26. Before that, Presious Passion was second in the Breeders' Cup Turf. He now is targeted for the Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup Day at Meydan. "We were concerned earlier in the day," said winning trainer Mary Hartmann, "that the course might be less than firm. But after discussing it with (the owners) we decided to go ahead and run, and that it would be better looking ahead to Dubai to have a race than not, although we planned to go anyhow and train him up to that race if necessary."
Changing Skies rallied from far back to win Saturday's $100,000 The Very One Stakes by 3/4 length over Nehantic Kat. Cable was third, coming from last in the field of 13 fillies and mares. Changing Skies, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Sadler's Wells mare, finished the 1 3/8 miles on "good" turf in 2:16.27 with Kent Desormeaux in the irons. "I was worried she might get a little rank early breaking from the outside post," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "But she settled nicely. We'll definitely consider the (March 28) Orchid here for her next start."
Aurora Lights came from off the pace to upset Saturday's $100,0000 Sabin Stakes, rallying past pace-setting favorite Matchless Orinda with a sixteenth to run and winning by 2 3/4 lengths. Matchless Orinda salvaged second, a neck in front of Amazing. Aurora Lights, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Pulpit filly, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.79 for jockey Cornelio Velasquez. Winning trainer Eric Coatieux said he will point Aurora Lights to the Rampart Stakes at Gulfstream on March 20 and the La Troienne at Churchill downs on Kentucky Oaks day. But, thinking of division leaders Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, he added, "We'll try to stay away from the two big girls for now."
Compari led from gate to wire in Sunday's $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap for California-breds, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Enriched. Swift Winds finished third. Compari, a 4-year-old Redattore gelding, got the 1 mile on "good" turf in 1:34.00 with Garrett Gomez in the irons.
Tampa Bay Downs
Don't Forget Gil came four-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $65,000 Wayward Lass Stakes, took the lead and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Choragus, who stalked the pace all the way, held second with Miss Match third. Don't Forget Gil, a 4-year-old, New York-bred Kafwain filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.76 with Daniel Centeno in the irons.
Tizaqueena tracked the pace until the second turn in Saturday's $60,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial stakes for fillies and mares, rallied along the outside down the stretch and got there in time, winning by 3/4 length over No Use Denying. A She's Adorable finished third. Tizaqueena, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tiznow filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on a "good" main track in 1:45.99. The race originally was carded for the grass. "This was the first time I' ve been on her and she made my job easy," said winning rider Shaun Bridgmohan. "She's so classy. All I had to do was be a good passenger."
Lights Off Annie got an easy lead in Sunday's $65,000 Broadway Stakes for New York-bred distaffers and made it stand up, holding on to win by 1/2 length over Sapphire Sky. The odds-on favorite, Rightly So, had traffic issues and finished third. Lights Off Annie, a 5-year-old Freud mare, ran 6 furlongs on the muddy inner track in 1:10.91 with Fernando Jara up.