Upsets were the rule during the weekend, from Dubai through a trio of Kentucky Derby prep races stretching from Kentucky through Louisiana to New Mexico.
(By RICHARD GROSS)
Gloria de Campeao got a nostril across the wire ahead of Lizard's Desire in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse Saturday. The finish was so close that the placing judges took several minutes to decide an outcome and the jockeys of both horses celebrated at the finish.
The winner, a Brazilian-bred, was second by over 14 lengths to Well Armed in last year's final World Cup at Nad al Sheeba. He followed Well Armed's script, taking the lead. The final nose was worth an additional $4 million in a $6 million winner's purse.
The horse was the calmest presence following announcement of the win. A countryman draped jockey Tiago Pereira in a huge Brazilian flag while fans and media engulfed the winning combo. "My horse was so brave," said the ecstatic Pereira, repeatedly kissing his mount. "This is all just a dream."
"It's a bitter pill to swallow," said Lizard's Desire jockey Kevin Shea of the fractional loss. "It is very hard to take."
Irish-bred Allybar finished third by only a short head despite a draw that put the Godolphin Stables runner in crowded first position on the rail in a full 14-horse field. American turf champion Gio Ponti finished fourth. Classy Japanese filly Red Desire disappointed in 11th and America's Furthest Land was furthest out, finishing last.
The overall finish was the closest in the Dubai World Cup's 15-year history in the first year it was being run at Meydan on the all-weather Tapeta surface. It also was the first time the winner was not owned by an American or a member of the Maktoum family.
In other races on the expanded eight-race card, South African trainer Mike de Kock saw two of his charges battle down the stretch as Musir, with Christophe Soumillon up, outgunned stablemate Raihana in the $2 million UAE Derby. It was de Kock's fifth Derby win and another difficult loss on the night for Raihana jockey Kevin Shea. Kentucky Derby hopeful Mendip was third, posing a difficult Kentucky Derby decision for the Godolphin braintrust.
On the turf, Dar Re Mi bested Japanese filly Buena Vista by under a length in the $5 million Sheema Classic, Hong Kong's Joy and Fun had plenty of both taking the $1 million, 6-furlong Al Quoz Sprint and Britain's Al Shemali took the big cash from unlucky Irish runner Bankable in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free.
America's Kinsale King sped by Rocket Man to take the $2 million Golden Shaheen, Calming Influence eased past Green Coast in the $1 milliom Godolphin Mile and Briton Jaafer took the traditional opener, the Kahayla Classic for purebred Arabians.
Dubai World Cup day officially opened the new $2 billion Meydan Racecourse and closed the 2010 Dubai racing season.
Kentucky Derby preps
Trainer Todd Pletcher has so many potential Triple Crown contenders this year that even when one of his favorites falters, a stablemate is liable to pick up the pieces. Thus it was in Saturday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby. The lukewarm favorite, Discreetly Mine, tracked the leaders all the way but couldn't find the final kick to close the deal, fading to finish fourth. But, just when it appeared pacesetting A Little Warm would hang on, another Pletcher charge, Mission Impazible, charged up three-wide and grabbed the brass ring, winning by 3/4 length. A Little Warm held the place and Drosselmeyer rallied from the No. 13 post position to finish third. Mission Impazible, a Kentucky-bred Unbridled's Song colt, finished the 9 furlongs in 1:50.32 under Rajiv Maragh, picking up only his second career victory. "That was kind of the way we had talked about it," Pletcher said. "We wanted to secure a little bit of position from the inside and hopefully come away stalking the leaders. He was able to maneuver exactly the trip we were hoping for and then he was able to find a little more down the lane." Mission Impazible finished fourth in his last start, the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Drosselmeyer's jockey, Kent Desormeaux, said he had "tons of trouble. I think I was the best. If I get through I win by three and I'm the favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Now I won't even get to ride him."
Ken and Sarah Ramsey have campaigned a whole litter of homebred "Kittens" leading into the Triple Crown preps and one finally broke through in Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. Dean's Kitten, under Cornelio Velasquez, settled behind the leaders in the northern Kentucky marquee race, advanced to the lead on the turn and held well to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Northern Giant ran late to take second, 3 1/4 lengths better than the favorite, Connemara. Dean's Kitten, a Kentucky-bred Kitten's Joy colt out of the Ide mare Summer Theater, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.59. Mike Maker trains the colt for the Ramseys. Ken Ramsey spent the day in Dubai. "We were looking for just what we got," Maker said. "He did not get good trips at Gulfstream. That course has been favoring speed horses all meet so we point for this race and it paid off for us." Asked about the Kentucky Derby, Maker said, "You'd have to talk to the boss but I'd have to say he'd be inclined to go." Dean's Kitten finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, then fourth in the Hallandale Beach and second in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream – both on the turf. Overall, he now has three wins from 11 starts.
Sunday's $800,000 Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico provided another upset – and potentially another "who dat" Kentucky Derby runner. Winstar Farm's well-bred colt Endorsement, shipping in after a maiden race win in Arkansas, ran by heavily favored, pacesetting California invader Conveyance in the stretch and went on to win by a handy 3 lengths. Conveyance held second, 3 lengths in front of Fair Grounds shipper Tempted to Tapit. Endorsement, a son of Distorted Humor out of the A.P. Indy mare Charmed Gift, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.46. Robby Albarado rode for trainer Shannon Ritter. "He has really been improving since his win at Oaklawn," Ritter said, "and his last work was just amazing. He showed some greatness today. He ran really, really nice." Sunday's race was the colt's fourth career start. Conveyance was unbeaten in four previous starts. The Sunland Derby earned graded status this year after Mine That Bird used the event as a springboard to last year's Kentucky Derby winner's circle. However, Mine That Bird finished fourth in the New Mexico event.
In Saturday's $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway, Exhi took the lead after a half mile and held on throughout, winning by 1 length over Lonesome Street. In the Paint finished third and the favorite, Positive Split, finished fourth. Exhi, a Kentucky-bred Maria's Mon colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.47 for Russell Baze.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Quiet Temper rallied past pacesetting Champagne d'Oro at mid-stretch in Friday's $300,000 Fair Grounds Oaks and won by 1/2 length. Champagne d'Oro held second, a neck in front of the dead-heat duo of Sheer Beauty and Seeking the Title. Quiet Temper, a Kentucky-bred Quiet American filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.55 with Robby Albarado up. "We were always headed to the Kentucky Oaks," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "Ever since she won at Delta (in the Dec. 4 Delta Princess), we're from Kentucky so the first thing we were thinking was Kentucky Oaks. We'll definitely point there now … It's perfect. We're five weeks out and we'll give her plenty of time, go back to our home track, and I think she'll come into it perfect."
Orchestrator upset Saturday's $125,000 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, stalking the pace before engaging for the lead on the stretch turn, then winning a battle to the wire by a neck over Age of Humor. Midway Holiday was third and the favorite, Helen Belen, faded from the lead to finish sixth. Orchestrator, a Kentucky-bred Bernstein filly, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.29 for jockey Alex Solis. "She ran super," said winning trainer Ken McPeek. "Alex did a great job getting her out of the gate. She's been pretty flawless on the Poly up to now. In California we had a hard time finding a race for her, so we nominated her here. I'm not sure about the Kentucky Oaks. I'd prefer to run her back on synthetic somewhere."
Harissa stalked the pace in Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, put a head in front of early leader Hayley's Halo entering the stretch and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Queen Greeley finished third. Harissa, a Kentucky-bred filly by Afleet Alex, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.90 with Tyler Baze in the irons for trainer David Hofmans.
Bearpath stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Pan American Stakes, moved by pacesetting Brother Nick with less than a furlong to run and held on to win by 3/4 length over Never On Sunday. Brother Nick held third. Bearpath, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Dynaformer gelding, ran the 1 1/2 miles on "good" turf in 2:32.60 with Frederic Lenclud in the irons. "After his previous race when I put blinkers on him for the only time, I had him gelded and took the blinkers off, and he advanced from there," said winning trainer Ian Wilkes. "We've found out this is what he wants to do -- run a mile and a half -- and that's what we'll keep him doing. His next start will probably be the Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland (Apr. 23)."
Speak Easy Gal jumped out to the lead in Sunday's $150,000 Orchid Stakes for fillies and mares, endured pressure through most of the 1 1/2 miles and still held on to win by a head over Lady Shakespeare. Nehantic Kat was third. Speak Easy Gal, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred West Acre filly, finished in 2:28.46 over "good" turf with Elvis Trujillo riding. "I ran her in this race because I thought she would be the only speed, although they pressed her more than I thought," said winning trainer Marty Wolfson. "I haven't really thought of what might be next, but I like to give my horses six to eight weeks between races."
Gentleman James drew clear in the stretch to win Saturday's $57,000 Sir Shackleton Handicap by 4 1/4 lengths. Make Me Zach was second and Brady Baby finished third. Gentleman James, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Yankee Gentleman, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.17 with Joe Bravo up.
In addition to saddling the winner of the Louisiana Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher's barn also took down the day's two biggest biggest handicaps.
Battle Plan had a simple plan in the $300,000 New Orleans Handicap – "get there "fustest with the moistest." Leading much of the way, the 5-year-old son of Empire Maker won by 1 1/2 lengths over General Quarters with Awesome Gem a non-threatening third. Battle Plan, another from the Todd Pletcher barn, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.33 with Javier Castellano up. Making his stakes debut, Battle Plan is out of 1994 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Flanders, who was euthanized earlier this year after a paddock accident. Assistant trainer Mike Dilger, who saddled Battle Plan for Pletcher, said, "He's got the heart of a big galloping horse and he's always got more than it seems. He always has a little kick left even though it might not look like it. But he always has something left in his heart. So we always know from now on that in the lead with him is okay." The Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs may be the next race for Battle Plan.
Blues Street rallied from well back to win Saturday's $300,000 Mervyn Muniz Jr. Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths over a pair of boxcar longshots – Pick Six and Transduction. Blues Street, a 6-year-old Street Cry gelding, circled the field under Javier Castellano and finished the "about" 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:50.10. Blues Street now has won eight of 22 starts, including his last four. "I was a bit worried when I saw him tuck in like that," Dilger said. "But the horse really dug in for him there at the end. Last time was his career best and this was probably equal to that today. Where he goes next is really a question for Todd." Pletcher later indicated that might be the Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
Cash Refund got clear of a quartet of rivals with a furlong left in Saturday's $105,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes and edged away to win by 3/4 length over Kensei. Euroears contested the early lead and got home third. Cash Refund, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Petionville gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.13 with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons. "Our ultimate goal would be the Breeders' Cup Sprint," said winning trainer Steve Margolis. "It's in our backyard this year. This horse ran a big Beyer second-time out last year and a big race in the Matt Winn. We've always felt he had a tremendous amount of speed."
Heavenville tracked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Crescent City Derby for Louisiana-breds, shot out to a good lead early in the stretch run and drew off, winning by 6 1/4 lengths. Dynapac was second and Pioneering Native was third. Heavenville, an Offlee Wild colt, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:44.42 under Shaun Bridgmohan.
Tizaqueena stalked the pace in Friday's $100,000 Bayou Handicap for fillies and mares, got to the lead with a furlong left and on to win by a head over A She's Adorable. Never Retreat was third. Tizaqueena, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tiznow mare, finished the "about" 9 furlongs on a turf course upgraded to "firm" in 1:50.29. Shaun Bridgmohan rode for trainer Michael Stidham.
West Ocean took complete charge in the stretch run in Friday's $60,000 Bienville Stakes for fillies and mares, drawing off easily to win by 5 lengths in course-record time of 1:02.73. Selva and Seeking Me Shelly completed the trifecta. West Ocean, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Elusive Quality filly, negotiated the 5 1/2 furlongs of "good" turf with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Daphne Angela rallied to the lead at the top of the stretch in Friday's $60,000 Crescent City Oaks for Louisiana-breds, then held off Lunar Fest by a neck under the wire. Ladyzarbridge finished third as the favorite. Daphne Angela, a daughter of Wimbledon, ran the 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:42.13 with Elvis Perrodin riding.
Hisse fit just perfectly in Sunday's $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares. Sent postward as the favorite, the 5-year-old Buddha mare rallied from near the back of the pack to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Skipping Town. Token Diva enriched the trifecta. Hisse, with Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons, ran the "about" 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.72.
Tap It Light stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Tokyo City Handicap, got to the lead turning into the stetch and inched away to win by 3/4 length. Rendezvous was closing to take second and Eagle Poise finished third after showing the way. Tap It Light, a 6-year-old, California-bred General Meeting gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:29.62. Tyler Baze rode for trainer Mike Mitchell, who claimed Tap It Light for $40,000 in 2008. "I liked his looks," Mitchell said of the claim. "But I didn't know that he could go this far. However, the more I worked with him, the more I thought he would run long." Now, he said, he's thinking about the 1 3/4-miles San Juan Capistrano on closing day.
Tanda rallied smartly down the lane in Sunday's $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, distancing four rivals and winning by 4 1/4 lengths. La Nez chased the winner home and Sister Dawn was third. Tanda, a Florida-bred daughter of Sweetsouthernsaint, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:14.36 under Alex Solis.
Tidal Dance rallied from third to win Saturday's $100,000 Ladies Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over Love's Blush. Distinctively and Quiet Mover completed the order of finish. Tidal Dance, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Pleasant Tap mare, ran the 9 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:53.59 under Channing Hill. It was her second straight stakes in, backing up a victory in the Affectionately on Jan. 17. "The nice part about her," said winning trainer Mike Hushion, "is that I don't think she's going to have distance limitations, which opens up a lot of options."
Sam Houston Race Park
Fifteen Love aced his opponents in Saturday night's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, running from next-last to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Going Ballistic followed the winner from the back and took second and Dumar finished third. Fifteen Love, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Point Given, got the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.50 with Junior Chacaltana up for trainer Jerenesto Torrez.
Bubbler dueled her way to the lead in Saturday night's $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff Stakes, then left the rest of the field wondering where she went. At the wire, the 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor filly was 12 1/4 lengths better than her closest rival, Shine Softly. Return the Jewel was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Bubbler, with Eddie Martin Jr. up for trainer Brett Calhoun, completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.13.
Cool Bullet fought his way to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Hansel Stakes for 3-year-olds, then drew off smartly to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Strapping Groom was second, 9 lengths ahead of Rockin' Rockstar. Cool Bullet, a Florida-bred Red Bullet gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.97 with Calvin Borel up for trainer Steve Margolis.
Silver Time dueled down the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Queen Stakes for fillies and mares before putting a nose in front under the wire. Proud Heiress just missed and Secret Gypsy finished third. Silver Time, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Indian Charlie filly, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.15 under John McKee.
My Baby Baby opened up a big lead in the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Fairway Fun Stakes for distaffers, then lasted by a neck over Danzon. Irish Ridge was third. My Baby Baby, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Bernstein mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.72 with Alex Solis in the irons.
Smell the Roses raced wide behind the pace in Friday's $50,000 Natural State Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-bred distaffers, kicked into gear in the stretch and won off by 2 1/4 lengths. Sharik was second, 1 length better than Beautiful and Able. The odds-on favorite, Robin My Girl, faded to finish fifth. Smell the Roses, a 4-year-old Storm and a Half filly ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.12 under Larry Melancon.
Palanka City came four-wide around the leaders turning for home in Saturday's $60,000 Carousel Stakes for fillies and mares and got home first, 1 length to the good of One Smokin' Lady. Double Espresso finished third. Palanka City, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Carson City mare, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.84 with Chris Emigh riding.
Storming Suzy set a pressured early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Rainbow Miss Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, finally opened some daylight and coasted home first, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Enticing Girl. Satin N Gold finished third. Storming Suzy, a daughter of Storm and a Half, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.47 for jockey Joel Campbell.
Chance and a Half appeared to have no chance early in Sunday's $50,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-breds, running last of eight. But with Calvin Borel applying one of his patented rides, the 5-year-old Storm and a Half gelding got through traffic in time to win by a head over Humble Smartly. Ain't He a Pistol was another neck back in third. Chance and a Half ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.45.
Comedero got off to a big lead in Sunday's $50,000 Rainbow Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds and held on at the end to win by 1/2 length over McCrocklin. Ricks F Sixteen was third. Comedero, a Posse gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.77.
Freedom Star led early in Sunday's $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap, set a pressured pace and drew clear in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Prairie Charm Freedom Star, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Street Cry filly, ran the 1 mile in 1:35.95 for Martin Garcia.
Desert Jack rallied from the clouds to win Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby for state-breds by a nose over Train Rider Blues. Rig's Runner was third. Desert Jack, a Desert God gelding, got the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.24 with Carlos Madeira in the irons.
Favorite Flag bulled through traffic in the lane to win Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Oaks for state-breds by a neck over King's Water Lilly. Please N Teras finished third. Favorite Flag, under Luis Contreras, got the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.74.
Happy Me made all the going in Sunday's $100,000 La Coneja Stakes for state-bred distaffers, then held off Pocketfullachime in a long stetch duel to win by a head. Betternilook finished third. Happy Me, a Lesters Boy filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.34 with Ken Tohill up.
Indian Dance blew by the early leaders turning for home in Saturday's $50,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes and drew off to win by 2 lengths in a hand ride. Zarroc was second, a neck in front of Eddie C. Indian Dance, a 4-year-old, Maryland-bred Indian Charlie gelding, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.04 for jockey Luis Garcia.
Correct Call came around the leaders on the turn in Saturday's $50,000 Royal North Stakes for 3-year-old, Ohio-bred fillies and held the lead through the stretch, winning by 1 length. Ohio Star rallied to take second and Miss Twenty One finished third. Correct Call, a daughter of Consolidator, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.62 under Justin Shepherd.
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