Major turf races from France to California during the weekend began sorting out contenders for year-end championship grass races. And more is on tap in the coming week, including Tuesday's Juddmonte International at York in England and the Arlington Park "International Festival of Racing," anchored by the Arlington Million, on Saturday.
The top event of the weekend in the United States was Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga and Telling put paid to that event with a repeat win at double-digit odds.
Rallying along the rail, Telling scored by 1 1/2 lengths over Bearpath. Al Khali finished third and the favorite, Expansion, ran evenly to finish fifth. Telling, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy out of the Deputy Minister mare Well Chosen, ran the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:25.29 under Garrett Gomez.
"When we turned for home," Gomez said, "the horse in front of us dropped off. I just dove toward the fence, and it was like he found new life. He's just one of those horses that stays on really well going a mile and a half."
Telling was sixth in his last start in the United Nations at Monmouth Park and was seeking his first win since upsetting last year's Sword Dancer at 33-1 odds. His trainer Steve Hobby, however, said Telling was returning to form just in time for a title defense.
And Hobby said Gomez "sure chose the right way. That's the one thing I told him, that he probably prefers the outside than being in, but it's not something I'd make a drastic change to do."
Other races with potential importance for the Breeders' Cup Turf:
-- Miami Deco rallied strongly down the stretch in Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Breeders' Stakes for 3-year-old Canadian-breds at Monmouth and went on to post a 65-1 upset win, beating Stormy Lord by 3/4 length. The favorite in a field of 13, Cognashene, faded to finish third after contending. Miami Deco, an Ontario-bred Limehouse colt, ran the 1 1/2 miles on yielding turf in 2:34.24 with Richard Dos Ramos in the irons. "It's a great feeling," Dos Ramos said. "I had never been on the horse before, but he ran hard for me." Trainer Brian Lynch said Miami Deco, who was making his first start on the grass, "worked on the turf down at Palm Meadows in the winter and worked great. He's always been a horse who looked and trained like he could get a route of ground," he added. Asked if he was surprised the horse was overlooked before the race, the trainer quipped, "No one likes to promote a supplemental nomination who was going to be 60-1."
-- Interactif stalked the pace in Friday's $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, then won a furious, three-way battle to the wire, beating Grand Report by a nose and Krypton by another head. Interactif, a Kentucky-bred Broken Vow colt, ran the 9 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:48.34 for jockey Javier Castellano. "On paper, it looked like a race that lacked a little pace," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He got carried pretty wide on the back side, but was able to drop in on the turn." Interactif, second to Paddy O'Prado in the Virginia Derby in his last start, won for the first time this year -- a campaign that also include a second in the San Felipe, fourth in the Blue Grass and seventh in the Belmont Stakes. "He has been ambitiously placed all year," Pletcher said. "It was about trying to find the right spot for him. We wanted to get back on track and in the winner's circle." He said the Jamaica on Oct. 9 at Belmont might be Interactif's next start.
-- Rahy's Attorney bounced back from a defeat three weeks earlier to win Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) With Approval Stakes for Ontario-breds at Woodbine. Under jockey Robert Landry, Rahy's Attorney pressed the pace behind Woodburne, got to even terms on the turn and won by a neck after a prolonged stretch battle. Ice Bear finished third. Rahy's Attorney, a 6-year-old Crown Attorney gelding, got the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.50.
Dick Turpin, who has been in the top two consistently at the highest level this year, has been supplemented to the Juddmonte International, joining an already stellar cast that is expected to include multiple Group 1 victors Rip Van Winkle and Twice over.
Next Saturday's Arlington Million is expected to feature defending champion Gio Ponti, whose likely presence may have scared off some of the European competition. Nonetheless, the Million will feature its usual international flair, with some experienced American competition as well. Gio Ponti would be attempting to become the first horse to win the Million two straight years. John Henry is a two-time winner but his victories were three years apart. The International Festival also includes the Beverly D. for fillies and mares and the Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds. The latter could prove most competitive and could produce contenders for the big races at season's end. Post positions will be drawn Tuesday.
Other major North American grass races next weekend include the Del Mar Oaks and the Sky Classic at Woodbine.
Other weekend races with potential Breeders' Cup implications:
Goldikova, winner of the last two runnings of the Mile, was upset by Makfi Sunday in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. Taking advantage of very soft ground, which he apparently relishes and Goldikova handles poorly, Makfi caught Goldikova with three-sixteenths to run on the straight course and drew clear, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Goldikova briefly was passed by Paco Boy at the furlong grounds but renewed her effort and finished second by a neck. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Mile but Paco Boy has a European schedule mapped out by trainer Mikel Delzangles for the months before the Mile at Churchill Downs. Goldikova is expected to have her final prep for an attempted Breeders' Cup "three-peat" in the Prix de la Foret on Oct. 3.
Sidney's Candy battled for the lead until the second turn in Saturday's $150,000 La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds, then pulled away convincingly, leading by as much as 13 lengths and winning by 5 1/2 lengths under steady urging from jockey Joel Rosario. King Edward was second and Alphie's Bet finished third. Sidney's Candy, a refugee from the Triple Crown wars, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in course-record time of 1:39.52. "He's a very good horse," winning trainer John Sadler said. "A little unlucky in a couple of races and things didn't go right for him in Kentucky, but he's one of the best 3-year-olds around. This was a very fast race today. We'll see how he comes out of it before we go forward with him. And we have Twirling Candy (winner of the Oceanside Stakes), too. We'll have a lot of choices. I think I'll have the favorite in the Del Mar Derby."
Filly & Mare Turf
Wasted Tears was on the lead and under mild pressure throughout Sunday's $250,000 John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar but managed to hold on at the end to beat Lilly Fa Pootz by a nose. Gotta Have Her finished third. Wasted Tears, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Najran mare, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.35 under Rajiv Maragh. Wasted Tears, bred, owned and trained by Bart Evans of Midland, Texas, won for the seventh straight time. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup but Evans didn't sound tempted. "I don't think we'll want to go to the Breeders' Cup," he said. "That's a European-style race -- a mile and three-eighths. That time of the year in Kentucky, you can't tell what you're going to get. Maybe some rain and then it comes up soft. That's a long race."
Impossible Time swept past the leaders turning for home in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victoriana Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares and went on about her business, winning by 4 3/4 lengths as the heavy favorite. Desire and Fire held a huge early lead and salvaged second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Black Bikini. Impossible Time, a 5-year-old Not Impossible mare, covered the 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.15 with Jono Jones up.
Changing Skies came from last of five to win Monday's $70,000 Signature Stallion Waya States at Saratoga, clearing her rivals in the stretch to finish 2 1/4 lengths ahead of runner-up Casablanca Smile. Liberally finished third. Changing Skies, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Sadler's Wells mare, finished the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:27.46 with Kent Desormeaux up for trainer Bill Mott.
Tuscan Evening, one of the nation's top female grass runners, collapsed and died after a routine workout Aug. 8 at Del Mar. The Irish-bred 5-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream had won all six of her starts this year and all were graded events. The latest was the Modesty at Arlington Park on July 17. She was prepping for a return to Arlington for the Beverly D. on Aug. 21. Since coming to the United States after a career in Ireland, Tuscan Evening had won 12 of 16 starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Dubai Majesty rallied from last of six and out-finished odds-on favorite West Ocean to win by a neck in Sunday's $100,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park. Lady Rizzi also put forth her best effort in the lane and was up for the show. Dubai Majesty, with Miguel Mena in the irons, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.20. She is a 5-year-old, Florida-bred mare by Essence of Dubai. Dubai Majesty now has won 10 of 31 career starts. "I just wanted to ride her with patience," Mena said. "I've ridden the horse a couple times, so I know her pretty well. When I swung her out in the stretch she exploded. She was full of run in the end."
Bonifacio rallied from last of seven to win Friday's $75,000 Daisycutter Handicap for fillies and mares at Del Mar by a nose over Pasar Silbano. Dotsy Jean ran third and the favorite, Waveline, finished fifth. Bonifacio, under jockey Alonso Quinonez, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.03 seconds. She is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Even the Score filly.
No Such Word rallied from off the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks, surged to the lead four-wide on the stretch turn and got clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Seeking the Title. CC's Pal led early but faded to finish third. No Such Word, a Kentucky-bred Canadian Frontier filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:50.10 for jockey Terry Thompson. "I knew the outside horse (Seeking the Title) would be running late so I wanted to make sure I got the jump on her," Thompson said. "The trip set up ideally for us." Winning trainer Cindy Jones said Thompson "did a great job of letting her get into the race. When he called upon her, she responded well like she always does." It was the fifth lifetime win for No Such Word and her second score in a Grade III event.
Star Guitar stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Evangeline Mile at Evangeline Downs, was set down for the drive entering the stretch and got home first, 1 length better than Ide Like a Double. Chief Jay held a brief lead at the top of the lane and preserved show money. Star Guitar, a 5-year-old, Louisiana-bred son of Quiet American, finished in 1:37.25 with Jesse Campbell up.
Luckarack took charge in the stretch run in Saturday's $66,000 Cavonnier Juvenile at Santa Rosa, drawing off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over King Cola. Kingsford Drive finished third. Luckarack, a California-bred Lucky Pulpit colt out of the Dehere mare Tamarack Bay, covered the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.98 with Catalino Martinez in the irons.
Position Limit showed limitless potential in Sunday's $150,000 Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga, rating well early, passing horses into the stretch and finally drawing away to win by 5 lengths over Alienation. Coax Liberty was third. Position Limit, a Virginia-bred daughter of Bellamy Road, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.30. She now has won both her career starts. "It set up perfect for her," winning jockey John Velazquez said. "I was slightly nervous, though when I came up behind (Alienation) because it looked like she was going pretty easily. But as soon as I caught up with her, I knew I had her." Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said the race was "what we had hoped for" and that he hopes the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park on Oct. 9 will be Position Limit's next start. Alienation's trainer, Bob Baffert, said Position Limit "is a good filly. We want to win, but I'm happy with her (Alienation's) effort. She was the second choice and she came in second."
Wonderlandbynight came from last of five in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Debutante at Woodbine and out-finished the favorite, Mimi's Missy, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Mistress Gallop finished third. Wonderlandbynight, an Illinois-bred Sky Mesa filly, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:17.40 under E.T. Baird. Trainer Larry Rivelli brought Wonderlandbynight north off a victory at Arlington Park. "Watching the races here, it looks like most of your riders want to stay off the fence," said Baird, an Arlington regular. "It might possibly be dead, but (going inside) was the only option I had, and I figured I could come through there and maybe ease her out -- don't be right on top of them down the lane." Wonderlandbynight won her first start June 4 on a disqualification after finishing second, then scored her first actual victory two weeks later at the suburban Chicago oval.
Rustler Hustler stayed close to the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Continental Mile at Monmouth Park, rallied to the lead along the rail during the stretch run and got home first by a neck despite being bumped in the final sixteenth. The Flying Whizzer and Pluck dead-heated for second and third but Pluck was set down to fourth for stretch interference. That promoted the favorite, Powhattan County, to show money. Rustler Hustler, a Pennsylvania-bred Ecton Park colt, ran the 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.37. "Once I took a good hold of him, he relaxed nicely," winning rider Pablo Morales said. "Down the backstretch he was just galloping along. I knew I had a ton of horse. It was just a question of whether the inside was going to open up. Once that happened, he ran on real strong." Rustler Hustler recorded his second win in four starts.
In other weekend racing:
Direct Line tracked the pace under a snug hold though most of Saturday's $100,000 Gardenia Handicap for fillies and mares, then wore down pacesetting West Hope in a long stretch duel, winning by a nose. Choragus was third, 3 lengths farther back, and the favorite, Ravi's Song, settled for sixth place. Direct Line, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tiznow mare, covered the 1 mile on the fast track in 1:38.32 with Tony Farina in the irons.
Goggles McCoy got right to the lead in Wednesday's $100,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds, shook off a challenge and coasted home first, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Runaway Bandito. Killer Bear finished third. Goggles McCoy, a gelded son of In Excess, finished the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:24.28 with Russell Baze up, remaining undefeated in four career starts. "I felt really good as they went around there when I saw the soft fractions," said winning trainer Steve Sherman. "I loved the way Russell was riding him. You could see he had plenty of horse."
Lubash battled to the lead in Wednesday's $100,000 Cab Calloway Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds, opened a comfortable lead at the top of the land and persevered, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Seattle Mission. Zealous Boy finished third. Lubash, a New York-bred son of Freud, ran the 1 1/16 miles over the firm inner turf course in 1:42.14 with Kent Desormeaux calling the shots.
In Te Domine was hard-held by jockey Ramon Dominguez through the early furlongs of Thursday's $100,000 Statue of Liberty Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rallied quickly to the lead in the stretch when allowed to run and won by a comfortable 3/4 length, ridden out. Bretton Woods was second, followed by Raffie's Rose. In Te Domine, a Freud filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf in 1:44.42.
Freud's Notebook pressed the pace in Friday's $70,000 Lake Luzerne Stakes for New York-bred, 3-year-old fillies, rallied to the lead in the stretch and held off Rogue's Jewel to win by 3/4 length. Tapaline finished third. Freud's Notebook, a daughter of Freud from the Notebook mare Halo's Notebook, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.16 with Fernando Jara in the irons.
Saratoga Boot led all the way to a 4 1/4-lengths upset win in Sunday's $75,000 Emerald Downs Derby. With Kevin Krigger up, the Arkansas-bred Storm Boot gelding set a brisk pace and was never seriously challenged. Ain was second and Posse Power completed the trifecta. Saratoga Boot ran the 9 furlongs in 1:48 2/5 seconds.
Zenovit stalked the pace three-wide in Saturday's $75,000 Washington Oaks, took the lead into the stretch and drew off nicely for jockey Rickey Frazier, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over late-running Private Fortune. Soul Custody was far back in third and the favorite, Rewritten, struggled home sixth. Zenovit, a Washington-bred daughter of Private Gold, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49 2/5.
Ask Queenie got to the lead after a half mile in Saturday's $50,000 First Episode Stakes for Massachusetts-bred fillies and mares and drew off easily to win by 7 3/4 lengths over Tallys Sundance. Southoftheborder finished third. Ask Queenie, a 9-year-old Key Contender mare, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:46.44. Tammi Piermarini rode the winner.
News and notes:
The Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds will carry a $1 million purse next spring as the Churchill Downs-owned New Orleans track tries to cement its position as a primary path on the Road to the Roses. The $250,000 increase, along with a progression of graded stakes leading up to the big event, means "there's no better place to get a promising 3-year-old ready for the Triple Crown," said Eric Halstrom, fair grounds vice president and general manager.